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Transformers (Sort Of)

by Catherine Linda Michel

  

I summoned all the strength in the suit, and when I hit the door, I didn't just knock it down, I shattered it, with pieces of it preceding me into the room like shrapnel. I charged into the room beyond like a runaway semi, taking in the scene inside as I went.

There were about 15 or so people inside, with guards where Jim had told us they were. I ran right over the one stationed at the door I'd demolished, staightarming him into unconsciousness. His weapon spiraled away somewhere, but I didn't bother to see where it went. I concentrated on the rest of the men inside, noticing that more than a few of them were making motions like they were drawing weapons.

Out of the corners of my eyes, I could see Jim and Jerry charging in the same way I had, taking out their assigned guards the same way as well. For a few minutes, it was bedlam inside that plant. Jim, Jerry and I went in so fast and so suddenly that most of the men never got a weapon out. The few who either already had one in hand, or were fast enough to draw one, were somewhat hampered in getting a clean shot at any of the three of us, with their own men getting in the way.

We took out most of the, as yet unarmed, men in less time than it takes to tell about it. I'm sure there were many serious if not critical injuries among them, but I didn't bother to just try knocking them out. I was too angry and too hyped to waste any time being gentle. I hit them with all I had, taking no more than one punch, straightarm, or kick at each one, always watching the ones who had managed to get a weapon into their hands. I heard a few shots, but I didn't feel anything hit me.

Somewhere in there, I did notice that there had been one man, sitting in a chair. He didn't move much after we crashed through the doors, and he didn't seem to have a weapon, or at least he wasn't trying to get to one. I noted his position and concentrated on the armed ones, racing past them, trying to disarm them without getting shot again. Once was more than enough for me, thank you very much!

Jim and Jerry seemed to be using the same tactics I was, depending on speed, surprise and superior strength to hit as many as possible. I raced through the group, skidding to a stop and turning around to make a second run. I saw one guy raise his weapon toward Jim or Jerry and I closed on him with all the speed I could muster, hitting his gun arm with a very hard downward chop of my hand. The gun spun out of his grasp, and his arm.......well, it shattered. I felt it give and although It made me somewhat ill to cause that kind of serious damage to another human being, I didn't really have time to think more about it right then. He screamed and went down, and I gave him a kick on the way past him, headed for another, still standing, bad guy.

In just a few minutes, all the bad guys were down, with one trying to make it out a side door. I started toward him, but before I could take more than a step, the door exploded inward, knocking the guy down! I immediately went on guard, not knowing what the hell was going on, but as I slowed to a defensive stance, I saw someone who looked just like ME, coming through the door, into the plant! Immediately I knew who it was.

"Penny!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here? I thought you were still watching the cop shop downtown?"

Penny walked in, taking a second to make sure the guy she'd knocked down wasn't getting up anytime soon, and then she said;

"I heard what you three were talking about on the com, and I left Terry to watch the cops. I thought you all might need a hand here and besides, you and Jerry are still under Jim's and my care. If anything happens to either of you, not only will we feel like crap, but your Mom will never let us forget it. I'd rather face a battalion of bad guys than try to stand up against her when she gets going!" Penny said with a chuckle. "Anyway, it seems like you three have things pretty well in hand. Need a hand tying these jerks up?"

"That'd be great Penny and thanks for the backup." Jim said.

We took a quick look at ourselves and no one seemed to have been hit by any bullets, or damaged in any other way. The guy I had noticed before was still sitting in the chair, only now I noticed that he was actually tied to it. His eyes were bugging out and he had a scared look on his face as he watched us. I stalked over to him.

"Who the hell are you and what do you have to do with the rest of this garbage?" I grated.

"Who the hell are YOU people?" He replied with a shaking voice. "Jesus Christ! These sonsofbitches were gonna kill me just like they did Tommy when you people come bustin' in here like some kinda Avengers superguys, or somethin'! Me and Tommy were just drivin' them trucks out there, but after we got here, that guy, whose arm you destroyed, was gonna do me in! I shoulda knew better than to trust these sneaky bastards, but the money they offered was too good to turn down. I swear I don't know nothin' about what the hell they was doin' or anything like that. Please don't hurt me?"

I recognized his voice as one of the drivers I'd heard talking back at the lab, so I knew that part of his story was true. Beyond that, I wasn't sure of anything, but I was damned certain I was gonna find out!

"You just sit there and shut up." I spat at him. "I don't trust anybody in this place except for those I know right now, and you aren't in that category. Just keep your mouth shut until someone asks you a question, got it?"

"Y..y..yes ma'am." He quavered. And he did just that.

I took a moment to try to calm down a bit, again checking with the rest to make sure no one had gotten hurt other than the bad guys. None of us were hurt in any way, but Jerry was as high as a kite on adrenaline, almost shaking from the excitement.

"Man!" he shouted. "Did you see that? Shit Donna, we went through those guys just like we were superheroes! Guys flying here and there, bullets flying everywhere! It was too damn cool, I tell ya!"

I let him babble for a few minutes and, to tell the truth, I wasn't that far from joining him. It was cool, damn it! Every time we had a chance to use the suits that way, it cranked my adrenaline way up as well, so I understood how Jerry felt. We needed to cool down, and fast though, so I made a real effort to calm down and tried to get Jerry under control as well.

While Jerry and I were trying to come down off our combat highs, Jim and Penny were busy tying up bad guys and assessing injuries. More than a few of them had broken limbs or ribs etc, and none of them were moving much at all, at least those who were still conscious weren't moving.

I contacted the other over the com and brought them up to speed, letting them know that things here were well in hand. They answered, saying that there was no sign of anything happening in town or at the lab. That puzzled me a bit, but I didn't have time to think about it just then. I had other things to think about.

We got all the bad guys tied securely, and then I faced the trucker. He was pretty much scared spitless and I didn't think he really knew anything. The problem was, if we let him go, would he talk? Would he tell everyone what he'd seen and experienced? I had to make sure, so I knelt down in front of him and put my face about three inches off his nose.

"The way I see it, we have two choices as to what to do with you." I began, in the hardest voice I could manage. We can just deal with you right here and now and not have to worry about what you'll do. The might be the easiest and safest course of action for us, but you know something? I think you're telling me the truth. You had nothing more to do with these guys other than driving their truck, so here's what I propose. I'm gonna untie you. You're gonna get up off that chair, go to your truck, drive the hell outta here, and never say a word about any of this to anyone! How does that sound to you?"

"Shit yeah, lady!" He responded shakily. "You got yourself a deal there. Besides, who the hell would believe me if I did say anything? Hell, I'd probably get locked up in some padded room somewhere! Even I don't believe what I saw you people do!"

I had another thought just then, and I called a quick conference with the others.

"How about we take these idiots..." and I indicated the 'bad guys'..."toss them in one of the trailers, and have this trucker just drop it off somewhere? I don't feel like dealing with them, and I don't believe we are gonna get any info out of them anyway. At least this way they're outta our hair for awhile, and by the time they get loose we'll be long gone. Something tells me that these guys are some sort of commando group or something, and they know how to resist torture and stuff, and I'm really not into any of that crap anyway. I already feel bad enough that I hadda hurt some of them."

We talked it over for a couple of minutes and they agreed with me, although Jerry was still in favor of trying to get some info. I think we all knew we wouldn't get anything out of them though, and this way we didn't have to.....well....kill them to keep them quiet and out of our way.

"What do you three think? Should we just let this poor fool go, or just leave him here for the bugs and vermin to clean up?" I said, in a bloodthirsty sounding voice.

Over the com, in a voice too low for him to hear, I told them to play along and scare thus guy half to death before agreeing with me that we should let him go. We pretend argued back and forth with Jim and Jerry taking the bad cop roles and Penny and I playing good cop. Finally we reached an agreement and I started to untie the trucker.

As he got up from the chair and began to try to get feeling back into his hands and feet, I grabbed him by his shirt front and started lifting him off his feet, snarling into his face again.

"Buddy, you better be telling the truth here! If any of us ever hear of you running your mouth about what happened here, we will hunt your sorry ass down and make you wish your Mother had never met your Father! Do I make myself clear?"

At that point.....well, he soiled himself. I know he felt the strength of the hands holding him up in the air, and the sincerity of what I said to him.

"Lady?" He said. "You better bet your uh, butt, that I ain't never gonna say nothin' to nobody about this! Look. I was just tryin' to make some bread, you know? These guys offered a pile of cash for a minor driving job, and me and Tommy jumped at it. It ain't easy to make a living anymore with diesel prices what they are, ya know? Lettin' me outta here with a whole skin will be more than okay with me, lady. Okay?"

Well, I kinda felt bad for the guy, and he had lost his friend as a result of all this madness. I put him back on his feet and told him;

"Go through these guys stuff and gather all the cash they're carrying. Since they aren't gonna object and since your trailer is unloaded, you can load these fools and do us a favor. Just load them up and take your trailer somewhere and leave it. If you want to, and have a way to do it, you can take a couple of their vehicles with you and get rid of them any way you want. One thing. I want half of what you get to get sent to your pal's family, clear? If you let us know where he lived, we'll make arrangements to get his rig back there, or leave it somewhere you can get it. One! Damn! Word!, out of you that we ever hear about, and Tommy there won't be the only one who leaves a bereaved family behind. Is that clear?"

"You got it, lady! I don't need to have a building fall on me! I'll be outta here before you know it, and I won't never say nothin'!"

He turned away from me and hesitantly made his way over to where the bad guys stuff was stacked. He went through all the wallets, taking all the cash, along with a wad that the guy with the shattered arm had in a money belt. He walked to the door, looking back at us like he still wasn't sure we were serious about letting him go.

I stopped him just before he went out the door, saying;

"Give us 4 hours after you leave to get this mess cleaned up. You can then go tell the cops where to find your pal's body, but that better be all you tell them. If they ask how he got shot, you don't know a damn thing. You two stopped out here for a break, and he got shot. Maybe by some hunter, or target shooter, or something. You make something up and make it believable. Got it?"

"Yes ma'am!" He stuttered, and then he was gone. Penny went out to help load the vehicles and conscious and semi-conscious bodies into his trailer.

We took Tommy's body and arranged it outside the old plant, just by the pull up doors, making it look like he was just sitting there, taking a break, when he was hit by a stray bullet. I hated leaving him there like that, but I knew it was necessary. As for the trucker, I didn't really trust him, but I didn't see any other choice. I certainly wasn't gonna be any part of killing anyone unless they were already in the process of trying to kill me, or any of my friends or family.

We took all the weaponry and dumped it into the quarry, which was, in places, over 100 feet deep. It was rumored that there was a full size locomotive down there somewhere, so we didn't figure a few weapons would be found anytime soon. Besides, with the powers we all had there really wasn't a need for any more weaponry.

Then we legged it back toward town, thinking we'd try to unravel why the cops hadn't stopped these guys. Penny had told us that, even after these guys had left, there wasn't any movement at the police station, and all the patrol cars were still parked in back of the jail. That sounded really strange to me, and we made our best speed, which was pretty fast, back to town.

When we got there, we sneaked around through some of the alleys until we arrived at the jail. Once there, we decided that only me and Paul would go inside, with Penny and Jerry staying outside. Paul and I would just look like a normal couple, and Penny and Jerry would be there for backup if we needed them.

We tried to enter the cop shop, but the door was locked! That was very strange to me, and I applied a little pressure to the doorknob, breaking the lock, and we walked cautiously inside, closing the door behind us. I called out, but no one answered. Again, very strange.

We made our way back toward the jail section and, when we arrived at the locked steel door that led inside, I called out again. This time, I heard a faint cry, or voice, coming from inside, but no one came to open the door or question who we were. Paul grabbed the steel door and applied pressure, but it still didn't open, so I added my strength to his, and the door finally opened, darn near coming right off it's hinges.

Immediately I heard several voices calling out, asking who we were and could we help them! Rounding a corner, we were astounded to see all the cops locked up in the cells! They all started yelling at the same time, wanting us to let them out, and I held up a hand and yelled,

"One at a time, please! I can't understand a darn thing you are trying to tell us!"

They quieted down and one cop, who I recognized as the town police chief, spoke up, saying

"I don't know who you two are, but you have to let us out of these cells! There are some really bad guys out there! They left us a few hours ago, locked into these cells, and I heard them say they were going to steal things from that lab outside of town, and also they were talking about doing some serious harm to, or even kidnapping some people! Look, the keys should be in the outer room, in one of the desks. Please let us out so we can do our jobs!"

I went back into the other room and, after a couple of minutes I located the keys, returning to the jail area where we unlocked the cell doors and let the cops out. I started to open one other cell, but the Chief stopped me, saying that those men were real prisoners, waiting for trial. I left that cell locked and we all went back out into the front office area, where the cops re-armed themselves and found keys for their vehicles. Then they took off out the door, headed for their cars to resume their patrols and search for the bad guys who had locked them up.

The Chief thanked us and asked again who we were. Paul sorta sidestepped that question by asking the Chief how those guys had managed to catch them all unaware.

"Well," said the Chief, "There were just a couple of us here, everyone else was out on patrol. They came in with weapons drawn and took us by surprise, taking our guns and locking us up. They made me call the other cars and have them come to the station, one at a time, and ambushed them when they came in, locking them up as well. They never said who they were, and they never asked us for anything else. Just locked us up and closed that jail door, after disarming all of us. I only heard bits and pieces of what they were saying among themselves, but that was enough! I didn't think they'd leave us alive, but they left in a hurry, after a few hours. I heard the phone ring a few times, but I never heard what was said to whoever called. Anyway, after they left, we tried to call out to anyone who might hear us, but you say the outside door was locked?"

"Yes, that's right." I replied.

"Well, that's why nobody else came in after those guys left then. Say. How did you two get in here if the door was locked?"

"Well, I'm ashamed to say," said Paul, "I forced the door. I thought it was damn strange that a police station would be locked in the middle of the day, and I saw all the cars out back. I figured something was wrong. I'll be happy to pay for the door if you want."

"Oh hell no!" The Chief replied. "You two got us out of a bad situation! You ought to get a commendation or something! We'll eat the cost of the door. Say. Who did you say you were again?"

I let Paul handle that question while I contacted the others on the coms, letting them know what had happened, and asking them to stay where they were until Paul or I called them in.

The Chief seemed to be satisfied with what Paul told him, but he still looked a bit puzzled.

"Didn't I see you two here in town a week or two back? I swear you two look familiar to me."

I looked at Paul and he looked at me. Finally I said,

"Hey Paul. We gotta trust somebody, sometime. I've known the Chief for a long time, through my Dad, and you and Penny know him too. He's an honest guy and we need somebody on our side who has some legal authority. I say we tell him the whole story and see what happens. What do you think?"

"Kid," said Paul, in a somewhat exasperated tone of voice. "I don't really want to have to trust anyone outside of our group, but I think you're right. We can't handle this alone any more, and I'm tired of having to sneak around. Why don't you fill him in while I contact the others and let them in on this?"

I sighed and said to the Chief, you better sit down. This is gonna be a long, strange story, but I swear it's all true. When you hear what I have to say, I'll answer any questions you might have. Fair enough?"

"Okay." Said the Chief, but this better be good and it better tell me what the hell's going on around this town. We've had some people just up and leave for no good reasons, and then these commandos or whoever the hell they were, come in here and lock me and my officers up in our own damn jail!"

"Oh trust me Chief. Once you've heard what I have to tell you, you're gonna know the whole strange story and hopefully, you'll see your way clear to help us."

Well, I sat there and related the whole tale to the police Chief, leaving nothing out, including the fight at the old warehouse and where the bad guys could likely be found. I didn't tell him about the trucker we had let go, hoping that he'd do as he'd said he would and just forget he'd ever seen us. Anyway, by the time I was done, the Chief was just sitting there with an incredulous look on his face.

"You mean to tell me....you're....Donnie? In some kind of science fiction super suit? And there are more of you? How many?"

"Well," I said. "There's me and Paul, Penny, Terry and Jerry, my best friend. I know you remember that we got jobs at that lab, and you know my folks and his. They're safe with another friend of ours, along with Jerry's sister, so you can set your mind at ease as far as they're concerned. I'm not gonna tell you where they are, because if you won't help us, then you won't be able to say anything about where they are. It's not that I don't trust you, but we've been on the run and we're getting tired of having to hide and sneak around, and like I told Paul, we gotta trust somebody, sometime."

The Chief just sat there, looking at me for what seemed like forever, before finally saying,

"Kid. That is the damnedest story I've ever heard, but I remember Donnie, if that's really who you are, and Jerry getting jobs out at the lab, and I've always thought that there were some mighty strange folks working on God knows what, out there. After what's happened today, and you doing what you did, I'm inclined to believe you though. I can see that this is gonna be a big deal, and I want you to know that I'm gonna help in any way I can. I've known your folks for a long time, ever since I moved here and got elected Chief, and everything you've told me matches up with what I know about them."

He got up from behind his desk and walked over to me with his hand out.

"You can count on me and my men, Donnie....er...Donna....oh what the hell do I call you anyway?"

"Donna will do, Chief. I've gotten sort of used to how I look inside this suit and Donna is a better name for the way I look than Donnie, don't you think? Now that I've told you the whole story, why don't I call the rest in here so you can meet them and verify what I've told you, further?"

"Okay, Donna." He said. He walked back around his desk and sat down, giving a big troubled sounding sigh, and I called the rest in, except for Terry who decided to head back to the hospital to continue trying to locate Dr. Fine.

After the rest had joined me and the Chief inside the station, the Chief verified what I'd told him, along with some other information and then told us all what he'd told me about us being able to count on him.

"I don't care much for people busting in here and locking me and my officers in our own damn cells, so if helping you all will get me closer to who they are, then count me and my officers in!" He said, forcefully.

We called out for delivery food and began making plans for ending this idiocy the best way we could, but I had a feeling that, even with a town Police Chief and force on our side, it wasn't gonna be easy to get anything done unless we had a clue just who those commando dudes were, and until we found Dr. Fine.

Just then, Terry called from the hospital. He told us he had a lead on Dr. Fine who had awakened from his coma, but had been transferred to a mental hospital because he went, as Terry said, bonkers! I let the Chief know what Terry had just told us and then Jerry and I headed for the hospital.

We had to know where Dr. Fine was, and I was gonna make damn sure we found him, one way or another. The Chief said he'd have a patrol car take us over, but we told him to just have it meet us there, as we could get there faster. He just shook his head and chuckled.

"If you all can do what you told me about, then you're probably right." and he radioed the car to meet us there.

Jerry and I took off at damn near our top speed and, for once, I wasn't concerned about who might see us doing something strange, like running at much higher speeds than any human being had any right to reach. We were gonna get to the bottom of this mystery if it was the last thing we ever did!

PART THREE


By the time we reached the hospital, I was nearing my boiling point, temper-wise. I wanted this crap done with, and the only way to end it was finding Dr. Fricking Fine! Jerry was trying to calm me down, but I was past the point of being calmed.

"Jerry!" I yelled, over the com. "Forget that shit! I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"

"Oh I see." He shot back at me. "You're gonna quote movie lines at me now? You must be pissed off then! Look, we gotta be cool about this. We can't just charge into the hospital and beat answers out of anyone and everyone we come in contact with, you know?"

"How'd you know that's just what I wanna do?" I asked sarcastically. I figure once we cripple a couple of doctors, the rest will be more than happy to tell us anything we want to know. Of course I'm not gonna do that you idiot! We've finally got someone on the outside of all this, and he's a cop, for God's sake! You think I wanna risk blowing that?"

"Hey Donna, don't come down hard on me! I'm on your side, remember? I just don't wanna risk losing what little lead we might have on those weirdos in the black suits and SUVs. We gotta beat them to Dr. Fine and get this stuff figured out and ended, once and for all. I got the feeling that we're gonna have to fight those jerks more than one more time before this is over with, and I wanna do it with all the info I can get, on our side!"

"I know that Jerry! Look, I'm just pissed right now, but I'm not gonna do anything stupid, okay? Jeeze! I know what we have to do, and I want this to be over with worse than you do! Once we get to Dr. Fine, we'll get the answers we need and maybe then we can either beat those guys, or get them off our asses, at least. I've got quite enough with trying to get used to being a friggin' girl, without you worrying that I'm gonna do something dumb! Now just shut up and trust me, okay? There's the hospital up ahead."

We breezed through the emergency doors on the run, running right past some confused patients and a couple of doctors and nurses who didn't have time to even say anything. We went straight to the records department, where we bulled our way in and confronted a bored looking woman. She looked up at us, and said.

"Are you here to settle a bill?" In a sort of whiny, tired sounding voice. You'll need to give me the patient's name and social security number so I can look it up on the computer. Name?"

I pushed Jerry to one side and said, "Dr. Howard Fine, and I don't know his damned social security number! We're in kinda a huge hurry here and I need that info now!"

"I'm sorry. If you don't have his social security number, I'll have to search the computer records and that could take much longer." She said, in that same bored sounding tone of voice.

I hopped the counter and gently moved her away from the computer. She squawked and tried to push me back, but she might as well have tried to move the hospital itself. I tapped into the computer, using something I'd found in the suit's software and found Dr. Fine's name in nothing flat. It said that he'd been transferred to Arkwright Sanitarium about a week ago. Something about incurable mental trauma or some medical gibberish like that. He was diagnosed as incurable and his commitment was to be for the rest of his life unless he got cured. I thanked the, by now, thoroughly confused and distraught woman for the use of her computer and got on the com to Jerry, Penny, Terry and Paul. I relayed the info to them and arranged to meet them at the sanitarium as soon as we could get there.

They all gave me an 'okay' and Paul told us that the Chief was just pulling inn to the hospital parking lot. I tried to raise him on his police band, but I couldn't locate the frequency, so I just jumped back over the counter, and Jerry and I headed for the parking area.

We got there just as the Chief was getting out of his car, and I quickly ran over to him and told him where we had located Dr. Fine.

"Damn!" he yelled. "I was afraid of that! That place is bad news, kids. You wouldn't know about this, but I do. People have been sent there to be cured of one thing or another, but they come out....strange, if they come out at all."

"What do you mean, strange? I asked.

"Strange like...different. I mean...oh hell, I'm not sure I know what I mean. They just aren't the same folks they were before they went nuts and got sent there is all. Look, I'm a cop, not a shrink! All I know is that I wouldn't send my worst enemy into that place for treatment. Hell, they've been investigated at least a dozen times over the years, and nobody could find anything wrong, but I know somethings fishy as hell in there, okay? We're gonna have to be careful as hell is all I'm saying."

"Screw careful! I growled. I'm tired of being careful! None of this shit is my fault or Jerry's, and I want it over with! If I gotta bust into that place and tear it apart brick by brick, that's exactly what I'm gonna do! Are you with me, Jerry?"

"Hell yes, Donna!" He answered. I'm as sick of all this stuff as you are! Let's kick ass and chew bubblegum!"

"Well Jerry, I'm outta bubblegum, so I guess kicking asses is what we're gonna do! Hey, Paul, Terry, Jim, Penny. You out there?"

"Yeah Donna. Paul answered for all of them. "What's the play?"

"The play is that Jerry and I are going in, and we're taking no prisoners. We're gonna get Dr. Fine, no matter what shape he's in, and get his butt outta there. Then we're gonna go somewhere reasonably safe and squeeze answers out him! We need you four to back us up. Make sure nobody comes in to surprise us or get in the way, okay?"

"You got it, kids!"

I heard him giving out instructions to the other three, setting up a guard/backup team in case anything went wrong. The Chief wasn't sure about my plan, but he knew there was only one thing he could do, and that was to back us up as well. He got on his radio and told all his patrol cars to block the roads leading to the sanitarium until they heard from him again. Then he turned to us and said,

"I don't know if this is the smart way to go about this, but you two have made up your minds, and I ain't got the horsepower to stop you. I'll tell you this though. If you hurt any patients, or anyone else who is innocent in all this, I'll be on your asses from now 'til I either catch you, or die. I took an oath to uphold the law, and that's what I gotta do, no matter what. I know there are weird circumstances involved here and I'm willing to go along with this plan because it might be the only way to get what you need, but the law is the law. You break it, you go too far, and I'll bust you for it, got it?"

I listened to him politely, as if there was anything he could do to us to stop us, knowing that we were gonna do this no matter what. When he finished his little speech I said,

"I hear you Chief, but let me warn you! I've been through as much crap as I care to go through! Me and Jerry have been threatened, shot at, ambushed and intimidated. Our families have gone through hell because of these damned suits and that mentally defective Doctor! If you think you can stop us, you're welcome to try, but you didn't do so well with those bad guys. How much do you think you and your cops can do against the six of us? No offense Chief, 'cause I'd rather have you with us than against us, but you need to just stand aside and let us do what we gotta do. If we do anything really wrong, we'll turn ourselves in. Otherwise, just back us up and don't let us get surprised, deal?"

He thought for a minute, and I could see several emotions chase one another across his expressive face. Finally he seemed to settle something within himself and said,

with a heavy sigh,

"I guess you got me there, Donna. Look, I'll do what I can for you and Jerry, but I will not go against the law! Any damage you do, any people you hurt, it'll be my duty to try to arrest and detain you. If what you say those suits can do is true, I know I'll be on the losing side of the fight, but I'm counting on your honesty and your words. Keep it as clean as you can, and I'll back you as far as I can. Screw up, and I'll have the damn National guard after all of you! Got it?"

I sighed, knowing the Chief was only doing what he had to do.

"Okay Chief." I finally said. "We'll try to keep the damages and mayhem to a minimum, but if anyone gets in our way or tries to attack or shoot us, don't expect us to hold back. That's my final word on it. Deal."

Well, the Chief did as he'd said he would. He had all the roads leading to the place blocked, and gave further instructions to not let anyone in or out until further instructions from him. Then he turned to us and said,

"Okay kids. Go do what you have to do, and remember your promise."

"We will, Chief, and....well, thanks for trusting us. I know that you're bending the laws you hold dear, and I appreciate it." I said.

I hugged him briefly and then turned to Jerry.

"You ready to go?" I asked.

"You bet, Donna. Let's go do this!" He replied.

"Penny? Jim? Paul? Terry? You guys all set up?" I checked on the com.

I got four "rogers" back, and I told them we were going in on a count of five.

"Watch your backs and help the cops if it comes to that." I told them. Then I started the count.

One....two....three....four....FIVE! And when I shouted the last number, both Jerry and I took off at a dead run towards the closed outer doors of the sanitarium. We paused, briefly, to make certain no one was gonna get hit by flying glass and metal and, seeing no one in the way, we busted out way in, scaring the crap out of a few people in the lobby.

We stopped only to ask the receptionist where Dr. Fine was being held, but she was so scared she just sat there, shaking and screaming. I jumped the counter and rifled through the files I found on the other side. Finding Dr. Fine's name, I grabbed the folder and jumped back to the other side. Then Jerry and I took off towards the room indicate in the folder, room 222.

We ran down the hallways, looking for the room number and avoiding people who might come walking out of doorways and turning corner after corner until, there it was! Room 222!

Stopping outside, I checked the door and it was locked, so Jerry and I 'gently' forced it open, and there he was, lying in a bed, seemingly either asleep or drugged out. I shook him gently, trying to wake him, but he just lay there like a rag doll. I told Jerry to watch the door while I checked the folder, looking for any medications they had him on.

Now I didn't know much about medicines and drugs, but there was a whole list of them in that folder. Too many, it seemed to me.

"Jerry? It looks like we're gonna have to carry him outta here. I'll do that, while you keep the way clear for me. Get with the others and have them pull in and meet us somewhere away from here. Someplace where we can be reasonably safe and not have to worry about interference. Okay?"

"Consider it done, Donna." He answered, and I heard him contact the others.

We arranged to meet back at the jail, with the permission of the Chief, figuring that with all those cops, plus all of us, that would be the safest place in town. Leaving the place, we didn't run into any opposition and we took it easy, trying our best to live up to the promise we'd made. We ran out the door and deposited Dr. Fine in the Chief's car, telling him to head back to the jail while the six of us ran interference and backup.

He jumped into his car, locking the doors and took off towards town, siren blaring and lights flashing. We heard him call his officers and tell them what was going on, and to clear the way for him. I turned to Jerry to ask him if we should head back with the Chief or take a roundabout way to see if there was anything or anyone trying to stop us.

Jerry was about to say something when I heard what sounded like something hitting my suit! About the same time, I heard a gunshot, and I turned in a tight circle, trying to spot the shooter. Using the suit's infrared, I located a guy up on the third floor of the sanitarium with some kind of strange looking rifle! He looked to be wearing the same sort of black catsuit the other bad guys had worn, and I made him for one of them.

Jerry and I jumped into action by the time he'd had time to fire another shot and he missed both of us. We separated, with me going back in the front doors, and Jerry heading around back. On the way, I got on the com and told Jim and Penny that we were being shot at, and to get there, post haste!

I hit the doors at flank speed, making sure nobody was in the way, although I had to dodge and weave between shocked workers and patients. Finding the stairwell, I shot up the stairs, hitting the door to the third floor, taking it off the hinges, and hoping there was nobody near it.

Over the com I heard Jerry saying he was in the back door and heading my way as fast as he could go. I also heard Jim and Penny checking in, saying that they were almost there and what did we need from them.

"Watch the outside and make sure nobody gets hurt, or tries to get away." I answered. Watch for snipers as well." I told them.

"You got it, Donna." Jim responded. "You watch your asses in there, hear me?"

"I think you better tell that to whoever shot as us, Jim. I'm gonna take him apart, one piece at a time til he tells me why he shot at us!" I said.

I found the door that most likely led into the room where the sniper would be, and I took it off it's hinges at full speed. Whoever was inside would have to watch out for themselves. I was too mad to care! Inside, I saw one man, turning from the window with a rifle in his hands, and a shocked look on his face.

"What the hell?" He said, just before I ran into him, shoving him into the wall and knocking the rifle out of his hands. He bounced off the wall and hit the floor, hard. I grabbed him by the back of his neck and clothes and held him up in the air, his legs kicking feebly.

"I want answers, and I want them now, you sonofabitch! Who the hell are you and why did you shoot at me? Who the hell are your people and what do they want with us? Answer me you bastard or I swear I'll break your damn neck!"

Well, I guess I either squeezed a bit too hard, or else I just scared the shit out of him, because he voided his bowels and fainted. I dropped him to the floor, gagging on the odor that filled the room. About that time, Jerry came charging into the room. He noted the guy on the floor and yelled,

"Shit, Donna! What'd you do? Kill him?"

"No, you dope! He musta fainted from fear....or I mighta squeezed him a bit too hard. Either way, he's still breathing, although he sure stinks!"

I stuck my head out the door and saw a nurse standing there, shaking in fear. I went over to her and tried to calm her, and told her that I wasn't gonna hurt her. She calmed down a bit, and I asked her if she could find some clothes for a guy about the size of the one who I had attacked. She pointed to a nearby door and told me that it was a supply closet and there should be something in there.

I went over and opened the door and found some 'scrubs' that I thought might fit, and went back into the room, where the guy was still passed out on the floor. I stripped the clothes off him, trying to ignore the stink, carried him into an en-suite bathroom and dumped him into a shower there, turning on the water and rinsing him off quickly. Then I dragged his naked butt back into the room and Jerry and I dressed him in the 'scrubs'.

"Maybe we finally got one who'll talk, Jerry." I said. Let's take him back to the jail and see what we can get outta him."

"Sounds like a plan to me, Donna. You wanna carry him, or should I?"

"I think it's your turn, Jerry. I cleaned him off, after all."

"Well, ordinarily I'd argue the point with you, Donna, but I think we should get outta here before reinforcements arrive, so lets go!"

Jerry picked the guy up and slung him over his shoulder with no more effort than you would have, lifting a kitten, and we took off out of there. I grabbed the rifle on the way out, hoping it might be able to give us some kind of lead or clue about who these guys were.

I contacted the others on the com, telling them that we were okay, and headed back to town with a prisoner. They acknowledged my message and said they'd meet us on the way to town. We all met up and quickly took off for the jail at our best speed. On the way back to town, I brought everyone up to speed on what had happened, leaving out the part about the really bad smell in that room. I also had Jerry check me, on the run, to make sure that the bullet that had hit me, hadn't done any damage. He didn't find any, to my relief and once again I thanked Dr. Fine for at least making the suits strong enough to withstand gunfire, while cursing him for making them in the first place.

We arrived at the jail at about the same time as the Chief did, in his car, and we took our prisoner inside, along with Dr. Fine, depositing the prisoner in a cell, and Dr. Fine on a bed in another cell. I asked the Chief if he could get Doc Jamison over there to check on Dr. fine, and he said he'd do that right away, and left the cell area to make a phone call.

Several minutes went by without either Dr. Fine or the sniper showing any signs of waking up, and about that time, the Chief came walking back in with the town Doctor, Doc. Jamison. Doc took in what he saw with surprising equanimity, going right to Dr. fine, and then the other guy, checking them both out briefly before turning to the Chief.

"Okay Jim. You got me over here, now what the hell is going on, and who are these people?" He indicated the six of us who were, by now, all inside the cell area.

"Doc." He said. "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. Hell, I'm not completely sure I believe it myself, but there's just too much in their favor to doubt them. Just trust me when I say that they're friends, and they're in big trouble. This one guy over here is Dr. Fine, that kook scientist who got hurt in that accident at the lab a week or so ago. This other one took a shot at this young lady here, but missed, and was apprehended by me and my boys. I need you to look them over, especially Dr. fine, who seems drugged or something. This other one will keep until we find out more about the Dr. here."

"I'm a Doctor, Jim, not a lab technician! Yeah this guy looks drugged, but I have no way of knowing what the hell he's on without taking samples and running them through a lab! As for this other one, he's just out cold and he smells funny too! Now you mind telling what the hell is going on here? Or am I gonna have to guess?"

I interrupted then, and began to tell Doc. The whole story, hoping he'd not only believe me, but help us if he could. By the time I finished, he had this look on his face like he thought I was crazier than a whorehouse bedbug.

"Come on!" He finally said, when I was finished. "You don't actually expect me to believe that load of crap, do you? That's the wildest tale I've heard in years! You aren't buying into this load, are you Jim? You can't expect me to believe that this beautiful young woman here is Donnie Franklin?"

The Chief scratched his head and looked right at Doc Jamison.

"Doc." He said. "If I hadn't seen some of the things I've seen today, I wouldn't believe any of it either, but I've seen things that I never thought I would, and I do believe them when they say who they are."

I took hold of a cell door, jacked up the strength of the suit to maximum, and pulled it off it's hinges, bending a couple of the bars in the process.

"Believe us now, Doc? Sorry about that, Chief. I'll replace that door when this is all over."

I dropped the door on the floor with a resounding clang, and looked at Doc Jamison.

He looked at me like I was from Mars or something, his mouth wide opening and closing like he was trying to talk, but couldn't find any words. Finally he managed to sputter,

"What the hell is going on here? How did you do that, young lady, and why do some of you look like twins? Chief, if I don't start getting some straight answers here, I'm going to have to call the State Police and get them in here, since it looks like you've lost what you laughingly call a mind!"

I grabbed Doc's arm and gently turned him to face me.

"Look, Doc. I know this sounds like some kinda bad science fiction story, but I swear it's true. Ask me anything you want about my, Donnie's, life, and I'll answer it. If that doesn't convince you, then nothing will."

Doc huffed and puffed, but came up with some questions that only Donnie Franklin could answer, and I get every one of them right, even adding some things he'd forgotten, and dropping a couple that were designed to trap me. Eventually, he shook his head in disbelief, but he also said,

"Well, I got to say that you're either an incredible fake, or you really are Donnie Franklin, and you say that this tall, handsome guy at your side is Jerry, your best friend? This is just too crazy for me. Look, I'll do what I can for these two unconscious folks, but I need to really think about all the rest. I still can't.......hey! That guy is waking up!"

I looked over at the sniper and he was moving a bit and moaning. I asked doc to go check on him, since I didn't wanna scare him unconscious again, not to mention I didn't wanna experience that smell again. Doc went over to him and checked his pulse and stuff and tried to ease him into full consciousness. Pretty soon, he opened his eyes and looked around.

"Oooooh! My head! What the hell hit me? Hey! Where the hell am I? ?Who the hell are you?"

Doc started to try to calm him down, but I needed answers, and when I saw that he was more or less fully awake, I moved into his line of sight. Then I walked slowly over to where he lay on the cell bunk.

"Thanks Doc, I can handle this from here." I said.

I gently moved Doc out of the cell and stood, facing the sniper.

"The only reason you are alive is I need information from you, and you are gonna tell me everything you know about who you are, and who is after us. You have no choice, since your only other alternative is severe, continuing pain, which, after all I've been through these past several days, I will gladly inflict on you!"

Now I had no real intention of hurting the guy, but he didn't know that. To make my point, I picked up the damaged cell door and bent some of the bars to show I was fully capable of putting a hurt on him. His face went pale and he began to shake. Doc tried to horn in, saying something about threatening a patient, but I didn't move, and Doc, trying to push me aside, only succeeded in pushing himself away.

"Sorry, doc." I said. "But I need what this guy knows, and I'm not leaving here until he tells me what I need to know. I've been chased, shot at, threatened, and I've taken all I'm gonna take from this twit and his cronies. Chief? Would you please take Doc here over to Dr. Fine and have him try to figure what he's on, while I question this piece of crap?"

"Now look, Donna," The Chief said. This is my jail, and I won't tolerate any abuse of a prisoner while he's in my custody!"

I took the Chief aside and whispered in his ear.

"I'm not gonna really hurt him, but I need him to think I will. I've dealt with the bunch he's in with before, and physical force seems to be the only thing they respond to. Trust me Chief. You've gone along with us on this, trusting us up til now. We're not gonna do anything to break that trust, but I have to know what he knows. I also need info from Dr. Fine over there, but I don't know when, if ever, he'll be able to tell me anything, so I gotta get what I can from this guy."

Well, the Chief kinda hemmed and hawed for a minute or so, but I think he knew he could trust me to not do anything stupid, so he grabbed Doc Jamison and was talking to him while he led him back over to the cell Dr. Fine was in. After they left, I went back into the cell the sniper was in and began questioning him.

"Now look you sonofabitch." I said, quietly. "I want you to tell me whatever you know about your pals and what the hell they want from us. I know they want the suits, but why? Choose fast, because in a minute, the pain begins. I'm not a patient person, and trust me, I can hurt you so it doesn't show. I can put you in a wheelchair, in pain, for the rest of your miserable life, if you don't start talking!"

He started denying everything, claiming he was just a security guy at the sanitarium and he thought we were some kind of terrorists or something. I quickly convinced him that I knew he was lying. Eventually, I brought him around, with a little judicious pain applications, and he began to tell me what I needed to know! Or at least what he knew about it.

He claimed that he was hired to help reclaim some merchandise, namely the suits, for their 'rightful owner.' They were funded, he said, by a guy who claimed to have invented the technology, but had it stolen from him by Dr. Fine. Apparently, this "guy" had a load of money and wasn't afraid to spread it around to get what he wanted. Well, the pay was good, but this sniper guy also said that, with what we'd done to two of their 'special teams', he was thinking about getting out with a whole skin, but hadn't done that before we got to where he was working. He was there to keep an eye on Dr. fine and to let his boss know when Dr. Fine woke up.

I had been relaying everything through the coms, to the others. They listened while this guy told his story and gave up the information we had been needing to begin moving this thing toward an end. We now knew that it wasn't the government that was after us, and that was a huge weight off all of our shoulders. However, we also knew that, whoever this 'boss' was, he was someone with a lot of clout, and a lot of money. You don't have a semi-army of mercenaries without also having deep pockets to pay for them.

The sniper, let's call him Frank, told us that he didn't know where his boss was located, nor did he know how they kept being able to locate us. He did tell us that the guy was ruthless and, in Frank's words, crazier than hell, being totally fixated on the suits and their technology. His men were supposed to capture the suits, get everything Dr. Fine had, including his nearly undecipherable notes, and whatever information he had in his mind. Frank didn't know how they planned to get that last item.

When it seemed that Frank had finished his story, I sat back and assessed the situation. We now knew why we were being pursued and that we could trust the people we were supposed to be able to trust, our government. Yeah, yeah, I know. Some of you out there are choking on that last bit, but you gotta remember, we were kids, Jerry and I, and we still believed in stuff that we might not, later in our lives. I wondered if we could go to some government agency for help or protection, but Paul broke into my musings just then.

"Hey Guys!" He yelled into the com. "We got trouble! Inbound on the main road, looks like about 6 black SUVs loaded with men!"

I yelled to the Chief,

"Chief! One of our people has spotted several vehicles headed for town, with a lotta guys in them. This could be serious trouble! We gotta get people off the streets, or try to lure these guys back out of town so no innocent people get hurt if things go badly!"

The Chief immediately left Doc Jamison and went to his front office. He hit a button there and sirens began to wail. Tornado sirens!

"That oughta get folks off the streets and into shelters wherever they are, but you are gonna have to get these guys out of town. If they have the kind of firepower you said they do, they could wreck this town!" shouted the Chief.

Jim came in on the com and said that we could try luring them out of town, by showing ourselves and making them follow us, while the Chief was busy on his radio, calling in his officers.

"Sounds good to me, Donna." Chief Adams said. Me and my officers can take care of the town! You and your bunch better get the hell outta here and keep those people from destroying my town! We'll keep Dr. Fine safe and back you up if we can.! Now get out of here!" and he shoved me and Jerry towards the door.

Well, we got! Headed out the door we could see people scurrying everywhere in response to the tornado sirens. Police officers were directing people into shelters and keeping panic to a minimum. We decided to try to intercept the incoming vehicles before they actually got into town, so we headed out of town on the main road. At the speed we were moving, it wasn't long before we spotted the SUVs inbound, and we split up, with me and Jerry being the bait to try to get them to follow us, while the rest moved in a flanking maneuver to try to trap them between us.

Jerry and I made sure the bad guys saw us by simply running past them in the opposite direction. They stood on their brakes and did fast turns, to chase us, and Jerry and I picked up the pace, staying just far enough ahead of them so they didn't have a good shot at us. We were doing great, keeping about a hundred yards between us and the SUVs, when, suddenly, I heard a thudding noise and, a few seconds later, the road in front of us blew up!

We were blasted with dirt and chunks of pavement, but we weren't hurt at all. Shook up? You bet, but we kept on going, changing our pace to a more zig-zag kind of pattern. I didn't know what the hell they had fired at us, or if we had triggered some kind of mine or something, but I wasn't gonna take any more chances than I absolutely had to! Jerry wanted to turn around and charge them, but I talked him out of it.

"Jerry! We don't know what they have for weapons! We know that regular bullets can't hurt us, but if they have armor piercing shells, or worse, we can still get hurt of killed! Let's keep going until we have them in an area where we have the advantage!"

We kept running, and kept in contact with the others over the coms. Paul said that they had found a good spot for a showdown, with good cover for us, on a small hill. I knew where he was talking about, so Jerry and I headed that way, taking a side road that would lead us where we wanted them to go.

It wasn't more than a couple of minutes later when, all of a sudden, one of the SUVs in the back of their caravan, spun around and crashed! I started to yell to the others, but Jim came on the com and told us that he and Penny had caused it to happen by simply running up behind the SUV and doing a sort of PIT maneuver. The SUV spun and then rolled over into a ditch, and Jim and Penny took out the occupants before they knew what had hit them. That left 5 still chasing Jerry and I.

"Are you and Penny okay Jim?" I shouted over the com.

"We're fine Donna!" Penny shouted back. We have these guys all tied up and unconscious! You and Jerry watch your butts though! These guys are playing for keeps! They've got automatic weapons and some kind of bazooka or something!"

Jim broke in, saying that what they had was a highly modified rocket launcher that could be used from a moving vehicle, or from a fixed position!

Well, Jerry and I picked up our pace until we were running almost at our maximum speed. It wasn't easy on that dirt road. We had to watch our steps and slow down for turns. Just a couple of minutes later, I spotted Paul and Terry, on a small hill, about 100 yards off the road, and Jerry and I swerved in their direction. As the SUVs slowed to a stop on the road, I saw yet another of them, at the end of their convoy, rock and then get pulled off the road!

"Hey kids!" Jim called. "These grapnels work great! Penny and I just hit that one with both of ours and it's on it's side with hurt bad guys spilling out of it! We got these guys. You all worry about yourselves. We're gonna fade into the underbrush and try to keep ambushing these jerks!"

"Okay Jim." Jerry called back. "You watch your butts! We've gotten used to you two being around and we'd like it to stay that way!"

I heard a kind of excited joy in Jerry's voice, and that worried me. I didn't want him getting too full of himself and what the suit could do! I knew that he'd been on the verge of going nutso with it once or twice before and I didn't want him getting stupid/brave and end up losing him!

"Jerry!" I yelled to him as we ran. "Don't get dumb now! We can be hurt or even killed, even in these suits! If you go bonkers on me and get killed, I swear, I'll never speak to you again!"

"It's okay Dona!" He shouted back. "I feel like this is what I got into this for! These assholes have bugged us long enough, and I want my life back! I want my family and my girlfriend back! I want the sonofabitch who's behind all of this to suffer!"

I could hear Jerry getting angrier and angrier as he yelled, and I knew this wasn't gonna end well if he lost it.

"Jerry! Knock that shit off! You ain't friggin Iron Man or something! You're just like me! A kid, trapped in some kind of overblown forklift! Get your head together, or you'll get yourself or us all killed!"

Jerry kinda looked over at me as we ran, and I could see a grin on his face.
A grin I remembered. Jerry was gonna do something dumb! Before I could try to stop him, he veered off into the trees and disappeared!

"Damn it Jerry!" I yelled over the com. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Don't worry Donna!" He responded. I got a plan!" and his com clicked off!

I had reached the small him where Paul and Terry were waiting, and I spent a few seconds trying to get Jerry to respond on the com, but he didn't. Paul said that I had to trust Jerry and hope for the best. In the meantime, we needed some kind of battle plan.

We decided to split into teams, with Paul, as an ex-SEAL going off by himself. Terry and I would stick together and keep their attention on us. Jim and Penny were still doing their guerrilla warfare thing, throwing rocks and stuff at the SUVs from cover.I heard Jim say, on the com,

"Hey Penny! Are those rocks falling on their heads? and she replied,

"If they are, they'll all be dead!"

Paul snuck around on their other side and began the same kind of thing, while Terry and I lobbed rocks from where we were behind the hill. We knew that rocks weren't gonna keep them pinned down for long, bit we didn't have any other weapons, or at least I thought we didn't.

All of a sudden, a flurry of gunshots broke out from Jim and Penny's positions, pinning a bunch of the bad guys down, and dropping a few of them.

"We took the weapons from those two SUVs we ambushed, kids!" Penny shouted over the com.

"Great Penny!" I shouted back, but there's way too many of those guys for just the two of you to handle, even with guns! We gotta take them out, and do it fast!

Just them, I heard a groaning sound, kinda like the sound a tree makes when it's getting ready to fall. Before I could figure out what was going on, a huge tree crashed into a couple of the SUVs, pinning some guys underneath it and flushing some out of their cover!

"Told ya I had a plan, Donna!" Came the exuberant voice of Jerry, over the com. Now, use the grapnels to grab them and disarm them! You know how, Donna!"

Jerry was right. I had almost forgotten what those grapnels could do. I took careful aim and shot one out, catching one of the bad guys unaware. I grabbed him by one arm and yanked him out from behind one of the SUVs, and tossed him into a tree! Before too long, the others caught onto the use of the grapnels, and it was only a couple more minutes before the fight was going our way. A couple of the SUVs tried to turn around and flee, but that tree was in their way, and they got stuck.

Well, we kept picking off bad guys like that. I don't want you to get the idea that it was easy, or not dangerous, because it was very dangerous for us. They had guns, we didn't. We had to expose ourselves to their gunfire in order to get a clear shot with the grapnels, but it wasn't too much longer before everything went quiet, and the last bad guys threw out their weapons and surrendered! Slowly we came out from our own places of cover and advanced toward the caravan of SUVs, watching very carefully for any tricks.

When we got to where the bad guys were, we found that many of them were hurt, either by rocks, or falling trees, or from being tossed around by our grapnels, into trees and their own vehicles. Somehow, I didn't feel sorry for any of them. Jim and Penny came up from behind them, Paul came in from their left, and Jerry came grinning out of the woods to their right, while Terry and I came at them from the front. Jerry was absolutely bubbling over his role in the fight.

"Did you see that tree come smashing down on their asses, Donna?" He asked me, his voice almost shaking with excitement. "Wasn't that great? See, I knew that they wouldn't expect....." and he launched into the so-called plan he'd had. I sorta half listened, and half paid attention to Jim, Penny, Terry and Paul, tying up the bad guys and securing their weapons. The wounded ones were placed into a couple of the SUVs after being searched and immobilized. Then, Jim, Penny and Paul got the tree out of the way. It took all three of them to do it. That was one big tree!

Suddenly, I got the shakes, and sat down right where I was. Paul immediately noticed and came over to me, concerned.

"Are you hurt, Donna?" he asked, but I couldn't even talk! All I could do was shake and shiver.

"What's wrong Donna?" I heard Jerry say.

Finally I found my voice and said,

"Jerry, I'm gonna have to get you outta that suit. You're too damn dangerous in it! You're reckless and careless and, some day you're gonna get either yourself, or somebody else killed!"

"Oh come on Donna! I knew what I was doing all the time! I wasn't in any danger and I didn't endanger anyone else besides these friggin mercs! What's up your ass anyway? What. You want all the credit or something? Fine! I don't care about that! All I care about is getting this thing over and getting back with my family and girlfriend!"

"But Jerry!" I interrupted. "Don't you understand that we have to do this together? Alone, we don't stand a chance! It's only in our togetherness that we have the strength and courage we need to finish this and start over!"

"Oh c'mon Donna!" Jerry said. "Jeeze, I think this 'girl' thing has messed up your mind! Look. All my life, you and I have been friends, and all that time, I spent following you around, always playing second fiddle to your lead! Now you want me to 'take it easy', 'be safe', 'don't take unnecessary risks'! Jeezus, Donna! I'm sick of being pushed around! I'm sick of playing second banana to you, and I'm sick of being the 'nice guy!' Nice guys finish last, Donna, and now I have the chance to finish first! I've stuck with you through this whole thing so far, because we've always been pals, always been there for one another, but don't push me any more, Donna. Now that I know I can get outta this suit, if I want to, it opens up a whole new set of options for me, and I wanna explore them!"

"But Jerry!" I interrupted him, but he just waved his hand in front of me.

"Talk to the hand Donna! You're stuck in that thing, and I'm sorry about that, but it's time for me to stand up for me! We have more power at our fingertips than any 18 year old kid ever had short of comic books of movies, Donna! I, for one, intend to make the most of it. I'm all done hiding! I'm all done being picked on! I'm through being dictated to!"

The others had kind of stayed out of this 'fight' between Jerry and me. I think they hoped I could settle Jerry down better than any of them could, but I knew that I was fighting a losing battle right then, so I tried to distract Jerry.

"Okay, Jerry. I know you're upset, maybe even pissed off, but we still have to get these mercs back to town and locked up. Can we table this until after we do that and maybe get some more info?"

Jerry sighed and looked off into the distance for a few seconds. Then he turned back to me and offered his hand to me.

"Okay, Donna, but don't get the idea that this is over with. I know what I want to do, what I need to do for myself now, and I don't think you, or Jim, or Penny, or even Paul can talk me out of it, but I'll give you all just this one last chance. I guess I owe you that, for old times sake, if for no other reason. We'll take these bastards back to the jail and get that all taken care of, but then you and me are gonna talk, and one of us is gonna be right, and one wrong. I already think I know which is which, but I'll wait til we talk to make my final decision. Don't try to snow me, Donna, and don't try that old, hackneyed line about 'with great power, comes great responsibilities' crap either I'm responsible for myself now. I have been since this whole thing started. Nobody dictates to me anymore, got it?"

"I got it, Jerry. I said tiredly, dejectedly. I just hope I'm wrong about what I'm thinking and that I can convince you that you are wrong as well. Now c'mon. Let's get these SOBs locked up."

I let Jerry help me up and then I helped loading the mercs into the remaining SUVs, all the time feeling like my life was changing way too fast. Now I ran the risk of losing my best, lifelong friend, and I think I hated that thought more than I hated being stuck as a female for the rest of my life. We got all the prisoners loaded and headed back toward town, but instead of feeling like I was heading for a solution, I felt like I was going to my own hanging, and I wanted to cry.......a lot.

More to come, folks. My muse is back and she's talking up a storm! Wheeeeee!

Catherine Linda Michel

  

  

  

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