PART THIRTYFOUR

Completed: 10/08/2002

Copyrighted/All Rights Reserved

"Johnson? This is Inspector Lawless..." Gino said emphatically into his cell phone as he and Agent Simmons raced north past the Paradise Valley city limits sign on Highway One. "It's very important that you listen carefully. I need you, and agents Sanders and Phelps at the old cabin on Tanner's Trail north of town on Highway One, ASAP. Check your area maps, it shouldn't be hard to find. But first, contact Sheriff McCallister in town and tell them we may have a.... a 'situation' there and need their assistance. But make sure to tell him to contact his men by cell phone only, not radio. It could blow our chance at surprise if our suspects have a scanner.....No, do not, I repeat, do not contact the FBI, at least not yet. Do you understand?... Good". Gino turned his phone off and looked at Agent Simmons.

"What if they're listening to cell phone transmissions in the area?" asked Simmons.

"Let's just hope not" Gino answered solemnly, having considered that scenario. "Darn fool kids. What are they thinking? C'mon Simmons! Step on it!".

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Alex sat on an upper limb of the large oak tree forty feet above, overlooking the small cabin where Louis, Vince, and Agent Garth were. In less than a minute, she had levitated herself above the trees from where Grace and Annie dropped her off, and soared several hundred feet to the old oak positioned just behind the cabin. The cool. late afternoon breeze began to pick up as she examined the scene carefully, just as Grace told her to, trying to find her best way of entry without being detected. But of course, that was for the 'average' person, and Alex was hardly 'average'.

The cabin was twelve by eighteenwith a partially sagging roof made of rusting tin. Molded, half-rotten, vine covered wooden planks made up the walls with a single, small window on each side, each coated in a grimy haze. The only door was on the cabin's front, opposite the tree she was in.

Alex recalled almost a year ago when she and Ray had first met the former GC-161 scientist Charles Vernell in that very cabin, and how she disclosed her secret powers to him. It came back to her in a rush. Vince Carter managed to track Vernell back to his cabin and kidnap him, but she and Ray, with the unwitting aid of Louis, were able to save him from Vince's clutches. She wondered whatever happened to Vernell after that scary adventure. He'd sent a postcard to her once several months afterwards, addressed from Brazil.

Alex quickly cleared her mind and re-focused it on the present. Scanning the area, she noticed to the left side of the dilapidated structure sat Vince's jeep, nearest to the cabin, and the dark sedan with government tags beside it.

She saw what looked like very long jumper cables running out of the back of Vince's jeep into the cabin via a small hole in the outer wall. Before approaching the cabin, she would have to investigate what the cables were for, but she had to move fast. She retrieved the walkie talkie from her belt strap she'd gotten from Nicole and spoke into it.

"Annie, Grace, I'm moving in. Give me ten minutes and then move in". Alex waited a moment and hear Annie's reply. "Roger. Be careful".

Re-clipping the walkie talkie to her belt, Alex quickly concentrated, imagining herself moving downwards along the massive oak's trunk. The familiar warm, tingling flush and the feeling of being painlessly pulled apart in every direction immediately struck her. Just like she did in the hedge at the Paradise Arms Hotel, she was thinking about moving too fast, and while still in human appearance, her body, starting with her feet and legs, began to ripple, then grotesquely elongate off the limb and around the trunk of the tree, moving downwards. It was an almost cartoon effect she thought. They took on a tubular shape nearly the diameter of a baseball as they wrapped around the tree and descended, as well as the rest of the portions of her body as they followed.

She watched in amazement as her hips then flattened out and stretched off the limb following her legs.

"Freaky..." she whispered in amazement.

Her lower body was already wrapped around the tree trunk twice and still lengthening, moving down. Her arms and the walkie talkie on her belt incorporated themselves into her sides as her torso and head also began to flow off the limb in it's strange game of 'follow the leader'. Alex simply let the effect keep going. Her body was over fifteen feet long before finally completing it's metamorphosis into a snake of slivery goo.

Her body was stretched out three times longer than her own height! How was this possible? It alarmed her to think how powerful her abilities had become since they'd returned.

She put the thought aside as she stealthily slithered down the tree trunk to the ground. There, she condensed into a smaller, round puddle shape and quickly sloshed the twenty feet across the short opening to Vince's jeep. She snaked up the back of the jeep to peer in, and saw an enormous gray battery sitting in the rear floorboard of Vince's jeep where the backseat would usually be.

The cables were attached to the posts on the battery. She deduced Vince was using the huge battery as a power source for the weird gizmos and gadgets he was famous for usingwhen he used to track the 'GC-161 Kid' for Danielle.

"Well, I guess the only thing I can do is what I always do to Vince's 'toys'..." Alex chuckled silently, and she slid herself on top of the battery and connected the two posts with her own gelatinous body, causing the battery to begin popping and fizzling. So what if there was enough electricity flowing through her to seriously injure or even kill a normal person? Alex could generate electrical power in her own body at will.

But as she concentrated on short circuiting the battery, a new, and extremely odd, sensation began to flow through her liquified body. Not the warm, tingling flush she experienced when she shapeshifted while morphing, but a feeling as if she had ants crawling all over and through her, followed quickly by a swirling, swooning sensation. She felt her body was losing it's corporeal form completely, like after she'd been exploded into thousands of liquid droplets. But 'this' time it felt as if the electricity she was channeling through her was somehow sucking her into it's very own current, and she couldn't stop it!

"Uh oh. This isn't good..." she gurgledworriedly.

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Inside the shack, Vince and Agent Garth looked around at the electronic equipment surrounding them as it began to blink and sputter. "What the hell?" Vince stammered, eying his gadgets suspiciously.

"What's going on? Why are all your instruments going haywire?" Agent Garth demanded. Louis sat silently and grinned to himself. He knew what was happening. No doubt, Alex was outside and in the process of sabotaging all of their monitoring equipment, trying to cause a distraction. Louis readied himself, knowing he had to be prepared to act when Alex got there.

"Something's shorting out my battery in my jeep!" Vince said, trying to squint outside through the glass of a small, dingy window.

"It has to be those kids!" Garth added, suddenly angry. "They've gottenhere before we expected them!". Vince looked at Garth, and back out the window, still trying to see what was going on. "I can't make out anyone near my jeep. Just some sparks in the back. I'll go check it out. It could just be a short in my battery. You stay here and watch the punk". Vince raced out the cabin's front door.

Louis couldn't help but feel a deep, burning resentment for Vince Carter, but his immediate worry was that Agent Garth wasn't going with Vince to see what was going on outside. It could mean the crooked FBI agent may spot Alex sneaking into the cabin to save him.

All of a sudden, this wasn't looking so good after all.

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Grace, Annie, and Nicole sat parked in the idling, dark sedan on the mountain trail where Alex had left them just moments to advance on the cabin where Louis was being held. Impatiently, Grace looked at her wrist watch and turned to Annie. "It's time. Alex should be in position by now. Have you got the disc ready?"

"Yes" Annie replied, holding it up between her fingers. "Let's go".

"I hope you two know what 'we're' doing" Nicole said shakily from the back seat. But before Grace could place the car in drive, another, larger car came speeding up past and around them, cutting them off in a cloud of dust.

The three girls watched in surprise as Gino Lawless and fellow FDA agent John Simmons got out of the car and approached them. "Oh great..." Annie moaned out loud. Gino and Agent Simmons took position on each side of their car, Gino on Grace's side. Inspector Lawless leaned into the open car window beside Grace and gave her a grave look.

"Care to tell me what the hell you girls think you're doing?" he asked angrily.

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"Whooooaaaaaaaaa!" exclaimed Alex as her liquid form glowed brightly and began to shiver and hiss.

Her vision changed from that of seeing in the usual panoramic vision of her morphed state to that of seeing everything in a bright, golden haze. With a loud electrical 'snap!', Alex suddenly felt as if she was made up only of her consciousness, completely without a body, and racing through a bright tunnel.

She was terrified!

For a split second, she thought she had gone too far and somehow evaporated herself into nothingness on the battery in Vince's jeep! Heaven, hopefully, could only be next!

But then her bizarre radar sense kicked in, and Alex realized what had happened to her. She'd become part of the electrical current the battery was feeding Vince's equipment inside the cabin! She couldn't believe it; she was pure energy! It only took a second to acclimate herself, much like when she was morphed. Determined to take advantage of this sudden turn of events, Alex followed the current along like she did in the pitch black dark sewers and water pipes below Paradise Valley's streets. She hadn't planned on going into the cabin this early, but she had no choice now. One way or another, she was getting into the shed and getting Louis out, with or without Annie's and Grace's help.

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Sergeant Ryan of the Paradise Valley Police Department walked into the lobby where Ray, Robyn, Mr. Alvarado, and Mrs. Russo were anxiously waiting. At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Mack re-entered the precinct house after unsuccessfully trying to find their daughters. Sergeant Ryan had been clearing it with his chief to let Ray and Robyn leave with their parents, but when he entered the lobby again, they all noticed the concerned look on his face. The Macks had already called and informed everyone half an hour earlier that Alex and Annie had somehow gotten by them at the Mack house and took off with former FBI agent Grace Lasky. The only thing they knew to do was return to the police station.

"What's wrong now Officer Ryan?" Mr. Mack asked, panting heavily from the stress he was under. Barbara Mack took a tissue from her pocket and errantly dabbed at the sweat on Mr. Mack's forehead.

"Well, there seems to be a problem that has just come up Mr. Mack" Officer Ryan replied.

"What else is new?" Mr. Alvarado complained. "Another problem to deal with is only par the course today". Ray and Robyn quietly glanced at each other and lowered their eyes guiltily.

Mr. and Mrs. Mack sat down as Sergeant Ryan reluctantly explained.

"My chief just got a phone call from Sheriff McCallister. He said an agent with the FDA phoned him a few minutes ago and said his supervisor, a Mr. Gino Lawless, needed back-up up on Tanner's Trail off Highway One. The Sheriff wasn't specific, but after the story Mrs. Russo's and Mr. Alvarado's children just told us involving the Mack's daughter's and this former FBI agent Grace Lasky, the chief believes it's all related".

"Oh my God!" Mrs. Mack gasped.

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Agent Garth was surprised when all of the lights and indicators on Vince's electronic surveillance equipment inside the mountain cabin suddenly flashed brightly and flickered out, completely powerless. He stepped over to the police scanner and examined it with a puzzled gaze. He tried the on-off switch to see if it would work, but nothing happened. "Having problems 'Agent Garth'?" Louis asked facetiously.

"Nothing we can't handle Louis" he replied with a cold confidence. "But don't worry, it won't be much longer before all of this is over and you and your friends are just a memory".A cold chill crawled up Louis' spine at the FBI agent's threat.

Absently, Agent Garth kept trying the switch on the scanner when without warning, a golden electrical charge came out of the unit and surrounded his body, instantly knocking him unconscious. Louis couldn't believe his eyes as the charge of energy flowed off of Garth's body, and condensed itselfinto a round, basketball-sized sphere hovering a few inches off the dirt floor beside the fallen agent. The golden, crackling energy reminded him of the static electricity orb in the Paradise Valley High School's science room, upon which you could place your hands and make your hair stand on end.

"Louis...?" said a faint, crackly voice from the energyball. It was Alex's voice! It sounded as if she was talking through a barely-audible radio.

"A... Alex?!" he stammered unbelievingly, staring at the energy ball.

In complete awe, Louis watched as the ball began to become denser, it's glow ebbing as it started stretching outwards in several directions, taking on a human shape in front of him. Within a few seconds, a full human form was finished and the glowing suddenly stopped, and there was Alex Mack, sitting sprawled on her hands and butt on the cabin's earthen floor before him.

"Alex? Oh my God! How'd you do that?!" Louis exclaimed. Alex looked at him, her face pale and glistening with a light sweat.

"Honestly Louis, I really don't know, and I'm not too eager to find out again either". Alex looked at Louis' bonds and tried to telekinetically free him of them, but she was too exhausted from the bizarre experience of being transformed into pure electrical energy. She got up to untie the ropes, but fell back on her rear.

"Whoa! That took a lot more out of me than I thought!" she said with a tired gasp, placing her hand on her forehead.

"Alex? Are you o.k.? Can you get me loose?" Louis asked frantically. Alex could still feel her body tingling with power. Tiny, marble-sized spheres of golden electrical energy began to emerge from her skin and float around her. She held up her right hand and saw electrical sparks dancing across her fingertips.

"I guess my little 'zapping' spell isn't quite over yet..." Alex observed, as an idea occurred to her. She pointed her finger at Louis' bonds and fired several powerful, but concentrated zappers at them, cutting them instantly. Suddenly, Alex fell backwards in an exhausted faint. Louis shrugged the ski rope off of him and got up from the chair and immediately attended to her.

"Oh my God! Alex?!". He held her head up by the back of her neck, and her eyes openly slightly.

"I'm 'wiped' Louis..." she whispered weakly. "That last stunt..... took a lot out of me. I have to rest for a little while".

"Alex! We don't have time! We have to get out of here!". Alex's eyes flickered and closed again and she faded into unconsciousness. As she did, he felt her body become cooler and clammy, and she lapsed backwards to the floor, flowing around his hands like liquid. His first thought was to try and pick her up and carry her out, but every time he tried to take hold of her, it was like trying to grasp jell-o! He remembered Annie explaining about this after-effect of Alex's before and how her molecular structure liquified after extreme use of her powers. She stayed this way until she regained her strength.

Then her human form began to fade and melt away into a puddle before him, but beside her puddle-form laid her walkie-talkie, still in solid form! He knew Annie and Grace had to be waiting on the other end so he picked up the radio. "Ouch!" he yelped. It was too hot to hold! He dropped it to the dirt floor. It had been melted during it's trip with Alex's electrical form.

"Great. 'Now' what?" he complained. A moan emerged from Agent Garth. He was nearing consciousness after Alex shocked him seconds before. He had to think fast. He looked around the cabin frantically hoping he would see something, anything, that would give him an idea of what to do. He couldn't carry Alex to safety while she was morphed, but if he remained here, he would just be a prisoner again when Vince got back or Agent Garth came around. Not to mention they'd discover Alex's powers were back.

But he also knew Alex didn't come up here alone. He'd overheard the deal Vince and Garth had made with Annie and Grace and knew they would probably be there any time to try and exchange the disc for him. He just didn't understand why Alex would take such a risk at exhausting herself getting into the cabin the way she did. Something had obviously gone terribly wrong.

Alex said she didn't know how she turned into electricity, so maybe it happened beyond her control. Annie and Grace probably didn't even know! He scanned every nook and cranny of the cabin even more determinedly. Maybe he could find a bucket or something to put Alex in and take her with him. Then he spotted something that gave him an idea. A half-rotten, waist-high end table sat in the corner beside several stacks of years-old newspapers, and underneath it was a small space of about two inches in height.

Cupping his hands together at their heels, he placed them at the edge of Alex's puddle-form and scooped her underneath the end table and out of sight. When she came to, Louis knew she'd be able to escape through the cracks of the cabin's outer wall. It was the only thing he could do. Agent Garth began to move and Louis wasted no time in leaping up, hopping over the stunned FBI agent, and bolting out the door.

Once outside, he ran to the opposite side of the cabin from Vince, hoping to stay out of his line of sight. As he reached the woods, he ducked behind some thick bushes just in time to see Vince round the far corner of the cabin and re-enter it.

A couple of seconds later, Vince ran out from the cabin and stopped in front of it, placed his hand over his eyes and desperately scanned in all directions for his former prisoner. From his hiding spot, Louis watched Vince's face grow into a twisted mask of rage when he realized Louis must be long gone. He stamped his foot angrily and then darted back into the cabin. When he did, Louis rose then ran into the thickest part of the woods he could find, heading for the main trail hoping he knew would run into Annie and Grace. He ran for almost a full minute, circling around to come out onto the main trail leading up from the highway.

He unexpectingly ran onto the main trail before he knew it was there, and was nearly run down by a Sheriff Deputy's car which came to a sliding halt just two feet away from him!

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