EPILOGUE

THE CITADEL, THE TWO DAYS LATER, THE COMMISSARY

What a week, thought Powerhouse. A few tables down, he saw Lieutenant Taggert, looking dejected. Not surprising, after The Major read her the riot act. Nearby, he saw that prick Wheelson, taking out his lunch. Apparently one of his tuna fish sandwiches which manage to stink up the refrigerator. His mind wandered back to yesterday, shortly after the team returned from Washington.

No one present recalled the Major being so angry.

Up to now, they were fortunate.

Everyone in the room knew that Wheelson had exceeded his authority, but he refused to relent.

"YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO OVERRIDE THIS PROCEEDURE!"

"My 'authorization' comes from the President! I felt the need to use it during this crisis and…"

"WE HAD APPROVED PLAN OF ACTION IN PLACE! YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO INTERVENE…"

"I simply noticed that one of the supers present used an armor of a similar type…"

"She is part of a junior team! They had neither the training nor expertise for this type of emergency!"

"If you recall, most of the Alliance, plus yourself, were in Washington. Something needed to be done, and I took the initiative!"

Yeah, wasting time on a forced photo op with your boss, thought Powerhouse. The Major and the rest of the team were briefed of the incident in Washington. Even without them, a workable operation was in place for this emergency, even with a reduced team. He looked balefully at the others. He noticed Striker and Turbo Jade from the In-Crowd. They did their best to handle the incident, but with a terrible price. Striker was particularly disturbed, and with understandable reason.

"Turbo Jade is registered in the CAST database, therefore she is required to assist in situations like this. Plus, with that special armor…"

"If you had bothered to read her file, you would understand why she wasn't included! She isn't meant to be in such situations!"

"Then why are we supporting her at all?"

"It's in her file!" said the major, testily.

Powerhouse looked at Turbo Jade, who looked worried. Everyone knew Maria's dilemma. She was a just a normal kid, involved on a CAST funded project, who accidentally activated the armor during a terrorist raid. Knowing almost nothing about it, and having no way to remove it, she was involuntarily recruited into CAST and the Citadel for her protection. It was a shame, he thought. It wasn't that she was unwelcome, nor was it because anyone treated her improperly (to his knowledge) She really didn't 'fit' as a super. Her heart just didn't seem into it. It was clear that she was forced, rather than driven into this role. Not that Wheelson cared.

At that moment, the meeting was interrupted by a transmission on the main screen.

"Sir, priority transmission from Washington!"

"I thought I made it clear we were not to be interrupted!"

"Sir, it's the President!"

With that, everyone looked at each other with nervous apprehension. "Put him on." The Major said calmly.

Shortly, the display switched to President Sands. "Good afternoon all."

"Good afternoon sir."

"I will be brief. It has come to my attention, that your jurisdiction was involved in some sort of domestic incident."

"That is correct sir." Interjected Wheelson. "With the main team away in Washington, I worked with CAST officials in rectifying this situation." He said, giving an oily smile. The Major, clearly not happy at being interrupted, glared at him angrily.

"That's good to hear." Said Sands. As a matter of fact, I intend to use this event as an example of the spirt of cooperation between my administration and CAST against those who would threaten this fair land."

Everyone in the room looked at each other in horror as he continued.

"Yes… together as a shield! Separating us from those who would threaten our way of life!" he said, as if proud of listening to himself.

"Sir, you should be aware…"

"Wonderful idea sir!" said Wheelson, clearly sucking up.

"Of course." Said the President, smiling. "Wheelson, I'll provide you with the details later in the week. Everyone, keep up the good work!" The monitor went black.

There was a disturbing silence after everyone let this sink in. Wheelson, arrogant as ever, straightened his tie, and gave a mocking smile. "I'll fill you in the details later Major. Good day."

The silence continued as he left. Striker put his hands to his face. Turbo Jade, lowered her head. Tears started to drip from her visor.

And that was yesterday. Powerhouse pondered all this as Wheelson started his lunch. Because of him, young Windy was in the hospital. Since that jerk Sands came to power, he and toadies like Wheelson continued to pull shit like that with no accountability whatsoever. He glanced at Lieutenant Taggert. Poor kid. She didn't deserve any of this. Wheelson forced her to comply and didn't even back her up afterwards.

The worst thing of course, was that there was nothing the Alliance, CAST, or anybody could do.

Wheelson started to eat his sandwich. Moments after he swallowed, his eyes started to bulge. He then started to shake uncontrollably, with bile leaking from his mouth. Everyone near him watched him with concern. Suddenly, he shook like a man possessed! His face, turned red as a beet!. All around, everyone tried to find out what was happening as he continued to squirm wildly, finally screaming in pain!"

Powerhouse smiled. From his pocket he pulled out the Demonic Blaze he had obtained earlier in the week and looked at it lovingly.

The seal was broken.

It was half full.

No, he pondered, there was nothing anyone could do about Wheelson.

But that didn't mean HE couldn't try!

THE WOLVE'S LAIR

Anya rested peacefully. Nattie, Debbie and Jessie were bedside. According to Cassie, she was recovering quickly. For now, she needed rest.

"Debbie, I never had a chance… that is…"

"It's okay. I know she is your friend."

"She is more than that. We were…"

"Yes. She told me you were friends since childhood, that you went to school together."

She looked at her and smiled gently "Yes, but there was more. MUCH more." She said as they walked down the hallway.

"Hey, I helped too!" Said Jessie, smugly. Nattie gave her a fierce look, but quickly relented.

"Nattie, I… I'm sorry about earlier"

"What do you mean?"

"About not knowing about the War. I never learned about it in school,"

Jessie rolled her eyes. Not this again. She had gone through this herself when she got into an argument with Nattie some time back. She was never that good at history, except for recent events. But Nattie would berate her or anybody who didn't know about World War One, the Russian Revolution, or anything that happened before the 60s. She should have warned the cub about that. Oh well.

"I should have not scolded you as I did, at least for Anya's sake." Said Nattie. "But seriously! What are they teaching you kids nowadays?"

As they left, a solitary figure emerged from nearby. He made sure they were far enough away and entered Anya's room. He approached her and looked at her balefully. He then pulled something from his vest pocket.

"We'll stop by tomorrow afternoon."

"I will be here. Once again, thank you." She watched them leave for their job, via shuttle. Moments later, she left the loading dock. That young girl wasn't bad for a cur, she mused. Naïve, but in a likeable sort of way. Jessie on the other hand, was unbearable. She will be a bad influence, she pondered.

On a whim, she decided to stop in on Anja one last time, before returning to work. As she entered the room, she noticed someone had placed something on her bosom. She took a closer look.

She froze.

It was a rose.

She picked up and examined it. Its shade was undeniable. Its scent, unforgettable. It was the vampire rose.

He was here.

Blood tears of anger welled in her eyes as she crushed the flower in her bare hands, causing them to bleed.

The nerve!

ON THE BUS

Debbie looked out the window as they headed to Wonderwings. A week ago, she was held at the academy, a prisoner. Since then, she learned what she was, and left the like she knew. She could never return.

She never wanted to return.

She met others, like Bianca and Jessie who knew and accepted what she was. Unlike her mother and her so called 'friends'.

There were bad things, like when they took her and Jessie without explanation, and the fight at the casino. She knew she had nothing to do with either, yet it frightened her.

But it was still better than the Academy.

She looked at Jessie, who was locked in her own thoughts. There was much she wanted to know. About her new life, her new friends, everything. Union City was a far cry from the simple life of Bakkersville. She didn't know what tomorrow would bring.

She smiled. In a way, she couldn't wait.