Ezra, JD, and Buck returned from the Wells' place in the late afternoon. JD rushed into the main room and saw Vin and Chris sitting playing chess. He walked over and flopped on the couch nearby.
"You guys, it's awesome!" The youth's hands flew around animatedly.
Vin and Chris exchanged a smile at the young sentient's enthusiasm. "What, kid?" Vin asked.
"The setup. Ezra and Nettie have been planning this for a while. I mean, the ranch is getting totally revamped. They're building a bunkhouse in back, so they'll have room for about twenty more people. And the main house is set up for classes and stuff and a sentient therapist is even gonna move in and help with the more serious cases."
Ezra and Buck had followed their companion in and now stood in the doorway, listening to JD's speech, amazed that he'd been able to continue without pausing for a breath.
" Then Casey's been helping out, of course, and there's a foundation, so people can donate money. Once they have enough, they'll build more..."
Chris hid a grin and raised an eyebrow to Buck who winked in response.
"Nettie even contacted Haven. Turns out Tamra, Angel, and Louie will be some of the first guests since they want to return to the States so badly. And with the support of the halfway house, their parents think it'll be safe for them to come back..." JD trailed off and looked at his friends in expectation.
"Ya done?" Vin drawled.
"Then take a breath for God's sake," Vin said.
Chris snorted and covered his smile with his hand, pretending to think of his next move. Ezra gave a light chuckle, and Buck doubled over, his laughter bubbling out.
Dunne failed to see the humor. "I'm serious, I was impressed." He folded his arms over his chest, his expression on the brink of a pout.
Buck took pity on his best friend. He crossed the room, sat down by the kid, and ruffled his hair. "Don't get upset; we all think it's a great thing. You jest seem a mite more excited, that's all. All us ol' folks are more laid-back and unable to express our true feelings of joy and wonderment." The deep blue eyes crinkled in amusement as his glance flicked around the room.
"Who ya callin' old?" Vin asked, full of false outrage.
"Indeed," Ezra agreed. "I believe I have only a few years on Mr. Dunne, but much less numerous than either yourself or Mr. Larabee. I shall not even bring up Mr. Sanchez's advanced age."
"Prob'ly a good thing, Ez," Vin said, "since the old fool is standin' behind ya."
Ezra whipped around in dread to find the man in question eyeing him carefully. "What was that about my many years, brother?" Josiah's deep voice rumbled.
Recovering quickly, Ezra stammered, "Merely admiring the immeasurable wisdom you've gained in that time, my good man."
Larabee brought his attention back to the game. He moved his queen over and eyed the chessboard for a second before calling, "Checkmate." The telekinetic ignored Vin's swearing as he asked the newly arrived men, "What'd you find out?"
"We found a way in," Nathan said as he entered the room with an armful of blueprints. He strolled over to the coffee table and laid them out. Everyone gathered around, standing over or squatting, to look at what they'd discovered.
The plans indicated most of the facility was underground. The visible, aboveground, portion of the Moses Lake Facility was very small, consisting of only a Quonset hut and a half-dozen out buildings. According to the blueprints retrieved by Josiah and Nathan, there was an emergency tunnel that ended less than a quarter mile outside the facility's fence line.
"See?" Josiah said, pointing out the tunnel. "No muss, no fuss."
"Feels like a trap," Buck muttered.
"Yeah," JD said. "Why would Baines let something like this go? Especially when it's on the official plans where everybody can see it."
"Actually, these aren't the official ones," said Nathan enigmatically.
Ezra raised a brow. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Sanchez said, "we found out who designed the structure and then went and had a talk with him."
"And he told you about the emergency tunnel?" Chris was visibly skeptical. "Not at first," Nathan admitted.
"But a quick call from the President of the US of A and he was showing us the plans to every classified area he'd ever designed," Josiah said. "That's where we located the perfect way into the Dungeon. And you have got to see what else we brought." The empath led everyone outside. They started to unload boxes from the back of the vehicle and carried the boxes inside. Sanchez reached into one of the cardboard boxes and started unpacking it. First thing he pulled out was a small case of C-4 explosive.
"Where did you get that?" asked JD, eyeing the plastic explosive.
"Travis," Josiah calmly answered. "He thought it might come in handy."
Chris smirked. "He's been a busy boy."
"What else ya get?" Vin asked, peeking into one of the boxes.
"Enough doodads to get us in serious trouble," Jackson said, setting his box down on the table. "Including something to take care of a high-tech alarm system."
"That's what I like to hear." Buck said, rubbing his hands together. "Show us all ya got."
Sanchez unloaded the equipment that their new benefactor had given to them: C-4 explosive, encrypted radios, guns, ammunition, and various electronics.
"Wow," breathed JD. "They weren't kidding when they said we would have support."
"And here is something else you might like." Nathan lifted up a strange looking gun.
"What is it?" Vin asked, eyeing the weapon warily.
"Tranquilizer gun." The healer brought out a case and opened it, displaying the small darts that would be loaded inside. "Each dart has enough sedative to render a 180 lb. person unconscious for five hours give or take. We'll each carry one."
Chris nodded at the equipment in satisfaction, but something niggled at his mind. "So how did you get all these things through airport security?"
"We didn't." Josiah grinned widely. "We got a ride back in a military transport plane. No customs, no checks. It's standing by at the airport for us, until we're ready to go."
Nathan added, "And our backup is ready and waiting for our call."
The dark-haired rogue slapped JD on the back, almost knocking the smaller man down. "Guess it's time to go kick some Guild ass!"
Two days later in the early morning hours, the leader of Psi Team Seven stood atop a truck and surveyed their base camp. The setup was a few miles away from the Moses Lake Facility -- aka the Dungeon. Three large tents covered medical facilities and there was a portable brig to hold any captured Guildsmen. Even Travis had flown in; he would remain at base camp and make sure things ran smoothly. State-of- the-art camouflage materials, including motion- and heat-detectors, protected the base camp.
Once the team located the hidden entrance, they would radio back to camp. At a set time, the soldiers would storm the surface stronghold, gaining control of the main entrance and aboveground of the Moses Lake Facility. The leader of the backup team, Major Lane Delray, had been handpicked by Travis and approved by Larabee. He was a fourteen- year veteran of the Army and was tolerant of people with psionic power. His second in charge, Captain Miguel Garcia, was not only a good friend but a sentient as well. His power of telekinesis, previously completely hidden, was now going to be used to protect sentients.
Delray and Garcia commanded a team of twelve men, some with and some without psionic ability. Their surveillance specialist, Sergeant Henri Delacroix, had taken over the security cameras on the facility's radius. He looped tapes so anyone watching the monitors would see nothing out of the ordinary. With luck, the complex wouldn't know what hit them until it was too late.
The plan was for the Seven to get control of the Dungeon before sending up rescued sentients and prisoners in the elevator where the soldiers could take care of them. Ambulances and fire trucks were available for the soldiers to call upon.
With a quick salute in Travis' direction, the seven men loaded into two Jeeps. Chris and Buck drove to the point believed to be the entrance to the tunnel. As soon as they parked, the men got out and started to unload their equipment from the rear of the vehicle. JD grabbed the metal detector and started sweeping the surrounding area for the metal door covering the entrance. Twenty minutes later, the beeping echoed loudly in the still air, announcing its discovery.
"I found it." JD cleared some dirt and rocks, uncovering the access point. "But there might be an alarm."
"Anythin' in that bag o' yers to check it out?" Vin asked Josiah.
The empath swung his backpack around and opened it. Sanchez pulled out a few gadgets and rejected all but one of them, placing the others back inside the bag. "This might help," he said, holding a small electronic device. Everyone stepped back as he walked over to the trapdoor and placed the device against it. No alarms or claxons sounded. "Clear." Josiah motioned Standish forward.
They thought the clairvoyant might be able to tell if the way was safe. Ezra leaned over, placing his hands on the metallic door and dropped his shields. For once, the premonition came on command. Long tunnel. Dark. Empty halls. Cold. "I believe it to be unobstructed," Standish reported, trying not to shiver from the malevolent feeling he'd gotten from the vision.
Josiah moved forward and yanked on the handle, his strength allowing him to open it easily. Again, no alarm sounded.
"This is it," Chris announced, as they stared down the lengthy tunnel. "Anyone who wants to back out, do it now."
No one looked away from his intense expression.
"Okay." He keyed his radio and called Major Delray. "Give us forty minutes then come on in."
"Copy," the major responded. "Forty minutes."
"All right, everyone lock and load." All of the men carried dart guns with the sedatives along with their "real" guns. They intended to take the last of the Guildsmen down with the non-lethal means, but the men were prepared for any eventuality. They climbed down the ladder and walked along the narrow corridor, carrying flashlights to light the way. Buck went first, prepared to fire some "pyrotechnics" if they ran into trouble. The tunnel was too small to walk any way but single file. Josiah and Buck barely fit through; their broad shoulders scraped against the tunnel walls.
A hundred yards down the tunnel, Chris called back softly to Vin walking behind him, "Are you sensing anything?" He saw the head shake.
"Can't barely think with the jammer."
"Dammit." They had been counting on Vin's "early warning system." "Just do your best."
A large door blocked their way at the end of the tunnel. Chris nodded Buck forward, holding up his own gun to cover his old friend.
The tall man burst out of the corridor through the door, ready for anything. Wilmington chuckled as he looked around to see an empty conference room. "It's clear," he called to his friends.
The men carefully exited the tunnel and spread out around the room. Josiah sighed in relief as he escaped the tight corridor. On the wall, next to the secret door, was the same map that Vin had spotted when he'd visited the Dungeon astrally. Once they closed the tunnel door, it became all but invisible in the wall; it was cleverly hidden.
Most of the seven carried C4 charges to disperse throughout the building. Since they'd studied the blueprints, they knew the basic layout of the facility, but didn't know whether Baines had made additional changes after the initial construction. Buck and JD would go after the jamming system and disable it. Ezra and Nathan would seek out any sentients being held against their will. The rest would disable any Guildsmen they found after securing the elevator -- the only other viable exit.
Vin went to the door, expecting to swing it open and move into the main part of the facility, but it wouldn't budge. "It's locked," he said.
"Dammit!" Chris cursed. "I knew this was going too easy."
"We need to open it without setting off any alarms," Josiah commented. He pulled out the same device he'd used earlier on the tunnel's entrance. Holding it up to the doorjamb, a sharp beeping sounded in the quiet room. "It's got an alarm."
"Any way to shut it down without making the alarm go off?" Nathan asked. The empath merely twisted the dial on the device, until the beeping stopped. "Piece of cake," he rumbled, chuckling. He grasped the doorknob and gave a hard turn. The others heard something inside bust and the large man pulled the door open. "After you," he said.
Chris gave his team last minute instructions. "Buck, you and JD get rid of the jammer. Vin, Josiah, and I will get control of the elevator. Ezra and Nathan, you stay here and wait for the all clear. Once you hear it, head out and look for prisoners."
They all nodded their heads in understanding.
"Anyone in uniform, shoot with a dart," Chris told them. "Anyone in question, shoot with a dart."
"And if we see Baines?"
Chris shrugged. "Use C4 to blow his ass up." He left the room with Vin and Josiah following.
Buck looked at JD and grinned. "Let's get it done."
"Good luck, gentlemen." Ezra saluted as he closed the door behind them. "I guess we shall wait to hear from our compatriots," he said to Nathan.
Josiah, Vin, and Chris stalked through the hallway. They hoped the lack of manpower would mean fewer guards at each post. Each sentient had his dart gun poised and ready. They came across two Guildsmen walking the halls and shot them quickly with the dart guns.
The nearly empty hallways spoke much about the end of the Guild. The three realized that, at the height of its power, this entire facility would have been teeming with people, some here by choice, others by force. Yet, each empty corridor showed the men that there was hope that the Guild's reign could be ended. They slowed as they got close to the area with the elevator -- they figured it would have at least two guards, maybe more.
Chris signaled Josiah and the two men raced around the bend. The speed of the attack assured no call for help would be sent. Larabee knocked out his guard with a quick uppercut. Sanchez merely grabbed his and held him fast, one arm around his captive's chest holding his arms down, and one hand over his mouth. Vin stepped forward. With the jammer still active, the telepath wasn't able to read minds at a distance, but with close contact he could ignore the "white noise" of the jamming system. Guild guards were trained to fend off psychic attacks, but with the extra practice Vin had been doing, he pummeled through the guard's shields in less than a minute.
Once in his mind, Vin found the elevator's code with little effort. "Two seven eight nine nine five."
Larabee tried the code and learned it worked. "Thank you," Chris told the wide-eyed and terrified guard in Josiah's clinch. "But we no longer need you." He grabbed a dart from his case and jabbed it into the man, watching him fall. He stuck another into the other guard for good measure. He didn't want to chance either one waking and alerting anyone.
The large man looked down at the Guildsmen with disgust. "What do you want me to do with them?"
"Let's just pile them up here. Once all the psionics are out and safe, we'll send them up top."
Josiah nodded. He sent a message to the backup team above, informing them he had the elevator under his custody, and found out that the soldiers above had been successful in their takeover.
The three sentients waited impatiently at the elevator for word that Wilmington and Dunne had taken out the jammer.
Buck moved forward with confidence while JD hung further back, providing protection for his partner. The youngest sentient held his tranquilizer gun in his hand, ready to use it at a moment's notice. Surprisingly there had been little resistance on their mission. Dunne was relieved beyond measure; he'd heard horror stories about what happened within these walls, and he was so glad not to be made to witness any. He'd even taken the precaution of wearing gloves, so he wouldn't inadvertently touch something which might send his psychometry into overdrive, shocking his system.
Between the two team members, they'd tranq'ed three men, and had seen neither hide nor hair of any people being held against their will. No alarms had gone off, which made their journey to the control center easier.
"Don't you think this is too easy?" asked JD quietly once he caught up with Buck.
"Don't be looking a gift horse in the mouth." Wilmington sighed. "But I do think we've been lucky. Maybe Baines didn't keep as many supporters as we thought."
"I hope that's it." JD looked down the hall. "Is that the room?"
Buck looked in the direction his friend indicated and saw the room at the end of the hall. "I think so." He checked out the hallway; it was clear. "Let's go." The pyrokenetic stepped forward, lighting up a fireball in his hand while holding the tranquilizer gun in the other. He looked over his shoulder to see JD poised with his dart gun out. "Ready?" he mouthed.
Dunne nodded and brushed a lock of dark hair from his brow.
Buck threw the fireball at the door, caving it in.
JD jumped forward, careful not to get caught in the residual flames. He shot the two men behind the desk; Buck snapped a dart at the man in the rear of the room before his weapon could be pulled. Dunne circled, checking each corner and behind desks to make certain no one else was in there.
"It's clear," he called. Buck had already found what he was looking for: the jamming system. Summoning up another, larger fireball, he sent it toward the system, and it burst into flame, sparks shooting out.
JD jumped back from the blaze with a glare at his friend. "You could have warned me," he accused.
"Watch out," Buck said with a wink. "That oughtta do it. What else can we do here?"
The younger sentient was walking around the room, trying to find out what equipment did what tasks. JD pointed to a machine. "Take this out and their radios are useless," he stated.
"Good job, kid. Watch out."
Dunne stepped back as the pyrokinetic aimed a fireball at the console. It exploded, a bright light showering.
Buck brushed his hands off, and smiled. He keyed his mike. "Jammer is down, and their radios are out."
Chris and Nathan acknowledged the call.
"Let's go help Ez and Nate," JD said, moving into the hall, gun at the ready.
Once they acknowledged Buck's call, Ezra and Nathan left the conference room and moved in the opposite direction than the others had gone. Slinking along the hall, they came upon a restricted section. Through the windows in the bright red doors they spotted two men standing guard inside.
"You go through first, like you belong here," Ezra said. "Once they turn to you, I'll take care of them."
Nathan nodded and stuck his gun under his jacket. He walked forward at normal speed, pushing the swinging doors open and continuing down the hall. He stopped short and turned slowly when the guards called for him to halt. They didn't have a chance to say anything else, as the team's clairvoyant burst through the door, shooting the guards in the back with the sedative darts.
"Maybe this is what we are looking for," Jackson said. He leaned down to check that the tranquilized men were all right and gestured down the hall, which was lined with doors inset with small windows.
"I am of the same opinion, Mr. Jackson." Ezra peeked through one of the panes. Inside was a figure, curled up in the fetal position under a blanket. "I believe you would be better equipped to handle this while I stand sentry."
The healer agreed. "I'm going in." He tried the first door and found it locked. He backed away and waved his hand to his companion.
Standish whipped out a pick and made short work of the catch. He smirked as he moved down the row, unlocking the doors one by one.
Nathan moved into the first room, calling out softly to warn the person on the bed. "Hello? My name is Nathan and I'm going to get you out of here." When the figure stiffened in apparent fear, he continued, "Would you like to go home? My friends and I are getting everyone out. The Guild has been stopped and they can't hold you here any longer." He kept his voice calm and soothing.
Little by little his words were getting through to the terrified individual and he saw an eye peek out from beneath the covers, gauging his honesty. "I get to go home?" came a rough voice.
"Yes, you do." Nathan's response was firm and truthful. When a hand reached out to him, he gently took it, trying not to frighten the person.
The blanket dropped away and the healer reined in his temper at the pale and gaunt man before him. But the deadened eyes were now bright with hope, and the black man forced himself to smile. "Can you make it? I can help you."
The man chuckled, his voice almost breaking. "I can fly if it means leaving this place." He stumbled once and Ezra stepped forward into the room, lending his arm to the man.
"Will it be all right," Ezra said softly, "if I take you out while my friend looks for more people to help?"
Nodding furiously, the man pushed against Nathan. "There are many more go help."
Nathan smiled and went to the next room.
Seeing Ezra walking slowly toward him with a man, Josiah radioed the soldiers above. The empath sent the elevator up, and two doctors rode it back down bringing two wheelchairs and a gurney, just in case. They would travel with the patients, making sure they got up top all right.
The healer arrived shortly after, carrying one woman with another following close behind, almost attached to his back, fearful and nervous.
As soon as Vin felt the release of the jamming system being taken down, he and Chris left Josiah to search the nearby rooms. The telepath could tell how many men were inside and their locations, so the two psionics methodically burst into the rooms, tranq'ing everyone in them. They had stumbled across no sentients, and began to wonder if any were still being held. With the Guildsmen remaining unconscious for a few hours, they decided to leave them where they were. Chris would return later and load them onto the elevator using his TK.
The further they moved into the rear of the complex, the more Vin became tuned in to the leader of the Guild. He could sense Baines was near and knew that he would have to be dealt with. The telepath didn't want Chris to have to face Baines; there was no telling what would happen. Vin wanted to protect his best friend.
And he wanted to do it face-to-face.
Leaving Chris, he sprinted down the hallway, ready to shoot anyone who got in his way. He rounded a corner and honed in on the psychic signature he was tracking. Passing three doors, he threw open the fourth and stepped inside, startling the man seated behind the desk. Baines wasn't wearing his personal jammer, seemingly relying instead on the facility's main one to shield him.
"You," Paul Baines spat when he saw Tanner enter the room. He jumped up and circled the desk to face him. "You ruined everything!" He pointed at the telepath, fury lining his face.
"Reckon so." Vin nodded, flashing a nasty smile.
"Your kind doesn't deserve to live."
"Says who? You? At least I'm not making innocent people suffer to further m'own psychotic power trip."
"Innocent," Baines snorted with harsh laughter. "None of you are innocent, you were born corrupted. I was only trying to save some of you."
"Savin' the ones that could help ya. No thanks. Yer done; the Guild is done -- ya lost."
With every word Tanner spoke, Baines became more and more enraged. He flashed back to his childhood when he'd been the only one in his family without psionic power; his parents, brother, and sister were all sentients. His older brother, David, had enjoyed tormenting him. David had used his power to make Paul do things that he didn't want to do. Years later he learned that the term for his brother's power was "projecting telepath." Even his baby sister could do things he couldn't. It was the feeling of helplessness that he couldn't stand. He swore that when he grew up he'd find a way to be in control. And he found it within the confines of the government's jurisdiction. Subsequently, his family was one of the first to enter the camps.
Now all of his hard work and years of planning were ruined -- destroyed -- by seven men. But he wouldn't run.
He'd stand and fight.
All the hatred of a lifetime rose to the surface. Paul Baines was overwhelmed and there was only one outlet the man who stood before him.
He rushed forward, slamming Vin back against the concrete wall.
The telepath was stunned by the sudden attack and the motion snapped his head against the hard wall. Dazed by the force, Vin couldn't stop Baines' hands from wrapping around his throat and squeezing. He felt the fingers digging into his throat. The hands' grip grew tighter and tighter, cutting off his air and his ability to think clearly. Black spots danced in front of his eyes and he knew he'd lose consciousness soon.
He summoned up his psychokinesis, trying to push Baines away, but the accompanying pain took even more of his energy away. Vin sagged down to the ground, Baines still clutching his throat.
The only thing that he could do was send out a mental plea for help Chris! before he lost the fight to stay awake.
Chris had watched Vin take off, but fought against his instincts, deciding to let the telepath take care of himself.
He got busy tossing Guildsmen into a pile by the elevator. Larabee went through each room and found the unconscious men to "dispose" of. In the hallway, he happened upon Buck and JD gently escorting two shell-shocked people to the elevator. Nathan was escorting another. The healer reported that Ezra was exploring the rest of the place, making sure no other sentients were left behind. As a scanner, Standish could sense people with psychic power.
Within a few minutes, Ezra joined the group and relayed that everyone had been found. When the elevator came down the next time, Larabee used his telekinesis to lift up the pile of Guildsmen and place them, not so gently, inside the elevator. Josiah radioed the soldiers that the people coming up should be placed under arrest.
Larabee went to check out another room and, upon finding it empty, was turning to leave when a scream ripped through his head, nearly dropping him to his knees. Chris! He placed a hand on the wall and staggered to the door, struggling to regain his equilibrium.
He shook his head to clear it and raced down the hall that Vin had taken. Turning into a room, Chris was shocked to see Baines standing over Vin's still form, still clutching his best friend's neck. Larabee's temper arose with ferocity. Summoning his power, he mentally hurled Baines aside as if he were kindling.
Calling loudly over the radio to Nathan, Chris ran to his best friend's side, anxious to see if he was still alive.
Nathan ran into the room, barely glanced at Baines' rumpled form against the wall before dismissing him and coming to Vin's side. The healer immediately checked his patient for injuries. Vin was wheezing, but he was breathing on his own. "What happened?" He placed his hands onto his patient's neck and chest, letting his healing power flow into the telepath, hoping to stave off any irreparable damage.
"Apparently Baines decided the world would be better off without my best friend in it," Chris snarled.
Nathan nodded as he continued to administer aid to Tanner. "He'll be okay to move," he said after a few minutes.
"Good, get him out of here. Tell everyone to take the tunnel and get outside."
Nathan grasped Vin's arm and pulled him up, draping him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. When he saw Chris standing over Baines, he hesitated. The healer worried about leaving him; the only one able to restrain Larabee in this state was lying over his shoulder, out cold.
With a grunt, Nathan left the room.
Chris stepped back and waited for Baines to awaken.
Paul Baines slowly woke up and saw that his prey was gone, the furious blond man in his place.
"It's over," Chris told him.
Baines pulled a pistol on the sentient. Chris smirked, easily grabbed it with his TK, and flung it aside, nearly severing two of Baines' fingers in the process. The Guild leader stared in shock, clutching his broken hand. He growled and started forward.
"Stop. Stay," Chris commanded and Baines froze in his tracks. The telekinetic's power easily held the man immobile. Only his head could move.
"What the hell did you do to me?" Baines spat.
"I'm giving you a little life lesson. You no longer hold the power. This place is finished and so are you."
"It'll never be over until you and your kind are dead."
"I suggest you leave now," Chris suggested. "In about five minutes this place'll be gone." Some level of control remained. Larabee never again wanted to lose himself like he had in the park that day when he almost killed an innocent man and his best friend.
"I'm not going anywhere! I will finish what I started! You will not stop me!" Baines roared.
Chris listened to the rant, his anger and rage growing with every word uttered. The man before him had hurt countless people. This man had hurt his family: Sarah, Adam, Vin. Paul Baines would do everything in his power to make life hell for sentients. He wouldn't stop. At that insight, something in Chris snapped and he unleashed his power. As he watched, the ceiling directly above Baines collapsed, sending tons of dirt, rocks, and earth crashing down on top of him. With a shrill shriek, the Guild's creator was no more, his evil buried.
The telekinetic jumped back into the hallway as the room filled.
He moved away, not yet ready to be with his team. The episode had tainted him and he needed a little time to settle down. He gradually came to realize Baines' death would never bring his family back, but it would allow others to live without fear. He walked through the complex and made a final check for any other people.
Larabee saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. The Dungeon was empty.
Seeing the multiple explosive charges in place, Chris retraced his steps. He marched back to the conference room, entered the tunnel, and walked to the end. He arrived outside and squinted in the too- bright sunshine. After being under the fluorescent lights of the Dungeon, the natural light was overpowering.
The other six members of his team were waiting; Vin was just sitting up with assistance from Nathan. Josiah informed his leader that the rescue personnel and soldiers had all moved back to a safe position after he had radioed, warning of the coming blast.
"How's he doing?" Chris asked Nathan who was helping Vin to stand.
"Baines bruised his larynx pretty bad. I did what I could, but until the swelling goes down he won't be able to speak and he'll have trouble eating solid food." The healer supported Tanner until he was steady. "He'll be okay in time."
"So you're saying he'll be even more closemouthed?" Chris asked, with mock incredulity.
Like you should talk, Cowboy, Vin sent, managing a small smile. His neck was already starting to bruise, black and purple marks appearing in the shape of hands.
"At least we won't have to hear you bitching." Chris winked at his friend, relieved that he'd be okay.
What about Baines?
"He's finished," was all Chris said. He felt the telepath enter his mind and he allowed it, lowering his shields.
Vin looked at his friend for a moment, reaching in to see Baines' fate. He moved forward and embraced his friend.
Larabee accepted the hug for a moment, savoring the support. Stepping back, he blinked away tears and called to Buck, "Burn it."
Wilmington nodded solemnly and moved forward. The pyrokinetic reached into his pocket for the radio transmitter with one hand while he gathered a sizeable amount of energy in his other. Chris stepped behind his oldest friend and put a hand on Buck's back. In turn, Tanner moved and placed his hand on Chris. One by one the team connected by touch, together ending the Guild's reign of terror. The mustached sentient lobbed the fireball inside the tunnel, caving it in. Flipping the switch, he set off the explosives.
The sentients watched as the facility collapsed in on itself. None of them shielded their eyes from the brilliant flash of the explosion. None of them covered their ears against the thunderous assault. Each of them wanted to know for certain that the horror they'd seen was dead and gone.
"Not bad for a day's work," commented Nathan softly, breaking the spell.
Chris nodded. Taking one last look at the remains, he turned and faced his men. "We'd better get ready for tomorrow."
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's notes: I want to send a sincere thank you to some people who encouraged me throughout writing this tale. Nancy, Laurie, Selene, Jeanne, Phyllis, Sandy, Judy, Jan, Teresa, Birgitt, Lanna, Morgen, Gray, Kemmae, and Cin. Without their perseverance [re: nagging], I probably would not have finished.