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[ Read more about author D.E. Bowers ]

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William Wilkes is an accomplished soldier accepting the responsibility of blending a savage military world with the civilian population by retraining them in a new understanding and acceptance of everyone who occupies the Continent. Jamie Darans is the Creator of the Artificial Intelligence, which merges the five territories of the Continent, after a disastrous attack by a meteor shower, which occurs every five hundred years. The meeting of the two distinct personalities brings a new challenge to the surface, the merging of advancing technology and simplicity of everyday life.

The Destiny of our Making

by D.E. Bowers


The world was in chaos, war and fighting was an everyday occurrence. The Alliances of the Continent were built loose but binding and these territories depended on each other to strengthen internal defense against outside attacks. The Alliance of the Five territories was strong yet, a volatile treaty. Each nation offered its resources and protection for the sake of the Continent. Then the Territories of the continent discovered a new threat that united their power into one.

A great military power could not detour the meteors, but it would be needed to protect the Continent when they were weakened, after the strikes. The Leaders of the Continent felt that protection against the elements was the immediate concerns, along with these attacks, so the Governments fully merged into one, separate but united.

The Government of the Continent was fervent to create and control the situation. They brought together the greatest minds of the Continent, to create the perfect society. It would protect against outside attacks and each other, the society would divide into five parts. Each part would exist separately, and co-exist together with the assistance of one source. EDWARD (ELECTRONIC DATA WHEREWITHAL AND REPOSITORY DEVICE), this was the central intelligence that would merge all five into one.

EDWARD was an Artificial Intelligence that could and did continue to learn. To many people EDWARD adapted so well he even appeared to be human at times. His creator; the daughter of one of those chosen to create the perfect society, Sheryl Darans had created a personal system for protecting her own computer and thoughts, before the destruction was known; he had been submitted without her knowledge. EDWARD was accepted and improved by the Foundation of the new World.

Three Cities were created to ensure safety for all inhabitants; a Prime Minister, who was no more than a figurehead, led each, military was the true control. The leader of each society was a Military General that had been determined over the two years before the Meteors. Many factors determined who they would be: it was said they had to be expert at several key points and highly skilled in all others.

All possible applicants were chosen through rigorous exercises and testing, then competed with each other to determine who would command, this process continued until the final five were chosen, the final five would choose the highest position. After the elimination process was complete, the Five gathered at a location known only to them and returned five days later with all decisions made.

The East and West Territories would control the Coastlines and Seas; they encircled the continent and protected the center. The Eastern City and Zone known to be the highest risk from outside attacks and required a strong Leader for protection, therefore General Carl Rizen was assigned the position. He had been a first choice candidate for the positions and proved himself even more competent in the trials. His expertise in Diplomacy and Tactics were unsurpassed.

The Western City and Zone was assigned to General Jeffery Mandrake, he also had been expected to be in the final five, and had proven himself exceptional in Strategy and Unpredictability. The West was protected by many meteor strikes and created obstacles that an outside force would not cross easily. It was still a coastline and outer protection for the Central zone, so needed the strength of expertise and control.

The Central Zone would be controlled by three who would divide the duties and control the inner workings of the world; this was the location of EDWARD and so requiring more security even with the Great Generals on both sides for protection. General Jason Brandon a first choice candidate with expertise in Decision and Reason would be in charge of the largest of the three cities, the Central city and all aspects pertaining to it.

The Second General, Rachel Merric also had proven her qualifications were high and equal in Compassion and Equality. She would control all the outlining work communities that were the resources for the entire continent. The last and only one that had not been expected to achieve this goal before the trials was General William Wilkes, securing his position with Combative and Organized Chaos. He was to be in charge of the outside lands and training the new forces in the knowledge and thought, of the new leadership.

This force would withstand all threats and replace any that fell short of the ideal, in doing so forming a new Academy and a new Military. This was the public explanation, and most accepted as obediently as they were expected. Things do not always go as expected and this was no exception.

The Five Generals were chosen by the great leaders of the past but; the five themselves had chosen the Ranking among them in private. They were the Elite and they were the only ones who knew the ranking General, this was another precaution.

Therefore, it was written that in an Elite Force: Never was Rank to be present on the field, all were expected to accomplish the same goal and all were expected to achieve the same rank. Therefore, they would not have rank until they reached Commander and then they would train the soldiers to the new thinking and ways. The Elite were a new breed of soldier created because of and by the meteors; no one knew why except the Five.

The Continent did change when the meteors came altering the land and the people. Some of the population of the continent was destroyed with the meteors attack. But the major attack came after the meteors, as if it was not satisfied with the damage, the meteors brought a sickness that claimed even more lives.


Sheryl Darans watched the sun lower in the sky; she was a petite woman, barely over five feet tall, who most people mistook as a young girl until they looked closely. She had lived most of her life in the Beacon area, knowing most of the small town by first names. Although the daughter of two renowned scientists, she had managed to proved herself expert in her own field with the submission of EDWARD.

She had married directly after high school, forfeiting college to become a housewife of a local Veterinarian, but continuing her improvement of EDWARD that would later prove to be the most important discovery of the Planet.

Sheryl had been thinking of her decision all week and could feel the anxiety build. It was time to decide, to go on the transport, or to try to live the life she desired. Paul did not want her to go, which was probably the only thing they had agreed on in a long time.

She had not known her mind was made up until this moment. What other decision could she make, if she went on the transport, she would have to live knowing what kind of monster she really was. Sheryl did not think the guilt would go away with this decision, but maybe she could find a way to make up for some of the mistakes she had made. If she had only had a little bit of this courage sooner, maybe things would not have come to this.

But why couldn't she believe? This was the continents way of starting anew, so many people believed it would be Utopia; Sheryl wished she could. Of course, everyone believed the worst was over when the meteors attacked but, then the sickness preyed on the weak, how could they feel this was what was needed? Why couldn't she believe in the way the government intended on helping them to survive? Community cities for Manufacture and Technology, Community Farms for Food and Textiles, Retirement communities; of course then there was the wonder cities for the privileged, intelligent and military, somewhere for everyone to be protected from what was natural. Who could truly believe that Military control was in anyone's best interest?

Sheryl knew some would not believe, some would hide, and some never went to the testing. However, are the people who were known as troublemakers, lunatics or unconventional any less trustworthy than the government? She thought she needed a new name for this type of person since she was planning to join the ranks.

Hopefully others believed as she, that freedom is the ability to come and go as you please and deal with nature as it was intended not in a temperature and climate controlled environment. Yes, permits and passes would be issued to those who wanted them but how could they agree to all those people who wanted them. No, she did not believe in passes or permits. She believed in jail cells and martial law.

"Dear creator help me, I helped form this Utopia," She said aloud. "This wonderful new world, which would be free from disease and disasters." She had played her part now she would live with it.

Sheryl had waited until the last minute again, putting off what should have been done already. However, she had not been sure until now. As she crossed off the last chore, she looked out the window to see the moonshine brighter than it had in a long time. Of course, this may have just been her perception but somehow it gave her hope.

She watched Stephanie's German Shepherd wander in the yard; and wondered why he did not go home. Maybe he knew no one was there waiting on him. Stephanie was one of the first to leave, believing that Max would be brought along with all the other pets. Sheryl knew when she promised to keep him that Stephanie would not be allowed to have him. Only small pets were to be allowed.

Stephanie was a lovely woman of 65, and had only had Max for a couple of years. As a puppy, he would drag her around town, but gently, and now at 98 pounds he was still very gentle. Stephanie had cried when she left him and made Sheryl promise to give him his treat every night. Paul the Veterinarian, no, the human in Paul did not understand, but she understood. This is what you did; for someone or something that you loved. Give them a treat, of course Paul only knew of treating himself. Sheryl knew he had finally found the life he wanted and made it clear he did not want her to join the excitement.

Sheryl went to the bedroom after her bath, a long leisurely bath; and put on her nightgown and robe. Then she sat on the bed to read the note one more time just so she could remind herself exactly why she was doing something so stupid. She did not need to make up excuses. She should have been brave enough to do what was right.


Guess I forgot to tell you; we have received our invitations to the Central City. I would have preferred the Eastern City, but I guess you cannot be too fussy in this situation. I took my invitation and left with the transport. I sent you to the Bellamy Farm to drop off the medication for the calf, because to tell you the truth I didn't want you to go with me. Oh, by the way your invitation was ACCIDENTLY destroyed. So Sorry. You have never been much of a Wife and now is my opportunity to be rid of you. It would have been a lot sooner if it had not been for your father's influence in the Cities and MY future. Have a good life.


Paul always had a way of telling her what he thought, no matter how it came out. She tried to tell herself he was just upset. She tried to tell herself that he was freeing her to become a better person. However, she was still making excuses for him; that was going to change. She was going to find a way to survive and show him that she was quite capable of making her own way.

Didn't he wonder why they still received the invitation to the City, rather than the Communities when her father had been dead for almost a year? He would not believe that it was her ties to the Cities not her fathers. Well that part is over; her new life would start tomorrow. The last of the transports were scheduled for tomorrow and people had no idea of what is to follow.

She wanted to believe that it would just be a gentle and calm rounding up of the strays. However, she did not believe that you needed this much Military to round up the strays. She believed that this New Military was something different; she just did not know what.

That night she dreamed of how life should be and how it could have been, how it was before the meteors. It was not her life; it was a different person with a child and someone who loved her. It was a dream, complete fantasy, but she enjoyed it, and embraced it. Maybe it was a last wish that reality was the dream and the dream was reality.


General William Wilkes was a veteran of the distinguished Central Academy with battle experience on every inhabited territory on the planet. He had not been raised with the Academy or the Military as the rest of the Generals had. Who along with most of the Commanders, on the Continent, had started in one Academy or another, about the same time as they began to walk. He had never even considered the Military as a Career, until at twenty-four, he had applied and was accepted. His rise and victory in the Trials were just as abrupt; many believing it was only a fluke that he secured the Fifth position.

Billy had spent the afternoon, preparing the paperwork for the transfers and he hated paperwork. So his mood by early evening was crumbling. "Why do they even still call it paperwork? It was not on paper anymore it is files on a computer." He mumbled knowing he was getting side tracked, deliberately but side tracked nonetheless. When he finished the last request, he headed to Brent's office.

"I have finished the last of the requests make sure Jason has them by nine in the morning." He knew Brent would have them in General Brandon's office by eight; he was as efficient as they came.

Brent was Rachel Merric's son and Billy knew that he would be quite a soldier if he wanted to be, lucky for him he had chosen to be an Elite instead. Nevertheless, Rachel had always been a reluctant computer person. She liked someone real, very old fashion thought for the Military General of the Work Communities. Billy had known her since College and had known Brent since he was 4 years old. So when EDWARD had suggested Communication for Brent's Specialty it was unexpected, but EDWARD was right most of the time so Billy had accepted it. Lucky for him that he did, no one could ask for better, and he had the perfect assistant.

"Do you have the files for the princess that I will need?" Brent asked before Billy could get out the door. Billy had forgotten to prepare the ritual `Got her, shoved her on the transport and now she is your problem' paperwork. "Sorry, guess that must have slipped my mind. Just copy the last one where she missed the appointment and change the date. It's not like they have seen it yet." Sheryl Darans had already been a thorn in his side and he had not even met her yet.

Everyone had bent over backward to make her transition as painless as possible and all she had done was screw it up. First, she had missed the mandatory appointment for acceptance, and all she had to do was show up. Then she missed the physical; she could have been in a coma and they would have passed her. Finally, she had missed the invitation ride to the city. Many people had worked hard to make sure her ride was as comfortable and pleasurable as possible. What did she do, blow it off, and send her husband. Billy thought how nice it would have been if the East had gotten her then she would be their headache. Riz deserved the headache. Tomorrow it would be over and she would be Jason's problem

On the way to Beacon, Billy had received the message about a girl, Cathy Jo. She had been beaten to death the night before and he was to make sure the attacker was found. This at least was what he was commissioned to do, and good at doing. Sheryl Darans was the priority according to the books; however, Billy felt it was just busy work, but she was important for morale.

Billy arrived in Beacon an hour before the transports; he knew what his priority was; get Sheryl Darans on the transports. But when he reached the check-in point, he found Sheryl was not there, he headed to her house. He was going to take her to the check-in and check her in personally. She was going on that ride if he had to tie her down and sit on her until it arrived.

Sheryl loved the dream but woke knowing what reality was and she dressed knowing that her destiny was no longer assured. The transport was not to be in Beacon until later that morning. The last one, it would take everyone who had not left. She had no idea what it would be like on the outside and was terrified.

She put her cup in the sink washed it out then turned the coffee pot off. Grabbing her backpack, she left by the back door. Max was still in the yard and got up as she came over to him. Sheryl grabbed a leash and put him on it to keep him close; soldiers made her nervous, Max would help with that. He could come with her, at least for a while she told herself.

Her heart sank as she thought of all the pets on the outside that would be on their own. "If I had had any good sense at all I would have put him to sleep with all the others. Maybe he can learn to hunt and take care of himself. Tamed animals have learned to survive in the wild. I know he is intelligent, and believe he can survive." She thought to herself.

Sheryl had planned to head straight into the woods and down highway 19, directly to a farm she knew. Rex would not have left and she wanted to talk to someone who could encourage her. Instead, fear won out, she turned toward town and the place where the transports would arrive.

Several people had already gathered at the benches the Mayor had put in as one of his last acts. She could see Riley Summers, the beautician, Cole Jackson; one of the local Jack-of-all-trade, Cole had always given her the creeps. Justin Bunker the local Pub owner, Lisa Salas a clerk at the drug store and Gerty Mallory, the local gossip. She was hoping to be alone and maybe she could get the courage up to go back to the woods. Nevertheless she was here now and was going to have to explain in front of all these people, how her invitation was ACCIDENTLY destroyed.

As Sheryl approached, Cole glanced in several directions and in an instant, grabbed Gerty's purse and ran. Everyone in town knew Gerty carried her medicine around with her, and Sheryl had always suspected Cole of being the criminal type. Cole knocked Gerty down taking her purse and nearly ran Sheryl down as he ran past. Max growled and jumped at Cole but the leash he was on snapped and pulled him back. Now everything was in chaos. Gerty was screaming about her medicine and holding her knee, which she had landed on, Justin was trying to catch Cole, Riley was trying to calm Gerty, and Lisa just looked completely confused.

Sheryl walked over, to check on Gerty's knee, and decided that it would have a bruise but nothing broke. Riley agreed about the knee then watched Justin return; she went to him and began talking. Cole was at least 20 years younger than Justin and had no trouble outrunning him. Justin was not sure of where Cole had gone but he believed somewhere near the park.

Gerty continued to moan and groan about her pills until Sheryl convinced her, she would get something from the office that would hold her over until she reached her destination. Sheryl figured an empty bottle with a few aspirins would do the trick. The trip would not be that long and Gerty would be checked out when she arrived.

Billy arrived at Sheryl's house and found it empty; she was not there. He made sure to check every room twice, just to be sure. This was not his luck, he was used to things going smoothly, and he would make sure things went smoothly. This woman was just irritating and he thought she enjoyed it.

He knew she had gone to check-in point and was grateful. But as he crossed the commons area of town, that feeling crept on him and his attention turned to Cathy Jo's attacker, the feeling was strong but fleeting. When he reached the check-in point, he found that Sheryl had left to get some medicine, a purse had been taken, and all the woman's medicine had been stolen.

Why anyone would steal a purse in this situation was beyond his comprehension. He would have to take care of this problem too. In all the transports that he had overseen, he had not run into any trouble except where this woman was involved. Now, he had a murderer and a purse thief to find. Billy knew she was close so he decided to wait for her to return, with the medicine. She had already had him running from one end of this village to the other and the transport was not even here yet.

Billy went to the officer in charge and questioned him about Cathy Jo's attack and the purse snatching, (avoiding any contact with the town's people, this he did consistently) which is when the low deep feeling came back. He knew the feeling well. Whoever it was, was close and planning to do it again. He followed the feeling; one of the abilities he had managed to control was not just the feeling but also the direction of it. It seemed to Billy, this individual had priorities of his own and Billy did not intend to deny him.

When Sheryl reached the house, she let Max off the leash hoping he would wonder off toward home or maybe go find Cole. She watched as he headed toward the woods. That would have been the way home. She heard the transport in the distance, moving closer. With no other traffic, it was a distinct sound. She gathered the aspirin for Gerty and headed back to the check-in area. Sheryl heard voices as she was approaching the commons. The louder of the two was definitely Cole, the other was low and calm, she could not hear it well enough to recognize.

She stopped and cautiously looked around the corner as if she would be interrupting. A soldier had Cole backed up against a wall, the uniform was different from the ones she had seen around town but was sure it was a soldier. The man was wearing all black with no rank that she could see and sunglasses maybe, but his back was turned so she could not see clearly.

Cole was struggling, talking fast and a little loud but the soldier controlled the situation, even to Sheryl that was easy to see. She could not hear what the soldier was saying in reply but could hear Cole swear, "I didn't take nothin', and I didn't beat no body up." Sheryl knew he was lying about the purse, but did not think Gerty was what you would consider beat-up. She was fully aware of what `beat-up' was and a bruised knee did not qualify.

Sheryl watched as the two men talked, they were not as loud now and she could not hear what was said; but watched as the soldier pulled something from Cole's pocket as Cole erupted in a menacing laugh. At that point the soldier swung Cole around and broke his neck, he had done it with such ease and speed that it had made Sheryl freeze in panic. For what seemed like an eternity, she stood and watched the soldier check Cole. When the soldier found the medicine he rose and started to turn, Sheryl panicked, turning too quickly ran into a wooden plank leaned on the wall.

Billy knew he had to get back to the stop. The transport had arrived and that woman needed to be on it or he would just; he made himself quit visualizing what he would like to do when he heard a sound from behind him.

Billy headed toward the sound, he did not feel anyone, but something had fallen. He walked around the corner of the building and almost ran over a dog standing there. "Hi there boy, you been wandering around by yourself. Why would anyone get a dog when they knew they were going to have to leave him." Billy rubbed the dog's neck and instinctively rolled the collar around to the name. He felt something, something familiar but just a passing feeling; what ever it was, it was gone. "It was probably that woman missing her ride again." He mumbled to himself, and then rubbed "Max" once more and turned to make sure Sheryl was at the stop and on the transport.

Sheryl sat frozen for a moment and when she thought the footsteps had faded, she ran to the woods with Max following close behind.


Cutting across the woods would lead her to highway 19, not a well-used road even before the meteors. Afterwards it was never used except maybe by farmers or kids on the weekend. It showed its age with potholes and cracks. It was beautiful; it was what she wanted, her first step to freedom.

Sheryl had only gone a short way before the transports crossed the intersection ahead, and she was glad she had stayed near the tree line. They probably would not have noticed her but she still felt better about it, and a sense of relief knowing that at least one of those soldiers was ahead of her and not behind. Sheryl felt she had been given a preview of what was to come, so she hurried her pace, hoping to find a different future.

They would know by now that she had not caught the last transport, thinking of how that might be a relief to them, and how much it scared her. She had done as she was told, with only a few minor adjustments that they were unaware of; at least she hoped they were unaware. Most of the adjustments were done before they chose the project as the final. And yes, she had agreed to give EDWARD to them because she believed that he could help them as he had done for her for so long. At the same time, she could see how he could be used for other intentions just as easy in the wrong hands.

Sheryl found herself winded, and slowed to a more comfortable pace. Walking was never really something she enjoyed doing. Technology had made everyone lazy, but that was no excuse and getting into shape would have certainly made this an easier journey. She thought of how it might have made her husband happier and maybe he would not have wanted to leave without her. Then she realized she was doing it again, that excuse thing. And had to remind herself she was doing this for herself not him or anyone else. Just her.

Max was still following when she rounded the bend to the Flemming farm. Rex Flemming had every intention on staying; he had not even bothered to open the letters about the applications and testing. He did not need to, he heard so many people talk of it he did not need to read them. Rex had lived on this property since birth and did not intended to live anywhere else. He had lost his entire family to the meteor illness, but had never gotten sick. Of course that was the way it had been, with all the resources, that was available no one could figure out why. She intended to tell him to hide when they came, and hoped he would listen.

Sheryl approached the farm and felt the friendly attitude, which she had received every time she had been here. Rex was in the barn when they arrived, and Max ran to him as if he was a long lost friend, she supposed in some ways he was. Rex came out of the barn and was a little surprised to see anyone with the dog.

"Hi ya Sheryl, thought he was just running loose, figured you'd be on that last load of bodies to leave." She knew this comment was just the way he was. However, how much did he suspect? "Well it is about lunch time, why don't you both come on in the house and I'll make us something to eat?" Rex offered.

"That would be very neighborly of you." Sheryl said with a smile.

They entered the house by the back door, and he seemed quite content with letting Max in too. The house was just as comfortable as the rest of the farm. Sheryl had only been in the house a few times, usually just to get something for Rex. So, she had never noticed the comfortable surroundings. The kitchen was set up for easy use. The table sat in the middle of the room with enough room for people to move around but not so much it could not be used for food preparation. The sink and stove were close connected by a short cabinet, and the refrigerator was over near the door so if someone needed a drink or snack it was out of the way of the cook. The open cabinets were neat and orderly, and the walk-in pantry door was open, with well-stocked shelves.

"I'll just feed the hound first, gotta love the dogs, I miss mine."

"How come you never got another after Jericho passed on last summer, Rex?" She asked.

"Well I was looking for another when all this `Let's make a new start' thing came up, and I decided maybe it could wait for a while and I guess a while hasn't made it yet."

"He likes, you. Did you know Stephanie?" She asked

"Seen her a couple of times walking this mutt in the park, but no I didn't know her personally. Guess those; politicians didn't let people take their pets." He said without expecting a response. "What are you doing here Sheryl, why aren't you on your way to one of those fancy work houses." That statement was just a little closer to the truth than was expected.

"I guess, I'm thinking more along the line of your thinking. That maybe it is more of a slave house than a perfect society." She replied.

"So you think you can just wander around in the wilderness until they decide that it's a bad idea?" He asked.

"I really don't see them coming to that conclusion in the near future, do you?" She answered.

"Well, I knew you were the smarter part of the couple." With his grin fading he continued. "That sorry excuse for a husband left with the rest didn't he?" He asked without needing an answer. "I never did care for him, especially with all those accidents happening all the time." He said without looking in her direction. "I should have given him what for, almost did once after Belle passed, but like everyone else I just kept my mouth shut, and hoped that maybe you'd leave him." He said as he gave Max some leftover out of the refrigerator.

"How long you think they'll leave the electric going." Sheryl asked trying to side step the conversation.

"Not long, I got the geny ready though." He replied. The conversation continued in a mild tone all through lunch, neither of them saying what they were both thinking.

After lunch, they went into the yard and sat in the lawn chairs, and watched as the clouds began to cover the sky. Rex had told her over lunch that he wanted to enjoy life more. Visitors would come first; they were going to be a rare commodity.

Sheryl looked around the yard that was freshly mowed, flowers planted and blooming, and fences painted and mended. It was a lovely spot and Rex always kept himself busy. She hated the thought of him sitting around the farm without anyone, he was a good person and deserved the life he wanted, but she did not think loneliness should be a part of anyone's life.

"Looks like it's going to blow up a good one. If I were to say that `Mother of Creation' is fixing to have herself a good cry, would you agree?" He asked with a look of despair.

"Rex, what do you think is really going to happen now? I need to know what to do?" She blurted out, out of need more than curiosity.

"They won't let us be, if that is what you're askin. How can they? We can't show anyone we can make it, even if there is no one to see. Things have a habit of coming out. No matter how you try to cover it up. Someone will know and someone would tell." He replied easily. Then continued, "They will turn off all the conveniences and some will go in just cause all of us have gotten lazy. The rest, they will go after and force to go in and in my opinion, do a very good job of it."

As he said the last part, Sheryl felt a shivered of agreement. "What do you plan on doing, Rex?" She asked.

"I have lived here all my life and never wanted to live anywhere else. Not many people can make that statement. I love this land and I loved my family. My family is still here and I plan on staying with them." He said.

"How do you plan to do that, if you think they'll be so good at convincing us to go in?" She asked hoping the answer would be different than she expected.

"I will just say. My life is here, and if I can't stay there's no need to keep living." He said with the ease of a man who meant it.

As she looked at him, she knew he meant to stay one way or another. "I came here to try and talk you into either going with me or hiding when they come back, because I suspect they will. Will you at least give it some thought?" She asked knowing the answer.

"I have no intention on leaving here and will not give them reason to come back. I intend on telling them right off this is my land and I intend on staying. I am fifty odd years old, lost my wife, both my sons, and I will not lose my land or hide on my own property." He answered and Sheryl knew that pushing it any further would be a waste of time.

The rest of the afternoon, they spoke about things gone by and even laughed a little. Rex invited them to stay for the night but Sheryl turned the offer down, hoping to be able to remember him laughing.

The rain started a little after nine it was a heavy and cool storm. It had an embracing feeling, healing all that was wrong. It rained most of the night but stopped as the sun was coming over the horizon and it looked like it would be the perfect June day, at least weather wise. Sheryl headed through the last stretch of trees on our way to Fairfield. The area was unfamiliar to her but she knew heading southwest was the safest route. She had studied the city system maps, many times. In the hopes, that if she needed the information she would remember.


Billy returned to the benches to find everyone had gotten on the transport except her. "She was intent on driving him insane." Billy thought to himself and decided against holding up the transport any longer. He would allow the driver to continue with his schedule, and take her in himself.

What a thought, 300 miles with Miss bad luck. She would probably make him crash his truck, at least then he would not have to worry about getting her to the city anymore. No, not with the luck surrounding her, they would crash, be trapped, and he would die a slow painful death, while she just wander off. He headed back to her house one more time, except this time he was in a very bad mood.

When Billy reached the house, he looked at the path that led to the woods, but did not feel that was a problem, not yet. He entered the house through the back door as before, looked through kitchen, basement, living room, and then came to the bedroom. As he entered, he felt something, somewhat familiar, but it was gone.

He looked around for address books, diaries, anything that might give him a clue to where she might be. He checked the computer; found it was password, protected with a miniature EDWARD, so he pulled the drive. "Maybe big EDWARD can access little EDWARD. " He thought. As he turned to leave, he noticed a piece of paper on the floor, slightly under the bed. Billy picked it up and read.

After reading the note, Billy had a sudden urge to hit something or someone, one in particular and this time it was not her. It had not all been her, that piece of shit husband, had planned for her to miss the transport; probably planned it all. Billy felt a little of satisfaction in knowing that Paul was going to have to make out like the worried husband at least for a while, or the people would have him strung up before, dusk.

It was obvious why she had missed all the previous appointments but why this one and where was she. He thought of Cole. What if he had not found Cole in time? So now, he had to search the town for where Cole had been. Hoping he would not find the Princess at the same time or Jason would have him strung up by dusk.

He walked the town following Cole's actions as best he could. Billy had felt Cole had wanted to do it again not that he had. He did not believe Cole had gotten to her first but; he had to check to be sure. When he reached the hospital Billy felt Cole had been here looking for drugs, but still felt the need to check. His feeling had led him to the medical record room, strange place for Cole to go; only he knew it was not Cole this time. He went straight to the file and pulled it. Now this is paperwork, he thought to himself. He took the file that seemed very thick, and headed to the business office. Since he was here, he would check for relatives and then cross- reference with anyone not going inside.

With the files in hand, he headed back to where he had confronted Cole. He stood for a moment, thinking of the trail. "Why would she run?" He said to himself, then threw the files in the truck and headed for the trail.

He walked the path through the woods and knew as he exited the other side, the familiar feeling was back, and that feeling was her. He had missed it; she had been in the commons. "Well at least I got a trail." He thought to himself. He went back to the truck and headed over to highway 19. With any luck, he would have her by morning, delivered by afternoon, and could get back to training his men. Of course, with this woman, all his luck was bad.

Billy traveled down highway 19, he could only feel it slightly, her presence was light, everywhere he had felt it had been light, maybe it was the weather. He had always, had trouble during, certain weather conditions. Some people were enhanced, but his was dulled. It had not started to rain, so he found the turn, and drove up a long drive to a well-kept farmhouse. He looked around seeing the light in the house, and hoped it was her, but somehow knew it was not. Billy opened the door, just as the porch light flipped on. Moments later, Billy was out of the truck and a man with a farmer's scattershot came out of the house.

"Great, I just love the hospitality of country people." He said to himself

"Get off my property, you maggot!" The man yelled from behind a double barrel scatter shot.

"You know those were supposed to be turned in, right?" Billy asked as he moved a little toward the barn.

"Nobody's takin' my protection or my land. If you think you will, you have a passel of trouble headin' your way." The man behind the two barrels yelled.

"I don't want either of them, just some information; I don't do well with trouble." Billy kept moving toward the barn.

"Why are you going, toward my barn, you sneaky cuss?" The man asked with obvious confusion.

"I just wanted to see if you had a cow in here." Billy kept moving in the hopes of completely confusing the poor man. Maybe he could get through this before he had tiny holes covering him from head to foot.

"What the dickens do you want to be checking on my cow for? There are plenty out in the fields and I thought all you soldiers went vegetarian anyway?" The man was very confused by this time and watched as Billy entered the barn. Rex was hoping the scattershot would scare the soldier off; he had never shot anyone before and probably could not if the man was killing him.

Billy waited for the man to follow him though the door. As Rex came in the barn door, Billy grabbed the weapon and threw it out of the barn. Rex watched perplexed as Billy walked to the cow and patted it on the head. Rex just stood and watched waiting for the soldier to return.

"Now, why did you want to see my cow so bad that you would chance me shooting you?" Rex asked in a very baffled tone.

"I did not really want to see the cow, just had to get you away from those two big barrels. You don't seem like the killing type but accidents do happen and I have been shot before, can't say I like it much." Billy answered as he approached Rex.

"Well, what do you want? I ain't leaving so you can just go get that weapon and kill me now." Rex said in a huff.

"I'm not here to take you anywhere, I can tell you they will be here tomorrow, though. I am just trying to find someone who was supposed to go that has not. I want to make sure she is still in one piece and take her home." Hoping this man was not going to make him work too hard.

"And who, might this `she' be that you are looking for?" Rex knew he was talking about Sheryl, and if this man was sent to fetch her, he would make sure to send him the wrong direction. If nothing else, he would stall him. Sheryl had only been gone a few hours and she was going need more than that.

"Sheryl Darans, she was from Beacon, and missed the transport. I had some trouble with a man in town and want to make sure she didn't run into the same man." Billy could feel the protectiveness in this man; he also felt the worry, when he mentioned the trouble.

"Why you so worried about Sheryl, I thought you weren't taken no one in." Rex asked knowing what the man had said. He had been good at playing the dumb farmer, with negotiations over the years, and had found it sometimes worked to your advantage, if you played it right.

"No, I said I wasn't here to take you in, Sheryl is a very important woman and she does not need to be wandering around out here alone." Billy could feel the con the man was pulling, and wanted to get back to the protective feelings. He was beginning to like this man for some reason and really did not want to hurt him. "Just turn the persuasion up a little, Billy." Billy thought, as he looked deep into Rex's questioning eyes.

Rex looked at those intense, dark eyes for just a moment, before feeling his determination slip. "Yeah, you're right you did. Sheryl is fine. I know she is an important person, but I don't see the likes of you, knowing that." Rex said quickly before he lost all his nerve. Thinking of Sheryl alone with a soldier seemed to give him a sudden burst of bravery. "She does not want to be found. So I guess you ought to just go call whoever is coming after me and have them come on. So I can get this over with. I'm too old to be waiting and worrying." With nothing but determination in his voice, Rex crossed his arms, planted his feet, and dared this soldier to follow through. Just as Rex had made his position clear, Billy heard the heavy drops of rain.

Billy threw up his hands and walked out of the barn right into the rain, a heavy cleansing rain, the type that wipes everything away. He picked up the scattershot and got in his truck. He grabbed his E-tek and called Brent. "Mark this location as a Free zone with guard, then call Jason and tell him I'm on my way in. And delete that damn in-take paper, AGAIN." He did not know why he had marked Rex's farm off the searches but, he liked him and he was going give him his farm.

Jason was going to yell at him until he turned three shades of red and then he would yell a little more. Billy thought he might deserve it but it was not all his fault. Cole had thrown him off. How much can they expect him to focus on at once? Besides, she did not want to be found. She was not making it easy. All he could do was listen to Jason yell and wait until she turned up. She would turn up one way or another.


The miles they traveled to Fairfield, was lonely and deserted. However, when Sheryl arrived she was surprised to find several people wandering around as if they had no care in the world. Choosing carefully, she approached a woman who was coming out of a house with a basket full of cans. The woman noticed her approaching and waved to her smiling brightly. Why were these people so ignorant to the fact they were not following the laws of the land? Sheryl wondered.

"Hi, you looked like you could sit for a spell." The young woman said with a smile.

"Thanks, I haven't seen anyone since I left Beacon. Haven't the Transports been here yet?" She asked in an attempt to explain the easy attitude.

"The last of the Transports left yesterday, you trying to catch them. I think you're out of luck." She replied casually.

"All of you stayed behind?" Sheryl asked with utter amazement.

"Actually this is just a few of us. There are about 30 in all. Come on, were all outsiders here and if you aren't looking to catch the Transports, your one of us." The woman answered as she nodded toward town.

Following the young woman, Sheryl was led to a large three-story house with bars on the windows and doors. The house looked capable of holding all of them, and maybe a few more. Sheryl looked around as they entered the front entrance.

Everyone seemed to be rushing around, but focused. She watched as several people rushed to and fro with packages and sacks. Others seemed to be rearranging furnishing or removing unwanted merchandise. She was so immersed in how well the group was moving together she had not even noticed the giant was watching from atop the stairs.

"Who are you?" A voice boomed as they stopped in the entryway.

"My name is Sheryl," Sheryl said cringing as she looked for the origin of the voice.

It was connected to a man as massive as the voice he commanded. He was a mountain of a man that stood at least six foot five, with a physique of muscles that made her think of a hundred year old Oak tree.

"Why are you here and Sandy why did you bring her here?" Sandy just shook her head and explained the meeting down the street. She did not seem to notice or care, the look he was giving her was not approval.

"She is an outsider too; you can't just let her wander around alone." Sandy told the mountain of a man.

"She chose her path and we agreed our path is to claim this town." He answered with no hesitation.

"Well if we intend on living here we should at least be open to new residents. Isn't that right Brad?" She asked turning to a tall man that entered from the back of the hallway.

"Don't try and get me into your discussion. Father's always right and you should learn to listen." He answered with complete earnest.

As Sheryl looked at each of the individuals, she decided the need to get out of here quickly, was her main concern.

"Father" had chosen to speak to Sheryl rather than aggravate the situation with everyone watching. He introduced himself only as "Father", giving Jamie one of those eerie feelings, not that she was scared of him just very cautious. "Father" explained that this group had formed in another town months before hoping to get permission to stay. They had gathered slowly and petitioned but had been denied.

So they followed all the registration requirements, hoping to keep the government unaware of their plan. He also added they did expected the soldiers to find them eventually but felt they had covered their tracks enough for a few months. He also made it quite clear they intended to fight for the right to stay on the outside and were preparing for that battle.

Sheryl did not know what prepared meant and did not want to find out. But felt obligated to try and tell him what she knew, or at least what she expected to happen. He did not want to know, and refused to listen. The conversation turned to the expectations of new members, and of how any new member needed acceptance by the entire group.

Carefully she explained, she was just passing through and added a little lie about trying to reach her own family. He seemed to understand the need to get to your loved ones. "Father" then offered her a meal and a place to rest before she continued her journey. She politely turned down the offers saying she would prefer to keep going and get to her destination. "Father" then sent a young girl out to fill her backpack with traveling food. He insisted and told her it would come in handy on her journey.

Sheryl said goodbye to Sandy and "Father" and thanked them for the supplies. She understood how someone could join this kind of "Family", in some ways, they soothed her, but an overwhelming urge to leave this town could not be shaken off. She felt they were good people trying to form a bond, and make a home. Sheryl knew the soldiers would find them and she hoped they could find a way to escape, but she did not believe they would.

As she left the huge house Sheryl noticed Max sitting across the street in the same place he had been when she entered. He stood as she approached him and turned toward town ready to be on his way. Sheryl told herself that from now on, if Max would not enter, neither would she. Max had instincts and she was going to have to pay more attention to hers, or at least his.

Hurrying through town then following a shallow river south, she found a barn that looked very inviting, it was near a highway but it was close and she was tired. Sheryl situated herself in a stall with plenty of hay. Max settled in right beside of her. She divided some of the food they had just been given, and gave Max his half. It did not take long for her to fall off to sleep thinking of the people she had just met. The dreams of home and family returned and she enjoyed them hoping it was not a dream, but knowing even as she slept that it was.

The sound of the trucks woke Sheryl with a jerk. They were close and she panicked. Looking all around for a way out she heard them roar past. Running up to the hayloft for a better and safer look, she could see the trucks heading for Fairfield. They had not had weeks or even days, just hours. Knowing that going back would not do any good but feeling guilty at the same time. She grabbed the backpack tossed it over her shoulder and followed the river until she could not walk any further.


"How exactly can you lose someone in the same town? I've seen you find someone 60 miles away, following that nose or whatever it is of yours." Jason was already getting red and Billy had to avoid his face or Jason would see him smiling. Then he would really blow.

"I'm telling you what I know, and what happen. I posted the farm as a Free Zone and put a guard to watch it in case she comes back. I have her files and address book and plan to check on those today." He paused just a moment. "She's not just going to wander around. She has to know where she is going and someone to go to, I'll find out who it is." Billy answered without much enthusiasm.

"Yeah, you sound like your going to jump right on that." Jason rattled without looking up.

"Sorry but, I'm a little tired of trying to get this woman to where she is suppose to be. She has not co-operated from day one. I do have other responsibilities to attend to you know. I'll follow some of the sweeps in the area for a few days and we will find her." Billy thought of the note he had found and chose not to tell Jason.

Jason had enough on his mind without including that her husband did not seem to want her found. Billy had made up his mind; she had something on the side and was heading for that person. It would not be long and someone would stumble over her, hopefully not him.

"Your right, other matters need to be attended to as well." Jason paused just a moment before moving forward. "Now are you sure about this recruit list. Some of these are just boys, and why is J.J. included?" Jason asked with the last question being the most important.

"J.J. applied and I think he can do it. If you object, just take him off the list. I have alternates, not ones that I would rather have, but they are probably trainable. I did not put anyone on this list without being sure. And your son has the ability to do it. You could have too if you were so damn, tangible." Billy answered as he stood and walked over to face Jason. "Jason, I won't take any chances with him. If he shows the lack of ability or determination, He will be back before he knows he's gone."

"I know you would never put him a situation he can't handle but, he is my son and I know what you are training them for. He would never forgive me if he knew I even ask you about him." Jason turned and went back to the desk and sat as if he had lost the battle.

"Jason, he'll be trained before he does anything. I won't ask anything out of him he is not capable of doing, and he will be much more prepared this way than sending him out the way he is now, these things have to be controlled." He said leaning on the desk.

"You really think he can do it, he is a little head strong and I can't say for sure that he has run the course of that wild streak yet."

"Are you trying to talk me out of it, because that is part of what I look for you know?" Billy laughed

"Billy, if you say he can do it, I know he can. Just don't tell him about this conversation. I would never hear the end of it." Jason said.

"As long as you tell Lily I did offer. I worry more about her head strong attitude." Billy said, in all honesty.

"We have a deal." Jason said.

"Is that the only one you have an objection on?"

"I'm a little surprised on Shane, you rejected him, three times, and now he is in the first command group. You cannot seem to make your mind up on him. Are you sure? He's going to make a good officer, but not if you break him before he gets the chance to go the distance." Jason said defensively.

"He's got it, and you know I'm not the only one who recognizes it. If I don't take him, you know Riz has promised him to John. How many does John go after this hard, he's been watching him longer than I have?"

"What's so special about him, he's the only married one in the bunch and you know how much of a problem, that can be for this type of commitment."

"I don't know why, I just do." Billy answered. Jason was used to this type of response, he had heard it for 17 years, and you just did not get anymore. However, after he said it, it was usually right.

Billy left Jason's office thinking about Shane, and John. Billy had known John since the first day John arrived at the Academy. Billy and Riz had gotten themselves acquainted before anyone else arrived. Both had arrived early and the first day had sat the stage.

John had walked in on the last day of arrivals showing up in time to throw his duffel in his room and make it to the welcoming reception. Billy watched him breeze into the dorm as if he had done it a thousand times, and noticed how everyone moved out of his way.

Most of those in the dorm were new recruits but had known each other from a previous school somewhere. But third year cadets had moved out of his way and never gave it a second thought. Billy had already met some of the third year that lived in the dorm and found them to be overconfident and demanding. Reminding himself he was only going to be around a year he just let them do as they pleased.

Billy and Riz had just stepped out of their room when John passed them in the hall. He remembered Riz's remark when Billy asked who John was. Riz looked at him as if he were crazy, stupid, or both and said. "John Simpson, he'll push you until you drop and then help you up just to drop you again, but only if he wants too. He could be the best, and is when he wants it."

Billy watched him open the door to his room, and toss the bag, that obviously hit his roommate. Billy knew it was deliberate, because he waited for the roommate (who was the first of many) to come through the door to make his objections known. But when the roommate did, he looked at John who smiled this amazingly friendly grin. The roommate took one look at who it was and went back into the room without a word. Then John turned down the hall and headed straight for Riz.

Billy watched his approach seeing the smooth flowing motion that was evident in anyone well versed in martial training. Billy knew at once he was being sized up as quickly as Billy was making his own determination. "Well Riz, dad send another computer whiz to your rescue. I bet this one's not so easy to scare off." And without waiting for a reply, John spoke to Billy. "I have a feeling there is not much of anything scares you, does it?" In which Billy responded. "Somehow I think you are going to do your best to change that, but that's all right I like a little excitement every once in a while."

That amazing smile came back in a flash, as John threw his arms around Billy and Riz's shoulders. "Riz, you have found a keeper." Then pulled Billy close enough to whisper but loud enough for Riz to hear. "Finally someone as perfectly arrogant as I am. I think we'll make good friends, might even teach Riz here a thing or two." And they did.

Thinking about John had distracted him and he had to sidestep to miss Paul Darans entering the lobby. He had always had a dislike of the man since he had arrived. Billy was not sure why, he never cared to know, he just knew he did not like him. Now with the letter, he knew he liked him less. Paul had appeared to be worried and upset about his wife, but Billy now knew the truth, it was no longer just a suspicion. Paul said good morning as he passed, and Billy just kept walking without a word. Sometimes it was better to ignore, he did not want to be yelled at again.

Billy had every intention of looking over the files and then getting some rest. He had arranged for the searches to start tomorrow rather than today, so he could tag along and look for the reluctant princess. He sat down with the files sorted across his table, concentrating on the business records hoping for a close relative, when there was a knock on his door.

He had not told anyone he was in and had hoped for a quiet day to finish up. Billy rose from the table, irritated at the interruption. He approached the door determined to make sure whoever it was would know they had disturbed him.

Billy slung open the door and stood face to face with a beautiful red-haired woman, dressed in a short skirt cut perfectly to show off her long legs. She threw a flirty smile his direction and walked through the door.

"I heard you were back from the outside. You should have called." She said strolling to the couch.

"I wasn't expecting to be here that long, had a few things to finish so I thought I would get some sack time before going back out." Forgetting the files completely he followed her across the room.

"Well isn't that a coincidence. I was hoping for the same thing." She said as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close.

"Carla, you always seem to know just what I need." Forgetting everything except his immediate visitor, he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.

When Billy woke Carla was gone, and the message light was flashing. He picked up the receiver and listened as Brent's message came over the line. When the message ended, Billy slammed the receiver against the wall. Billy headed for the shower, knowing it would be a long day.

Dressing without much thought, he headed to the door. Halfway across the living room he remembered the files and walked to the table grumbling to himself. After he gathered everything from the table, he punched the bag he kept close to the door. It was not the first time he needed tension relieve before leaving his apartment, only this time it had done absolutely no good. Somebody is going to get his head handed to him for this, he thought as he headed out the door, with Fairfield on his mind.


Brent and Jacks had arrived only a short time before Billy's arrival. They had been in the office when the call had come in. Hurrying to the truck they left immediately hoping to arrive early enough to get the answers that Billy would want. Billy was one of the few left who could or would fly, so they needed as much head start as they could get.

Billy did fly in and had worked up quite a mood by the time he arrived. Both Brent and Jacks approached cautiously as he left the glider. They looked at each other knowing not to say a word until he spoke first. He was calm and they knew this was when you did not want to be on his bad side.

Billy walked down the street glancing at the ravaged transports, and houses. Weapons had been banned from all territories after the destruction of Bard, and the Continent had proven their superiority of Strength. But knowing that everyone had not surrendered their weapons. The decision was to allow each squad four weapons and two sharpshooters.

Most cadets were not even trained in projectile weaponry after the decision, unless, they showed superior skill in the area. Billy knew by the look of the battleground, which had once been a scenic small town; it had been more than four weapons.

"Who is in charge of this?" Billy said with so much control Brent stepped back.

"Captain Headly"

"Whose authority did he act on?"

"They didn't get the hold notice in time, so it would have been yours." Jacks said preparing for the worst.

"Why did they not get it in time?"

"A foul up in the city, everyone seemed to have been contacted except them. Headly had just been given the command, splitting from Jackson's group to cover more territory and he wasn't contacted until too late." Brent added hoping to defuse the situation.

"Where are the bodies?"

"Up at the house, they have not been moved." Jacks said as he motioned in the direction they needed to go.

The three walked down the solemn street toward the devastated house, without a word. Billy walking in front, with Brent and Jacks following close behind; generally they would have walked on both sides of him, but in this situation they fell slightly behind hoping to stay out of the line of fire. Billy felt all of it, and that light familiar presence as he walked through the front door. He knew Sheryl was not here; she had left, before it happened. But, he had each body tested before he left, just to be sure. He spotted Captain Headly as he exited the house and headed directly for him.

"Captain Headly"

"Yes, Sir." The captain responded. Sam Headly was new to command but had been in many battles. He knew to answer only when it was asked, especially with General Wilkes. He had seen him demote from command to recruit for a lot less than this. He expected a lot, and he gave a lot back but was very demanding with his officers.

Besides this had been a disaster since they entered the town. They had not even gotten out of the trucks when they had people shooting at them. There was not supposed to be weapons. It would have been different if they had not had them. He had lost 15 men in the attack and destroyed 32 lives. He was ready for what he would receive.

"Write the report and give it to Brent. You will be receiving the determination within a few hours." Billy had already made up his mind but you had to give them time to think about it. In addition, you had to give them time to re-visualize it with a report, or they would not try a different approach next time. He had felt the anger in the house; these had been people who were not just going to walk away. Someone in the house had killed the remaining attackers at the end of the assault, not the soldiers.

Billy knew which two men; he had heard them speak. Billy had a unique ability that allowed him to hear the last thoughts of the dead, as long as he was within twenty-four hours of death. But Jacks as good of an investigator as he was becoming could not, and it would do no good to depend on an aspect that was not always available to you. It was over and now he had to check this town.

Brent stayed with Captain Headley and Jacks followed Billy. "Do you know what happen in there?" Billy asked Jacks as they left to follow the trail.

"They killed themselves, at least some did." Jacks responded as they turned the corner.

"I think I may have an investigator in you yet. What else?" He questioned.

"I believe they were, surprised, and less equipped than they thought."

"Surprised how?" He was pushing now but he needed to see how far Jacks could go before he got the new recruits.

"They were not expecting to be approached this early, and well...." Jacks paused, "something else, which I can't quite get."

"Yeah me too, very light." He said hoping Jacks had been able to grasp what was eluding him.

"Billy, where are we going, did I miss one. Did someone get away?" He asked totally unaware of the direction Billy was heading.

"I don't think this one is your trail Jacks, I think this is for me to find." He did not know why but, he had decided this woman had become his mission, and something was leading him to her, he wished it would hurry; he was ready for her to leave his thoughts alone.

He and Jacks followed Billy's trail out of town and down the tree line until they reached a barn. Billy felt her immediately she had definitely been here. Night was coming and he knew she had left much earlier in the day. He would not catch her on foot, not with the trail going cold and Jacks not able to feel her at all, even in the stall where the essence was so strong that he almost thought she was still there.

Billy could usually keep a trail for several days, but hers faded quickly. He did not understand why this woman was different. Many people had natural blocks that protected them against an Elite. But very few were strong enough in blocking to leave all of them blind. This woman happened to be one who could block both Jacks and Brent. She was going to drive him crazy, before this was over.

Now he needed to get Headley his decision, or the man would worry too much. He wanted him to think, not give up. This had gone bad from the start and it might have been different with someone else in charge. Who is to say that would have been good or bad, it would have just been different. It went bad and he believed that would have happened with anyone.

Something else was concerning him about this town. It was all wrong, it was the first confrontation, it went bad, and Sheryl had been here, this was an omen, he could feel it, but what did it mean. He knew his job was to get these people to safety; naturally, they had no idea of why it was necessary for them to go in. Maybe if they had, they would have gone in on their own, then again maybe not. Of course, the soldiers did not know either, but that would change.

The searches continued for the next week with the newly accepted Elite accompanying the soldiers to those towns close to Beacon. With no signs, no feeling, and no body Billy decided she had disappeared without a trace. This bothered him more than he let on.

With the trail cold and the files no help, at least on friends and relatives, Billy turned to EDWARD. From what he had found in the records and files, he had been her only friend and refuge. Billy had not wanted to dig into her personal files, those were private thoughts, and those belonged to one person only. But she had not left him much choice.

Billy had always had a problem with private thoughts, he did not want someone else seeing his, and he did not like to search someone else for them. He had decided in the beginning he would not use his ability for mind probe unless it was absolutely necessary. Focus had many degrees and the one he would use altered an emotion and convinced someone to tell the truth, being more intimidation than anything else; something he had used most of his life.

But digging through thoughts of a living person was wrong. He used the last thoughts as a method for truth, but most could not hear those words. Jacks could not; he had not realized this was a special ability until Jacks tried. Jacks was definitely an investigator, very strong in the essence. He had felt it almost as quick as he had known Brent was a mind probe. But he had never been able to read the last thoughts, just the surroundings.

EDWARD was no help when it came to finding Sheryl. He seemed interested in her whereabouts, but could not calculate where or even what direction she would head. EDWARD seemed to speak of her in a careful manner, Billy felt in almost a paternal manner.

He knew this was ridiculous, EDWARD was a computer, and he had no feelings paternal or otherwise. Billy was used to EDWARD's quirks and approach to many things, and they were all fact based or analytical, even to the point of frustrating Billy. Sheryl had created this computer with her priorities and structure; and sometimes it was more than irritating to teach EDWARD his line of thought. He could not seem to get a break, she could even irritate from the computer.

What he did find out was; she was the loneliest person he had ever run across. This troubled him, if she had lived this lonely of a life among people; being by yourself and alone would have to be easier. Especially if what he had found in the files were true, and he knew they were.


The next few weeks Sheryl and Max walked at night and slept during the day. The thought was she would see the trucks before the trucks saw her. She had seen very few people since Fairfield and most of those she did see did not want to be seen. A few were brave enough or maybe lonely enough to talk. One of those she saw told her of how the soldiers would clear a town then stays in it overnight. Therefore, if you were lucky enough to see a soldier before they saw you, you would know whether they were coming or going.

Another traveler had told her of groups of rebels gathering in cities and fighting soldiers, even winning. He was so encouraged that he was going to find a group and join up, seems most people were joining one group or another.

The last traveler she had spoken to had known of the rebels also, but had not found them all to be as accepting as she had been led to believe. It seems some of the rebels believed if you were not part of them; you were just as bad as the soldiers. He had seen someone disagree with how the rebels operated; he did not elaborate on the details but she got the distinct impression that it had been an unforgettable observation. He was no longer associated with any of them and had no intension of ever going back.

Sheryl arrived at the town of Devon early in the morning, she had wanted to stop just outside but believed it was still early enough to hurry through and find somewhere on the other side. It had been at least four days since she had seen a soldier but did not want to break her streak.

The streak as it turned out was short lived. Sheryl had just gotten to the center of town when she heard the trucks. She ran to the closest open door hoping to hear them stop. They did but closer than she had wanted. She knew they had already posted guards around the town, because they did not enter until they had.

Quickly she ran to the back of the building, no exit, it had been boarded up, for whatever reason. This was definitely the wrong building to enter. She could not find a way to the roof so she convinced herself to head to the basement. All the while, she remembered all those horror books where the hero always goes up or down the stairs instead of going outside. Outside did not seem to be an option at this point.

She entered the basement hoping for a window to crawl out of, not even considering Max. There were a few small windows on the outer back walls, but they were farther up than she thought she could jump. Looking around the room, she found an old trunk and pulled it to one of the windows. She could hear voices from down the street and was sure they were on the front side of the building. She jumped on the trunk peeked out the window, saw it was clear and pulled herself out. Looking back to Max, she whispered, "I am so sorry, Max." A sudden and well-deserved pang of guilt ran through her as she ran down the alley hiding in each doorway.

Sheryl reached the edge of town and saw the guards posted sparsely but alert. She knew she had made a mistake and looked quickly around for another way out; but as panic began to rise Max darted past where she sat. She laid flat on her stomach as the soldier chasing Max came closer. He was yelling for someone to stop the dog. All the soldiers turned to either Max or the pursuer; this was her chance.

Max had done it again even after leaving him in a basement. She crawled along a short stone wall to a group of hedges and then further to a group of trees. The trees were not thick, but they were the best cover available.

She listened to the soldier talk of how he had found the dog in a basement and figured he had gotten in a window and then could not get back out. The other soldiers laughed at the poor man who was exhausted from chasing Max. One of the guards spoke through his chuckling long enough to ask a question that chilled her to the bone. "If you couldn't catch the dog, then why didn't you just shoot it? You would of if it had been an outsider." The soldier, who had been chasing Max, replied in a meek voice. "I couldn't kill an animal that would just be inhumane." All the soldiers that had gathered rolled with laughter, Sheryl felt sick.

Moving slowly and cautiously while the attention was diverted, she slid along the ground and then into a sinkhole just low enough she could not be seen. Would they search this far out, maybe, she hoped, she would not have to find out.

Sheryl felt luck was on her side as she laid in the hole most of the day dosing in and out of sleep, tensing at noises that came close. The voices from the searches were getting close but the sun was sinking in the sky. Clouds were moving in with the night and she hoped thunderstorms were in the forecast. Night seemed darker now without the convenience of electricity, but when you wanted it dark the moon seemed so bright.

The night came in with heavy clouds that engulfed her; she could see the soldiers wondering around town with flashlights. The search was over, however, she still had to get away from the guards. Slowly and quietly, she moved forward staying low to the ground and hoping the darkness would shield her progress. When courage allowed she got to her feet and ran half bent until she was out of sight.

It was quiet now, no voices, no footsteps, and no laughter. She hated the quiet and it was always quiet now. She wanted noise and laughter; she wanted someone to talk to, now even Max was gone. She was lonely.

Sheryl knew the soldiers would be coming but not until morning. They would leave town in the morning and canvas the surrounding area. They were in no hurry they did not need to be.

The rain was starting to fall and it felt good. She had learned to appreciate the rain. It cleaned you, it could hide you, and it could hide your tracks. Of course, it could show where you have been but sometimes you just had to be careful. No the rain was good. The only thing she could think of that would be better, was a nice hot bath. That she really did miss.

Standing on the edge of the road, she wondered where it led. It did not really matter, not yet. She started to walk and heard a sound in the bushes. She turned toward the sound and waited, too tired to run. The bushes moved and out came Max. She thought how spooky this dog was and how much she had missed him.


With Sheryl's trail cold, Billy turned his attention to the Elite Squad. He had a lot of training to do, and with the help of Brent and Jacks, he intended to have them ready for field training within a few weeks. Brent would lead them through their training without them even being aware he was doing it. He could send a clear message into a person without hesitation. Jacks could follow through with what had happened right, wrong, or just very close.

It would go smooth and soon he would have the force and the Commands he needed to form the Elites he wanted. He did not just want the abilities that it took to do their job, he wanted them to know who to protect and who was trouble. Shane was important and he did not know how to approach his training. Billy knew he intimidated Shane, and to Billy this was ludicrous, considering what he knew, but the timing had changed.

Shane showed rough natural abilities untrained but strong. He was definitely Elite no one would ever miss his presence; once those natural and enhanced learn to combine he would be relatively unstoppable to the outside world. He also had the emotional control that it would take. Sometimes that was the hardest part, knowing when to use it and when to let it be.

This was a part Billy felt Shane was much better equipped to handle than most, including himself. The part, which bothered him, was Shane did not have the aggression, could it be too soon. Billy knew why he had accepted Shane, but maybe he had been wrong. He did not have the answers; all he could do was trust in his decision and wait for the resolution to reveal it's self.

The Elite training did go smoothly as the days, and weeks past and Billy was well please with the group that had been chosen. He had to admit that EDWARD had done an exceptional job in choosing each of the specialties except maybe two, and Billy would not have been any closer to choosing their specialty until they had matured to this level.

The only one he was having a problem with was Shane, he decided that maybe he would let Brent handle his training for a while, maybe throw J.J. in to make it more comfortable. The three had grown up together, being relatively close in age Shane being the oldest, with Brent a couple years behind, and J.J. younger yet but always tagging along as a sidekick. Billy had believed that Shane and Brent had allowed J.J. along just to have someone to blame. However, somewhere that turned to true friendship. They still acted like delinquents at times; of course, J.J. was only 18. However, they knew when to be serious, and did it very well.

Billy had known the same type of kinship; neither John nor Riz had been able to push him where he needed until the trials. But John definitely knew which buttons to push for everything else, and he knew exactly how to push Riz in just about everything. Since Billy had to keep at least even with Riz, he supposed John had been responsible for making them into the men they were. Yes, a friend could bring things out of you; you never knew were there. Only sometimes it was not what they wanted or expected, but they could always get a response.

The Elites knew they were to have their first field assignment tomorrow. Each was feeling his own anticipation and as a group. With this group if you did not feel it you did not belong. Most had been trained as soldiers from the time they entered the early academy, some spending their entire life learning to be soldiers. The Academies were gone now, and most of the new military would never train in one, but these men would teach it.

This group of Elite knew what was expected of them from Billy, and they knew how to interact with each other. What he did not know was would it work against someone who did not know how you would react. That was what was happening tomorrow. They were nervous, but ready.

Billy sat in his office not thinking of tomorrow. He had learned long ago not to set his sites too far in advance. Decide your action, make your plan, and play it out. If you think about it, too much, you would second-guess yourself, and most of the time, you were right in the first place. He knew the Elites were nervous, but he also knew they were ready, so he was satisfied

What he was not satisfied with was why they had not heard anything on Sheryl. He had gotten a different view of her since reading her personal files or least the ones EDWARD had approved. She had been through a lot, not just from the husband, but from the father, a man Billy had respected for years, maybe ones achievements in career was different from achievements in personal life but this man, allowed this abuse, and in some instances it seemed had condoned it.

She was an imaginative and tolerant person, which could be an advantage on the run. She had been used to loneliness and being alone, that definitely was an advantage. She had taken her share of bumps, bruises, and more, another advantage. Nevertheless, they were finding people everyday and she had not been seen or heard about since Fairfield.

His thoughts turned to some of the talk of people not making it back to the intakes. What if she had run into an accident? He knew better than this. The scan would have showed up, unless of course they had not even bother to do that. He was seeing this also; with some of these soldiers, anything was possible. He needed sleep for tomorrow.

The day did go well, they did not have to do much pulling with this group; it was a small group of only twenty. It was probably just an advance of another group, but it had been good practice and all twenty were on their way to intake. Billy decided his Elites needed relaxation time. He had more practice to prepare for, and they needed a break, he had been pushing them hard to get ready, they deserved the time.

He had started his work and had one project finished when Brent strolled in with Jacks. Both stopped at the door moving in that `we're up to something' way. It was almost comical to see Brent and Jacks together. They were completely different, not only in physical appearance but personality. Except when it came to teasing Billy, then it seemed they were both halves of the whole.

Brent was a tall boy complements from both his mom and dad towering over Jacks by five inches, with a full head of wavy blond hair. Of course he was outgoing and could talk to anyone at anytime about anything. Good looking boy combining his mother and father faithfully and always had a tan, it seemed to Billy, Brent had a tan in the deepest of winter, but once summer hit he got even darker.

Jacks on the other hand was a good inch shorter than Billy, with a full head of tight black curls, and what looked like a mustache, but Billy knew that mustache had been working for quite a while. Jacks had that royal type of good looks people seemed to be drawn too. Of course, Jacks was so shy he was painful to watch at times. He had dark skin like the islanders and was built like a man who had lifted more trees than books, but that was a mistake you could not make after speaking with him. He was as smart as they came, he could size up a situation or a person within minutes.

"You coming, Billy." Jacks said.

"I thought I would finish up this paperwork." Billy said gritting his teeth.

"Come on, you know it is relaxation time, and you said everyone needed a break before we moved up to the next step." Brent said impersonating Billy

"So I did, let me just get this done and I'll be along." Billy said trying to stall

"Oh no you don't, I've already made a few calls and you have to make a choice on dessert tonight." Brent said smiling at Jacks.

"What choice is that?" Billy asked watching the two in planning mode.

"Well we both decided when you don't get your sweets, you get cranky, we don't really like you when you're cranky. So we made sure you had a choice." Brent started. "So all we need to know is if it's Blond, Brunette or Red-head?" Jacks finished.

"Well, you know what I think, you two are a little young to be choosing this kind of refreshment for me, so I guess I'll just have to go along and show you how it's done." Billy pushed the keyboard to the side and headed to the door.

"Billy, if you're not into Red-heads tonight, you can send one my way." Jacks said with a smile.

"Jacks, I know which one you're referring to and believe me, I think she definitely could make you grow hair on that chest." "I think I'm going Brunette, this trip. Think I'll check and see if Saundra's on the menu." Billy watched as two boys drooled, then laughed as he shoved them through the door.

The days were long and the rebels were getting more organized, they had several groups that were becoming more dangerous. Two had already brought more injury than Billy wanted to think about. They were going to have to put a stop to it. It was time to let the men take on the real thing, and not just practice.

He looked over the reports and decided Middleton was his first concern. If his calculations were right, they were well over 80 and growing. If they were not stopped soon, they would be uncontrollable. He had seen the reports of how they handled the soldiers and this was expected, but it seemed they had a policy, if you weren't with them you were against them and they were punishing people for not joining as well.

This practice definitely increased your recruitment. He decided they would start tomorrow. It would take a few days to set up the assault and bring the rebels around to his way of thinking but the Elites would bring them down.

Brent was always sent in as one of the seekers, he could relay all information with perfection and Stance would go with him the first few times, he was able to size up and anticipate before someone knew what they were going to do themselves. It went well convincing the Rebels they were sizing them up. Billy wanted them to know they were seeking information and wanted them to wonder how much they had accumulated.

Each night he would send a pair of pullers to capture the individuals and small groups. It did not take long for the groups to grow. Each time they had accumulated ten individual rebels, Billy sent them to intake. The fourth night brought in a group of nine and eight, they had learned quickly not to stay in small groups; it did not do any good, they were going down.

When they had brought the group down to what Billy believed to be around 30, which was not much for his Elite squad and since it had been going on for almost a week. It was time and he felt that the rebel leader knew it too.

The morning of the final encounter Billy joined Brent in the seeker position. He knew they would have to allow the rebels the illusion of capture and he knew he was more qualified to control the situation. He and Brent wandered through the street waiting, knowing they were being watched, and knowing the best spot for the assault. The other Elite had been placed before daylight. They each were capable of handling a small group and were close enough to each other to get help if the need arose.

The first assault was easy he and Brent just waited for the rebels to surround; Billy felt the concentration of the man on him and knew Brent had already immobilized his target. He looked to the spot of the intensity and sent a warning. He had not intended to send what he knew was too strong for the situation, but the thought of a weapon had made him angry.

The rebel force had been waiting for the sharpshooters, but no shot had come. They continued to approach the scouts; confident they would have no problems. They had them out numbered six to one. As the rebels got close enough, Brent took out two that had reached him with ease; Billy took out four. They had six more to go; with a glance, they knew how to react. The rebels were down and they were waiting for more.

Brent and Billy looked at each other hoping they had not reacted too quickly, then the remaining rebels attacked. They waited for the rebels to grab them and the Elite force made its appearance. It turned out the count had been off by at least 20 but since an Elite had to be capable of containing at least three attackers in a situation and some were more capable nothing more than an adjustment needed made.

After the rebels realized they were losing to the small but capable group, they started to scatter and the Elite team had to round them up this also was not a problem. Shane was checking a building when he came across a man he knew had been one of the shooters. He noticed the man had not come out of his daze and pulled him to the door, instead of heading directly to the street he took him to Billy, just instinct.

Billy nodded as Shane approached and he knew the man was to be released. He would have wanted to know with someone else, but he never doubted what Billy commanded. Billy was impressed that Shane had known to bring the man to him; even though he did not know why he had him released, he knew he should be.

Over the next few weeks they did get more practice, the rebels were getting stronger but so were the Elite; they had proved they were ready for anything that came their way. Billy found his Elites had become quite the force and was proud of them.

His only problem was bringing Shane out. Brent had done well in bringing out most of his skills, but he still could not get him to fully extend as long as Billy was around. Billy decided he needed a little of the individual training, which had worked on a few others, so he would send him to some of the previous towns and cities they had already cleared. He might be able to concentrate better without the interference of the others. Maybe even find a stray or two.

"Brent, replace Calvin with Shane this week. How many towns does he have scheduled?" Brent knew Billy was bothered by Shane's inconsistency, so this is how he would handle it. May work, Shane did work better alone, rather reminded him of his dedicated leader.

"He only has four, Johnson, Stanton, Groveton, and Benson."

"That's a good start." Billy said knowing he was doing the right thing, but why was this right? It had worked on others but this was a necessary thing, only he did not understand why.


Sheryl spent the next few months searching for somewhere safe for winter. A person needed somewhere to go, somewhere to call home. At least Rex had had a reason to stay; the people in Fairfield were trying to reclaim their freedom. Sheryl had found several spots over the last few months, even setting up in a couple. Nevertheless, she had always had to leave. The soldiers came and she ran.

She had decided the north might be a better choice so she and Max had turned around and headed back to where they had started. Not exactly but when you are within 400 miles and have no home. It is close. It seemed to be the right direction because they had not seen the soldiers in a couple of weeks. All this time they had been right ahead of them. She should have known they would head south. Who in their right mind would go north for the winter? Well she was not exactly in her right mind so it fit.

Cutting across fields had seemed to be the best choice; a small farmhouse with a barn would be a great start. November was coming in with a rush. The leaves were falling and the winds had turned cool, especially at night.

She was daydreaming of the perfect winter house hoping she would know it when she saw it. When Max darted in front of her, chasing a rabbit, she barely had time to look up when he shot into the woods. He was getting good at catching dinner, but if she did not follow, he would not share.

Reaching the tree line where she believed Max had entered. Sheryl noticed a path just to the right. It was overgrown and had not been used for quite awhile. She followed the path through the woods forgetting about Max and dinner, when she came upon a large opening in the trees.

The spot was beautiful, a wrap-around porch surrounded a little house, it needed a little repairing but beautiful. To one side she noticed a small barn and a chicken coop and on the right close to the tree line was a garage. Around back of the house was a fenced in garden, over grown of course. She turned her attention back to the house, and walked across a stone patio, to a sliding glass door. It was locked which led her to believe the house was empty before the transports. Sheryl checked the windows of the house until she found one that would open and crawled in.

The house, which she had expected to be empty, was not. A few warning bells went off with this discovery but they were short lived once she noticed the layers of dust. This place had not seen contact in quite some time. Of course, that meant the soldiers had not been here either.

Looking around the room Sheryl noticed the fireplace on the outside wall, she loved a fire and with winter coming, this was a welcome site, even knowing she would need to be very careful about when to light it. The room also contained: a television (a lot of good that would do), a large over stuffed couch, coffee table, bookshelves full of books and in the center of the room was a big oval rug, thick and soft.

She moved to the next room, the kitchen, only an open bar separated the two rooms. In it was a refrigerator (again no use), a kitchen table, chairs, odds and end pots and pans and a stove. Toward the back door was a large empty pantry, and on the back wall of the pantry was a door hidden by shelves. If the door had not been ajar or the shelves had been full, she might not have seen it. Sheryl moved toward the hidden door when she heard a noise and turned to the doorway. Max was at the door and scratching to get in.

After letting Max in she headed to the other room off of the living room instead of back to the pantry. It was a large room, almost as large as the living room, and was sparsely furnished, but it had a bed, a dresser, a bedside table, and another beautiful soft and fluffy rug, only this one was a rectangular shape.

The bath was in the center of the house, and as she stepped in the thoughts of a nice long steaming bath came to mind. She found herself visualizing the water in the tub and had to pull herself away to move on. The next room was empty, with only carpet on the floor.

Returning to the pantry, she decided this had to be a basement. Then remembering some of the basements she had been in the last few months, she felt a shiver. Sheryl went to her backpack and took out the candle that she had kept and not used. She was ready and headed for the door, Max had been waiting patiently in the kitchen as she strolled through the rest of the house, but when she approached the pantry door he followed. She was hoping he was just curious and not worried about an escape route.

Going down the stairs, she noticed it did not feel like a basement. It was not damp; it was cool like the rest of the house but dry and very dark. She lit the candle and noticed the windows were covered and on further inspection found they had been painted black. She did not dwell on this; many people used darken windows as a way to keep a basement cool.

Bookshelves were built on two walls and were filled completely with every kind of book imaginable. The books in the living room had impressed her, but this was unbelievable. She would be able to read all winter and never be bored. By the looks of the books, she could also figure out how to do just about anything.

In the center of the room was a desk and a computer, old but efficient for its day. Sitting in the center of the desk was a notebook, on the top of the notebook JOURNAL was written. Grabbing the Journal, she blew out the candle and headed up the stairs, with Max following right behind her. That evening was spent eating at a kitchen table and cozening up with a good book, the journal.

She had read Peter's journal until night would not allow any more. She slept in a bed for the first time in months. Even if you had found somewhere, you felt safe enough to sleep you usually chose to sleep somewhere escape was easier than a bedroom. This house felt right, safe somehow. How was it any different from any other house? She did not know and did not care.

Trusting her instincts had been a survival tool over the last few months. Then again, she trusted Max's instincts even more than her own. He was a very special friend who chose to tag along and she was glad. This was the house she had hoped to find for winter. Maybe longer but right now winter was a good goal.

The searching of cities and towns would let up for the winter if it had not already. The only concern now was what would come after the searches were over. Knowing it would end and knowing what was to come next was somewhat scary. She knew of the cities and regulations but had no idea what the military had in mind.

After breakfast, she finished reading Peter's journal. On the last page, Peter had written:

May 14

It is the day I am to go to the new community. I am almost looking forward to it. My Lisa is here and I hate to leave her but; I have been alone a long time and maybe it is time to make new friends. I hope Lisa will understand. I think I will walk into town; it is a nice day.

Goodbye dear friend.

Reading the last line, made her cry. Sitting for a few minutes longer, she wondered if Peter and Lisa would mind someone using their home. This was going to be her and Max's new home, and with that, she realized she was no longer that scared woman that had started this adventure.

Sheryl was dead and she intended on putting her to rest. Deciding not to be Sheryl was fine but who did she want to be. Growing up she had always used Jamie, her middle name was James, her mother, and father both wanted her named after them so they named her Sheryl James. She had liked being Jamie, but Paul had never liked it. Sheryl was a more proper name for a Doctor's wife, even a veterinarian. "I am Jamie again, and intend on staying that way. I like her better and think she will like me better too." She said aloud.

The journal had said there was a generator, she had not noticed it on the way in, but she was so busy being amazed by the house, she was surprised she had not walked into a wall or two. Out the sliding doors and to the left was the shed. According to Peter, the electric in the area could be knocked out with ease. He invested in a generator, a few years before his wife Lisa passed on. She was ill for a long time and he was afraid of losing the power when she needed it.

Staring at the generator and hoping to figure out how it worked, the wind blew and the chill ran through to the bone. This was the reminder this might need to be a priority. The next matter at hand was to check out the garage. Peter had made mention of certain items he had stored there.

Jamie opened the door and immediately saw the back wall where homemade shelves and cubbyholes had been built. They were filled with plastic tubs, each marked with black marker. He had arranged all the holiday items in the first set of shelves. Winter clothing (marked Peter or Lisa) was in the next set of shelves along with totes marked with Lisa's name, description, and date. Jamie could almost visualize Peter carefully packing Lisa's items as he remembered each one.

On down the wall were totes marked, household, bath, kitchen, electronics, warranties and manual (this one she pulled out and sat at her feet). At the end of the shelves were two large steam heaters.

This man was prepared for anything; he must have been the most organized person in history. Over to the right was a tall tool chest. These were much bigger than the tools she had used in her work, but figuring them out could be fun. Neatly hung on both sides of the garage were gardening and lawn tools. Picking up the tote she had pulled from the shelf, she grabbed a heater and headed back to the house.

Spreading the manuals over the table, Jamie found the one she had been looking for. The generator manual was technical and hard to understand but rereading the same page several times, a person can figure out anything. This model was quiet and ran on a battery (usually charged by city power). Peter's journal had also mentioned he had invested in solar back up for extended power failures. This was starting to be a very interesting day.

After completing the list of supplies, Jamie headed for town. It was a beautiful fall day not too cool and just enough of a breeze to remind you winter was coming. Exiting on the path, she set out in the direction of town. She had noticed the town when Max was chasing his rabbit into the trees and had chosen to follow him instead. This had been the wise choice in her opinion.

When she reached the edge of town she noticed the city limits sign. This was the sign the soldiers marked when completing a search. This town had been marked. What an unexpected surprise. She hoped that meant safe, at least for a while.

The first store she entered was a hardware store. Since the town had been checked, all the doors were open. The soldiers never worried about locking up when they left. The store did not have much but she had to try anyway.

The next store was a little better in the supply line. It was a grocery store. There was not much left but it was plenty for one person. Jamie loaded the supplies into a wheelbarrow she found in a yard on the way in. After visiting several other businesses and houses, she felt the wheelbarrow was not going to hold it all; and decided it was time to brave a little transportation

She tried several vehicles parked along both sides of the street. They did not have keys, would not start, or had a flat. Finally two blocks down, she found a small truck with keys, four full tires, and a working battery. Driving the truck back to where she had left the supplies, she felt a little worried about being seen. However, this convenience had been greatly missed and she was keeping it.

After several more stops, Jamie headed out of town. She had remembered the convenience store on the edge of town and decided to stop in case it had something she had not found.

Upon entering the store, she found it was still well stocked this was strange but quickly remembered being told at one of the conferences, certain stores would be left stocked for the soldiers. She took only what she thought she could use.

Max was waiting when she pulled in the drive; he had chose to stay. She never made him go or stay he just made up his own mind. Sometimes it felt as though he knew what was going to happen next. Max watched as she unloaded the supplies and after putting the supplies away, it was time to see if the generator would work.

Peter's journal had told of the well so water and a bath was just the excuse needed to get the generator started. It was supposed to be quiet and she hoped it was going to be quiet enough. Surprisingly the generator started without a hitch after she figured out how.

She prepared a kings feast of dehydrated vegetables, packaged meats and biscuits made with some flour that had survived without weevils. With the feast finished and dishes done, she lit the steam heater. It had been a busy day, she had a full stomach, finished her chores and warmed the house. Now it was treat time, she went to the bath and ran a very welcome, hot bubble bath.


The morning brought sunshine and a light breeze. Jamie decided the next few weeks would be spent gathering what she would need for winter. So she left early in the morning and made stops one by one until mid-day. Jamie approached the next farm, which contained a small barn and several out buildings. She pulled into what looked like it had once been a driveway, trying to remember what she had not found from her list.

When the truck stopped Max jumped out and started to search around for whatever it was that dogs check for. Jamie headed for the barn and hoped to find a few more bales of hay. She noticed Max run toward a small building, shed maybe, and began to scratch on the door.

This was interesting; Max did not usually act this way. He was more of the type if it is not open it is not worth going into. A little leery of the situation but trusting Max to his discovery she approached the shed expecting a rabbit or chicken to come flying out when she opened the door. So she opened the door slowly, knowing she would jump, even if she was expecting something.

But nothing jumped or ran so she shoved the door wide and looked inside. She was amazed to see huddled in the corner was a man, who appeared to be more scared than dangerous. Max slowly approached the door and entered. But as Max got close, the man started to fidget and mumble, something Jamie could not understand. Just as she decided it was safe to move closer, the man yelled. "Don't let him eat me, please don't kill me."

Jamie thought she should be saying something, but had no idea what to say except. "He seems to like you." At that, moment Max reached the frightened man and sat next to him, laying his head on his paws and stretching out. "He thinks you are scared and wants to comfort you." She said before turning to go to the barn. She had found the best way to ease most outsiders was to just, keep doing what you are doing and pretend they did not exist. They would choose to approach or run. Most of the time they ran.

The man eased himself up and away from this titan of a dog slowly as not, to irritate or upset. He was not used to large dogs. The dog stirred a little but did not move, both Max and the man watched each other as the man pulled himself up and left the building.

The man found himself free of the dog, and shuffled out the door. He started to run as he had done so many times before but found himself a little intrigued on how someone could be driving around without a care in the world. This woman did not seem the least worried about the fact she had just found an outsider.

She obviously was not a soldier or he would not be on the outside of the shed, he would be under it. She was not one of the Special Force or he would be captured and on the way to in-take. She had to be an outsider, he had not seen another outsider since leaving the city after the raid, and he liked the idea that someone was still alive.

So the small man stopped and watched, as the petite blond approached the barn and reached for the door handle. A sudden attack of intrusion entered his frighten body. He had made himself a little bit of a life here and did not want to give it up. He ran to the barn door and stood in front of it. He regretted the sudden burst of bravery even as he was doing it.

"This is mine; you can not just go around stealing things from people." He said in a frightened voice.

Jamie looked at the small man not much taller than herself and definitely thinner, and felt a sudden guilt for not asking if he lived here. She had just assumed he was hiding because he saw them drive in.

"I am sorry; I did not even ask if this was your place. I just assumed you were a wanderer." She answered in a calm voice.

"Well this is my place, and these are my things. So if you would kindly leave I would appreciate it." He said with as much authority as he could gather.

Jamie knew what scared was. She also knew what it was like to watch as someone ran you out. She decided she wanted a friend and was going to give this man the opportunity to volunteer it.

"Let's start over." She started "My name is Jamie and I live about 3 or 4 miles from here. I have not lived here long, and thought I would get a few things together for the winter. I am sorry I didn't ask if this was your place. That was just rude." She said as she held out her hand to the man. The man squirmed a little, as he seemed to be considering what she had just said.

"My name is Conrad, and this is my place. I am sorry I haven't been more hospitable but you never know with new people." He said taking her hand cautiously.

Max had taken the opportunity to join her and as he approached, the man cringed a little. "Oh, and this is Max. He is harmless to most, but a very good judge of character. He likes you and I believe in his judgment." She said with the pride of a mother introducing her child.

The two talked, each being cautious of what they were saying for a few more minutes, before Conrad invited her into his barn. Conrad had set up a nice little home in the barn that included a milk cow. He had made a sleeping area out of one of the stalls, and a reading area out of another. At the back of the barn, he had set up a kitchen table and steam stove. A large steam heater was sitting in the middle of the cozy apartment.

"Well, you have set this up nicely, seems very comfortable and cozy." She said in all honesty.

"I have been here for a few weeks and haven't had any visitors until today." He responded as he was still beaming from the compliment. He invited her to sit at the table and offered her a cup of tea. She was not much of a tea drinker but intended on being as social as possible to her new friend.

"You say you haven't been here long, how long?" Conrad asked looking more comfortable than he had been moments earlier. "Actually just a few days. Found a very lovely place just down the road and decided it was exactly where I needed to be." She told him. They chatted a while longer, she telling him of some of her encounters and he told her of the city.

Conrad had lived in the city with a group of rebels; they were doing well against the soldiers and were feeling confident they were in control. The group was doing so well people were coming in from all over the Continent to join. The rebel camp had gotten up to almost one hundred people, before the special team had showed up.

These "New Breed" (as he called them) of soldiers were trained well and organized. The regular soldiers just canvassed a spot and destroyed what they found. They were not even taking people to intake anymore, they just eliminated them. The rebels had been taking them out easily in the last few months he had been there. Then the new ones showed up. He told of how the "New Breed" had come in and broke the rebel force in less than a week.

They sent in scouts, to draw out the attackers. At first, the rebels had believed them to be scouts who were good at getting away. Looking back, he had concluded that this was just a tactic to get the rebel forces in one spot.

This group wanted to draw the whole force out and at the same time were taking out the lookouts and small groups. It got to the point; nobody wanted to be alone or in a small group. On the last day, the Rebel leader had decided he had had enough of these intruders and brought everyone together to make sure this ended. The rebel leader believed by capturing one or two, he could convince them to lead the rebels to the rest.

Conrad was stationed at a position where he could shoot a tranquilizer into one of the scouts. Another shooter was positioned on the opposite side of the street. The scouts showed up as they were expected and this time the scouts moved further away from the vehicle than they had before. The rebels had intended on surrounding and capturing, and if the scouts had back up, they were prepared for that too. At least they thought they were.

The scouts wandered along the street seemingly clueless to the rebels' intentions. This bothered Conrad but the leader believed in his men. When the scouts reached the area that was considered the best spot for attack, the rebels flew into action.

Conrad had his target in his sites, when (this part seemed very hard for him to admit.) the scout turned and looked directly at him. He could not explain how someone would know where he was and he could not explain how this person scared him so badly; but somehow he knew this man could see him even though the man had sunglasses on. He also could feel the anger in the soldier's eyes.

The scouts were surrounded immediately, but they did not respond. Too scared to do his duty Conrad watched as the rebels closed in on the two scouts and how it seemed too easy. When the rebels reached the scouts, everything went so fast it was hard for him to comprehend. The scouts took out the surrounding rebels with very little effort and then the rest of the rebels came from everywhere. As he watched the bulk of the rebels come to the rescue of the first group, he felt confident they had their prisoners.

The scouts were surrounded for the second time and seemingly fighting off the attackers, Soldiers came from both ends of the street. How the soldiers had gotten this close was just another confusion Conrad could not explain. He sat and watched as the soldiers destroyed the rebels in just a few minutes. Some rebels gave themselves up as it ended. Other had to be hunted down.

Conrad seemed drained by the story, and maybe a little guilty. "How did you get away Conrad?" Jamie asked hoping this bit of luck would cheer him up.

"I didn't, they let me leave." He responded with his head down.

"I don't understand why they would do that, I thought these were the ones who killed or captured." Jamie asked puzzled.

"I was still sitting in my position in a daze from what I had just saw and felt when this soldiers came through the door. I did not move just sat and waited for him to come and drag me out. As he was taking me to the street, another soldier walked up and nodded. The soldier that was pulling me turned around and took me out back of the building. I just knew I was dead. But he just let me go, turned around and walked back in the building, closing the door behind him. I guess I came to my senses long enough to run because a couple of days later I was here." He said shaking his lowered head.

"Must have been a lot of Soldiers to take you out so quickly." She said without thinking of Conrad and his torment. "Yeah, maybe 15 or 20." He responded as he started to laugh.

"15 or 20 to take out 100 people? What kinds of weapons did they use?" Jamie asked, before Conrad looked over at her and smiled a wild grin that scared her a little.

"These soldiers don't use any weapons. It is just them." She decided on the last comment that Conrad had imagined the whole thing or maybe he was just a little loony, either way it had been a good story. Parts of it were even true she expected.

Jamie stayed and talked to Conrad for most of the afternoon, enjoying the company even if she thought he might be a little crazy. Max liked him and she did too. She told Conrad she had to go and put away her supplies but she wanted him to come and visit whenever he wanted. Conrad thrilled with the idea of neighbors, insisted she take a couple quarts of milk when she left and promised to bring more in a few days. Jamie was thrilled by the milk and gave Conrad directions to her home.

That evening Jamie sat and thought of the story, before looking down at Max. He had a look on his face that made her laugh; it was a face expecting a treat. After feeding Max and eating a little something, bed was a welcome site. She laid waiting for sleep and again thought of the story and how it had affected Conrad, she felt that it may not have been true, but she believed that parts of it were. That was what was bothering her, which parts were true.


Jamie slept late, ate a quick breakfast, fed and watered the animals and went straight to work on a pigpen. The work went better and quicker than she had hoped. The pig had a nice shelter in no time and the garden would be in great shape for spring planting.

Finishing all the chores for the day, she intended on spending the rest of the day relaxing. It had been a long time since she had nothing to do or worry about; and that was when she knew she had found home. For the next couple of weeks, things went perfect. She had her new home, a new friend, and a new life.

Jamie was enjoying the cold but sunny afternoon on the patio and working on the to-do list for the next day, when she heard the sound of engines. Panic came almost immediately then came sadness. She had done so much work and now was going to have to leave. Quickly she shut off the generator, and headed for the trees. Approaching the tree line facing town she could see they had passed the drive. Calming slightly but not letting herself gets too comfortable, she watched the trucks slow and turn toward town.

She ran back to the house, prepared for the worse, and then grabbed the binoculars. Leaving the house, she made sure Max was inside, and then her thoughts turned to Conrad. She hoped he was all right and did not know of the intrusion.

When she had met him a couple of weeks ago, he had seemed to be a little nervous, maybe a little crazy. However, the more she talked with him, which had been a lot lately she found him to be quite normal. He was bringing her milk every few days and even some game meat that he would catch in his traps. He was however, still very frightened of the soldiers and cowered at the thought of them returning.

She reached the tree line and saw the trucks parked at the convenience store. Obviously, they were just getting supplies. Relief passed through her as she thought of them leaving soon. She watched a little longer hoping they did not clear out her favorite shopping center. Just as Jamie was rising to leave, she saw an officer point in her direction, and speak to a soldier close to him. Fear came back as she watched the soldier walk in her direction. She kept watching in hopes that he was doing anything but approaching her home.

The soldier heading in her direction stopped at the city limit sign and marked the sign. She was thrilled, not just that the soldier was marking the sign but at the fact they were getting lazy. They had not had time to check the town. She had not been gone that long. They had just taken supplies and moved on. What she did realize was she was going to have to figure out how they worked or she would be running forever.

Max was ignoring her when she came back so she gave him a ham bone compliments of Conrad and he was happy again. She went to bed that night a happy person. Knowing the soldiers were getting lazy and that meant there would be fewer visits especially for the winter.

Jamie fell asleep thinking of staying in her cozy house for the winter. Her mind was not content with her thinking and the dreams came. She dreamed of Paul and how he had made life so frightening, she would sit in front of the computer day in and out working on the project that would make both he and dad happy.

She dreamed of a time Paul had returned home after being out all night and beat some sense into her for not having his breakfast ready. She had not been able to work on her project for a week because the doctors had made her stay in the hospital. Paul was angry when she got home, because she had chosen to stay and made him look like he was married to a klutz. Then she dreamed of EDWARD.

Jamie woke in the morning thinking of EDWARD, she wanted to speak to him again. He had been her reason for living for so long and now she could not even talk to him. She was going to find a way, for information and for EDWARD. She wanted to keep her home, know when the soldiers were coming and when to hide. This was a little like cheating but she did not care; they out-numbered her and she loved her new home. Jamie considered options all day of how to get to him but one kept coming back as the best and most mobile one.

A communicator would provide the link she needed and it was mobile enough to bring home. Only it would have to be the right communicator, she knew the only ones that would work were the two-way carried by officers. Jamie laughed as she thought of hunting down the soldiers; instead of running from them, she was going to run after them.

Jamie thought of what she needed to do as she did her work for the day. This would have been a lot simpler if she had just thought of all of this yesterday before the soldiers came. Of course, she would have had to have a plan of how to get the thing, even if she found one. It was not as if they would just hand it over to her. They could of course or so they thought. They were programmed only to work for the individual that they belonged.

That of course was not a problem, not for her. Those technical types had laughed at her when she had told them how easy it would be to modify them. Then they got really upset when she did modify one of them as proof. They just said she had been lucky. They would not have changed it they were too cocky about it. She believed they had not told anyone about how easy it would be. Even if they had, she knew she could figure it out.

Jamie rose early the next morning with a plan. She went to see Conrad first and made sure he was all right and still around. He had not known the soldiers had come through, and was happy to know they were gone. He was also thrilled to know they were not searching as hard as they once had.

Jamie told him she needed a few supplies that were unavailable around the area and she would have to go to Groveton to get them. Conrad did not like the idea of her going to the City but did not offer to go either.

Jamie did not want to worry him on why she was going; besides that would bring up questions she did not have time to answer. He promised he would be by the next day and bring milk and meat. She knew he was coming to make sure she had gotten back safely but that was all right. It made her feel good to know someone cared.

Jamie knew Groveton was close to a work community and that it would have Patrols. Patrols were good, they had to be able to send and receive messages. She could obtain the article she needed, and with a little luck be able to talk to EDWARD again by tonight. She parked the truck on the outskirts of town, and memorized the lot. She sometimes forgot where she parked and had to hunt. She definitely did not want that to happen today.


Shane knew this was Billy's way of getting him to let loose and he wanted to. He did well as long as Billy was not around but the minute Billy showed up, Shane would freeze up. He did not know why he reverted to his soldier instincts, he was an Elite, and he knew that.

He had always known he had a special gift. His father had said it came from his mother and his mother had said it came from his father. He felt each of them had contributed to it. His father had been able to read a person's movements before they made them, that's what had made him such a good soldier. And his mother was able to tell if a person would be good or bad almost from birth.

Shane had used those gifts all his life, to advance in the academies. So why couldn't he bring himself to use his abilities when he need them, now. He could work around everyone, but Billy. He knew that he had been passed on three times, but he also knew Billy had come back three times and had accepted him. He wanted to show him he could do it. He also knew the feeling was mutual.

Shane had been out for a few days with nothing. However, as he approached Groveton, he knew his luck was changing, this would be his chance to at least prove he could do it even if Billy never seen it, he would know.

Shane drove through the streets slowly, watching for any movement, and forcing himself to remember, he was Elite. Gradually he felt the presence and knew to slow down, but continued slower, than he had been. He felt them, as he was approaching the center of town. It was a good spot for an ambush, doorways lined both sides of the street, and so Shane kept to the center, that way he could prepare himself.

He approached slowly and found himself stopping, as he felt something confusing. He could feel the rebels they were waiting for him, anger and hate was strong, but there was someone else. There was no hate, or anger, but eagerness, and the presence was different somehow.

Shane shook the feeling from his thoughts, the rebels were what concerned him and there was too many for him. But just as he felt the strength of the rebels, he knew help was close. Confusion struck him again, none of the other Elite would be this close this was suppose to be a secure area. No one expected anymore than one or two strays. However, it did not feel like Elite, but he knew it was help.

He pushed the thought from his mind again, just as he saw the runner, and knew the rebels were baiting him. He had to try to contain them; he would call for back up and wait. Rebels started slow and eased in after they found out if you were alone. He could control them until back up arrived.

He had been wrong and felt it almost immediately. The laugh filled his head; the concentration he felt made him realize this was not a straight thinker. This new group was going to do things different. They did not want the land they wanted blood, his blood.

Shane quickly pulled the communicator out, but before he could get the call through, he was attacked. Quickly he reached for Brent's mind, if anyone could hear him, it would be Brent. Shane felt the bounce but nothing else. The first four attacked quickly but sloppy, Shane put them down easy enough before the fifth reached him, this rebel was stronger, smoother, but still beatable. "They sent the weakest first," he thought and that is when he went black.

Jamie watched as the soldier pulled to a stop. He was maybe six foot, dark hair, with a lean body that moved smooth and easy. He stepped out of the truck and lifted the communicator but the rebels attacked. Jamie watched the man fight and was beginning to worry about how to get the communicator. He easily beat the first four, moving faster than she had ever seen anyone move. The fifth was doing no better than the first four, when someone jumped out from one of the buildings and swung a bag around his head and cracked the soldier with it, taking him to his knees.

She watched as the two left standing began to beat and kick him on the ground. Jamie started for the door; she could not stand it any longer. He may have asked for trouble but this was not right, as she reached the door, one of the attackers began to laugh and pulled the soldiers hands behind his back, handcuffed him, before pulling him to his knees, by his hair.

"That is enough, before was his fault for entering their domain alone." Jamie said to herself. "This is cheating, it was still three against one tired, injured man, and that's when she saw the last attacker pulling something from his coat. It was a weapon, a projectile weapon. As the man was walking toward the soldier, Jamie walked toward the communicator.

He had failed, Shane could feel himself falling, but he was drawn back, he had to see it through. He felt the surge when his eyes opened, but he did not lift his head, he did not have to. He could feel the anger and hate approaching. There it is again, the other, he was trying to decide who or what the feel was, when he heard the dog.

The two holding Shane watched as Jamie came from the hardware store and crossed the street, heading for the truck. Just as she reached the truck, the man with the weapon turned and asked, "What are you doing?"

"I just need to grab this device and I'll be out of your way, I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Jamie said as her stomach churned and Max growled softly at the situation (maybe the man).

"Who are you, and what device of mine do you think you can just stroll up and get?" The man almost shouted.

"Well to the first question my name is Jamie and to the second, the communicator, he won't need it anymore." Jamie replied casually.

Max was still watching for any movement and eyeing the man with hate in his eyes. "And who exactly said you could have it?" He asked a little more calmly.

"Well, I guess I should have asked first, but I did not want to interrupt I could see you were busy and figured I would ask after you finished." She replied moving slightly past the truck and closer to one of the attackers.

"Yes you should have asked first, what would you want with that thing, you can't use it." He asked rather intrigued.

"I was contacted by a group in Middletown to get one. What they want it for is not my concern. I just get what I am told." She lied.

"Do they think they can get it to work?" He asked with a big laugh.

"I only know they have made other things work from the soldiers, and this is the next project." Jamie lied again.

"So you're a gatherer, huh? You do not look like you could take care of yourself; much less gather anything. Go ahead, get it, and when I'm done, well discuss the price." He said with a leer.

Shane felt the hate, and the need for blood. The dog felt it too. The dog wanted the man, but he had to wait, just a minute longer, the voice had the man calm. That is when Shane realized just how insane this group was. They did not need anger or hatred to kill; they just needed a victim. This man with the weapon wanted blood, not just soldiers or Elite, but anyone, including the girl with the communicator.

Jamie scooped up the communicator and in one move swung the bag; she was carrying, as hard as she could. NOW, MAX, NOW. Shane commanded the dog, and flew to his feet as he felt his right side free. He took down the man on his left with a full focus of a true Elite. He headed for the truck, feeling light headed, but staying on his feet. "Get in Jamie." he said as he reached the truck.

Jamie ran to the truck, just as Shane opened the door. Jamie jumped in the truck with Shane quickly scooting in behind her, Shane told her to drive and Jamie yelled for Max. Max jumped in the back as they drove away.

Shane calmed his thoughts, and tried to clear his head. "Are you all right?" Jamie asked. She was heading to her truck. He told her to keep driving, until she reached the outskirts of town, he knew she was heading there anyway. He hated to be restrained and these cuffs were going to have to go.

His head was clearer now and he knew the leader had not died. Max had just hurt him and he was reviving the others as they approached her truck. Shane glanced at Jamie and somehow knew she wanted the E-tek and was going to take it. Somehow, he knew she was supposed to, and she would not do anything that would hurt, only help. "They weren't supposed to be there at all." He said as he squirmed with the handcuffs. "Stop somewhere" he said as they reached the parking area she was heading to.

"I have to get out of these things, so I can go back." He said as she pulled up next to her truck.

"Are you nuts, they just tried to kill you, now you want to go back?" Jamie said surprised at the statement.

"Back up is coming. In the glove compartment is a set of keys, if you don't mind. Why did you help me?" Shane rattled as if it all belonged together.

"I don't like bullies." She replied as she unlocked the handcuffs.

Jamie quickly tossed the keys back in the compartment and jumped from the truck. She had been struggling with the module in the communicator and needed to move to pop it out. Just as the module popped out, Shane slid across and grabbed her arm, "The E-tek please," holding his hand out. "Oh, this useless thing." He knew she had what she needed. "What's you name solider boy?" She asked with a smile.

"I am not a soldier, I am an Elite and the name's Shane, thanks for the help, Jamie." "Go straight back where you came from; the rest will be looking and its probably best if they don't find you." He knew she would believe he meant the Elite, but he did not, he knew the rebels were looking for them both right now and they knew the direction.

Jamie made sure to let Shane get out of sight before getting in her truck. Shane watched from his mirror, but she just stood by the truck. He knew she was waiting for him to get out of sight. He thought it amusing, she had no idea; with an Elite sight was not required to track someone. Shane had no idea that with Jamie, very few Elite were skilled enough to do it without sight.

Shane returned slowly, feeling his head start to spin again. Someone had tried to split it open, and he was sure they had succeeded. He could feel the rebels close but felt the Elite ahead. He stopped the truck knowing how close help was. Shane stepped out of the truck and staggered toward the rebels. At that moment, the rebels came out of a door across the street; the man with the weapon was smiling at him and asking where Jamie had gone. As he raised the weapon, Elite jumped from the overhang of the building and knocked all the rebels to the ground.

Shane dropped to his knees and held his head. "I have one splitting headache." He said.

"Well boy, with that split in your head it should ache. Don't you know even you can't control insanity." Billy said as he helped Shane to his feet. "You look a little dizzy; let's get you to a doctor... Oh, by the way, you have a baby girl, Congratulations Dad." At that, Shane passed out. Billy caught him as he fell and Brent helped carried him to the Truck.

"Is he all right?" Jacks said approaching the three men.

"Oh yeah, he can take on a bunch of psychos with no problem, but tell him he has to raise a girl and he passes out." Brent said, they all laughed.

Shane woke and saw Billy sitting in the chair beside the bed. "Hey, did you say I have a daughter or was that a dream?" Shane asked with a dry mouth.

"Yeah, you got two women to contend with now. Your wife is fine. Looks like you will get to go home and see them, at least for a little while. You did good kid." Billy said as he poured the water and handed him the cup. Shane took the cup, but instead of drinking, he looked down into the water.

"Billy, she got the E-tek." Shane said and knew he would have to explain, but knew he would hold back part of what he knew, something he never did with Billy.

"Who got it, we checked the Rebels, and besides, yours was in the truck, I think you are still a little groggy." Billy said with concern.

"The woman who helped me get away, she took out the module and gave back the shell. I was a little confused until she was gone." Shane lied.

"Wait, back up a little, what woman and how would she get the module out. I have a time trying to figure that confounded thing out sometimes." Billy was confused, and was afraid the hit he had taken to the head had done more damage than they realized. He had not felt anyone else; no one had felt anyone else. He walked to Shane's personal items and found the E-tek, opened it up, it was empty.

"OK let's start at the beginning and you tell me what is going on." Billy said with a sigh.

Shane told him the story and omitted certain things. He understood now, he had known as soon as he had awakened. He also knew it was necessary, because of what needed to be done. He could see it clearly; he could see it clearly because of her. He knew Billy had searched for this woman. Why couldn't he feel her? She had only been gone a short time when they arrived. None of them had felt her. Shane knew some with a strong natural ability seemed to outweigh the enhanced even when the blocker was unaware of it. However, to be able to block a tracker with Cord's ability was very unusual.

"She took equipment and only the creator knows what they want to use it for. You are definitely in no shape to retrieve it. I'll take care of it." Billy said not wanting to finish his thoughts.

"Billy, she saved my life." Shane said, knowing what Billy had to do.

"I know; that's why I am going." Billy said. "Quick and gentle."

Billy knew he had to go immediately. He had no idea how he would find this woman, he had not felt a thing of her in Groveton, no one had. He headed back to the office and woke Brent. It was two in the morning, but he was leaving. He had to get to Groveton. It had been twelve hours already and a storm was coming, maybe that would explain the lack of knowing.

"I have to go get a lost module out of Shane's E-tek. Seems there was someone else there that I didn't know about." Billy said as he walked around the room.

"Someone else, I didn't feel anything, and neither Jacks nor Cord mentioned anything. If someone else was there, Cord would have known." Brent said trying to wake up.

"I just wanted to let you know, if anyone but, Jason asks I'm out on patrol, checking for more pockets of these psychos." "I have to see if I can pick up the trail, before the storm moves in." Billy finished.

"Storm coming is it, must be a good one if it messed you up before it gets here." Brent replied.

Billy left without another word. Brent thought he looked sad, definitely tired but, sad was there too.

Billy reached Groveton, and retraced what Shane had said happened. He found the trail at the parking lot where the trucks had been. This is where he found it full, familiar in a way, he just did not remember why.


Just as Jamie was about to try out her work Max started to head butt her on the leg. It was two in the morning and she had forgotten to feed him. Jamie smiled a little guiltily as she headed up the stairs. She walked across the kitchen in the dark, still finding it hard to use the lights in the house after sunset. She had considered painting all the windows black, but she knew she would miss the sunshine during the daylight hours, so she chose to roam the house in the dark.

"Bet your just about ready to leave me aren't ya boy." She told Max as she put his bowl in front of him. Jamie made coffee and a sandwich for herself and sat at the table, thinking of EDWARD as the coffee finished. She headed back to the basement, ready for the rest of the night.

EDWARD had always been there for her and she had missed him but had not realized how much, until last night. She was looking forward to talking to him. Everything was set up, the computer was ready the module was ready, and the coffee was ready. She pushed the button and watched as the connection found its goal. She smiled when "Password?" came across the screen.

Jamie was expecting this, since she did not have the pre-programmed, handheld identifier. She entered the first password. They had not found her way in. She entered the second response and almost cried when she saw EDWARD ask her to speak. He was going to do a voice check. "Hello EDWARD how are you tonight?" Jamie said with a smile.

"It is morning." EDWARD replied on screen. Security check was the next step. He asked the questions and she answered. After the final question was answered, she saw the screen start to flash, fireworks, colors, and bouncing objects. Then in the sweetest voice, he said. "Hello Mother, where have you been?"

"Away for a while EDWARD, how do I find an identifier pad?" She asked hoping to avoid this procedure again.

"Not available out of the cities." Was his response.

"Well, will I have to go through the security every time I log on?" She asked.

"Security is set in the module." He responded. Then continued to tell her in detail how it worked. All this time she had thought the shell held the identifier, but it was the module. This was not a good thing, she had asked them to change that, when they had first asked her opinion on the communicators. They had not changed any of it; well I guess they are just going to have learn the hard way." She thought.

She then explained to EDWARD how communications could bring danger and how she could only talk to him if he did not allow anyone to know he had found her. EDWARD approved the request and then informed her no one would be allowed to see any of her communication without his approval. He knew he was the best qualified to determine who could see and who could not.

She knew this would be his response, but if you did not appeal to his superiority then he could reject you. He was like a small child and reverse psychology would work as long as you knew how to talk to him. She knew all his quirks because she had created him. In many ways, he was her child, even though he had been taken away very early in life.

Asking questions and repaired things EDWARD assured her were done wrong kept her busy until after sun up. Jamie hated to leave EDWARD; she had missed him even more than she had thought. She slowly rose from her chair telling EDWARD she had to leave him for a while and headed up the stairs. Jamie thought of all the things she had heard over the last few hours. Some of which she had already known. It was the things she had missed and was very lucky not to have seen which scared her the most.

The Soldiers had gone through after the last of the transports and rounded up anyone they found. Only some never made it to the work centers, many had ACCIDENTS and others had just put up a fight and signed their own fate.

Only select military personnel were suppose to be able to pass judgment and carry it out. There were many instances in EDWARD's files to show this was not always the case. Jamie thought of Rex and had searched the records but had not found anything. She hoped they had just missed him, but felt it unlikely. The people of Fairfield had made a stand, a short stand from the looks of it. They did not list any survivors.

The last thing she questioned was what Shane had corrected her on. The Elite was the new Military; they had been finding and capturing the most violent of the outsiders. They hunted the rebels who fought and won the battle against regular soldiers. They were allowed to make a decision and carry it out as they saw fit. They also seemed to patrol the soldiers, finding and removing those who were known to create problems.

According to the records, EDWARD had shown her they seemed much more tolerant of ordinary people and had a better record of taking them in. Of course, their record of finding what they hunted was absolute. They had found everyone they searched for and lost none of their own in the process.

The leader of the Elites was in reality one of the Generals of the Central forces. He would train his commanders in the Elite squad and then assign them forces of their own. The Commanders he assigned would then retrain the soldiers, and if the soldiers could not be retrained the new approach, they were reassigned to a non-military position.

In the General's policies and regulations she found a section on rank and status. It stated that no one was to wear rank, or gesture (such as a salute) in the field, they were to work as one and know what to do and what was expected of each. They each had a specialty to carry out. If the specialty was not needed or if it had been accomplished each had a secondary duty.

The only time rank came into play was with decisions. Only they were to know what rank each had accomplished and would respect each other as such. If they had been chosen for the squad they were all expected to accomplish the same goal in rank and ability, therefore an outsider would assume each had accomplished it. It sounded idealistic, but it seemed to work for them. EDWARD told her the General had hand picked each of his Elite and had never reassign any of them. EDWARD did make the determination on the specialty.

It did not explain why Shane had let her leave, actually told her to leave. The Elites were quite capable of finding and "judging", and they had taken ordinary people in. Maybe he felt a debt for the help she had given him. She did not believe this group would come after an individual nevertheless, they might send regular soldiers. That was not a comforting thought either.

Jamie was tired but she told herself, she would lie down in the afternoon and get some rest. Not much just enough to keep going until sleep tonight and that would be early. However, as she was finishing her, morning chores Conrad arrived with milk and stew. It was breakfast time but, it smelled very good and she invited him to eat with her.

Conrad had gotten to know Max and learned to like him. Therefore, as they were sitting down with the stew Conrad pulled a bone from his coat and handed it to Max. They enjoyed the morning with laughter and jokes. Then about noon, Conrad decided he had to get home. He seemed to think a storm was brewing and winter was about to set in.

After Conrad left Jamie headed for the woodpile, she had gotten her second wind and wood for the fireplace would be just what she needed. Conrad had thought winter was coming and she thought that a fire would be very nice on a stormy night when the storms would hide the smoke.


Billy returned to his truck and followed the trail. He had to retrace a few spots, the storm was moving in and he did not have much time. It was already past noon, because of his inconsistent tracking and he was beginning to believe he would not find her. But as he approached the next group of trees, he saw the turn and knew it was where he needed to go. He was going to find her, if she had not left.

Parking on the road before the turn, he made up his mind, she would just have to co-operate and ..." His thoughts ended as he thought of what had to be done. Billy shoved the thought back, and headed into the woods. He had an overwhelming feeling of familiarity, when he heard the sound. Someone was chopping wood, he hoped there was more than one person; it would make it easier to do what he needed to do. He needed someone to irritate him enough not to care. Yes, a man, he could bully into irritating him. That would be very nice. She turned as he exited the wooded area. She had a look of reluctance and surprise but no fear.

Jamie turned as she heard the movement; and saw the man approaching, dressed all in black. "Just my luck they do come after individuals." Jamie thought.

"Well hello, how are you today?" She asked as if it were normal. But watching closely as the man took off his sunglasses. He was a little less than six foot, controlled, and disciplined physique; military cut light brown hair and the most beautiful brown eyes she had ever seen, penetrating and stern but sad.

"I have come to recover some lost merchandise I believe you might have knowledge of." He responded in a very serious tone, trying to keep his thoughts on the E-tek. "Shane was right; she is a calm one, he neglected to mention attractive." Billy thought to himself.

"All these guys must be just as stuffy as they come." Jamie thought. "Well, I might it depends on what you're talking about. Come on in and we'll have something warm and you can tell me what to look for." Jamie said trying to stall until she could think of a way out of this. "If I had just taken it back out of the computer this morning, and put it away, I might have hidden it well enough". She thought as she entered the house.

Billy followed her to the house without responding. Trying not to think about what he had to do. She had saved Shane's life and now he was going to end hers. He hated this part, and could not send anyone else to do what had to be done.

Entering the kitchen through the glass door, Jamie headed straight to the percolator, still trying to figure something out. "I really do not have time for this, I just want the module, and you can get back to what you were doing." He said, knowing something was missing ...familiar. She turned to face him and found herself looking up into those dark unwavering eyes.

"Oh, I know what you want. I gave that back to Shane yesterday before I left. He is alright isn't he; he didn't look very well when I left?" She asked with enough concern in her eyes he could see she really did want to know. He was not giving her an inch, so she moved slightly to get around him.

"You gave the shell back to Shane and since you obviously helped him for some reason. I will just collect the rest of it and we will forget I ever saw you. If I have to find it I may not be in such a generous mood." He responded watching her movements knowing that either way it was found he could not just leave.

"I would like to know if he is alright." She said. "And if I get my answer I may be in a generous enough mood to help you find your ...merchandise." Jamie knew she was getting excessively smug with a person capable of breaking her in half. She thought she saw a touch of a grin, but it disappeared quickly. As they stood staring at each other, Max came in the room, walking directly to Billy. "He is such a useless dog when it comes to soldiers." She thought.

Billy looked at Max knelt down and scratched his head. Max responded by wagging his tail. "Familiar, how could I have missed this. This is miss bad luck." He thought and smiled to himself as he rubbed Max's head. "I think a cup of coffee might just warm me right up." He said with more relief than he had planned.

Billy had been relieved to see the dog; he remembered the dog, not many dogs his size left. However, to make sure, he had checked the tags. Same tags, same dog, she looked different from her picture, but it was her. He had found Sheryl and this time, he would not lose her.

Watching Max with this man reminded her of Beacon and the man dressed in black that had killed Cole. She had forgotten about him being dressed all in black. "I guess Shane was not the first Elite I have seen." She thought to herself.

The man walked to the table and sat, as if he was a neighbor. "Do you take anything in your coffee? Cream or Milk, I have some honey, sorry no sugar?" She asked. Wondering why his time had suddenly gotten less valuable.

"This will be fine, this is the dog who took out the man in Groveton I take it?" He would play small talk for a while, if that was what it took to get the Princess to go home.

"Are you going to tell me if Shane is all right or not?" She asked as she sat across the table from him. This man was really starting to confuse and irritate her. Not expecting to get an answer but he could at least acknowledge the question.

"He will be fine, couple of cracked ribs, a cut on the head, concussion. Just enough to get time off to go home and see his wife and new baby." "And the dog?" He wanted her to admit who she was. He knew, but she had him running all over the central region for two months and she was going to tell him who she was.

This man had gone from one extreme to the other and she was afraid he could go back the other way if she did not watch her step. "Yes this is Max; he is the dog who hates bullies." She said watching for some sort of reaction.

"Max, I believe that I have seen that name and this dog before." He leaned on the table and looked directly into her eyes, she needed to give him what he was due, and he wanted her to admit who she was.

"Anything is possible." She responded hoping he was referring to anywhere but Beacon.

"That would have been in Beacon, I believe." He was still working on getting her to confess to who she was. He was not used to working this hard at getting the response he wanted. She did not want to volunteer this information, and for some reason he could not get her too. This ability had worked earlier than any of the others. Some needed to talk through it, but Billy had never had to do anymore than look someone in the eyes. Generally, they caved quickly, a few took a minute or two, but this woman held out well.

He had thought she ran to someone, maybe they were still somewhere around. "Tell me why you ran? I don't believe I would have recognized you if I had not seen Max." Making sure she knew, he already knew who she was.

Jamie's stomach was doing cartwheel and searching for an answer that was not in reach. "Would you like something to eat, it's done and I'm starved. I'll just go wash up." She said as she headed to the bath hoping for a chance to think.

"Oh no you don't." Billy thought to himself. He followed and caught the door as she was closing it. "I will need to wash up too, if I'm staying to eat. It does smell good."

"You never answered my question." He said following her to the sink.

"You seem to be under some impression that I am someone you know." She answered while running water over her quivering hands.

"No, I do not know you, just of you, but many people are going to very happy to see you." He had every intention on staying close, he did not lose very many people, and Jason would turn purple, this time if he lost her again.

Jamie decided he was not going to give her any breathing room. "It is not much but you are welcome to stay." She said as she pushed past him and approached the stove, wondering how she managed to get herself in this position.

"Sheryl, why won't you answer me?" He questioned calmly enough, tired of waiting for her to give him his answer. Jamie's reaction to her name surprised even her. She turned to face him shaking with anger now and not fear as before.

"Sheryl is dead, she died in Beacon my name is Jamie. Sheryl was a frightened woman who could not face going inside that prison or staying to face what she had done. I will take whatever punishment you feel is suitable for an outsider, but I will not re-become what I have left behind, way behind!" She blasted.

Billy could not help himself, he grinned, and he knew it was wrong but this little woman, he had expected to be demure and frightened, had a temper. Everything he had discovered in the last six months showed her anxiety, pain mental and physical, frustration, conflict, and even reluctance, but he had never seen her to have anger or vengeance.

"What is so funny? Pushing someone into a part of her life that should have been left buried? Do you enjoy taking people out of their homes and making them go where they do not want to?" She shot back even angrier than before. This man had the audacity to laugh at her and she was not going to stand for it. Men too long had pushed her around and she was not going to take it from a complete stranger, no matter how attractive he was.

He had crossed the line trying to get a little revenge for her making him chase her all across the central region. "Just sit down and talk to me a minute." He said very gently as he seated her at the table.

"I have a job to do and part of that job is to find you and take you home. I lost you once and do not intend on doing it again. If the Central city is not your choice we will have to live with that decision, but I cannot leave you out here, where there are dangerous people. Most of the people who are left have formed their own agendas. Seems to me you met a few yesterday. They would not leave you alone, anymore than I can." He spoke as he put the food on the plates and put both plates on the table.

"Our world changed because someone somewhere decided that it would. It was not your fault or mine. We were both instruments in this decision. They asked for our help and if we had not done our part. Someone else would have, maybe better maybe not." He was trying to calm her, but he wanted to let her know she was not alone in her opinion of how the world had changed, he did not know why he wanted her to know, but he knew he did.

Jamie looked up with tears in her eyes. "I know you have every intension of taking me to the city. I have every intension on not going. How could you possibly have decided who I was just from Max? He was not even my dog when I lived there." She asked as the anger faded, hearing something in what he said, maybe even a little belief in what she was doing.

Billy sat in the chair across the table from her and sighed. "When your husband showed up without you, they sent me to make sure you did not miss your ride...again. I underestimated you, James, my first mistake. I knew you had been at the stop earlier and that you were returning, no one mentioned the dog, my second mistake. I had also been sent to take care of the man who had killed the young girl the night before." That is where she interrupted him, the first time.

"Killed what girl, all Cole did was steal Gerty's purse?" She questioned only knowing what she had seen.

Billy thought of Cole, considering how to tell her.

Billy followed the feeling down the street and around into the commons area, he knew the anger was around the corner and waiting. Billy did not even pause, just walked around the corner, and grabbed him.

"Hey, MAN what do you think your doing?" Cole yelled as Billy grabbed him, slamming the man's hand on the wall of the building until he dropped the hammer in his hand.

"Thought I would introduce myself, before you beat my brains in, BOY." Billy responded completely calm.

"What! Your crazy man, all I was doing was heading to the transports like everyone else. I knew you soldiers were brutal, but this is uncalled for. I intend on filing a complaint, as soon as I arrive. Why don't you just put me down you asshole, and give me your name." Cole said with the arrogance that he used to intimidate people.

"General William Wilkes at your service, and I feel I should have a chance to explain my unfounded actions." Billy said, slamming the man against the wall of the building.

"Yeah, I can see how you plan on explaining." Cole said as he was catching his breath and struggling a little less

"I am looking for a man that might fit your description; he seems to have stolen a purse this morning. And maybe beat a poor girl up last night." Billy said as a prelude to the man's real crime.

"I didn't take nothin', and I didn't beat no body up." Cole was struggling and talking loud in hopes someone would hear. Billy just watched and waited.

"Oh come on that old bag doesn't need that medicine, it wasn't nothin' but aspirin and sugar tablets, she had been lying for years about needing it. You goin' work me over for stealing aspirin and sugar. OK I stole it. I'm a klepto; they're going to help me when I go in. Check it out, read my number." Cole said as he pointed to his invitation.

"Oh, I can believe you have a problem but I really think it's a little deeper than just stealing things, isn't it Cole?" He asked in a low and piercing manner.

"You act like you know what you're doing, but you have no idea what I'm capable of doing." Cole said with a smile that was as bitter as he was.

"I believe you are a very sick individual that had his kicks fulfilled last night and now wants to do it again. You have no intention of getting on that transport, but you do intend on repeating last night don't you Cole?" Billy said with the coldness of death.

"I can tell you are a man who has seen death a few times. But, I bet you never seen it like it was last night. Have you ever taken a woman and then punched her so long her head just turned to pulp, then broke every bone in her body just to hear them crack.

She said she wouldn't stay with me so I had to make sure she did. Look, she even gave me her necklace to show we were one forever. If you don't believe me just look in my shirt pocket." Cole laughed as he was finishing his story. He had enjoyed taking that bitch and he had enjoyed beating her afterwards. It was topping, for such sweet lovin' and he deserved it since she had made him wait so long.

Billy looked in the pocket Cole had pointed to and pulled out the necklace. He felt a ripping pain dart from the necklace, Cathy Jo's pain. He spun Cole around and broke his neck while Cole was still laughing.

"That man, Cole, was a sick individual, the night before the transport he killed a girl named Cathy Jo, because he wanted too." Billy did not know how to explain a madman's thoughts, and not sure, he wanted too. "He admitted it to me then told me he had taken her necklace. Didn't you see him give it to me?"

"How do you know I was watching?" She interrupted again. How did he know, he did not at the time, he just shrugged and continued. "He was still laughing about how he had killed her. He was sick James." He spoke softly and with his eyes. She knew he was speaking the truth; Cathy Jo would never have given up her necklace to anyone. Her mother had given it to her before she died and Cathy Jo never took it off. She even joked once that someone would have to kill her to steal it. It had not been a joke.

"My third mistake was not checking to see if anyone was with the dog. The last was waiting for the transports to leave before looking for you. I had been to your house earlier, when you were at the stop. Then when you went to the house, I was returning to the stop. That's when I found Cole. I did not intend on settling with him until I had found you. We just kept missing each other. Then after Cole, I went back to the stop. You still had not returned. I returned to the house and looked around; I was beginning to believe Cole might have run into you before I found him. After searching the town, I went searching for you." He finished as he got them another cup of coffee.

Bravery is easy if you know how it will end, and Jamie knew her choices were very limited. "If you are so good at finding people, why couldn't you find me? And made a lot of mistakes." She got a little haughty. He smiled, and shook his head.

"We find people because they want to be found. Most of those we go after are not hiding and avoiding everyone they see. They are so sure they can do anything without being caught; they almost leave a breadcrumb trail. Our specialty is to take care of them not to track them." He answered not filling in a few other factors.

"But you found me this time and I didn't leave breadcrumbs or talk to anyone." She injected.

"I traced the E-tek." He said not looking up from his coffee.

"No, you didn't, it was not even working when I got home and the tracking is not automatic." She shot back with a glare, wondering why he was lying.

"Well, I guess I just got lucky then." He did not know if she would understand, and had learned long ago not to try to explain it. Somehow, he knew he would tell her eventually.

Jamie glared at Billy over the table. He was lying to her but she had no way to force the truth. So she started to eat, still believing she might find a way to get away. After they finished eating, Jamie cleared the table. She looked out the window and noticed the clouds in the sky.

It had been quite a while since they had come in and the house was getting cold. Jamie was cold and she wanted a fire. It would be a long while or never before, she would get to watch one again. And since she was caught anyway, she had no reason to worry about the smoke.

Jamie asked if she could start the fire. Billy agreed, make the princess happy and take her home. He was going to have to let her take care of a few things before leaving anyway. He did not want her mad again, well maybe enough to get those eyes sparkling, that he did enjoy. Nevertheless, she was an important person to the City and he had to be her security, not her stalker that could wait until he got her back to the city.

Jamie felt the wind the minute she opened the door, and the temperature had dropped dramatically since they had gone inside the house. Billy followed her out to the woodpile and helped with the wood, Jamie believed he only helped so she wouldn't run; of course if she had known this was what was following her she might have slowed down. Jamie had to remind herself, this man wanted her to go to the city, which meant he was the enemy.

"Weather forecast says its going to storm, might be snow." Billy knew snow never confused his senses, but he was trying to cheer her up, he liked watching her try to squirm. This is EDWARD's creator Billy, and you have to get her to the city, before you make her squirm. He thought to himself. As he spoke, Jamie remembered what Conrad had said about getting a storm. This of course gave her an idea. Storms had gotten her out of situations before, she liked rain, and it had a way of comforting and hiding you.


Jamie led Billy to the basement when he reminded her of the module. He seemed distressed that she had already installed it.

"Have you accessed anything with it yet?" He asked with worry in his eyes.

"Seems someone who tracked it would know what it had been used for." Jamie answered with a snicker.

"What did you do with it?" He asked with concern in his voice.

"Why, would it matter if you know who I am you know that I can only access what I am allowed to access." She answered unconcerned.

"That is Shane's E-tek and it would be traced back to him." He answered with a protective attitude.

"You must not have any faith in my abilities at all. I did not access it under his name. I could not do that." She knew she could but felt he needed a little sanity. "It went through my password. And it is no longer Shane's. I'm afraid we had to change the operator so I could use it." She answered glad the questions kept coming and hoping to find a lengthy one for stalling.

"We, who? You can't change the operator; they are only set up for one person and that is in the keypad. And you do not have a password? I took it out and you were never in the city for a new one to be set up." Billy said defending his position and expecting answers.

Jamie watched his controlled outburst. It was exciting to watch that control when he was upset. "EDWARD silly, my password for EDWARD, not the Cities computers, and I thought the same thing about the keypad, until EDWARD corrected me."

"As I said you do not have a password, I took yours out personally. I watch for all unverified access. Security means LIMITED ACCESS." "There are things you do not need to know. How much can you access?" Billy said remembering quickly this was miss bad luck. She was messing everything up again. If she got into anything she wasn't, suppose to, he would never be able to explain the lost E-tek to an amateur rebel.

Jamie could tell she was getting to his professional side and that is where she needed him to be if she was to get to the darkness and the storm, the storm would help her get away, she had done it before. And was going to do it again, if she was to avoid the City.

"I will show you, if you are so concerned." This is what she wanted EDWARD would help. No way would he respond well to this man, she was sure of it.

"By the way, I know your stalling. That's ok I know my way in the dark too." He said while she booted the computer.

"Well that's good, I would hate to get lost when it is so cold out there, and your track record is not that good." She answered coolly. Jamie made sure to manually enter everything, so it would take longer. She explained briefly the problems EDWARD had asked her to correct, expecting him to be set off and want more of an explanation. She knew she could drag a little technical talk a long way. However, he just accepted it and went on, without a fuss. She continued to show the rest of what had been accessed.

"EDWARD, why wasn't I told she accessed the Elite files?" He asked EDWARD without looking at her. This question reminded Jamie she had never asked who he was. Originally, she had just assumed he had been sent to retrieve the E-tek and did not really care who he was. Now it worried her.

"Why would EDWARD inform you of access to the files, they were just policies and public records? Who are you, what's your name?" She asked knowing he was more than what she had thought. Billy had not thought about telling her who he was, you do not just introduce yourself and then snap a person's neck, well not most of the time.

"I am William Wilkes, and none of my policies and records is public to anyone. And if you had access it would be civil information not military. Furthermore, I asked EDWARD, not you." Jamie nearly tipped the chair over, as the name came out of his mouth. She barely heard the rest of what he said in her shock.

"I guess that means that you know who I am." He said calming, amused to have shocked her and catching the chair before it fell.

"Is that classified too?" She asked visibly shaken.

"No, everyone has access to that name, especially beautiful women." He answered as he knelt down to look at the computer.

"Well, I'll remember to tell each one I see." She shot back as she decided the computer was a safer target for her attention. Forgetting herself for a moment, she told EDWARD to show the rest, of what she had accessed.

Jamie had not thought of it as a secret, she had always talked to EDWARD and he had always talked back. One of the improvements on EDWARD had been to re-program him to respond verbally to only a certain few, only those in the highest of Authority. General Wilkes would fall into that category.

How much do you want at a time? EDWARD asked. And that is when his stuffy, even tone and attitude returned.

"He spoke to you? You are a civilian, I do not care who you are, you are not allowed into some areas. You do not have the clearance at this level." Done with her, he turned to the computer.

"EDWARD why would you allow, this woman, access at all, much less military files and why would you raise her clearance to voice resignation she should not have the clearance she is a civilian, with no password?" He spoke to EDWARD in a harsh tone and EDWARD did not respond well to being second-guessed. Jamie watched this flare of anger, and was impressed that the tone was harsh but well controlled, she was curious to see how EDWARD would respond.

EDWARD responded quite simply

General approved password, Voice Recognition is an EDWARD decision, General, no threat is perceived

Billy's head dropped as he recognized the problem. "EDWARD, this is not the same as we discussed. This is a decision that should be based on fact, not assumption." He was speaking in a calm and gentle voice now, as if he was speaking to a child.

"You two seem to know each other rather well, does he always accept your outbursts this well." Jamie said. He shot her a look of silence for interrupting his thoughts, when he noticed she was smiling. She was enjoying this. This could be very bad if anyone else had been given access.

At that thought, he turned to EDWARD and said, "How many people have you given this access to, since our talk last night?" Jamie thought he had asked the question a little too calm, as she understood the significance of the problem.

Two: Mother and Lily

"From this moment, no one is allowed on this premise. It needs to be explained a little longer before it is implemented. Is this acceptable?" He asked in a reluctant tone.

Yes General, that premises has been removed

"Well, you handled that well, you know you have to be very careful at what you allow him to use for conclusions." She said as he sat on the desk. Billy leaned over the chair, laying his hands on the arms of the chair, as if trapping her in and looked into those deep blue eyes. "You know no one knows who you are yet, and I know how to hide the bodies." She might have believed him if his eyes were not smiling with him.

"Not quite true, EDWARD knows and you are going to have to have help in sorting this out or it will come back and haunt you. By the way who is Lily?" She responded with a giggle.

Billy sat back down on the desk knowing she was right; this woman had a way of messing him up. He did not even frighten her. Not that he wanted to. Intimidation had always just come easy and useful. This had started back in Beacon before he knew anything about her; and it seemed any time he had something to do with her he made mistakes. Jason had laughed when he told him he had lost her. Both in the same town, he had lost her.

Laughed then read him the riot act for what felt like hours. He was not used to making mistakes. You keep control and things go how they are expected to. This had been his mistake, he did not explain right to EDWARD. He actually owed her a debt for bringing it to his attention before more damage was done. He would let her fix the mistake. Then he would take her in, drop her off and things would be back to normal.

"Oh, nobody really, just General Brandon's wife." He said with a defeated attitude as he stood and headed to the stairs, and then added. "I am going to get a chair."

When he went up the stairs, Jamie had to laugh. She recalled there being three Generals in charge of the Central Zone instead of the one as the East and West had. One was a woman; she was in charge of the work communities, keeping peace and making decisions, whatever it involved. One was in charge of the Outside and Outsiders, that would be our General getting the chair and the last was the big boy. The one man who everyone answered; including the Prime Minister from the way she understood it. Lily was his wife. This was going to be fun.

Jamie had wandered over to the books by the time Billy came back down. "Thought the chairs would be easier to find than that, you just go straight at the top of the stairs." She told him as he put the chair beside hers in front of the computer.

"I see you didn't come to my rescue and help me find it." He answered settling in the chair. "You don't have to worry about hurrying this up. We have all night. I added more logs to the fire, it was low." He finished.

She walked over to the chair and sat down. "Not so sure of finding your way in the dark any more." Jamie said as she slid back in the chair to get comfortable. He just grinned laid his head back on the top of the chair and with a smile said. "Coffee is on and you have to get it, when it's done."

Billy needed to enter passwords for the files that needed correction, so Jamie went to get the coffee. She wondered why he was not following behind. He seemed intent on keeping an eye on her earlier. She reached the top of the stairs and headed for the coffee pot.

Stopping suddenly, she quickly looked back toward the stairs. "What was she doing? This was her chance." Jamie thought as she turned quickly toward the door. Her eyes widened, as she saw why he did not follow. There had to be at least six inches of snow on the ground and the wind was blowing so hard she could hear it. Yes, Conrad was right, a blizzard was a storm. She glanced back down the stairs and saw him watching, he smiled with a look of triumph before heading back toward the computer. Jamie made the coffee and headed back down.

The problem had not actually been his; it had been a classification error, probably from a programmer who had too much on his mind. Finding the wrong classification on Lily was easy. All they needed was to change the classification and it corrected itself. The General did not feel she constituted a threat and did not delve too deeply, into what she had been doing.

The problem was with Jamie herself. Billy had allowed her password when he had accessed her journal and as long as she was on the outside, she was under military direction. Therefore, she fell into military coding. No matter what they tried, they could not get it to change to a civilian status. Both Jamie and Billy believed when she went through in-take it would correct itself.

Unfortunately Billy had to admit to accessing her journal when he explained to EDWARD she no longer had the access she once did. Jamie was livid at the knowledge and immediately made her opinion known.

"You accessed my journal, why would you do that?" Jamie asked angrily

"Because somebody wouldn't get on any of the transports, and made me chase her for six months." Billy shot back.

"How much did you look at?" Jamie asked paling as she realized everything she had written in those pages.

"Only what he let me see, which wasn't much, sometimes his reasoning eludes me, I think it has to do with his programming. Scatterbrain comes to mind." Billy said trying to ease her mind and sidetrack her concerns.

"Scatterbrain? Must be something you can relate too. You seem to manipulate him rather well." She returned with irritation, believing EDWARD protected her most personal thoughts.

"Actually he does learn rather well, he must have decided he likes logic." Billy answered believing he had successfully eased her mind.

"Logic is fine, until it turns him into another piece of equipment. He is more than that and deserves to learn it all, not just what you want him too." Jamie huffed.

The rest of the night they checked for anyone else who had been classified wrong. That is when they found an interesting pattern. It probably would have gone undetected for quite a while if they had not looked at it together. It took the combination of his knowledge of the military and hers of EDWARD to find the pattern. Neither was sure if it had been deliberate or just a mistake. However, since there was definite a pattern, they believed it to be deliberate.

EDWARD could work on the possible intrusion, finding out what each had accessed, and what it was used for. Knowing it would take a little while to consider all the combinations and what results they would cause, Billy compiled the names, matching classification (right and wrong) and sent it to General Brandon letting him know there may be a problem. After the list was finished and sent to General Brandon, it was dawn.

Jamie dragged herself up the stairs and grabbed her coat. "You are a desperate woman, don't you see its still snowing out there." Billy said as he watched her put on her coat.

"Max must have to go out and I have to take care of the animals. I have been up way to long and am too tired to argue with you. You can follow or you can stay. This won't take long but it does have to be done." He watched her head out in the blizzard and thought how he should follow, but decided she would not run; he had been up well over 48 hours himself and was getting a little cranky and hungry. He never had understood the farm life, but he did understand one part of it. He turned toward the stove and picked up a pan.

Jamie wandered through the barn and made sure the animals were well protected from the storm, and water was accessible and thawed. Then she fed each, before turning back to the house. She stopped for a moment. It had been a long two days, and it had not gone anything like she had hoped. She definitely did not plan to have a man follow her around all day. Not that she totally minded, he was a nice specimen of a man, but going to the city was out of the question. This was her home, but she could make another if she had to. The city was not an option. Jamie turned in the direction of Conrad's and then toward town. Max was with her and that was all she needed.

This should have been the only thought in her head, but her thoughts went to the man inside. He was intelligent, gentle, resourceful, good looking; he had that one covered twice, and that sly but charming smile. Plus he had those eyes, dark and penetrating; they could look to your core if you let them. He was a dangerous man, Cole was proof of that, but she did not feel threatened by him. Of course, that could have just been her stubbornness. Yes, he was a good specimen of a man, too much for her.

She had never known many men, and only one other that was as memorable as this one. That was ten years ago, her father had been so angry, she had actually sneaked out to meet a soldier, he had made her feel alive and adventurous until her father had found them. But Paul was the first and last man she had ever been with, not much comparison there.

She looked at the house and sighed. "Well, the least I can do is go back in and enjoy being cooped up with the "specimen" until he carries me away to the glass castle." She thought. "Come on Max, let's go in." She said as she headed for the door.

The instant she opened the door, Jamie smelled the wonderful scent of bacon and eggs. She had not even noticed she was hungry until she smelled it cooking. "Here, I thought you would just mope around while I was working my butt off." Jamie said while stripping out of her wet coat and boots.

"I get bored easy and you deserved a little treat after last night." He said throwing her one of those sly little grins.

"Well, it does smell good and I think I'm hungry." She said as she sat at the table.

"You don't know?" Billy laughed.

"Kind of numb from lack of sleep but, I think my stomach is saying yes." Jamie said as she filled the fork and popped it in her mouth.

"Staying up isn't much trouble until you stop, then it has a habit of sneaking up on you. You should have sneaked naps like I did last night." He said as he sat and picked up the fork.

"You did not, I had to think about that one, see how tired I am." She said taking another bite.

"Well I thought about it a couple times. Finish your meal and we'll have a shower and get to bed..." And before he could finish, Jamie choked on her food. Billy understood immediately. "I meant one at a time, unless you want to join me." He added with a little laugh.

After her shower, Jamie put on her robe, found clothing of Peter's for the General to wear, and laid them on the couch. She thought they might be the right size or at least close enough. She thought sleep would come quick. Instead, she laid listening to the shower and watching the fire. She had moved the bed when she first moved in just so she could watch the fire as she was falling asleep.

The fire had her hypnotized and she found herself beginning to doze when Billy came out of the shower dressed only in a towel. She thought it amazing he could look even better wet and in a towel than he did in the uniform. He picked up the clothes she had laid out, threw the shirt over a chair, and went back to the bath. He returned in the jeans and lay down on the couch. Her eyes closed.

The Destiny of our making

- 1 -


Copyright © 2009 by D.E. Bowers . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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