By Jamie Jeans & Alex Fauth

With one last glance at the clinic, Korey Winters turned and started down the street, the words of the Clark Street Clinic doctor as fresh in her mind as the stitches and bandages on her leg was.

"You two know each other," ventured Ray, ever the silent shadow beside her.

"In a way, yes," came her reply.

"You're troubled."

Hobbling a little on her still sore leg, Korey looked up at him. "You can read me so well?"

"Yes, you are more silent then usual, but it's a troubled silence." At the inquisitive look from Korey, he continued on. "The emotions are easier to read then some would think, no matter how well versed one may think they are in controlling them."

"I see... perhaps I shall train myself further. Emotions are not to be displayed amongst the people I work with."

"And now you are attempting to change the subject."

Sighing, Korey shoved her hands into her jacket pockets and nodded. "Yes. I... don't wish to discuss with you what me and Dr. Lydia discussed."

Ray nodded. "Of course. It is a private matter."

"You are not offended?"

"No. Why, should I be?"

Korey smiled and shook her head. "No. But... I appreciate the offer to talk."

"I can't believe I used to live like this." The thought kept going through Sandra's head as she walked through the streets of the Neo York Zero Zone. For some reason, the Zone seemed far worse than she remembered. It was so squalid, so decayed. Ragged, tattered people shuffling through their lives, trying to merely survive day to day. Ruined buildings, the burnt-out shells of cars. After the lights and the vibrant life in Hong Long, it seemed so different. Maybe that was it, she thought, Maybe she'd merely become so used to living it up in HK that she'd forgotten how harsh the Zone was and the old life she used to live.

If you could call it living, she mentally added. No, she hadn't lived here, merely existed day to day, trying to survive while drowning old memories, not caring what happened to her next. There was no future in that old life, just as it seemed like there was no future in this place.

She sighed and kept walking. She had come back to the Zone for a very specific reason. Ever since her confrontation with Dra--, no, with Jason Stone in her apartment in Hong Kong, she'd been troubled by the memories of what had happened here. She, Jason, and Marta Nys taking on the Brown Armband gang all on their own. Jason's insane plan that had almost gotten all three of them killed.

And instead I killed Athena. She thought. The woman she had been hired to find. Even now, she still had trouble convincing herself that she'd done the right thing. I had no choice. It was either she or Jason. Just keep reminding yourself of that. She had decided to come back to confront her past, and try to put it all behind her. She hadn't imagined it would be this painful.

As she walked, she noticed the people round her thinning out, while the damage became more extensive and more recent. The terrain became more familiar to her as well. This was where it had happened. She stopped and looked around. Jason, Marta, and herself had pulled up over... there. She turned to a bare patch of ground. They'd confronted some gangers and essentially announced their presence to the rest of the gang resulting in a literal army of thugs coming down on them. They'd split up and run, and she'd fled into... that department store, over there.

There was a sound behind her, heavy boots on cracked concrete, weapons being readied. Someone was trying, very badly, to sneak up on her. Sandra spun around, pulling out her new submachine gun. In front of her were several gangers, clad in tattered clothes, carrying an assortment of mismatched weapons: guns, bats, and chains.

And each was wearing a brown armband.

Tool. She hadn't expected there to be any left of them after what had happened, she'd expected them to have fled rather than stay and be massacred by Shion. Certainly she didn't expect them to still exist as a gang.

"Shit! It's her!" A scarred blonde woman wearing a beret shouted. Sandra recognized her. She'd had a deep and meaningful conversation with this woman, while beating the seventeen shades of living crap out of her. The rest of the gang members looked at her. "Well... don't just stand there, get her!" the woman shouted. A trio of thugs charged at Sandra, while the woman ducked behind a piece of rubble. Sandra simply leveled her gun and fired a short burst, the thugs dropping, either dead or wounded.

Not wanting to wait around to survey her handiwork, Sandra ran for cover. There were still more gangers around, and they could have lots of friends. She ducked behind a chunk of concrete as bullets whizzed past her, nicking the scenery and sending chips flying. The blonde haired woman scurried off. She had to tell the new boss about this girl. She was dangerous and he needed to know, in case she came after him.

"Do you have any family?"

"Hmmm?" Korey looked up at Ray. "No, not anymore at least. Why do you ask?"

"I was thinking back on what I consider... considered, to be my family. The doctor at Ishiyama, my brother Matthew, and Lilith." He sighed softly, his gaze looking up to the slowly darkening horizon of the afternoon sky. Inwardly, Korey felt a twinge of pain and responsibility, but kept it hidden. "It is strange... but only until now, with Lilith and the doctor dead, and my brother missing, that I miss them so."

"Humans are very much like that, you know," replied Korey with a soft smile. "We only miss that which is gone, mainly because we take that which is closest to us for granted."

Ray was silent for a few seconds as the two continued walking down the street. "I... I suppose I did. I had no idea that that night would be the end of Lilith's life."

"Of course not, Ray. We all have little idea of what is in store for us tomorrow, the day after, or even five minutes ahead."

Since Sandra's little rampage through it, the department store had undergone a few changes. The Brown Armbands had made it their new headquarters, seeing as the last one was now little more than rubble. Besides, the messes that the Empress had made of its former occupants were more than any of the wanted to go near. The top floor had been somewhat remodeled, however. Rather than housing a large numbers of gang members like the other floors, it was given over to their new leader as his living room. Nobody in the gang was willing to argue. Like Wretch, the new boss was more than just the normal gang boss. He had the power.

Matthew Callahan, the new leader of the brown armbands, sat in his self-appointed "throne room" on the top floor of the department store, lackeys around him. He loved this gang for the simple-minded idiots that they were. A month ago, he'd sensed a Psychokinetic of great power cutting loose in the area. He thought that it could have been her, the Empress Shion. He'd wanted for so long to challenge her, to prove his superiority by besting her. Unfortunately, by the time he'd made it there, she was gone.

In her place, he'd found a whole bunch of confused looking gangers, all wearing brown armbands. He'd heard about this gang. They were supposed to be a small army and unmatched in power in the Zone. All he'd seen were a few pathetic stragglers. The looked like they had no minds of their own. He'd asserted his authority over them by blowing a few up. They were very willing to follow him after that.

From there, life had been good. He'd used the gang to round up Zoners to feed to the slave traders, and had rode on the profits since. This was the best thing to have happened to him. Better than when he'd killed every last one of the Red Snakes for letting that woman get away with his prize. He had big plans for this gang, but for now he needed to build up support.

He cast an eye over the assorted gangers in the room with him. For the most part, they were mindless unwashed rabble, expendable and easily replaced and none too pleasant to look at. He was getting bored with handing out orders for the moment. Time to exert some godlike authority. "Go!" He shouted. "I must plan our next move. You have your orders." The gangers turned and filed out. Just as the last few were leaving, one caught his eye, a shapely young woman in tight clothes with purple-dyed hair. "You, stay with me." He shouted. She nervously halted, then turned around, a look of fear on her face while the others shuffled out. He grinned lecherously as the woman nervously walked towards him. This was another thing he was enjoying about his new life. Oh yes....

Before he could continue that train of thought, he heard gunshots outside. Automatic weaponry, possibly some other gang trying to take his on. Let them, he thought. He had the numbers to deal with anyone dumb enough to stray onto his turf.

However, before he could get beyond that, there was another interruption. A woman ran into the room, panting for breath. She had dirty blonde hair and scars from where she had been injured in the fight that had preceded his takeover. She was one of the few members of this gang with any brains or free will, and was a semi-valuable commander.

"I'm sorry to interrupt..." She panted. "But there's a fight outside--"

"I know that." He replied. "Why bother me with it? Can't your own men deal with it?" He sounded angry.

"It's one of the ones who killed the old master, sir" She gasped. "A woman, with dark hair and a scar--"

"What?" Matt had asked about what had happened to the old leader. One of the descriptions they'd given him matched to the woman who, a few months ago, had taken his prized hostage from him. A woman who he'd met before then and gotten the chance to test his abilities out on. A woman who he'd dismissed as being not worth the effort of killing. Damn her. She was becoming quite a nuisance to him.

"Should I get together some men and--" the woman began before she was cut off.

"No. I'll deal with her myself. I haven't had a chance to exercise in a while. This should be... fun."

Sandra checked that the last thug was dead and then holstered her pistol. The thugs out here had put up something of a fight, spending a lot of their time running and hiding then taking pot shots from cover.

She turned around to look back towards the department store that she had been heading to, when something caught her eye. It was a man, floating in mid air, a big, blonde man with a scar and a missing eye. Tool. Tool, tool, tool, tool, tool. "Not you again!" she shouted.

"I must admit that you are one of my few mistakes." Matt replied. "Thinking back, I should have-"

"Look, I don't need this right now." Sandra shouted. "I just had a painful breakup with my boyfriend who has settled on someone younger, more attractive, and infinitely richer. So I don't need you and your frelling god-boy ego trip instrument of destruction thing right now, okay?"

Silence. Sandra stood there with a "I cannot believe I just said that" look on her face. Matt starred back with a "What the hell was that" look on his face. The two just stared at each other for a few seconds, each waiting for the other to make the first move.

Then Sandra ran off.

"Do you believe that my... my brother may still be alive?" Ray asked. "After all, if I survived here in the Zone, then he may have."

"It is entirely possible... but from what you told me, would it be wise to make contact with him?" Inwardly, Karin chuckled softly as the memory of her waffling him with the fire extinguisher came to mind. "He sounded like the bully type."

"He did have a tendency to lean towards more violent methods. But it would be... good to see him again."

"As much as speaking with Shion Nys would be?" As soon as she had said it, Korey regretted her words. Ray looked suddenly lost and hurt. "Ray, I am sorry. I knew you had such high expectations..."

He shook his head. "It is okay. You are, after all, only looking out for my well-being. I am--" His head snapped up, and his body went rigid.

Before she could ask, the ground rumbled softly beneath their feet, and a column of smoke a block down drifted up into the air. Withdrawing her Kuan-Ti, Korey flicked the safety off. "Ray?"

"A strong signature... but I cannot tell whose it is," was his reply.

"Not Ran's, I hope," said Korey. "Quick, let us take cover." Without waiting for a reply, Korey darted across the street, Ray close behind, and ducked inside an abandoned store. Through the aisles the two went, stopping once they had reached the rear storage room. The garage door was rusted almost completely, but still remained set in the runners.

The rumblings came closer, and a few strands of dust drifted down. "We should be safe here until the danger has passed." Korey gave Ray a concerned look. "You're not quite up to handling any PK's on your own just yet."

Ray opened his mouth, as though to reaffirm that statement, when a black object suddenly smashed through the rusted garage door.

Sandra hadn't planned on running anywhere in specific. Instead, she'd just concentrated on running, and was trying to find cover wherever she could. Her first aim was to get away from the open area that had been the old battleground so she'd actually have something substantial to hide behind. She'd been reluctant to use any of the nearby buildings, in the off chance that they were filled with gangers.

Up ahead she saw a derelict garage. The door looked rusted, but still in good shape. Good, she thought. I can get in there, shut the door and gain some cover. Ducking and weaving, she tried to throw Matt off her path before dashing to the door. Grabbing the handle, she tried to pull it open.

It didn't move. Tool.

She pulled again, throwing all her cybernetic strength behind it. This time the handle came loose in her hand. Great. It, like the rest of the door, was rusted solid. So much for stainless steel. She considered looking for other cover, then realized how close Matt was. No choice.

Backing up, she ran at the door at full speed. It gave surprisingly easily, collapsing inwards in a cloud of rust particles. Sandra rolled to her feet, ending up in front of two people, a man and a woman. The woman was surprisingly well dressed for a Zone inhabitant. She was slim, with long, white hair that had a blue streak through the middle, deep brown eyes, and looked rather out of place. The man was taller and muscular, but still lean, and had very dark hair and eyes.

"Sorry for barging in" Sandra gasped as she brushed herself down. "But there's a big, tooly boofhead of a PK after me and he's probably coming this way. It's probably a good idea to start running."

Korey raised her Kuan-Ti and gave Ray a concerned look. "Is he?"

"Yes... very close."

"What?" Sandra looked at Ray. "How do you know?"

Ray turned pain filled eyes to Sandra. "Because, he and I are brothers."

"What?" Sandra stopped and looked at Ray. "Brothers..." She paused. "Never mind that now. Let's go!"

"Agreed... Miss... Sandra Blackmore, I presume," Korey said, as she started for the front of the store.

"You know me?" Sandra asked, clearly surprised as she followed her, Ray staying behind long enough to take up the rear.

"Of course, you are one of the local street samurai's here who was, according to rumor, involved in the brutal assault on the Brown Armband gang some time ago." Korey pressed to the store's far wall once she had exited the storage room, following it to the glass-less window front and peering outside carefully. "I make it my business to know who is who in the Zone."

"Yeah... that's me. I'm here because..." She paused. "I'd heard they'd disbanded after their leader died. Evidently, I was wrong."

About to comment, Ray stopped when an explosion rocked the building, and the already worn with age ceiling crumbled. Several beams of wood tangled with old electrical wiring crashed to the floor, throwing up a cloud of dust that settled over the three people.

"Come out, come out, you little rat!" boomed Matthew's voice, prompting Ray to take a step forward.

Korey stopped him with a glance and shook her head.

"Damn, that's him," Sandra muttered. "Anyone here got a handy way to stop a rampaging PK who's determined to make me into pulp?"

"Yes," said Ray.

"Absolutely not, Ray," Korey admonished him. "You are not yet ready to face off against him and I will not allow you to."

"But... I know him, Korey. If he is not stopped today, then he will continue on... and with no other to face against him, he will be unstoppable here in the Zone," Ray argued back softly.

Sandra glanced at the pair of them. "You're a PK?" she asked Ray.

"Are you coming out or not?" Matt's voice bellowed from outside. "Or should I just bury you alive and be done with it?"

Korey sighed and, from within her jacket, pulled out a grenade. "Very well, we stop him here... but we wear him down before we perform a full frontal attack. Agreed?" She received a nod from Ray, and turned to look at Sandra.

"So he is a PK, right?" At Korey's nod, Sandra sighed. "I thought so." She looked at Ray. "I'm game for it. I think I know how we might be able to do it too."

"Yes?" asked Ray.

"I maybe mistaken, but PK's can't keep going forever. They get tired using their powers nonstop." She looked at Korey and Ray. "If you and I can distract him and tire him, maybe even wear him down a bit, Ray here can finish him off."

"Ray? Do you agree with this?" Korey asked.

"Yes," he nodded seriously.

"Good." Sandra looked outside. "What we need to do is lure him into an environment that favors us. Somewhere where you--" She looked at Korey. "--and I can run and hide, and take advantage of cover." She paused. "Since he's after me, I'm the best bait."

"Fair enough... the dumps, we'll lead him there. Go." Korey pulled the hammer back on her Kuan-Ti.

"You lead, I'll provide the target," Sandra replied as she pulled out her Uzi. "Through the door and into the shooting gallery on three... two... one..."

"Semper fi..." Memories flashed through her mind, of complete helplessness in the face of overwhelming power, a power that thrummed in the long since healed ribs and arm that ached with remembered pain. Diving out the front window, Korey rolled up into a standing run, her eyes searching for and easily finding the hovering figure in the air.

The Kuan-Ti rang out loudly as she fired off three shots in rapid succession, which prompted a slightly curious look on Matthew's face as they bounced off his shield. Behind her, she heard the powerful blasting of Sandra's Uzi, and weaved to one side, diving across the hood of a decrepit as a blast of esper energy ripped up the street behind her.

"Over here, you big tool!" Sandra shouted, firing another burst as she ducked behind the car. A blast of esper power ripped the car apart, sending the two women scurrying for cover.

"I think we got his attention."

Matthew was surprised. A second woman had joined Sandra, and was attacking him as well. Not that it mattered. She clearly didn't have any of "the power" otherwise she would have used it, rather then sniping at him with a mere pistol. She was little more then an inconsequential annoyance.

It came as something of a surprise then when she hurled a grenade at him. He quickly put all of his power into his shield, deflecting the blast and the shrapnel around him, and emerging unscathed. When the smoke and fire cleared, the two weren't when they'd been before. He turned around, spotting the both of them racing down the street.

"Why run? You'll only delay the inevitable!" he shouted before taking after them.

Korey's only reply was to continue running while firing off a few more rounds, all of which bounced off of his shield. "Right... Sandra, the place I'm thinking of is only a few more blocks away. We should make it there, if Matthew continues to stay in his... playful mood."

"He's being overconfident and dumb. We can make it," replied Sandra, running frantically.

Standing up from behind his cover, Ray watched as Matthew chased the two women down the street, his face unreadable as he continued to deal with the feelings evoked by the sight of his "brother." The street splintered up in spots just behind the two in geysers of dirt and pavement as Matthew played with them. Despite the power Ray knew he wield, he was merely toying with them, acting out on some strange urge that Ray could not understand to flaunt his power.

In one corner of his mind, Ray knew that his brother would tire after a few hours. But in another, he could not fathom how Matthew, who was created and grew up in the same environment as he, could have become such a... monster? No, not entirely, but so different from himself.

Ray sighed, and stepped outside, gathering his power up and focusing it tightly. The dust and dirt about him swirled up around him in miniature tornadoes, and he suddenly shot forward, racing off down another street that paralleled the course Sandra and Korey were currently taking.

Perhaps, in the final confrontation between them, he would be able to ascertain a small nibble of knowledge from his brother to answer some of the many questions he had. It would probably not be enough, but it would surely be more then nothing.

Panting a little, Korey raced up the last of the concrete steps leading into the old mall, and turned around. Sure enough, there was Matthew, floating towards them as though he had all the time in the world.

"I've been here before," explained Korey. "Lots of places to hide and shoot at him. Ray should already be in position, so if we keep him busy here for at least another hour or so, then I can message him to attack."

"Right. We'll split up, take him from different angles and try to confuse him. That way, he can only get one of us at a time," Sandra replied.

"Agreed. Go first and take the east wing of the mall. I'll stay and draw his attention to the west." Without even waiting for her to reply, Korey took a bead on the incoming Matthew and fired rapidly, all of her well-placed shots bouncing off the shield in front of his face.

Sandra took off to the other side, bouncing a few shots of her own off at Matthew. "Oh sure... distract him for just an hour," Sandra muttered. "Just one frelling hour. Is that all?" She ducked and continued to run. "Why do I let myself get talked into these things?"

As soon as she saw Sandra duck into the labyrinth of the mall, Korey's gun clicked empty. Matthew raised his hand with a vicious grin on his face, flinging forth a powerful blast that threw the woman forward even as she turned on her heel. Rolling into a ball, Korey kept a tight grip on her gun, biting back the cry of pain as she smacked into the door opposite the one that Sandra had used, smashing it off it's frame. She rolled off of it and ran down the hallway, pulling a second grenade out of her jacket, pulling the pin free, and tossing it over her shoulder. A few seconds later, the explosion rushed at her, sending her ducking into the storage room of an old clothing store.

Sandra heard the explosion and turned around to see Matthew fending off a grenade blast. She fired a few rounds into his back, hoping that he'd concentrated his energy ahead of him. The rounds bounced off his shield to no effect.

Matthew turned around and regarded her with an angry, one eyed glare. "Don't be impatient. You can't ALL die at once!"

"Fine then!" Sandra shouted. "Come up here and get me! I've gotten away twice, let's see if we can make it number three!"

She dashed up into the fire stairs, watching as the door exploded behind her. Reaching the second level, she dashed out. The mall was open here, with a clear view of the first floor down below. "That's not so bad," she thought, and then Matthew came barreling up the stairs after her.

"Tool!" she shouted, and ran.

Korey heard Sandra curse aloud as she jumped through the empty window frame of the store's front, and spied Matthew giving chase after the street samurai. With practiced ease, Korey replaced the empty clip of her gun with a fresh one and took aim, emptying half of it in seconds. With frustrating predictability, Korey saw the bullets bounce off of Matthew's shield and the PK turned from Sandra to focus his attention on her.

She continued to fire until the gun clicked on empty yet again; all the while Matthew stood there, his hand extended towards her.

"Just what is he doing?" Korey pondered, replacing the empty clip and darting off along the row of storefronts.

Without warning, the ground beneath her shook, and a wreath of wires and cables came snaking up out of the ground, entangling her legs. Crying out in surprise, Korey tried to jerk away, but the wires merely gripped her more tightly and flung her up into the air before slapping her through a storefront on the second floor.

With a crash, Korey landed on the floor and immediately went through it, landing in a heap of debris on the bottom floor, unconscious.

"Damn you!" Sandra shouted, firing into his back. As she expected, the rounds bounced off. He turned to face her and fired off another blast. It seemed slower and less precise then before, but no less deadly. Sandra ducked aside as chips of concrete and glass from the safety rail and floor went flying, stinging her. She was hurt, and angry, but she'd had the desired effect. Matt was now going off after her instead of finishing off Korey.

"Give it up, woman!" Matthew shouted. He reached out with his power, but rather then focusing them into a ball of force, he used them to ensnare her.

Sandra tripped over, falling flat on her face, her gun skidding across the floor. She turned around to see what it was, only to find that she'd tripped over seemingly tripped over the air. With a sinking feeling, she realized what had happened, before being pulled towards Matthew by her right leg.

She clawed ineffectually at the ground, trying to stop her advance. When that failed, she pulled out her pistol, firing it straight ahead. The bullets bounced off, before the pistol was batted away. Matthew settled down onto the ground, grinning smugly, as he picked up Sandra, hanging her upside-down by her leg.

"You have given me allot of aggravation, young lady," he said to her, his eye meeting hers. This merry chase you and your friend lead me on has ceased to be amusing." He turned her around, leaving her hanging in the air in front of him. "I realized I should have killed you that first time all those months ago. But then..." He paused. "Then I would have been able to defeat Ms. Clark on my own terms. That would have been a much more satisfying victory." He narrowed his eye. "Instead I will have to settle for killing you instead."

Sandra felt her throat constricting, as if an invisible hand was gripping it. She clawed frantically at it, trying ineffectually to pry whatever it was off her throat. She could feel herself becoming weaker, her frantic efforts to free herself becoming weaker, her vision dimming with Matthew's scarred, grinning face looming in front of her.


A rumbling shook the floor Matthew was standing on, and the pressure crushing Sandra's neck suddenly ceased. Before he could do anything, Sandra suddenly spun in the air and out over the edge of the second floor, straight into Ray's awaiting arms. Bits of debris floated up about as he focused his shield tightly about himself and her even as he fired off burst after burst on the surprised Matthew.

"Ray..." Sandra murmured before collapsing into his arms.

Matthew gritted his teeth and fired back. His brother was a complete surprise to him. He didn't know he'd survived the destruction of Ishiyama, and certainly wasn't expecting him to be here. "It's good to see you again, brother!" he shouted as he dodged a blast before firing back. Inwardly, he grinned. It had been too long since he'd faced a real opponent. And his brother had always been his equal. This was a real challenge.

Cradling Sandra in his arms, Ray bore the force of Matthew's attacks, returning with a volley of weak force blasts, forcing him back. "I cannot say the same of you," said Ray as he hovered back and down to where Korey lay.

Matt shrugged the effects of Ray's blasts off his shield, surprised at how weak they seemed. "Please tell me you're holding back, brother." Matt sneered, while quietly trying to catch his breath. He hadn't worked this hard in months. He put it down to the lack of suitable opposition. . "I'd hate to think you'd gotten weak in the last few months." He fired back, his own blasts coming slower and less forceful than before.

Laying Sandra down beside Korey, Ray weathered Matthew's blows, and increased the power to his force shield. He knew now that were he to leave the two women, Matthew would not hesitate to kill them. "I have bore my own series of conflicts in the time since Ishiyama was destroyed, Matthew." He squinted a little through the dust and dirt thrown up into the air by his very presence. "I wish to ask you a question."

Matthew regarded his brother. He decided to humor him with an answer, if only so it would give him time to catch his breath. He must be more out of practice than he thought. "What is it, brother?"


Matt glared back at him. "Why?" He replied, sounding angry. "What sort of a question is that? Why what? Why anything? Why everything?" He looked around. "Why attack this woman? Because she annoyed me. Why do what I've been doing? Because I, like you, am so far above them that they are nothing to me as they should be to you. To prove just how good I am."

Ray glanced down at the unconscious Korey and Sandra, then back up to his brother. "That makes no sense. Lilith, our sister, would not want this. She gave her life so that we may be free, and that there would be no more like us to live a life that is not our own. This... this is not right."

"It is right because it's what I want to do!" He shouted as he fired back, putting a lot of power into the blast. "I want to prove how good I am! I want to show everyone how good I am!" He continued firing angrily as he shouted.

"No," Ray replied calmly. His shields buckled a little beneath the fierceness of the attacks, but held.

"You're weak! Weak and pathetic like Lilith was!" Matthew snarled. "You're hiding behind your own failing abilities, cowering like she did before I finished her off. You're just as weak and pathetic as she was."

Ray bowed his head, the world seeming to drop away from him as Matthew's words sank in. The continued assault on his shields seemed to fade away, and his eyes became unfocused, as though he were looking at something that only he could see.

Matthew looked down at Ray, and laughed. "So that's it, you're just giving up? You're even more pathetic than she was!" Pouring his remaining power from his shields into his blasts, he fired on Ray, kicking up an immense cloud of dust and debris. Before it had even settled, he fired again. "This is no challenge whatsoever!"

Matthew's next cry was that of pain as the feel of Ray's power spiked in his mind, his shields strengthening and holding up under the blast as Ray came hurtling towards him. There was a look of such calm, intense anger in his face that Matthew was momentarily taken aback, and he was barely able to divert the power from his blasts into his shields before Ray's collided with his. More pain from the sudden divergence of power lanced through his mind, and the impact of Ray's shields drove him back into what had once been a drug store.

Gasping, Matthew struggled to remain upright as a whirlwind of debris encircled Ray, huge chunks of concrete and steel rods gathering in front of him like a wall before blasting forward. He quickly diverted everything he had to his shield, protecting himself as much as he could, blocking the worst of it while being forced further back into the store. Battered and bleeding, he picked his way through the rubble, advancing on Ray. "That hurt" he commented, angrily. "Maybe you're not as weak as I'd thought."

Matt poured what he had left into a powerful blast, staggering Ray and kicking up an immense cloud of dust and debris. Before the cloud had cleared, he fired again, and then again. Finally allowing the dust to clear, he strode over to Ray's slumped, dazed form. "You were good, brother. Just nowhere good as I was," he confidently announced as he picked Ray's body up, bringing them face-to-face. "Both you and Lilith." He dropped Ray and stood back, slowly summoning his remaining power to finish his brother off.

A shot rang out. Matt felt a sharp tearing pain in his chest. He stopped, then looked down at the bloodied hole in his chest, then looked up. There was Sandra, her smoking pistol pointed at him. "You..." he wheezed, and then collapsed forwards.

Sandra dropped her gun and ran over to Ray, dropping to one knee to check his pulse. "Alive, thank god." she thought. He seemed to be bruised, but not too severely injured. Of course, with the damage done by Psychokinetics, it was often hard to tell.

A moan from amidst the rubble behind her caught Sandra's attention, belonging to one very battered and bruised Korey.

She ran over to the store, checking Korey. Like Ray, she was bruised but not severely injured. Shoveling the rubble aside, she helped Korey to her feet. "You okay?"

"I... have a rather large headache and I my leg wound has reopened, but nothing too serious." She nodded towards Ray, who had, by this time, regained his feet and was now starring down at the dead body of his brother. "What of Ray?"

Sandra looked over to Ray. "He's fine, I think..."

"Keep an eye on him. I have to redress my wound." Korey motioned to her stained pants, the left of which had a slowly growing red patch.

Sandra nodded, then walked over to Ray. "Are you okay?"

Ray glanced up from the dead body to Sandra. "You shot him... to save me... to save us all."

"I... I had to. He would have killed us otherwise." She sighed. This wasn't going well. She'd done it again. She'd tried to help someone and ended up killing somebody close to him.

"This... is truth, albeit a sad, bitter truth." He knelt down beside the body and closed Matthew's eyes, still locked open in shock and disbelief. "Sandra."

"I'm sorry..." She said, trying to contain her emotion. What was it? She didn't know these people... but yet it was her fault. She'd dragged them into this. She'd all but drafted them into fighting Matt for her. She'd set two brothers against each other. "Ray... I'm sorry for dragging you into this."

"Please, help me to bury my brother." He looked up at her, a strange, conflicting look on his face. "He was not much in what people define as being a brother, but I will not be less so in not giving him a proper grave."

"I will." Sandra looked him dead in the eye. "It's the least I can do for you."

Ray saw the guilt in her eyes and shook his head. "This is not your fault. Had you not killed him, and then I would have. It was the path he choose for himself when he... killed my sister."

"Your sister?" she asked. This was becoming confusing.

Ray nodded. "Yes, she was the first successful esper replicant, named Lilith. She was who Matthew and I were based upon." He looked over to a bare patch of dirt. "There, we shall make his grave there."

"Replicant?" Sandra quietly said to herself. She looked over to Ray. "Sure. What do you want me to do?"

"Help me dig a grave."

About an hour later, Ray stood over the grave of his deceased brother, starring down at the simple and crude gravestone he had crafted from a hunk of concrete. Korey, hobbling on her wounded leg, walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Let us return home, Ray. It is getting late," she said.

Ray nodded, and Korey stepped away to leave him alone with his thoughts.

Sandra put a hand on his other shoulder. "I'm sorry, Ray"

He turned and gave her a faint smile. "It is okay, Sandra. He... he and I... we would never have gotten along."

"I... I sort of understand how you feel." She looked down at the grave. "I have a sister. We haven't talked in a long time."


"My parents don't like her talking to me. They're not happy with a lot of the choices I made with my life."

Ray did not hesitate at all in placing a comforting hand on Sandra's shoulder, squeezing it softly. "You should talk with them."

"Probably." She looked up at Ray. "And thanks."

"You are welcome," Ray replied. "Do you have a place to stay?"

Sandra shook her head. "No. I, er, I was looking for one when I met Matt."

Ray looked at Korey, who merely shrugged and sighed. "Then you might as well stay with us, Miss Blackmore. We have plenty of room at my house."

"Thank you for that." Sandra smiled. "You're a good man, Ray. I just wish things could have turned out... differently."

"As do I, as do I."

Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories