Gender: N/A Age: N/A Location: N/A
|Introduction: Not my story|
An Inauspicious Beginning
Later that night, Ron was going over his plans for the upcoming battle in Philadelphia. He looked down on the maps and tables that he’d spread out on his desk. He sighed in resignation, knowing that he could plan all he wanted, but until he had some experience with how the Russians fought en masse, he really didn’t have a clue how to position his people.
Kimberly had come to the door looking for Ron, and she stood there for a moment, just watching him. She saw how his shoulders tensed, how his brow furrowed. He’s wound up tighter than a clock, she thought to herself. Why couldn’t I see that before? She continued to watch him for a few moments, just observing how he reacted when alone. His mental defenses were down, allowing him to rest for the coming war. Others were guarding the house now.
When she did finally knock on the doorframe, she saw his body shiver, ever so slightly. She had managed to startle him. This was not something she was expecting, nor was it something that she had meant, or wanted, to do. But it told her a lot about his present state of mind.
Ron looked up, and gestured her in with a slight smile. He continued to look down at the map of Philadelphia. She moved across the room silently, stepping to his side and briefly looking down at the maps. She saw some markings that he had made, but none of it made any sense to her. Her experience broke down at this point: she had no familiarity with planning such a large confrontation. As a Hunter for the ShadowDragon, she had mainly concerned herself with one-on-one battles, seeking out and destroying psionics that were deemed dangerous elements by the Dragon’s Heart. What she saw before her was so much more massive than that, and she wondered that anyone could have the skill to prepare a plan for this.
“What do you think?” Ron asked quietly.
“I think... that I am completely out of my depth here,” she answered.
Ron chuckled. “So am I.” He looked up at her. “Did you need something?”
“I came to tell you that the government is getting very insistent about us sending someone to talk to their troops.”
“Shit, I’d forgotten. Did they say where they want us to send someone?”
“Washington. They’ve gathered a good number of people there, for some reason or other.”
“Probably the crews from the attacks. They’d still be in debriefing. Okay, I’ll do that tomorrow.”
“What about the battle?” she asked, suddenly concerned that he might not be there.
“We don’t even know if it’s going to happen tomorrow. And, if it does happen while I’m not there, Lars can handle things.” She could see that the idea of missing the first battle did not sit well with Ron at all, but he was willing to bend to the situation’s necessities.
Such strength, but he is carrying an enormous burden. “Also, sir, the new uniforms have arrived.”
“Good. Have they been distributed yet?”
“Yes, sir, but...”
“There was not one with my name on it.” She looked at him, not sure just what emotion she felt about this... was it an oversight?
“Oh, that. Well, I thought you’d probably want to wear your traditional warrior uniform. I didn’t want to show any disrespect...”
“Sir, that uniform is a part of the SkuggDrakarna. I am a member of the PPA now.”
Ron smiled at her. Thanks for the support, he thought. “Okay, we ordered several hundred extras of all sizes. I’m sure one of them will fit you.”
“Thank you, sir.” She wasn’t sure if she should say what she wanted to, but she felt that it needed to be said, and she was the only one here. “Sir, can I say something?”
Ron looked up at her, giving her his full attention. “Only if it doesn’t include the word ‘sir’,” he responded with a grin. “I asked you to call me Ron.”
She bowed her head sheepishly. “Sorry. I just wanted to say that... well... you look very stressed. Perhaps you should take a break, and find a way to unwind before tomorrow. You have put a lot of pressure on yourself, and that isn’t fair to you.” She laid her hand very gently against his upper arm, doing her best to ignore the tingling feeling it gave her just to touch him. “Ron, you’ve done what you can. You’ve done so much for us. Take some time and do something for yourself.”
Ron said nothing for perhaps twenty seconds, and she pulled her hand away, fearing she had overstepped her bounds. Then, he looked deep into her eyes and said, “Thanks, Kim. I appreciate the thought. And I guess you’re right; there’s not much more I can do with this tonight. Staring at it is just giving me a headache.” He placed his hand gently against her arm now, and gave her a warm smile that melted her insides. “Thanks for caring.”
As he left the room, leaving her standing there alone with her own feelings, she struggled to control her emotions, knowing that it was a losing battle, but not wanting to give in. Linda is wrong. This is wrong. I cannot love him, it is not right. This is just comradeship for a fellow warrior. She kept telling herself that, knowing, even as she repeated it, that the words were hollow.
Ron, meanwhile, went searching for a diversion. Most of the members of the household were either asleep, or were talking with each other. The only one he didn’t find right away was Cindy. Curious now, he searched the entire house looking for her, and did not find her. He actually began to worry about where she might be.
Eventually, he found her out in the garden. It was a private area, not open to even the troops staying at the house. Cindy, being a member of the family, was allowed free run of the grounds. When he spotted her, she was leaning against a tree, her back to him, staring out at the stars and the moon. He approached her quietly, not wanting to disturb her solitude. As he came, he took note of some things. First, he noted that Cindy seemed to be wearing a nightgown out here. The next thing he noticed was how that gown flowed against her body, outlining her curves against the bright moonlight. Though she was small in stature, she was still extremely beautiful. Ron chided himself for not having taken the time to be with her already.
Ron moved closer to her, his mind reaching out to her first, so that she would not be startled when he touched her. He moved right behind her, and leaned against the tree with her, placing one hand on her hip, and gently pulling her back into him. She acquiesced immediately, letting her body settle back against him, his arm moving around to caress her abdomen as he held her against himself. They stayed that way for some time, not speaking, just touching.
“Why are you out here in your nightgown?” Ron finally asked.
“I do this sometimes, when I can’t sleep. It helps me to feel a little less confined if I’m just wearing the gown.”
With a mischievous grin, Ron said, “If it’s freedom you want, why not go naked?” Without allowing her to respond, he used his extension to pull the gown up, and then he continued pulling it off her with his hands. Once it was off her body, he hung it over a branch, returning his hands to her now nude form. She once again sank back into him, hoping for, and receiving, the warm caress of his hands against her skin. His fingers roamed until they began to caress her breasts, dancing lightly across the hot flesh.
Cindy moaned as the pleasure of Ron’s touch electrified her nervous system. She laid her head back against his shoulder, enjoying the sensations rippling across her body. Ron leaned over and pressed his mouth against hers, kissing her hotly. She opened her mouth to admit his tongue, which slid across her teeth and along the roof of her mouth. Her tongue pressed against his, and the sensuousness of the kiss brought another moan to her throat.
Ron’s hand slipped off one breast, and moved down across her abdomen. Cindy knew what he wanted, and she moved her legs farther apart, allowing him access. His hand slipped between her thighs, slipping lightly across her pussy lips. His fingers softly brushed those outer lips aside, and his middle finger began to stroke against her inner lips.
Cindy was moaning constantly now. She reached up to pull Ron’s face further down, allowing them more intimate contact. Ron’s finger slipped slowly into her dripping cunt. He was shocked to find that her barrier was still intact. A virgin? At her age? He accepted this, and was even more intent on making the experience a pleasant one for her. He began to stroke his finger in and out of her more quickly, heightening her arousal. He had long passed the point of being ready, but his partner was not yet there.
While his finger stroked her cunt, his other hand continued to lightly massage her breasts, rolling them in his fingers, and brushing over her nipples. Soon, Cindy was rocking against him, her passion building to a fever pitch. She came against his hand in a powerful orgasm, her scream muffled by their kiss. He continued to thrust his finger inside her until she had passed her peak. Slowly, he withdrew the digit, as they broke their kiss. He offered the finger to Cindy. After a few seconds, she tentatively brought her tongue to his finger, tasting her own juices for the first time. She then sucked his finger clean. He was highly aroused by this act, and he knew that she was ready now.
Moving quickly, and with the help of his extension, he removed all of his clothing. Cindy marveled at the speed with which that happened, wondering how he was managing to pull at four different places at once. All of that thought came to a halt when she beheld his cock, standing out rigid from his body. She longed to touch it, to caress it, to hold it; mostly she longed for it to be inside of her.
Ron, finished removing all of his clothing, stepped beside her. Moving his hands along her sides, he turned her to face the tree. “Put your hands on the tree,” he said quietly. She had to lean over slightly to do so, and this gave Ron a wonderful view of her round ass, and her sopping wet pussy. He told her not to move, and then placed his cock at her entrance. Before he pressed into her, he reached out with his mind, muting any pain she might receive from this first time. Then he pressed in, slowly inching his dick further into her hole. In but a few moments, he was pressing against her hymen. He pulled ever so slowly back out, until just the head of his dick remained, and then pressed back in. Slowly he fucked her in this way, preparing her for the thrust to come.
When he felt she was ready, he reinforced his mental block on her, and he slammed into her. Her barrier tore with little resistance. With the pain muted, she felt the pleasure, and she moaned loudly. The thrust nearly buried Ron’s dick in her cunt, and he paused momentarily, to make sure she was, indeed, all right. Seeing that she was, he began moving inside her, pulling out slowly and thrusting back in, until his cock reached fully inside of her.
Reaching around her, Ron cupped her tits in his hands, rolling the nipples between his fingers. He continued this as he started to slowly pump her, sliding his full length in and out of her at a slow, but constant, pace. Cindy couldn’t take very much of this before her mind was shattered by an overwhelming orgasm. She screamed in pleasure as her body was wracked by the climax. Ron continued his pace throughout her peak.
Once her orgasm ebbed, Ron increased his pace, moving his hands down to her hips to allow him greater leverage. He used his extension to continue massaging her breasts, and Cindy was feeling too good to care where the extra sensations were coming from.
Ron’s pace grew faster, pushing himself closer to orgasm. Cindy’s orgasms were coming more quickly, so that they were almost continuous. With a final flurry of thrusts, Ron rammed his cock deep into her pussy, and he flooded her cunt with his cum, grunting out his own orgasm, as the feel of his cock spurting inside her sent Cindy off on yet another wild ride of ecstasy.
It was several minutes before either of them could catch their breath to speak. When it happened, it was Cindy who spoke first. Almost in a whisper, she said, “Thank you, Master.”
Ron merely kissed her softly on the mouth, before pulling his now soft dick from her warm body. They dressed in silence, but Ron pulled her to him as they walked back into the house. They slept together that night, making love several more times before the night was over.
Ron awoke the next morning to find a soft and curvy body sleeping soundly next to him. He wanted nothing more than to lie there with her, warm and comfortable in bed. But he didn’t have that luxury this day. Today was the day that America met the PPA, in its official capacity.
He rose silently from the bed, trying not to wake Cindy, and succeeding. Her breathing continued in its regular rhythm. Someone had taken the time to lay out his new uniform, and he examined it quickly for lint, incorrect creases, or other imperfections. Because of the material, and the quality of manufacture, none of these things were present. He quickly dressed, putting on the uniform, fastening the belt, and then shoving his feet into his boots. The quick-lace system on them made it easy to tie them speedily, and he was soon fully dressed, except for the two mandatory accessories.
He slipped his aviator sunglasses into his breast pocket, and then he had to decide which headgear to wear. Since he was possibly going into combat, he decided to wear his baseball cap, rather than the more decorative beret. He did pick up the beret, however, and examined the PPA logo sewn on its front. It was extremely good craftsmanship. He looked himself over in the mirror, making sure everything was in its proper place. Then he quietly left the bedroom.
The uniform somehow transformed Ron, and he found himself marching, rather than walking normally. It seemed odd that an article of clothing could change someone into something else...
Until he saw Kimberly.
The PPA uniform was intended to conform to the body, so it wouldn’t catch on things around the wearer, but Ron had not anticipated what it might look like on some of the females in the army. Kimberly snapped to attention as he entered the room, and Ron admired how the uniform did indeed hug her curves. She saluted him smartly and, though he was surprised, he returned the gesture.
“You look very good in that uniform, Kim,” Ron said by way of greeting. He watched her blush.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Have you eaten yet?”
They ate breakfast while discussing plans for how to deploy the troops in Philadelphia. Karen and Lars entered the kitchen during their discussion, both of them also dressed in official PPA garb. They joined the discussion, going over tactics and plans.
As the conversation was wrapping up, Ron looked at his watch. “Shit, I’ve got to get moving. Lars, you’re in command. Get everyone up to Philly. If I don’t make it there, and the battle starts... Good luck.”
“Yes, sir,” Lars answered, pulling himself to attention and saluting.
Ron returned the gesture, and then he excused himself from the kitchen. He wanted to get this meeting with the military over with. He couldn’t handle the idea of his army starting its first battle without him. My army? When did I become Patton?
Commander Bob Maxton was milling around with the rest of his shipmates. They had been stuck at this facility for a very long time, and they were all tiring of it. The debriefings were becoming intolerably boring. He didn’t know what the hell his country was waiting for. They had been attacked, and it was time to do something.
He found Ensign Rita Connelly standing next to him yet again. She had spent a lot of time near him as of late. He knew she was still shaken from the death of her captain.
“Why are they keeping us here, sir?”
“I don’t know, Ensign.”
“When will we get a new ship?”
“I don’t know that, either.”
This last question was directed toward a man who had just entered the room in the company of Admiral Duchain. The man was about 5’ 9” tall, with black hair. He was wearing a uniform of some sort, but it certainly wasn’t US military issue. It consisted of a medium-dark gray jumpsuit, with black cuffs, collar, and belt. The fasteners on the jumpsuit were a highly polished silver. He wore standard issue combat boots, and a black baseball cap with no insignia on it. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of aviator-style sunglasses with black lenses and silver frames. While his uniform bore the American flag in its proper location, his unit patch was a mystery to Maxton. The room came to attention as a senior chief called “Admiral on deck!”
“Stand at ease, everyone.” As the room slipped into a more relaxed, yet fully attentive, posture, the admiral continued. “I know that many of you have been questioning why you have been kept here. Many of you have submitted transfer requests via the appropriate channels. Today, you find out why none of that has been given consideration up to this point. To my left is General Ronald Chaffey, commanding officer of the Provisional Psionic Army of the United States of America. He will explain to you what is going on. General?”
Ron stepped forward, still getting used to the title, and more than ever feeling the weight of the five stars glistening on each shoulder epaulet. He faced before him a crowd of thousands of people. While the admiral had used a public address system, Ron refused its use, instead enhancing his speech mentally, making sure that everyone heard him clearly.
“Ladies and gentleman of the United States Navy, you are still here because you have suffered at the hands of an enemy. This enemy is not, as you may believe, the Russian government. Nor is it even the Russian people. You have suffered at the hands of an organization within Russia, but not sanctioned by her leaders. This organization calls itself the Filitov Council. They are the counterpart to the Provisional Psionic Army, except that the PPA has the support of its government, and we are almost certain that the Filitov Council does not.
“You have not been given new assignments in order that we could speak to you directly. I know that it might seem unusual for your government not to put you back on the front lines immediately, but believe me, the attacks you faced in the past were mere warm-up exercises for the psionics you were up against. No weapon yet produced by mankind can stand against a strong psionic. At least, none we’ve found.
“What I am going to do at this time is simply to walk among you. We are seeking psionics, both latent and active. If you are a psionic, you should step forward now. You have chosen to serve your country, and this is the best way you can do so. It is time to put your Ability to use. Some of you may be psionics, and not know it. We don’t really know why some people develop their Ability sooner in life than others. However, we do know that there is a good chance that there is at least one psionic in this room.
“While your Congress has yet to decide, the PPA considers this country to be ‘at war’. I will behave as if that is true. It would be best if you did as well. That is all I have to say at this time. Thank you for your time and attention.”
There were many murmurs among the group.
“Sir, what’s he talking about?”
“I think he’s one of those people the President told us about a couple weeks ago. Damn, I thought it was all bullshit.”
Ron took his time wandering through the crowd. Finding a psionic that wanted to be hidden was hard, but he didn’t really suspect that there were any of those in this crowd. But he knew there was a psionic here somewhere. He found two weaker psionics before he found the one he was after.
“Maxton, Robert L., Commander, USN.”
“What, no serial number?” Ron said with a laugh. Commander Maxton turned beet red. “Commander, you were second in command to Captain Charles Farraday, were you not?”
“Yes, sir, I was.”
“You were with him that day.”
“I was in the area, sir. I did not see him die.”
“No. But he saw you. He gave you something.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Unfortunately, Maxton had already figured out that Farraday had been a psionic, and he’d feared that the jolt he’d felt that day was some kind of new power in his own mind.
“Yes, you do. You don’t have the skills to hide it from me, yet. Commander, you'll be reassigned to the Psionic Corps.”
“No!” Rita cried, unwillingly, and completely outside of protocol. Her outburst was so unusual that Ron scanned her quickly. Interesting.
“Ensign Connelly will accompany you as... your assistant.”
One does not question the orders of a superior officer, even if he is from a different, and seemingly non-federalized, branch of the military. Commander Maxton and Ensign Connelly both snapped to attention and replied, “Aye aye, sir!”
As Ron moved along, Rita turned to her superior and asked, “Sir, what’s he talking about?”
“I’ll tell you about it later. Since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, I guess we should get to know each other some. Want some coffee?”
Ron spent a great deal of time talking to the people in that facility, and two others just like it. By the time he had finished, it was well into the afternoon. He had to meet briefly with the President, during which time he was forced to keep himself from berating the man for his previous stupidity. By the time that meeting ended, it was a little too late.
Lars had a hell of a time trying to organize everyone for the move. The appearance of the news crew didn’t help one bit. She was stopped by one of the troops, but her insistence meant that she was brought to Lars.
“Where is General Chaffey?” she insisted.
“He’s not here right now. I am...” Lars faltered, very uncomfortable with the new protocol he had to learn. “I am Colonel Lars Ohlin, second in command.” The single eagle on each shoulder proclaimed that as well.
“Look, Colonel, I was assured that I would be allowed access!”
Lars sighed. He didn’t need this just now. He looked around briefly, and found the person he sought. “Major!” he called.
A young woman trotted over to him, and saluted properly. “Yes, sir!” she replied.
“Major Heinlein, this is Melissa Conway. She is to be our... ‘war correspondent’. I am making her your responsibility. If she gets hurt, you will answer to the General. Miss Conway, Major Kara Heinlein.”
Melissa watched the young girl’s face go slightly pale. “Yes, sir!” the girl answered. Turning to Melissa, she said, “Follow me, ma’am.”
Lars watched them go before returning to his work, arranging boxes and packages for movement. He didn’t know what he would need for the battle, and so they had to take everything.
A hundred yards away, Melissa was already interviewing her guide. “You seem to be afraid of the General. Is he that heavy-handed?”
“I’m not afraid of the General, ma’am. I’m afraid of disappointing him. Look, I was trained by a small organization in Wyoming. I heard about Ron through a friend of a friend. I’ve seen what he’s capable of. I know he doesn’t want to be here. Look, he’s younger than I am, and yet he’s got to take on all this responsibility. Why? Because he can, and the rest of us... well, we’re not up to it without him. Afraid of him, ma’am? No. I’m afraid for him.”
It was mid-afternoon by the time the teams moved out. There were now more than two thousand troops in the PPA, and the numbers continued to grow. The plan for this battle called for six hundred of them. Ron had hopes that this would be sufficient numbers, but he couldn’t commit all his troops to a single battle, lest something go horribly wrong. Someone had to remain behind to continue fighting, just in case.
Melissa and her cameraman were dumbfounded by the trip, which took place without the benefit of vehicles. Kara was responsible for keeping them safe, and so she was also responsible for transporting them to the target.
“How fast are we traveling?” Melissa shouted unnecessarily.
“Beats me, ma’am. However fast that guy up front goes, that’s how fast we go.”
“Could you please call me Mel?” she asked.
Kara laughed. “Sure thing. Sorry, but this military stuff is really quick to become a habit. Everyone calls me Kara.”
The cameraman introduced himself as Rick, but didn’t say much on the flight.
“How long to Philadelphia?” Mel asked.
“Plan calls for five hours. We left an hour early, so we should be there around seven or so.”
“Okay. You getting good footage, Rick?” He nodded, still a little dazed at flying a thousand feet above the landscape without the aid of an airplane or helicopter.
The flight was boring. The arrival was typical, and their welcome was less than warm. Miss Conway’s coverage of their journey had been broadcast, and there were several groups protesting their presence. Lars ignored them as he moved to City Hall, which they had decided would make the best command post.
The mayor of the city greeted them, and gave them free run of the building, but he told them he wasn’t about to stick around for whatever was coming.
“Smart man,” Lars said to Karen, who had remained at his side throughout the flight. She nodded in return. He could tell, even without their special bond, that she was terrified about what was coming. He grasped her hand and squeezed, letting her know that he was there for her. She smiled back at him, silently thanking him for the support.
“You might want to stay outside the city proper, Mel. It’ll give you better angles when the shooting starts, and it will keep you safe.”
“Kara, I’m a war reporter. I’m supposed to get shot at!”
Kara thought that was foolish and asinine behavior, and she could see that Rick wasn’t too keen on the idea, either. It was not, however, Kara’s place to tell the lady what to do. She moved them in, setting down on a tall building as close to the edge of town as she could. “This is as far in as you’re going, Mel. It’s my ass if you get killed in the first battle.”
“Okay, okay. I guess this’ll do.”
The troops took very little time to assume their positions, as the battle plans called for. Everyone was ready. Now, it was time to wait. It was eight PM.
Ron finally wrapped up all of his business in Washington, having placated all of the military people and receiving their support for his plans for Philadelphia. Not that it mattered, but it was nice to have them behind him rather than against him.
They’d found a total of seven psionics among the thirteen thousand people. He wondered whether that ratio was normal, high, or low, but had no way of knowing. Those people were sent to the Psionic Corps, a new branch of the military forming up that would eventually replace the PPA. Ron wished they’d hurry up about it, so someone else could be in charge.
Finishing up his final discussion, he left Washington for Philadelphia. It would take him a mere thirty minutes to get there.
It was eight-thirty PM.
Lars borrowed one of the phrases he had learned in the last month. EMCON, or Emissions Control, normally refers to keeping electronic devices on warships turned off. However, it applied well to the idea of hiding psionic ability.
Kara nodded at the message, but said nothing. Mel was standing beside her.
“What are you nodding at?” she asked.
“Huh? Oh, sorry. Just receiving a message from the Colonel. Everything’s normal so far.”
“Oh.” Melissa walked off, mumbling to herself about magic. She went to help Rick change his camera over to night-vision.
It was eight-forty PM, on July 27. The PPA had been settled in for less than an hour. Though they had been warned that they might have to wait days for this battle, that was not to be.
The first lookouts to call a warning were on the eastern edge of town. Their telepathic calls went out, briefly, and at high power. The Russians would certainly know that there were greeters in this city now.
It was a surprise, however, when the first attack wave came from the south. Russian psionics had driven into the city, and had made their first assault completely unannounced. A dozen PPA soldiers were down in the first seconds of the battle.
Telepathic calls were flying through the mental ether, as soldiers tried to coordinate, tried to piece together what was going on. Ron’s battle plan was good, but he was an inexperienced strategist, and there were many holes that hadn’t been covered. The Russians used every one of them.
Melissa was directing Rick, making sure they got as much of the action around them as they could. Kara stood beside them, frustrated at not getting into the battle. She could see the fight going on below her. As she watched, a PPA soldier went down. Was he a friend, or a stranger? From here she couldn’t tell. She did see the Russian maggot who had killed him. She focused her energy, and blasted him with all her might. The Russian flew back against a building, and fell to the ground, actually leaving an impression in the concrete structure.
Mel gave her a thumbs-up, letting her know they’d gotten the footage. Kara could not have cared less.
Kim huddled against a building, waiting for a Russian to show himself. She briefly thought, What a way to spend my seventeenth birthday. Then, she caught a glimpse of someone about to fire at her. Just in time, she rolled out of the way. As the plan called for, she flew down the street, heading west. The Russian followed her, right on her tail. She maneuvered left and right, dodging parked cars and his shots at her. Where is it, where is it... My God, what if I miss it? No, THERE! She turned a corner sharply and dodged behind a van.
The Russian turned the corner, and was immediately annihilated by four Hunters. The plan had worked flawlessly. Kimberly slumped against the van, letting her heart rate drop back below a thousand, or so it felt. She had faced her first test, and passed.
Jeff stood amidst his small unit, directing them telepathically. He felt the tug at his mind that told him someone was trying to sneak up behind him. He whirled just in time to avoid the attack, flashing a psionic burst back at the enemy, gratified to see him flung to the ground, unmoving.
He had no time to rejoice, however, as another attacker came at him out of a shadow, and he had to dodge a physical attack. He swung himself around, using his extension to continue the man’s momentum, slamming him head-first into a building, crushing his skull.
Kara could see it all from her perch, and she could see that many people were dying below her. There, a small building was crumbling, a psionic attack that missed. Over there, all the windows in an office building were shattered, from some unknown cause. She was so intent on the battle that she almost did not hear the two coming up the other side of the building.
Mel’s gasp of surprise came just in time, and Kara didn’t even bother to turn. Her kinetic shield went up around all three of them just in time, the attack washing over them. She turned, and Mel could have sworn there was fire in her eyes. Her hands stretched forward, her fingers splayed, Kara released a ball of venomous energy at the first attacker, burning him to cinder as he screamed. She turned on the second attacker, but he had already fled down the side of the building. She dropped her shields down to their usual level to conserve power, but would remember from now on that, unlike the people she was escorting, she was not a spectator to this fight.
Lars and Karen were assembled with several others, in the City Hall, trying to coordinate the battle. This was turning out to be impossible, as none of the soldiers were really familiar with the terrain. Asking someone where he is becomes a challenge when all the street signs are being knocked over by missed shots.
Ron was well on his way, but was not even in sight of Philadelphia. He could, however, feel the pulsing energy coming from the area. He endeavored to increase his speed.
Jeff was stunned, as he saw more of his men fall. He dodged another attack, and returned fire, but yet one more of his men fell from the sky, killed by Russian psionic fire. He felt an area of urgency, and raced down an alley, over a fence, coming out onto a wide boulevard. He saw many shops, and then he saw some teens in black garb running away from something, very fast. Two Russians came out of a store front, having busted out the glass already. They hadn’t yet seen him when he went into a crouch and blasted at them. They both rolled out of the way of the attack, and fired back. He was almost singed by one of them, but managed to roll clear. He was about to fire back when he noticed both Russians were being held up off the ground, upside-down, and then they were slammed down into the asphalt so hard that their bodies actually penetrated. The limp bodies slumped over, still sticking from the roadway. He looked up to see two of his friends waving. He saluted back, before hustling to find more bastards to kill.
“Rick, this way, this way!” Mel grabbed his shoulder and pointed. Kara looked as well, seeing that a larger collection of troops had massed near the waterfront. The sickening part was that there were nearly twice as many Russians as PPA soldiers in the fight.
she cried out telepathically. She could feel the confusion as many soldiers tried to remember what the hell Penn’s Landing was. Soon, several PPA troops were moving that way, but not fast enough, Kara could see. She was, unfortunately, too far away to affect the battle. She could but watch as good Americans were fighting, and dying, at the hands of barbarians.
My God, how heavily outnumbered are we? she thought, seeing that the men at the waterfront were falling rapidly to greater numbers. The battle was soon over, all of the men having been killed. She sent out a warning to those soldiers heading that way. Many lives were spared because of that act, but she would never believe it.
Kimberly was leading her band silently down an alley toward Broad Street. As she peeked her head around a corner, she nearly had it blasted off by a shot that was not even intended for her. It pulverized the corner of the building she was hiding behind, and they had no choice but to run out into the street as the building, which had absorbed dozens of blows already, collapsed into the alleyway, unable to withstand the strain of one more heavy blow. They’d make an effective demolitions team, she thought to herself wryly.
She and her team scampered across the street, trying to stay in shadows, moving silently, attacking when they saw an opportunity. Everywhere the Russians fought in teams of twenty and thirty people, moving swiftly and crushing whatever opposition was in their path. They took down two, before the rest of that crew saw them, and they had to retreat to safety. She’d already lost four men and one girl from her team. The losses hadn’t sunk in yet, but she was even now starting to feel the grief that would only intensify after this night was over.
She cringed as a blast from the sky vaporized the boy standing next to her. She flew away from it, not embarrassed to be running for her life. She stopped behind a delivery truck, overturned in the street, whether by gangs or psionics, she neither knew nor cared. The battle raged around her, and she realized that her team had scattered. She was alone.
Lars and Karen had just about given up on trying to hold the battle plan together. They were outnumbered, and outmaneuvered. Ron’s plan, as good as it had been, could not stand up to these numbers. No one had anticipated what appeared to be eight hundred to a thousand Russians attacking the city. Ron could not be blamed for this.
Karen told her love.
Just then, it was as if a strong wind arose from nowhere. The Russians had discovered the headquarters of the PPA’s field command. Forty psionics were blasting the solid stone structure. The first thing to go was the statue of William Penn, perched four stories up. It fell, clanging against the building, into the courtyard where they had set up shop. Everyone dodged it, as it smashed into the ground. There was no time to be concerned for the statue, however, as it was clear that the building itself was still being assaulted.
“Get out!” Lars screamed, but it was far too late for that. The central tower of the city hall collapsed under the force of the assault, and came toppling down on them. The rest of the building soon followed.
Jeff was doing well. He had managed to put together a small squad, and they had fought well. Their numbers were dwindling slowly, however, and now there were but three of them left. They raced down a street littered with rubble, from the wrecked buildings on both sides. They were heading toward the Schuykill River, where it had been reported that a new large battle was going on. Suddenly, from above them and slightly behind, an attack came without warning. So much psionic energy was blasting through the air that trying to keep track of the surroundings had been reduced to visual contact. The two people with Jeff were caught by the blast, one instantly pulverized, and the other decapitated. He turned and loosed a wild blast in the direction of the enemy, but it was easily dodged.
Soon, his attacker was joined by three other psionics. They began a rapid fire sequence of assaults on him. He blessed the training Ron had given him, as he managed to bat aside most of the attacks, and dodged the rest. He even volleyed off a few shots of his own, but they had little effect, as he couldn’t control them properly under the circumstances.
He knew they were trying to surround him, and he was keeping his back to a wall to prevent them from just such a tactic. However, this wasn’t a minor skirmish, and the rules of war were far different. Seeing what he was doing, two of the Russians blasted the wall behind him, causing it to cave in. Jeff saw it just in time, and almost avoided the collapse. He was caught by a mass of flying debris, and was knocked unconscious, half-buried under a pile of loose brick and stone.
Ron was aware of the fear and the tension. He was almost there. He wanted to cry out, Hang on! But he knew the words were meaningless to people fighting, and dying, for him.
Ron increased his pace, following the Delaware river. He was leaving a rooster-tail of wake, even though he was thirty feet above the surface of the river. The speed at which he was traveling was horridly dangerous, and if he tried to stop too fast, the inertial effect alone would kill him. There! The city loomed just ahead. Just a couple more minutes...
Kara’s hands were balled into fists, her heart pounding in her chest. She couldn’t stand to watch the battle below her. She knew, even as she longed to be down there, that it was quite possible that her current assignment had saved her life, at least for one night.
She didn’t hear the new attack.
Suddenly, the building beneath her rumbled, and started tilting dangerously. Melissa and Rick were thrown off their feet, and, because they were standing right at the edge, off the building. Kara swore as she saw them and, regaining her own footing, managed to slip herself off the building, flying herself down toward them. She had just managed to get them to safety, when an energy blast caught her with a glancing blow. That shoved her into the falling building, which she bounced off, and was thrown roughly to the ground, twenty feet below. In her semi-conscious state, she was able to cushion her landing, but she was still knocked cold from the impact.
Melissa and Rick rushed to her side, checking to see that, yes, she was breathing. Then they had to worry about how to get out of here, how to get help for the lady who had saved their lives more than once that night.
“Mel, I don’t know about you, but I’m asking for a raise,” Rick said, doing his best to lighten the mood. Mel laughed softly. Then they dragged Kara into a shadowy spot, and hunkered down. The battle was all around them now, and Rick was getting great footage, even without the aerie to shoot it from.
Kimberly had moved toward the waterfront, not knowing that there were roving bands of Russians running up and down the Delaware river banks, looking for escaping PPA soldiers. She moved out onto open ground near one of the docks, and was spotted almost immediately.
The training she’d had over the past few weeks paid off, as she immediately dove into the river to avoid several blasts that passed well over her head. Soon, the enemy was firing into the River, but the darkness, and the lack of clarity in the water, made it difficult to hit her. She came up several hundred yards downstream, but that was a mistake.
Unknown to her, there was yet another group of psionics here, that was also looking for escapees. These Russians saw her, and struck her with a blow that shoved her back into the water. She summoned her strength, and lunged out of the water, flipping herself over their heads, and landing fifty feet from them, to their backs. It didn’t take them long to turn around, but she took two of them down as they were turning.
Soon it was clear, though, that she had no chance. She started to run, only to notice that the two groups had now merged, and her escape route was basically cut off. She raised her shields as the blast wave came. Her knees buckled, and she fell to the ground, still holding her shields, but she could feel them weakening.
The energy washing over her was actually causing a physical buzz in the air, which is why she didn’t hear the roar of wind.
Coming up the river, Ron caught sight of the battle. Twenty to one odds were something that he didn’t want to face. He didn’t yet recognize the girl, for it was obviously a female, who was stuck in such a trap, but he knew she was one of his soldiers.
He had decreased to maneuvering speed, but now he actually sped up slightly. As he got closer, he recognized his friend, Kim, as the one being threatened. That only mad him angrier. He decided that he had to act fast, and that it would require a maneuver he had practiced, but had never used in combat. He dove for the scene.
Some of the Russians did, in fact, hear the sound of rushing wind, but it is very hard to react to an object moving at over one hundred miles an hour.
Ron flew down and around Kim in a tight circle, halfway between her and her attackers. He was spinning so fast that he was but a blur. He trailed his mental energy behind him, and, to a psionic, it looked as if a giant glowing ring had formed around her. The ring grew brighter in their minds. It also appeared to grow larger.
Ron widened his circle with each pass, increasing his speed slightly as he did so. His kinetic shield was at maximum strength, and he continued pushing outward. The Russians, either disbelieving what they saw or simply not able to interpret the threat, stood immobile, watching their doom coming. The first one that was hit had his head twisted in a full circle, while his body stood still. The second one was decapitated before the first began to fall. Only the last few had a chance to escape, and they took it, fleeing the angry wrath of what looked to them for all the world like a hell of a big fairy.
Ron stopped his circling as they retreated, keeping his shields up, but not at full strength. He approached Kim, who had not yet looked up, fearing for her life. He reached through what was left of her kinetic shield, and he realized that he had, in fact, arrived in the very nick of time. He pulled her up to her feet, and she embraced him, as a matter of instinct. She held onto him as a drowning man grasps a lifeline. She wept against his chest, and he stood there, holding onto his lieutenant-colonel, letting her release her fear in the only way he knew how.
While he was holding her, he took stock of the battlefield. His mind roamed down streets and alleys, taking a look at the devastation. He took tally of the number of his people alive and dead. He made his decision then.
The call went out at full blast, and yet Kim didn’t even flinch, so deep was the terror she had been through. He noted that troops were cut down even as they fled the battlefield. He made sure that wounded were collected, but the dead... would remain in Philadelphia.
His mind wandered to where their command center had been, and he was shocked to see a pile of rubble. Gently, he lifted Kim, and flew them both to City Hall. Kim was finally coming to, and she cried out in shock and anguish to see what was left of the building. Ron released her then, because his hands were beginning to ball into fists, and he didn’t want to hurt her. It was then that he heard the voices.
They came to his mind, not to his ears. And if they were that faint, they were either far away, or very weak. He knew, instinctively, that they were coming from beneath that pile of rock.
Together, they worked. It took them twenty minutes to clear away enough of the debris. They finally pulled Lars and Karen from a small bubble of space, no bigger than the two of them plus a few inches all the way around.
“Any others?” Ron had to ask.
Karen shook her head and sobbed, as Lars continued to explain. “They took the building down too quickly. When it began to topple... I had all I could do to save us. I couldn’t save the rest. I am sorry, Ron.”
“You did what you could. Let’s go home.”
The Provisional Psionic Army of the United States of America had entered Philadelphia with six hundred soldiers. They were leaving with little more than three hundred. That there were also two hundred plus dead Russians was not a consolation. Many of the remaining three hundred were wounded, and would take quite a while to heal. He could see that there were even wounded carrying wounded, and that was very unpleasant to behold.
The PPA had faced its first trial by fire.
The PPA had failed.
Ron was very quiet on the trip back home.
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