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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 12

Remi jerked awake, convinced that the burning remains of a building were falling all around him. But the image of fire falling on the rows of plush red seats was immediately overwhelmed by the peaceful interior of the darkened barracks. Cody lay on the next bunk over, sleeping, and Remi heaved a quiet sigh. What a horrible nightmare!

Then an incredibly bright flash of white light through the windows blinded him. The flash was immediately followed by a booming roar that shook the building so hard it nearly tossed Remi out of bed. He felt the blast through his mutant power as pieces of one of the corner towers flew outward. Then the graying dawn was filled with cries and sudden chaos as the people all around him leapt up, grabbing clothes and weapons.

Remi felt the contact of John, Dallas’ Guardian, as he was frantically lacing up his boot. A second explosion, this time inside the compound, nearly drowned out the voice in his head. Remi glanced over at Cody. John’s voice was inhumanly calm as he directed the two young mutants, but Remi was unsurprised by their assignments-Cody was to join Rogue, who was already airborne over the burning enclave, and Remi was to report to Everett in the command center.

They said nothing as Cody set Remi down gently in front of the command center. There was no time for goodbyes, or for the vocal bravado that was the X-Men’s hallmark. Already there were bodies in the street, and Remi could feel others dying around him. In that moment, he wished very much that he wasn’t a telepath-that he could be deaf to the minds and deaf to the pain. Cody lifted off immediately, rocketing towards the tiny green dot that was Rogue. The wake of his gravity field left Remi reeling for a moment, but then he shook off the effect and ducked into the command center.

A psi shield coalesced over the city as Rachel put her powers to use. Remi could feel it, like an iridescent soap bubble arching over his head. He knew the shield was far stronger than it appeared, but telekinetic shields always felt so thin to him. Briefly, Remi wondered how long Rachel would be able to hold out. He could feel her strain as each bomb detonated against the shield. And Dallas was a big place. He was almost certain she’d never tried to cover several square miles of area before.

Everett nodded to Remi as he walked up. Everett was standing in front of a rather crude electronic tactical display, but Remi picked out the outline of their walls along with the symbols representing the enemy closing in on them. The mass of little triangles that crept ever closer was alarming. Domino and Everett had their heads together over the display, planning, along with a small group of people that Remi recognized as Everett’s command core.

"Rachel is well trained," remarked Mischa. Her gaze was distant, and Remi could sense her on the astral plane, lending support to Rachel.

"Where is she, anyway?" he asked. His kinetic power couldn’t cope with the hundreds of people rushing around outside well enough to let him pick out one individual. For that reason, crowds had always made him nervous. It was just too much motion.

Mischa blinked and returned more fully to her body. "The north tower. She’s got a good view of the city from there."

"The most valuable thing she can do is buy us some time to knock out their aircraft. We don’t have any other defense from those bombing runs." Everett looked up from his conversation. "Any chance you can help out there?" He looked to Remi.

Remi shook his head, despite the ever increasing fear of going out into a real battle. What little he’d seen already was enough to scare him. "Not really," he answered, trying to conceal his feelings. "Cody can do a lot more good against fighters than I can. I should probably be out there--" he pointed to the appropriate place on the display, "with the ground assault vehicles." To demonstrate, he pulled out a thin throwing spike and charged it, tossing it into the air where it exploded with an impressive bang for the closed space.

"How many powers does this kid have?" he heard Domino mutter to the man beside her. Remi tried to ignore her, but the slight hint of fear in her voice rubbed on an old nerve. Whenever someone learned about his powers, no matter who they were, there was always that... space. Like they were afraid of him. Of what he could do. Cody understood, because he felt it too. He had the power to send a sun nova. But Remi could do far worse, and they both knew it. Even his parents had a very healthy respect for his powers. Remi had never asked, because he was afraid to, but he often wondered if he might find some of that fear in them, too.

"What about that black disk of yours?" Everett either did not hear, or was ignoring, Domino’s comment.

Remi shrugged. "Not fast enough to get fighters. They’ll just fly around it because their maneuvering rates are so high."

Everett accepted his assessment with a brief expression of disappointment. "All right. Then I think I’m going to hand you off to Commander Azet. He’s running this light armored cav unit." Everett tapped the display screen. "They’re setting up on the flank of the main assault group. Primary targets are the Sentinels, which I know you can handle."

Remi studied the display again. He counted fourteen Sentinels, each surrounded by a swarm of smaller vehicles-possibly the Mechs he’d heard of, and ground troops.

"The only objective is to keep them away from the city." Everett’s gaze pierced him, and Remi nodded. Inside the city, they had only the Guardian and a few mechanized defenses. If the Shadow King’s forces made it that far, Dallas was lost.

"Good." Everett gripped his shoulder. "You’d better get out there. John will handle all telepathic traffic, so you should go through him or Azet rather than making direct contact."

"Right." Gathering his courage, Remi left the command center and worked his way toward the east wall of the city, where Commander Azet was waiting for him.

Cody dove away from the two missiles that tracked him, accelerating groundward. The missiles followed suit, and Cody checked over his shoulder to see how much they’d gained on him. In the air, they were a good deal faster than he was. However, he thought with a grin as he dropped toward one of the Sentinels, those missiles couldn’t make a forty-g turn. Cody counted the seconds carefully, trying to gauge his own speed approaching the Sentinel, and the speed at which the missiles were approaching him. Just as he was about to slam into the armored robot, he executed a maneuver that literally no other person or machine on the planet could manage and bounced away on a new trajectory like a rubber ball. Unable to turn in time, the missiles flew into the shoulder of the Sentinel, staggering it as they exploded.

As Cody rose again, he spotted Rogue in the distance. She was little but a green streak, dancing with the cloud of fighters that surrounded her. Cody wasn’t exactly sure what to think of his mother in this incarnation. She was presently taking a brute force approach to their assignment of destroying the fighter aircraft that swarmed over the skies of Dallas. Literally, she was chasing them down one at a time and then smashing into them, like a Kamikazi pilot of old.

Cody snagged a fighter that streaked by him in a gravitational well. It felt a bit like hanging on to the reins of a runaway horse. The fighters had the advantage of momentum-they were heavy and moving very fast, which translated into a lot of energy for Cody to absorb before he could grab hold of the things and crush them. But, with a little practice and some common sense, he had learned that he didn’t need to snag the planes for more than a moment-- just long enough to snap the wings.

Cody watched the suddenly de-winged plane cartwheel across the sky and then went looking for another target. He had managed to stop thinking about the pilots that were in those planes, at least for the nonce. When the city was safe he would have time to worry about his conscience.

Renee clung grimly to the sides of the bouncing jeep as the vehicle roared toward the wall of approaching Sentinels. Mechs surrounded the giants’ feet like a cloud of gnats. This close, the Shadow King’s weaponry was terrifying. Already, the jeep’s driver was forced to swerve and dodge as laser fire fell on them. A cannon mounted on the back of the jeep returned fire. Renee could feel the heat coming off the coil a few feet behind her, but didn’t dare look back for fear that the flash of the laser would blind her at such close range. Across from Renee sat a woman that she had always called "Aunt Kitty". But Kitty Pryde was a stranger in this time. She was a grim soldier whose assignment was to protect Renee. Kitty gripped her weapon and stared resolutely forward, her close cropped hair unmoved by the rushing wind. Renee briefly envied her the haircut. Her own hair fell to the middle of her back, and was heavy and coarse like her father’s. Now, it whipped about her face in a frenzy that she could barely see through. She hadn’t had time to find anything to tie it back with.

Renee bit her lip. This little vehicle was just one of many that were rushing headlong toward the Sentinels. They were part of the first wave of defense from Dallas, and Everett had sent Renee with them because she could save lives, especially here where the fighting would be thickest. Kitty’s ability to render them both intangible should be enough to protect Renee from any direct attack, but she was still scared.

They were so close now that even the Mechs loomed over them. They had squarish bodies mounted on long legs which bent the wrong way at the knees. A large gun turret topped the vehicle, its stubby cannon barrel resembling a nose, in Renee’s opinion. The whole thing together looked like nothing so much as a giant mechanical kiwi bird. But its five-story height and the way the ground shuddered beneath its feet kept it from seeming silly. The Sentinels themselves were so huge that Renee could no longer really see their heads. Like skyscrapers, they seemed to obscure the sky, leaving the battlefield in shadow. And all Renee could really think about was how much she wanted to go home.

"Get ready!" Kitty shouted at her over the wind noise. "We’re getting off now."

Renee nodded. The driver could not afford the time to stop to let them get out, so the two of them would have to jump off the jeep so as to stay just behind the main conflict. That way, they could go wherever they were needed, but hopefully be placed at slightly less risk. As Kitty climbed up to crouch on the side of the jeep, Renee copied her. They jumped at the same time. Renee hit the ground and rolled, choking in the cloud of dust kicked up by the tires. Other vehicles roared past her as she climbed to her feet and pulled out her bo staff. The length of silver metal was a comfortable weight in her hands. Kitty looked at her oddly as she tucked the butt of an automatic weapon against her hip in a ready position.

"Stay close," she admonished Renee. "I can’t protect you if you’re out of reach."

Renee nodded and moved a little closer. Ahead of them, the mixed assortment of vehicles from Dallas hit the first line of Mechs. The smaller, more maneuverable ones, such as the jeeps, dodged between the Mechs’ feet and then opened fire on the machines from behind. The heavier vehicles were mostly covered trucks. They stopped just short of the advancing Mechs, and out of their backs poured tiny armored forms-men and women in power armor. They rose into the sky, the miniature rocket packs trailing twin jets of fire as they maneuvered to attack the Mechs with powerful hand held weapons. Those who were mutants also brought their powers to bear, but Dallas had always been a small enclave, and the mutant population was small and relatively underpowered.

Renee watched as the Mechs turned to deal with the more threatening laser cannons that fired at their backs, only to find themselves unable to fend off the soldiers in power armor that landed atop them, mining the gun turrets. Kitty cheered as the Mechs began to blow up. Often, the explosions did not completely destroy the Mech, but with its weapons system disabled, it was reduced to trying to flatten soldiers and trucks beneath its mammoth feet.

Then Renee had no more time to watch the battle as she and Kitty caught up to the first of the damage. A jeep lay on its side, the laser cannon and mount melted to slag. The rear tire was on fire, exuding a thin line of black smoke into the air. Two still forms lay on the ground next to the overturned vehicle. Renee’s stomach twisted at the carnage, but she forced herself to kneel beside the first soldier. She didn’t bother to check for a pulse, but simply laid her palms against his skin. If he was still alive, he would respond to her powers. After a moment, she pulled her hands away. The man was dead. Shaking, she wiped his blood off on the fabric of her pants, and went on to the next.

Rachel bit her lip against crying out as another fighter dove into her shield. The Shadow Queen had given up on the aerial battle, and had turned her remaining aircraft into missiles aimed at the functional center of Dallas-the Guardian. Cody and Rogue were still up there, destroying as many as they could, but every airplane they missed was a fifty ton missile that Rachel had to deflect. John and Mischa were both lending her all the support then could, but neither were telekinetics. John had admitted to having some very small telekinetic ability, but the vast majority of the burden fell on Rachel.

As if in the distance, Rachel could hear the telepathic babble that was John relaying information, hundreds of different conversations, all at the same time. Trying to sort some of it out helped to distract her from the pain of keeping the psi shield up over the city. She was unaware of how much time had passed since the battle had begun. It might have been hours or days or only minutes. Her private fear was that it had only been a few moments, and she was still facing an unguessable time of agony until it would be safe to lower the shield. John was her anchor, even more than Mischa. Rachel couldn’t say why, but there was something familiar about John-something that evoked feelings of warmth, comfort and security. She didn’t even know him, really. He had seemed uninterested in visitors when they’d arrived in Dallas, and had not responded to Rachel’s somewhat reluctant overtures. But now, as she clung to his vast psyche and sucked in the power that he lent her, she felt like she was curling up in one of her big brother’s warm flannel shirts, as she had done as a little girl. It was his power and his support that allowed Rachel to push her own powers so far beyond their normal limits.

Rachel felt John’s warning on a level that transcended speech and tried to brace herself. Another fighter was diving toward the building that housed John’s body. It spiraled toward the earth, afterburners on full as the Shadow Queen drove her hound to suicide in an attempt to break the shield. Rachel was aware of the Queen’s malevolent presence, and it felt like a tiny portion of her mind had been rubbed raw where Storm’s psyche impinged on hers.

Rachel screamed in agony as the fighter hit her shield. The psi shield buckled and Rachel grasped desperately at it, trying to force it back into place. Her awareness narrowed to encompass only that one thing. John’s presence in her mind was rock-steady, a wall that she could put her back against as she struggled with the trembling shield. But then a second fighter slammed into the shield, following directly on the tail of the first. Rachel had no warning from John, and the already fragile psi shield shattered under the impact. Reeling, she was barely aware of the bright explosion less than a quarter mile away, but John’s scream drove through her brain like a spike. His pain rolled over her in nauseating waves. She was dimly aware of the heat of the burning jet fuel, and the distancing effect of John’s physical shock. Frightened, she tried to pull away from him as his consciousness dimmed. Cold began to creep in, replacing the heat of the fire, though she knew it continued to burn, and the pain lessened in merciful degrees. Instinctively, Rachel cut the ties that attached her mind to John’s, snapping back into her own body with a jolt. She knew the dangers of remaining mindlinked.

Crying silently, Rachel watched from a distance as the Guardian of Dallas died.

Remi staggered, instinctively throwing the charged spikes in his hand before they could explode, but his mind was numb. With the Guardian’s death, the telepathic shield that covered the inhabitants of Dallas was destroyed and they were left without protection from the Shadow King’s relay. Jono’s presence filled Remi’s mind like a sudden flood of sewage. Remi floundered for a moment, stunned by the assault, but then he began to forge telepathic shields around himself strong enough to withstand it. Jono’s attack was straightforward-- he triggered the worst things he could find in Remi. His fear, anger, frustration and loss, pushing those emotions to their limits. As Remi’s shields rose into place, he felt like he had suddenly stepped into a hole of sanity. All too clearly he understood the Shadow King’s power now. Jono’s control of him had lasted less than a second, but in that moment Remi had felt more helpless than ever before in his life.

He dodged a volley of laser fire, returning charged spikes. He was immensely grateful for the long hours of training that had kept his body moving, protecting him from the physical threat of the Mechs that closed on him. Around him, though, the men and women of Azet’s command were reacting to the Shadow King’s telepathic influence. They had forgotten their targets, and Remi could hear the hateful thoughts that suddenly surrounded him. Soldiers who had been friends for years suddenly remembered every little wrong ever done them, and Jono’s presence in their minds encouraged them to take revenge, inflicting damage on anyone they could find in order to satisfy the need for justice. Remi watched in horror as the muzzle of a nearby cannon begin to swing toward its neighbor. Without the Guardian, Remi realized, the Shadow King didn’t even need his army. He could force the men and women of Dallas to destroy themselves and each other.

Desperately, he reached for the minds around him, pushing against the black miasma that Jono poured into them. It became a contest of wills. Remi clung to the knowledge that the people around him would die if he did not continue to fight, and he tried not to remember the Mechs that drew ever closer. With his attention taken almost entirely by Jono, he had only his training and reflexes to protect him. For perhaps the first time in his life, Remi was afraid that he was going to die.

Gritting his teeth, he forced his thoughts away from his fear and concentrated on resisting the telepathic assault. The sooner he pushed Jono away, the sooner he would be able to think about the Mechs, and the better his chances of survival would become. Driven by that thought, he poured every ounce of power he had into his defense. He felt Jono’s surprise as the relay was forced to give way, eventually surrendering the area around Azet to Remi.

Remi tried not to crow as he drove Jono away from a widening circle of minds. He also became more aware of his physical surroundings and was shocked to see two of the Mechs that had been attacking him lying in heaps on the bare Texas dirt. The others continued their attack, but a withering volley of laser fire from Azet’s cavalry unit was holding them at bay. The realization that he had been completely unaware of his physical surroundings for some unknown period time shook him.

"Easy, kid. You’re doing great." Everett clamped a hand on his shoulder, and Remi felt the unique sensation of Everett synching to his powers. He had no idea when the older man had arrived, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it had been a while.

"Now, lets see if the two of us will be enough to keep the Shadow King out of all our minds." Everett smiled grimly at him.

It was more than a little strange, Remi thought, to be combining telepathic abilities with someone who was basically borrowing a copy of his powers. But the mesh worked well, and together they continued to expand the area of protection.

Rachel gave Remi a mental hug of pure relief as he helped her to push back the Shadow King’s influence and clear her mind. After the trauma of the destruction of her telekinetic shields, she was frighteningly weak, but she managed to take up the burden of holding Jono at bay. Remi waited for a moment to make sure that she was all right, and then she felt him moving on, spreading his protective telepathic bubble even further. She had no idea how much he would be able to do-- he couldn’t replace John, no matter how powerful a telepath because his mind simply couldn’t handle the traffic. She had no idea if Dallas’ army could function without their communication net. Even if Remi could keep Jono from influencing any of them, they were still in a lot of danger.

Mischa’s mental shout of warning set Rachel’s heart to pounding. Her eyes snapped open to the sight of a dozen missile trails tracking toward the city. The seemed to have a number of different targets, but Rachel knew that at least a few of them were coming for her. With a sob, she tried to invoke another psi shield to protect the city, but her mind spasmed, as if it were a muscle she had abused. She clamped her hands to her head in protest of the pain, and succeeded only in erecting a small shield around herself. The missiles rained around her, the explosions tossing her around in her psi bubble like so much chaff. Metal and cement erupted all around her as the tower that had been her perch disintegrated, plunging Rachel into darkness.

Renee squeezed her eyes shut in anticipation as the foot of the giant Sentinel came down on top of them. Kitty’s hand was locked around her forearm. Renee knew that she should be safe, but still she flinched as the gray metal expanse completely blackened her vision. But then it was past, and all Renee could see around her was darkness, and the slightly luminous form of Kitty beside her.

Then the darkness was gone as the Sentinel continued on its way, unhindered by the two small mutants beneath its feet. They returned to solid form, and Renee could once again feel the ground vibrating beneath her feet at the steps of the giant. She slipped and fell to her knees. Little grew on the dirt plain surrounding Dallas, but what little had been there was now crushed into pulp by the weight of the Sentinel. It was a slick goo beneath her gloved fingertips.

Kitty offered a hand to help her up, and Renee accepted it gratefully. Then they turned away from the line of Sentinels. Their passage left nothing but devastation behind. Overturned vehicles and pieces of Mechs littered the ground, mixed with the bodies of the dead and wounded. Most were hounds, but far too many were from Dallas. Renee broke into a trot as she spied a man sitting propped against the side of a collapsed Mech. He was drinking sloppily from a canteen and turned in surprise at the women’s approach.

"Kitty," he acknowledged her with a wave of the canteen.

Kitty smiled. "Hey, Jack." She knelt down beside him, patted his shoulder. "Today’s you’re lucky day." Renee settled to her knees on his far side, unnoticed.

Jack turned a sour grin on Kitty. "Guess so. I’m still alive." He winced as Renee began to pull the cloth of his uniform away from his blood-covered abdomen. "Who’re you?"

Renee looked up at him in surprise at his sharp tone. "I’m Renee." She finished clearing the wound. "Now just relax. This won’t hurt." She laid one hand flat against his chest and carefully laid the other one across the exposed lip of flesh. He jerked at the sting of her light touch, but as her powers kicked in he relaxed, watching her in something akin to wonder. When she was done, she sat back and rubbed at the blood on her hand self-consciously. She was very aware of his stare, but she couldn’t raise her eyes to meet his.

Jack touched his stomach gingerly. "That’s amazing. What did you say your name was?"

"Renee." She risked a quick glance up at him and found him smiling at her. Renee wasn’t sure how to respond. His smile sent a thrill through her. He was a young man, handsome beneath the grime. Despite the inhibitor collar she wore at home, Renee was still deeply uncertain about touching people. But this was a different situation. It was one of the only times in her life she had touched another person’s skin without even a shadow of fear.

An explosion on the city wall and Remi’s mental cry brought Renee to her feet. Through him, she knew what had happened.

"No! Rachel!" She grabbed Kitty’s arm. "We have to go!"

"Where?" Kitty protested as the taller girl dragged her several steps across the hard packed dirt.


"Are you crazy?" Kitty dug her heels in and jerked her arm out of Renee’s grasp. "The Shadow King’s whole army is between us and there!"

Renee turned to stare at her as Jack climbed slowly to his feet. "She’s right, you know," he said.

"But she could die!" Renee was almost in tears. Rachel was the only close female friend Renee had ever had. The four of them had been together since they were children—even with Remi spending half of his time on Chandilar, it had seemed like they were always together. The thought of losing a piece of the only family she had left terrified her, beyond anything she could explain to the two soldiers.

Jack gave her a sympathetic look. "There are people dying out here, too, girl." He bent down to pick up his rifle. "And they probably need you just as bad as your friend over there."

Renee looked back toward Dallas. She could barely see the walls through the line of advancing Sentinels and the haze of smoke that covered the plain. Lasers lanced through the fog as the battle continued. Renee tried to reach out to Remi, but he was struggling to hold the Shadow King at bay, and could only send her a brief message that Cody was still all right and that he didn’t know about Rachel.

Renee tried to swallow her tears, and turned back to Jack and Kitty. She knew what was right—what Cyclops or any of the other X-Men would do. She nodded.

Jack gave her another glimpse of his dazzling smile and motioned her in the direction of the nearest wreckage. As she stepped up beside him, he asked, "So, has anyone given you a mutant name yet?"

Puzzled, she shook her head. She would have taken a mutant name when she graduated, though she’d never really found anything she felt belonged to her. But he wouldn’t have known that.

"Ya mind if I give you one?"

Renee kept her gaze fixed on the burning pile of metal ahead of them. "What is it?"


Kitty chuckled appreciatively, and even Renee had to smile. Florence Nightengale had always been one of her favorite heroines. She used to make Hank read the story to her over and over, until the day he refused, insisting that she should now read it to him. She risked a sidelong glance at Jack.

"I like it. Thank you."

"You’re welcome."

Strangely, the name bolstered her, just by its mere existence. Perhaps it was psychological, but she suddenly felt as if she had truly graduated. That she was an adult. And that she had become an X-Man.

Cody watched the tower dissolve into a cloud of dust and fire, a scream of rage locked in his throat. He had seen Rachel’s slim form standing there only moments before, and now there was nothing. Instinctively, he reached for the only person who could tell him what he had to know.

Remi! Where is she? Can you hear her?! He looped sharply across the battlefield, searching for Remi’s position on the ground. He spotted the signature streaks of Remi’s kinetically charged spikes and dipped lower.

No, I can’t. Remi’s answer was distant. Most of his attention was focused on Jono. But I wasn’t in contact when the tower blew up. Cody felt a brush of Remi’s mind, encouraging him to hold on to hope. I know she had a shield up. She could just be unconscious.

Cody grabbed hold of one of the innumerable Mechs with his powers and crumpled it with a wordless cry. She had to be alive. Somehow. But in his heart he didn’t have Remi’s faith. He was a realist by nature, and he had been watching people die-- had been killing people-- since the battle had begun. If Rachel were dead, the Shadow King was going to pay dearly for her life.

He rocketed skyward, ignoring the mental voice that called after him. Spying a target, he concentrated on developing a local gravity well around the midriff of the nearest Sentinel. Fueled by his anger, the well deepened until the Sentinel simply folded in half, unable to withstand the forces pulling against it. A ragged cheer floated up from the haze, but Cody didn’t hear it. He turned his attention to the next robot, treating it in exactly the same manner as the first.

A sharp stab of pain sent him tumbling. He whirled, looking for the source of the attack, instinctively strengthening the gravity bubble that not only held him aloft, but also protected him. Another flash of pain, this time accompanied by a familiar blinding light. He turned as his vision cleared to find the Shadow Queen floating a mere fifty yards away. Her long white hair whipped around her face, and her eyes were alight with an unholy glee. Jagged streaks of lightning burst from her fingertips. They struck Cody full on. His gravity bubble bent the lightning around him, forming a ball of blue and then dissipating back into the atmosphere. But the conflict between the lightning and his gravitational fields was a war of powerful natural forces, fueled only by the wills of the two combatants. Cody found that he did not have the strength to battle Storm’s savagery. Her lightning struck like hot irons on his skin, driving him away. He tried to retaliate with a gravity well to crush her, but her determination was as strong as the woman he had known in his own time. She continued to pound him despite the pressure that forced the air from her lungs and threatened to snap her bones.

Finally, Cody’s bubble collapsed under the unrelenting assault. He tumbled out of the sky, catching himself only a few dozen feet off the ground. He managed to slow his descent to a reasonable level, staggering in like a damaged aircraft. The Shadow Queen, apparently satisfied by her victory, held her altitude and turned toward the walls surrounding Dallas.


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