The Dark Wood
David J. Duncan
January 2003

Notes: The characters from Forever Knight belong to Sony Tri-Star. The characters from Xena Warrior Princess belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. The characters from Mutant X belong to Marvel and Tribune. The characters from Smallville belong to DC Comics and the WB. The characters from Dark Angel belong to their copyright holders. All other characters are fictitious and belong to me. Please send comments to


Prologue [Faerie Realms]

The Faerie Empress speaks....

The events on outer Earth present a quandary for us all. Once again, darkness threatens to sweep across the land. The dark sorceress, Anne Lichtenfeld, works her malice yet again. As usual, our allies will confront the danger.

The question remains though: how will David Dubois react in the face of his childhood nightmares? The Child chomps at the bit to strike back at the tormentors. I can only hope that his self-control continues to hold even in the most extreme of conditions.


Chapter 1


Lorenzo stared into the watch pool, considering the events going on below. During the years following his death, the angel had worried about his grandchildren and how they would fare against the witch's psychological and mystical attacks. While Dave, the oldest, had indeed slipped and splintered in two under the pressure, he survived these ordeals.

"He's strong, Lorenzo. Have faith," Jeanne assured him as she entered the area.

"Thank you for going to him, Jeanne. This has been a difficult time for them both," he responded.

"My pleasure," she stated. "Given the nature of the request, I couldn't refuse."

He sighed, recalling how the Child had shown up at the gates, causing a ruckus in the reception area and spitting in the eye of the gatekeepers. To prevent further trouble, he had interceded and discerned the Other's concern.

At that point, Jeanne stepped forward and agreed to speak with Dave.

Michael had observed the whole exchange with disapproval. He detested the so-called "Dark Mistake" as it was. However, for that thing to show up and have the gall to demand assistance...that impertinence ate at the archangel's gut. Yet, with everything hanging in the balance, he went along with the intervention.

The Maid tapped him on the shoulder, bringing him back to the present. "It is still up to him, Lorenzo, and to them all."

"I know," he admitted nervously. "I wish I could have stood against her evil longer. Perhaps, he wouldn't be so bad."

"He's not bad, Lorenzo. He's coming along. For the Child to ask for our aid on his companions' behalf speaks volumes," she pointed out.

"I know. I hope they can handle the load. They have to," he expressed with uncertainty.


[Tucson-Luthor Hacienda]

After their friends departed for Massachusetts, Lex invited the students, mutants, and other interested parties to his hacienda. In the sitting room, he set up the satellite feed, picking up the local news from the Worcester and Springfield affiliates.

The screen displayed the property damage in Rowenshire and the adjoining towns. Fires consumed buildings and forests south. Worse still, the cameras and audio equipment picked up on the demon and the witch.

It's her, all right, Lex told himself, recalling the scene from Janet Dubois' funeral.

Chloe asked, "Is that her?"

"Oh yeah," Garth concurred, squirming a bit.

"They better be careful heading into that place," Steve pointed out, remembering the town. At that moment, his cell phone went off. "Petersen here."

"Agent Petersen, is your partner with you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Get yourselves ready to travel. I want you both up there. Do you think you can get up there quickly? I can have a flight for you," Farrell requested.

Recalling that Deirdre was checking on her sisters across town, the agent declined the offer. "Thanks, but I think we have a ride. We'll be up there ASAP."

"Right. Report when you're there. Out."

Steve hung up and then made another call.

"Hello?" Genaria asked, picking up the phone.

"Hi, this is Steve Petersen. Is Deirdre there?"

"Yes, hang on," she answered, handing the receiver to her fellow priestess.

"Yes?" Deirdre asked.

"Deirdre, this is Steve Petersen. Any chance that you can get Garth and me up to the battle site? Our superiors just ordered us up there and I wanted to head off any legal trouble," he requested.

"Certainly," she concurred. "Give me a second." Hanging up the phone, she told her sister priestess, "I'll be back when I can." Opening a portal, she stepped through it and into the Luthor sitting room.

"All right. Thank you," Steve expressed. "Ready, Garth?"

"I guess. I was wondering though. The last time we were there, Dave had me smear my bullets with some herbal mixture. It hurt the ghost somehow," Garth noted.

"Was that Pauline who mixed it for you?" Seeing him nod, she continued, "Yes. I think Auntie had some made up for Papa. We can stop off in Althanor on the way and prepare your weapons." Finally, she turned to the others. "Everyone, be ready. According to Papa, the battle will happen west of here."

"How are they?" Shalimar asked, concerned for her teammates and still stewing in her juices at being left behind.

"They're fine for now. Just be ready," Deirdre urged, reopening the portal and leading the agents through it.

In her wake, the mutants sat and watched the television anxiously. They hoped that their friends were taking care of themselves out there.


[Logan's apartment]

Logan sat at his console, keeping a close eye on the brewing battle. Behind him, multiple feeds from CNN, MSNBC and the four local affiliates relayed the events back to them. Even as he listened, he worked on a signal booster for Max's comlink. She needs to be in touch with them.

Sitting with her back to him, Max watched television, impatiently popping popcorn kernels in her mouth. How do people manage to do this all day? I hope they get things taken care of quickly up there. I wanna kick some serious ass. I know that Shal feels the same way. A smile creased her features. And I would like a front row seat when the Little Professor kicks that bitch's ass. If half of that story he told is true, he's got a serious mad-on for the witch. "How are you doin' with that thing, Logan?"

"It's coming," he muttered for the twentieth time in the last hour. Note to Lydekker and Renfro: couldn't you have installed patience in her? "I think...there! Got it!"

"Finally," she murmured, rushing over to his side. "What do we do?"

He put two wires up to the light. "We attach the prongs to the symbol like so." He taped the ends to her ring. "That's it. Try it."

"That easy, huh?"

"Yeah. Give it a shot," he assured her.

"Hey, Adam...are you there? Is anyone there? This is Max. Over?" she asked, awaiting a response.


Chapter 2 [Clearing-former center of Rowenshire, Mass]

The smoke still rose from the burning remains of Rowenshire's town center. The buildings were those that formed its identity: the town hall, Parker's Place (a small diner), Brown's market/general store, the Mobil station not to mention the tiny flower shop, church, and school. Within the first, many priceless records and artifacts from the adjoining localities had disappeared in the blaze. People muddled their way through the ruins, trying to save what they could, the consternation over their loss clearly written on their faces.

Into this scene, Dave led his students, friends and sisters. He hacked on the stagnant air. His heart felt sick over the carnage. Granted, he had hated this place and had never been that close to his former neighbors, but he wouldn't have wished this on his worst enemy.

["Damn, she's good, ain't she?" the Child supposed.]

["This is sick. Un-stinking-believable!" Dave ranted.]

["Jus' 'nother mark, Bro. We'll git even," the Other promised.]

["Count on it," Dave affirmed.] At that moment, he felt a tap on the shoulder and turned to find Xena standing there.

"How are ya holdin' up?" she asked.

"About as well as can be expected," he replied, waving at the air to get the soot out of his face.

"Considering how you hate it here, that worries me," Cybelle cut in.

"He's got his reasons, Cybelle," Karen pointed out.

"As do I," the high priestess indicated, keeping an eye on the things around them. "I can't believe it's all gone though."

At that moment, Nick called, "Everyone, come over here!"

"What is it?" Adam asked as he rushed across the street.

The quartet followed the former Crusader over to the burned school. There, they found the others looking up at a light pole.

"Oh, that's horrible." Lana shuddered, burying her face in her fiancé's chest.

"Look up, Professor," Clark told him.

Dave followed the others' eyes and saw a disconcerting sight. There, a boy of no more than nine years of age, stared in horror into space-or he would have done so if he had been still alive. His body was little more than a series of burned and gashed flesh. On his forehead, a single symbol stood out: the witch's symbol. "She did this," he growled, belaboring the obvious. With a wave of his hand, he ripped the ropes holding the boy up and gently lowered him to the ground.

"Man, what would possess a person to do this?" Brennan asked.

"The boy's a message to me," Dave stated. "Or the Child."

Emma nodded. "An eight year old...about the Child's age."

Dave quivered as the change happened again, exchanging personalities again.

"GRARRRRR!!!!" the Child screamed to the sky. "Damn her! Ah swear she'll pay fer this!" Looking at the others, he tersely snarled, "This ends here! No more bullshit!"

"Now, Professor," Clark told him. "You have to keep control. Remember, what you're always telling us?"

"Listen to him," Emma asserted. Geez, I can feel the hate streaming off of him. I can't say I blame him, but how will we control him when the time comes?

"Dubois, control yourself!" LaCroix asserted.

"Yer the last one ta tell me that!" the Dark One growled, getting right in the Toronto Elder's face. "Lissen up, Jerk, Ah'm gonna take it to that bitch. If ya'll wanna help, cool. If not, stay the Hell outta mah way! Bad 'nough she tortured us both, but she wants to play cutsie games. Well, Ah can play too. Mah rules. Mah turf!"

"Now you've gone too far, Dubois!" a voice yelled from behind them.

They turned to find the remaining townspeople standing there with torches, pitchforks and shotguns.

"What, a welcomin' committee? Ah shucks, ya'll shouldna!" the Child cracked.

"What is the meaning of this?" Adam protested.

"We don't need his kind here!" an older man ranted. "Because of him and his no-account family, this happened!"

"Mah kind?" the Dark One snarled, taking a step forward before being restrained by Nick, Xena, and Clark.

"We warned you, freak! Stay out of here. Bad enough you stirred her up the last time you and your stupid girlfriend were here!" a woman bellowed from the back of the mob, flinging a tomato.

From other parts of the mob, other vegetables and sharp objects flew toward the enraged professor.

The rotten half-cooked veggie hit the Child in the face.

A broken bottle gashed his arm.

"THAT'S IT!!! NOW YA'LL PAY!!!" he bellowed, emitting a burst and knocking his three friends aside as if they were bowling pins. His hands crackled with dark energy. "So ya think ya've got the answers, huh? Well, Ah got news fer ya'll. Ya'll don't know shit!"

Xena drew her sword and stepped in front of him. "Stop, now!" she advised. As for all of you, that was an unfortunate that was rectified at the time."

"And after the way you treated us, you're lucky it wasn't worse," Cybelle added. "You fools let Dad build the house even though you knew what would happen!"

"You aren't LaFontaines," the man challenged.

"We are!" Karen retorted. "We're descended from the priest's brother. And Dave's the oldest son."

The man gasped. "Get back!" he told the others. "The curse!"

LaCroix chuckled. "It took you fools long enough to realize that."

"Look at yer curse, Twits!" the Child snarled even as his mouth twisted into a dark grin. "We never asked fer this crap. Even when ya'll ran us outta here fer bein' different! Even after Mom started drinkin' and beratin' us. Even after some of ya beat on us over there! All Ah ever asked fer was a friend...and ya treated me like this!" By now, the tears poured from his eyes. "Ah hadda take 'er on alone! 'Er and Big Blackie there! Alone!"

"Well maybe if you were like everyone else, we wouldn't have..." a man midway through the mob snapped, stepping forward to confront the Child.

The Dark One sniggered, "McEverwood, Ah shoulda known. Too bad, Ah didn't whup yer ass harder. Keep yer distance, Boy."

"Come on, Freak!" McEverwood challenged, aiming his rifle.

For the others in the party-particularly Mutant X, Clark and Lana-they were severely tempted to show how so-called "freaks" stand together. However, a glance from Adam helped them to stay composed.

Lana looked at Clark. Now I understand why you didn't tell us. This could have easily happened in Smallville, especially after the meteor shower.

"Go on, Twit. Fire if it'll make ya feel better."

The former bully fired his gun.

The Child deflected the bullets with ease, and then telekinetically pulled the weapon from the other's hand. "Ya're lucky Ah'm pissed at 'er! Stay outta our way! GOT IT!!! Lissen up, Jackass, if Ah didn't care 'bout this place, why would Ah have come back? And brought mah friends to help? Nah, ya'll ain't worth mah time."

"Listen to him," Nick urged. "Go back to collecting your things. Leave the witch and her demon to us." He gripped the leader's shoulders and hypnotized him. "Go"

"We...need to leave them alone," the other agreed, retreating.

Even as the majority retreated, one couple slowly stepped forward. The man was tall, with blonde hair and slender. The woman had red hair, somber eyes, and was slightly overweight.

"" the Child asked.

"Yes," Nancy replied sadly. "P...please don't kill us...."

"Nah. Ya'll stood up fer us. Ah wouldn't hurt ya," he assured her, recalling how she had tried to help him on a few occasions.

"We can take our son, then?" the man inquired cautiously.

"Yeah. Big Bro tried to be gentle with 'im when takin' him down," he told the couple.

"His name was Randy. We named him after your brother. Ironic, isn't it? Just like him and you, he'd be...a target," Nancy told him, breaking down.

And then, the Child did something unbelievable. He embraced her gently. "She can't hurt 'im no more, kay? As for the witch...." He stared at his companions. "We'll take 'er down together."

"Absolutely," Xena agreed, a smile on her face, speaking for the entire group.

"Come, both of you," Brother Tony told them. "We'll give Randy a proper burial after I've cleaned him up. All right?"

The parents nodded as they followed him.

Before she followed, Nancy told the Child, "I always knew you were special. Thank you for being here. And, all of you take care of him, all right? He has his problems, but he's a great friend." With that, she left for the remains of the church.

Emma approached him cautiously. "Are you all right?"

"Somebody actually likes us here," he stated, totally bewildered.

"And she's not alone either," Clark noted, rubbing his shoulder.

"Thanks, Ah think," the Child sobbed, bowing his head and allowing the change to happen again.

Dave slowly looked around at the others. "What happened with the little boy?"

"His parents came to bury him," Xena told him. "He was...your brother's namesake."

He sighed. "Well, we should honor him and then, we have a date up the road. Come on." Leading the others, he headed for the burial site.


Chapter 3 (Note: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are from The Lord of the Rings that was written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The characters and the series aren't mine-although I wish they were....)

A half-hour later, Cybelle opened the portal near the deserted house, allowing the party to step out and look around.

For those who had been there before, the place still elicited eerie feelings. No matter if a decade or three centuries had passed, the evil still seemed familiar.

To Mutant X, Eve, and the students, however, the wickedness in front of them threatened to overwhelm their senses. They saw the tall grasses billowing in the cold breeze and the unkempt house.

"Ladies and gents, welcome to my personal Hell," Dave stated.

"And you seriously lived here?" Brennan asked.

"For seven years," Cybelle responded. "Although we were very young at the time."

"Sometimes, a glow will pop up around here. Just remember 'don't follow the lights'," the medievalist instructed.

Nick chuckled, immediately recognizing the reference. I wonder what J. R. R. would think of this situation? Led by a schizophrenic ally into the heart of darkness itself, we might as well be with Frodo and Sam right now.

"How ironic," Adam muttered. "Are you our guide, then?"

"Guide, yes. Gollum, no. Come on, guys. Let's get this over with," Dave stated. "Mika, can you hear anything around us?"

"Just a few birds, Uncle Dave," she informed him.

"Can you pick up on what they're saying to each other?" he queried.

For a minute, she walked closer to the tree line, listening to the ravens calling to each other. "She's not here," Mika reported.

He sighed, scanning the area with his senses. Mika's right. There's no sign of her here. So where are you, Lichtenfeld?

"We came all this way and she's not here to meet us?" Brennan cracked, letting his hands spark with electric bursts. "Some hostess."

"If you knew of what you were speaking about, you wouldn't be so cavalier," LaCroix replied sharply.

"He's right," Xena agreed. Looking at Gabrielle and Eve, she asked, "Do you two want to get to work?"

"How do we know she won't show up in the middle of our efforts, Mother?" Eve wondered.

"She's got a point, Xena," the Bard agreed.

At that point, Dave's cell phone went off. "What the?" He answered it, "Dubois here."

"Dave, it's Steve. Where are you?" Steve asked anxiously.

"At the witch's hideout. Why, what's going on back in Tucson?" Dave queried.

"I wouldn't know. Farrell sent Garth and me after you. We're in Belchertown right now and the whole northern quarter of the city's in flames," the agent reported. "Your witch is here and she got some twenty foot tall black thing with her."

"How did you...?" Dave asked before realizing, "Where's Deirdre, Steve? Tell me you didn't let her go off alone against that hag!"

"Well...." Steve said hesitantly.

"Damn it! We'll be right there!" the medievalist responded, severing the connection.

"What is it?" Emma asked.

"The witch isn't here because she's in Belchertown about ten miles down the road. Worse, Deirdre popped Steve and Garth there and left to take the hag on all by herself!" Dave ranted.

"Let's go!" Cybelle stated, worrying about her heiress.

"But we need to deal with this area too," Father Richard contradicted.

"We'll have to split our forces again," Adam suggested. "How about Eve, our two clergymen, Gabrielle, Nick, Mika, and LaCroix all stay here and work on cleansing this place while the rest of us get down there?"

"You all figure it out. Meantime, Xena, Clark, Lana and Cybelle, you're with me. Everyone who needs to do so, get your masks on. The rest of you follow when you can!" Dave bellowed with concern, opening the portal and jumping into it. After the others had followed, he sealed it behind them, leaving the others behind.

Adam called into his comlink, "Jesse, bring the Helix fast! We need to get to town immediately!"

"Right," Jesse agreed, firing up the ship and heading to pick them all up.

Barely three minutes later, the craft zipped south, heading for Belchertown to stop the witch.

As the transport disappeared into the sky, Eve murmured, "May Eli protect you all." Then she followed the others toward the wicked house, hoping to cleanse it without too much trouble.


Chapter 4 [Belchertown]

Steve turned off the cell phone and stared at the devastation around him. Fires could be seen over most of the northern skyline of the town. The civil authorities strained themselves to meet the threat. The local fire department, along with those from several other towns, couldn't put out the mystically caused flames. The police had cleared the area of bystanders. Now, only a few vital personnel remained in the area.

"Well?" Garth asked.

"He's coming. They're in Rowenshire right now," Steve acknowledged.

Beside him, Captain Rivers shook his head. "That's a good twenty minutes away at least! Even if the roads were passable, he'd never get through."

"Dave doesn't need roads," Garth stated. "Trust me."

Looking to the north, Rivers watched the twenty-foot tall fire demon destroy still more real estate. After blasting aside a squadron of fighter jets like gnats, it proceeded to take out several more neighborhoods. Its roar unsettled the residents still further. I know David has a temper and an attitude, but against that? Yeah right. "Maybe he can wave his magic wand when he gets here?" At that moment, he saw fog collecting by them. "What now?"

"That's your magic," Garth deadpanned. About time. He watched as the medievalist appeared in the mist followed by Xena, Cybelle and two masked figures-a man and a woman. Odds are that Clark's the guy, but who's she? "We left the flames going if you wanted to cook any burgers, Dubie."

"This is no time for jokes, Singleton," Rivers interjected.

"Cool it, Captain," Dave advised. "Believe me, he knows how serious the situation is. Okay, guys, where's the priestess who brought you here and the witch?"

"We have a demon to worry about and you're worried about her?" the police official ranted. "There are priorities here, you know!"

The medievalist spun on his heel and went nose to nose with Rivers. "Look, Rivers. Get one thing straight. That thing beat on me as a child, all right? I know better than anyone what it's capable of. Cybelle, can you get a fix on them?"

"Already on it, but I could use some help," his sister stated. Tapping the masked woman on the arm, she added, "Let's go."

The two masked students hugged each other before one of them followed Cybelle into the mists.

"Where did they go?" Rivers demanded.

"To deal with our witch. Meantime, you've got reinforcements on the way. Come on, Xena and ummm...Sidekick. Nick, stay with them for now," Dave indicated.

Under the mask, Clark frowned. Sidekick?

Just then, the demon turned around and headed back toward them.

"Shit! Here it comes again!" Steve announced.

Dave took a deep breath and snarled.

"Are you all right?" Xena asked.

"You know how long I've waited to kick this thing's ass?" the medievalist inquired. "I've got an idea. Get ready!"

"What are you going to do?" Rivers asked.

"Give that thing a bath before killing it," Dave growled. "Worry about the fire here, guys, first." Now I wish we had brought Sebastian with us.

"Kill it, but how? We can't even dent it!" Rivers protested.

Xena smirked. "Trust us. We have many skills." Drawing her sword, she asked, "Ready?"

Dave unsheathed his special sword, allowing the blade to emit a bright white light.

The demon recoiled from the glow.

"You know this weapon and you know me, Beast! Once I feared you, but no longer! I have walked through the purifying fires! I who have battled Enforcers, trolls, the Olympian gods, and your fellow demons! I who am both light and dark and who bears the shard of the ceremonial nether blade bars your path! Back to your nightmare realm! This is your only warning, Creature! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" Dave challenged.

The demon bellowed indignantly to the inky blackness above.

Xena flung her chakram at the monster. The weapon nicked the thing in the leg before returning to her hand.

Once again, the fire beast roared in pain.

"Didn't like that, did you?" Dave yelled, temporarily sheathing the sword. "You'll like this even less!" Reaching to the sky, he focused, allowing his hands to glow with dark energy before uncorking a double blast at the demon.

The demon staggered backward.

" he?" Rivers wondered.

"Oh, this is the tip of the iceberg. Trust me," Garth advised.

"Now!" Xena cut in.

Dave opened a gigantic portal behind the demon. "Time to get rid of that thing! Sidekick, want the honors?"

Clark sighed as he took off, zipping straight for the monster. After winding up, he punched it straight into the mists. "Got it!"

"Let's go!" Dave concurred. "Good job!" With that, he guided Xena and Clark into the mists before vanishing himself.

"I told you," Steve stated. "Come on. Let's make sure the area's secure."


Even as the stand off occurred there, about two miles away, Deirdre gasped with exhaustion. She's so powerful. No wonder it took both Papa and Auntie to stop her.

"Are ye ready to die?" Lichtenfeld queried. "Ye fight well, Girl, but I will kill ye!"

"I'm not ready for that yet!" Deirdre challenged, deflecting her adversary's latest blast and returning fire. Even if she was weakening, she couldn't fall-not yet anyhow.

The ghost-witch fired another large blast, taking out her mystical shielding. "Die!"

Then a blast came from nowhere, knocking the witch off of her feet. "Who would dare?"

"You need to ask? Lana, see to Deirdre. I'll take her!" Cybelle commanded.

"Right," Lana agreed, rushing over to the younger priestess' side.

"Stay away!" Lichtenfeld yelled, hitting the college student with a black fiery blast.

Lana staggered, but surprisingly, didn't fall. Instead, she glowed with the energy, the charge pulsating into her hands. "You don't tell me what to do!" she retorted, firing at and staggering her opponent with the energy.

The witch stared warily at Lana. What is this? Another threat? For a split second, she shimmered as if starting to change into something or somebody else, but quickly stopped that. "For that, ye die!"

Cybelle unleashed another blast, distracting the witch. "You'll deal with me first!"

"Aye! I shall indeed!" the ghost replied, returning fire.

Off to the side, Lana wiped off Deirdre's brow and asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yes. You got here time," the priestess sighed. "Hopefully, Auntie can stop...her. did you do that? "

"I have no idea," Lana admitted. Yes. I hope so too. Hopefully, we can get some more help before then as well.


Meantime, the Double Helix lifted off from Rowenshire heading south across the reservoir toward the battle scene. As far as the passengers were concerned, too much was going on to even delay for even a second.

"What's the situation down there?" Adam asked.

Jesse studied the readouts in front of him. "The whole area south of here's in flames. The demon's there and wait a minute! He...just vanished!"

Martin nodded. "The professor's moving the battle. Meantime, Cybelle and Lana have joined Deirdre in fighting the witch. I need to be there. Something strange is happening." He stood up from his seat and stepped into the spirit plane.

Adam groaned. That's the last thing we need right now. At least, he has an idea of what's out there. I just wish he wouldn't be so rash in front of the others.

Then the alarms went off.

"What the?" Brennan inquired.

At that moment, the fire demon appeared out of nowhere, narrowly missing them as it fell into the water below.

"What was that?" Miranda wondered.

"It looked like some monster, I think," Jesse assumed.

"That's the demon," Emma stated. "Dave's not far behind...In fact...Circle around!"

"What?" Brennan asked.

"Do it!" Adam ordered.

The Helix turned and retraced the past half-mile, finding the battle already going on beneath them.


The demon bellowed in agony as it hit the icy water, the liquid dousing his flame even as it steamed into the darkness.

Behind it, Dave popped out of the mists followed by Clark and Xena.

"Do you see it, Professor?" Clark yelled as he caught the warrior in mid-fall.

"Oh yeah!" Dave agreed, drawing the sword. "Follow the steam!" Directing his descent, he raised the sword into position. Penetrating the steam cloud, he saw the demon beneath him, struggling to find its equilibrium. Not in this century, you don't! He took several swipes with the blade, gashing it across the arm and across the thighs.

Flame spewed everywhere. The demon screamed.

"Like that?" the professor snarled, taking yet another swing with the sword across its mid-section.

The creature backhanded him hard, knocking him fifty feet across the water.

"David!" Xena bellowed, flinging the chakram.

The weapon carved a groove into the creature's back before returning to her hand.

It screamed in pain at her.

In response, the Child erupted from the murky waters, ranting in rage. "Ya'll couldna beat me 'fore! Now Ah'm gonna whup your ass!" Firing a dark blast, he sent the beast careening further down the body of water, disappearing out of sight.

"Professor! Wait for us!" Clark told him.

"Why not? Ah'm gonna whup 'im! Give me a lift?" the Dark One snapped.

Clark grabbed his hand. Carrying his companions, he zipped off after the monster.

"Where is it?" she yelled.

"There!" the Kryptonian student determined, seeing the creature's glow in the dark even from a great distance away. "The water looks like it's coming to an end behind it!"

"It's gettin' close to land! Crap!" the Child hissed. "We gotta take it out 'fore it gits dry 'gain!"

"Dry means more fire," Xena concurred, drawing her sword. "C'mon!"

Clark turned to see the Double Helix following them. "It's the others! We should wait!"

"Kid, if it takes out the big stone thing behind it, that place is gonna get soaked!" the Child realized.

The dam! Clark thought, agreeing with the Professor's dark persona. Still, we have to stop it!

[In his head, the Child heard Emma say, "Come on board! We'll deal with it together!"]

["We gotta git! That demon's gonna hit land damn quick! Git after it! We'll be there quick!"]

The craft blew past them, heading for the dam and the demon.

Everyone looked through the front window at the infrared view.

"It's right up against it!" Karen exclaimed. "Just as he said to Emma!"

"I'm bringing us around between it and the dam, gang," the pilot stated, maneuvering into position.

The demon, now back on its feet, screamed its displeasure at the new metallic intruder in its path.

"Well, it definitely doesn't like us," Miranda assumed. "Now what?"

"Knowing your uncle, I'd say he's about to take it on again. In fact, there's Clark coming up now," Karen told her.

The alien student landed on the wing with Xena and the Child. "Okay, let's get inside."

"Ya both git! Ah got me a score to settle!" the Dark One hissed and leapt into the darkness toward the creature.

"Damn it!" Xena bellowed into the night air. "Come back!" Angela, you really need to talk to him.

["With all of that anger, Xena, there's no talking to the Child on this one," Angie pointed out.]

["Yeah, tell me about it," the warrior concurred as she and Clark stepped into the Helix.]

"Where did he go?" Adam demanded.

"Uh, Adam," Emma started. "Look at the infrared image there."

They looked out just in time to see the Child take another stab at the demon.

"My God," Adam realized. "The dam!"


Ah gonna git ya, Boy! The Child easily caught up to his hellish adversary, taking cut after cut against it. He wasn't about to let the monster out of the water. Not ever.

The creature kept bellowing in pain and swung a black fist at its tormentor. As the Other ducked, the punch landed on the concrete dam cracking it along its foundation and shaking the whole coastline.

"Strike One!"

The demon swung again, hitting the dam once more. This time, the whole structure spider-webbed, creaked and groaned from both the damage and the strain of the water behind it.

"Strike Two!"

The demon put everything into one last punch, smacking its enemy into the dam hard. However, as it did that, something else happened.

The concrete structure, built before anyone would have taken this battle as a serious possibility, completely gave way, releasing the Swift River's trapped waters out of the flooded valley for the first time in seventy years toward the burning town downstream.

As they fought in its path, the torrent swept the Child and demon along with it.


Chapter 5 [Tucson-Luthor Hacienda]

The group stared in horror at the scene unfolding on the television screen in front of them. Granted, Cybelle had conjured up an obscuring mist to cover the battle between her and the witch. However, they could still see the flames reaching into the night sky as Belchertown burned.

Chloe shook her head. I should be there with them. Somewhere in that mess, Clark and Lana are risking their lives and here I am, sitting on my hands...AGAIN.

Lex rubbed her arm. "Hey, they only had so many seats on that ship, you know. Besides, you're the first person off the bench."

"I can't stand waiting!" the reporter snapped, brooding over their circumstances.

The businessman hugged his fiancée compassionately. While he didn't like the idea of her risking her neck in any way, he understood that she had a responsibility that went along with her abilities. If I had powers such as hers, I'd probably feel the same way too. "They're my friends too, Chloe." He looked her in the eye and continued, "Remember, I've already lost my mother to that ghost-hag. I don't want to lose Clark, Lana, or Dave to her as well." He set his jaw firmly, feeling the old anger rising inside of himself. I won't.

At that moment, the room shook slightly, buffeting the people in the room and knocking things from their shelves.

"Mr. Luthor, what was that?" Samantha asked.

"A tremor, although I didn't think they happened out here," he told them.

Shalimar studied him carefully. He was getting upset and then, that happens. When Adam gets back, we'll have to test Lex. Seeing the reports changing on the screen, she told the others, "Look at this!"

The group stared at the screen to see a female reporter recount, "Even as the authorities struggle to put out the flames here, we can hear screaming sounds to the north of here. Eyewitnesses claim that a demon of some sort set this area ablaze. Wait, I see one of the police coming this way. Sir! Can you say anything?"

Rivers looked at the camera and at her. Damn, what can I say? "No comment."

"But what's going on?" the reporter demanded. "You just don't spend time in a war zone like this and not have anything to say!"

"Lady, in this case, you do. I'm still trying to piece everything together. Meantime, I'm going to need you and your crew out of here now," Rivers stated.

In the background, they could hear an explosion and a whooshing sound.

Rivers stared at the northern hills, recognizing the sound. Shit! "Lady, get moving now! All of you, out now!"

The woman turned to the north to see the tidal wave heading their way. "Get that, Murph! My Lord!"

The cameraman pointed the camera at the oncoming watery onslaught. "What did they do? The only thing that could....oh man. Bobbie, we have to split now!"

She nodded vigorously and motioned for the crew to hurry to the van. "You can ride with us if you want," she told Rivers.

"Thanks but no. Just get out of here!" he told her. "I've got my own arrangements already made!"

She shrugged. His loss. With that, she took off for the van. A minute later, she and the others drove off, leaving Rivers behind.

David, what did you do? He shook his head even as he ran for the command center.


Back in the hacienda, Shalimar got on the phone to Logan. "Hey, Logan. It's Shalimar. I need Max now!"

He handed the phone to his companion. "It's Shalimar."

Given what we're watching, I can imagine she's on edge. "Shal, it's Max. What do you need?"

"Are you watching the news?"

"Yeah. I guess the Little Professor's struck again. I wonder where he got all of the water from?" Max asked.

Logan studied the map of the area and told her, "You know that explosion we heard from the broadcast?"

"Yeah, so?"

He gulped nervously. "There's a reservoir north of there...a mammoth one. Can you check with Adam?"

"Right. Hey, Shal, I'm going to see if I can raise Adam. Hang on," the transgenic noted. After checking the connection to her ring, she called, "Hey, Adam, are you there?"

"Yes, Max. Is everything all right down there?" he inquired.

"Other than watching the fire and flood show on TV, we're cool. What did he do now?"

"Dave's engaged the demon and the latter took out the dam," Adam reported.

Logan's eyes stared at the specs for the tidal wave's source. Cripe. "Adam, do you know how much water you're talking about? They'll destroy the towns down stream!"

"The water's flowing out of there so fast. There's not much we can do," the leader stated. "On the other front, the witch is occupied."

Miranda spoke up next to him. "Let the others know that Cybelle, Deirdre, Lana, and Martin are dealing with her at the moment."

"How about Dave? Where is he?" Shalimar asked, through the phone connection.

"Fighting that thing and doing the backstroke for all he's worth, probably," Mika assumed. Come on, Uncle Dave; pull through this have to survive.

"Meantime, Shalimar, Max, get ready on your end. It won't be long now," Adam added. "We'll get back to you." With that, he signed off.

"Did you get that?" Max queried.

"I sure did. We're ready to move as soon as we get the signal," Shalimar agreed. "Talk to ya soon!"

"Right." Max ended the conversation and looked anxiously at Logan.

He sighed and told her, "We just have to wait, Max."

She moped while plopping back into the seat by the TV. Wait...wait...wait.... This game really sucks.

Chapter 6


Even as the fighting occurred to the west and south, Nick and LaCroix guided the others through the woods in back of the witch's house.

"How much farther, Nick?" Gabrielle asked cautiously, javelin at the ready.

"We're almost there," Nick replied, pointing to the meadow that could be seen through the trees. "It's in that clearing."

"Yes," Eve concurred, shuddering. "There is great evil there." Looking to the sky, she requested, "Eli, give us strength."

LaCroix frowned at her display, choosing to forage ahead. Once she was the greatest of Rome's warriors save for myself. Now, she's a mewling idiot. What a waste.

"What's with him?" Mika wondered.

"He would prefer that I had remained as Livia," Eve revealed. "One day, my brother will understand that she is gone forever and I occupy her place."

Mika stared at the Religion professor. "Livia? As in Livia of Rome? The woman you were lecturing on when Clark got sick is you?"

"Once, yes, but no longer," Eve explained, a cynical smile on her face. "We can speak of this another time, Mika. Now, we have a bigger task at hand."

"Right," the student concurred, listening to the wildlife. "Guys, the animals are fleeing from the nature reserve surrounding the reservoir. There's a battle going on between Uncle Dave and the witch's demon there!"

"Dubois is a fool to engage that thing," LaCroix groused as he entered the clearing.

"More than likely he had little choice," Nick disagreed. "They needed to contain the thing and..." He winced.

"Nick, what is it?" Gabrielle wondered.

"The demon threw Dave into the dam and..." the former Crusader continued, "the dam broke!"

Mika nodded. "I hear the animals calling to each other and feel their fear! They seek to avoid the rushing water."

"We need to finish this," Eve asserted, glancing back at the two clergymen at the rear of the line. "Are you both ready?"

The priest and the minister approached their white armored companion. "We are," they agreed.

Eve smiled grimly. "Thank you. Lucius, where's the place we need?"

The General pointed to the ground next to himself. "Here."

"Follow me," the former Messenger told the two clergy as she walked toward the site. Once there, she told the two Christians, "Do your blessings and then, I will do mine."

Father Richard glanced at her incredulously.

"That's acceptable," Brother Tony assured him. Kneeling beside the site, he read a few verses from his Bible and said a prayer.

Father Richard produced a vial of holy water and recited a few more verses from his Vulgate before pouring it across the fire site. Even though no fire had burned there for almost 300 years, the ground sparked and hissed as if the embers still remained warm. "Father, what is this?" he asked to the sky.

"The witch still uses this place, albeit in the spiritual sense," Eve responded, kneeling beside the two clergymen. Looking to the sky, she whispered a few Elisian prayers before placing her hands on the area and commanding, "Hear me, evil spirits! I, Eve, speak humbly on Eli's behalf! In his name and all of the powers of Heaven, I command you to be gone!"

The ground rumbled and the wind blew with gale force. Horrid screams filled the air.

Mika quaked fearfully.

"Hang in there," Gabrielle urged. "The sounds mean it's working."

That's a funny way of showing it, Mika worried to herself.

Eve screamed, "Leave, spirits! In the name of Eli and all of the powers of Heaven, I command this evil presence to...BE...CAST...OUT!!!!"

A sound like a thunderclap echoed through the meadow and then, silence hung over the area.

LaCroix winced and rubbed his ears. A quick check of his stepsister found her to be all right. Lucky for her.

"So?" Mika asked.

"The meadow has been cleansed," Eve noted. "Along with it, the land and oak trees. The house, however, will still need to be destroyed...eventually. Come, we'll be needed in town soon."

"I'm going to go on ahead and see what I can do for Dave and the others," Nick proposed, taking off into the night sky.

After he left, Eve led her remaining companions back onto the path toward the upper meadow and the road beyond.


Chapter 7 [Swift River-somewhere between the reservoir and Belchertown]

As the last of the Quabbin Reservoir emptied into the Swift River and rushed toward the town below, the struggle between the Child and the demon continued fiercely even as they rode along with the flotsam.

The monster's heat caused the water to irritate its opponent's skin.

Crap. This sucks! Boiled like a friggin' lobster! Thus ticked off, the Dark One took a final stab, plunging the blade into the creature's chest all the way up to the hilt.

The creature gurgled a scream in protest before going limp, finally dying after almost a hundred stab wounds from the other's sword.

Finally! That boy's Hell to kill. Now, Ah gotta git outta here. Sheathing the sword, the Child battled the burning in his lungs as he swam toward the top of the wave. Forcing his way through the current, he surfaced and inhaled the sweet air. "Ahhhh!" he exclaimed, grabbing onto a tree branch as it floated by. "'Mon, stay on top," he told himself. Looking ahead, he saw that the fires were getting very close to him. "Shit!" he yelled as the wave overflowed the river's banks and spilled into Belchertown's streets without missing a beat.

"Damn bow," he groused at the wet weapon. "Ah guess Ah gotta do this the ol' fashioned way." Hooking onto the branch with his legs and right arm, he summoned up enough power to free himself from the current. Leaping high overhead, he barely made it to a dry rooftop. "Damn! Gotta rest fer a minnit 'fore doin' anythin' else." With that, he collapsed onto the hard surface beneath him, glad for a respite before heading out once again.


Steve, Garth, and Rivers stood on another rooftop, watching the water flood the surrounding neighborhoods. Fortunately, the water did manage to finally put out the fires. However, the water prevented access to those areas.

"I can't believe he did this," Garth assumed. "All of the damage..."

"He didn't...nor would the Other," Steve disagreed.

"Other?" Rivers asked.

"Yeah. Dave's schizophrenic Other. You've seen his file, Rivers," the senior agent noted.

At that moment, the demon's corpse floated by.

"I don't believe it. He killed it. So, where is he?" the captain wanted to know.

"Somewhere in the drink, I'd imagine. Let's hope he's okay," Garth said hopefully, staring down into the mess and wishing, Come on, Dave.


The Double Helix streaked through the night following the rampaging torrent through the countryside.

"Coming up on Belchertown," Adam told Brennan.

"Going to stealth cloak," the pilot replied, hitting a switch and making the craft vanish from sight. "So where are Dave and the demon?"

Xena walked forward and scanned the murky water beneath them. "There's no telling. I just know he's not dead."

"I'll second that," Emma agreed from her post. "But finding him could take some time. We need to make sure that demon's dead first before we can go after him."

And so, the Helix streaked onward.


Nick flew through the night skies, allowing his senses to hone in on his friend. For almost ten minutes, he popped in and out of different places. Where are you, Dave?

At that point, he saw the demon's corpse floating facedown in the water. He did it. So where? At that moment, he felt the presence he sought. Ah, now I have you. Flying onward, the sensory trail led him to a building on the outer edge of town. There, he saw his friend sitting on a rooftop, resting after some taxing effort. He's in Child mode. Be careful, Nick. Landing beside the Other, he asked, "How are you doing?"

The Child glared at him. "Ah'm burned, bruised, and wet. How d'ya think Ah am?"

"At least it's dead," Nick indicated.

"Yeah. But we still gotta whup the bitch," the Dark One insisted, pulling himself to his feet.

"Where did she get off to?"

The Child pointed to the northeast. "There. 'Bout five miles or so. Gimme a lift."

"Right. Are you sticking to Dave's plan, then?" Nick asked.

"Yeah. When ya drop me, git Petersen an' git the kiddies in position back in AZ. We're gonna send 'er back there quick!"

The Elder nodded as he picked his friend up under the latter's arms and carried him into the night sky. Three minutes later, he spied the mist-enshrouded area and landed. "I'll do the alerting. Give me about five minutes?"

"Sure," the Child snickered. "Git on it!" With that, he disappeared into the mists.

Nick took out his cell phone and dialed Lex's private line.

"Yes?" Lex answered.

"Lex, Nick Miles here. Tell the others to prepare for Phase 2 of Dave's plan, all right?"

"I'll do that, Nick. Thanks. By the way, how are we doing up there?"

"Demon's dead. Belchertown's half-burned and half-soaked. And I just sicced the Child on the witch. We're getting ready to take the fight back there," Nick reported. "Lana's with Cybelle. I don't know how Clark's doing but he's with Mutant X at the moment."

"Good. Thanks. That'll make Chloe feel better," Lex replied. "I'll let everyone know. Thanks."

Nick disconnected the phone as well. Okay. Now to get to the others. With that, he took off into the night.


Cybelle and the witch continued exchanging mystical energy blasts as their duel continued. For almost an hour, neither had given any ground nor had they gained anything. It was a dead heat.

In the corner, Lana and Deirdre simply observed the proceedings. By now, the latter had regained some of her stamina and was prepared to jump back in as needed. The former still wondered how she had dealt with the witch earlier.

Unbeknownst to the others, Martin stood in the spirit realm just off of the battle. If needed, he would be there quickly.

Then the witch screamed, "Nay! What have ye done! My beautiful land! My companion! I cannot feel them anymore!"

Eve and the others must have purified it, and Dave must have killed the demon. Thank the goddess. "They just yanked your power source, Sweets," the priestess taunted.

"Ya got that right!" the Child jeered, stepping out of the mists and into the mix. "An' now that Ah've toasted yer beastie, yer next! It's butt-whuppin' time!"

"If ye can," the witch challenged, hitting him with dark fire.

Predictably, the blast soaked into him, causing the shard to glow in his shoulder and the grin to grow bigger and, if possible, even more snide. "Hey, Ah'm onta ya! Git some new tricks, Sweets!" He fired dark fire bursts of his own at her.

She reeled at the pain of being hit with the fire.

"See what ya'll taught us?" he snickered darkly, hitting her with blasts again and again. "Now, Ah'm gonna git ya back fer the pain!"

To her credit, the witch recovered her footing and managed to shield herself. "Aye. Ye've learned well. Now, die!"

[Then the Child heard Emma tell him, "Phase 2. Now! We'll be right there."]

["Right," he concurred.] "Cybbie, misty thing, now!"

The head priestess nodded and created a portal behind the witch.

"Goodie!" he complimented, dropping his shoulder and ramming his former tormentor into the mists. "Don't be long now, ya hear?"

Martin stepped out of the spirit plane and told the priestesses and Lana. "Let's go!" With that, he disappeared into the mists.

Deirdre and Lana nodded silently to each other and vanished.

Cybelle closed the portal and opened another one. I hope there's enough firepower back there to hold the witch off for now. With that, she vanished into the portal and closed it behind her.


After Brennan landed the Double Helix on a nearby rooftop, Xena, Clark, Miranda and the team members surveyed the skyline trying to get a fix on the missing professor.

"Where is he?" Xena wondered, feeling Angie's anxiousness.

"He's nearby and...wait...he's gone," Emma told the others.

"Gone?" the warrior asked.

"He's still alive," Nick stated, descending from the sky. "I've been looking for you. We're heading back to Tucson as soon as they can get the witch under control."

"Which has been done," Cybelle added, appearing through the mists. "Where's your ship?"

"It's cloaked," Adam explained. "Let's get onboard."

The others followed him. Once they were all there, Brennan lifted off from the rooftop and blasted off toward the west. "Now where?"

"Tucson," Cybelle replied, focusing.

In front of them, the mists appeared in the sky, swallowing the Helix whole.

When they reemerged, the group found themselves over Tucson's west side.

"Battle spot right now," Adam stated tersely.

Brennan nodded and banked hard to the left. Two minutes later, they picked up Shalimar's and Max's respective comlink signals. Thirty seconds after that, the Helix had landed and its occupants are running for the battle site.

The end fight was already on....


Chapter 8

[Ten minutes earlier]

Chloe floated about twenty feet off of the ground, scanning the horizon. So far, there's no sign of the Double Helix. Where are they? This is the place Lex referred to, right?

"Anything, Chloe?" Shalimar asked.

The reporter rejoined her friends. "Nothing yet. Where are they?"

Max looked around warily. Somehow, she had a weird gut feeling. What now?

The remaining students stood ready as well, looking for any signs of trouble. On the other side of the ridge, Paula, in dragon form, kept watch over them all.

Then, the mists formed about thirty feet to their right.

"Finally!" Shalimar exclaimed.

Out of the portal, the witch and the Child fell onto the desert floor, still going at each other.

Finally, feeling his own power amplifying again in the Sonoran desert, His Darkness blasted her away from him, sending her skidding across the dirt and dust. "Fat lady's warmin' up, Bitch. Ya'll are on mah turf now!"

Behind them, Martin, Lana, and Deirdre entered onto the scene.

The witch grinned as she got back on her feet. "Aye." She cackled heartily. "Ye are fools!"

As the "Rowenshire stink" dissipated from his senses, the Child realized that they had miscalculated ever so slightly. "Git back!"

"Why? She's on our ground now away from her power source," Shalimar scoffed, ramming into the witch.

The latter grabbed the feral and locked eyes with her. "That's what ye think,"

Suddenly, Shalimar struggled as she saw herself surrounded by fire. "What the? How?"

Nah...It can't be! The Child growled.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Cybelle asked him.

"Shal!" Brennan called as the Mutant X team rushed up.

"Stay back! Where's Xena?" the Child snarled.

"Here and what's going on?" the Warrior Princess wondered.

"Seems our dark harpy's got a new power. Worst nightmare made real. Who d'we know like that? Three guesses an' the first one don't count," he commented, keeping an eye on their adversary. "Emmie, git Kitty outta there, but watch 'er!"

Emma rushed over to her teammate's side and began pulling her away. As the ghost advanced on them, she hit it with a psionic blast, creating an opportunity to get Shalimar further away for the attacker. An additional scan of the ghost picked up on something else.

She remembered from Dave's mind....the earlier attacks on the library and campus...No! "Everyone! Be careful! She's more than she seems!"

"Ye know me then!" the witch snickered as she began to glow.

"Ah know yer stench...Mind Witch," the Dark One retorted. "Jus' change an' be done w' it!"

Lichtenfeld raised her hands and, from out of nowhere, a stiff wind blew towards them. On these gusts, ash blew in from all directions.

"What's going on?" Max demanded.

"GIT BACK, YA'LL! DON'T LET 'ER TOUCH YA!" the Child bellowed.

The ash swirled about the witch's form. Energy coursed from the makeshift cocoon. As this happened, the ghost-hag's laughter was changing in tone and added attitude. She turned solid.

Where the ghost had been, now an old enemy was reborn.

"Alti!" Xena hissed, drawing her sword.

" good to be back!" the shamaness laughed. She flexed her arms and ran her fingers through her long brown hair. Her intense eyes scanned her opposition. "Is this the best you can do, Dubois? Children against me?"

"Our students are fulla su'prises, Hag!" the Child spat, firing a blast and nailing her square.

She staggered a bit, but kept her footing. "Well, that was interesting." She grinned. "I see you've learned a few new tricks since we last met. Very good but not good enough!" She focused on him, trying to trip his hidden fears.

He quivered for a minute as his metabolism converted the fear to anger. Then he grinned. "That wasn't nice. Ya'll can't hurt me, Witch!"

"No. I guess not, but I can get them!" Alti asserted staring at Xena.

Suddenly, the latter felt the strike of the Roman gladiator's weapon in the Coliseum again followed by the mallet strike across her knees while she hung on a cross much earlier.

"Xena! What is this?" Adam asked.

"She...can use your greatest fear against you. Stay back," she stated.

"Maybe if I don't give her a chance to touch me, she won't do it," Clark decided, zipping off and ramming into her from behind.

The impact staggered her, but no more than that. Then, faster than a cobra, she grabbed him and dug into his mind.

A minute later, Clark saw the veins in the back of his hand turning green and felt the weak feeling from the meteor rocks. But there aren't any around here. this happening?

"Clark!" Chloe yelled, taking off and flying overhead. She bombarded Alti with radiation across the scale. "Get away from him!"

Samantha struck out with an air gust unsettling their opponent.

Emma hit the shamaness with another mind blast.

Lana crept in to grab Clark during this attack.

Unfortunately, Alti saw her. "Let me guess. You're his little girlfriend, aren't you? Yes, I saw you in his thoughts!" She glared into the younger woman's eyes. "You should be scared right now, little girl!" Grabbing a handful of Lana's hair, she continued, "Let me show you..."

Then Lana saw herself back in Smallville. She was in the twister being sucked into the air, higher and higher.

"You're going to die," Alti cackled darkly.

But something happened in Lana's mind. The memory shifted and from out of the storm, she saw Clark flying toward her and protecting her even as things went black. He's my life...even in the darkest of times. She struggled with the mental attack and broke free.

Grabbing Alti's hand, she retorted, "Feel this!" Suddenly, the energies went backwards, flowing into the source.

Alti's eyes bugged out as she imagined herself back in India again as her enemies destroyed her. "Get away!" she yelled, backing away from the girl.

Lana pushed her advantage. "You blew it when you attacked Clark! We all know what you did to Professor Dubois both now and in the past. You aren't going to do it again! Not to him! Not ever!"

The shamaness tried to rip into her attacker's mind again with no success.

In return, Lana turned the energies back on the attacker, further antagonizing the enemy.

From behind her, Alti saw a dragon approaching. "What? A dragon here?"

Paula launched a fiery assault, cutting off their adversary's escape route.

Concentrating, Sebastian located the water table deep under ground and created a waterspout. Then he sent the water against Alti, knocking her from her feet.

Chloe added a radiation burst.

The Child further burned her with dark fire. "Git 'way from 'em!"

Martin stepped past him, advancing on the fallen witch.

"Git back!"

"I know you mean well," the Native American skinwalker told him. "But this has to happen."

"You should listen to him," Alti warned. "Come any closer and I'll shred your mind."

"Go ahead. I'm but a humble tribesman and a meager healer," Martin countered, passing through the flames without singeing as much as a hair.

Alti grabbed his arms, sending the energy into him.

He trembled slightly, feeling his nightmares coming to the fore. Then, as Lana had done earlier, he shrugged off the shamaness's attack, standing tall. He began to chant in his tribe's dialect before pointing at her.

Around her, the air glowed and a doorway of some sort opened, pulling her in. "No!!! I'll be back!" Then she was gone.

Martin staggered and fell to his knees. "Thank the Great Spirit."

"Nice trick, Bub. Where d'ya'll send 'er?" the Child wondered.

"I imprisoned her in a unique place between dimensions," Martin noted. "She won't be back anytime soon."

"Well, Ah guess that's it. Time to let Big Bro out. Nice job, ya'll. Ah mean it," the Child stated before changing back.

"Wow," Dave sighed, gulping in a lungful of the desert air. "We're back."

"We taped the whole thing for you, Chief," Brennan joked.

"How are you?" Xena asked.

"Other than a really bad headache and the fact that my whole body hurts-peachy," he assured her sarcastically. "Last thing I remember is taking on the fire demon from my childhood nightmares."

"You beat it," Karen told him.

"And made it look...well...kind of easy," Clark informed him. "Other than your choice of code name for me, that is."

Dave winced. That I remember. "Sorry, "Sidekick" was the best I could do on short notice. I couldn't use your real name."

Chloe nearly fell out of the sky from laughter. "Sidekick, huh? I gotta remember that one. Sounds about like your work on the Torch."

"Or your hanging around with Lex all of the time," Lana teased.

"Guys," Clark protested, squirming and turning red from embarrassment.

Adam smirked, enjoying the moment with everyone else.

"C'mon, Clark, it has a certain ring to it," Shalimar cracked.

"We could always call you, Superman, or something, but that would be too cliché. Come on," Dave directed, heading for the Double Helix. "We still have some things to take care of."

The others followed him to the ship as they took off, leaving the battle site far behind.


[Sunset, two nights later-Rowenshire]

Dave stood on the roadside, staring down at his family's old house. Thanks to Eve, Brother Tony, and Father Richard, the curse has been lifted...or so they say. Well, at least for future generations of Duboises and our friends. For the past hour, he had inspected the old dump, walking around and worse, feeling the pain contained within it. During that time, the Child and he consoled each other.

The witch-Alti-had been banished. For the first time in memory, it actually hit ninety degrees with the sun shining in the woods. Overnight, the trees had started to bud as well and the birds had started singing pleasant songs. This will be a beautiful place one day.

"My father always did have poor taste in property, didn't he?" Lex inquired, coming up from behind him.

"At that point, yes. But our fathers had the right idea, Lex. Still, the house has to go," Dave asserted, focusing and spewing flames through the air at the structure.

The fire found its target, igniting the house and the grass around it. The blaze consumed the latter rapidly, but took its time on the house. About two hours later, the fire had burned itself out after hitting the firebreak prepared around the property; reducing the center of the professor's nightmares into a pile of ash.

"Feel better?" Lex asked, taking a sip of his Pepsi.

Dave sighed. "You know, I dreamed of doing that for years. I thought that all of the hurt and pain would go away if I destroyed the house, but it's still there."

"All things take time, Dave. It took years to build up that frustration. Hey, I'm dealing with it too, all right? We'll get through it together," the businessman reminded him, rubbing his friend's shoulder.

"Yeah. My anger brought this all on us-the curse and all. Lex, I'm sorry I brought your mother's death on her," the medievalist apologized.

Lex smirked. "You had nothing to do with that, all right? My father linked Smallville and us to the property, not you. Besides, it was your restraint, good thinking and willingness to cooperate with your other side that gave this region a chance to flourish."

"I'd listen to him," Nick indicated, landing beside them. "You truly made a difference, Dave. For the first time, I don't feel the dark vibrations in this area. That's the first time in over three hundred years that this area is clean."

"You know what felt best though?" Dave asked.

"What?" the others responded.

The medievalist smiled. "Having my friends and family there with me to help out. I wouldn't have made it if not for all of you."

"Well, enough brooding," Lex stated. "The townspeople wanted to talk to you about something, so get in the car and let's go."

"I'll go with you if that's okay," Nick requested. "It'll be less conspicuous that way."

"The more, the merrier," Lex accepted. "Squeeze in!" When they were all inside, he gunned the motor and sped toward the small town's center.


Meantime, the residents had set up long picnic tables on the town common. The previous three days flew by with preparations for rebuilding their community. Discussions focused on the debate between preserving the historical nature of the town or making a total break with the past and going with a more modern look. In the end, the former won out. With Ware, Belchertown, and Amherst so near to them, the modernists had their stores available to them. For the sake of tourism, the town voted to keep the old facades and introduce new services. It would take a while, but Rowenshire was ready for a renaissance.

To celebrate this achievement, the townspeople organized a potluck. While the community-along with several local businesses-donated the meat and paper supplies, people brought their side dishes, desserts, and drinks with them. As night fell, it grew into quite a party. Music played. Some dancing went on. Others played games. For once, a happy feeling buzzed through the air.

In the midst of this euphoria, the Tucson contingent sat contentedly. It had been quite a week, but now that things were settled, they accepted the town's invitation and joined them there that evening.

"Nice, isn't it?" Karen asked Cybelle.

"Hmm? Yes, it is," the high priestess agreed. "For so long, this place was dark. I hope that changes."

"It should," Martin assured her. "Between Dr. Messenger's and my inspections, we can say the evil's gone."

"Except for the house," Eve pointed out. "But that will be taken care of shortly."

Looking to the north, they saw a dark plume floating toward the sky. "Is that?"

Angie looked at Emma and nodded. "Dave just set fire to the house and the land. Let's hope the firebreak holds."

It's a shame that Dad's dream house has to go, but if it can't be purified, it's a liability. Cybelle sighed, recalling how everyone's dreams fell in the face of Alti's evil.

"Some things change for the better, Cybelle," Emma commented. "We all have to move on."

"I know. It's just hard when you've been through as much as we all have. I'm glad that Pauline reached me when she did. Dad didn't understand what he unleashed," Cybelle replied. "Now, they can start over. Speaking of which, what was the word on the valley next to us?"

"Lex will have an announcement about that, I think," Steve mentioned from where he sat with Natalie. "From what I heard through official circles, he and the local historical society were in hot and heavy arguments with Boston's officials all day. We'll hear about it when he and Dave get back here."

The others looked at each other curiously, wondering what the bald entrepreneur could do against a city of that size.


Off to the side, Clark walked around the commons with his "two leading ladies". After recovering from Alti's touch, he felt up to a little partying. Besides, thinking about the upcoming wedding and the plans related to it made his head hurt.

On his right, Lana smiled as she felt a warm breeze brush across her nose and ruffle her hair. While her new talent had her a bit unnerved, she knew that she would get more control over it as time passed. Meantime, the present was for friendships-both old and new-and for new beginnings. Soon, Clark and I will set off on the next stage of our lives together. I'm so excited and yet so nervous all at the same time! She smiled warmly at her fiancé. This is so appropriate though. I'm glad they're doing this...for Professor Dubois's sake if for nothing else.

On his left, Melissa bounced along happily holding his hand. In the previous four months, she had adjusted to farm life readily. Due to the life at the orphanage, she was already used to getting up at the crack of dawn and pulling her weight. On several occasions, her stepparents had praised her work ethic. Certainly, her control over gravity made life easier for Jonathan. Already, she could lift things that only Clark could have managed.

"Clark?" she asked.

"Yes, Missy?" he replied, flashing the Kent smile.

She shook her head. Only he could call her that. "Thank you and everyone for bringing me with you. This is your special time with Lana and well...."

Lana leaned over and rubbed the girl's shoulder. "It's your time too, Melissa, okay? We're glad to have you here."

"Believe me, Mom and Dad certainly like what you do around the farm. You deserved a treat and we don't get to spend enough time with you. We both know what it's like to be an orphan. I'm glad that you decided to be my sister," he added, giving her a hug.'s embarrassing when he does that. I wonder if every little girl has a big brother like mine? I doubt it. Finally, I lucked out when Mom and Dad adopted me. She smiled. "Thanks, Clark."

"For what?" he asked.

"For being you. Sorry, Lana, I don't mean to get all mushy, but..."

Her soon to be sister-in-law shrugged. "That's okay. There's enough of him to share between us. Now, come on, I think they need help with setting the tables."


Two hours later, Lex, Dave, and Nick walked over to join their associates. Now that the business up the road was complete, it was time to relax.

"Hi, Honey," Angie greeted her husband. "Did you do it?"

"The house is gone," Dave told her and everyone around them. "The firebreak worked wonders, but everything's been taken out down to the bare ground."

"Now they can start fresh," Nick observed. "Did anyone purchase the land, Dave?"

"Actually, we do have some buyers for it," the medievalist noted. "Nancy Rodgers and her husband, Tom, are going to take it."

"And you torched the house?" Karen asked, shocked at that statement.

"We wanted to build our own place anyway," Nancy interjected as she walked over with her husband and a little brown haired boy of about eight years of age. "After Randy's death and watching as our old home was destroyed, we almost moved away, but with everything that's going on...."

"We decided to stay and rebuild our more ways than one," her husband told them. "Thanks again, Adam."

The geneticist smiled. "It was my pleasure. He needs a good home."

"Who's this?" Dave asked.

Nancy grinned warmly as she introduced, "We adopted a well...unique...child. I wanted to do it so that folks around here won't see mutants as freaks because they're a little different. Say hi to David, everyone."

Angie smiled warmly and rubbed Dave's shoulder. "It seems your lessons didn't go unnoticed. Looks as if the town's going to try to get it right this time with a little boy named Dave."

"The lessons were never forgotten," the adopting mother noted. "I did everything I could for him. And I'll do everything I can for my special child. Dave, when its time though, I want to send him to you for his and otherwise. You have experiences that we don't and probably will never get."

"I'll be waiting for that call," the medievalist agreed. "By that point, the Community will be looking for new students." He smiled. "If you ever need anything, you ask-all right?"

"We know that, but thank you," Tom replied warmly.

"Angie, umm...thank you for being so good to him," Nancy stated.

"That's what I'm here for," the oncologist quipped, letting her eyes shine into Dave's. "But it's a two-way street and he does as much for me if not more. Thank you for standing up for him all of those years ago."

"No problem," Nancy replied. "Well, shall we get in line for the grill? Those burgers and ribs are smelling pretty good from here."

The others concurred as they joined the line as it snaked around the grounds.


An hour later, the group finally pushed their plates aside as they were full of the wonderfully home cooked food. As they knew already, good food and conversation always go together, and being with such good friends made the food taste even better.

Even Nick, who enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine as the others ate, enjoyed the goings-on. It's too bad that LaCroix wouldn't come. Oh well, he wouldn't be happy here anyhow. These people deserve happiness and, after too long a time, they're finally going to get it.

Across the table, Chloe nudged Lex and asked, "So when are we going to hear your mysterious speech, Luthor?"

He smirked and sipped on a mug of beer, clearly enjoying the suspense. "All in good time, Dear. I do have to teach you about patience, now don't I?" he teased.

She shook her head. "Can't be done. Nope, sorry."

"I like a challenge. What can I say? I'm marrying you, aren't I?" he snickered, kissing her on the cheek.

She exchanged looks with Lana and Clark before conceding, "I guess, but who's going to be teaching who?"

Seeing the town's mayor walking toward the platform, he remarked, "Teaching difficult students is something I like."

The official, a rather portly man with snow white hair and a mustache, got up on the platform and started, "Hi, everyone! I trust you all are having a great time. Anyhow, I wanted to thank you all for coming out. Today's a special day, as you all know. For too long, our little community and the Swift River valley beside us have watched the rest of our neighbors progress and prosper. Our homes and work places have lain under the threat of dark forces and the curse of Anne Lichtenfeld. As I understand it, the process was completed just a couple of hours ago by a former neighbor of ours, David Dubois. Dave, can you come up here for a second?"

The medievalist sighed and nervously approached the platform, stepping onto it.

"Dave, the course of our history, we, the townspeople, have done some things that we aren't very proud of. Our treatment of your family was one such case. Granted, we had our differences with your father, but that doesn't excuse how we treated you all-particularly you and your sister, Cybelle. On behalf of everyone here, I wanted to apologize and promise that it will never happen again. Fear blinded us to those who are different and who are special. It's time to open ourselves to everyone," the mayor continued.

Dave managed a smile, and somehow, kept himself from breaking down. The pain he still felt from those days would lessen over time. Already, he and the Child had started working on their perceptions of the world around them-both shared and individual ones. Yet, the scars would always be there, no matter the words, thoughts, or deeds. For him, as with Nick and the Smallville group, the curse's aftereffects would stay with them. However, the important thing would be how they all lived their lives and the examples they provided. Only by doing those things and not moping over their misfortunes, would their value be determined.

["Ah still want a shot at 'em," the Child chided, not trusting the townspeople one bit.]

["Chill out," Dave told the Other. "We're leaving as soon as this thing is over. Just go with it, all right?"]

["Awright. Ah'll go 'long with the crap," the Child relented.]

["Thank you," Dave told him.] Whew!

"Dave?" the mayor asked.

"Huh? Oh, sorry, sir. I really appreciate what you said. I hope that everyone here remembers that there are some special people out there and we aren't the Devil incarnate. We're people who want to live normal lives and be good neighbors for those around us. Remember that for the children out there. In Tucson, we have a special understanding. I won't go into the details here, except to say that everyone has to work together for the good of the whole. You all saw that cooperation in action earlier this week and I want to acknowledge those special people who helped me. Granted, I took on the demon and finally beat the stupid thing, but without certain individuals, the witch would still be running around. Of the people who helped us, I wanted to point out Father Richard Taggerty from Amherst and Brother Tony Caldwell from Wabash, NY who blessed the ground up the road as well as my colleague, Dr. Eve Messenger, for her assistance in dealing with the witch's ghost. To my other allies who aren't here tonight, we owe them thanks as well. Join me in a round of applause, will you?" Dave requested.

The townspeople, in addition to the professor's associates stood and applauded enthusiastically.

Adam smiled and mused; He's done it again. This is wonderful if the people stay the course, which I think they will. With the Rodgers' example, I hope they create their own Community here such as the one Dave has in Tucson.

After a minute, Dave continued, "Remember, everyone counts no matter their gender, color, or genetic status. On that note, I think we're ready to hear about how the discussions went this afternoon. For that, I want to call on "the other son" so to speak-to come up here for a minute. As you all know, Lex Luthor has been in talks for most of the day over the valley. For an update, here's Lex. Thank you, everyone."

The group applauded as he gave up the microphone to his friend.

"That was some talk, Dave, thanks," Lex started. "Well, it's been a tough three days. The lawyers have gone back and forth, fighting like dogs. For several days, the big city guys have pushed on us-trying to intimidate us. But, we've held our own. As a wise man once showed me, some times it's worth standing up to the big interests if something's worth saving. I've been reading up the history of the Swift River Valley and its relationship to all of you. Until the 1930s, it was a small farming region when Boston turned it into the Quabbin Reservoir. Once again, the ground is open to the air and thanks to a line in the contracts from the land sales; it'll stay that way. It says that, "if the reservoir is emptied for any reason, the land reverts to the families who owned the original properties".

From the audience, a thunderous applause rose up.

Lex put his hand up even as he smiled. These people are getting their valley back. Let them enjoy it. "Anyhow, you'll need to keep the forest preserve to our west, but I think that's a small price to pay. The city of Boston has agreed to look to other sources for their water. LexCorp will work with the officials on getting grants for those projects-the first of which is underway right now. A massive saltwater conversion facility is being built on the north shore to convert seawater to drinking water. My people assure me that the differences are negligible. In addition, thanks to regional support, the towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott and Greenwich were reincorporated this afternoon."

Another wave of applause interrupted him.

In her seat, Chloe's eyes watered as she took in the happiness from his efforts. Way to go, Luthor. I'm so proud of you.

"You will all need to work together on a regional school system, cooperative planning among other things, but I think you can do that. As one of your own has shown before, with cooperation-even mountains can be overcome. You've applauded his friends, and me but I ask you now to give Dave a round of applause. As a young boy, I saw him stand up to his father and mine over a landmark in Smallville at great cost to himself. Perhaps, you've heard about the Talon Theater? If not, you might want to head for the library and read up on it. That example continues to inspire me to this day. So how about it?"

Nancy stood and began clapping.

The crowd soon joined in, finally giving the long overdue acknowledgement to him.

"You see, Dave? You've made a difference and continue to do so," Lex declared, shaking his friend's hand enthusiastically.

Lex, great going, Nick thought happily. He never gives himself enough credit.

Angie smiled approvingly. It's about time. Thanks, Lex.

"Lex, I just did what I had to do," the medievalist replied, feeling uncomfortable with the praise.

"A lot of other people wouldn't do that, Chief. You always find a way to make a difference. Just like here, you find a way to win and benefit everyone around you. Look, just accept that people actually like you for a change, all right?" Lex pointed out.

"All right," Dave conceded, allowing his friends to compliment him. "I just want the best for everyone. Thank you, everyone."

Having said that, he stepped down from the platform and rejoined his wife at the table. "This is where I really feel comfortable," he told her. "With our friends, family, and you."

She laughed warmly. "Don't forget that, Buster. I sure won't." She kissed him passionately.

He leaned back, taking a sip of beer and looking at his companions' smiles and warm expressions. After everything they had all been through, being with such company and receiving acceptance in this manner made things just a little bit better. True, there was more to do and more battles to fight, but those would wait until tomorrow. For now, he could rest and take comfort in his achievements. And that was a great feeling.

You actually can go home again. And that's the best feeling of all.

THE END (for now)

(**Now that Dave's faced up to (still more of) his personal issues, it's onto bigger and better things. Look for another story soon! Remember, the stories are at the Dubois Chronicles site at and if you want first crack at them, feel free to sign up for the "DuboisChronicleUpdates" list on YahooGroups. Thanks again, everyone!**)

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