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Aberrant: Nova Reality - Traitor

z-Sean McCline

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(These events take place on March 30, 2016).

“And I did a patrol through the Fourth Ward; we’re still getting camera failures down there,” Sean sighs, scratching his thick, red hair. His green-on-black eyes are tired, and his light features are even paler than normal.

Sandcaster takes the report that the young Terat is handing her, but she doesn’t look at it. Instead, she frowns and asks, “Are you ok?”

“Long night,” Sean says, giving her a wan smile. “Iharra is sick and I’d planned to get more sleep than I got. And the camera sweep is a little tedious.”

Sandcaster nods. “I’m trying to see if we can hire some workmen to check them out,” she says, “or at least check out those that baselines can reach. We’ll still have to do some ourselves, but it will take the burden off of us.”

“Sounds good,” Sean smiles. “I think I’m going to try to sleep now, if you don’t have anything else.”

“No,” Sandcaster says, glancing down at the report. Some instinct makes her glance up again almost immediately. Sean hasn’t moved; his tired eyes are still looking at her. But behind him, a body flares into shape, appearing from mid-air.

Time slows down: Sandcaster opens up her mouth as the form’s hands drop onto Sean’s shoulders. Sean begins to turn to see who it is; Sandcaster’s arm is rising, the sand is pouring from her hand. Beautiful grey eyes meet hers, and Sandcaster feels them stab into her mind as a dulcet voice says, “Stop.

“Cage,” Sean growls as his fists close.

Stop, Chaos, darling,” Cage sighs with a put upon smile. As Sean freezes in place, his eyes wide, Cage says, “You were always so excitable. And while that has its place in the bedroom, it’s inappropriate in this situation. Don’t you think?”

Cage turns back to the frozen Sandcaster. His full, handsome face is robbed of all of its beauty by the rampant cruelty in his eyes. “I need to borrow your pretty little boy for a bit. I’ll bring him back in a few hours.” With a flare of light, they are both gone.

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Access was sitting in the security station interfaced with one of the maintenance terminal when the alarm sounds. A breach has just occurred in the headquarters. Holo screens appear showing Sean, Sandcaster, and one currently unidentified computer. "Begin signature trace, identify suspect. Public Address, exclude all speakers in earshot of Sandcaster's office." A hum is heard throughout the building as the public address speakers power on. "All members of the Knights on location, please report to the administration sector. Crusader, Jager, report to Sandcaster's office immediately. This is not a drill. All non-Nova staff, please take up a secure position, the building will be in lockdown until further notice." The speakers clicked off. In any location a baseline might be stationed at, color lines light up on the floor directing them where they need to go, metal security shutters begin to close over all exits to the street.

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Nothing. The damned Terat who was fittingly called Cage was standing right there, right in front of her, and Sandcaster could do...nothing. Silently, her will robbed from her, all she could do was watch as the bastard grabbed Sean and blinked out of existance...and her interrupted attack blasted through empty air, blowing her office door clear of its hinges and frame to slam it against the far wall of the entryway.

Her hand slammed down on the intercomm. "A Knight has been taken; Sean McCline has been grabbed and teleported out by the Terat known as Cage. I want the full team assembled in the briefing room, NOW!" With no further delay, she took off at a dead run to rendevous with the rest of the Knights.

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Cade had been review severa PR ideas to help boost the visibility of the Knights and the public's image of them. As of late things haven't been very good for them, and There were several plans being tossed around to try and change that. When the Alrm sounded Cade dashed from his desk and made his way into the administration sector. When Sandcaster called for the full team, he opened a gate from his location to the briefing room and entered quickly. "Dammit. This is bad. But perhaps if we're lucky not all bad."

He speaks into his com system. "Access see if you can get a lock on the signal from our missing Knight's commpiece. Get me coordinates and a satpic and I'm there."

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Access begins calling the Knights that are on reserve as he walks to the boardroom. Eventually he decided this was too slow and he laid his hands on a monitor and sent the call out simultaneously to every member of the Knights including the multiple reservists they had, then he leapt through the monitor in the hallway and came out in the large screen in the boardroom.

The only person that had beat him there was Amped, but that was no surprise to him. Access immediately sent up several holo screens showing the quantum trackers from the headquarters to the far reach of their sensor net, but nothing out of the ordinary was was happening. "Mobilize drones 1 through 16, active quantum sweep, each take a different compass direction." If Amped didn't know the way Access worked, he would have thought he was being spoken too.

He hears the communicae from Cade and just gives a stupid look to Amped. "Already on it Cade, no comm traffic has been made, nothing to track."

Access talks to Anne over the communicator. "I've pulled up the sensor grid, they're out of the Chicago area, I sent out some search drones, but it really is highly unlikely to find them unless we just happen to get lucky. The farther away they went the more complicated it will be, plus the longer it takes, there is a chance the quantum signatures from the warp will fade as well."

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BlackStar's relaxing a bit at home after a busy day investigating a case, when the Knight's communicator buzzs. He looks to the small screen.

"A red code, that's bad".

Changing to black mode, he teleports to the HQ's roof and uses his comm to speak with Sandcaster.

"Sandcaster, this is BlackStar. I hear the alarm. I'm on the roof now. On my way to the briefing room".

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Samhra, in town for a rearranging of the WCK's archives, steps through the nearest available text and emerges in the briefing room. Her amber-golden eyes are narrowed in thought.

"Doesn't take an idiot to figure out that this is payback for his alleged sins against the Teragen," she says calmly. "The Primacy play for keeps, nova and baseline alike."

She scratches her nose with a clawed finger. "I can put in a word to my mentor if you want. He might know something."

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“Hello, Chaos,” a voice as smooth and sweet as molasses says. Sean lifts his head to see one person he’s been dreading since joining the Knights. The Confederate stares down at him coldly, his normally personable face stern with disappointment.

“Confederate,” Sean sighs, trying to move. Cage still has him locked up, and Sean can only kneel at the feet of one of the leaders of the Primacy. “Good to see you again, sir.”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me, Chaos,” The Confederate snaps. “You have some explaining to do, boy.” Sean can almost hear the banjo playing in the distance.

“Do I?” Sean says, putting a picture of Singularity in his mind and trying to emulate the ex-elite’s calm demeanor. His only weapon left was his own emotions; Sean knew he had to control himself, or he’d lose complete control of the situation.

The punch catches him hard in the jaw; Sean has to close his eyes for a moment to school them to serenity. “You know exactly what I mean,” the man towering over him snarls. Another punch and another, and Sean endures them. He can’t stop them, so he waits until he can. But each strike is raising the rage in his heart… until he realizes that he feels no pain. The Confederate’s hands should have hurt; they don’t. I’m stronger, he thinks, and he looks up at the other man with that knowledge in his strange eyes.

“Confederate,” a calm voice says softly, soothingly. Sean glowers up at TeleRhyde as the telepath steps forward. He had been in on it; from what Cage had said, Laon had located Sean in the building and then had influenced a technician to shut down the teleportation alarms. “You’re not going to get anywhere like this.”

“Agreed,” Cage says. “Allow me.” Gray eyes meet green and black ones, and Sean feels his mind buckle. This time, Sean fights it. “Stand up, Chaos.”

“Fuck you,” Sean hisses, dropping back to his knees as quickly at he had started to stand up.

“I was planning to, actually,” Cage says. “Stand. Up.

Sean was on his feet; he notices that TeleRhyde's face has gone distant and his eyes hard. What's the matter? Sean thought at the telepath. Don't like the way things are going but too cowardly to do anything?

“Strip,” Cage orders, his gray eyes boring into Sean’s soul.

“No,” Sean counters, his fists clenched as he fights Cage. And the battle begins.

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"Everyone, Samhra has a point. I would like for everybody to establish whatever contacts they have out there. Jager, I believe you know Long, him and Timeslip walk the path so they might be able to tell you something." Access turns in his chair and looks at his monitors of empty quantum reports from the drones.

"I'm going to.." Access cringes then regains his composure and continues to speak. "I'm going to hit message boards, try to see if I can find any unusual concentrations of Novas out there, I'll play some information control also if anything about this has leaked out from our code red."

"Sandcaster, if it's alright with you I would like to have Cade send Amped and April out ahead of the Drones in a search pattern. I can have some equipment ready for them in a matter of minutes, any fast response we can get is an advantage."

Access' facial expression gets more serious. "It is of the utmost importance that nobody engages these people alone if you come across them. That goes for anybody, even the most powerful among us. they are probably in a group, and they are probably waiting for us just in case. We will have Cade open a warp where we can group and formulate before we take any action."

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The alarm catches Rhayne in an excercise room, working on a routine. Stormwarden's first instinct is to respond, to do something, but she catches herself. Sandcaster has put her on inactive status, which means she should stay out of Knight's business, right?

She hesitates, torn between duty and tribe. Finally, she makes a compromise. She grabs up her bag and head up to the conference room. She doesn't go in, but instead uses the building communications to contact Access.

"Access, this is Stormwarden. I'm outside the conference room, if you need me. Please let Sandcaster know."

All she can do now is wait.

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Jager walks into the room looking like someone tossed him into a bag full of cats. Despite his buzz-sawed appearance, his voice is clear and calm. He hesitates before sitting down. He pulls a vibrating shard of metal out of his thigh/buttocks area and puts it on the table. It continues vibrating for a second before dissipating into the quantum ether. As he sits down, he pulls another such shard from his shoulder.

"They took him on the Confederate's orders," Jager begins. "They are somewhere in the states, though I didn't ... couldn't ... didn't have the time to get the exact location. Still, that puts him in the Northern Alabama, North-western Georgia, Western to mid-South Carolina area. Barry's got old ties down there he keeps up."

Jager eases himself into the chair before continuing.

"I hear this is a shake down of some kind. Barry, TeleRhyde, Cage, and two to three other mooks that tag along in Barry's shadow."

The wounds keep healing and soon Jager is his old Nordic Adonis self. Looking over to Sandcaster,

"I can go down there and start squeezing some rednecks if you like. There is also this small nova outfit in Atlanta that might help. They can't be happy with Primacy in their backyard. If we are going to stay away from the Directive, our options are somewhat limited."

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"All right then." Sandcaster's voice goes grim. "Access, contact Stormwarden. Tell her she's reinstated. Then start zeroing in on wherever the hell this Confederate is located; break whatever needs breaking to do it.

"Jager, take Stormwarden, Cade, Blackstar, Amped and whoever else you need. Go get us our Knight back."

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Cade nods as Sandcaster speaks. "Give me coordinates and we're there."

Cade's face is an impassible mask as he speaks looking to Access for the data he needs to create his portal. Someone he called friend was in trouble and he aimed to help him.

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Carver is having an ordinary day; well, ordinary for her crazy life. Harry is thankfully not here to see her near-tantrum over the movers; it is bad enough that he could sense it. “Honey, they’re not going to drop it,” he repeats for probably the thirtieth time, his multi-throated mental ‘voice’ strangely soothing.

They’re going to drop it!” Carver silently rages, knotting her fingers around themselves to keep from popping her claws. The massive crate containing white and grey marble statue of a weeping woman tilted to one side and then the other as the movers struggle to keep it upright.

Honey, they’re not going to dro-” Harry’s voice is cut off by another in her mind, sudden and intrusive. “Carver, this is TeleRhyde,” With out hesitation, Jael slams down on the link with Harry, attempting to hide it from TeleRhyde. If she was unsuccessful, TeleRhyde did not comment on the link. “I know ... I know ... you want me out of your head. I will, soon enough. Get to the Knights. Sean McCline has been kidnapped and is being tortured by other members of the Teragen. I have his location and I will be back in touch as soon as I am ready to move myself. If they move too soon, other innocent lives will be endangered. Can you handle this?

Oh,” Carver growls, “I can handle it; why should I drop everything and help you or the other Terat? Sure he's a Knight, but I haven't forgotten either of you.

Whether you help someone is as much a matter of who you are as who they are” TeleRhyde states calmly. “If Sean is unworthy of your assistance, even though he has never wronged you, so be it. I will seek aid elsewhere.

Anger rolls through Carver, bright and hot. “Oh, for fuck's sake. I didn't say that I wouldn't help!” she snarls. “You do remember what you guys were doing to me last time you saw me right?” A memory of their last meeting flashes through TeleRhyde’s mind, seen from Carver's POV, filled with her fear and anger at the time. “You were interrogating me. I'm sorry if that I'm letting that get in the way of our current relations.

Torture...” Jael purrs. “I like it...

Shut up,” Willa demands, focusing on the danger in her mind. “ Fine. Offer me proof that Carrot-top is actually being hurt, and I'll do it."

He was hot,” Jael murmurs, rubbing herself in Carver’s mind. “I wonder what Harry would look like with red hair?

Stop that!” Willa barks in a near-panic.

I could provide you with an image,” TeleRhyde informs her, and it floods into her mind: Sean and an unknown nova staring at one another. They are floating in a grey field; it’s clear that TeleRhyde is blocking out other extraneous and identifying images. It is also clear that the two are locked in a battle of wills.

Call Sandcaster and ask to speak to Cade,” TeleRhyde tells her as he cuts off the image. “He should be right there. Of course, do not mention me. Ask Cade about some Foundation business then mention the meeting you, he, and Sean are having this evening. Gauge their reactions. Assume someone is monitoring Knight external communications. Be careful. You have enemies closer to you than you may realize. If necessary, Samhra can verify the identity of the Terat engaging Sean.

Understood,” Carver says, even as she clamps down on the rest of her thoughts. For a long moment, there is silence, then Jael says, “We need to do something about that.

No kidding,” Willa agrees with a sigh. “Put Harry back on; I need to explain what’s going on.

* * *

“Come on, Cade, pick up,” Carver mutters as she climbs the side of the building. Her headset continues to beep, and each beep is just another moment of a man’s torture. With a conflicted scowl, Carver climbs faster, heading toward the Knight’s building.

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Cade looks down to his phone and recoginzes the number as Carver and excuses himself. Over the odd looks of his fellow Knights he takes the call.

"Ok Carver, I'm a little busy at the moment. What can I do for you?"

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Carver clears her throat and pulls out all the tricks that she learned as Ghost. "I know you're busy," she tells him. "We have that meeting, remember?"


"Christ, Cade, you've forgotten?" Carver sighs as she flips over the edge of a building and begins to hustle across the roof. "See, I knew this would happen when you split your efforts like this."

"I really don't have time for this," Cade tells her with a hint of irritation.

"Fine, if you can't, can I still expect that Sean will be there?" she asks as the Knights building comes into view. Come on Cade... pick up on it...

There is only a second of hesitation, but when Cade continues, Carver relaxes. She can tell by his too-normal voice that he's got it. "You know, he's a little tied up right now - Knight's stuff - but come on over. I'll make the time to meet with you anyway."

"I'm almost there," Carver says, swinging over the edge of the building and slipping into a controlled fall down the building. Halfway down, she leaps onto the next building and begins to run across it. "Meet me in the lobby."

Cade signs off and turns to the others. "Carver has some information for us," he says. "She'll be here in moments, and I think that waiting for her will help our situation."

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Cade makes his way down into the lobby after his explaining the intrusion. He greets Carver when she finally make it there. "Come with me." Using his security badge he escorts Carver through the building and back into the conference room. Once there he leads her to a seat next to his.

"I believe you have some information for us. Would you please share it."

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"Sure," Carver says, her eyes a little wide as she takes in the room. No wonder the mayor complains about the Knights' budget, Carver thinks as she takes in all the electronic doodads.

"I was just contacted by a Terat telepath named TeleRhyde," Carver says. "He claims that Sean McCline is being held and tortured by other members of the Teragen. He hasn't given me the location of this torture; he says that he'll give that to me when he's 'ready to move.' I don't know what that means, but that's what he told me."

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BlackStar has gone to the Conference room and greeted anybody's there. Then he seats and waits. After Sancaster's order, he gets up. But stops when Carver contacts Cade.

Then, Carver explains herself. And he speaks.

"Excuse me, Carver, but it could be a restraining tactic against us. I think time is essential in rescuing Sean fron his former friends."

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Access takes his glasses off, folds them, and slides them in his pocket. His face takes on a serious look as he props his head up on his hands. "I agree with Blackstar. I think it would be in our best interest to still mobilize. We can regroup quickly as long as Cade stays here as a central point. I would ask that either Cade or Blackstar mobilize, and the other stay here."

Access grabs his briefcase from beside him, opens it, and turns it for everyone to see. "I would ask that everyone take one of these tracking devices while they are out. I'm usually against these, but in this case it will help me guide our efforts. The signals have just been reset, and these will die out and destory themselves in approximately 3 hours. When you feel them vibrating, you have 10 minutes to remove them, once they leave your contact they will ignite...nothing that the armor Alchemist provided us with can't handle, but I would prefer to not have to clean up the scorch marks."

Access now turns to Carver. "I would be very apppreciative if you could sacrifice your day, at least until you hear again from TeleRhyde."

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Carver nods at Blackstar's words. "TeleRhyde had asked me not to tell you who gave me the information, but I couldn't involve you guys in this without you knowing what you're up against," Carver states. "You guys do what you think is best."

After watching Access pass out the tiny bombs, he asks her his question. Carver nods and says, "I'd planned to hang with you guys as long as you need me." To Harry, she murmurs, "Sorry babe, but I'll be home as soon as I can. I want to help the Knights as much as I can."

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Jager looks around the room once, nods to Carver and says to her,

"You sure about this? Sticking your neck back into Teragen business?"

Seeing that Carver is serious, Jager turns to Cade.

"We'll start here," and he gives some coordinates.

"We're going to Church," Jager adds with a wink.

The warp opens up into a desolate backwoods area. The setting screams of poor, rural America ... cars on cinder blocks, tire swings, dogs in the yard, and siding coming off the trailers and buildings close by.

"Welcome to the North Georgia chapter of the Aryan Church," Jager says quietly. "We are looking for the nova known as Holocauster. He and The Confederate go back a ways, but ole 'H' does think the Teragen is pure enough for his tastes. Just so you know."

"If Barry's back around here, he would have touched base with Holo-nuts, or somebody close to him ... and, he's wanted on a few outstanding federal warrants, so he's likely to be jumpy. Right now, we just want to talk to him. Blowing up the landscape will only alert the terats we are on our way."

"Stormwarden, get just above tree-level and keep an eye out."

"Amped, roll out around the perimeter of this place. See whose lounging about and how well armed they are."

"Samhra, stay here for now. Your wings and eyes may tick him off. He's nutty that way. Be ready to creep into his cesspool of a mind, if Cade gives you a signal."

"Cade, you're with me. Remember, nice and easy, all white trash like."

Jager points to a building in the center of the compound. It's a church, sort of. It has a tiny steeple with a cross on top. The doors are closed. One one side, it reads "Church of Christ" and on the other "Whites Only", both in fading letters.

"Let's go."

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Back in Chicago, a nervous Sandcaster paced the dense nerve-center that Access called his lab. A sharp look from the computer wizard stopped her in her tracks; sand in the machine, she realized, and forced herself to stay relatively still as she peered over his shoulder at the holographic comm relay.

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Access is a pillar of calm at the moment.

"We'll find him. I've redirected the drones towards Jager and his team and it's only a matter of time before we find his Quantum signal or Jager and his team pick up on a completely solid lead. The only thing be nervous right now will do is keep you from thinking clearly and that's not what we need at the moment."

He pulls up another screen. It has a readout for every field member wearing a communicator, plus it has a visual readout looking through each communicator as well. "Jager, it is important that I hear everything, I'll be able to analyze any modulations or inflections and be able to possible discern some extra info, it would be handy if you could also get a visual scan of the room so I can render it and track his eye movements for any possible clues. Pretty much I need you to point your communictor to as much as possible without drawing suspicion to yourself."

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Carver starts to argue, but she reconsiders. She'd help Jager and them for a little bit; besides, working with her trainer and mentor again... she really couldn't pass that up. As she starts to open her mouth, Harry's concern surges down the link. I told Harry I wouldn't, she remembers.

"Sorry, Jager," she says, stopping at the lip of Cade's warphole. "I can't go. I agreed to deliver the information, but not to help with the rescue. I'll wait here with Sandcaster. Besides, I should be with the Team Leader when TeleRhyde gets back in touch with me."

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"Cade will handle the scanning," Jager tells Access. "I'll keep the converstation going. As I said, this guy is twitchy."

Jager and Cade walked up to the church and knocked on the door. Cade could tell that one door knob had much more wear on it than the other, which was odd.

After the knock, the novas heard some rustling inside, but no response. Jager opened the door and walked in. Inside were two men. One sought to keep close to the shadows behind the door, assualt rifle at the ready, while the other lounged on a pew, combat shotgun across his lap.

"We are looking for Him", Jager said.

The shotgun man stared at them for a few seconds. Access picked up some kind of communications between some device on the guy and some other source ... close by. He quickly traced it to a location deeper in the woods. It was some kind of ID trace. Access stopped himself from alerting the others. This place had the feeling of a relay point for information, not a control center.

Back in the church, Cade and Jager felt the man string out his drawl.

"Him, eh? I guess I authton be asking which Him, but seeing as how youse Cade and Jager of them thar Chicago novas ... you boys ain't serving no federal warrant for your Momma, isya?"

Without hesitation, Jager responded,

"Nah, this is just a social call. We're looking for a Freak that might be around these parts."

Cade and through him, Access scanned the room. The spotted the camouflaged strong points in the walls, the trap door in the floor near the pulpit, and the fact that the back door was ... odd. Cade could tell that the object's grain was meant to precisely fit in with the rest of the church, but was some how off. Access saw 'Gadget' almost immediately.

The shotgun man looked over the two.

"Back door. Left-Right-Right," he said, any hint of a backwoods accent transforming to near military precision.

Jager nodded and walked toward the door. Cade gave the man behind the door a quick once-over as he followed along. Jager hesitated for about a micro-second, barely long enough for Cade to catch, before twisting the doorknob as directed then opened it.

Instead of opening up into the humid Georgia countryside, an underground tunnel revealed itself. The two novas stepped inside and off Access's radar.

They were gone for twenty minutes.

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Naked and shivering, Sean huddles on the floor as far as he can get from the bed. Cage sprawls on it, his beautifully ugly eyes watching Sean with amusement. The ribbon around Sean’s neck is taut: when Cage had put it on, he had told Sean that he could neither break it nor allow it to be severed in any way, nor could he remove it from his neck. Whenever Sean had tried to untie it from the bed, Cage had ordered him to do another task, over and over again. Finally, Sean had just given up, sitting on the floor as far as he could get from the bed and Cage.

He is tired, emotionally and mentally. Sean isn’t even sure how long he’s been here, only that it’s been a while. Cage had distracted him long enough that Sean had lost track of the time. The Knights. They’re looking for you. They’re going to rescue you… Sean doesn’t really believe it. Cage held people – it was his thing. If he didn’t want Sean to be found, he wouldn’t be.

The door opens and The Confederate stands in the doorway. Sean feels his stomach curl in on itself as he faces his burning anger. He’s not sure that he can stand up to his rage, but to Sean’s surprise, he feels a resurgence of his will as his strange eyes meet her face. “Cage can force me to do anything,” Sean growls defiantly, “but you’ll never get me to do it of my own free will.”

The Confederate kneels in front of him, his dark face unable to hide his smugness. “Chaos, this is how we deal with our enemies,” he murmurs, his accented voice soft and Southern-gentle. “You don’t want to be our enemy anymore, do you? You want to return to the warmth of the brotherhood, don’t you, Chaos?”

“My name isn’t Chaos,” Sean growls. Laughter bubbles up in him as he hears himself say, “My name is Turbo.”

The Confederate jerks back from him, his black-stone face revealing nothing. But his body language speaks of his anger with Sean. For a moment, the Confederate wants to hit him; his hand even draws back, then drops when Sean doesn’t flinch. “You can’t hurt me,” Sean gloats, feeling even more will return. “You’ll have to get someone else to beat me until I can’t say no.”

“Actually,” Cage smirks from the bed, “he can hurt you. Chaos, darling? Dorm.

The Confederate laughs as Sean’s eyes widen in horror. The red-headed Terat grabs at his quantum, even as his traitorous mind quietly folds it away and leaves him powerless.

When The Confederate raises his black hand, Sean does flinch away. It doesn’t help. Nothing does.

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It was bone-crushing force, or would have been if the Confederate wasnt' being careful. The pain was becoming too much. Doubt about anyone coming to save him was creeping in, along with the more serious concern that he might die before his will cracked.

"Pappa?" Iharra asked.

Sean started. Iharra ... here? His mind whirled then he realized that the voice was only in his head. She was standing there, in a cool, foggy white room.

"Pappa, will you be home soon?"

You can talk to her, Sean ... Turbo. She can not sense your fear, or your pain. She only knows you are not at home. She thinks this is just a friendly conversation. She is not in ourhands, nor will she be. Talk with your new life.

"Yes," Sean lied, "I'll be home as soon as I can. I've ... I've had to catch up with some old partners for some belated good-byes," he adds with an inner chuckle. "I've got plans for your birthday party, honey."

"Really? I wasn't sure if ... "

"Do you want me to tell you what they are?" he added, taking refuge in the conversation.

"Oh," she hesitates, curiousity warring with the desire to be surprised, "okay ... if you must!"

"No go, kiddo!" he laughed back to her. "You have to wait for it."

"Oh ... Daddy! That's no fair!"

You are needed back here for their enjoyment. Say good-bye ... for now.

"I've got to go, baby."

Iharra mentally pouts.

"Okay, but hurry home. Now I want to know."

Your Knights are getting close. This is almost over.

Sean fell back into the pain, but now the despair was nowhere near as intense. He had a new life. His team mates were closing in for his rescue. He was going to beat this. Through swollen eyes, Sean stared back up at the Confederate. He spit up some blood on the burning nova. Though no one could tell it, Sean was laughing. There was something about picturing the Confederate in a Boy Band just had to make him laugh.

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(OOC: Due to the delays in finishing this, I've decided to do a cheesy "and this is how it happened" post. I apologize to anyone who feels put out by this. Also, thanks to all who did participate and were a part of this wonderful story. Thanks so much. laugh )

The Knights found Sean right where Jager's source had said they would, in a small house in rural Kentucky. What his source hadn't mentioned is the damage done to their comrade.

Sean was lying beaten bleeding and naked on the floor of the master bedroom, tied to the bedpost with a single ribbon around his neck. Uncertain how their tough companion had been so badly injured, they nevertheless sprang into action. Cade opened a warp to medical, and Sean was taken through. Then the Knights tore the house apart.

In the end, they found nothing to indicate where Cage and the Confederate had gone. With Sean recovered and healing, the matter seemed to be behind them.

Sandcaster was sure that the matter was far from over for Sean - he'd been moodier since the event. Indeed, he'd become much more quiet. But she couldn't see anything specifically wrong; his work didn't fall off, and his interactions with Iharra remained the same. Still, she requested that Samhra check in with Sean to see if he was alright. Sean and Samhra spoke at length, but what they discussed remained confidential.

Samhra did know that Sandcaster was right. Something was wrong with Sean, but it would take some time for it to come to the surface. Only then could it be faced and his psyche repaired.

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