PART THIRTYFIVE

"What the heck happened? " Agent Garth asked as Vince helped him up from the floor. "One second I'm checking why the radio scanner isn't working, and the next I'm getting up off the floor".

"My battery in the jeep shorted out and I guess the power surge ran back in here on you. It must have been those meddling kids!" Vince explained."And now the Driscoll kid is gone too".

"What? He's gone?!". Agent Garth's daze quickly faded when he looked at the empty chair where Louis had been tied up. He quickly ran out the cabin's door into the clearing in front with Vince following close behind.

"What are you doing Garth?" he asked the FBI agent frantically.

"This changes everything Vince...." Agent Garth said, looking around the clearing for any clue to Louis' whereabouts. "Those kids have vital information on Director Walsh, and now we don't even have a bargaining chip to get it back".

"Then what do you suggest we do Garth?".

"We have to find the Driscoll kid before he gets too far is what we 'have' to do!" he complained loudly, becoming angry with Vince's sarcasm.

"He's long gone Garth. The woods around here are full of bike trails and these kids know them a lot better than I do. There's no way we could find him with the head start he's already gotten". Agent Garth paused for a moment and pondered what Vince said.Then he began run towards his car parked on the far side of the cabin.

"Where do you think you're going?" Vince demanded.

"I'm getting out of here Vince, and 'you' should do the same thing!" he yelled back at Vince over his shoulder, not slowing at all as he reached his car. "I sure as heck don't intend to be caught here, with 'you'!".

Seconds later, the FBI agent backed his car out and sped away in a cloud of dust and debris, but he didn't get far. Garth slammed on his brakes when a Sheriff's Department squad car almost hit him head on coming from the opposite direction on the trail leading back to the highway. Behind the Sheriff deputy's car were Gino Lawless' car and then Grace's. Agent Garth quickly placed his car in reverse and tried to back out and escape up the trail leading past the cabin and further into the hills, but a Sheriff's Department four-wheel drive truck appeared from that direction and blocked his escape!

The deputies emerged from their vehicles with their guns drawn on Garth's car. "Get out of the car now with your hands where I can see them!" the first deputy shouted, warily closing on Garth's sedan. The rouge FBI agent reluctantly obeyed.

Vince, suddenly realizing he was still out in the open, darted back into the cabin for cover and slammed and locked the door behind him.

--------------------------------------------------

Alex regained consciousness. She looked around from her puddle form and saw she was still in the cabin but underneath some sort of furniture. She tried to scan the immediate area with her morph-sense, but found she could not scan far, but it was strong enough to sense someone in the cabin with her. "Vince!".

He was scurrying around the cabin, slamming shut and locking the rickety wooden shudders that had been hung on the inside of the cabin by it's former occupant, Charles Vernell. She also noticed there was no sign of the FBI agent she'd knocked out.

"But where was Louis?" Alex asked herself, carefully flowing out from underneath the old end table just enough to get a better visual view. He was nowhere to be seen; only Vince was in the cabin.

"He must have pushed me under this table and escaped to get help" she thought. Alex could feel her strength rapidly returning. She didn't know how she recuperated much faster as a liquid than she did as a human, but she wasn't about to complain about that now. That was something she'd leave for Annie to figure out.

Vince finished closing the shutters and ran back to the front door to spy out the peep-hole bored in it. He was obviously hiding from something, and Alex had to find out what. With her strength returning, her morph-sense was beginning to kick back up to near full power, so she tried scanning the area outside the cabin again. There were several people outside, and she could sense Annie, Nicole, and Grace, and Louis was with them too!

Then she saw Vince jump as a man's voice over a loudspeaker echoed against the cabin's outer walls.

"Vince Carter? This is the Paradise County Sheriff's Department! We know you're in there, so surrender yourself and come out peacefully!" the man said. "The police!" Alex almost gurgled aloud. She knew exactly what to do now. As long as Louis wasn't a captive anymore and Vince was by himself, she'd just ooze outside through the cracks in the cabin's walls and let the police handle Vince.

As she was about to retreat outside, Alex was abruptly hit by that oh-so familiar warm tingling sensation. Uncontrollably, herbody began to change back to human shape! "On no! Not now!".

When Alex first got her powers during the chemical spill when she was thirteen, she could morph herself for only a short five minutes. By the time she was sixteen, she could stay morphed for almost thirty minutes. But since her powers had returned after taking the antidote two weeks ago, there didn't seem to be any limit to the time she could stay morphed, but this was different. Since she'd expended so much energy and effort over the past few hours, her form was just too unstable, and already being as mentally fatigued as she was, she couldn't will herself to remain morphed.

There was absolutely nothing she could do! She could probably morph again right after she turned human, but she was going to be exposed anyway. Already, her puddle-form was expanding outwards and enlarging from under the end table! It toppled over and off her back as she reformed sitting on her hands and knees. Vince spun immediately on his heel to see Alex Mack form in front of him from a silvery puddle of goo!

As Alex rose unsteadily to her feet, Vince quickly grabbed a small black box about the size of a t.v. remote from the table next to him, pointed it at Alex, and depressed a small button on it. A blue spark flew from a small, metallic nozzle on the front of the box and struck Alex in the chest, and she felt all of her strength instantly sapped out of her. She fell to her knees, dizzy and disoriented. He placed the device back on the table and then retrieved a small pistol from inside his coat and pointed it at her.

"Alexandra Mack..." he said as an evil grin spread across his lips. "So, you 'still' have your powers. I should have known...". Alex weakly held her head up and looked at his gun, trying to will it out of his hand, but she couldn't. It was hard for her to even focus her eyes.

"Oh, don't even bother trying your powers on me young lady" he sneered confidently, flaunting the gun at her.

"What ... what did you do to me?" Alex gasped, a feeling of nausea coming over her.

"On a hunch, I prepared for this contingency right after my bomb failed to 'remodel' your parents' house the other day. I just zapped you with a 'special' little device I was developing at Paradise Chemical before Danielle Atron fired me; something called a GC-stasis field. It causes a temporary electrical field around your body which reacts with the GC-161 in your body, and prevents you from using your powers".

Alex felt like she was sick with the flu and could barely move, but through the haziness, something suddenly occurred to her.

Vince said the stasis field he shot her with works on GC-161. So that meant he thinks she never took her father's antidote and doesn't know her body makes 'it's own' hybrid version of the chemical now. The hybrid GC-161 is only in her body 'when' she commands her powers to function. Alex willed her powers to shut off for now; to be 'normal'. As soon as she did, she could feel the stasis field beginning to dissipate and her strength beginning to return again.

"You'll be like that for at least half an hour Alex" Vince continued unknowingly, offering another quick glance out the peep hole of the cabin at the sheriff's deputies outside and then turning back to her. "I don't what you were trying to do by showing yourself; maybe giving your friend more time to escape? But it was a mistake nonetheless". Vince chortled and turned back towards the door. Looking out, he saw another Sheriff's Department car arrive and two more officers leapt out of it, taking cover behind the open doors of the vehicle.

"I have a hostage!" he shouted. "If any of you try to come in, Alex Mack will pay for it!".

-------------------------------------------------

Annie looked incredulously at Louis as they hid behind Gino Lawless' car outside the surrounded cabin, watching the ongoing saga.

"Louis?! I thought you said Alex would be out of there by now?!" she whispered loudly, trying not to let anyone else hear her. "You said you hid Alex under a table and that she was safe!".

"I did!" he swore. "All she had to do was slide out through the cracks in the walls when she woke up!". Annie regained her composure and placed her hand on Louis' shoulder. "I'm sorry Louis. I know you did what you could do under the circumstances".

"She's still got her powers Annie. I'm sure she's safe" Grace interjected. "I can't help but think she may be up to something in there".

"Like what?" Nicole joined in. "Do you think she may be trying to talk Vince into surrendering or something?".

"I've got a bad feeling about this" Annie continued. "If she's Vince's hostage, then that means she might have exposed her powers to him, and I don't like the fact that Louis told me he had all of his crazy gizmos in there with him. Alex may be in danger".

-----------------------------------------------------

"You can't win Vince" Alex said, feeling her strength building. Vince scoffed.

"Can't I?" he asked without emotion, which piqued Alex's curiosity.

"What are you talking about?" she pressed.

"I'm talking about finally getting my revenge on you, your family, and Paradise Valley itself for all the trouble and humiliation all of you have caused me".

"I think you've done enough already, trying to blow up Dave Watt 'and' my house".

"Dave Watt; that buffoon". Vince gave out a quiet laugh as he watched the police activity outside, confident Alex was safely incapacitated. "All I tried to do is just scare him into not telling Gino Lawless anything about me. I figured he'd be smart enough to get the message. But hey, if he'd been killed, no real loss anyway".

"So is that what Dave, me, and the rest of us are to you Vince? 'No real loss'?". Vince turned, his face red with fury.

"Isn't that what I am to you?!" he demanded angrily.Alex winced at his attack.

"I had everything; money, power, respect, and 'you' had to walk in front of that truck carrying GC-161 and ruin it all for me!" Vince banged his fist on the door frame, but Alex just watched and listened; fascinated."For three years, my life was a living hell trying to track you down for Ms. Atron. I knew you had to have special abilities after being doused with that much of the chemical, but never did I realize how powerful you really were. And with all that power, you managed to make me look like a fool to my security force and humiliate me in front of Danielle. But I can 'still' win".

"And just how do you intend to do that? The police have this cabin surrounded. There's no way you can get away".

"I don't intend to 'get away' Alex. What would be the good in that? Life in prison just like Danielle and Lars? I don't think so".

Vince stepped to the table in the center of the room and picked up a metallic, cylindrical, football-sized object, holding it up for Alex to see. She knew instantly what it was; one of Vince's bombs, and a pretty powerful looking one too.

"'This' is my escape Alex... my 'revenge'" he said, waving the device in front of him. A cold shiver went up Alex's spine. "Gino and those deputies will never negotiate; they'll never let me get away. I think we 'both' know that".

"You... you're going to blow yourself up?".

"No, I'm going to blow 'both' of us up Alex" he answered coldly. "Never liked the idea of rotting in a prison cell the rest of my life, and in the process, I get to take 'you' with me. I get my revenge on you for all the grief and humiliation you've put me through, and I also get revenge on your family. I even get revenge on Paradise Valley by taking their 'little super hero' with me". He set the bomb back down on the table and pressed a pair of small buttons on it, and a beep sounded from the explosive.

"In thirty seconds, I finally win" he sneered.

"Vince, you don't have to do this..." she said, trying to reason with him and eying the activated bomb on the table at the same time. Her strength was almost completely back, and she began to stand. Vince shot her a confusing look, unsure why she wasn't still reeling from the effect of his stasis field. He reached to the table to pick up his stasis field device again, but Alex was a step ahead of him. Using her telekinesis, she crushed the device as flat as a piece of paper on the table top.

"What the...?!" Vince exclaimed. "That's impossible! How could you do that with the stasis field?". The ex-Navy SEAL swung his pistol around at her but Alex was ready for that too. She grabbed the weapon with her will and it flung from Vince's hand, across the room, and behind one of the piles of newspapers.

Before she could react, Vince swept up the bomb on the table and clutched it tightly to his chest, then ran directly ate Alex is if to tackle her! Instinctively, she thought of morphing. When Vince dove at her, he passed straight through Alex's liquified body. which was still in human appearance. He crumpled against the back wall of the cabin when he landed, and the impact caused a heavy shelf on the wall above him holding hundreds of old newspapers to fall, covering him in debris. Then, a rotten crossbeam in the ceiling of the old cabin broke free and fell across Vince, pinning him against the ground.

Alex knew she didn't have time to free Vince from the debris, so getting the bomb out of there was the only other option. She solidified again.

"Vince! Let go of the bomb! I'll get rid of it!" Alex exclaimed frantically. She intended to telekinetically shoot the bomb through the roof and as high into the sky as possible, where it would explode harmlessly.

When she tried to will it from Vince's arms, a crazy look appeared on his face, and his grip on the bomb tightened. He wouldn't let go of it! Vince began to laugh loudly and maniacally when Alex's mental hold on the bomb kept pulling him several inches up from the floor, only to be held down by the beam across him.

"Vince! Let go of it! It's about to explode!" she warned. His laughing just got louder, and Alex knew there were only precious few seconds left before it went off. There was nothing else she could do. Vince didn't intend to be captured, and the longer he made her try to get the bomb from him, the more the chance he'd finally get his twisted revenge on her. Alex turned and ran for the far wall and ordered her body to liquify at the same time. She launched herself at the wall, melting into silvery goo in mid air as she dove.

"No! No!" Vince screamed hysterically, watching his plot for revenge quickly evaporating.

Alex never looked back. She hit the wall as a puddle and flowed through a large crack between the warped, bowed-out boards and rapidly flowed outside. Suddenly, her morph-senses were overwhelmed by the powerfully loud and concussive force of the explosion which followed, and an intense heat wave overcame her.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Geez!" yelled Gino Lawless as he, Agent Simmons, Annie, Louis, Nicole, and Grace ducked as the cabin was instantly disintegrated by the massive blast. The surrounding sheriff's deputies dove for cover too.

"Alex!" Annie screamed, standing back up to watch the huge column of dust and smoke rise where the cabin used to stand. Small pieces of debris from the demolished structure rained down all over, along with shreddednewspapers and small chunks of dirt. There was a ten by ten crater in the soft soil where the cabin had been. Annie placed her hands over her mouth as tears began to openly flow down her cheeks. The only thought in her mind was that Alex had been in the cabin with Vince. Not even her powers could have saved her from that blast.

"Oh my God..." Nicole said quietly, also beginning to cry. Grace remained silent, and Louis was on the verge of fainting, thinking he'd doomed his friend.

"Jesus..." Gino stuttered, not believing what he'd just witnessed.

Annie's chest began to heave as she started to weep openly, and Nicole placed an arm around her. The deputies to each side of the cabin began to rise and slowly approach the destruction. Then Annie heard one of them yell out to the others. "Wait! I see something moving!".

She lifted her head and looked while the largest of the deputies ran into the thick smoke and dust. Louis and the others all took a collective deep breath.

They squinted into the hovering dust cloud as an object appeared through the dusty haze and became bigger. It was two people. One was the burly sheriff's deputy, and the other, was Alex! He was helping her towards the cars. She was coughing, wheezing, and sneezing from the dust, but she was o.k.!

Annie ran from her spot before anyone else could react, and nearly tackled her little sister with a bear hug. "Alex! You're o.k.! You're o.k.!" she cried happily. Alex hugged her back, laughing and beginning to cry too.

"I'm o.k. Annie..." is all she knew to say between several coughs. Nicole, Louis, and Grace ran up to them and hugged Alex too.

Then Gino walked up to the group, but stopped several feet away and placed his hands on his hips and look at them. He watched as Grace and the group of teens hugged each other, not saying anything. All of them were half-crying and half-laughing. He couldn't help but smile and feel a little teary-eyed himself, not to mention respect what a brave group of young people he had standing before him. His partner Agent Simmons walked up beside him and looked at them too, slowly shaking his head. "What do you make of these kids Inspector Lawless?" he asked Gino with an unbelieving tone.

"They're heroes Simmons..." he answered with a chuckle.

The group around Alex pulled away some after several minutes, but Annie still held Alex at arm's length.

"It's over Alex" she said, her face smeared with tears and dust.

"It's over Annie" Alex replied softly. "Let's go home...".

They hugged again.

----------------------------------------------