Disclaimer: The characters of Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, Simon Banks and Joel Taggert do not, I repeat, do not belong to me but to Pet Fly Productions. However, everyone else you find in here is my invention so ask before you use them, please.
Author's Notes: Now that that legal mess is over let's get on to the fun stuff *g* First, I'd like to thank my wonderful beta Wolfie for all her help/prodding with a sharp stick *g* on this story. Trust me, folks, she doesn't let up until you she gets her fiction *g*. Next, I would like to thank all the guys on IRC that, unknown to them, dropped small suggestions for this story. Thanks guys! And finally, I'd like to thank you the readers whose comments helped me to shape this series into a better collection than it would've been otherwise. Comments and criticism are welcome, as usual. Just don't flame me.
"Are you guys ready?" asked Shakari, looking at her three companions.
"Shakari, I'm not so sure about this," said Jim. He put a hand on her shoulder, his ice-blue eyes reflecting his concern.
Shakari looked at the Sentinel and marveled at his change in attitude towards her. She had heard the disagreement between him and Blair when Jim had awakened from his injuries. Now, he was almost as worried about her welfare as much as he was about Blair's. She put her hand over his and said, "Jim, it's alright. He won't hurt me. This is the only way that we might be able to get some information out of him."
I don't like this plan. How could Lawrence agree to this? The Sentinel clenched his jaw until his teeth ached but he didn't reveal his thoughts. Defeated, he sighed and removed his hand from her shoulder.
"Let's get to it then." Shakari looked at Lawrence and he nodded. He bent over the console and keyed in some commands. A door opened and Shakari walked through. As soon as she had entered the room, the door slid closed behind her and the three men grimly watched her progress into the darkened room on the monitor.
Shakari walked slowly as she surveyed the damage. Claw marks lined the floor and the walls. She walked gingerly, avoiding the food that Zachary had scattered. She stopped in the middle of the room and waited. Zachary hadn't made his move yet. Even though the room was almost pitch-black, she could see him clearly crouched in the shadows, his eyes tracking her movements. A small smile crossed her face as she did a quick mental probe. Well, this is going to be interesting.
Jim leaned closer to the monitor, scanning the room and spotting Zachary in the corner. The Sentinel could hear the elevated heart rate and the blood roaring through the werewolf's veins. He restrained himself from commenting about Zachary's vitals, as Lawrence and his Guide could detect them as well. "This is too dangerous," said Jim. "She shouldn't be in there with him alone."
"Lawrence, man, I have to agree with him," said Blair, standing beside Jim. His blue eyes were clouded with worry for his old friend. She was taking an unnecessary risk in his opinion.
Lawrence said nothing and continued to watch the monitor.
Suddenly, Jim and Blair tensed as Zachary emitted a savage roar and leaped at Shakari with blinding speed. Jim leaned forward when he saw that Shakari wasn't moving from her position in the center of the room. He had seen her performance against Victor's creations but now they were dealing with a real werewolf.
Blair clenched his fists and shouted, "Shakari! Move, damn it! Move before..." His words were cut off by a blur of motion as Shakari evaded Zachary's advance. Jim and Blair stood stunned as even their enhanced sight couldn't follow the speed of Shakari's evasion. All they had seen was a blur as one minute Shakari was in the center of the room and the next leaning on a wall, her arms crossed in front of her. What was more shocking was the fact that she was still in her human form.
Shakari leaned casually against the wall and watched as Zachary landedon the other side of the room. She smiled and shook her head. "Is that the best you can do? Makes me wonder why Xavier chose you to be one of his lackeys."
Zachary's only response was another growl. He pivoted on all fours and faced her, his teeth bared.
"Is that all you can do? Stay there and drool all over my good floor! Xavier's taste is definitely slipping isn't it?" taunted Shakari.
With another roar, he leapt at her again.
Sighing, Shakari deftly somersaulted out of the way of the almost berserk wolf. She landed about ten feet away from the wall that she had just been leaning against and winced as Zachary crashed into it. "Ouch. That had to hurt."
Zachary shook his head, trying to clear it. How could this...child be humiliating me like this? He could sense her youth but he was so angry that he wasn't thinking straight. If he had been, he would have realized that no ordinary werewolf could manifest that amount of power while still in a human form.
Shakari did another mind probe and smiled inwardly as she sensed his shame. Now to finish it. "I guess it's true then, you are more stupid than you look. You don't even know who I am or you would know that you are less than the dirt under my feet. I'm ashamed that an inferior wolf like you caught me by surprise on the cliff." Shakari sneered at him, her voice expressing her contempt for the dazed wolf before her.
In the control room, Jim and Blair gasped. Lawrence merely raised an eyebrow.
All thought ceased as Zachary heard her words. An encompassing rage descended on him and he slowly got up from the floor, breathing heavily, his chest heaving. He bared his teeth and emitted a low growl. Then, he started to morph even further. Both Jim and Blair held their breaths at the change that was coming over Zachary. His hands and feet morphed into paws, he went down on all fours and lost any human resemblance. However, it wasn't only his resemblance to a true wolf that was startling but his sheer size. His shoulders were at least four feet from the ground and his new form probably nine feet long. Zachary's teeth were razor sharp, droplets of saliva glistening and falling to the floor. The only thing that was in Zachary's head was tearing Shakari limb from limb.
"Lawrence," said Jim, "we have to stop this. He's going to massacre her." Jim had started for the door when Lawrence put a restraining hand on his arm.
"No, Jim," replied Lawrence. "Believe it or not. She has everything under control." He turned back to the monitor and said, "Besides, if he manages to hurt her, it'll reflect badly on me as her teacher, won't it?"
Blair was about to ask him what he meant about being Shakari's teacher when he looked at the screen and saw the muscles bunching across Zachary's back.
Shakari tensed when she saw Zachary preparing for a spring. Come on, boy. Let's see what you've got.
Zachary leaped through the air with frightening speed, roaring his challenge. Shakari didn't move but she assumed her humanoid form, the white claw marks on her leg clearly visible. Her eyes narrowed and she raised her hand.
Lawrence leaned forward in his chair, every muscle tense. What if I'm wrong? What if she's not ready? What if... His thoughts were cut off as Zachary howled in midair and fell at Shakari's feet. He morphed back into his human form, convulsing.
Shakari looked down at him contemptuously and in a quiet voice asked, "Where is he, Zachary?"
Struggling, Zachary rolled over onto his stomach and tried to get to his knees but he was too weak. He managed to raise his head and tried to speak. "You're...you're..."
Shakari crouched so that she was staring into Zachary's eyes. She replied, "Yes, I am. Now where is Xavier?"
"I...don't know," he gasped.
"You lie." Shakari's eyes narrowed again. Zachary screamed and dropped to the floor, clutching his head. A blinding agony radiated through his entire skull.
Shakari grasped him by the hair and pulled him up. "Don't make me do that again. Where is he?"
"Please. I don't know!" he shouted, tears streaming from his eyes.
Shakari stared at him for a minute and then sighed. She released him and started walking towards the exit.
With the pain fading, some of Zachary's bravado had returned. He looked at her retreating figure and said, "You may be the chosen but Xavier is also. He will destroy you and your allies! You will not interfere in his grand schemes!" With every sentence his voice rose until he was screaming.
With his last words, Shakari whirled around. Her jaw was clenched and her expression caused Zachary to catch his breath. She looked at him and said one phrase. "Shut up."
Blackness descended and Zachary fell to the floor, unconscious.
Shakari stormed through the exit and was greeted by the stares of awe of the three men. She looked at Lawrence and saw respect in his eyes but all she felt was bitterness. She said to him, "Release him somewhere far from here. He won't remember what happened."
Blair could only stare at her, his blue eyes wide with shock. He spared a glance at Jim and realized that the Sentinel was in a similar state. "Shakari, how did you...?" he started to ask but she had turned away from them and was leaving the control room.
Jim started after her but Lawrence grabbed his arm and shook his head. "Not now, Jim. She needs some time alone."
The Sentinel was about to argue but as his enhanced hearing picked up the sound nf her footsteps, he heard something else that froze him in his tracks. Her muffled sobs.
One hour later
Jim and Blair walked through the complex towards the room where Lawrence had said that they could find Shakari. They had tried to find out from him what had happened between Zachary and Shakari but their efforts were in vain.
"It isn't my place to tell you. I'm sorry, " he had said and with those words, he had picked up Zachary's inert form and left them standing there speechless.
The pair had remained in the control room and had tried to figure out what had happened with no success. Then Blair had come up with one of his seemingly crazy theories.
"Telepathy?" asked Jim incredulously. "Chief, I know that weird stuff is going on here but that's a bit of a stretch."
"Really, big guy? Then you explain it," replied Blair.
Jim sighed as he thought about what they had seen. Zachary had dropped out of midair as though he had hit a brick wall. This is crazy. Okay, granted that a couple days ago I didn't believe in werewolves but telepathy?
Getting no answer, Blair smirked and said, "I thought so. Look at the facts, Jim. She never told us how she contacted Lawrence from the mountains. No cellular phone could have gotten through, could it? Too much interference. Zachary leaps at her, she waves her hand and he's screaming on the floor. When he doesn't answer her at first, she looks at him and he falls again, man. What else could it be?"
Jim smiled inwardly as he watched his partner wave his hands in the air while he was talking. He was secretly relieved that Blair's transformation hadn't altered his Guide's personality. "I don't know, Chief. We're only going to get some answers if we ask her our..." Jim paused as his Sentinel enhanced hearing detected a peculiar noise.
"Jim? Man, what is it?" asked Blair, going into full Guide mode.
"I don't know. It sounds like...something...metal getting hit."
They looked at each other and started jogging towards the sounds. "Can you hear anybody, Jim?" As he ran, Blair concentrated and managed to detect Shakari's presence but no other werewolves were nearby as far as he could tell.
"No. She's alone. But what's she doing?"
In less than a minute they had reached a door and they paused at the sight before them. Shakari was in human form and obviously, she was training, throwing punches and kicks at a dummy target. However, that wasn't what had stunned the two of them. The fact that Shakari was hitting a solid metal target with her bare hands and feet without a bruise on her limbs had floored them.
Jim and Blair glanced at each other. Blair's eyebrows were raised, silently asking, Do you want to talk to her or should I?
Jim shrugged and he was about to interrupt her when Shakari said, "It's alright, guys. I'm pretty much done here." She aimed a vicious kick at the dummy's head and it was ripped off with the force of the impact. She hadn't even flinched when her foot had connected. Jim wondered, "Just how strong are you?"
Shakari watched as the head flew through the room and hit the opposite wall. She sighed and grabbed a towel, wiping the thin sheen of sweat on her forehead. For a moment, she covered her face, summoning the courage to face the two men behind her. They have a right to know what happened in there but I can't tell them everything. It's for their own good that they know as little as possible about who I really am.
Blair stepped towards her and put one of his hands on her shoulder. He could feel the minute trembling beneath his hand. "Shakari, we don't want to push you. I mean, if you don't want to tell us what happened..."
She sighed and turned around to face her old friend. She smiled slightly as she looked at him, his brow furrowed with the concern that he felt for her. You never cease to amaze me, Blair. Thank you. Her smile widened as Blair's mouth dropped open.
Jim noticed his friend's condition and heard his increased heart rate. "Chief, you okay?"
Blair's mouth worked as he tried to say something. Then he managed to blurt out, "Jim, she spoke. I mean, in my head!"
Shakari laughed and nodded her head when Jim stared at her with a similar shocked expression. "Yes, Blair. You were right. I heard you guys talking about what happened earlier." The smile slid off her face as she thought about what she had done. Walking towards a group of chairs, she gestured for them to follow her.
"Before I tell you what happened in there, I have to explain some things first. A little history about werewolves." Shakari paused and her eyes had a distant look in them. "Long ago, werewolves were organized into clans, if you will. All werewolves allied themselves with each other. Even though we might have had some disagreements from time to time, we all banded together for the better of the clan. Then, like most things, the clan started to fall apart."
"Why?" asked Blair, his curiosity perked.
"Power, I guess. Although it was a bit more complex than that. You see, the division came when humanity's numbers began to multiply. I don't know the origin of our species. I don't think anyone alive knows the answer to that question but we were fairly numerous and had free reign over our destiny. You know the old expression, 'humans fear what they don't understand'? Well, that's exactly how they treated us."
"So, are you saying that you started to be killed off or something?" Blair asked incredulously.
"Yes." Shakari took a deep breath. "Some humans had known of our existence and they regarded us as part of nature. We were their...guardians, sort of. But others arrived, and they didn't know. They began to hunt us down. Don't think that a werewolf can't be killed. It's just hard to do. Anyway, after the arrival of the 'new humans', let's call them, the clan was being exterminated and there was a meeting to decide what to do."
Jim started to see where the story was headed. "So there was a difference of opinion? Some wanted to take decisive action but others thought something else?"
Shakari glanced at him and nodded. "Exactly. Some of the clan realized that it was part of the cycle of nature. Our time was over. We had to make way for the humans. That's not to say that we weren't angered by the slaughter that was being carried out." She paused and clenched her fists. "It was horrific. They didn't even spare the children."
"How many of you were left?" Blair asked quietly.
"By the time of the clan meeting? About a few hundred," she said in a low voice. "Some of the werewolves decided to withdraw. Since we looked like humans, it wouldn't be exceptionally hard to blend into the population, especially if we separated. I'm descended from one of the families who decided to leave. Xavier, on the other hand, is of the other sect. They wanted to retaliate but it would've only put the entire race in danger. We were outnumbered. It was as simple as that."
"How do you know Xavier?" asked Jim. As soon as the words had left his mouth, Shakari tensed and a low growl came from her throat. Jim was shocked at her reaction. God, what did he do to her to make her react like this?
The memories came flooding back to Shakari. Her first meeting with Xavier where she had lost so much.
Taking a deep breath, Shakari looked away for a couple of seconds and then returned her gaze to the two men in front of her. "I...I want to tell you how I know Xavier but I can't." She quickly wiped away the moisture that was beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. Great, now I'm crying. She turned away from them trying to get control of her emotions.
Blair leapt from his chair and came up behind her. He hugged her and put his head on her shoulder. "Sshhh. It's alright, Shar," he said.
She laughed a little and turned in his arms. "You haven't called me that in years." She touched his face and said, "Thank you. I'll tell you guys later. I promise. But for know just take my word for it that things are really dangerous now that I know he's involved."
"How dangerous?" asked Jim.
"He's ruthless. His sect called the rest who disagreed with them weak. They even tried to kill some of my clan at the meeting but they were quickly defeated. We banished them from the clan. No contact whatsoever. But their leader promised that he would return the werewolf to his 'rightful place'. Then our sect separated and as time passed we lost contact with each other. My people are spread all over the world now and I don't even know who all of them are. Our numbers are small but some of us do keep in contact with each other. I only found out about the legend of the division of our people a few years ago when Lawrence was training me...after I met Xavier."
The Sentinel also rose from his seat and said, "Okay. So the werewolf clan split and now there are two divisions, you on one side and Xavier on the other. But what's he planning? Why the whole serum thing?"
"I can't get into Xavier's head and I mean that literally. I can't read his mind at all. Both of us are...powerful wolves. That's what Zachary meant when he said that we were the chosen ones. Sometimes a werewolf will be born that is a great deal more powerful than the average." Well, that's not a lie but they don't have to know the real implications of our power. "A result of that increased power is telepathy. Part of my training with Lawrence was how to control it. I was the one who caused Zachary the pain when I was interrogating him. When I telepathically linked to Lawrence in the mountains, that was the first time that I'd done it without him initiating my powers. And now that I've got them, it's almost like a tap that you can't turn off. What I did to Zachary was purely instinctual." She paused and ran her hand over the top of a chair. "I don't like what I did. It was a violation of the mind pure and simple. Something that Xavier would do, not me. I tried to excuse myself by saying that anyone who allied themselves with Xavier deserved it but it doesn't make it right. From what I know of Xavier, he follows his sect's beliefs body and soul. Can you imagine what would happen if he could somehow turn people into permanent werewolves?"
"I don't understand the problem," Blair said, finally releasing Shakari. "Okay, I know that you have to adjust to the change but I'm pretty much the same, aren't I?"
"Pretty much, but not totally. Remember what happened when I insulted Zachary? How he seemed to lose it? That's the problem. Werewolves are...well, I don't want to say violent by nature but we're more physical than humans. The problem is that we can go into a state where we lose all reason and go...well, berserk."
"Berserk?" asked Jim, his eyebrows raised.
"Do you remember how Blair acted when he had been transformed and he saw you in danger?"
How could I forget? That scene would haunt the Sentinel's nightmares for years to come.
"What happened?" asked Blair. "The last thing that I remember was this incredible pain and then rage as I saw Alex choking Jim. Then nothing, man." He looked to his Sentinel for an answer.
"Chief, it was like...I don't even know how to explain it. I looked at your eyes and you weren't...there. I just saw this incredible anger. Then you ripped free and went flying at the glass. If Victor hadn't got that reinforced wall down...I don't want to think about what you would have done to them."
"When a werewolf goes into that state, all reason stops. We just want to kill. Friend or foe, it doesn't matter. All are prey."
Blair sat heavily in a nearby chair as he tried to process this new bit of information. Am I really capable of something like that? The thought was horrifying for a man who had dedicated his life to peace.
Noticing Blair's distress, Shakari knelt in front of him and put a hand on his knee. "Blair. Listen to me. It can be controlled. Your life isn't suddenly over but you have to make adjustments. I've been talking to Lawrence about what he knows about Sentinels. He didn't know much but I don't think you would've hurt Jim because of the bond that exists between a Sentinel and a Guide. When I was in Victor's complex, I could hear what you said to them when they were choking Jim. You recognized him even though you were so angry." She glanced at Jim and continued, "My telepathy isn't as powerful with humans but there's a telepathic bond between the two of you. That type of bond is powerful. You can feel each other's pain, each other's emotions if you try. Maybe even hear each other's thoughts. I don't know if you are capable of hurting him because of that bond."
Blair said quietly, "But you don't know for sure."
Shakari sighed and replied, "No. I need to train you a little. Help you find your center so that you don't wig out every time you get angry at someone."
Jim sat in a chair next to Blair and grasped his hand, "And I'll be there to help you, Chief."
Blair glanced at his Sentinel and saw the commitment to their friendship in those ice-blue eyes. He managed to smile and said, "Thanks, man. You know, it's kinda funny, Jim. Usually, I'm the one who has to get you to control your abilities. Talk about role reversal."
Jim laughed. He mussed Blair's brown curls and said, "Now you'll know why I hate your tests so much, Chief."
Shakari smiled and said, "I think we should head back to Cascade, guys."
They both looked at her incredulously. Jim asked, "Are you serious? Victor and therefore, Xavier, know who I am. It can't be that difficult to find out where we live."
"That's true but we're too isolated here. If Xavier wanted to launch an attack on this place, it wouldn't be too difficult. The fact that he found you guys on the cliff tells me that he knows about this house. At least in the city, he would have to minimize his activities. He's keeping a low profile and it was pure coincidence that we found out what he's doing. Jim, you mentioned earlier that there's a vacant apartment in the building?"
"Yeah. But you don't have to, you can stay with us."
"Thanks for the offer guys but it's not a problem. I don't know how long I'll be there but I imagine that Blair wants his bed back now."
"Nah, Shar. I don't mind sleeping on the couch," said Blair.
"Well, that's not the only reason." Shakari grinned impishly and said, "I'm all for going back to nature but that herbal stuff that you use makes my nose itch."
"Really? I thought it was just me," said Jim.
Blair gave his friends a dirty look as they burst out laughing. "Nice to be your comic relief," he muttered.
The loft, 1 week later
Jim yawned as he walked up the stairs to the loft. He was exhausted. He had just participated in one of the biggest drug busts in Cascade history. Remembering the mountain of paperwork that he had had to fill out because Blair wasn't there, Jim turned up his hearing and focused on the loft. He could hear Shakari's and Blair's heartbeats distinctly, both fairly slow.
When he opened the door, he saw the two of them seated in the middle of the floor in the lotus position, facing each other. Shakari had been talking softly to Blair but the sound of the door being unlocked made Blair open his eyes, breaking his concentration.
"Hey, Jim," he called out in greeting.
Shakari sighed heavily and opened her eyes, staring at Blair with a slight frown. "Blair, you lost it."
Looking back at Shakari, Blair's eyebrows raised and he said, "Come on, Shar. Jim came in so I..."
"I know perfectly well that Jim came in, Blair. I heard him from the time he drove up but you have to keep focused here. You're supposed to be going back to school in a couple of days and I need to be satisfied that you have the proper control. I'm not going to be with you 24/7 you know." Shakari rotated her shoulders and breathed a sigh of relief as the stiffness that had been developing eased away.
Blair had noticed her movements and said, "Well, Shar, I guess we can stop for now. You're tired and I think I've lost the feeling in my legs so..." Blair winced as he started to straighten his legs.
"A ten minute break, Blair. No more," Shakari replied.
"Come on, Shar! We've been at this since six in the morning! Can't we just start again tomorrow?" Blair tried to manipulate her by softening his expression into that 'puppy-dog' look. "Please?"
However, it didn't quite work. Shakari merely stared at him and said, "Nine minutes and fifty seconds." She rose gracefully from her position on the floor. "Those 'eyes' may work on your girlfriends, Blair but I know you too well." With a smug smile, she patted him on the cheek and walked out onto the balcony to get some fresh air.
Blair walked gingerly into the kitchen, wincing a little as the blood started circulating to his feet and tried to get some support from his room-mate. "Jim, man, she's worse than a drill instructor!"
Jim merely took a sip of the beer that he had taken from the fridge.
"You gotta help me out here, man!" Blair said, almost desperate.
"I thought that you liked to meditate, Chief," said Jim.
"Not for the whole day! Maybe you could talk to her. Tell her we're going to the movies or something. We have a stakeout. Something, man. Anything!"
"Why, Chief? Do you want me to lie to Shakari for you?"
"Yes," Blair hissed. He was going to continue and try to reason with Jim when he saw the corner of the Sentinel's mouth twitch. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
Jim smirked and took another swig of the beer, remembering the tests that Blair had put him through when they had first met. "Oh yeah."
Blair stared at him with a disgusted expression and turned to go to the bathroom, muttering under his breath about being back stabbed by friends.
Jim smiled. Revenge is so sweet.
Two hours later
Shakari probed Blair's mind and found him entirely calm, his thoughts no longer chaotic but flowing together. It's a good thing that he meditates already or I wouldn't have gotten this far with him so quickly. "Alright, Blair. One more thing and then we're done for the night. Now concentrate on your hand. I just want you to change your fingernails into claws."
Jim watched from the couch as Blair's brow furrowed in deepconcentration. He could see Blair's right hand getting slightly bigger and then his enhanced vision detected the lengthening of the nails.
Shakari smiled and nodded. "Good. Now back to normal."
Blair concentrated and felt the change back to human form. He took a deep breath and shuddered slightly. When he opened his eyes, Shakari was smiling broadly.
"That was very good, Blair. You've come far. You have to remember that you can control the extent of your transformation."
"Is that how you managed to get away from Zachary so quickly?" asked Jim.
"Yes. Essentially, I had my werewolf strength in my human form. It's a difficult thing to do and Blair won't get that amount of control. It took me years of training with Lawrence to do that. Speaking of Lawrence, he'll be here in a couple of minutes. He's been trying to figure out Xavier's location."
"I still don't get his plan, though," Jim said. "He turns everyone into werewolves and then what? And more importantly, why?"
"The ultimate revenge on my sect. If you can't overwhelm humanity by sheer numbers, why not turn humanity into werewolves? You can't try to reason this out as a cop, Jim. Xavier has no...I guess, understandable motive. He's going to do it because he can."
Jim closed his eyes briefly. Great, the worst kind of criminal. The one who has nothing to lose.
Shakari knew that they still didn't understand exactly how evil and twisted Xavier was. I have to tell them. No matter how painful it is for me, they have to know why I'm pushing Blair so hard. What the both of them are up against. She rose from the floor and sat on one of the chairs. She looked at her hands for a long time, marshaling the courage to reveal that tortuous moment in her past.
Sensing her distress, Blair also rose from the floor and moved to sit beside her. Gently, he took one of her hands in his and just held it, hoping that he was offering her some comfort.
At his touch, Shakari began to speak, very softly at first, still not looking at the two men. "It happened about six years ago..."
Six years ago
"Oh Sam, stop it!" Shakari ran ahead, giggling as she looked back at her boyfriend.
"You'd better run, Shar!" he exclaimed, his fingers waving in the air with an implied threat. Sam jogged after her and caught her around the waist.
She wiggled in his embrace, trying to escape his tickling fingers around her waist. "Sam! No, please..." She couldn't talk anymore as Sam's fingers found her sides and she dissolved into gales of laughter, tears streaming from her eyes.
Sam laughed as he teased her skin mercilessly but eased off when he saw her gasping for breath.
With the stimulation gone, Shakari caught her breath and wiped her eyes with a shaking hand. She looked into his eyes and said, "You know I hate it when you do that."
"Really? I never noticed," he replied. Staring into her dark brown eyes, he leaned forward and kissed her gently.
Shakari responded to his kiss, hugging him. When he pulled back, they stared at each other for a moment. She couldn't believe how much she loved him. She had had other boyfriends but none could compare to the way he made her feel. Could I have found my life-mate?
"Come on. It's getting late and I have to get you back home before your dad flays me alive," he said with a wry grin. He clutched one of her hands and they walked together through the city, returning from a late night movie that they had just seen.
So caught up in her thoughts, Shakari did not notice the group of four men who had stepped out of an alley that they had just passed until it was too late. She froze as she felt a sharp knife at her side.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here? You kids should really be more careful. Walking the streets alone this late could be hazardous to your health," said the man who had the knife pressed against her side. She grimaced slightly as his foul breath assaulted her nose. A quick glance at Sam revealed that he was in a similar situation.
"Walk towards that alley over there," the man commanded. As they complied with his order, Shakari looked around for some assistance but they were alone on the street. Great. Lawrence is going to chew me out seriously when he finds out what happened. He'll say, 'You have to be aware of your environment at all times, Shakari. You can't afford to get careless.' I'll take care of these idiots and then we can go home.
When the group arrived in the alley, the leader turned to the two of them and said, "Hand over your money, children."
Inwardly, Shakari rolled her eyes as they gave him what little money they had. God, don't they at least have some original lines.
The man snatched the money and seeing the amount, glared at them. "You've got to be kidding me!"
Sam stared at him angrily and said, "Look. That's all we have okay!"
The leader ignored him and stared at Shakari, his eyes running over her form. "Well, then. We'll just have to get some payment some other way." He grabbed Shakari's arm and roughly pulled her forward into his chest.
Sam tried to stop him but two of the goons grabbed him from behind.
Shakari shuddered as the man ran his tongue over her cheek. Oh, you're going to pay for that you creep. Oh yeah, I guess I should make this look good. She began to squirm, trying to escape his hold on her. "Please, don't do this," she cried.
The leader merely laughed at Shakari's antics and gestured to the other henchman. The man came up behind Shakari and grabbed her two forearms, pinning them to her sides, while the leader began to remove his clothes.
Sam surged forward, trying to escape his captors but one of them wrenched his arm behind his back, almost pulling it out of the socket. Sam screamed with the pain and they forced him to the ground.
The leader moved towards the apparently hysterical girl and said, "Let's get this over with, honey." To his shock, the hysterics stopped immediately and she said in a cold and calm voice, "Yes, let's do that."
Enraged by the sound of Sam's scream, Shakari kicked the leader in the genitals, elated when he let out an agonized whimper. Turning her attention to the one who was holding her, she snapped her head back, her skull hitting the man's nose, breaking it. When he released her, trying to stem the sudden flow of blood from his nose, she slammed his head into the nearest wall. Watching him sliding to the floor, unconscious, she turned to the other two men. One of them had released Sam and had pulled out his knife. He waved it in front of his body, trying to appear threatening but Shakari just stared at him contemptuously and said, "Oh please." She kicked the knife out of his hand and deftly hit his left temple with her hand, knocking him out. On the balls of her feet, ready to face the last goon, her hopes of getting a real fight were destroyed as the man turned and ran out of the alley. She relaxed and ran over to Sam, who was struggling to get off the floor. "Sam, are you okay?"
He winced as he touched the wrenched shoulder and said shakily, "I've been better. Geez, Shar, you said that you knew some martial arts but I've never seen anything like that."
"Come on, I'm going to get you to a hos..." she started to say but her words were cut off by the sound of a hammer being cocked. She whirled around to see the leader pointing a gun at them.
"You bitch!" he screamed, his finger starting to pull the trigger.
Blair said quietly, "Did he...?"
"Shoot us? No. I didn't give him a chance. That's where things went wrong between me and Sam. I didn't have the control that I have now back then, so I had to morph to stop the gang member. I'm not faster than a bullet but I can move faster than someone can pull a trigger."
Without a moment's hesitation, Shakari morphed, her clothes ripping from her body and she launched herself at the one who was threatening her love. She wrenched the gun out of his hand and seized him by the throat. He gurgled and clutched futilely at the hand that was cutting off his air. When he lost consciousness, she let his limp body drop to the floor. She turned to Sam and froze.
Sam was staring at her with an expression of indescribable fear.
"Sam..." she started to say but as soon as she took a step towards him, he flung himself backward.
"Stay away from me! You...you freak!" he screamed. "Help me! Someone,help me!"
Oh my God. Jim couldn't imagine the pain that she had felt when she had heard those words. Even now, he could see the effects of that hurt. She still hadn't raised her head to look at her friends.
"Do you know what that felt like?" she asked quietly. Shakari raised her head and the two partners saw the tears that threatened. "He was the one that I felt a connection with. In humans most of the time that's an expression but when my people mate, we mate for life. I felt that bond with Sam. Then he rejected me."
"What happened after that?" asked Blair.
"Someone had heard his screams and he was coming. I ran. No one saw me. To Sam's credit, he didn't say anything about me. He claimed that he had lost consciousness from the pain of his wrenched shoulder so he didn't see anything. No one doubted his story. The only one who mentioned my presence was the leader but everyone thought he was a raving lunatic. Anyway, I got home and I told my parents what had happened. I was hysterical. They were worried that they would have to move but when the papers didn't report me, they calmed down. I didn't."
Shakari stood and went over to the double doors to the loft balcony, staring at the night sky. "I was shattered by Sam's rejection. Intellectually I could understand his fear but that didn't mean that it still didn't hurt. I couldn't even sleep. All I would dream about was that moment. My parents called Lawrence and he came. Even his calming presence had no effect on me for awhile. I tried to call Sam but obviously he didn't return my calls. Lawrence made me go into the forest by myself for awhile. Meditation always helped me." She turned to Blair and Jim and leaned against the wall. "Now this is where Xavier comes in. Apparently he had known of my existence but Lawrence didn't tell me about him until it was too late. About two months after Sam found out what I was, I went into the forest. For some reason, I went near the cabin that Sam and his family had, maybe hoping that he was there. The whole family was there. Apparently he was having the same reaction that I was and they knew that he loved camping, so his parents thought it would be therapeutic."
"Was he a werewolf, Shar?" Blair asked, wondering about thesimilarities between Sam and Shakari.
"I think he had the blood in him. Not much but it was there all the same. He felt the bond between us but his pride was preventing him from coming back to me. Then..." she paused and looked down for a second, "Xavier showed up."
Shakari had assumed the lotus position, trying to find her center but her thoughts returned to Sam. She opened her eyes and sighed. This isn't helping. I should move further away from them before he figures out I'm here. She had made up her mind to move further away, into the welcoming seclusion that would give her the strength to move on with her life. She didn't have any gear to pack up. She was living as her people had done centuries ago, at one with nature.
For the last time, she started extending her werewolf enhanced senses when she froze as she heard an agonized scream coming from their cabin. Without thinking, she ran there as fast as she could, her speed increasing the closer. Her heart hammered in her chest as the smell of blood became overpowering. She skidded to a halt at the edge of the clearing and froze.
Shakari stumbled forward past the two bodies of Sam's parents, lying in front of the cabin, gutted open.
With shaky legs, she entered the cabin and grasped the door frame, using it to support her shaking body. Sam's little sister was lying on the floor, her hand clutching her favorite doll. Then she saw Sam and a wail erupted from her body. His body was mangled with horrific slashes but somehow he was still alive. She rushed over to his side and gently turned his head so that he could see her.
His eyes were staring and he was taking very small, laboring breaths. When he saw her, his eyes closed briefly and then he managed to open them again. "Shar? Is.. .that...you?" he asked, his voice very soft. A trickle of blood spilled from his lips as he spoke.
Crying, she nodded and said, "Sam, don't talk. I'll get help, okay? Just lie still."
"No...Too late...for me. Another one...like you. Came and did this. Said...he wanted to destroy...you totally..." Sam was overcome by a coughing fit and more blood poured from his mouth.
Wiping tears from her eyes, she said, "Shhh, it's alright. Just keep still, okay. You're going to be fine."
Sam looked at her and through the incredible pain, he managed to give her a little smile. "You...always were a...bad liar...Shar." He raised a bloody palm and placed it on the side of her face. She placed her hand over his. "Forgive me... Shar. What I did was...wrong. Should've never...called you...a freak."
"You're forgiven. Please, don't talk, Sam. Hold on, please," she begged.
"Sam! Sam! No!" she screamed as the light faded from his eyes and his hand went limp. She roared her grief. She lost control and morphed into her humanoid form and that's when she sensed she was not alone.
She leapt to her feet and saw a werewolf standing in the doorway, blood dripping from its claws. As soon as she saw him, she knew he was like her because he bore the same claw marks on his thigh.
He smiled and raised his hand to his mouth. He casually licked the blood from his fingers and said, "How pathetic! Pinning over your lost love, my dear? Xavier's the name by the way. I thought I should let you know before you die."
Both the Sentinel and the Guide rose from their chairs and stood next to Shakari. She was shaking and the tears that she had been trying to hold back finally began to fall.
"Oh my God," said Jim. "Shakari, I had no idea."
Blair was at a loss for words. He couldn't believe what his friend had gone through and she had been all alone. His blue eyes showed his concern and he whispered, "How could he?"
"Because he's evil, that's how." She wiped the tears away and her voice shook with anger. "We fought to a standstill. He underestimated me. I was far more powerful than he thought I would be. We nearly killed each other in that place. At that point, I didn't care if I died as long as he went with me."
"How did the fight stop?" asked Jim.
"We had injured each other badly, he couldn't beat me, I couldn't beat him. Then, Lawrence showed up. Apparently he wanted to check on me. When Xavier felt his presence, he fled. The authorities eventually blamed the deaths on a rabid bear and the case was closed. After I had healed, I made Lawrence tell me all about my history. "She breathed deeply and continued." Sam's sister was only five years old. She hadn't even had a chance to live her life and that bastard killed her in cold blood."
She clenched her fist so tightly that her fingernails broke the skin and tiny drops of blood fell from her hand. "The next time we meet, he will die." She flung the balcony doors open and vaulted up, disappearing from their sight.
"Shar?" Blair asked, walking to the balcony and looking up. He could see her perched on the roof, staring at the city. He was about to follow her, when he felt Jim's hand on his shoulder.
"No, Chief. It took a lot out of her to tell us her past. Leave her be for now. She'll come down when she's ready."
Blair glanced back up at her motionless figure and sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right, Jim." Looking back up, he whispered, "I'm here for you, Shar. Don't lock me out." With his new sight, he detected the slight shiver that ran through her frame.
Half an hour later
Simultaneously, Jim and Blair snapped their heads up as they heard two sounds. A light tap as Shakari landed on the balcony floor and a knock on the door. Blair rose and went to Shakari while Jim got the door.
"Lawrence," Jim said as he opened the door, aware of the werewolf's presence from his heartbeat even before he had seen him.
"Jim," he replied. He looked past Jim's shoulder and Jim noticed that his eyes seemed to glaze over. Jim glanced at Shakari and she nodded when Lawrence looked at her. Hmm. Another one of those unknown conversations between them?
I'm alright, Lawrence, really. Besides it's not polite for us to talk like this when they can't hear us. "What did you find?" Shakari asked, moving to the table.
His eyes regaining their focus, Lawrence moved in her direction and said, "Unfortunately, not much. Xavier is meticulous. It's not been easy trying to track him down, even with our resources."
"He can't have disappeared without a trace!"
"I didn't say that I didn't find anything, Shar," he said wryly, "I just said that he hasn't left much of a trail. Most of what I know came from the police report that Jim gave me."
The Sentinel sat at the table and began sorting through the thin file that Lawrence had set down. "When I was in Victor's complex, he said something about a test."
"Yes. I think they didn't know all of the capabilities of their creations. They needed to find out so they sent...what's his name?" Lawrence glanced at Blair and asked, "Alex, right?" Blair nodded and Lawrence continued, "Ok, Alex to see what he was capable of. Unfortunately for them, Alex seemed to be prone to our violent tendencies. That's why the guard was so badly mutilated."
"So, there was nothing in the McKinnly building that they wanted?" Blair asked.
"Not as far as we can tell. But what we do know is that Xavier has to be operating somewhere in the state. I don't think he would've allowed Victor to conduct his little experiments too far from his influence."
"Have you talked to others?" Shakari asked.
"Some. They don't know what's going on either but they're going to make some checks for me." Lawrence rubbed his tired eyes and continued, "Shakari, I don't like to admit this but we're vulnerable here. We have no idea what's going on. We have to wait until he makes his move."
"But won't that be too late?" Blair asked. "I mean, Xavier's like totally trying to create a 'survival of the fittest' situation among humanity. We can't just sit here and twiddle our fingers!"
"We're not going to sit idly by, Blair," Shakari said. She looked at Lawrence and Jim noticed that an air of authority seemed to descend on her. "Lawrence, I need to know who knew about the safe-house in the woods. Only a few of us are supposed to know about it. I don't want to think that there's a traitor in our sect but I can't ignore the possibility."
"Shakari, do you know what you're saying? Only certain members of our sect are given that knowledge. I was your mentor and even I didn't know about it. Hell, Shakari, not even your parents knew! I can't go accusing the elders!"
"Lawrence, I don't care. Elder or not, this is way too big for me to be concerned about etiquette, do it. I need the names."
"Shakari, I don't know..." he started to say but he was cut short by Shakari's palm slamming on the table.
"Damn it, Lawrence, don't you dare disobey me!" Her jaw clenched as she stared at her mentor.
Lawrence's eyes hardened and he stood up. He stared down at her and said quietly, "That's the first time that you've thrown that in my face. Fine. Whatever you say." Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the loft.
Shakari growled and she also stormed out, heading to her temporary apartment on the floor above.
Jim and Blair stared at each other with matching stunned expressions. Blair shrugged and said, "Whoa!"
A week later
Blair Sandburg sighed and rubbed his temples. Great. How in God's name did I manage to end up at the bank, on pay day, at lunch hour? He groaned inwardly as he looked at the line in front of him, seemingly going on forever. However, the headache that he felt coming on wasn't only as a result of the line but the tension that had been at the loft for the past week after the little altercation between Shakari and Lawrence. Why won't she open up to me? I mean, she's only know Jim for a couple of weeks but we were like brother and sister and now it's like she's taken a vow of silence or something.
Resigned to the fact that he wasn't leaving there anytime this century, Blair bent down to retrieve his cell phone from his backpack. He used the speed dial and a gruff voice greeted him, "Ellison."
"Jim. Man, I'm sorry but you and Simon better go on and have lunch without me. I'll be in the bank for the next ten years if you're looking for me."
"Chief, why are you at the bank on pay day? You know what the lines are like," replied Jim, his voice reflecting the exasperation that he felt.
"Jim, man, don't start with me now, ok?" Why does he treat me like a little kid sometimes? "Jim, I wouldn't be here, but some idiot messed up my loans and they wouldn't listen to me so I need the money.."
"Alright, alright. What time does your last class end?"
"About eight, I think. We can go to that Chinese place that you like so..." Blair's eyes widened in shock as he saw a group of men, dressed in black suits, all armed. "Shit. Jim, I think you'd better get down here right now, man."
Jim's eyes narrowed as he heard the sudden stress in his friend's voice. "Sandburg? Blair, what's going on?" The last thing that Jim heard was a voice screaming for everyone to hit the floor and a gunshot as the line went dead.
God, why me? Is this just my lot in life - to cross every damn criminal in the world? I mean, let's examine this. I go to the bank, the bank gets robbed. I go to get an artifact appraised, I get trapped in a falling elevator. Drug manufacturers deliver pizza laced with Golden to the precinct. The only person to eat a slice? Yep, me. Blair raised his head from the floor and looked around. Guarding the door were three men, each with a shotgun. Another two were keeping an eye on the customers lying on the floor.
"Time check!" one of the men shouted as he walked behind the counter.
"Cops should be here in about ten minutes, sir!"
"Good, we're on schedule."
Great. They're professionals. Military, maybe? Come on, Jim, where are you?
Outside, five minutes later
The curious crowd that had gathered a few buildings down from the bank all turned their heads at the sound of the sirens screaming down the street. A blue truck was in the lead and it had barely come to a stop when two men jumped out.
Jim clenched his jaw as he used his enhanced sight to check the bank.
Simon saw the glazed look come over his eyes as they crouched behind the safety of the truck. "How many?" he asked quietly.
"Two at the front. Two with the customers. I think there's someone else behind the counter." Jim's jaw clenched even more, if that were possible. "I can see, Blair."
Simon glanced at the detective. "How's the kid?"
"Fine. For now." Damn it! Why does this always happen? It's like he has this invisible bullseye attached to his back.
"How the hell did they get here so fast?" one of the men asked.
"It doesn't matter. We still have time. Hacker, you ready?" the leader asked, turning to a man that had removed a laptop from a briefcase.
"Just give me a couple of minutes. Then I'll be hooked up to the bank's network." The man focused on the screen, his fingers dancing quickly across the keyboard. He muttered, "This software is amazing, where in God's name did he get it?"
The leader turned around and went up behind Hacker. "You don't need to know that, do you?" he said, his voice deadly quiet.
"Uh, no," Hacker stammered. He typed in a few more commands and smiled. "That's it, we're in!"
"How long 'til the code is broken?"
"I think about five hours should be good enough. How are we going to keep the cops out until then?"
"I also have that covered." The leader pulled out a remote control and pressed one of the buttons."
The Sentinel narrowed his eyes suddenly. Simon touched his shoulder and said, "Jim, what's going on?"
The detective was trying to process the input that he was receiving from the signals of the remote control when another sound assaulted his ears.
Screams rose from the crowd and the officers hit the floor when an explosion rocked the afternoon air. Five blocks away, a fireball rose in the air as an abandoned building exploded. Simon reached into his jacket and grabbed a radio. "This is Captain Banks. We've had an explosion at 3100 Saints Street. I need backup, now!" he bellowed. Placing the radio on the ground, he turned to Jim and asked, "What the hell is going on here?"
"I heard something about cracking a code then," he paused, "I don't know how to explain it, sir. I felt this...tingle or something, then the building blew up."
The SWAT team van pulled up, followed by an entourage of ten other cars. When the police negotiator hoped out, Simon waved the man over.
The only sounds in the bank were the muffled sobs of some of the hostages. Then the phone rang. Blair glanced at the leader and watched as he strode over to the desk.
"It's about damn time," he muttered. "Hello," he said into the speaker with a polite voice.
"May I speak with the person in charge?" the police negotiator asked.
"Actually, I want to speak to Captain Banks," he replied.
"I'm sorry. I'm afraid that I can't arrange that right now. Perhaps, if you could..."
"Listen to me and listen to me good," the leader snarled into the receiver. "Put him on the line now or someone dies."
There was a brief pause and then the captain said as calmly as possible, "This is Banks!"
"Good. Now let's cut the whole 'Try to become his friend, blah blah blah', routine. Obviously we're here to make an unscheduled withdrawal. No officers will approach the bank. If I see any hint of someone trying to penetrate this bank, a civilian will die. And to ensure your complete co-operation, we've rigged various buildings in the city with bombs. That abandoned warehouse was just a demonstration. The rest of the bombs are located where they'll do the maximum damage."
Jim clenched his jaw as he monitored the conversation.
Simon clutched the radio even tighter and growled, "What are yourdemands?"
"All we want done is for you to sit and do nothing. Once we've gotten the money, we'll leave and everyone will be returned unharmed." The leader smiled and said, "Have a nice day." He chuckled as he hung up. He turned back to Hacker and nodded.
Blair groaned as he heard a whine of gears turning. He looked up and realized that some metal plates were lowering over the windows and the doors. He remembered reading an article in the papers about the new security precautions that the bank officials had installed. Let's see. Bullet-proof and takes about eight hours to cut throw with a blow torch. He looked through the windows and managed to catch his friend's eye. Jim, you'd better get me out of this one. I can't do anything with them finding out what I am now. He stared at his friend until they were cut off by the wall of steel, separating the Sentinel and hisGuide.
Four hours later
"Shit! I hate this!" Jim said, clenching his jaw.
Simon glanced in his direction, watching the detective grind his molars. "Jim, I know how you feel but if you keep clenching your jaw like that, you won't have any teeth left."
With great difficulty, Jim slowly relaxed his tense muscles. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He was barely able to detect any sound from the bank, the metal doors hampering his Sentinel abilities. Come on, Chief. Where are you? He turned the dials to the maximum levels possible, gradually filtering out the other sounds until he could concentrate on the bank. Then he heard it. Only for a couple of seconds but he had detected his Guide's heartbeat. Holding on to that comforting sound, he opened his eyes to meet his captain's gaze.
"The kid's alright?"
"For now." He looked around at the swarm of helpless personnel. The SWAT team was spread across various roofs but the shields on the windows and doors had rendered them ineffective. All access to the bank had been blocked. He was about to refocus his attention on the bank when he heard someone ask, "Jim, can you hear me?"
"Shakari?" Jim whirled around and finally spotted her in an alley about a block down from his position. Simon had left to talk with Taggert about the bomb situation. Jim could talk to her without anyone knowing. He got into the cab of the truck and whispered, "What are you doing here?"
"I heard about it on the news and I got here as fast as I could. I think I may have a solution."
"What do you mean?"
"Lawrence may have found a way into the bank. Come on, this is something I need to show you."
Jim looked around for the captain and saw that he was still talking to Taggert. He quickly left and joined Shakari in the alley. She was in her human form, wearing an exercise top and tights that were made of the same unusual material that he had seen her dressed in before.
Noticing his scrutiny, she said, "It's something that we developed. The material adapts to the change in our physique when we morph." She smiled and continued, "Do you know how much this saves on my clothing bill?" She walked further in the alley and Lawrence emerged from the shadows. "We did an analysis of the plans for the buildings surrounding the bank and here's what we found." She reached into a backpack and removed a map, spreading it on the ground.
Jim hunkered down beside her and quickly scanned the schematic. He pointed and asked, "Is this what I think it is?"
"Yeah, a tunnel. Built in the eighteenth century we think. It's connected to the abandoned warehouse district where the explosion occurred. Lawrence used his wonderful computer skills to find this. The tunnel interconnects with a few buildings, most of them offices but it provides the easiest access. It would have been no problem to set the other bombs without anyone noticing."
Jim did some calculations in his head. "Yeah, look here. This is the museum and this is an office complex. All crowded areas for the maximum damage." He realized that Shakari had every intention of going with him to apprehend the men. "Shakari, you can't come with me?"
She raised an eyebrow and frowned. "Look, Jim. Trust me. You guys need help on this one. This operation was planned by a professional. Blair is in there. I talked to him. He's fine for the moment but I don't want him getting hurt. He's like a brother to me."
"But, they'll find out about you guys!"
"No, they won't." She put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Jim, trust me, ok?"
Jim Ellison didn't trust others easily. He had built a wall around himself that only a few people had managed to penetrate. He had watched Shakari for the past few weeks and realized that she had become one of those select few. "Alright, how do we do this?"
Two hours later
Detective Ellison and Captain Simon Banks were crouched in the tunnel, waiting patiently for the fun to start. They had wrenched open a door that Jim had pointed out in a nearby sewer. The only light streamed through a crack in the one of the walls but Simon strained to see anything in the near darkness.
"Jim, you haven't told me how you found out about this place."
"Simon," he paused, "you just have to trust me on this one, ok. I have some inside sources."
"Jim, I want more..." Simon gasped as two figures seemed to materialize out of the shadows. In the dim light and assuming that they were robbers, Simon automatically reached for his pistol but the sentinel grabbed his arm.
"It's alright, Simon. They're friends." He shifted his gaze to Shakari and asked, "Are they coming?"
"Yes. Blair's with them too. They managed to crack the code for the time lock on the vault. They've got a few hostages but that won't be a problem."
"Wait a minute. Jim, who are these people? How did they get this info?" Simon hissed. In the near darkness, he couldn't even see their faces.
"Trust me, Simon. You don't want to know."
Hearing the warning in the Sentinel's voice, Simon replied, "Alright. I'll let it go." For now, at least.
No words were exchanged between the group of warriors as they waited in the darkness. They all knew that they would only have one chance to take these men without any casualties. Then, Jim tensed as he heard footsteps approaching. He looked at Shakari and she nodded. Shakari made a peculiar gesture and Lawrence shook his head. She raised her eyebrows and Jim could see the annoyance in her eyes. Reluctantly, Lawrence gave his ascent and he leapt to the roof, clinging to its surface with his claws. Simon raised his head at the strange sound but with his normal eyesight he couldn't see anything unusual.
The silence was broken by the screech of ancient metal as a doorway in the tunnel was pried open. Shakari, Simon and Jim flattened themselves against the tunnel, hidden from the light beams by niches in the walls. They could all hear the muffled sobs of some of the hostages as they were herded through the damp tunnel. Jim noticed that none of the robbers had their guns trained on the hostages, confident that they had been successful.
Arrogant fools. Shakari caught Jim's eye as the group passed under the spot where Lawrence clung to the ceiling. She nodded.
Jim and Simon jumped out from their positions and shouted, "Cascade PD! Freeze!"
Simultaneously, Shakari and Lawrence made their moves. Lawrence released his hold on the ceiling and descended on the two thugs who were at the back of the group. In seconds they were unconscious. Shakari had delivered another two to a similar fate. But they weren't fast enough this time. The leader of the group had grabbed a pregnant woman and held a gun to the terrified woman's head. The rest of the hostages huddled on the floor of the tunnel.
"Let me pass, or she dies!" he screamed. He could see the two cops covering him with the guns but he knew that others were in the tunnel. No way are they going to endanger an innocent woman. He heard a man's voice speaking, urging the other frightened individuals behind him to leave. He heard them scurrying back to the bank.
Jim held his position, his gun trained on the man. "Let her go. There's a group of cops waiting at the end of this tunnel. You don't have anywhere to go."
"Yeah, right. How does this look in the headlines 'Cops sacrifice the life of a woman and her unborn child'? Besides, I've got the detonator for those bombs that we set earlier. Would you be able to sleep at night knowing that you sent a hundred people or more to their graves? Why don't we cut the crap and you get out of the w..."
The leader's words were cut off as a savage growl erupted behind him and he felt a hand rip the shotgun from his grasp. He was lifted off the ground and thrown to the other end of the tunnel, sailing over Jim's head.
"Holy shit!" Simon shouted. He saw a creature lowering the form of the woman who had fainted to the floor. Instinctively, he started to pull the trigger.
"No!" Jim screamed. He had heard the mechanism in Simon's gun begin to catch and he knocked Simon's arm into the air, the bullet embedding itself harmlessly in the ceiling. Jim tried to think of a way to lie to his friend but that was impossible. He said quietly, "It's Blair."
"What the he..." Simon found that he could no longer speak as he saw the creature change and resume the form of the man he had assumed to be a normal anthropology student. He stared as a woman entered the range of the beam and hugged Sandburg, draping a blanket over his almost naked form. "Oh God, what have you gotten me into now?" he whispered.
Simultaneously, Xavier's hideout
All in all the operation had been a success. Oh, maybe he hadn't gotten the money but he had found out about the relationship between Shakari and this Blair Sandburg. He had engineered the whole situation, messing up Blair's accounts so that he would be in the bank on that day. Unknown, to all of them, the laptop had a transmitter in it so he had heard everything that had transpired.
Xavier picked up a glass of wine and took a sip. "This time, Shakari, you'll fall and it'll all be mine," he said in the emptiness that reflected the coldness in his own heart.
More Notes: Ok, folks. The next and maybe last part hasn't been started yet but don't worry it'll come eventually *g*. Once again thanks to all those who've sent comments to me about my series and I hope you enjoy the rest too.
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