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Part Four

The first anonymous call came in within twenty minutes of the broadcast. A person who had overheard a neighbour talking about the Moons of Purity. Ten minutes after that a frightened mother called asking if that's what had happened to her son. More calls came flooding in, many along similar lines. Sorting the true ones from the hoaxes and misinterpretations would be a trick, but the news had been worth it.

Cameo left the bulk of the work to Mystan and Nitro for the time being, while he took Nuiane to the Purple Pint bar and grill. It was the same place from which his niece-in-law had been abducted. The proprietor of the place, a relatively clean locale to Cameo's amazement, was a hefty man who was missing an ear. If asked, he would cheerfully tell the story of passing out while doing some maintenance on the bar and finding that he'd super glued the ear to the counter. Cameo didn't ask, he had other concerns on his mind. "I understand a young woman was kidnapped last night, and this was the place she was last seen. I know you've spoken to the authorities, but I need to know anything you might know about it."

Luckily the bartender seemed to recognize him and knew his rank. The man swayed slightly, suggesting he'd already consumed some of his stock. "Yeah. Some man came and bought her a dreenk. Offered to buy her a cab."

"Who was he? What did he look like? Have you ever seen him before?"

One Ear blinked. "Too many questions. I deedn't recognize him. He bought some good beer though. Not many appreciate a fine Red Pattern beer, I theenk it's the licorice inside." Cameo waited and repeated his questions. "Oh right. Graviton, average height, average weight. Purple hair." So he looked like a generic Graviton. That would be useful, Cameo thought mournfully. "Oh! This might help. He had two eyes."

Nuiane and Cameo stared at one another for a very long moment, confused as to why this was a useful fact. "You wouldn't happen to have a video camera would you?"

"Why sure! You wanting to video tape yourself weeth your girlfriend? I can hold the camera for you." A blush worked its way across Cameo's face. He had a bond mate back home, and was more than happy with her, even if Icewalker law allowed for multiple partners.

Cameo tried to reign in his temper. It wouldn't help him in this scenario. "No, I mean surveillance equipment. Something that might show the Graviton in the bar."

"Oh! You want to see Gravitons een the bar? Just turn around. Plenty of them." The bartender pointed in a sweeping manner, smacking another patron in the shoulder as he did. Cameo sighed and gestured for Nuiane to follow. There was obviously no security system here. This one was too dense to have one, he suspected. They walked back outside and looked briefly at the street. Somewhere around here the abduction had happened. Maybe, he thought, one of the other businesses in the area would have a camera pointed in the right direction. A sighting of the vehicle, even, might help. He explained his idea, in brief, to Nuiane and they split up to hit a few local stores.

The reprieve from work the previous day had been enjoyable. Now Black Tiger was wishing that she'd enjoyed it a little more. Lifting rocks and pushing carts all day wasn't exactly her cup of tea. Nor was learning what happened to the prisoners when they died. The spot they were dumping their debris today was an older tunnel that had been used up. On the side of it were a pair of corpses that looked like they'd been stripped of meat. They were barely recognizable as living beings anymore.

The Icewalker/Lion woman that she was working with, the same one who had been made to carve Psychro's name in her own belly, began to gag and retch at the sight of the corpses, bits of meat and entrails still stuck to the bones. It struck Black Tiger as odd that she would react that way, given the dietary habits of Icewalkers. Not that her own stomach wasn't doing cartwheels looking at the mess. "Keep moving," a guard shouted, jamming the butt of his rifle against her back. Hurriedly Black Tiger dumped the rock out and helped push the cart back.

No one had told her what the effects of the Caramium were. Such a volatile substance, she knew it killed over prolonged exposure. All her open wounds weren't helping matters, nor was her mental state. Too often already in the three or four days she'd been here, she had lost track too quickly, she had considered ending it all, and the trauma from her near rape hadn't improved her disposition at all. It didn't surprise her at all that prisoners died in this place. The brutal working conditions. The torture. The radiation. The abuse from every angle. It was enough to make her want to scream. But a scream would lead to a beating, and while she wasn't fond of life at the moment, there were better ways to go.

Chedra would find that out. She hadn't talked at all about what had happened in that room, but the bruises, welts and blood spoke volumes. She would suffer more for hurting Myrik, Black Tiger was positive. Having felt what he could do to her, she knew that Chedra would suffer ten times that. She caught herself praying for her.

Which brought her back to Merma. Merma hadn't been happy to see the five women, still dangling like grotesque marionettes. She'd ordered others to help her cut them down and was stunned that none of those in the first rotation had thought to do that. They were scared, all of them. What if Frostarn wanted them kept up there. Wouldn't she be upset? Merma didn't care. She said that the deceased deserved dignity. That was something she liked about the woman. She had such faith. Black Tiger knew that she prayed to her gods every day for salvation.

But where was it? Every day another prisoner died. How many more needed to die before the gods got off their lazy butts and did something about it? Or were people like Frostarn and Myrik right? Did the gods just see half breeds and snub their noses? The attitude was shared by a great many Lunataks. It wasn't fair, but that's the way had always been.

Fantasy just barely got back to her cushion before Myrik came in. He was whistling a jaunty tune, one that she'd last heard on a construction site. That was both an ill omen and a blessing. On the one hand it meant that he'd gotten what Crackle wanted out of Psychro information wise and was planning on getting what he wanted. On the other hand, if he was in a good mood it would make him more receptive to what she had to say.

Boots soared across the room, landing with a thud next to the bed. A shirt of a hideous orange colour, one she knew he wore to bug her, landed neatly in his pile of dirty laundry. "Ah, Fantasy. What a good pet you are," he said, finally noticing that she was uncollared. He scanned the room to see if she'd disturbed anything but didn't see anything amiss. "I won't be needing you tonight, as I predicted. Psychro was like putty in my hands. But I think you might be a distraction. Maybe I'll put you in Drell's room. He's gone away on some business. He won't mind, just keep out of mischief or else."

The air turned cold for a second as the warning hit her. She knew he'd placed another mental block in her head. What a fool he was. She wouldn't misbehave in Drell's room, that wasn't her plan, though she probably would have if he hadn't done that. She put on a sad face and found her sweetest voice. "M-m-master? May I ask a favour?" she asked. It was so sickly sweet, but it seemed to work. He nodded his head, before rummaging through his drawer for a fresh shirt. "I'm lonely. I would do anything to have another woman I could talk to. Maybe that sweet thing you brought yesterday?" She had to be careful. Myrik knew that Fantasy was not fond of him, and any sweetness might be misinterpreted.

"I'll hold you to that. There are some special things I've been holding in reserve for such an occasion. But not today, I'm saving myself for Psychro. I'll tell you what. Since you have been so pleasant lately I'll grant your request, but first a taste of what I have in mind. He stepped close and kissed her passionately, nibbling on her lip in a way that he knew she had once enjoyed from a previous lover. While she was distracted by his mouth his hand reached up and cupped one breast, tenderly stroking it and then squeezing the nipple as hard as he could. Her lip ripped from his mouth as she shrieked in pain, collapsing back down to her pillow clutching her injured chest. "You haven't seen my special toolbox yet, have you. Oh what fun we're going to have. I'll arrange for the guards to take you to your temporary home."

Fantasy watched him leave, scowling and wincing in pain. Now, more than ever, she knew her plan had to work. She didn't want any part of the S&M games he was likely to pull. One of her boyfriends had tried to encourage her to try it once, and she had to experiment, but even the fuzzy handcuffs had been a huge turnoff. She'd sworn then that it would never happen again. Apparently, she'd been wrong.

The Graviton Moon was comprised largely of wide open plains, rolling hills and shallow valleys. Throughout the landscape were scattered small towns and a few larger cities. In one of these cities, situated at the bottom of one of the valleys, a man had a serious problem. For the last few years he had made a tidy profit off the organization known as the Moons of Purity. His job, not including the regular police work he did, was to compare the list of names he received with the missing persons database. Whenever there was a match, he would tackle the investigation himself and declare the case unsolved. In return, an envelope of money would appear at his front doorstep.

The curtain was coming down now. All over the five moons, people were sending in tips to their local authorities. Many of the tips were either vague or based on nothing more than a personal grudge, but there were enough coming in that he couldn't afford to bury them and pretend they didn't exist, it would be too suspicious if every precinct gave tips except one.

To make matters worse, it had been loosely implied that if he failed to co-operate as the group wished, he would find his son, a half-breed himself, missing. Snap Gap groaned inwardly at the dilemma. The only way he could come out with his neck and his son was if everything happened quickly. Which meant a full confession. His first order of business was to call his son's school and get the boy out of class and into a safe location, then he had to gather up his files and make another call.

Time was running out, and Psychro knew it. Every noise caused him to look over at the door, waiting for it to open and Myrik to come. He would soon, he'd promised. There had been a scare moments ago, when Frostarn had come in and dragged one of his neighbours into that back room. No prisoner seemed able to come out of that room in one piece, especially if Frostarn was in there too. But Frostarn was a pushover. He could handle a person like her, Myrik was harder. It boiled down to rationales. Frostarn hated hybrids, she took out her dislike on them in a physical fashion. It was a hatred that had been passed from parent to child, a need to prove that pure bred Icewalkers were superior to all others. He'd heard the arguments before, could almost understand them, he just didn't believe them.

Myrik was different. Myrik enjoyed tormenting others, got a thrill out of being in charge. It was possibly even a need of his to have authority over others. But it wasn't so much a physical torment that Myrik enjoyed as it was a mental one, and that was an area that Psychro couldn't comprehend. He sometimes found it gratifying to punch someone into submission, as it would be if he ever got his hands on the Psion, but to take away free will? And for what? A gratification that some money and a hooker could buy?

The rock face in front of him chipped away, revealing blessedly, a collection of wires that he could barely see through the hole he had made. He checked where the guards were and tried to squeeze a finger through the gap. He could, just barely. It was tight, but with a little more work he would be through.

His luck ran out. The door at the far end opened and Myrik sauntered in. He wore a pale blue shirt that wasn't properly buttoned up, exposing a hint of greying chest hair. His pants were tight, revealing just how happy Myrik was to see him. He walked straight up to the cell and deactivated it. Psychro was stopped before he could even move. "Follow me," Myrik intoned, imposing his will on him. The guards snickered and pointed as he obediently trailed behind the Psion. "And you six might want to repair the hole in his cell. We wouldn't want our intrepid pet to escape, would we?" The snickering stopped, and Psychro cursed.

They walked in silence to Myrik's room and stepped inside. The room was tidied, and he saw that Fantasy was conspicuous by her absence. "We have the place to ourselves, tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for our group and I will have to leave you briefly. It's a shame, I know. But that just makes what happens next even more special."

Psychro found Myrik affixing a collar to his neck, trapping him by the same chain that Fantasy was normally held by. He hoped she was alright, and felt sympathy for her. How many nights had she been in his place, forced to do whatever Myrik wanted. The mental hold released, but Psychro didn't bother doing more than give the chain a token tug. The Psion was out of reach, laying on his side on the bed. "Now then, Psychro, how do you want to do this?"

"I don't."

"That's not an option. Tonight we are going to have sex, it's a fact of life. As much as saying the sky is blue, though you haven't seen the sky in quite a while, have you. I'm afraid that I can't force you telepathically. I get rather distracted, shall we say, and I would lose control. So I'm going to need a little more consent on your part."

Psychro tried to recall what little he knew of telepaths. One of his past lovers had tried to explain it to him, and he'd found it difficult to follow. It was easier to erect a mental block than it was to control. A mental block could prevent a person from doing specific things and could, if done right, be left indefinitely. A mental control was less effective, it required constant concentration to maintain, especially if it went against the grain of a person's natural inclinations.

"What is it going to take to tame you?" Myrik asked. "You've gotten a taste of what I can do to you, I shouldn't need to demonstrate. We both know you'll give in at the end."

"Go to hell," Psychro replied. It wasn't the wittiest remark he'd ever made, but he wasn't feeling terribly creative. The truth was he heard the truth in what Myrik said. There were a host of things that the Psion could do to him, and none of them were pleasant. Sooner or later he would probably have to concede defeat.

"I should admit, I'm not feeling patient tonight. I've been teased and tormented by your body since I first laid eyes on it, and I'm feeling quite desperate. So, here's the deal. You offered your ass in exchange for protecting Black Tiger's innocence earlier. She is in the next room, waiting. I will bring her in here, and I will control your body. You will violate her in any way I can think of. To make matters even worse for you, your mind will not see Black Tiger. You will imagine that it is Psikaris whom you are violating. Think about it, the guilt of raping your own sister, the sister whom you care about more than anyone in the world. And the best part is, I know that Black Tiger is fertile right now. Imagine her surprise when she finds that she is pregnant with your baby. And that's just the start of your torment."

Psychro wanted to plug his ears, blot out the sound of Myrik's voice. "Fine," he shouted, fighting back tears of frustration. "You win. But someday you'll pay for this. I will find a way to kill you, and when I do I will bring you back to life so I can kill you again and again. And when I get tired of killing you I will let every single person you've hurt have a chance to kill you. Only when they're done will I even consider letting you stay dead, you worthless piece of garbage."

Myrik smiled, pleased with the outburst and walked slowly over to where Psychro still stood. A chill ran through his head as the gap closed. "You reminded me of something I almost forgot. I've blocked your aggressive side. No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to cause me harm," he said, and Psychro felt the truth in his words. He tried to form a fist and slug him, but his body wouldn't co-operate.

The collar around his neck was removed, and Myrik's hands wrapped tightly around his back, pulling Psychro in for a lengthy kiss. It was disgusting, his lips tasted faintly of coffee and his stubble scratched at his chin. Myrik's tongue probed inside his mouth and he yearned to bite down as hard as he could.

"You're fighting it," Myrik teased, pulling back. "Good. Don't lose that passion, I love it." Psychro's vest hit the ground and practised fingers touched all over his chest. Psychro closed his eyes, willing the ordeal to be over with, but his oppressor forced them back open with a thought. Myrik resumed his kissing, lips and tongue travelling sensually down his throat. Then he seemed to reach a decision. "I've waited too long. My apologies, Psychro, I normally have more self-control than this."

Psychro gasped as he was stripped of the rest of his clothing, indecently exposed as he had only ever been with women and doctors. Myrik wasn't patient, Psychro could sense his urgency. He knew what that felt like, after going too long without a date, but he also knew how to control it. Warm lips touched him where he'd never expected another man's mouth to be, stroking and caressing him. His body reacted involuntarily, doing what genetics had instructed it to do. Myrik bit slightly and pulled on his penis, finding a new way to pull Psychro to the bed.

He was revolted, there was nothing even remotely appealing in what Myrik was doing, nor in Myrik's body as he finally let go and divested himself of his own clothes. While Psychro managed to keep his eyes looking straight forward, knowing that Myrik would just make him open them again if he closed them, lustily Myrik's eyes traversed Psychro's body, eyeing every inch of naked flesh, ignoring or revelling in the other's disgust. Finally he looked up again and gestured with his hand. Psychro knew what to do, he'd known it would come. Blessedly able to close his eyes without fear he bent over the side of the bed and waited for the invasion.

A jolt of fear shuddered through her. A pair of those damned gold covered guards had walked into the tunnels, asking where she was. Then she heard Myrik's name. The time had come, hadn't it. He'd changed his mind and decided that she would be punished after all. The guard who had been watching over herself and the Icewalker/Lion turned to call out to his colleagues.

Seeing the opportunity, Black Tiger ran. She didn't know where she was going, or how she was going to escape, she just knew that she didn't want to be in that foul creature's clutches. She rather enjoyed going through life without knowing what such violation felt like, thank you very much. Maybe, she thought suddenly, maybe she wouldn't go through life much longer at all. Maybe one of the guards would see a fleeing prisoner and shoot to kill. Her own guard didn't react quickly. She heard him cursing and saw an energy beam strike the rock next to her. Black Tiger took a turn in the tunnel, trying to remember the layout. She didn't want to get near the barracks, she needed to find an isolated place where she could hide. Where were the disused tunnels?

By now the other guards had to have been informed. Deep down she knew there had to be some kind of system in place. Some kind of contingency plan for a breakout. She skidded around a corner and came to a dead end. The sounds of footsteps were growing louder behind her. She would never reach another branch in time, she would have to fight and hope that someone was feeling a little trigger-happy. Nervously she crouched by the corner.

Two people, the uniforms obscuring race and gender, appeared from around the bend. Black Tiger pounced at the first one, a man probably from the Royal Moon based on the accent, grabbing at his weapon and wrenching it from his grasp. She brought the weapon to bear on the second one, who was a little quicker than their companion. Black Tiger felt a bolt of energy strike her in the chest, pain rippling from the spot like a stone skipping across a lake. Numbly the gun tumbled from her hands and she started to collapse. As the world began to darken around her she heard one of them say something about taking her to Myrik.

The sun was setting. Cameo felt the metaphor in his heart as he sat in a hotel room with his friends and a pile of documents in front of him. The time of the Moons of Purity was setting too, soon a new day of freedom for hybrids like himself would rise, just as surely as the sun would rise over the horizon again.

Snap Gap was there too, a ranking police officer who had been assigned to the missing persons division. Sure, the Graviton Moon prided itself on having a very low crime rate, but people always went missing. The long list of names confirmed what he had been suspecting, that the Moons of Purity had been in operation for a long time. They'd made their pitch to Snap Gap over two years ago, anyway. It wasn't a complete list, Cameo wondered if they would ever see one of those, but a list of people taken from this region of the Graviton Moon was information enough.

"All they ever gave me was a phone number. Eef a name on their list matched a call I got I was to call eet in. The number leads to an address, a library on the east side of town," Snap Gap said. "I was supposed to ask for Hive Five."

A library? That wasn't the kind of place Cameo was expecting. On the other hand, he doubted that any organization like that would give out their hideout's location. The library was likely a middleman, relaying information from there to the true source. And this Hive Five was probably only loosely affiliated with the Moons of Purity. But it was a valuable lead.

"I suggest that you make another call to Hive Five, then," Cameo said smoothly. "Nitro, Nuiane, and I will go to the library and see who answers the phone. I'm willing to bet they make another call after that to their real boss. Once that call is made, we'll swoop in and grab them."

"And what do you want me to do?" Mystan asked.

"You're going to stay here with Snap Gap and make sure he's not setting us up."

The library was in a quiet part of town, away from the bars and businesses. It was generally considered a residential neighbourhood, in fact, and was just a short walk away from one of the schools. The same school, though Nitro had no way of knowing it, that Snap Gap's son attended.

The three looked very out of place, he thought to himself. While there were a few people about at this hour, mostly Gravitons coming home from work or sneaking out for a quick pint, they all appeared to be mostly of Graviton descent. More than one person stopped and stared, causing him to wonder if said person was a member of the Moons of Purity.

You were on television too, he reminded himself. He was a minor celebrity now. The library itself was open for another hour, so they slipped in and spread out, looking among the racks of books. Cameo stationed himself near the front door, Nitro by the front desk, and Nuiane by an employees only area. He skimmed through the books, keeping one eye cocked towards the desk. "Moon Dust," "Path Into Darkness," "Signal In The Sky." So many stories, and none of them caught his fancy, especially since his real purpose was to find an enemy.

Cameo nodded when he saw everyone was in position and spoke quietly into a phone. Nitro cast a glance at the desk. A Graviton woman was staring blankly at the clock, waiting for closing time while she sipped at a bottle of water. If this was their target, she would be easy to take down. Large and possessing little muscle mass from what he could tell of her bare arms. Her fingers drummed slowly across the counter, an indicator that she'd been there a long time and would also be exhausted. Nitro had learned to pay attention to these small details, especially in a potential combatant. Cameo could afford to relax, this one wasn't getting past him.

The phone rang, causing the woman to jump. She answered on the third ring. "Hello? Yeah, just a second, I'll get her." The woman stood, casting a longing glance at the clock, and ducked into the employee area. Nuiane watched and, when the door closed, concentrated. Nitro had seen this happen before, it was impressive how easily she could manipulate her body. She could become a shadow herself, passing through the tiniest cracks. In this case she slipped under the door, a wave of darkness that wouldn't be detectable unless one was looking for it. She could, with some effort, transform a person the same way with her. He hadn't enjoyed the sensation, becoming lost in the infinite darkness, unable to feel anything.

The receptionist emerged and packed up her bags, settling in for the last moments of her work day. Nitro counted the agonizing minutes, pretending to read one of the books, his eyes staring over the top of the book at the distant doorway, and occasionally back at the counter. "Sir, we're closing soon if you want that book..." the receptionist started. A noise from the back room interrupted them, sounds of violence. His feet were moving even before his brain fully registered what was happening. Nuiane must have tried to apprehend Hive Five and was having difficulty. She wasn't a fighter, though he had taught her some basic self-defence.

Nitro burst through the employee's door, ignoring the receptionist's shouts that he couldn't go in, and saw Nuiane wrestling on the floor with a much larger woman. Hive Five, he assumed the Graviton with bright yellow hair, had pinned the Darkling and was trying to choke her. A solid blast of ice knocked her clear, and a second burst froze her solid. "Are you all right?" Nitro asked, offering his hand to Nuiane but never letting his eyes leave the Graviton.

"Yeah. She made a second call, just like you guys figured, reporting that Snap Gap had tossed another missing persons file. I tried to jump her when she hung up, but she's a lot more solid than she looks." Behind them Cameo was explaining who he was to the receptionist, assuring her that they were within their jurisdiction, but to feel free to call the police if it made her feel better.

He walked over to the frozen woman and leaned close, smelling the stench of rancid bacon and body sweat. "You're going to tell us everything about who you were just talking to and the Moons of Purity. It might just lighten your sentence."

Psychro wanted to remove the arm from around his waist but didn't dare. Myrik was contentedly asleep, warm body pressed against his own, and Psychro wanted him to stay that way, asleep he wasn't invading his rear. The experience ranked among the top five most humiliating moments in his life. All through the ordeal he tried to focus on the finer things in life. His family, his work, his friends, all those things he valued. He tried to conjure up pleasant memories and was annoyed that most of the ones he could come up with involved sex. Those inevitably reminded him what was going on behind him.

That first coupling had been horrible, he had thought, but a second had been threatened, just before Myrik went wherever he was going. Probably the palace, he thought guiltily. The guilt didn't help his emotional state. Why was his life going so poorly? The people around him were being hurt too often.

Or had it always been that way? Icilia, poor poor Icilia. Killed because he'd gotten her pregnant. Ellis, tortured to lure him out of hiding. Dalash who had been struck down by an assassin's bullet meant for him. Pekablu who had turned to alcohol and narcotics to console herself after he left her. The list went on and on, broken hearts and jilted lovers. Friendships ended and enemies made.

And now this. Myrik mumbled something in his sleep and his hand slipped lower, finally resting on Psychro's hip. Sleep would come eventually, he just feared what dreams would follow.

Black Tiger opened her eyes, expecting any number of hostile faces staring down at her. Instead she found Fantasy, stroking her head gently. She'd been dumped unceremoniously on a bed that smelled of lavender and chained by one wrist to it. Fantasy was likewise chained to a bed post, but she seemed calm and relaxed. Black Tiger supposed that the wrist was at least a little more comfortable than the neck.

"Good, you're awake," Fantasy sat up and moved into a cross-legged position. She was, Black Tiger realized awkwardly, naked except for a flimsy bathrobe. She had no problem with the female body, she just wasn't used to seeing so much of it. "Listen carefully, I don't know how much time Myrik will give us. One of your friends, Chedra, has the power to undo the mental block."

She listened intently as Fantasy explained the situation, from Myrik's influence to Chedra's abilities. "The time is coming soon. I think Myrik is going to leave soon, which means he won't be able to reenforce his blocks. Once hers breaks down, find out if she can do it for everyone else. One person with powers isn't going to cut it, but if all of us do... We outnumber the guards, but we're kept weak and powerless. I say it's time to turn the tables, especially if what I think is going down is happening."

"What do you mean?" Black Tiger asked. She didn't fully comprehend, but hoped that Chedra and maybe Merma would.

"All along they've wanted one thing. Access to the palace. I don't know why, but they do. From what Myrik's inferred it sounds like they're making their move, which means they'll be understaffed here. Even fewer guards around. It'll be perfect. When they get back, we'll have a nasty surprise for them. I just hope I get my hands on Myrik before anyone else does," Fantasy said, the venom in her voice telling Black Tiger that whatever Myrik had been about to put her through were nothing compared to what he'd done to this woman.

"Somehow I don't think you're the only one," she said faintly. "I think there's a long line for that privilege." They spent the rest of the night trading as much information about the place as they could think of, before sleep finally consumed them. Side by side they slept, and dreamed of better times.

It was taking too long. Hive Five was too stubborn, too resistant to his interrogation techniques. He was one step away from trying things that he'd always deemed too violent, because he always hoped that the prisoner would break. That and there was always the distinct possibility that she really didn't know very much. He and Nitro were busily dealing with her at a local precinct, trying to extract as much information as they could. She'd given vague answers, nothing that they could really use. A quick call to Mystan had both the Psion and Snap Gap looking in to see where the phone call had been made to.

"What we need is a telepath," he muttered, regretting the words instantly. He saw the snide remark on Nitro's face, though thankfully he didn't verbalize it. "How long do you think it would take to find one?"

"Short taking him off this moon, who knows? This is hardly the moon for them. Still, there's bound to be a couple in the city. We could check the temple of Cyris in the morning, most Psions worship him."

"I guess it's worth a try. I just don't like the idea of leaving it overnight. There's another option. It's not great, but it might work. Get Mystan down here."

Crackle stared out the window, watching the freighter take off. A shipment of machine parts to the Royal Moon; the perfect cover for the first wave. Drell was on that ship, leading that detachment, while Raven and Myrik would leave at first light on a second ship. Frostarn would be pushed to handle any issues that came up with the prisoners, but he suspected she didn't really mind it.

Things were moving quicker than he'd have liked. He'd known that some day the authorities would come sniffing, he just hadn't expected it so soon. He'd imagined retiring with his cache of wealth on some remote planet and enjoying the fruits of his labours. In a day he would find out how soon that dream was to pass.

What no one else knew of where the secret preparations he was undertaking. He had his money stashed aboard a one man ship hidden above his office. The building itself was lined with explosives, and below as well. Not a shred of evidence would be found of him or his money. Of course, it would be nice to stockpile a little more.

"You're serious," Mystan said. It was a phrasing that suggested that Cameo was insane for even considering the option. Mystan wasn't even a hundred percent sure it would work. He knew of Cameo's abilities, from his father's Solarian side, a species that no one knew much about. In fact, when Mystan thought about it, the only notation about them in the file the High Priests had on them was that one of them had sired Cameo.

The abilities in question had long been coveted by the Psion race. Cameo could duplicate the powers of anyone he touched. Though the copy wasn't as strong as the original, the possibilities were endless. A Psion with an outstanding skill set could augment their power with those of another. But, as yet, the secrets to his powers were locked away inside Cameo's body, and now he wanted to use those powers to borrow Mystan's.

The principle was sound, if a long shot. The High Priests had blocked his powers, not removed them. In theory Cameo should be able to copy them. There were flaws in this logic, though. "My specialty was telekinesis, not telepathy. And you'll need a lot of coaching. If she's got even the slightest resistence, it probably won't work," he cautioned, feeling the start of what could only be described as jealousy. A sense of 'if I can't use my powers, why should you' that he couldn't say he'd ever felt before.

"Can it be done?" Cameo asked simply, looking over at the clock. It was getting close to midnight, and the sooner they had answers, the better.

"Quite likely. I've trained students before. This will be a little more difficult, but I suspect, with my guidance, we should be able to do it."

Mystan pulled two chairs over to in front of Hive Five's cell. Nitro was standing further back, down the hall, talking with one of the officers while Nuiane napped on a bench. Whatever the officer said must have been amusing as Nitro began laughing. That was inconsequential at the moment. He settled on to a chair and held out his hand.

"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. You probably won't even feel anything," Cameo explained as he too sat down. The contact was brief, nothing more than a handshake, and Cameo was quite right. There was no sensation at all out of the ordinary. He almost questioned whether it had worked, but Cameo seemed satisfied. "Now what?"

He considered for a moment. Every student was different, and by now they would have been given instructions on the principles of clearing their minds. Still, there were the basics that could be taught in a pinch. "I want you to focus on her," his voice was strong but quiet, the purpose being to calm and soothe through his own hypnotic voice. It was something that other races didn't understand. Hypnotism depended on voice as well as natural power. The strongest hypnotist would struggle if their voice didn't sound sincere. "Many find it easiest to stare at her brain, but it's not necessary. Now, breathe slowly, long deep breaths. Imagine yourself feeling lighter, feel the gravity melting away from you, become lighter than the air itself."

"It's working!" Cameo gasped, for which Mystan was grateful. This was by far the easiest method. There were some that would require some controversy. He'd heard of telepaths breaking free through extreme physical trauma, for example, and that was very risky.

"Don't talk, just let your mind go free. Continue staring at her brain, travel towards her. Reach out your hand and touch her head." Cameo's corporeal hand raised, just as it often did for initiates. It was difficult to fully separate mind from body, which was a blessing. It meant that it was easier to recall the spirit. That would be a complete disaster, if Cameo couldn't find his way back to his own body.

He heard a gasp and assumed that he was in. This was going to be the hardest part. The brain had great difficulty comprehending the psychic plane. It often interpreted signals in ways that made it easier for it to accept. Mystan had heard cases where the brain viewed telepathy as a large house, with doors leading into various thought centres of the other's brain. Others saw windows, or holes. It varied. "Tell me what you see," he said calmly, trying not to give a hint of his nerves.

"I see purples and reds swirling around me. There's a footpath hanging over nothing. Whoa! I almost slipped. What would happen if I fell?"

"Depending on your will, nothing. Or your brain could go into shock and you would die. If you start to fall, tell yourself there's another path underneath, or convince yourself you have wings. Something. Now, keep describing as you walk the path."

Cameo's vacant eyes flitted back and forth, doubtless scanning around. Mystan could hear Nitro snort something about boosting Cameo's confidence. That seldom worked. What the mind wanted to believe it would believe. "There's what looks like a giant ball of yarn ahead, only it's got about a thousand strings hanging from it. The path goes around it."

Ah. The ball of yarn. His most recent apprentice had seen it this way at first. It was too primitive a means, though, and she'd adapted to something more logical. Now that Cameo was in, he would need to find the information he needed. "I'm not sure if this will work for you or not. After I give my instructions, I want you to move to the string that feels right. You'll understand, I hope, when it happens. I should warn you that it might be barely perceptible. Touching a string should provide you a glimpse at Hive Five's memories. Now, ask the ball of yarn about the Moons of Purity." Mystan said. It was a long shot, and some apprentices never felt the subtle tug.

"Tell me about the Moons of Purity," Cameo said loudly. Mystan risked a glance at Hive Five. She'd been sedated to prevent her from actively trying to hinder the process. Nuiane stirred, but didn't wake either. "Okay, problem. There are two."

Two? That was curious. "Try and remember where one is, and then touch the other."

Another gasp, presumably as the flood of memories washed over him. An apprentice would be taught how to fast forward and rewind memories, observe details, and extrapolate from one to the next. There was no time to go through that process here. "She's talking to someone on the phone. Someone named Drell. They're talking about Mind Grind's disappearance." Mystan didn't bother looking to see if Nitro was taking notes, nor whether the Graviton officer was doing a quick check through his computer. Icewalkers were dependable to know their duty, if nothing else. "I see them talking about other people, so many names. Holy crap are there a lot of names. She must be calling them about thirty or forty times. It's over. How do I check that other thread?"

"Your hand is still touching the thread, pull it away and you should let go," Mystan said. It wasn't as simple as that, but it usually worked. It was tiring, because he would usually be inside the mind with the initiate.

"Okay, and I'm pretty sure it was this one. No, I'm positive it was... Oh god!"

"Did he see her naked?" Nitro snickered quietly. Mystan glowered, but was sure that Cameo hadn't heard it.

"It's her. She's leaving the library and she's seeing an abduction. There's a Darkling, a Psion and a Graviton there. The victim is running to her for help, he's bleeding from his arm. The Darkling is holding a knife and the Graviton is shouting at him. She's tackled the hybrid. The Psion thanks her for her help. That's Drell, the name seems to fit to him, I think that's the guy in the picture you have. The Darkling is too far away, but it's probably the same one. Same black hair. Oh, now they're all coming up to her. Yeah, he's Drell. He's introduced himself as being a member of the Moons of Purity. I think he read her mind. She's agreeing to help them however she can, as the Darkling drags the hybrid away. He's giving her a phone number. They're arranging the system they have, forwarding tips from the police. I don't think she knows where their base is, but she's definitely a big part of the group. She's walking home now, happy. I don't get it. It's over. I'm back at the ball of yarn."

"Are there any other tuggings?" Mystan asked. He was sure there wouldn't be, not at this stage, but it didn't hurt to check. When Cameo said no, Mystan resumed. "Okay. Getting back to your body is going to be harder. Walk back down the path. When you reach where you came in, let me know."

"Okay. I'm there. There's a black hole here. Do I go through it?" Cameo asked.

"Yes. It should take you back outside her body. When you see your body, try getting into the exact same position it's in." He heard Cameo grunt that he was in place. "Now it's easy. Open your eyes."

"They are open."

"Open them. Close them and then open them if it makes you feel better. Trust me." Cameo jerked forward, nearly toppling to the floor. He stood up and looked around.

"Nothing personal, Mystan, but I don't think I'd like to do that again. I'll leave that to the pros. Come on. Let's sort out what we've learned."

While it was night for Mystan, it was late morning in the Psion capital. In the uppermost room of the holiest of temples, seat of power for the High Priests, the eldest of the council sat in meditation. Toran had read Mystan's report, had done a search through their computer system for any record of Drell. From birth all Psions were examined by the elders, chiefly to prevent powers from manifesting until the child was old enough to control them. Afterwards they would be trained through the schools, with the most promising being taken to one of the temples.

Drell had been a borderline case, according to the file. He had the discipline and mentality to use his powers, but they had been deemed not strong enough to merit higher learning. Apparently their assessment had been a mistake. What had happened on the Vast Belly suggested a powerful telepath, and Drell's telepathic centre was considerably weak. Or had that been done by another?

A thorough search of records showed that he had worked in a restaurant for a time, had married and then lost his wife in a tragic murder four years ago. The culprit had been an Icewalker/Darkling hybrid who had subsequently fled the moon. There was still, Toran noted, a pending warrant for his arrest. At least that accounted for some of Drell's hatred of hybrids, he thought. He enjoyed when pieces fell into place.

Two years after the murder he had quit his job and moved off the Psion Moon on a ship headed for the Graviton Moon. He had made subsequent returns but, curiously, never stayed very long. Obtaining passenger logs for those trips, to see if there was anyone else making the same trips, would take a long time, digging through old files and then cross referencing, so he had passed the task on to an acolyte. He had more important things to do.

It was tempting, Myrik thought, opening his eyes and feeling the familiar stirring between his legs. Psychro had rolled to face him in his sleep, his hair matted and spread about the pillow. That marvellous chest was just crying out to be touched. And then there was the penis. That elegant piece of flesh that had captivated him the night before. Myrik started to reach for it, but stopped. No. Not yet. He didn't know how long it would take to get to the Royal Moon, complete their task and get back, but when they did he would have Psychro begging him to make love to him.

The plan was so diabolical in its simplicity. He would show Psychro his sister, and inform him that Psychro would have to give Myrik the best sex of his life or Psikaris would die. No, wait. Even better. Psikaris was pregnant with twins. Myrik would cut the children from her first, and if Psychro still failed, only then would Psikaris die.

His ship was scheduled to leave in another two hours, he saw from the clock. Perhaps he could indulge his lust just a little. He leaned forward and licked Psychro's bicep, enjoying the sweet taste of his sweat. The room was at a comfort level for an Psion, not a half Icewalker. The hybrid jumped and pulled his arm back, a delightful look of revulsion in his face. "Remember our agreement," Myrik whispered, pulling the arm back into place and planting soft but demanding kisses along the muscled limb until he reached the callused hands. Such practised hands. They had caressed Fantasy so expertly, and he couldn't wait for them to touch him the same way. Soon, very soon. He dragged his mouth back up to Psychro's and kissed him long and hard. "Sadly, I have to go. We'll finish this when I get back. The guards will see you back to your cell."

Myrik stood and got dressed. Then he summoned a squad of guards. There were prisoners to shuffle around. Psychro to return to his special cell, Fantasy to her place, and Black Tiger back to the barracks. Small details, and the guards readily obeyed him. Stories had spread that he'd abused more than one guard for failing to listen, they weren't true as Crackle would have a fit, but he liked to perpetuate them.

With everyone back where they belonged, a rendezvoused with Raven and the rest of their group at the warehouse where their ship was waiting. He took one last look at the building as they took off, excitement written all over his face. Very soon, he thought.

Was it morning already? Cameo groaned softly and stared out the window. The sun was up, and even the curtains couldn't blot out the light completely. Mornings were horrible. Back on the Ice Moon they lived in caves and caverns with very little natural light. Ever since he'd taken on the posting at the palace he'd been finding sleeping awkward, to the point that he had installed heavy black curtains over the bedroom window. Psikaris was the same way, he knew, and just the thought of her made him wish in part that he was back home with her.

But his place was here, for now. The Graviton Moon wasn't the most pleasant of places to be, the extra gravity wore on one if they stayed too long, but the people were friendly and the food was delicious, if not necessarily nutritious. Once the case was over he could go back home, relax in the comforting love of his family and pick up where he'd left off with his work.

The Graviton government, which meant the vaguely organized group that met at one of the many local watering holes, had graciously provided the quartet with a pair of spacious rooms in what the hotel called their outsider rooms. Unlike the rooms in the rest of the hotel, and indeed the furniture found all over the city, the accommodations weren't designed to hold Gravitons. Mystan, his room mate, was already up, going through some transmission he'd received, doubtless from his home moon.

A door joining the two suites opened wide, revealing Nitro and Nuiane. They'd gone and gotten breakfast for the group to share, even managing to find something not entirely greasy for Mystan to enjoy. "So what's on the agenda today," Nitro asked, picking up some toast and spreading on bacon flavoured jam.

"Well, first things first. I spoke to the High Priests and found out a little information on Drell," Mystan said, vaguely indicating the computer still in his lap. He relayed what little Toran had provided, along with the elder's assurance to pass on more when he knew. "Backed on that and what we already know, I'm willing to wager that the Moons of Purity are based here on this moon."

"I agree. It's possible they've got similar arrangements with police on other moons, but I think Hive Five's status makes it more likely. The Graviton Moon also has the second largest numbers of suspected abductions. So we stay here. But we don't want to just sit around," Cameo said. He paced around a little. He wasn't a detective, this wasn't his specialty, he was much more used to ship to ship combat. The enemies were obvious. Even the politicking of the palace was easy. Everyone had their motivations, and few really backed Luna. Pretenders were easy to spot.

A silence held for about a minute. "We should heavily block traffic to and from the moon," Nitro said. "If we can contain the group to one moon, it might make them easier to find."

"While we're at it, why don't we check local directories for Drell?" Nuiane asked, casually picking at a blob of butter that had landed on her knee.

"Mystan and I will hit the space port, then. We've both seen Drell now in memories, we might be able to pick him out of a crowd. Nitro, why don't you and Nuiane visit the precinct and see about looking through directories." When they were all in agreement, they left the suites, each heading on their respective errands.

Unaware that he was being searched for, Drell casually approached the palace, flanked by a pair of Royals. The palace was closed to visitors for the day, but he didn't figure that would be a problem. One of the men standing at the front door was an ally of the Moons of Purity. He had cunningly arranged to be present when Drell and his friends arrived to review phony paperwork. When things went down he would doubtless find the heat turned up on him. He was expendable, and could be disposed of if the need arose. Much like those two Psion idiots who had called in and reported a failure. They'd caught their target, but they'd been painfully obvious in their excavation. Crackle had financed a hit man to eliminate the embarrassments.

It was a shame. He personally felt that Psions were the ideal candidates for this work, they were ruthless and had a natural superiority complex. All one had to do was get past the fervour for the god and it was easy.

The doorman looked over his credentials and waved him through. They journeyed further through the halls. One of the Royals slipped off, changing hastily in a cupboard into a servant's disguise, while the other followed him to a library near the throne room and he pretended to be copying some text for further research. His people were in position, a psychic message to each assured him. More importantly, however, was Luna being in position. She was in her throne room having a lengthy conversation with two of her advisors, unaware that one was a traitor. By the time she found out, it would be too late. Now all he needed was to wait for Myrik's signal.

"Little miss 'Favoured' is back, is she?" Black Tiger's eyes were wide at the accusation from the Darkling/Psion. A guard had brought her back, just as the first rotation was about to go out. There was still a scrap of food on the table, though even she watched a Lion/Graviton snagged it. The Darkling/Psion in question, named Nysar if she remembered the brief introduction, walked forward, jabbing a finger at her.

Merma was at her side instantly. "You think being taken by Myrik is a good thing?" she snapped. "I don't see any injuries on her, but you know better than that. Come on."

That seemed to placate Nysar a bit. Which was just as well. Black Tiger needed to tell everyone what Fantasy had said, and she was nervous enough as it was. There were no guards inside the barracks, they either didn't think they needed to or were confident enough in their abilities that they didn't care. "Actually. I need to talk to everyone." Her voice was quiet, and she could tell that Merma had barely heard her.

"You sure? Okay then. Listen up everyone, gather round," Merma called. They came in clumps, about twenty in all. Once they were all in place, Merma waved them to silence.

Black Tiger was pleased to see that Chedra was among them, as she would be a chief part of the process. Hesitantly, and with a little prodding from the older woman, she began. "A chance for escape is coming. Myrik has made a mistake. There's a Psion/Tiger woman he's kept prisoner the last two months named Fantasy." A murmur went around the room, the implications heavy. Anyone trapped in a room with that monster, even for a day, would have endured torments unspeakable, so two months was beyond that.

However one faint voice spoke up, a Psion/Royal who was near death from the radiation poisoning. "Fantasy? She still lives?"

"Yes. And she's been biding her time, learning everything she can," Black Tiger said, slowly telling them everything that the two women had discussed during their time in Drell's room. The story unfolded, Black Tiger's confidence growing as she spoke, and all eyes turned to Chedra as her part in the plan was discussed.

"That makes sense," Chedra said, closing her eyes and concentrating. "Yes. The barrier feels weak. It's like a thing just out of reach. I think I can do it." Life returned to Chedra, the first glimpses of hope. All around Black Tiger could see the same emotion filling the others.

But Nysar wasn't convinced. "What if this is a trick? What if Fantasy or even Black Tiger have betrayed us for her own neck? What would any of us do to save our own skins, would we lead to the death of others? Maybe she's been sent to find out who the ringleaders in the barracks are. Maybe Myrik is looking for an excuse to punish us."

The words caused a momentary silence, ended by a slap across her face. Black Tiger snarled, fighting to salvage what had been broken of her spirit. Whether she meant to or not, Nysar had fanned the flame of that spirit, spurring her to attack. "Are you calling me a traitor?" she snapped, daring the woman to do it again.

"Maybe not intentionally," Nysar said, recoiling and backing up into another hybrid. Black Tiger could see the Darkling/Psion rethinking her strategy and picking her next words carefully. "Myrik likes his games. How do we know this isn't one of them?"

"Who cares if it is?" Chedra said, coming to stand next to Black Tiger and Merma. "I've had it with being pushed around by these people. If I'm going to die, I'm dying on my feet. I know a lot about Lunataks and Thunderians, neither back down, and I'm not taking it anymore. I think I can break my mental block, and then I can help the half Psions with theirs."

"Right. And then we'll take the guards by surprise. We'll have to work quickly once we start the breakout, or they'll send everyone they've got at us. We'll make our move during the shift rotation so we can maximize our numbers," Merma added, patting Black Tiger's shoulder.

"Which means hitting the men's barracks as soon as we can to double them. Okay then, what the hell, let's give it a shot," Nysar said as Chedra went to work.

Psikaris walked over to her dresser feeling very lonely. Cameo was off doing his important detective job, and she was stuck at home, unable to continue her engineering work. It was too dangerous 'in her condition'. Her doctor insisted that she take things easy, now that the baby was less than four months away, but it aggravated her not being allowed to get quite as hands on. Not that the baby was making life easy for her. While she had yet to be sick, she did feel her stomach churning constantly, and she was admittedly getting tired more easily.

At least if Cameo were around she would feel more free to wander outside. It was promising to be a beautiful day. She'd even opened the bedroom curtains to let in light and gazed in wonder over the city. There was a park nearby that she had more than once stopped in to read. The security guards assigned to her wouldn't be up to such a walk, she suspected. Pity on them, she chuckled.

She poured herself a cup of tea, not her usual drink but the doctor had recommended it, and settled on the couch to give the news a quick scan. There wasn't much of interest going on, but it killed a few minutes. After a while she decided to have a nice long bath, not knowing what was happening just outside.

Watching through binoculars, Myrik watched. She wasn't nearly as attractive as her brother, he mused, but he could see the family resemblance. These members of House Myntaello produced fine looking specimen. Cameo wasn't home, Raven's infrared vision confirmed it. There were, however, four people stationed outside the door to the apartment, and another three circling the perimeter of the building. They wouldn't be much of an immediate threat, but did need to be taken care of before the action started inside. One person, at least, would need to sound the alarm to help Drell's group.

He would lead the first group, disguised as men delivering a piece of furniture to one of Psikaris' neighbours. Raven would be in the second. They would dispatch the guards on the ground and keep watch for reenforcements. A quick getaway was critical, especially when it came time to get off the moon. Once the attack began there would be a finite amount of time before the space port closed in order to catch them. But then, if Luna was dead, there might be enough chaos to escape. "All right," he said to the trio with him, "let's move in."

Cameo walked through the crowd. Mostly Gravitons were bustling around, though a smattering of other races walked about. A quartet of Mutants from Plundarr were bartering with an Icewalker, while a human, probably an Evil Chaser from the uniform, was speaking with a Graviton and taking notes. His eyes darted every time he saw a Psion face, but it was never Drell. One time, to his annoyance, it had been Mystan.

Even with Luna's backing, the port's master was incredibly leery of shutting down space travel more than he was. People complained loudly as it was, and he was the one who had to deal with the complaints. It was incredibly frustrating. Didn't he realize the scope of what was going on? Lunataks, honest citizens, were vanishing from the streets. Possibly even coming through this very port.

"Maybe that's the real reason," a voice deep down suggested, as he neared a Psion vessel. He stopped mid stride, causing a Graviton to nearly collide with him. The gentleman uttered a vulgar curse and continued on his way. It made sense. An organization like the Moons of Purity would need people in high places. A space port was the perfect example. Who better to help smuggle living beings on to a moon than the port master? They had an officer of the law on payroll, why not? But if that was indeed the case, then how would he prove it, or was he jumping at shadows and seeing conspirators around every corner?

He continued over to the Psion ship, a small craft that looked to belong to a wealthy family on a vacation. He took a quick look at them, and was disappointed to see that none of them were Drell. Still, he produced a rough drawing that had been done of the man and showed it to the family. "Excuse me, we're looking for this man, have you seen him?" he asked.

"No, can't say as I have, I'm afraid," the patriarch of the group said, taking a long look. They passed the picture around and each had the same basic response.

"Thank you anyway. Enjoy your time here." Cameo slipped back into the crowd. A Psion ship would have been too obvious anyway. These people were smart, so it was probably Graviton ships they were using.

A fuel truck drove by, and a team of paramedics headed in the opposite direction at a leisurely pace. It was beginning to look like a lost cause, he thought. With any luck Nitro and Nuiane were having an easier time of things. He saw a Psion running towards him and realized with a start that it was Mystan, concern on his face. "I just got word from the Royal Moon. One of the port masters in the capital saw Drell's name on a crew manifest. The ship landed very early this morning. He didn't think anything of it until we sent the word to all the ports."

"Damn," Cameo said. At least that explained why he wasn't finding Drell here. "We need to contain him to the moon."

"Already done. I just hope we're not too late."

"Yeah, I got a desk to deliver to apartment 708," Myrik said, employing just a little telepathy on the armed Icewalker at the entrance to the complex. It was a sudden thought that there could be additional officers in the rooms around Psikaris and Cameo. It was the kind of thing he would do if he were in command. Luckily there didn't seem to be.

"Go on through," he replied bored. The team of four carted the large boxes to the elevator. A Darkling named Dusk squinted at a camera on the ceiling, placing a tiny speck of darkness over it to shield their movements. Certain that the guard wasn't paying attention, Myrik led the group to the stairwell and raced up the stairs. The boxes didn't contain desk pieces, but energy weapons. They were light, and they made good time.

"We've got two on either side of the hall," Dusk said softly, peering through the door to the seventh floor with her goggles. "One Icewalker, two I'd bet are Royals, and one Graviton. The Royals are on the right hand side."

That was perfect. A Darkling among them might notice them hiding in the stairwell. When the fight broke out it was safe to make a few assumptions. The Icewalker would be the most dangerous if they got to close quarters, while the Royals were more likely to be marksmen. It was a generalization, but not a guarantee. The Graviton was a bit of a wild card, as they tended to be slower but were strong. "We do this quick, understand? You two walk in the front." His own pair of Royals nodded. "Memorize where the enemy is. I'll cough and we count to three. Dusk will fill the hall with darkness, I'll take care of the Graviton. He'll have the easiest mind to control, and I'll get him to take out the Icewalker. Easy enough? If any of you fail, I'll turn you over to Frostarn for punishment."

They wouldn't fail. They couldn't fail. Indeed, if it wasn't for the desire that word get to the palace of the assault he was confident he could do this on his own. The look on Psychro's face when he saw that Myrik had Psikaris would be priceless. He would fall to his knees and start to beg. Psychro would be willing to do anything, no matter how demeaning. And since he was already kneeling he would feel those callused hands on his thighs, his lips surrounding his... "Sir?" Dusk interrupted his thoughts, bringing him back to reality. He was tempted to lash out, but he needed to focus if his dreams were to come true.

"We're ready, then. Let's go."

Time was running out. The first rotation was almost finished and would be escorted back to the barracks. Black Tiger felt Chedra's hand on her shoulder as she, along with a Psion/Monkian, worked furiously at her mental block. She didn't know how useful her little dimming of the lights would be, but she was willing to try. It took them a long minute, hammering and chipping at the psychic wall. When it dropped she felt the faintest of pin pricks in her head.

It looked like exhausting work, Chedra's eyes already spoke keenly of fatigue, but there was determination there too. When the fighting started, she would be at the front fighting with all her reserves. Black Tiger hoped they all could find that burst of adrenaline, and that it would be enough.

The key, Merma had emphasized, was getting their hands on the weapons. The guards out in the mines had to wear the gold uniforms to protect them from the radiation, but the same uniforms also prevented most of them from using their innate abilities, especially the Icewalkers and Darklings. Black Tiger had never killed another Lunatak, but her time working on the Dark Moon had led to her killing small creatures.

That had led to a debate. Did they kill the guards or incapacitate. By and large they agreed that they all deserved death for the torments they'd been through, but at least a few needed to be left alive to publicly pay the price. That and to input the access codes to get the elevator working, Merma had pointed out. About the only consensus was that the upper echelon needed to suffer before they were killed, especially Myrik and Frostarn.

The guards looked up as the quartet entered the hall, each carrying boxes. They didn't realize that behind those boxes were energy weapons. Only the Icewalker paid them much heed after the initial look, though. Myrik knew he would be the threat, he was too alert and suspicious. That was precisely why he was glad he would be handling him. His mind sought the Graviton's, while maintaining an easy gait.

There he was. As expected it was largely empty. The man was thinking too much about what he was going to have for lunch, and complaining that the restaurant had run out of gravy at breakfast, which led back to thoughts of lunch. Myrik had him bring his weapon up subtly, as though checking the settings, pointing it straight at his Icewalker friend. It was beautiful how natural he made the movement. Even if one of the others noticed, they would think the Graviton too stupid to realize what he was doing.

Myrik coughed and, three seconds later the hall was plunged into darkness and filled with the sounds of laser fire. A blast of return fire, curse those Royals, whizzed past. "Tanth... Duck now," Dusk said, almost slipping up and calling one of her compatriots by name. He couldn't see her but knew what was happening. Her infrared vision allowed her to pierce her own darkness. A gurgle led to a 'thud' before the light returned. All that was left was the portly Graviton, whose mind Myrik still held. He had the man turn his weapon on himself, ending his rather pathetic life.

"Dusk, any activity in any of the rooms?" the Psion asked, taking quick stock of the situation. One of the Royals had a thick energy burn on his leg and was walking with a noticeable limp. Otherwise his people seemed unharmed. They needed word to get out, but it needed to be under their terms.

"It doesn't look like it. I don't think Psikaris even heard it."

"Let's make sure someone hears the abduction, then. The door, gentlemen." Myrik watched the Royal pair walk to the door, room 709 and ram their shoulders into it. After two quick strikes the door splintered open and they stormed inside.

He heard the sounds of splashing and grinned. Psikaris knew they were there now, she couldn't help but hear. She emerged from the bathroom, wearing only a hastily thrown on towel, and carrying a towel rack. "Psikaris, dear. Surrender yourself quietly. We only want to bring you to Psychro," he said. The Royals had their weapons pointed at her, while Dusk was still out in the hall keeping watch.

"Who are you?" she demanded, her voice trembling.

"We'll have plenty of time to get to know each other," a shiver went up his spine thinking how much he was going to get to know her brother instead. "Come along. You don't want us hurting your children."

"You're making a big mistake. I'm bonded to Cameo. He'll find you and..." the towel rack rose threateningly as he stepped closer to her. He was probably blocking his people from shooting, but that was a good thing. He didn't need his prize harmed yet.

"He may find us. But will it be too late for you. I'm getting tired of this. Dusk has anyone called the police yet?"

"I don't think so," came the reply from the hall.

"Scream for me, Psikaris. Call for help." Myrik's mental influence pushed its way in and she screamed loudly. A second piercing cry and Dusk told him that there was definite activity in the next apartment. "Good night, Psikaris." A further push and her brain decided that she was sleeping. He caught her just before she hit the ground.

On to Purification - part five
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