C h a p t e r XIX

L a s t O n e O u t, H i t T h e L i g h t s

The hole in space-time resealed itself, and six figures slammed into the ground. In their midst Brian still held the old time-remote up triumphantly.

It was dark, and they had apparently landed in a parking lot. Nearby was the dark outline of Riggs, the science wing jutting out in their direction. Getting to their feet, however, everyone was still too shocked to actually take in the new setting.

"Brian…I think you just saved us," Jade said, dumbfounded.

Everyone chuckled nervously. Brian just shrugged.

"Whew; I thought we were goners," Dan said.

"Apparently the older time-technology isn't affected by Kenzi's newer stuff," Richard said. "An error she probably made in her rush to find us."

"Good thing she decided to get the two-point-oh version," Robert added jokingly.

"Still, how the hell did she find us?!" Jade blurted out.

Kaitlin shrugged solemnly. "We may never know, now."

"What are you saying? That this is over?!" Richard asked.

"Well," she began slowly, "we left behind your remote, which had all of Kenzi's data on it. There's no way we'll be able to steal information like that from her again."

"So what?! We'll make do with what we managed to get!" he said defiantly.

"And how will we manage?" Jade added in sadly. "Kenzi's taken over the time-line. And we couldn't even stop her from taking the world! We'd need an army!"

The others all looked away, unable to make eye-contact. Ever since the discovery that they couldn't change time, the outlook had been grim. Now it was practically set in stone. It didn't help matters that Jade was confirming their worst fears.

Richard balled his fists, his eyes shining as he gazed around the group. "Then we'll get an army!"

"What…?" Dan said disbelieving.

"Guys…look at where we were before this war began. There was no Seminary Gang anymore. We barely even conversed with each other, too afraid to believe what happened, or too traumatized to remember them. We wanted to pretend it never happened."

"Oh great; another one of your boring speeches," Robert said disdainfully, rolling his eyes at his brother.

Richard continued completely unfazed. "But you know what? When it counted the most, none of that stopped us. The moment we knew beyond a doubt that Kenzi was up to foul play, we banded together to stop her. But it wasn't just us." He looked out at Jade, Robert, and Dan. "Even those of you who didn't come before, you stood with us now to fight back. In our darkest times we united to stand together."

"And look where that got us," Brian said sarcastically.

"Richard, we're still stuck. How do you expect us to fight back now? Sometimes you just have to know when to quit. Sometimes there's nothing you can do," Jade said.

"And we're still no closer to releasing her hold over 'time'," Kaitlin added in. "Really, I don't see how we'll get past that one."

Richard thought for a moment, and then said, "If it was easy enough for Kenzi to pull off, then we can do it too. You've gotta remember; she's only as powerful as her technology. Remove that, and she can do absolutely nothing with space, time, or reality…"

"Um, what are you guys doing?" Everyone jumped in surprise. Someone else had arrived.

"Mark?!" Jade said wide-eyed, and then nearly smothered him with a hug. "What the hell are you doing here?! I thought you were dead!"

Mark Koch raised an eyebrow at her statement. "Extreme early morning study hall, doll. You know; punishment for setting the locker on fire... But, what the hell are you guys doing out here this early?" He looked over the Gang suspiciously. "You guys aren't…stoned, are you?"

"What the heck?! NO WAY!" Brian protested.

Mark held up his hands and grinned. "Sure, keep telling yourselves that." He turned and started back towards the school. It was now the Gang realized it was lit up.

"Where the hell are we now?!" Dan growled.

Richard swiped the remote from Brian's hands and checked the date. It hadn't displayed a time during their last few randomized jumps, but this time the dials had a number: 5:45 A.M., 12/19/06 AD.

Richard immediately looked from the remote and around the town. They were back.

"Holy crap! Guys…we've just landed a couple of hours before Kenzi's first strike!"

"But that's impossible," Kaitlin protested. "We just interacted with someone. Why hasn't time reset?"

"It wouldn't reset if it'd already happen," Robert said.

"Already happened?! You mean we've been here before?!" Jade said disbelieving.

Richard frowned. "Jade, what were you doing before you found us at the church…? The day of the attack."

She shrugged. "I was looking for help. I thought Jon was dead!"

"But you couldn't find anyone? Right?" he asked.

"No! It was like they all disappeared!"

Kaitlin caught on. "But we just saw Mark. And, he was going into the school; a place you looked."

Jade's mouth dropped open. "What the hell is going on?!"

"By now Kenzi already had her army," Richard pondered, "which meant someone else had to have come along and swiped up everyone else…everyone that we didn't see lying dead in the school afterwards."

"Who, then?" Dan said.

Richard smiled. "Us."

The others all frowned. Robert hummed thoughtfully. "Now that is what I call a plot-twist."

Richard grabbed one of the remotes from Brian's vest. "Looks like we do have an army after all."

The others all quickly grabbed up a remote.

"We have to hurry," he said. "The time-line is about to catch up with itself."

Charlie swore. "They escaped?!"

Kenzi slammed her fists down on the conference table. All around them were monitors displaying her soldiers out in battle. "None of this would've happened if you'd told me everything to begin with."

Charlie scoffed. "Your ego would've immediately stopped me from the get-go."

Kenzi straightened up. "My ego?! Mine?! Who's the one that had to prove herself right?! Who is the one that had to prove they could get Jon on our side?!"

Charlie stood up. "I was right about him. You would've stopped me, anyway."

"Well I can see why! The Gang got away!" Kenzi bowed her head into her hands, her hair falling around her hands as she clenched her teeth to keep from screaming at her great-grand child.

Charlie paced up and down the room for a moment, her boots clanking against the concrete floor of the unfinished conference room. She paused to shake her head. "No matter. The facility will remain under our control, and they can do nothing to stop us. They're prisoners of this world too."

Kenzi slowly looked up, her fingers still laced in her bangs. "For how long? Don't you see that it's now all coming together?"

"What is all coming together?" Charlie said rudely.

"The ghost signals, the missing teens, and now the Gang has disappeared completely off your little tracker…" She had a look of pure terror in her eyes. "They're gathering an army."

"Impossible!" Charlie snapped, turning away.

Kenzi chuckled cynically. Now she was beginning to understand under what stress those traits surfaced. "The thing we tried to prevent all along— it's finally happening."

Charlie turned back, her arms folded defiantly. "They've gotten lucky before, but not this time…" She hesitated. "I refuse to believe it!"

Kenzi smiled curtly. "Believe it."

Charlie looked away, jamming her fingers in her blood-red hair, but finally sighed. "Shit."

Kenzi turned back to the global display. It was over, and yet…it was just beginning.

"Their little war is about to begin."

Jon felt the ground leave his feet, and focused completely on the landing in front of him. The space between the roofs diminished, and he hit the ground running. His target had already begun to jump to the next building. Now you die.

Jon slid to a stop, whipped out his automatic pistol, and held down the trigger. The target, a male youth in a dark hoody, leapt off the next edge, completely missing Jon's line of fire. Jon swore, and rushed over to the edge. Immediately seven feet down was an adjoining roof. Jon leapt down in pursuit, and took off at full speed. His target, however, was out-distancing him easily. Jon was fit, but this kid was taller, his longer legs giving him an edge.

Once again he ran to end of the rooftop, and without a second look jumped over to the next one just a few feet down. Jon did the same, and watched his target smash in the glass of a skylight, and then jump through. Jon got to the edge in time to see his target sprawl out in the building's lobby below, and then run through the glass door.

Instinctively, Jon closed his eyes, and felt his mind wander. He could see the kid; he was now running up the street, a good hundred feet from the building already. When Jon opened his eyes, he leapt through the opening in the skylight, landed catlike on the ground below, and the rushed through the glass doors. He pushed himself as hard as he could go, feeling every footfall as he bolted out into the open.

A loud ringing began to fill his ears, and a strange warming sensation enveloped his body. The ringing became so loud that Jon couldn't hear the sharp rap of his boots hitting against the concrete. There was a brief burst of white light, and the ringing immediately stopped.

Jon was now just inches from his target. He grabbed the kid's hood, and whipped him down onto the ground. Before the target had a chance to squirm loose, Jon whipped out his pistol again and pulled down on the trigger. The body went limp, and Jon stared down in wonderment at the young man, his eyes slowly glazing over. He was left to silently ponder what had happened. He could've sworn he was still fifty yards off…

"Jon, I…um…" Audrey had appeared behind him.

"Speak; you're far too old to be stuttering like a child," Jon chastised.

All around them they could now hear cheering in the nearby streets. Audrey glanced down nervously, but finally spoke.

"Word has arrived from your superiors; the fighting is over."

Jon nodded. "Then Kenzi controls the world."

"Does this mean it's finally over?" she asked earnestly.

He shook his head. "It'll never be over."

Jon's remote beeped loudly, and text scrolled across his contact lens.

"Oh Jon, your words were never truer."

He frowned, and directed his attention to Audrey. "Wait for me with Red Team."

She nodded and transported away. Jon waited until she was gone, and then pulled out his remote. Charlie's grim face awaited him. She's not happy.

He cut to the chase. "Alright, I held up my end of bargain. Now hold up yours."

"Oh? You really did think it was over."

"Screw you!" Tears were welling up in his eyes. "Do you have any idea what hell I've gone through for you?! I've betrayed my friends, slaughtered the innocent, and all for Kenzi's power lust! Now give me what you promised!"

Charlie hesitated. "The plan has…changed."

"I don't care!" Jon's voice cracked, going up an octave in pitch. Just as fast as it went up, though, it started to fall again. "I am just tired of this…all I want is Jade…"

She sighed. "Jon, the Gang is arming forces of their own. This war may be over, but the next one is just about to begin."

Jon half laughed half cried. He shook his head, tears streaming down his face, and smiled back grimly. "I have written my fate with the blood of war. When all is gone I shall remain…"

For as far as he could see, there was nothing but the Great Plains stretching east. It was vast and empty, the bright sun beating down on the land. To the north he could still make out the dark radiation cloud that sat over what was once Denver. In the valley at the edge of Cheyenne Mountain was the intact city of Colorado Springs. From here he could even see the military and air force bases.

"Merry Christmas Eve."

Richard spun around to see that Kaitlin had come outside. The two stood on the edge of the North American Aerospace Defense Command facility, its entrance a tunnel leading straight into the mountain.

"Is it really December twenty-fourth?" he asked.

"Yeah. With everything that's been going on we all forgot…"

Richard put his hands in his coat pockets, shifting his coat so that it hung open and let the cold breeze blow against him. "To think we almost forgot about Christmas…I would've thought that Kenzi might've at least waited till after…at least to spend one last time with her parents before slaughtering them."

Kaitlin shrugged. "We may never know what motivates her."

"Well we'll have to…if we ever expect to beat her."

They shared a moment of silence. A storm had drifted over the mountains and it was beginning to snow again.

Kaitlin finally spoke up. "So where did you send Dan and Jade?"

"I didn't send them anywhere. Dan wanted to go rescue his two friends in New York—heard they were both shocked to be transported right out of the forest—and then I think he went with Jade up north. She took most of the youth we rounded up in Pierre to start work on a Canadian fortress."

"Good idea," Kaitlin said. "Kenzi will be watching now, so it's good to get her thinking we're completely based up there."

"Plus, there's the added fact that one; why would we hide in the radioactive waste lands of America? And two; I don't think she even knew the significance of this city!" He stretched out his hands. "I mean, look! The bases are completely untouched. Since this place was used mainly for the Cold War, nothing was active…it was no threat to Kenzi."

"But perfect for us to gather our own armaments. According to Brian and Robert; there are dozens of Abrams tanks, several aircraft, and plenty of weapons," Kaitlin said.

"But what about the soldiers?" Richard turned to face her. "Sure all the youth we've been rounding up have been briefed, but how are they holding up?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. We won't know until our first real battle."

Richard nodded. "Then we better start giving them some kind of training. 'Cause we're going to fight her, Kaitlin." He looked back out at the city. "We'll fight her until time is restored, and she's brought to pay for her crimes."

"And all under the name of the Seminary Gang?" she asked.

He laughed. "The Seminary Gang is not over yet…"

The two stared out a little longer until the sky went dark and the snowfall became thick. In the bowels of the mountain the youth shivered nervously, and across the continent forces prepared. The war would come quickly; that much was sure.