Island News, June 21, 1989
"Spook Alley" Rapists Convicted

Two of the teenaged male accused of the assault and rape of two fifteen year old girls in Hamilton during September 1988 were convicted of sexual assault and battery this afternoon. In his closing statement, Justice Andreas Ballard said the defendants were fortunate they were not in a country which practiced corporal and capital punishment for their crimes. Justice Ballard, a known supporter of stiff penalties for crimes of violence, sentenced the defendants to a precedent-setting sentence of 12 years without chance of parole in an adult prison, citing the viciousness and premeditation of their acts.

Two of the defendants, who cannot be named under the Young Offenders Act, were injured during or after their attack by what they claim was a monster made of glass. No evidence has yet to be uncovered as to the validity of this claim, and their comments are being attributed to their being either drunk or high at the time of the attack.

The third defendant remains in a coma due to the mysterious being who apparently came to the rescue of the victims.

Lawyers for the victims' families say though while their petition to have the defendants tried in adult court was denied, they are satisfied with the verdict. When asked about rumors of a civil suit being filed against the defendants, the lawyers had no comment.

May 1, 1991, 4:32 p.m., Chester

Fingers smoothed the newspaper clipping and gently closed the scrapbook. The house echoed with the sound of wheels on tile. The same fingers picked up the kitchen phone and punched in a number. The phone began to ring.

May 1, 1991, 4:34 p.m., somewhere in E-Town

Sara Mclintock tapped her fingers on the steering wheel of her small but reliable car as she waited for the light change. The day had been exceptionally tiring. First a presentation at school, then an hour of jiu-jitsu where her sensei, Jenna Rook, had done nothing but scream at her. In front of the whole class.

Why does she always do that? Sara thought angrily. I'm not the only one who makes mistakes. And I have control. It's not my fault I see Aron's face when I'm striking. She snorted, and pounds her fist on the steering wheel. She should be the one who…

Sara jumped as her cell phone screamed at her.

"Geez," Sara swore a she reached for the phone. "Hello?"

"Sara," Carla's voice came over the phone, she resisted the urge to ask where Sara was and if she was okay. But Sara could hear it in her voice.

"Could you pick some milk up on the way home? Father Raymond is here and I don't have any."

"Sure, no problem. Is he staying for dinner tonight?"

"Since he wishes to speak with you, I am sure we can arrange it."

"Do you need anything else? Can I get some ice cream for dessert?" Sara put the car into gear as the light changed to green.

"Whatever you feel like, dear. See you soon?"

"Yup! I should be home in about 15 minutes, barring a big lineup at the store."

The alarm system whined as Sara opened the front door, alerting the house occupants that someone had entered the house. Sara reached over and quickly punched in her two digit code. The alarm system was state of the art and cutting edge, something her mother's work contacts had been able to procure. The system gave two short second bursts before sending the an alert to the police. That was supposed to be enough time to deactivate it. Of course since it was commercial, its designers never took into account that someone might be entering a secured area with an arm full of homework. Sara really didn't need a repeat of the system's secondary defense–a high-pitched sonic buzz that had left them both of them disoriented for a few hours.

Carla wheeled out to great her daughter as Sara moved to the kitchen to put her shopping away. "How was school?"

Sara stuck her tongue out and grimaced. "I hate doing presentations. I always feel like they can see what colour underwear I'm wearing. And that jerk Mark asked me out again. I keep telling him I'm not interested in anyone. Why can't he get that through that thick head of his? And to top it all off, Jenna screamed at me in front of the entire class today." Sara thumped the tub of ice cream down on the counter angrily. "Why does she always pick on me that way? It isn't fair!"

Father Raymond O'Mallory stood as the two women entered the living room. He had filled into the man the boy of 16 had promised. Easily over 6 feet, his body was well defined and well kept. His clothes fit his frame as if they had grown there. His silky black hair was neatly trimmed. His slate grey eyes emitted the same warmth as his smile. His voice was deep and warm with an underlying confidence that spoke of command of himself and of others.

He had only been ordained for a few short months yet he had already been awarded the Holy Lady Church, the youngest to every hold such a position in volatile Hamilton. Yet those who knew the church and the young reverend were not surprised. Raymond had been the real force behind that parish since he was 13. The Holy Lady Church was one of the very few areas where violence was not tolerated and in fact enforced and honored by all the gangs. And O'Mallory was the reason.

"Sara. It is good to see you again. I hear you are doing well in all your classes."

Sara blushed slightly. "I'm doing okay, I guess." She shrugged. "I've got a B in math, but I'm doing pretty well in photography class." Sara tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. "And I hate English. All those stupid presentations."

"I spoke with Jenna this morning. She seems pleased with your progress."

"Really?" Sara looked at Father Raymond with surprise and skepticism. "Yeah, right. She's always yelling at me about control," she mimicked Jenna's voice.

Father Raymond smiled and leaned forward. In a semi-whisper he spoke, "She thinks you have promise."

"Yeah, as an example of what not to do," Sara replied with a wry smile.

Father O'Mallory took a deep breath. "Sit down, Sara, please. I received a call from the British Columbia Penitentiary this morning. Aron Mathis passed away last night."

Sara's face became an emotionless mask as she sat down unsteadily. "They're not going to charge me, are they? I know there was talk about assault charges being filed against me, but there's no way I'm strong enough to hit him hard enough to put him in a coma. They know I was just protecting myself and Linda, don't they?" Her eyes began to threaten tears.

Carla reached over and took her daughter's hand. Gazing at Father O'Mallory her thoughts spun. I have friends in a few countries that would hide us.

"As much as I hate him for what he and the others did, I don't wish him dead. I know you've said it's wrong to hate Aron, and I understand and I hope one day I won't anymore, but I will never forgive him. Never."

Father O'Mallory sighed, "As far as I can tell, to his family he has ceased to exist. They would be the only ones interested in pressing any type of charges. And no prosecutor would take on the case of a fifteen year old girl hitting a man the size of Aron hard enough. And no one seems interested in looking all that closely at what really happened."

During supper, the talk turned to other matters, and soon Father Raymond made his way back to his car.

"Sara?" Carla asked softly. The question was there. Are you all right? It was always there either in Carla's eyes or her voice.

"I'm okay, Mom. I'm just a bit tired and stressed out about school. I've got a bit of homework to do, then I'm going to crash. Mrs. Callahan wants that proposal for the photography assignment handed in the day after tomorrow and I still have some work to do on it." Sara places a quick kiss on her mother's cheek. "Do you want me to tidy up the kitchen tonight?"

"No, I'll do it." Carla Winters watched her daughter walk into her bedroom. Slowly she began clearing the supper dishes. She stopped when she realized that her hands were shaking so badly that the dishes threatened to hit the floor. Putting the dishes on the counter, Carla Winters wept silently.

Sara dropped her school bag on her bed and pulled out the portfolio she always carried. She pulled out the proposal she was working on and sat at her desk. Sara sat staring at it for several minutes.

"Hell," Sara swore, unable to concentrate. Memories of that night were starting to creep into her mind again, and she was starting to feel angry and frustrated. She got up and walked over to her closet. Sara pulled off the clothes she had worn to school and dropped them on the floor, changing into the sweatsuit she wore while working out, then headed for the basement.

An hour later, Sara dragged herself exhausted into her room, her hands and feet sore from hitting the punching bag her mother had installed in the basement for her. "When am I going to stop feeling this way?" Sara looked at Lancelot, the teddy bear Father O'Mallory had given her for her sixteenth birthday. She adjusted the silvered fabric armor he wore, then wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes.

Sara awoke to a soft sound. She sat up and almost screamed as a face looked her right in the eyes.

"Missed me?" Aron asked softly. At his touch the bedsheets and her clothes disappeared. He smiled at her horrified look and draped himself over her, a knee shoving between her legs.

"No!" Sara screamed. "Get away from me!" She brought a fist up and struck Aron on the side of the face the way Jenna had taught her. Sara put both her hands on his chest and pushed as hard as she could and fought to keep her legs together.

Aron groaned, and brought a hand to his cheek. "I love it when you fight. It makes me so hot."

"You're supposed to be dead! Father Raymond said you were dead!"

"Father Raymond? The guy in the collar that you have been teasing, Sara? Oh, I see everything. The way you smile at him, lean forward as if listening. But you really want to show him your cleavage. Do you think he doesn't notice how much you want him, Sara? But you can't, can you? I told you. Every time you see some boy you think is cute, you remember me."

"You're disgusting! He's a friend. I don't want him! You're a monster! Get away from me!" Sara screamed louder as panic started to take over.

"You're dead! Get away from me! Somebody help! Get away from me!"

And then he was lifted off her and thrown through the window. Father O'Mallory stood there, tall and protective. And then his arms were around her.

"Hush, he's gone. Everything's all right."

Sara began to sob. "You told me he was dead." She suddenly felt the soft cloth of Father O'Mallory's shirt against her breasts. With a gasp, she whipped around and started searching frantically for a sheet or something to cover herself and trying to cover her exposed body at the same time.

"Go ahead, Father, she wants you. See the way she threw herself at you. She's teasing now. She likes to do that."

O'Mallory stood slowly and then he was gone. Her room was gone. The cold night air brushed her skin. She looked around. Gravestones peeked out of the fog. She backed up and cold marble knocked against her legs. With a startled cry, she turned.

Aron Mathis
1973 — 1991

"Did you enjoy killing me, Sara?"

She spun. Aron squatted naked on top on of the tombstones, grinning at her.

"I didn't kill you! I couldn't have killed you. I'm not strong enough to have hit you that hard," Sara sobbed, moving to hide her body behind the stone and sinking to the ground. "You attacked me. I was just trying to get away. To protect Linda."

"Why did you bring me here? Why are you doing this to me?" Sara's voice broke.

"Not strong enough, Sara?" He tipped his head back and laughed, "Oh, baby. Don't you remember?"

He was suddenly beside her. Gripping her hair, he jerked her head back. "You remember, Sara. The monster that you became."

His voice was low and brushing her ear, "Do you remember the bat, Sara? The feel of it in your hands. The way it whistled through the air. How did you feel, Sara, when it connected with Sal's back? Did you feel the power when his back broke? Did it excite you, Sara?"

"Do you remember what you said to Rico? Did you remember you told him that you would tear his balls off? He believed you. You could do it, Sara. You could now."

He was no longer holding her. All around mirrors shone, flinging back her reflection. Everywhere she looked, something looked back at her. Something that glittered, all planes and angles, smooth and sharp at the same time.

"See," Aron whispered in her ear. He pointed at one of the mirrors.

Sara saw herself lying on the ground, not fighting, as Aron thrust with his hips and then pulled back quickly. Saw her body change, becoming crystal. Saw her hand, now almost see-through, cock back and slam into Aron's face. Saw his head snap sideways, blood and teeth flying. From this vantage point, she could see his jaw unhinge. She saw her shove him and watched as he lifted off the ground and sailed through the air about 10 feet to a wall, where he actually bounced off. A red smear where his head had hit.

She saw the figure leap to its feet and grab a bat, moving towards the group that held Linda. She could see the one boy, between her legs, thrusting. Saw the bat swung across the back of one boy, and the arm of another, breaking. Saw the animals run. From the being. From her.

"But why stop there? You could kill them all, Sara. All the ones that fucked Linda. They still want to. They are sitting around bragging about it, Sara. You could do it…"

"No!" Sara screamed in anguish. "No! Get away from me! Don't say that! It's not true! Get away from me!" Sara, desperate with fear, lashed out at Aron. She shoved him away from her as hard as she could.

Her hand went through him. Shaking, she drew back. Her crystalline hand was now red. Something beat in it.

"See how easy it is?" Aron smiled, with the hole in his chest bleeding, forming a puddle at his feet.

Sara's body was shaking almost out of control as the bloody mass slipped out of her hand. She stood uneasily and turned to run. To escape from Aron. "No, they can't be," she sobbed. "I can't kill them. I won't! I was just trying to protect Linda!" Sara ran as fast as she could, her vision blurred by tears.

There was a wrenching sensation and Sara was staring into dark grey eyes. Raymond was wearing the pajama bottoms; his chest was bare and his usually neat hair was tousled. Sara was kneeling on the floor of her bedroom, Sir Lancelot was lying strewn all over the floor. For a second she thought that Father O'Mallory's hand was glowing.

"Sara?" he asked. He sounded shaken. He reached out to Sara and flicked back a bit of her hair that had fallen in to her eyes. "I'm sorry, I came as soon as I realized… Let's get you back to bed."

He reached out and picked her up. Sara could feel the strength in his arms, his bare flesh against hers.

Sara's head fell against his shoulder and she started to sob. "What happened to me?" Sara's instinctive revulsion at the touch of his skin was overpowered by the remaining fear of her dream.

"Father Raymond, I turned into a monster that night. It is my fault that Aron's dead." He could barely understand Sara's words. "I punched him so hard I broke his jaw and he hit the wall. Oh God, I did kill him. I nearly killed all of them. What am I going to do? What am I?"

Father Raymond sighed and finally gave up on trying to remove Sara's arms from his neck. Sitting on her bed he leaned his back against the wall. Monster?

"Okay, Sara. Tell me what happened. Slowly, so I can understand."

"I haven't told anyone this. Not Dr. Raphael, not even Mom or you." Sara sniffed. "That night, when Aron… Just before he…" She paused, still unable to actually say the words to anyone but her therapist when she's upset. "When I was fighting and screaming, I heard a voice in my head. A man's voice. I'd never heard it before in my life. It was calm, almost friendly. He said 'it's time, baby. It's time to change. It's easy, let me show you.'"

"Then my entire body felt like it was on fire, all spasming and excruciating pain. It sounded and felt like all the bones in my body were breaking. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over. Aron had stopped too, and he was staring at me in disbelief, his mouth hanging open."

"That's when I punched him. I hit him as hard as I could, and then pushed him away. I saw the bat on the ground, picked it up, and went after the five guys around Linda. My only thoughts were of getting them away from Linda. I hit one of the Serpents across the back, and would have hit another on the head if he hadn't of put up his arm to fend off the blow. That's when the bat broke."

"Two of the other Serpents took off running, and all that was left was the guy who was doing it to Linda. He me, asked me what the hell I was. I think I threatened to castrate him and shove them down his throat, then he took off. After he was gone, I knelt down on the pavement and pulled Linda close to give her some sort of comfort. That's when I saw the mirror. I picked it up and as I was trying to put it away, I saw my face. Only it wasn't me. I mean really me. My face and hair were made of almost perfectly clear crystal or glass. That's when I passed out."

Raymond nodded as the final piece fell into place. "Sara, have we ever talked about courage?"

"Let me tell you a story. A man sits in his house. He hears something outside. He gets up and walks to the door. He can see two young ladies being attacked. He knows what is going on. He thinks of his own young daughter, either upstairs doing her homework or talking to a friend. And his hand goes to the door knob. Yes, there are 6 of them. But what they are doing is wrong. And then he sees the jackets. And again he thinks of his own daughter. Thinks of her alone, in some place where no one will hear her scream. And he turns off the light, goes back to his living room. Makes a call to the police and tries to drown out the screams with his TV. Maybe he will forget."

"Does this man have less courage, Sara?"

"There are different types of courage. Not everyone has it, but most people do have the courage to right or prevent a wrong when only they themselves are in danger. Not many people have the courage to do so when loved ones may be at risk. And not many have the courage to really see themselves."

"You have courage, Sara. I saw it that night, in your desire to protect Linda above yourself. You could have run. Most would. But you went back for Linda. And you protect your mother. There is strength in you, Sara. You have put your life in some order, strive to do more. You are choosing a career that will put you back out there. In danger. Amongst violence."

"Do you have the courage to find out about yourself? God provides for his children. I couldn't come fast enough, though I tried. Do you truly believe yourself a monster, Sara?"

"I don't know what I am!" Sara replied as the tears start to roll down her cheeks again. She pulled back from Father Raymond, brought her knees up under her chin and wrapped her arms around her shins. "I was happy I had hurt those guys that night. I didn't care how much I had hurt them. I loved the fact I put that look of terror in their eyes. What sort of good person does that? Feels that? And everyone at school, even the teachers, look at me like I'm some sort of freak because of what happened. The guys call me Ice Bitch and a dyke behind my back."

"What have I done wrong? What have I done to deserve this? If God provides, why is He doing this to me?" Sara cried out in despair.

He sighed. "God gave Man free will, Sara. He isn't doing anything to you. But he did provide you with a means of defending yourself and others. What you do with that is your free choice. You were attacked, frightened, angry. You struck out. You could have killed them Sara–it would have been easy. Three were down. What stopped you from hitting them again and again?"

"I don't know. They were gone, and that was all that mattered."

"That you are even thinking this way is a good sign, Sara. You have to learn how to use what God has given you." He kept his voice low and calm. "Sara, what do you think of me?"

"You?" Sara asked in surprise. "You're my friend. One of the few people who don't judge me or imply somehow it was my fault, or give me pity I don't want or need. You're the only man I feel completely safe around, even when you're dressed like that." Sara blushed slightly.

"You've been so kind to my mom and me. I don't know what we would have done without you."

Raymond took a deep breath. It's a risk. He brought his hand to chest level and it began to glow with a soft white light. His eyes, now a very light grey, searched the room and fell on the destroyed stuffed animal. Softly he began to speak, the words were Latin.

The hair on Sara's body began to stir as slowly and then with greater speed the stuffing began to collect around the animal. When it had all been rounded up, the stuffing rose and entered the outline, filling it out to its original configuration. The cloth and fur knit itself back together and then Sir Lancelot settled in a chair, good as new.

The glow vanished and Raymond lowered his hand, sweat beaded his body. I have to practice more fine manipulation.

His eyes, now a slate grey, meet Sara's. "Now, Sara, what do you think of me? Am I a monster because God has given me the power to do His will?"

Sara stared at him wide eyed. She got up off the bed and moved over to the chair. She looked at the bear, then back at Raymond. Sara carefully picked up Sir Lancelot, and realizing he was truly whole again, hugged him tight.

"No. Of course not. You use your power to fix things. To help people. You don't turn into crystal and hurt people." Sara chewed her lip. "I'm afraid. What happens if I change again and hurt someone. What if I can't control myself next time? I don't want to hurt anyone like that ever again."

Raymond relaxed and nodded. "This is one of the reasons that Jenna has hammered on you about control. You don't need to change into crystal to hurt people, Sara. Once you start learning a martial art you become a weapon. It is why I suggested it to you. Martial Arts, if learnt from the proper instructor, teaches you more then how to defend yourself. It helps you recognize your own body's limits, and the physical limits of other people."

"Can you change now? Have you tried since that night?"

"No," Sara replied uneasily. "Until tonight, until that nightmare, I didn't even remember I had changed. Do you… Do you think I should try?"

"If you wish to try, Sara. From what I understand it is not always easy, especially if trauma brought it about the first time."

Sara nodded and closed all the blinds in her room and locked her bedroom door. She set Sir Lancelot down carefully on the bed then moved to stand in a cleared space. She then closed her eyes and concentrated on what the voice said, willing herself to "change." It happened slowly, an intense pain starting in her legs and with the speed of wildfire, the pain spread and it was over. Father O'Mallory's expression never changed.

Sara let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Ow! If it hurts like this all the time, I'm not sure I'm going to want to do this again," she joked half-heartedly. She cracked open her right eye and looked at her hand. She gasped.

"Just like in my dream," Sara said, opening her other eye and looking at both her hands. Her eyes suddenly widened and she gave a yelp! "I'm not wearing any clothes! What happened to them?" Looking down, she realized that her body had changed, that it was as smooth as a statues she saw at the museum–no nipples, no… "This is weird," she breathed. When her hair fell in front of her face, she looked at it with a wondrous expression, then ran over to the full-length mirror on the back of the door and pulled the cloth off of it.

She stood there, staring at the image she saw. The light from the lamp on her night table glittered off her skin and seemed to reflect the light like a finely cut crystal. Her face was different too, now with more classical features. She almost didn't recognize herself. And her eyes. They had changed too. Now they were almost as colorless as the rest of her, though there was just a faint tinge of blue.

The wonder on Sara's face turned to sadness. "No wonder they all ran off. I look so strange. I could never be like you, Father Raymond. All I know is that when I'm like this I'm really strong. How is that?"

Raymond smiled at Sara's reaction, and then sighed. "Sara, I couldn't take a picture to save my life. Nor can I draw, or arrange flowers, or any of a hundred other things. Each person has different gifts. Because yours are more visible does not make them any less valuable or needed then mine. Besides, it would be a dull world if everyone ran around being like me."

O'Mallory nodded. "It's a start."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his rosary. "Here, this will protect your dreams. You should get some sleep."

"Father Raymond," Sara asked hesitantly. "How did you get here so fast? My nightmare couldn't have been going on for very long, and you are wearing your pajamas…"

"I folded time and space, like so," he placed his hands an inch apart and then bent his fingers until they connected. "I had placed a ward on your dreams so if you got really upset, it would soothe you and allow you to sleep. I was asleep when you called my name. It took a few seconds to realize the ward wasn't working."

"Why didn't it work?" Sara asked curiously.

He frowned. "I am not sure. I do not know much about the world of dreams. Maybe…" He shook his head. "I don't know Sara, not for sure."

Tucking her into bed, Raymond kissed her forehead and sung her to sleep.

Sara's rest was peaceful, the earlier nightmare just a lingering memory. She awoke with a start when her alarm went off and dragged herself out of bed. Sara put the rosary she still help clasped in her hand around the neck of Sir Lancelot then went into the bathroom for a shower.

An hour or so later she was off to school. The day went by quickly and she dropped by the Holy Lady Church on her way home. Father O'Mallory smiled at her as she walked in.

"Just the person I have been looking for. Sara, this is Randi Kincaid."

Randi Kincaid was tall willowy woman of indeterminate age. Her hair was long and braided and her smile contagious. She wore a vest with many pockets and a camera bag lay at her feet.

"Hi," Sara said. "Wow, is that your camera equipment? Can I have a look, please?"

Randi laughed, "Go ahead. So you're Sara. I have wanted to meet you, but work has kept me away. That and the fact that your mother doesn't like me."

"My mom doesn't like you? Why not?" Sara looked at Randi and Father Raymond in surprise, the photography equipment momentarily forgotten. She looked closely at Randi, as if trying to see what it was that her mother didn't like.

Randi winked at Sara. "She thinks I had an affair with your father."

"With my father?" Sara's jaw dropped. "You didn't, did you? I mean, he loved my mother, didn't he?"

Randi laughed. "No. Not that I would have minded. He was a good looking guy. Nope. He was quite in love with her. I think he would have been surprised at the suggestion."

Sara smiled in pride and happiness. "What was he like? Mom doesn't talk about him much, and she gets sad and kind of angry when she thinks about him. She tries to hide it from me, but I can tell. She even made me promise never to become a fire fighter."

Randi nodded. "I think I would too. He didn't even see you born."

Her own eyes grew sad and distant. "On his way to the hospital, he couldn't pass the fire by."

"Was it at that fire he died? Mom never told me, and she refuses to talk about it. None of the fire fighters who worked with him will give me a straight answer either. I think she told them never to tell me what really happened." A frown crossed Sara's face. "I don't even have a picture of him."

"Well that's not right." Randi smiled. "Here's my address, come by after your class and I will show you as many pictures as you wish. I can talk about Ryan until the cows come home."

She kissed Father O'Mallory on the check, grabbed her bag and waved goodbye to Sara. O'Mallory shook his head as he watched her flag down a taxi.

"She's quite a character."

"She seems to be. I guess I can look at her camera stuff when I'm over at her place. Thanks a lot, Father Raymond." Sara tucked the card Randi had given her into her purse. She grimaced when she saw the time. "I've got to go. If I'm late, Jenna'll have my hide." Sara waved good-bye to Father Raymond and ran out of the church.

Sara made it to her class with five minutes to spare. She quickly changed and was out on the floor just before Jenna walked out.

The class began with the usual warm up exercises, then some learning and then to sparring. Sara was sweating in no time. Her partner was a belt a head of her; Jenna always made sure that Sara's opponent was better. He danced around her, giving little shots that she didn't always defend against quick enough.

The next thing she knew, Jenna was yelling at her, and hands were pulling her back. Sara blinked. Jeff, her sparing partner, was lying on the mat, doubled over, gasping for air. Jenna was leaning over him, talking quietly. Within moments several students were helping Jeff to the back room.

Jenna stood, her hands on her hips. "Class dismissed. Not you Mclintock."

Jenna leaned up against the wall and watched Sara as the students left. Minutes ticked by and still she just stared.

"What happened?" Sara asked tentatively. "I don't remember… Did I… Oh God, I hurt him bad, didn't I?" Her eyes began to fill with tears. "I told Father Raymond this would happen. Learning the Arts is obviously a stupid thing for me to do. I'm sorry, Jenna. It won't happen again. I won't be coming back."

"Stop! Sara," Jenna paused and shook her head. "It's my fault, I could see you starting to tense. I should have stepped in sooner, but you held your temper longer than you had before."

"Sara, you have to stop seeing him every time someone comes at you. I've tried shouting, I've tried being calm, and walking you through it. I was hoping…" Jenna rubbed her eyes. "The only thing left is to try what my sensei did with me."

Her eyes sharpened at Sara's look. "Raymond didn't tell you, did he? That man carries more secrets around… I wonder what it does to him at night."

The last was said in almost a whisper. She then spoke up, "I was raped for two years Sara. It started when I was 12 and didn't stop until Raymond convinced me to tell someone."

"When I first started in the Art, I was like you. Anytime a male would get near me I'd see my brother's face and lose it. I ruptured a man's spleen."

Sara stood silently for a few moments. "But you've never killed anyone." Sara hung her head. "I just can't stop seeing his face. I still have nightmares about it. Last night, I relived it again. I remembered for the first time everything that happened. What I'd done." She brought her right hand to her face and covered her eyes. "You just don't understand."

"Take off your clothes," Jenna's voice was flat.

"No!" Sara said in surprise and mild outrage. She clutched the neckline of her baggy sweatsuit tightly. "No way." She shook her head. "Uh uh."

"If after all that I have taught you, you still feel vulnerable enough to lose control and use full force with need, then we will make sure that you are vulnerable." Jenna smiled a humorless smile. "At least I am not going to make you do this in class. My class was 90% male. A real incentive. Now. Take. Off. Your. Clothes."

Sara made to protest again, then changed her mind. Biting her lip nervously, Sara pulled her shirt over her head. She looked down at the plain white bra she wore, then looked away with a cringe when she saw the small scars on her breast. Sara then quickly pulled off her sweatpants and hugged herself tightly.

"Do I have to take off anything else?" Sara asked hesitantly. She started to shake, praying Jenna wouldn't make her go any further. How do I tell her that it's not what I can do like this that I'm afraid of, but of 'changing' when I get too angry or afraid?

"All of it, Sara." Jenna's smile didn't change, nor did her eyes lose their hardness.

Sara's heart started to pound in the beginnings of fear. She reached behind her back and undid the hooks of her bra. Sara fought back tears as she dropped it to the ground. Her hands were shaking badly as she removed her panties and placed them on the floor next to the rest of her clothes.

Sara closed her eyes and fought desperately to keep from cringing away from Jenna, and from grabbing up her clothes and running. She tried to slow her breathing and avoid hyperventilating. Flashes of the hospital after the attack started to run through her mind. She stood with her legs tightly together and her arms wrapped around her torso.

The silence stretched out. Sara finally cracked open an eye. Jenna hadn't moved. She just stared at Sara. Her face remained unchanged.

"First stance," Jenna barked, coming away from the wall. She dropped into an offensive stance. She moved slowly in an attack that everyone learned the first day to counter.

By instinct, Sara moved into a defensive stance, but moved awkwardly, extremely conscious of her lack of clothing. Oh God, why is she doing this? What if someone walks in?

For an hour, Jenna pressed her, taking her through the novice exercises again. By the end of the hour, Sara felt as if they had been at it for 3.

"Enough. I will see you tomorrow night after regular classes. And Sara, if you don't learn control in a month, I will put you naked in our regular class. Do we understand one another?"

Sara nodded, tightlipped. She grabbed her clothes and fled the floor to the change rooms. She quickly put everything back on, gathered her things, and ran out to her car. Once inside, she locked the doors and began to cry in humiliation.

It's never going to work, Sara thought to herself through her tears. Why should I even try? How could she do such a thing to me? Gradually, her tears slowed and her shaking stopped. She wiped her face and blew her nose, started up her car, and drove home. When she arrived, Sara went straight up to her room and locked her door, saying hardly anything to her mother.

The next four weeks taxed Sara's reserves. Every night from 9:00 p.m. to midnight was spent with Jenna, naked and doing jiu-jitsu. Only a few days could she allow herself visits with Randi. It may have been the only thing that kept her sane. Randi was humorous and endlessly patient. Sara learned more about photography in those few weeks then she had all of high school. But the best were the stories about her dad, and the pictures. Randi had a natural storytelling ability and fed Sara's desire to know about Ryan Mclintock.

When Sara entered the dojo on the last night of her 30 day grace period, she was on edge. Jenna had been testing her periodically but with the same result. Sara knew she wasn't going to pass tonight. And that meant that tomorrow she would be naked in front of the whole class. Jenna would do it, too.

What am I going to do? Sara sighed. I keep starting to change. I've got to find something. Do something. What am I missing that Jenna's trying to show me? Sara chewed on her bottom lip as she started to undress. What would Father Raymond do? When she was changed, Sara went and sat in a secluded corner until just a few moments before the class was to start.

Jenna entered the dojo. Behind her was a tall man, about 6 feet tall, strong looking. Jenna locked the door behind her.

"Sara, this is Mel. You will be sparing with him tonight so I can see what is going on."

Sara swallowed uneasily, then waited for Mel to get ready. Geez, this isn't going to be easy. She adjusted her sweatshirt. I hope nothing happens. No. Nothing is going to happen. I'm going to stay calm, and I'm not going to change.

"Sara, take off your clothes." Jenna braced herself for the inevitable. The other nights had been the same, and each time it had opened with 'take off your clothes.'

Sara felt herself shrivel up inside. She knew better than to argue. I hate feeling so helpless! Sara peeled off her clothes and placed them in a pile next to the mat. She walked to the center of the mat and stood there dejectedly, her head hung low.

Who is he? Sara thought. He'll probably tell everyone about this. Figures. Not only will I have to go through this tonight, but in front of all the others tomorrow. They'll all laugh at me, and point and stare. Oh God, they'll see the scars.


It did not take long for Sara to realize that Mel was far better than herself. His style was different and provided Sara something else to concentrate on. It helped that Mel didn't seem to realize that she was naked. By the time Jenna called the first stop, Sara was dripping sweat. She grabbed a towel and dried herself quickly, her back to the man.

The second set was different. Before she could manage a few offensive forays, but this time all she could do was defend. Again and again an attack snuck past her defenses and Sara felt the old rage begin, the change begin. But as before she fought it back. What surprised her was that this time she had a little strength left to control her strikes.

Each time it happened, Mel gave a small smile and an approving nod. Jenna would call, "Good, again" from the sidelines.

Then Mel smiled and let his eyes leave hers. They roamed over her body and his smile grew wider. "Nice body. Why don't I get naked as well and you can wrap yourself around my cock?"

"Wrap yourself around this," Sara said in anger, striking at his midsection, her strength returning. The rage began to build again, growing dangerously strong. Anger can be a tool, Sara thought quickly to herself. Don't let it control you. Channel it. Let him think you're in trouble, that you're going to fail. Then go for the throat. But don't change! She deliberately performed some poor attacks, trying to make it look like she was about to lose control, looking for that cockiness in his eyes so she could take him down and wipe if off his face.

As her attack struck, he dropped all his defenses. A small voice in Sara's screamed that he was defenseless, that the blow would kill him. With all her strength she tried to pull back, she knew it wouldn't be enough. Her eyes shut.

There was complete silence. Sara opened her eyes. Her arm stood straight out quivering with the strain of stopping the strike. If Mel had still been standing, she could have tilted her wrist and touched his nose. But Mel was climbing to his feet and Jenna was straightening from her sweep. And she was angry. Sara could see it in every line of her body.

Sara left her arm fall to her side and started to massage it, trying to work out the tension. She was breathing deeply, trying to slow her heart rate, and then the realization hit her. I did it. I actually did it. Sara fought to keep a smile from her face, as the happiness and feeling of accomplishment spread through her body. I didn't change, and I didn't try to tear his head off or beat him to a pulp. I kept control.

Sara took a few steps backwards and grabbed her towel and started to dry her face, keeping a close eye on Mel's face.

Jenna struck out, striking Mel just below the short rib. "If. You. Ever. Say anything like that to one of my students again I will tear you apart. How dare you!"

"I wasn't getting to her. She had found her concentration, I had to shake tha…"

Jenna growled. She actually growled, Sara thought in amazement. Mel took a step backwards and raised his hands.

"Jenna, I am sorry."

"Jenna," Sara said. "It's alright. No, really." She wiped the back of her neck with the towel. "I had found the pattern to keep control, but real life isn't the same as sparring. Something is always going to happen. Thoughtless comments, or deliberately provoking. I have to learn to deal with them." Sara glared at Mel briefly. "As much as I'd love to see you with a broken nose right now because of what you said," Sara's glare changed to a small smile. "I can't keep punching out guys because of stupid things they say. Besides," Sara said with more bravado than she felt. "You're not my type."

Jenna shook her head and turned toward Sara, there was something other then anger in her eyes. The lost look of remembrance.

"I should apologize, this was not part of the plan," she smiled, it looked forced, "but you did very well. Go. Shower and change. I still wish to speak with you."

"Thanks, Jenna. I'll be out as soon as I'm done." She picked up her clothes and turned to walk back to the change rooms. Just before she went through the door, she looked back over her shoulder to where Mel and Jenna stood. "Get a good look, Mel. It's the last you'll ever see." Sara blushed at her own audacity, then fled to the showers.

When Sara returned Jenna was alone and working through one of the advanced forms. She stopped as Sara walked in. She seemed a bit calmer. She actually smiled.

"Again, I am sorry, Sara," she sighed. "I guess I am just not as hard as my sensei."

Jenna walked over and gave Sara a hug, "You did really good, Little Sister, I am proud of you. I will see you at regular class, tomorrow night. Fully clothed."

"Right," Sara beamed, then bowed low in respect. "And thank you. You'll never know how much I needed to learn that lesson." She turned, grabbed her things, and headed out to her car. She felt as if she were floating on a cloud of air. I've done it, she thought to herself. I've learned to stop the change when I'm under stress. Sara unlocked the car door and tossed her bag into the passenger seat.

I think I'll stop by the 7-11 for a celebratory can of pop. Sara put the car into gear and drove off.

Sara exited the 7-11 still smiling to herself. She walked to her car and paused. Frowning she looked out into the darkness of an alleyway.

"Stop, give tha back."

A thud and a soft cry.

Sara wavered. It wasn't her affair. No one could expect that after what she went through…

But if she didn't do anything… I'd never forgive myself. Sara put the can of pop into her purse and wrapped the strap around her hand so she could swing it as a weapon if she needed to. She looked around the parking lot, and saw it was deserted. Quietly, and as quickly as she could, she approached the entrance of the alley, keeping in the shadows as best she could.

Just inside the alleyway a group of 5 young toughs wearing colors were badgering an old black woman. Laughing they tossed her bag from young tough to young tough, waiting only until she had turned to try and retrieve it.

That's it, Sara thought angrily to herself. They're not going to stop with just harassing her. She held her purse close to her body, gave one last look around to make sure no one could see her, and took a deep breath. Keep calm, keep cool. Now, change.

This time the change was not as painful. It started in her abdomen and spread quickly outward. Sara looked down at herself. The purse was gone. She looked around quickly but couldn't see it. Shaking her head she stepped out of the shadows.

"You guys think you're so tough, picking on an old woman. Why don't you just leave her alone?" Sara challenged.

The punks turned, startled that anyone would interrupt them. They looked at her and then each other.

"Well, look what's come to join the party."

Almost as one they split from the old woman and advanced on Sara. One reached for her.

Sara lashed out, being very careful of her strength. She used only a fraction of what she would normally have used. The punk's head snapped back, and his knees buckled. The others stared.

"Oh shit. Bobby?"

"Ice the bitch!"

Guns were drawn. Before Sara could react they unleashed death upon her.

Sara felt the bullets hit and she flung up her arm instinctively. The force drove her back a few steps. When the sounds stopped, Sara was as surprised as the gang to see herself virtually untouched.

Quickly recovering her composure, Sara took two steps forward. "Who's next?" she asked, imitating Jenna's angry growl. I hope what just happened wasn't a fluke. She turned on the punk who had spoken.

"How about you, big man? Hiding behind a gun. Just like a little baby, hiding behind his Momma's skirts." Sara stopped and picked up a broken length of metal. "You're so brave," she taunted. "Trying to shoot an unarmed woman. Why don't you get lost before you end up like your buddy?" Sara twisted her wrists and bent the bar in half, almost snapping it.

The alley was quiet. The sharp tang of urine permeated the air, and then they were moving, falling over themselves in their haste to leave. Sara sighed in relief. That's when she heard the wheezing. The old lady was bent over, holding her midriff.

Sara rushed over to the old woman, forgetting her appearance, concern for the woman's health foremost in her mind.

"Are you alright, ma'am? Are you having problems breathing? Do you have an inhaler or something in your purse?" Sara quickly scanned the area around them, looking for the woman's purse. She left the woman's side for a moment and retrieved the purse.

Sara helped the woman move over to some crates and to sit. She kept a close eye on the woman, but looked up to scan the alleyway in case some of the toughs decided to come back.

It was then that Sara realized that the old woman was laughing. She was laughing so hard, tears ran down her face.

"Didya sees their faces? Oh child, glad I am these ol' bones lived ta see that. They's still a running."

"Yeah," Sara replied with a lopsided smile. "They are, aren't they? Listen, are you okay? They didn't hurt you, did they? Oh, and here's your purse. Did you have any other bags or packages?" She looked around again, seeing if she could spot any bags or boxes that might have belonged to the old woman. Sara also cast a glance over to the thug she had knocked out.

He'll be out for a while, she thought. Long enough for me to make sure she's okay. I wonder if she's going to want to press charges. Gosh, if she does, I may have to testify. How the heck am I going to do that?

"Naw, Old Betse is fine. My, ain't you a pretty little thing? All glittery and such. Why just li' a diamond." She leaned forward and grinned at Sara, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

The old woman went off into another peal of laughter, "Oh but these old eyes a needed that. Reminds me of when I did first come here. The gangs where proud and had thems honor. Why I coulda walked nake' in the streets with 'undred dollar bills stuck tos my body and couldna been safer. Now. Maybes yous the type of gang huh. Well 'ld Betse thanks you for the help. I shoulds be getting home now."

"Are you going to be okay getting home by yourself? Would you like me to come with you. I… I have a friend nearby who can drive you home. It'll just take me a minute to go get her."

Betse accepted Sara's offer. An hour later of hearing about the good 'ole days and the waste of youth today, Sara was once again herself and driving. However, she passed by Randi place. She was relieved to see the light on. Parking, she hurried up the drive and knocked.

"Come on in, Sara," Randi Kincade called out.

Sara entered and proceeded to lay out everything that had happened. A half hour later, Sara had finally wound down and sipped her tea wondering what Randi would have to say about the evening.

"Well… An eventful evening. It's called being a mutant, Sara." Randi rose and went to a locked cabinet. She carefully removed a sheaf of letters. Picking one, she sat back down and handed it Sara. "This is for you. I will show you the pictures later. Read now."

The envelope was plain white and a little yellowed with age. Sara Carolynne Mclintock was written neatly in pencil.

My dearest daughter Sara,

If you are reading this, then my fears–and my hopes–have come true.

The doctor says you are going to be born any day now. You are our first child, a beautiful daughter who will grow up to be as beautiful and graceful as her mother. I cannot tell you how happy I am that you are coming into our lives, for I have longed to have a child to make our family complete.

Why have I written this letter and given it to Randi? To tell you about myself and explain what it all means.

Who am I? I am Ryan Edward Mclintock, firefighter and loving husband and father to be. If you are reading this letter, then the Change has happened to you, and you have realized part of your heritage, and it is my duty to help teach you about it as best I can.

My darling daughter, there is something else you must know about me, something only a few know. Not even your mother knows the truth, for if she did, she would be in danger. I cannot keep this secret from you, for if I do, I will have failed at my responsibilities, both to you and to your mother.

There is another me I must introduce to you. I am also Flamewing. A mutant, and sometimes called a hero by the people of new London. If Randi has given this letter to you, then you too have exhibited signs of being a mutant and have used your powers to help someone, though what your powers are or will be, I do not know.

Sara, having powers is an awesome responsibility. We live in a world where there are predators hiding in the shadows, waiting for a chance to strike. Those who can do something, must, or we shall all be lost. The police do their best, but they are unable to deal effectively with those predators who exhibit powers like out own. Because we can, we must act.

I have been up late into the night, trying to decide what to tell you, and how, and how to explain it all in this letter. But there is so much to say. I can't write it all. One of the most important things I must say is that there is no shame in being a mutant, and let no one convince you otherwise. We have been given these powers, whether by accident, birth or design, and it is in our nature to use them. That is why it is so important that we use our gifts to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

There will always be evil people in the world, my daughter, and left unchecked, they will destroy us. It is our duty–no, our responsibility to mankind, to help fight these villains. We must fight for the good, Sara. To defend those who cannot defend themselves, and to further mankind's progress towards peace, and to protect them from the monsters it creates.

We must work towards this important goal, Sara, and it is not something to be taken lightly. This is our legacy, for without it, we are nothing.

I love you with all my heart, Sara. I can hardly wait to meet you.

Your father,

Tears rolled unchecked down Sara's face as she finished reading the letter. She pressed the letter over her heart.

"I will, Daddy. I promise."