Chapter 4

The drive goes more or less in silence. Heading apparently out of the city proper out toward the suburbs. Linda turns in her seat. "The place is a little remote but that makes it all the more secure. Look… we've gotten off to a bad start but I want to help you. All this has us on edge." She smiles slightly. "Though I suppose that's not news to any of you."

Pulling into a long driveway the two vans come to a stop in front of a what looks like a large suburban home. Not big enough to be called a mansion by any means but still sizable. Linda leads the way in, punching in a security code. Inside the place is sparsely but comfortably furnished, rather more open and airy than they expected. "ok… You guys want to clean up, eat or anything before we start to plan on getting your friend back?"

Trevor nodded, looking embarrassed. "Uh, yeah… could I use your bathroom?"

Linda grinned and nodded, pointing up the stairs. "Up there, to the left."

He headed upstairs and Linda turned to Gina. "How about you? Hungry?" Gina shook her head, standing close to Clay.

Once out of sight, Trevor looked up and down the long carpeted hall. The house upstairs had a flavor of emptiness the air somewhat musty. Running a finger along the banister he gathered dust on his gloved hand. There were several doors, bedrooms he assumed. Slowly he began to wander around.

"Nope." Blaze whispers again. "I don't like this at all." Louder. "Hey Linda. You got a phone here?"

"Yes there's one in the living room but its not secure so you really shouldn't use it." And who the hell would she be calling, anyway? Linda added silently, raising an eyebrow.

Gina yawned. stretching. "Is there anyplace where I can lie down… I'm wrung out."

Linda nodded, "Come on, kid, there's a sofa in the den you can lie down on." She reached out to take Gina's hand. The girl just stared at her outstretched hand then looked up at her face. Letting the hand drop, Linda shrugged slightly and lead her to the den. It was a small room furnished with a wooden desk, a few book shelves and the promised sofa. "Sorry there's no TV but we there's things to read if you like." Linda gestured to the shelves then turned to leave. "You want the light on or off?", she asked looking over her shoulder. Gina was already on the couch apparently sound asleep.

Blaze picks up the phone and dials the number that Marks had given her. Getting the answering machine she muttered a curse and left a message then hung up. Looking around she saw that for the time she was alone and made her way toward where the kitchen should be to search for something to eat.

Clay paced. Already taken too much time. Damn I wish I could remember more. Willow…

Linda returned with out the big guy. "Now we can get to work. Come with me." She gestured for him to follow her into the living room area. Akemi followed Clay. Linda took a seat and waited for him to take one was well. "How do you want to approach this?"

"Whatever it takes to get Willow back, " Clay frowned, "a simple plan seems best. How about storming the place?"

Linda snorted softly. "You don't look like a crack ops team to me." Getting a more serious expression she sighed. "We can bring in help. I… and Anvil work for the government in intelligence. But you have to open up and tell me what exactly is going on here."

Clay looked at her, assessing, and then tightly replied, "Someone has Willow and we are going to get her back. That is what is going on. If you are not going to help, we'll take our leave now."

"Pack up group," Clay shouted, "we're moving out." Turning back to Linda, "No offense, but we've waited too long already." He turned on his heel and went to collect Gina.

Linda surged to her feet. "Will you calm down…? You rush out there like this and you are only going to get her killed!"

Akemi grabbed Linda's wrist, twisting it sharply and forcing the woman to gasp in pain. "You know nothing of what he can do or plans!" A fury like nothing Clay had seen crossed the girl's face in that instant. Linda went pale, clutching at her arm. Akemi released her and she fell back into her seat.

Clay kept his face impassive, and looked down at Linda, "So you will help? Then we need arms and we need your expertise. And it has to be soon, an hour, no more."

"Just who the hell do you think you are?" she snapped glaring venom at Clay. "You don't run this show." Rubbing her wrist, Linda glanced at Akemi, then turned her gaze back to Jason. "You could still be sitting in that warehouse… remember that… and you--" Her voice turned arctic as she looked at Akemi again. "If you think of touching me again I will kill you. Not a threat. A promise."

Akemi said nothing but stepped back beside Jason. If Linda's words touched her at all it didn't disturb her expression. There was nothing in her eyes but love and devotion.

Clay's eyes blazed, "If you touch her…" He shook his head, "Enough of the threatening, we don't need to prove how tough we are. And what makes you think I don't run t this show?"

Upstairs, Trevor looked around, searching the empty rooms then coming back downstairs. He heard talking in the living room, Clay and that Linda woman. Where were Blaze and Gina? He started looking around the ground floor. It seemed almost as unused as the upper floors. Stepping into the kitchen he nearly ran into Blaze.

"Whoa! Easy there, big guy. What's up? I was just looking for something to eat, I sure as hell don't like the situation here, how about you? Sorry, seems my brain is beginning to fall behind my mouth. So, what do you think about all of this, Trevor? Other than that you have some sort of psychic ability, I don't know how you fit in here."

Can I trust you? Blaze thought. Someone has to know about the Templates besides me. Maybe I should just burn the damned things up, not let them hurt anyone else… but what happens then? "FUCK!" Blaze shouts… then realizes she's still in conversation. "I'm sorry, Trevor. I'm just trying to put all of this shit together. I didn't mean to space out on you."

Trevor had taken a step or two back but smiled weakly. "It's ok… I can understood being a little… on edge." He chuckled nervously, running his hand through his hair. "And to be honest…I don't know how I fit in here either… I was… a friend of Jason's but he's changed. All this… spies and guns… I just don't know its like being trapped in a bad movie."

"Tell me about it! Firestarter, The Fury, you name it, all rolled into one. All we need now is some wild slasher!" She says the last with a grin. "So, how do you feel about this now? Can we trust this Linda woman? I know Clay is obsessed with getting Willow back, but why are the rest of us?" Friend? "So, do you want something to eat?"

"Jason thinks she's pretty important… so I guess I'm just trying to stick with him, you know?" he shrugged slightly. "Yeah… actually I'm starving…"

Blaze turns to find stuff to prepare. "I kind of feel the same way. You know, now that I know who I was, I find myself wondering more about who she was. Did I know you from before?" Blaze works on making something for Trevor and herself.

"Um I don't think so… I mean… I don't remember you. Who here does remember anything…? Trevor shrugged a little helplessly.

Trevor sighed, sitting at the kitchen table. Letting his head fall into his hands he just stared at the wooden surface trying to figure something out. He didn't want to be soldier… he just… just wanted to help people. Raising his hands he looked at his gloved hands and felt a sudden wave of hatred. His entire life, gone… because of this so called power. Muttering a curse he stood then paused. Something touched the edge of his awareness… not any regular senses, but a feeling of foreboding…

Blaze felt something as well. A plate clattered to the floor, falling from her suddenly nerveless fingers. What? Then pain stabbing her behind the eyes hard, so hard she nearly doubled over. Something raking white claws over her brain. Screaming, she reeled, fingers tearing at her hair.

Something… invading her mind… Templates…. NO! The heat rose in her mind and surged. White hit… FIRE!

Trevor caught Blaze as she staggered. She was burning up, sweat coursing down her face, plastering her clothes to her skin. What the… it was mental… someone… "Jason! we have to get out of here!"

Willow heard something. Footsteps… light and quick coming closer. Perhaps passing in the hall. Her heart quickened. Was it Clay… no, she didn't feel him… nor Gina or any other familiar… what to call it… vibes. She almost giggled. Getting delirious, she thought mentally clamping down.

Calm down, Willow. Careful, quiet as a mental mouse, she thought as she slowly, cautiously, sent a tendril out, seeking out the mind she had felt. Who are you? She tried to make it gentle, like a touch of mist. Keep control. I can't afford to lose it. There's too much I have to do. Have to tell them we may have found allies.

She touched the other mind, reaching out through the thin mental fog separating her from the presence. It felt strong and certain but not truly aware. Carefully she examined it, trying her best not to disturb. The door to her room opened. "Good lord." a whispered voice, female and worried. "what kind of freak is this guy… " Someone stood over the bed, undoing her wrists. "You all right? My name's Rally… Rally Vincent… I'm going to get you out of this all right?" Willow felt a surge of relief but it was short lived. Cold dread washed over her, a sickening foreboding that struck her like a weight. The on rush of danger like a wave washing over her mind. Not from the woman but from elsewhere…

Willow's sense of danger overrode the need for subtlety. I'm fine. Rally, we have to get out of here. Now. We're in great danger. She worked to help free her wrist, then sat up as best she could. Don't argue with me. We have to go. NOW!Willow quickly reached out, looking for the minds of Brian and his brother.

Willow's mental voice invaded Rally's mind in one sharp thrust, stunning her for a split second. But its urgency and her own honed reflexes saved her. She threw herself down over the bed, taking Willow back down as two sharp cracks shattered the window above them. Willow tried to find Brian and his brother. Nothing… no where… wait. Her frantically groping search brushed a cold locked mind, light dulled by layers of mental walls so thick she could not sense nor speak through them. He was very near in the physical world.

Rally rolled over and off the bed to the floor, bringing up her pistol. Scanning the rooftops through the dusty window. There the bastard is. She snapped off a quick shot, not likely to hit at this range but would make him keep his pointed little head down. "Get down… crawl for the door while I got him pinned down!" The voices in her head she'd file until later, must have just imagined it. I hope.

Willow grabbed a sheet and pulled it along with her as she rolled off the bed. Keeping as low as she could she crawled for the door, moving awkwardly because her ankles were still tied. She tried to concentrate, to get a better fix on where that mind was, to help Rally if he moved behind cover. Moving was an exercise in torture but she did it, a combination of crawling and inchworming getting her into the hall or more so onto the landing looking over a large near empty warehouse. Her mental image of the mind was so faint… hard to trace the very act of moving almost made her lose the hold she had on him. Two quick shot from Rally's pistol precluded her rolling out the door and shoving it closed with her foot. Quickly she undid the ropes at Willow's feet.

"He's out there," Willow murmured. "I can find you, and when I do…" She closed her eyes and tried to focus in more tightly on the mind, trying to get a firmer grasp. If only I were stronger. Or had training. How can I deal with an enemy that has been taught since childhood how to use their powers? Enemy…

"Rally, how did you find me? Did you know to look for me here?" Willow asked. What are you doing out there? Are you still trying to gun us down? She checked briefly to see if she and her apparent rescuer were in immediate danger.

"I had no idea you were even here," the girl replied tightly, helping Willow to her feet and draping the blanket over her. "But I'm getting you out of here." The mind she sought was so strong. There, she felt it… the flickering muted light in the mental fog.

"I've got to get to the others. Clay and Gina. Jim. Where are you?" Willow murmured, beginning to feel desperate but too afraid to try and find them for fear of losing her hold on that mind.

"Come on… just keep your head down." Rally hustled Willow out the door to an alleyway. Bits of glass and debris cut into her feet as she was hurried to a waiting sports car, red with sleek tinted windows… the seeming opposite of the conservative-looking woman who owned it. After Willow was in, Rally climbed into the driver's seat and gunned it, screeching back out of the alley. Willow felt the man's presence lurch and slip from her grasp.

"Damn," Willow swore, mumbling to herself. _I lost him. Have to find the others._ Willow closed her eyes and sent mist-like tendrils out through fog, seeking the minds of Clay, Gina and Jim. If Jim really did work for the government agency that her parents had worked for, she might be able to convince him to help them. She had to focus but there she felt Clay's seething mind. So far away and faint but there.

She focused her attention on his mind, strengthening their link.

Clay. Can you hear me?

Clay felt the touch in his mind. Willow…

"You're going the wrong way," Willow says, her distress at moving farther away from Clay evident in her voice. "You have to go North…."

Rally looked over at the girl concerned, "What? I'm taking you back to my place and see if I can contact Jim… why do you want to go out there?"

Willow's eyes popped open. "Jim? Jim who?" She looked at Rally. _Could it be the same person? No, it would be too much of a coincidence._ Tentatively she tried to touch the other girl's mind, to see what the image of Jim was. It wasn't at the top of her mind but perhaps somewhat deeper. She hadn't tried to invade someone this far before, only been invited or pulled in.

"What does he look like?" Willow asked. She didn't feel right going into someone else's mind for something as trivial as this. And I bet she really thinks I'm a weirdo now.

"Huh? Jim… big guy… dark with a constant crew cut and five o'clock shadow, likes to wear trench coats." she replied. She's a strange one…

"Very muscular, military type?" Willow asks. "Do you know where he is? I…I know him too. He helped me before."

"Yeah… definite military type… how did he help you?" Rally was intrigued now.

A rather embarrassed smile crossed Willow's face, making her look even younger than usual. "I seem to be something of a danger magnet these days," she answered. "He helped me get away from some rather nasty people, but not before I managed to break a couple of his ribs with a baseball bat, thinking he was one of the bad guys. Not the ones who had me tied up in that warehouse. That was a misunderstanding. But some other people. Really bad people."

Willow looked more closely at Rally, as if trying to see something that only she could see. "How well do you know him? He carries a lot of pain with him. In here," she said, pressing her hand over her heart. "He needs a good friend. Someone he can count on not to abandon him." A faint look of sadness flitted across her face as she remembered Jim's nightmare. He had been so alone, trying to fight off those shadows. But he wasn't alone any more. None of them would be if she had anything to say about it.

Rally found she couldn't meet the girl's gaze for too long. It was too probing. It's like she's looking right into my head. "Um… .well I have his number, we can call him as from my place."

Willow nods, noticing that Rally's discomfort and inability to meet her eyes for long. Even when I'm not using my talents, I make people uncomfortable, she thought sadly. "Okay." She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes again. Opening up her senses, she sought out Clay's mind again. She was confident she could do it this time and took a mental hold of the bond that there was between them. Willow conjured an image in her mind of his face, a soft smile and tender look upon it, sent her message.

Clay. Love, can you hear me?

For just a instant instead of the gentle image she drew there was a cold look on his mental image, distant and aloof like a god or something darker. Then it was gone and their minds touched.

A happy smiled crossed her face and she mentally gathered Clay into her arms, hugging him close. Clay. I found you. Her mental voice was tired but relieved. I'm okay. It wasn't the guys who attacked my studio, but people like us. Well, not like us - they don't have any powers, but they're fighting against the others like we are. They thought I was one of them, because I had powers. I might be able to convince them to work with us, to help us fight them.

She paused for a moment. A woman named Rally found me, and she's taking me to her place. She's a friend of Jim's. Is he there? She wants to talk to him.

Where? Willow, where is her place? Jim isn't here. He held her close, relieved that she was okay, happy to feel her presence.

I don't know. We haven't gotten there yet. It's south of you, quite a distance I think. Your mind is so far away, but I don't know if that's because of what's happened and I'm tired, or if you really are far away. We're in a bright red corvette, and I don't think the car is hers. Willow mentally brushed his lips with hers, and ran a soothing hand over his forehead.

But where did Jim go? He's coming back, isn't he? We need his skills and knowledge. Willow sent out another tendril, this time seeking out Jim's mind. She had gone so deeply into his dream that she knew the way he felt, the way his light looked.

Is Gina okay? she asked. I heard her before, but couldn't find her. She sounded so weak. A sickening rush of foreboding hit Willow…

Clay was about to respond when he heard Trevor shouting. Linda looked startled then jerked once, twice, blood spreading in a flower like blossom over her lab coat. She fell to her knees then pitched forward. Akemi and Trevor looked up in time to see a black garbed finger ducking for cover behind the doorway. A black object rolled along the floor. Akemi shoved Jason to the floor as the world was consumed in thunder.

Anvil took the steps up from the basement two at a time. The explosion was inside. He barreled through the door, smashing it to splinters. The two men in the hall were caught off guard. Black camo, kevlar and SMGs. Anvil took it in a glance. Letting momentum carry him he slammed one against the wall. The sound of bone cracking seemed to echo. He went down as the other brought up his gun spraying hastily. The bullets stung like wasp, poking tiny bloody holes in Anvil's chest. The other man was small, slim but quick. Barreling forward, he went to tackle the man ignoring the pain. His target side stepped, foot lashing out to sweep Anvil's leg right out from under him. The big men went down coming up hard against the wall. He turned to try and come to his feet. A gun had materialized in the guy's hand. _Shit_

Two shots and Anvil slumped back, ragged holes where his eyes had been, most of his brain running in slow rivers down the wall. "Talk to you later…" Karr chuckled. It'd been too long since she'd lead an assault. The building was mostly secure, Hanes' squad had closed on Jason. The idiot Mark had blown his probe, she 'd have to talk with Corrine personally now.

Akemi lay on top of Jason, the echo of the explosion slowly fading. "Go, go now!' A harsh male voice barked, three other hustled into the room moving in tight sync looking over the debris. Blinking, Akemi saw a small pistol lying under Linda, half-in, half-out of her shoulder holster. Akemi scrambled for it, snatching it up and firing almost blind. Her shot went wide, shattered a portrait by one of the intruders. Hanes cooly shot her. Akemi fell again, spinning, a red rooster tail of blood spurting from her shoulder. She fell beside Jason and lay shivering.

Gunfire everywhere, Trevor's mind was reeling. He helped Blaze along down the hall back toward the living room, heard foot steps.

"Shit… shit…" The garage door. Maybe there was a car. Two men stepped into the hall before he could make up his mind. They had guns but they were slung at their sides. "Take it easy… we're here to help you…" one said, raising his hands. "Jason and the others are OK."

Gina stepped out from behind him, smiling. "Its OK… really… really… NOT!" she snatched the slung gun, fumbling with it and squeezing the trigger. The short burst tore the man's thigh to bloody chunks. He went down screaming.

"Little bitch!" his partner backhanded Gina savagely. The girl's scream went mental as well physical. Willow felt the feeble surge of mental energy.

"No," Willow cried out, unaware she had spoken. She gathered all her mental strength and sent it shooting to where Clay and the others were. Feeling Gina's pain only fueled Willow's rage. Her gentle tendrils turned to blades of ice as she attacked as best she could, screaming into Gina's assailant's mind. Who are you? Leave her alone! Her friends were in trouble. Clay and Gina. She had to find Jim…

Blaze pulled away from Trevor, lips twisted into a feral snarl. The man turned to her, seemed to pause shaking his head a bit, startled by something only he seemed to hear. It poured from her in a rush, all the power… the flame. Flame raced along the floor and exploded, blossoming into a spray fire beside their attackers. He fell back, batting at the flames that landed on the his sleeve and chest. Trevor darted forward and scooped up Gina.

A little down the hall, Karr felt the mental rush, cool, controlled, then a burst of heat from another… Mason… help me…She called into the cool darkness of the Deadplane and felt her lover's touch lending her power. Karr gathered it, savored the feel of her then quickly reached out brushing the roaring inferno that was Blaze's mind. Sweet mother… it's like a star… what is happening to her…? She'd never felt anything quite like it. Flames were filling the hall now, a wall of fire. What has she done?! The fire alarm began to wail, sprinklers snapped on.

Trevor hadn't seen Blaze like this before, she stood laughing watching the flames grow despite the efforts of the sprinklers. She fed the flames more and more, lost in their beauty. She could purify this place… so easily.

"Blaze! come on! Blaze!" he shouted, and slowly she heard him.

"Trevor? What? Go? But I'm not done!" Blaze was almost petulant. "All right, then. Just one more thing." The wall of fire collapsed, rolling down the hall.

Karr and the remaining soldier leapt to the side, throwing themselves out of the path of the flames. "Shit…" Karr muttered, steadying her grip on the pistol, trying to peer through the flames, smoke and streaming sprinklers. The soldier got to his feet, leveling his Uzi to spray the hall with bullets.

"Hanes has Incubus… this is a clean up now," Karr told the soldier, standing. Now that Blaze had left, the fire was dying under the relentless sprinklers. "Get James and pull out." She followed after Corinne, pistol in hand. Thank you Mason…

Blaze and Trevor ran through the smoke, low and fast, heard the pounding of bullets, felt them pass their heads. Gina moaned lowly in Trevor's arms. The living room was up ahead, were Clay and Akemi still alive?

Blaze stumbled over something nearly falling to the floor. Looking back she saw Anvil's body slumped aginst the wall. She gagged slightly. Trevor sagged against the wall, panting, still clutching Gina to him.

"Clay! Akemi!" Blaze cried She looked with regret at Anvil. _I misjudged you. I'm sorry. I hope you find peace she thought with tears running down her face. Gathering herself she started down the hall again, followed by Trevor. She didn't see the bloody spot where Trevor's back touched the wall…

She sent bolt out, searching for Jim. She was too angry to worry about hiding or being subtle. Willow needed Jim, and she needed him now. *Jim! I need your help. Please. Clay and Gina, and the others. They're under attack and there's nothing I can do. Please, you've got to come!* There were so many minds, so much fog she couldn't find him… where to even begin…

Willow made a noise of frustration. I can't find him. I'll have to help the others from here. She sent her senses back to where her friends were, touching their minds with her gentling touch. I am here. Let me help you. Clay she could feel him, struggling… his mind in such pain.

Rally stared over at Willow until a blaring horn brought her back to reality. She swerved out of the path of an oncoming car, teeth clenched. Jesus! Get a grip, girl! "Wha… what's wrong?" she asked Willow, panting.

"Can't find Jim… Others under attack… Pain…" Willow's words were disconnected, her attention obviously elsewhere. "Too far away to help." She opened her eyes and looked over at Rally, her eyes slightly out of focus, almost a vacant stare. "Where would Jim be?"

Rally was taken aback by the look in her eyes. She looked barely there, her slim body and slight build only amplified the effect. The girl looked almost wraithlike, pale and drawn in on herself. "I…I've got no idea… you're nose is bleeding." It wasn't a statement but spoken realization.

_Can't help Clay. Maybe if I can distract…_ Willow sought out the most powerful in the combat, one she did not recognize, and focused her attack on it. She threw everything she had behind the attack, wanted to rip open that mind and take all that she could. This was war, and when it came to protecting those she loved, she took no prisoners. She tried to sweep the distance sight. It was a mass of mental energies swirling and seething. She could feel Clay's mind in the depths of it and Gina's… Gina's suspended somewhere between awareness and unconsciousness. Something… probed at mind at her mind, a familiar presence, insidious.

Clay looked up at the man nearest him. Eye contact! Clay didn't care what he was doing to the man's mind. He needed control of him and now! He looked up into a black masked face, trying to focus his mind to the task. Dimly he felt Willow's touch. The man was staggered, taken aback, but his will was strong. Clay lashed out with a foot sweeping his legs out from under him. The SMG fell to the floor in front of him, lying in the mingled pool of Akemi's and Linda's blood.

Invisible hands dragged the gun to Clay's grasping hand. Snatching it up he turned it on the other man, who kicked it from Clay's hand, sending it clattering into a far corner. In the distance he heard Blaze call out. The soldier kicked Clay in the ribs, something snapped. Crossing the room, Hanes hauled Clay to his feet, arm around his neck locking the smaller man in a powerful choke. "Looks like I hit artery in the girl… she's got maybe 4…5 minutes… you want to waste time?" he hissed in Clay's ear from behind. "The Templates, boy, where?"

Blaze poked her head around the entrance way to the living room. Clay being held by some huge guy, two others with him. Akemi was down as was Linda, neither looked good. Her backpack lay near them. That must have been what this was all about… what all these people had died for.

Karr came silently up behind Trevor and Blaze, about 10 feet away. She smiled slightly, plucking the woman's thought from her mind feather light. Ducking back around the corner, she sighed. There they are…so close after all this… I wonder…

Hanes' breath hot on his face, Clay panted, barely able to breathe. *Incubus… its been sometime.* The mental voice was almost familiar, cold and so full of hate it made him shudder. Great Gods… what has happened to you… Confusion, some pain. Karr winched as she felt the searing "touch" of Clay's mind. Physically she winced, Mason writhed in the blackness, fearful of the familiar burning.

"Can't… no." Karr lost contact, dropping her gun. The pain… Mason was gone. She couldn't hold her here for that… not again. But there was another, a link she had sensed… The Screamer… yes… you care for her.

Willow… at last we meet… as such. With that she channeled Clay's fire to Willow, expecting her to burn under the assault. She hurt as well but the girl's mind should be overwhelmed.

The pain hit Willow in rush. She gasped falling back in the seat almost screaming aloud. She swallowed, no it was Clay's focused by that… the woman who over she was she could fit this, she'd touched Clay's naked pain before and soothed it before. Instead of fighting she opened herself to it, trusting her love her link to Clay… that he wold never hurt her.

The girl's reflexive defense went down taking the full effect. The sudden lack of resistance sent Karr off balance. Surprise and panic dropped her resistance and her contact with Clay's mind disintegrated leaving her panting on her knees. "Bitch…" she snarled, wiping away the thin trickle of blood running from her nose. Her body was shaking. Karr knew she was on the edge of HMS, but she didn't care. She wanted Jason to suffer.

Give me your strength, love, Willow murmured gathering up the flames of Clay's mind, then turned her thoughts to the woman. Jason would never hurt me, she said, flinging the words like daggers of steel, her mental voice carrying every bit of hate she felt. Let's see you burn. She drew what she could of Clay into her and tried to channel his powers through her, aiming him at the woman's mind, burning away at any weakness she could sense.

Karr felt the rush rolling toward here, like a fire wall. She curled in on herself wrapping herself in layers of protection, letting the outer edge of her being be scorched by the twisted mental energy. The pain was intense but fleeting as Willow's control over it slipped. The girl fell back, exposed now, her link to Clay a plain path to her mind open but for a split second. More than enough. Karr took her, let her peer into the cold icy blackness that was the Deadplane. Willow recoiled from the vast emptiness stretching before her. There was nothing. Nothing at all, and it tried to consume her as well. *Fear me, Child… Fear me as you fear death itself for we are one!*

Willow! Gina's weak mental voice reached her, an anchor something to draw her self back with. The girl through her being into the struggle lending her slight strength to the fight. We need you! We love you, Willow, please!* The girl's call let her fight back from the brink. Come on… can't fight her here, huh… OK… I'll do it… Then Gina was gone…

No! Gina wait! Willow fought to free herself from the Deadplane, drawing on everything she could to fight with. Her body was trembling, almost violently, and her hands were grabbing at the seatbelt straps as if holding on for dear life. She fought to fend off the darkness with light as she had in that other place before.

Suddenly she was free back in the car, swallowing huge mouthfuls of air, every ache and pain in her body a wonderful sensation. Anything was better than that nothing… they meant she was still alive. It took her a moment to see that the car was still, idling in a parking garage. Rally sat still, staring straight ahead. Willow…please be calm. let your body steady.Her breathing eased as did her racing heart, slowly coming back to normal.

Who… Who are you? Willow sought out the mind of that gentle voice.

My name is Charlotte St. Clair… please be calm I want to help you and you're friend but for now this is the best I can do. The voice was steady but there was a undercurrent of excitement. Willow saw several figures approaching, men in dark suits lead by a slim blonde in a dark grey suit. She was struck by the woman's grace and natural ease of motion. Those are associates of mine… the woman my personal assistant, Lauren… go with them. Rally will awaken in a moment… I've placed her in semi hypnotic state… I must break contact…

Willow instinctively reached out with her mind, looking for any signs of danger to both her and Rally.

I… I don't suppose they have any clothes with them that I can wear? Willow blushed at the somewhat foolish question. And thank you.

The woman tapped gently on the window, motioning for Willow to roll it down. When she did, "I'm sorry we don't have clothes with us… but I'll try to get you something as soon as possible… please come with me…" she smiled quite warmly.

Willow pulled the sheet closer around her and looked at Lauren. "I need to leave a message with Rally, to let her know I'm okay. I told… a friend that I was with her, and if I disappear again they will be frantic," she explained. Oh Clay, are you alright? Did you get away, or are you still fighting. And Gina. Little Gina, what has happened to you?

"She will not remember you nor this encounter. My… Ms. St. Clair will see to that. The less she knows of this the safer she is… and please keep your Talent under tight control… you are quite… loud at times." Lauren replied.

Willow blushed bright red. "It only happened twice," she muttered, pulling the sheet tighter around her. "The first time I was really angry. And with Clay, well, I've controlled it every other time. Everyone's entitled to make a mistake." Her voice dropped to a whisper. Dear God, how many people heard? How many know… She bowed her head in shame and embarrassment, Lauren's well-meaning comment stinging.

"I understand… please, I didn't mean to… upset you." Lauren stumbled a bit. Words were such clumsy things. "It is just that they are alerted to things now… searching… any slip could be dangerous… though there is no search here that I sense." She opened the car door and helped Willow out. Turning to the men, "Bring the car around." They nodded and headed off. Lauren smiled slightly. "It is good to meet you after so long…"

"How long have you known? About me," Willow asked. "I thought I was the only one who knew, until three days ago. Other than my parents," she whispered. "All these years I've been so careful, only to have it all blown apart." She shook her head, then looked up at Lauren curiously. "Did you hear me when I… You know." She blushed again slightly. "I'm sorry if you did. I'm normally able to hide it when I use my talents."

The car arrived, a blue four door. Lauren opened the rear door for Willow. "Not as long as it seems. The first indication of you was the mental scream… I suppose it really just seems longer. There's been quite an uproar." After Willow entered Lauren climbed in as well. "As for your Talent, its quite impressive as is your control. there are times when it is difficult… It is nothing to feel shame for. You have exhibited more self-control and maturity than others involved in this by far."

"That's not what many people say," Willow remarked, remembering all the things her parents would say to her. Used to say. It was funny. She would have thought that she should feel something because they were dead, something bad. But she didn't. All she felt was indifference, with a touch of relief. There were other emotions there too, but she didn't want to look at them right now. There was no time for that.

"But I've been hiding my Talent from everyone for years. Some of it I can't control at all, but as far as I know, that Talent isn't noisy." She grinned slightly. "I did cause something of a stir, didn't I? You said I… screamed. Was it really loud? It's just that I don't like intruding. Other than just brushing the surface, I've never used my Talents on anyone who was unwilling. Well, that's not quite true," Willow said, remembering Jim at the studio, and during his nightmare. "I don't think it's right to, you know, take advantage of people like that." Thinking of Jim reminded her of her studio, and she sighed a bit unhappily.

"My whole life started to fall apart after that first scream. I've lost everything. My studio. All my art." Willow's heart ached at the thought of her work being destroyed in the fire. Even the most horrific of the work she had done was a part of her. A reminder of what she was. A seer. A prophet, some might say. She certainly didn't foresee any of this happening.

Lauren slipped an arm around Willow's shoulder. There really wasn't anything she could say,only to try and offer some comfort. The car pulled out into the street.

Sensing the girl's ill ease Lauren took her arm away.

Willow sat still, unaccustomed to the personal contact. Don't be so stupid, Willow. She's trying to be nice. Comforting. A friend. The last thought made her think of the others. How are they doing? Willow wanted to know, but didn't trust herself to try and look. She had no idea if her mind could handle it after what she had just experienced.

She began to look out the windows at the area she was in. She hadn't seen any of it on the way to Rally's place.

It looked like they were moving up town. Lauren spoke up after a moment. "We're taking you to an apartment of my employer. You need to rest for a bit then we call all talk."

Willow nodded. "Can you tell me more about her?" she asked somewhat hesitantly. "This is all so new to me. I mean, I never knew there were others who could… do what I could."

"Ms. St. Clair wants to speak with your personally; I think I should leave explanations to her. Not to be rude, but I do not want to… make mistakes." Lauren seemed uncomfortable. Abruptly, it hit Willow. She's shy.

"There are many who possess Talents. All people do to some extent… feelings of deja vu, intuitive feelings and the like. Your talents are almost unprecedented in one untrained or unfocussed."

For a brief moment Willow thought of her parents and the Templates, but pushed it aside. "I've tried my best," she said with a small encouraging smile. "I taught myself as best I could. Unfortunately there's no 'Idiot's Guide to Psychic Powers' on the market right now that I can buy." Her smile changed to that of amusement at her attempted joke.

Lauren chuckled, quietly but honestly amused. "Yes… perhaps it is the next in the series… " The car came to a stop. They were in another parking garage, this one nearly empty. Lauren lead Willow to a private elevator near the rear. She walked smoothly, alert but casual. "There's clothing and food waiting… I apologize again for not having more for you in the car."

"That's alright Lauren," Willow said. "There's no way you could have known I wasn't dressed for… well, I wasn't dressed." She looked around curious. She'd never been in a private elevator before, and wondered rather bemusedly if there was a big difference, like a hide away bar and mini television set. She chuckled softly and smiled, then shook her head. I must be more tired than I thought. And more hungry. Willow grinned with a touch of embarrassment at the sudden rather loud growl from her stomach.

As they stepped onto the elevator, Lauren looked concerned. "Do you feel at all dizzy… or cold?" The elevator door opened onto a spacious suite. There was a large window over looking a stunning view of the park across the way, two large sofas and a bar against the far wall. But what caught Willow's eye immediately was the tray of food set out for her. Its looked like some sort of pasta dish, some fruit and salad.

Willow shook her head. "Not really. I'm just very hungry." Her stomach growled again, just as loud as before. She didn't want to let on just how bad she really felt. "I'll be fine once I eat. I usually am. And thank you." She took a step forward and gave Lauren a tentative one-armed hug.

The movement caused the sheet to fall down to reveal a frail shoulder, and Lauren could almost see outline of Willow's bones, she looked so thin.

Lauren nodded slightly. The girl is in mild HMS… and no telling the damage she's done to herself over time… Slipping the sheet back up, Lauren headed to ward the bedroom. "Please eat and I'll get you somehing to wear… unless you would like to bathe first?"

"I don't suppose I can eat in the bathtub," Willow asked with a small hopefull smile. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. I'm so careful about taking care of myself afterwards. The supplements… "Do you have any vitamin supplements? I started taking them soon after my Talents manifested. I've found the help with the drain on my body, and I've used them more in the past three days than I have in the past year."

Lauren chuckled at Willow's question. "Yes… it does help, more so if properly balanced to your physiology… we'll see to that soon as well… the food's enriched so it will serve the same purpose." She stepped out of the room to make a quick call. Willow could see her through the partially open door. A sever frown crossed her fact as she listened to whomever she was speaking to. "I will see to it that Ms. St Clair receives the message."

Willow looked over at the food on the tray and, unable to resist any longer, walked over and took a large piece of fruit. She bit into it hungrily, trying to remember to chew slowly and not wolf it down. Why are they doing this for me? Are they fighting against the same people we are? She devoured the rest of the piece of fruit and began to lick every drop of juice from her fingers.

"The pasta salad will help as well." Lauren said standing over Willow. She hadn't even noticed her approach and the sudden voice startled her a bit. Lauren sat down beside Willow, her face distant and troubled.

"What's wrong," Willow asked as she reached for the plate of salad and a fork.

"Just a problem I thought dealt with has resurfaced." Lauren said quietly.

"Sorry," Willow said, after clearing her mouth of her first taste of the pasta salad. "Habit. I'm always trying to cheer up people around me." She continued to eat, still trying to keep herself from eating too quickly. Still she picked the plate clean and moved on to the salad.

Lauren sighed. "It is the nature of Sensitives…" She smiled slightly. "I have never been totally certain if its empathy or wanting an unpleasant mental sensation to stop."

Willow nodded, and soon the green salad plate was as empty as the one which had held the pasta. She looked at the bare plates somewhat wistfully, then started to eat the fuit. She ate that even more slowly, savouring the sweetness and texture of each piece.

Once she had finished, Lauren pointed to the bathroom. "Feel free to take advantage of any of the facilities, and there are some clothes laid out for you in the bedroom."

"Thank you," Willow said in a heartfelt voice. "What should I do about the tray?"

"Just leave it, it will be taken care of," Lauren replied.

Willow headed directly to the bathroom, trying to decide if she were going to take a shower or lounge in a nice hot bath. The bathroom was large and lavish, most of it taken up by sunken tub.

Seeing that tub immediately made Willow's decision that much easier. She rushed forward, put the plug in and started the water, making it as hot as she could stand. While the tub was filling, she let her eyes wander around the bathroom. When her gaze fell on the mirror she paused. I wonder how horrid I must look. She tentatively walked forward and looked at herself in the mirror.

She could scarcely recognize the pale ghost that looked back at her from the mirror. Haggard eyes circled by dark rings, she seemed to have aged a decade in three days. Her hair hung limp and dry over her shoulders, her bones shown through at the shoulders and her ribs. Ever her breasts had begun to sag. The blanket hung on her shoulders like a shroud. Willow, harbinger of death.

It was almost funny until she really thought about it. Shivering she turned away from the mirror. Trevor…Anvil and Linda… how many were going to die…

She watched the water fill in the tub, and when it had reached the level she wanted she turned off the taps. Willow carefully stepped into the tub and lowered herself to a sitting position. She then leaned back and let the heat of the water seep into her, banishing what was left of the cold of the Deadplane. Closing her eyes, she let her thoughts and mind drift, determined to feel nothing but pleasure from the warmth of the water and the meal in her belly.

For a moment her thoughts were disturbed, reminding herself that she must take care of herself, for if she died, the others might not survive either. She thought of what Clay would say, and how he and Gina would comfort her. A smile crossed Willow's face as she hoped they too were somewhere safe, and she imagined Clay's arms holding her as her thoughts began to drift again.

Once her body was warmed through, Willow closed her eyes, held her breath and slid down under the water. She ran her hands quickly through her hair then came back up to the surface. Hands grabbed her, pulling her further down. Willow screamed, bubbles rising to the surface. Dozens of hands clutching at her… dragging her down screaming…

Clay sagged offering no resistance, his eyes closing, bringing his mental shield in tight. His mind reached out to Willow, pain burning hot through every nerve ending. Hanes' grip around his neck tightened, forcing his head back. Blackness began to seep into the edge of his vision.

Blaze dove for the backpack. "Is this it? This is what you've hunted us for, killed my brother for? Fine! You want them?" She opens the backpack and takes them out. The metal case was still cool, despite the explosion and heat. She glared at the two men, water coursing down her face, washing away the tears. The only thing Clay could see was her, kneeling there. No! a little voice is his head screamed, his own… not another… perhaps both.

"Toss them over here, lady… or your boyfriend here is gonna be way past help from a chiropractor." Hanes chuckled, applying a slight twist to Clay's head.

Blaze… Corrinne… destroy them, they mustn't get them at any cost!* The mental voice was new, strong and direct. A quick contact that was gone before she realized. And Blaze knew it was true… but how do with out getting Clay's neck broken.

Gina slipped out of Trevor's weakened grasp. He didn't look good at all. And it's your fuckin' fault. Gina blinked back tears… no time for that now. Running up the hall, she could feel the woman. The voice had told her about Karr. _Yeah listenin' to weird voices in your hand… gonna get us killed… no, she felt cool._ Gina had lived by her wits and instincts for a long time… hopefully a little longer. Rounding a corner she saw Karr, kneeling staring at the floor. Blood spattered in a small crimson pattern falling from her nose. She was pale, shaken, greasy sweat plastering her hair to her face and forehead. Anger raged in Gina and she snatched up a vase from the hall table. Karr finally seemed to realize someone was in the hall with her and looked up just in time for Gina to bring the vase down on her head, snarling. She slumped to the floor.

"Fear that!" Gina snapped, kicking the fallen woman sharply. "Bitch." Whoa… sometimes the direct approach is best… Quickly she search the woman, found some keys, the biggest fuckin' gun she'd ever seen and some clips for it…

"Funny thing about this power of mine, you bastard. If I want, everything around me goes up in an explosion." Blaze opens the case. "Including me." She takes a vial into her hand, increases the heat on it. "One down… let him go, or I burn up the templates and everything else. I'm not afraid to burn to death, asshole!"

"How about being shot?" Hanes replied, bringing his free arm around Clay and squeezing off two quick shots. Blaze was picked up and thrown back, the Templates falling from her hand. She fell back, spinning into the hall. She fell beside Trevor, arm mostly numb but a burning in her shoulder. She couldn't move, it was hard to breath. His grip on Clay slipped, enough for him to grab a quick breath, clear his head enough to drive an elbow back into Hanes' ribs. Grunting, Hanes took a step back. God Damn how do they fuckin' know!? Jesus… The other soldier was surprised, Clay threw a quick body check and knocked him over the sofa. He looked between the fallen Templates and Akemi… two seconds to decide which to grab…

His mind snapped back between the two. Akemi… Blaze… the vials… His frantically scanning eyes and mind fell on the lamp. Picking it up he swung it around at Hanes, letting go as he flung himself backwards towards Akemi.

Hanes rolled to the side, batting away the flung lamp and squeezing off a shot. Clay's desperate tactic had thrown off his aim. As he fell Clay felt something pluck at his hair… the bullet, he realized, as he landed beside Akemi. Scooping her up he half crawled half walked into the hall pulling her along.

The soldier clambered to his feet, drawing a bead on the scrambling Clay, finger tightening. Then…the wall exploded. Debris showered him and Hanes, who tucked, expecting a grenade, a vehicle. Instead the clearing cloud revealed Trevor. His face was tight with concentration and pain. He gripped the edges of the gaping hole hands bare for the first time. Under them the wall shuddered, cracks spreading out like ripples, the wall falling to dust under his terrible power. Behind him Gina stood awed by the display. Coming to herself she glanced at the other then reached for Trevor, "Come o-"

"No! just go… go… " he spit between clenched teeth seeing her about to touch him. "GO!" His eyes went wide blazing with a terrible inner light. His clothing shredded, disintegrated as the entire house as if struck. Plaster and mortar chunks started to rain from the ceiling. The power crawled over Gina like electricity. Instinctively she turned and ran to the others helping Blaze up. Together the ragged party made their way out the door. Gina looked over her shoulder and stood stunned. The house collapsed, no, was crushed, pressed down by an invisible hand, pressed flat in seconds. No debris, no explosions, only the sound of breaking wood and shattering brick then a deadly silence.

"Trevor!" Clay screamed and made to move towards the house when he realized he still had Akemi, "Gina, put pressure on her wound." Once Gina had done as he asked, he scrambled towards the house.

"How… my God, what did he do?" Blaze gasps through the pain in her arm and shoulder. "The Templates are still in there, under all of that… the voice said not to let them have them. Get Trevor out of there, and I'll destroy them… it all…"

"Fuck the templates," Clay snarled, moving debris as quickly as he could, searching for Trevor, "Trevor? God damn it."

Clay heaved chucks of plaster out of the way, his vision blurring, lungs heaving. Somewhere down inside he knew it was useless, he had to be dead, didn't he?

"Damn it Trevor." It was a litany, muttered under his breath.

Gina shivered, feeling the blood pulsing under her hand. She could smell it. Smell dust and dirt. It was so hot now. She couldn't breathe. "My fault… they're dead… all my fuckin'…" she wanted to scream… to cry… but nothing would come out. Nothing at all. Things were growing dark.

Slowly something seeped into Clay's mind, "Jesus, sweet Jesus. They would have had a Watcher. Shit! Move, we've got to get out of here."

Clay staggered back towards the women. Goodbye, Trevor.

"Blaze! Gina," Clay shouted noticing the young girl sliding to the pavement. God damn it!

Willow? We need transport. Even as he sent that thougth towards his lover he was looking around for a means of getting out the place. There were the vans still parked here.

"Gina! Stay with me, damn it! We need to pad the wound with something." Blaze rips off her sleeve with her good arm. "Here! Put this on top of what's already there." Blaze checks her own wound, looking for a bullet. "Clay? Any luck? Gina! Can you feel for Trevor's 'light'?"

The girl shook her head. "No, No… he's dead… I can't feel anything… I don' wanna feel anything!" her voice rose to shout.

"Gina, I promise, when this is all done we'll sit and cry together. Right now, we've got to get out of here, and Akemi is hurt really badly. Plus, we still need to find Willow. Clay! Clay! He's gone! Let's get out of here. The vans are still here." Blaze will lift Akemi, and keep her at a level where Gina can still apply pressure. She will do this as long as she is able, and move to the van. Gina kept her hand in place, helping Blaze's improvised bandaging.

"She's going into HMS, damn. She'll need food, liquid, rest. Akemi?" he asked Blaze.

HMS? Blaze thought What the hell? Gina might be on the edge of shock, all the exertion and for God sakes she'd just seen alot or people she knew die. Blaze helped her with Akemi into the van. The oriental girl was pale and breathing very shallowly. Not looking good at all. She climbed in as well. Clay took the driver's seat and pulled out hurriedly heading back toward the city on instinct. Where to go…

"We need a doctor, any suggestions?" Clay asked, scanning the area, slowing to the speed limit, no need to get pulled over. A hospital was out of the question, they would have to report the bullet wound. Where did that come from? Clay sighed, sick of these memories popping up unannounced.

Blaze continues to keep pressure on Akemi's wound. "It's not good, Clay. The bullet must have torn an artery or something. HMS? That's a new one on me. Clay? I'm not too sure about myself, either. Gina doesn't appear to be hurt outside, but she's gone through a lot. Where can we go now? They found us pretty easy before…"

"No, " Clay murmered his concentration on driving, "Gina's going into HMS, straining her powers too much. Happened all the time back at…"

Clay found himself in a somewhat upscale neighborhood. Quiet and well-maintained with row after row houses sitting on manicured lawns. It was familiar. Why was it familiar? Gina took a deep breath. "I… I know a place… it's a guy a lot of the gangbangers go to… he'll want money though, up front…" Gina whispered. "They found us 'cause I fucked up…"

"I have some cash, Gina. You didn't fuck up, honey. It just happened, that's all. It wasn't your fault." Why does she think she fucked up? It must have to do with the way she was acting… I'm so tired… Hello, voice? They didn't get the Templates, thanks to Trevor. Damn! How many more people have to die? Blaze took a deep breath herself, trying to get back in control. She tears off her other sleeve, trying to patch herself up as best as she can with only one arm.

"No, No, I did… I… I… tried to find Willow and something… grabbed me… and made me do shit… I couldn't make any of you hear me… it was like screaming underwater… I…" She breaks into sobs, curling into a small ball.

Clay nodded as the last piece of the puzzle slid into to place, "It's all right Gina, it was my fault. IS my fault somehow, " he sighed. Trevor dead. Those other two, and now maybe Akemi. "It's not your fault. Okay, angel? Come up here and direct me."

Gina tried to straighten up, get her shit together. But she couldn't… it was all too much… God… she was cryin' like a kid… "Oh… okay… I…" she clambered into the front seat. "Its down near the strip…"

"Clay? You'd better hurry, but no quick turns or anything, or Akemi and I will bleeding all over this van." Blaze maintains the pressure on the wound so Gina can direct Clay. This keeps getting worse and worse…

The Strip, run down businesses and run down citizens. Strip joints, bars and other assorted dives lined the streets neon signs beckoning. Gina pointed to a small side street. It was dark, rows of tenement housing, abandoned, dark and silent. A few figures hung in the shadows and street lights. "Pull in there…" she whispers, sniffling a little still. The lot was to a bar. The sign read "The CAVE" in flickering red. "He works outta there… place looks dead… guess that's lucky… be back." With the Gina climbed out of the van.

"Be careful, angel," Clay watched her go frowning, then climbed into the back with the two women.

"You okay? " he asked Blaze softly.

Blaze spoke up. "Kind of funny, isn't it? Our lives now depend on that little girl… Maybe we can contact Belle, Jim, somebody… Can you link with Willow? I thought you could, but…"

Clay sighed and eased down to the floor, "I had her for a few minutes but I haven't been able to contact her again. I think she closed off communications for a while. She's okay though. She's with a friend of Jim's."

"You had the templates all along?"

"Yep. Don't know why or how, but I did. Whole lotta fuckin good they did us, huh? Got Trevor killed, Linda, Anvil…Willow's gone… at least she's OK. Belle… I wish she were here."

Blaze's eyes begin to water. "Maybe it was MY fault, huh?"

"No." Clay reached over and squezzed her shoulder, "No, Blaze it's not your fault. "

Gina came running back out of the bar. She tapped on the window glass. "Drive around back…"

"Better do what she says, Clay. We need to get Akemi patched up, before she bleeds to death…" Blaze wipes her eyes, and her voice firms up. "Any doc better know what he's doing, or I'll blister his butt!"

Pulling around into a tight alley behind the bar. Clay stops the van by an open fire door. Standing silhouetted in the flickering light inside is a young black man, maybe 18-20, slim but strongly built with a close shaven head of kinky black hair and a well-cultivated look of indifference. He motions to them to follow and heads up a flight of stairs.

Blaze picks up Akemi after making sure the bandages are as tight as possible. Damn, I wish Belle was here. "Gina? Keep close, in case I need you to put pressure on again, ok?"

Clay turned off the van and jumped out to help Blaze with Akemi, "Gina stay close to me love."

"Its okay… the doc's chill…" she replied, sticking close to help get Akemi up the stairs. At the top was a door slightly ajar. Gina nudged it open with her foot. The small apartment inside had been converted to a make shift exam room of sort. A exam table took up most the floor and there were several stainless steel shelves loaded with medical supplies. A man stepped out of a rear room. He was middle aged and balding only a fine dusting of grey hairs still clinging to the top of his head. His skin was dark almost black in the low light but his eyes were a soft kindly brown behind wire frame glasses. "Bring her over here… quickly…" He frowned.

He looked over Akemi, looked up to ask a question but seemed to resigned to not getting an answer and gently opened Akemi's jacket. "Who did the bandaging? Likely it saved her life… she really should go to a professional clinic."

"We can't…people are lookin' for here… for us." Gina said quietly.

The man looked down at her. "Gina…oh child what have you gotten yourself into…" He called into the back room," Barron…bring me a fresh instrument tray."

"Its cool… really… I'm kinda showing them places and stuff… she just needed help ya know…" Gina lied, and poorly. The look between her and the doctor showed they both knew it.

Clay moved to the back of the room, pacing. He wanted to reach out to Willow but that wouldn't be smart. They had to stop running.

"Gina?" Blaze asks. "Can you find out if anyone knows where Belle is? She is known around here, right?"

Shrugging Gina turned toward the window. "I guess… but why you wanna see her… she cold dumped us… and all she did was bitch when she was around…"

"I don't think so. She went after Willow before anyone else, and I think she might have been trying to get more information. Besides, I… miss her. She wasn't cold with me, or you, for that matter."

"Did she or did she not just ditch us?" Gina muttered, not looking back.

Clay stopped pacing, and moved to where Gina was. He gathered her up in his arms, sitting down to wrap her in warmth.

"Kiddo, I'd like to find out too." Blaze walked over to where the doc was working on Akemi. "Anything I can do to help? she asked.

The doctor looked up, "Yes, another set of hands would help. You did the bandaging? Good work. Are you a nurse?" He stepped to the side to let Blaze step up.

"Something like that, Doc. I just use that talent when I need to, you know?" Blaze looks for some gloves to put on. "I thought the bullet might have nicked an artery, the way the blood was pulsing out. If we've got to do major surgery, we may have to get to a hospital…"

"That's always for the best, but the bleeding is under control. Mainly she is going to need rest for now… a long while." The doctor glanced up at Blaze, a question in his eyes but left it unsaid.

Blaze pulled off the gloves. "Thanks, doc. You do good work. How much do we owe you? Oh, do you …never mind. Dumb question. Mind if I sit for a minute?" She looks for a place to sit down.

"Of course… please…" he gestured to a battered chair.

"Blaze, Gina's gonna need some food," Clay said.

"Who? Akemi won't need food for a while yet. Oh. Doc? Is there something the kid can eat?" Blaze asked.

"I ain't hungry," Gina muttered half heartedly. "There's a place down the street with stuff…" She turned and quickly headed for the door before anyone could answer.

"Gina! Wait! You need some money!" Blaze called out. "Clay, you'd better see if can catch her."

Clay bounded to his feet and went after Gina, "Use your head, angel. Do you know anyone who wants to buy a van or trade it for, say, weapons?"

"I don't know… there's places where you can fence the van for money… lotsa places to get guns," she muttered, looking out into the alley.

"Okay, let's see if we can get someone else to go for food. We need to get rid of the van, get some weapons and find a safe place for Akemi." Clay turned to Blaze, "See if you can find Belle. As much as she doesn't like us, I trust her more then Jim."

"I can find her-" Gina was cut off by a crack of thunder. No, a distant rumbling. The windows rattled and Gina looked around, stunned for a moment.

"What the hell is that?" Blaze asked. "Something exploded," Blaze stammered, looking around. Gina and Clay rushed to a window looking up and down the street. There was nothing in sight but no denying what had just happened.

The Doctor shook his head slightly as Baron came running back into the room. "Its nothing, Barron just more troubles…"

"Yeah, but what the hell blew up?" Where there's explosion, there's fire. Blaze thought warmly. "Doc? You never did say how much we owed you."

"Don't worry about…I owe little Gina anyway." He smiled faintly.

Barron grumbled but said nothing walking to the window. "Gas main blew or somethin'"