The Phoenix Legacies
Book One: The Final Element

by Leah Ashleigh C.

Yeah, it's that darn thing that ya just can't avoid: All rights to Poltergeist: The Legacy and it's characters belong to MGM/Trilogy Entertainment, or something like that. I've used their creations here without their permission. Please don't sue me; I don't have the money anyway.

Author's note, aka senseless ramblings: This is the beginning of a series of stories I'm writing, so ya better get used to me now! Also, I'd like to thank Trilogy Entertainment for creating such wonderful characters for us to fall in love with. Special thanks to my wonderful friends and beta readers, Aly and Sherri!

June 1998, Angel Island

The boy ran desperately through the large expanse of the cemetery, trying to clear himself of the nearby structures of mausoleums and gravestones. All around him flashed great bolts of electric blue lightening, yet there was no rain.

Finally, just before he reached the clearing at the opposite end of the cemetery, he was struck by a bolt of the great blue flame. For endless moments it engulfed him, as the ancient words still flowed from his mouth.

Fragments of images flashed in and out of view. Some gray, others colored. Some narrated with haunting chants, foreign phrases marked with nearly inhuman screams filled with agony and terror to the height of human imagination.

He saw himself. First in a state of zombie-like determination as the strange language floated from his lips, then flashes. A blinding blue light all around him, a part of some (cult?) in a ritual with a large stone altar in the center of the group. He then watched (himself?) as a young boy, terror-stricken as he watched the horrendous beast tear another chunk off of the girl's now lifeless body. Flashes of faces and events, both familiar and foreign, streaked through his mind like wildfire, filling him with terror and pain.

But it didn't end there, oh no. To top it all, the sounds, the sights, and all of the emotions from all of the faces in all of the events jumbled into one which sent a shockwave down to the very core of his being, and sent him reeling long after, as his mind recoiled from the experience.

In the darkness of his own room, Nick Boyle shot up in his bed with a small cry, tears stinging his eyes. He paused for a moment to regain his senses, then dashed to the bathroom as what remained of the previous day's evening meal rose to greet him a good morning.

Later, after he was certain that there was nothing left for him to throw up, he looked over to the clock at his bedside. '5:00, not a bad time to run a few miles,' he thought grimly, a few in his mind meaning 15 or 20. But making up his mind stubbornly, he pushed all thoughts of his nightmare from his mind as he changed into his sweats and made his way silently through the dim castle halls.

Nick was really pushing himself this morning. Finally, after about 18 miles and nearly two hours, the memory crept back in, and he couldn't help the pouring of thoughts related to what he figured was about as bad a dream could be, not to mention how real it had been.

What was it all about? He couldn't remember anything which could have provoked such (prophecies?) thoughts, nor had he ever felt such a horrible mix of death, despair and downright evil. In all his experiences with the Legacy and everything he'd seen in his life, nothing compared to the feeling he had at the moment of his awakening. Nothing.

Okay, that was enough. Approaching the house, Nick decided then and there that he wasn't about to try and explain his nightmare to Derek, or anyone else for that matter. He'd just set it aside and get on with his day.

As the young former SEAL entered the House and headed toward the stairs to his room, he changed his mind and instead headed down another hallway into the kitchen.

There at the table was Derek, nursing a mug of coffee as he tiredly read the morning's headlines through luggage-framed eyes.

"Couldn't sleep?" Nick asked as he leaned against door frame, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

Derek looked up, surprised to see that someone had snuck up on him. "Oh, hi Nick. No, I guess I couldn't. How about you?" he replied curiously.

Nick hesitated. Derek immediately sensed his discomfort, but before he could say anything Nick quickly spit out, "No, I couldn't either, I, um, have a lot on my mind. Guess I just had to get out and clear my head. I'm gonna take a shower and do a few things upstairs, if you need me or anything."

He gave his young friend a sideways look, but responded, "All right, but don't forget, we have a meeting at 9:00," he said as Nick was leaving the room to head upstairs.

Nick slowed his pace as he spotted Alex Moreau coming out of her room down the hall. Silently he snuck up the remaining stairs and behind the unsuspecting prey.

"Hey Alex!" he cried from behind her.

"Aaaaiii!!!" she screamed, nearly hitting the ceiling as she spun around. "Oh, God! Nick, don't you ever scare me like that again!" she exclaimed, swatting him on the head.

"Sorry," he said with a mischievous, mock innocent grin that made Alex think of a little boy pulling pranks on his big sister. "Well, this is a change," Nick said, the grin still visible.

"What's that?"

"It's only about 7 and Philip's the only one still asleep," Nick finished, referring to the young priest, who was usually the first up in the morning, next to Nick.

"Derek's up too? What woke him?" the researcher asked incredulously.

"I don't know," he said thoughtfully,"What about you? You look like you haven't slept any more than he has."

"I just had a weird dream and couldn't get back to sleep; nothing big, I hope. I'm going to go get some coffee and see what he's up to."

"'Kay, see ya later."

Rachel Corrigan rushed into the library and took a seat at the table where the other members were already waiting. "Sorry I'm late; Emily came down with something, so I had to bring Kat with me. So what'd I miss?"

Derek began, "Nothing. I was just going to begin," he cleared his throat to signal for their attention," I got a call last night from a friend in the city. It appears that a friend of his has been having some disturbances at his pet store. Alex, I want you to see what you can find out about the building and any related incidents in the area, and be ready to present your findings for Nick and Philip when you three go to check it out tomorrow morning. I told him you'd be there by 10 or 11. Also, there is the artifact from Peru coming sometime tomorrow. Nick, I'd like for you to make sure all the arrangements are set for it's arrival. Rachel, I understand you're going down to the hospital to talk to that boy this afternoon?"

"Yeah, I was going to head over there right after this," she answered professionally.

"Is that the one they found in the cemetery after that lightening storm the other night?" Alex asked curiously.

"Yes. The reports say that neighbors noticed some odd storm system hanging over the cemetery, and when they saw a huge, blue bolt of lightening strike, they went to check it out and, lo and behold, there he was," Rachel explained further.

"Well, does anyone else have anything they'd like to add?" Derek asked the group.

"Yeah, what kinda disturbances were they having at that store?" Nick inquired.

"Umm, things misplaced, objects moving on their own, a man's voice whispering and laughing, pretty much the usual haunt material," Derek told him. Waiting for any other comments and seeing there were none, he concluded, "All right, then, that's about it."

As the four members began to get up to leave, Derek added, "Alex, could you stay behind for a minute?"

"Sure, Derek." When the others were gone, she asked, "So what's up?"

Derek paused for a moment in thought, his expression indeterminate of his emotions, "Did you have any visions or strange dreams last night?"

"Yes, I did," she replied, an unwelcome feeling entering the pit of her stomach, "Did you?"

"Yes. It was a quite disturbing vision, in fact. What did you see in yours?" the older psychic inquired.

"It wasn't what I saw, it was what I felt. It was horrible. I can't even begin to describe the experience. It was as if. . . well - "

"It was as if you felt millions of lives all being brought to a violent end, all at once," he answered for her.

"Yes," she said, almost whispering with the memory and the realization of what he was telling her. An even more alarming memory shook her from her reverie. "Did you see Nick, too?"

Derek looked at her grimly, and for lack of anything better, said simply, "Yes."

They were silent in thought for a moment, and Derek took the chance to get back to the real reason he'd asked for Alex to stay. "Alex," he paused, "I can't tell what will happen, but you must keep an eye on him. Especially tomorrow at that store. We have no idea what means are at work here, and we must be prepared to help him, lest our dreams come true, so to speak." With that, and a sincere nod from Alex, Derek gathered himself and left the library, worry for his friend causing the all too familiar creases to form on his brow and forehead. They couldn't let him die, they just couldn't.

"Dr. Corrigan?" a dark haired young man asked as he approached her, his hands clutched together nervously.

"Yes?" she replied as she stepped off of the elevator platform into the crowded hall of San Francisco General Hospital's psychiatric care unit.

"Hello, Dr. Corrigan, my name is Dr. Pogatchnick. I'm the doctor in charge of Jonathan's case. We've been expecting you," he told her, offering her his hand.

Taking it, Rachel replied smoothly with her most professional smile, "Well, I hope I haven't kept you waiting for too long. Jonathan, huh? How is he?"

"Oh, not at all. Well, physically, he's doing fine and recovering quite quickly. It's his mental and emotional well being I'm concerned about, which is why I called you."

"What is his condition at the moment?" she asked, as they began to walk through the busy halls toward the patients' rooms.

Dr. Pogatchnick was silent for a long time, finally letting out a great sigh, "Severely dehydrated, malnutrition, a minor concussion, and a large second degree burn on his left shoulder. Curious thing, it's in the shape of a bird; quite reminiscent of a phoenix, in my opinion."

"A phoenix?" she asked curiously.

Not noticing the remark, Dr. Pogathnick continued on, half to himself, "It's almost as if he were branded, except that it isn't that clear an image. And even more odd, which is why you're here, he keeps babbling about this phoenix coming to get him, yet he seems to want it to. It isn't making any sense to me. I was hoping you may be able to provide some insight into the situation," he said.

Rachel opened her mouth to ask more, but he stopped in front of one of the closed doors and announced, "This is it. If you need any help, just call for a nurse or security, if necessary."

With this said, he opened the doors, allowing her to enter ahead of him. On the bed lay a young boy, perhaps 15 years old. He lay staring at the ceiling with a curious expression on his face, his arms and legs strapped securely to the sides of the bed.

"Jonathan. Jonathan?" the young doctor waited until the boy's eyes flicked over to them with indifference. "Jonathan, this is Dr. Corrigan. She's going to be speaking with you to see how you're feeling. All right?" the young man didn't wait for a response this time. Instead, he turned to Rachel and gestured, "He's all yours. I'll be doing my rounds if you need to find me." With that he exited and closed the door, leaving Rachel alone with him.

She sat down and made herself comfortable, beginning lightly, "Hello, Jonathan. How are you feeling?" He gave no response. "I hear you gave everyone something of a scare the other night. Would you like to talk about it?"

Rachel waited patiently, not really expecting an answer yet. After a moment, he looked up at her with large, dark blue eyes, complete seriousness in his gaze. "That's not really my name, you know. I couldn't remember it, so they just gave me a new one," he spoke evenly, with just a hint of resentment. Rachel simply nodded understandingly, waiting to see if he'd go on further. Jonathan turned back to his original position, staring at a stain on the ceiling where someone must have thrown their food or something. "Do they think I'm crazy?"

Rachel paused, drawing a breath together with her thoughts. "Nobody thinks that, Jonathan. We - the doctor and everyone is just concerned about you. They don't know what happened to you, and they want to make sure you'll be okay."

Jonathan thought about that, and thoughtfully decided what to say. "I was waiting."

"For what, Jonathan? What were you waiting for in the cemetery?"

Jonathan didn't answer right away, not sure how much to trust her.

"I - I don't know. I just knew something was coming for me and I had to be ready for it."

"What happened then? Did anything come for you?"

He was becoming agitated, and Rachel opened her mouth to speak again, but he spoke first, "I. . . don't. . ."

Rachel knew he was lying now, and decided she wasn't going to sit here wasting her time on a dead end. Gently, without applying much pressure, she grabbed his wrist, forcing him to listen to her.

"Come on, Jonathan, I know you remember. Just tell me what happened."

He turned to her sharply, angry, "Why should I do all the talking? What about you? What secrets are you holding back? Why don't you tell me about your drinking problem or Connemara or that psycho that killed your friend?"

Rachel stared, mouth open. "How did you know about that? How could you know about that?" He just looked at her, defiantly. Then it passed, his coolness reappearing. "Okay," he said, "Let's talk."

Rachel tried to regain her control, causing her words to come out harshly, "All right, Jonathan. Let's talk. What happened in the cemetery?"

"I. . . I," he stammered, then a strange, determined look came over his face. "It was the Light. It swallowed me, then there was just darkness. Just darkness. ." he trailed off, more than a little hysterical.

"It's all right, Jonathan. Everything's fine," she kicked herself mentally, but continued cautiously, "Can you tell me about the Light?"

"It. . . it was. . . I don't remember."

"Try, Jonathan. Try to remember it," she watched as the boy closed his eyes for a moment in concentration.

He forced it out stubbornly, despite an obvious internal struggle, "It surrounded me. . . it was so bright!!! Then it appeared!"

"What appeared?"

"The Phoenix. The Phoenix appeared and it reassured me. It talked to me, said I would be okay. But it lied! It lied!!! Then the truth came to me," he said with a disturbing certainty and wistfulness. Then he turned violent, thrashing in his confined state, screaming wildly, "It came to me! I know the truth, and you can't stop us! No one can stop us!!!"

Rachel was frightened by the sudden change. Afraid he might hurt himself, she buzzed for help, trying to calm him, only to find it was in vain. The moment help came to handle him, Rachel slipped out into the hall. She had to call Derek. There was something to this, she was sure of it. And she had to keep seeing Jonathan, if only to figure it out.

"Yes, thanks. I'll have Alex check it out. All right. Bye, " Derek said before hanging up the phone on the hook and stepping out in front of the holographic wall which protected the Legacy's control room from intruders.

As the retinal scan completed, the wall's solidity left it, allowing him to step through before it solidified itself again.

"How's the search coming along?" Derek asked, stepping up behind his former student.

Spinning to face the older man, Alex answered, "Not good. I haven't found anything on the building or the area, but I thought I might try the family that owns the business."

"Sounds like a good idea," he commented, "I just talked to Rachel. She said that the boy is not quite there and together, but she thinks there may be something to his story. She's going to talk to several of the people who saw the light which was reported. She also said the boy became extremely upset when she tried to get him talking about what happened to him, and started talking about some phoenix creature coming to him. After you're done with your search, could you see what you can turn up on the matter?"

"Sure. Fill me in on his story and I'll let you know as soon as I find anything."

"Great. Well. . . "

Philip Callaghan walked down the second floor hall, grumbling under his breath. His mood was as bright as a moonless night and on top of that, he, Alex and Nick had agreed the night before to meet in the front hall at quarter to ten, but, now 10:10, Nick was still nowhere to be seen, and Philip had finally come to see what was taking him so long while Alex started the car.

Philip knocked impatiently as he reached the former SEAL's door. Hearing no answer, he entered. Once inside, he discovered the younger man still asleep in his bed, though not all too peacefully.

Crossing the distance over to his bed, Philip gently shook Nick.

Nick awoke abruptly, shooting straight up in bed. Covered in sweat and fighting to calm his rapid breathing as he shook visibly, Nick questioned Philip, "What. . . are you. . . doin' in here?"

Thoroughly startled by his friend's reaction, Philip hesitated a moment before answering, "I's after 10, Alex and I were waitin' for you. Are you alrigh'?"

Still somewhat breathlessly, "Yeah, I'm fine. Give me 5 minutes, I'll meet you outside," he replied, his heartbeat still thumping wildly.

Philip hesitated, his concern obvious, but left, figuring Nick would talk if he wanted to.

Once he had left, Nick sighed. I almost had to tell'im, Nick thought, the dream fresh in his mind. It had been just like the one the night before, even though many of the sounds and events he'd experienced had changed. What, if anything, did it mean? he asked himself wearily as he got up and got dressed, What could it mean?

Once they were on their way, Alex filled her two companions in on her standing findings. "Well, I couldn't find anything on the building or any other disturbances of late, but on a hunch I tried the owning family's history, and I found that about 50 years ago, a man named O.J. Julius (sounds yummy, don't mind if I do. =) ) was accused of brutalizing the animals at Julius Pets, the store that he started, and which his grandson now owns. Several customers complained that the animals they bought from him were in a state often following extensive abuse."

"Wha' happened?" Philip asked, enraged at just the thought of anyone beating a defenceless animal, a child's pet no less!

"Well, it isn't clear. Because of the lack of animal protection laws of the time, he was never brought to trial. He died a short time later, reportedly of an animal attack, though that was never properly determined. And every so often, one of the family members connected strongly to the store will report a similar occurrence; things being moved and destroyed, strange howls and such, even an occasional mention of unconfirmed animal sightings. Yet the store has never been shut down and remains in the family's direct operation," she lengthily and professionally responded.

"So it's really just your basic family haunt, right?" Nick commented sarcastically, leaning over the side of the ferry's railing to stare off toward the city, or what was visible in the lingering morning's fog.

"Actually, Derek thinks there may be something to it. At any rate, we're looking at a curse on the family, at the least," she said, slightly hesitant.

"Oh, really?" Nick asked, hoping they may see a little action today after all.

"He and I have both been experiencing some. . . strange visions over the last couple of nights," she explained.

"Like what?" Nick asked automatically, almost too quickly, as Alex considered him a moment but simply answered, with some caution, "They're very difficult to explain, very abstract, but to make a long story short, something, some event, is going to come soon. I - we, just think it'd be best if we're all careful and aware for awhile. Us going to the store may even be that event, we'll just have to wait and find out."

About a half an hour later, Nick pulled Derek's black Range Rover to a halt in a parking lot in front a building with the name 'Julius Pets' over the doors. The trio got out of the car and began to make their way to the store.

Almost instantly, Nick's stomach began to churn, almost agonizing in its manner. Then, a mere second later, the pain shot to his head, waves of intense dizziness quickly washing over him, sending him crumbling to the ground as his friends rushed to his side.

"Nick!" Alex's worried, startled voice called as she rushed to where Philip was already helping his friend to sit up, and as Alex drew closer, she could see clouds of mist lifted from her companion's gaze. "Are you all right?" she asked after a moment, "What happened?"

"I - I don't know. I just started to black out or something. I'm all right, though. I didn't get much sleep last night. I'm probably just more tired than I realized," the ex-SEAL replied with a weak smile.

Not really expecting his answer, his friends looked at him scrutinisingly, "Maybe y'should wait out 'ere, Nick," Philip began, his worry only deepening his soft Irish lilt.

"Don't be ridiculous, I'm fine, and I'm not letting you two go in without me," Nick said, a little offended, and sounding so like Derek it almost made Alex laugh. He tried to stand, moving just a little too fast, and he nearly fell again, before Alex caught and steadied him. As soon as he had regained his balance and a clear head, he headed once again to the front door of the store, Alex and Philip following close behind him and exchanging a meaningful look.

Suddenly remembering her and Derek's last visions, Alex hurried to get in front of Nick, who was already entering and scoping out the inside.

The store was as silent as death, with only a single light coming from behind a closed door in the far corner of the room, which, as they approached, they realized was no ordinary light at all. It was more of a glow, with the bluish-white light eerily seeping through the cracks of the doorway.

Once again slipping into the lead, Nick withdrew his 9mm out of habit, poising it protectively in front of him. He tried with his free hand to open the door, but, finding it locked, kicked it open instead.

In front of him the room lay in ruins, boxes and cages and bags of things strewn all over by a high intensity wind, and in the center of it all, a figure surrounded in bluish-white light floated menacingly several feet above the unconscious store owner, who lay on his back on a large desk. For its self, the creature looked like a terrible, transparent crossing of a man and several animalistic creatures. A tail here, dog head there, 2 arms, furry hind legs, the body of a man, plus scales and gills, and the most agonizing howl they'd ever heard made up the monstrosity before them.

Despite this sight, Philip's natural concern took over his actions, and he rushed to reach the side of the store owner to see to his injuries. Angered by the intrusion, however, the spirit never let him get there. It sent out a burst of kinetic energy at him which sent him hard into the nearby wall.

Nick and Alex watched in silent horror from where they stood as Philip's limp body slumped in a heap where he'd hit the wall. At that moment, Nick's vision took on a sharp change, the world around him turning a blurry grey as it was replaced by flashes of scenes, a jumble of confused whispers blocking the feminine screams which soon brought him back to reality with a painful jerk. He couldn't be sure how long he had stood there like that, but as his vision returned to normal, Nick acknowledged the screams which had shook him from his reverie. Turning to his side to see a terrified Alex cornered by the apparition, Nick, still in a state not quite himself, called out to the spirit, which was about to pounce on its prey. Spinning in anger to face the bold young man, it forgot its victim as a new target came into view. But before it had a chance to make a move, the exSEAL began to yell above the uproar of wind the ghost's presence had created, chanting in a language that only it recognized. Its cries of agony and despair rang through the room long after the ghost disappeared in a thin, wispy cloud of mist that soon dissipated to nothing.

Nick stood where he was, stunned, until the man in the middle of the small back room began to stir. He walked over and offered his hand to the dishevelled person and helped him up, noticing Alex and Philip for the first time. Philip had woken up at some point and despite his injury was now sitting in the corner with Alex, trying with little success to calm the hysterical woman.

Suffice to say, it had taken some time to sort things out before the three left the still shaken owner to his own thoughts and conclusions of what had happened at the pet store, what with making certain everyone would be okay, tending to Philip's injuries (he'd suffered numerous bruises, several cuts, and a considerable bump to the head), calming Alex and trying to figure out just what had happened. Nick for the most part was silent, offering little information toward an answer. But as they realized there was little else they could do there, the trio set out on their way to the castle, Philip in back still trying to soothe a still-trembling Alex as Nick drove, each engulfed in their own thoughts as they sped along the city streets.

By the time they'd pulled up to the House, Alex, after calming down from her frightened hysteria, became twice as overcome by fury as she thought more clearly about what had happened.

As soon as he'd turned the car off, Nick had hopped out and headed for the entrance to the castle, and it was all Alex could do not to slug him as she hurried to catch up, spinning him around to face her as she began to scream at the startled man. "What the Hell were you thinking? You could've gotten us killed back there! You just stood there like nothing was even happening!"

Philip rushed to keep Alex from pummelling Nick as the former SEAL regained his composure. Staring into his friend's blazing eyes distantly and evenly, the young man replied simply, "I don't know. I just blacked out and then. . . you were in trouble and I just. . . reacted. I don't even remember what I did, but I know it's gone now," he said, a slightly apologetic look crossing his face, "Sorry."

Alex and Philip listened to the explanation silently, the fire within Alex washed away by the coolness in his voice and replaced by concern and confusion as she watched him silently turn and go to enter the castle.

"Alex," she was awoken from her trance by the smooth Irish voice at her side. "C'mon, Derek'll be waitin' for us," Philip said softly, somewhat puzzled by the change in her demeanor. Alex wrinkled her nose at his words, but followed the priest up the drive to the house. Derek was not going to be happy.

Later that night, in his room, Nick stared listlessly at the TV screen, lost in his own thoughts. Derek had been as angry as Alex had been. Well, almost, he thought with a grin. He hadn't made her that angry about anything in a long time. In fact, he couldn't think of a single time since the time Derek had sent her to help at a slummish tenement a guy on house arrest was stuck at with a ghost without her knowing of the haunt. Then she had been mad.

I just hope it's not aimed at me again next time, he thought ruefully. He knew he'd deserved it though. They all knew how critical timing could be. Even hesitating for one second could cost lives in situations like that. But what happened? All I remember is feeling like I was drifting somewhere else, and the next thing I knew the ghost was gone.

Suddenly feeling faint again, Nick sat down to keep himself from passing out. Feeling the spell fade, Nick was struck by feelings of dread and fear. Kat. Where's Kat? Remembering that Rachel had been called away to a sick friend's for the weekend and had left Kat at the castle the night before, he scurried off his bed, out the door and down the hall towards her usual room, when a sight ahead of him made him stop.

There, in the middle of the hallway stood Kat, about to sleepwalk right down the stairs. Nick immediately realized what was about to happen, and darted to the young girl, grabbing her just as she was beginning to slip.

"Kitty Kat, wake up. C'mon, hon, wake up," he said, gently shaking her. Her eyes floated open lazily, then wider as she realized she wasn't in her room anymore.

"What happened?"

"You were sleepwalking. C'mon, I'll tuck ya back in, okay?" Nick said, pulling her up to her feet.

Once he had her back in bed, Nick was struck by a question.


"Hmmm?" the sleepy girl replied.

"Have you ever sleepwalked before?"

"No. Nick?"


"There's something different about you. I'm not sure what, but something's changing. I'm gonna go to sleep now, 'kay?"

"Sure, Kitty Kat. Sweet dreams," he said, getting up to leave, more confused than ever. There was just one thing he was certain of at this point. Something was happening to him. But what? And why?

When Rachel came back late the next afternoon, she found things abnormally still and quiet. Finally she found Philip and Kat happily playing chess in the library.

"Well, hello there," Rachel greeted the scene with a smile.

"Mom! You're back!" Kat ran to her mother and gave her a big hug, "Philip taught me how to play chess."

"Yes, and she was doin' pretty well at beatin' me too!" Philip added merrily from his chair at the table.

Rachel laughed at that and asked him, "Where is everyone, anyway?"

"Kat?" Philip gestured.

With a much exaggerated sigh, the young girl exclaimed, "I'll run along and play so you can talk about "adult things" alone."

The two adults laughed at that as she left. Philip gestured and Rachel went to take the seat across from him. "So?"

"Well," he started, "Derek and Alex are in the city taking care of the loose ends of yesterday's events, and Nick is up in his room, probably still sulking."

"About what?" she inquired, curiously.

"You remember that appointment me, Alex and Nick went on yesterday, at that pet store?" She nodded, "Well, it went bad. When we got there th'owner was unconscious from an attack by the ghost in the back office o'the place. In no time, I was knocked out by it and Alex was cornered. Nick, it was like he was in a trance, he just stood there for the longest time until just before the thing was gonna pounce on'er, then he said an incantation or somethin' and destroyed the thing. Worse yet, I don't think it was anythin' he had control o'er. He doesn't remember a thin' about it, and there's no reason to believe there was any sort of an influence over 'im."

Rachel looked at him, shocked, and replied dumbfounded, "That isn't like him at all. Why would he have frozen up at such a crucial time?"

"I wish I knew. In any case, Derek an' Alex went to the store to see t'the owner. Derek insisted I stay an' rest, and everyone thought it best to keep Alex and Nick apart for a little while. She really let him have a piece of 'er mind. Anyway, he's been up there locked away in his room since dinner las' night. I don' think he's even gone for a run or gotten any food today."

"Jeez, do you think he's all right?" she asked, a bit concerned.

"Oh, he's jus' beatin' himself up over it, I s'pose, for all the good it'll do him; but I think he just needs to get it outta his system."

Rachel sat thinking for a minute, finally asking, "You weren't hurt too bad, were you?"

Philip responded with mild surprise, he hadn't even been thinking about his injuries, "No, not bad. I've got a few bumps an' bruises, but nothin' to worry about. Are you an' Kat gonna stay for dinner?" he asked.

"No, I haven't even been home yet, and I'm supposed to stop by to see a patient at the hospital tonight."

"The boy from the cemetery?"

"Yes, he's recovering very quickly, and the doctor wants me to give him a final evaluation before they decide what to do with him," she said.

"So, that reminds me, how's your friend doin'?"

"Oh, she should be fine. A bad case of chicken pox. She wouldn't have had a problem, but she's 7 months pregnant, and she was awfully ill. But, her signs are improving already and the both of them should be fine, so I came back," she told him. "Well, I suppose I should get going, round up my daughter. Tell the others I said hi when you see them."

"I will. See ya later."


Rachel looked for the room she remembered seeing Jonathan in. Finally reaching it, she opened the door and looked. Inside was a nurse who was putting clean sheets on the bed, but no Jonathan.

"Nurse," she called, "Where is the boy who was in this room?"

"Suicide. He got loose and slit his throat before anyone knew. Are you a relative or something?"

Rachel stood in shock. He'd killed himself?

The next evening at dinner, everyone was abnormally tense and quiet. Derek and Alex had smoothed things over fine at the pet store the day before and things had been very quiet. No new cases, no disturbances, which seemed to make things even worse. Nick had only left his room about three times in the two and a half days since the incident at the pet store; once for a run, twice for food. And Philip was certain he'd heard him roaming around the house late at night. So, as everyone sat in silence eating their food, the uncomfortableness made Nick's presence even worse than when he was gone. In fact, the only disturbance through the entire meal was when Duncan informed Derek that he had a call and he'd gone to answer it.

Afterwards, everyone cleared out quickly, but Derek hung behind. After everyone else had gone, he went in search of his youngest associate and found him in the gardens in the back of the castle.

"I thought you'd come," Nick said, without turning to look at him.

"Nick- "

"I'm fine, Derek," Nick cut him off curtly. "I don't know why you're all making such a big deal outta this. I'm fine."

"We're just concerned. This just isn't like you."

"Yeah, well, there isn't anything to be concerned about," he said irritably and walked away into the House.

Derek stood, looking after him. He could refuse to talk for now, but not forever. Something was still causing Derek and Alex to have these visions, violent visions, and Nick was a part of them. And the last thing he was going to do was let Nick take on a dangerous situation all on his own.

Natalia Ji Sook Jeckal nervously checked her watch for the fifth time in the last fifteen minutes. She had been waiting for nearly two hours for a flight to San Francisco from the large Paris airport. I'm running out of time! I have to get to him before it's too late! She let out a huge breath as a flight personnel came to inform her that a flight had an available spot and would be leaving in a few minutes. She nearly took off at a run to reach her gate. She just had to make it in time. She had to. Life as they knew it may depend upon it.

"Katherine, are you listening to me?" Rachel interrupted her daughter's reverie.


"Kat, I was trying to talk to you. This is important."

"Sorry, Mom."

"Now I want you to remember, Nick hasn't been feeling well. I need you to be extra nice to him and tell us if he says anything weird or important to you, okay honey?"

"Yes, Mom. Mom?"


"Why do you think there's anything wrong with him? Nick is going to be fine."

"Oh, really?" she bent to her daughter's height. She's getting too big too fast. "And how do you know that?"

"I just do. He just needs us to be there and to be ready."

Rachel was getting concerned now, "Ready for what?"

"I'm not sure yet. But it won't be long now."

"Did Nick tell you that?"


Rachel was silent as the ferry crossed the water to the island, considering her daughter's words.

When they entered the House, Duncan came to greet them. "Hello Dr. Corrigan, Miss Katherine, come to visit today?"

"Yes, actually. Duncan, could you take Kat to get a snack? I need to talk to Nick for awhile."

"Yes, certainly," Duncan replied, taking Kat's hand and leading her towards the kitchen.

"Rachel," Philip said, entering the hall at the sound of voices. "Derek said you'd be comin' today. I'm glad, you're about our last chance to get Nick talkin' again," he said, shaking his head. "I just wish he'd tell us what was wrong. It has t'be more than jus' wha' happened the other day."

"It sure does seem that way, but I don't know," she responded glumly.

"Alex still thinks tha's what it's about, but Derek thinks it's more than that, too. It just isn't normal for him to act like this. We've all tried to talk to him, but he always cuts us off, says he's fine and not t'worry so much."

"Oh, doesn't he act like that? I can think of at least a few times when he's kept things inside and wouldn't open up to anyone," she retorted.

"Yes, but not like this. Not just sitting around in his room doin' nothin'," he said.

Rachel left before saying anything more. They'd just have to figure it out directly, then.

Philip stood there for the longest time, thinking. There was so much he regretted where Nick was concerned. They had been like brothers once, before Philip had left the Legacy for the first time. And then when Julia died. . . if only he still had that relationship with Nick. He'd always been able to get him to open up back then.

In his own little world, Nick hadn't even noticed all the attention he was receiving, even though the others had repeatedly asked him if he was okay or wanted to talk.

Thinking on this, Nick thought exasperated, I couldn't even begin to explain it to them. I'm not sure what's going on myself!

He had begun piecing things together after the incident with Kat the other night, and after a day and many odd occurrences, he thought he had at least a partial explanation. For whatever reason, in God knows how of a way, Nick had begun developing psychic abilities.

He'd only realized it after he'd started having his same strange nightmare when he was awake. And he'd started sensing people before he heard or saw them, and finishing sentences for his friends mentally as soon as they started to speak. Not to mention his "trance" at the pet store.

But the greatest surprise had come just that morning when he was getting a cup of coffee. He was searching for his favorite coffee mug when one of the cupboards opened by itself and the mug floated through the air to him. Shocked by the sudden realization that he was the one moving it, he lost his concentration and it went crashing to the floor. And here he was, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to levitate a glass he'd set on the floor.

All morning and all afternoon he'd tried to get a grasp on his powers, but so far he'd only managed to levitate, then smash several glasses, send a pen through the closed window, and had gotten sick to his stomach several times.

"Maybe I should stop doing this by breakables," he muttered after the pen he'd been concentrating on had smashed through the window.

Now beginning on the glass, he had an idea. It was fairly common knowledge in the Legacy that telekinetics often used emotions to guide their powers. Maybe if he could manipulate an emotion he could find a way to control his powers.

Well, it's worth a shot. Let's try some anger, he thought, What're some thoughts that'll piss me off. Someone trying to hurt the Legacy. Trying to hurt Derek and the others. Or Kat. Or An-

His thought was broken off as his stomach suddenly lurched, sending him scrambling for the bathroom as the glass flew violently into the ceiling, falling in tiny, sparkling shards to the floor.

As soon as Nick reached the bathroom, he leaned over the toilet and choked up the remains of his last meal. Just as he had finished, a warning flare shot through him like an rocket, warning of an intruder. "Rachel," he muttered under his breath.

A knock sounded at the door to his room as a female voice called worriedly, "Nick? It's Rachel. Are you okay? I heard something break. Nick?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I - uh, dropped a glass, that's all."

"Nick, I want to talk to you. I'm coming in."

Cracking the door open, she peeked her head in, saw the mess of several glass objects and glanced toward the rancid smell near the open bathroom. Nick was still partially hunched over the toilet, but jerked up suddenly upon seeing Rachel.

"I said I was fine," he nearly hissed in a voice softer than death.

"Yeah," Rachel, more than slightly intimidated by the younger man's attitude, began sarcastically, "Well, you certainly look it."

Nick hesitated before he spoke again, slightly warmer now. "Could you help me with the mess out there? I'll be outta here in a minute."

Pausing for a moment before answering, the psychiatrist simply nodded and left the room to get a broom.

On her way down the hall to the closet, Rachel ran into Alex, who wore a worried expression on her flawless complexion.

"Is he okay in there? I've been hearing strange noises form his room all day," Alex inquired.

"I'm not really sure. From the look of things I'd say he hasn't slept in a long time and it's made him sick at best."

Obviously trying to decide something, Alex replied cautiously, "Watch him, Rachel. I talked to Derek, and if his visions are as bad as mine, Nick's in for trouble. Soon."

Searching fixedly into the psychic's worried face, Rachel could say nothing.

"He didn't say too much, really, but I know when Derek's upset when I see it, and this is bad. Just stay with him for awhile. Try to talk to him," she finally continued, the last marked by near desperation.

Rachel nodded. Satisfied, Alex went on her way to the library for something, leaving Rachel to look on after her.

Not wanting to leave him alone any longer, Rachel hurried the rest of the way to the broom closet, grabbed the broom and a dustpan, slammed the door, and nearly sprinted back to Nick's room.

Not even bothering to knock, Rachel opened the bedroom door and stepped inside.

"Nick? I'm back."

"Already?" he answered amusedly as he appeared in the bathroom doorway.

Awkwardly, she returned the smile he gave her, not knowing how else to respond. But instead of going on in his usual mocking humor, Nick came closer to her, all the way staring long and hard into her eyes, a look so penetrating that for a moment Rachel felt as though she might faint, so intense was his expression. She lost herself in his eyes, the hazel-green depths sucking her in.

Finally, she blinked, and in that moment, Nick's whole physical expression passed like a threatening storm and the memory vanished just as quick.

A look of satisfaction passed his handsome features, and once again he wore the amused smile of several moments ago.

"Uh. . . what were you saying?" Rachel inquired quizzically, trying to clear a momentary fuzz from her mind.

"I was just saying we'd better get this mess cleaned up before Derek sees it and has a cow. Don't you think?" he replied, more normal now (at least for Nick) though Rachel didn't notice, nor remember the previous from the current.

"Oh, yeah. Right," she stumbled slightly.

Giving her a mock quizzical look, Nick took the broom she still held tightly in one hand and advanced on the pile of glass scattered along the floor, giving Rachel a chance to compose herself.

Remembering why she had come in the first place, Rachel now took on a more professional demeanor, encouraged by his more pleasant attitude.

"So, Nick. . . how have you been lately? It's been awhile since we've really talked."

"Fine," he answered simply.

"Oh, really?" she asked with mock surprise.

"Yes, really."

"Well, it sure hasn't seemed that way," Rachel opened cautiously, "You've had us all worried the last few days."

"Yeah, well there's nothing to be worried about," the tone in his voice once again sharpened, his features virtually emotionless. "Maybe you should talk to Kat. She seems to understand that."

At the mention of her daughter's name, Rachel lost her temper and strode over to Nick, reaching to grab his arm and turn him to face her. "You leave my daughter out- " But she wasn't able to finish, for at the moment she touched his skin, Nick was sent into another world, his senses blurred to nothing before focussing to a gray tinted collage. Images of Kat, himself and others he was quickly beginning to recognize from his dreams were circled around a stone figure, then on a lush, green valley turned battlefield. The images bombarded him; the screams and calls of his friends rang in his ears until he couldn't take it anymore. Finally, it stopped and only the image of an exotic young beauty remained. "Nick. . . " she called, then all went black.

"Nick! Nick! Come on, Nick, wake up!" Rachel pleaded as she checked the vitals of her unconscious friend. Satisfied that he was in no visible danger, Rachel rose from her kneeling position and flew out of the room. "Derek! Philip! Alex!"

"So tell us what happened," Derek said after Nick, still unconscious, had been situated on his bed with Alex by his side.

Rachel sighed, sitting down in an armchair in the living room. "I honestly don't know. I just touched his arm and he reacted as if I'd hit him. His eyes glazed over, and he said the name 'Natalia' right before passing out. It was so strange, like the moment I touched him he was thrown into another world or something."

"That almost sounds like a psychic experience t'me," Philip reflected softly.

"It does, doesn't it?" Derek mused.

Rachel looked at each of them, shock evident on her face. "Psychic? But how's that possible? I thought the Legacy always checked members for any trace of psychic power."

"We do. I'm not sure it is possible, but right now it may be all we have to go on," the precept responded.

"So whadda we do?" Philip asked in his soft lilt.

Rachel appeared to be about to say something, but Derek replied first, "We wait."

Natalia rushed from the airport with a purpose. Hailing the first taxi she saw and climbing in, she handed the driver a thick wad of money and instructed, "Angel Island, and step on it."

"How's he doin"?" Philip asked Alex, walking into Nick's room to stand with her by his side.

Alex had been dozing off and quickly shook it off. Sighing she answered, "I honestly don't know, Philip. It's been hours now, and he's shown no signs of waking up or anything. I'll tell ya something, it would take a pretty intense vision to knock him out like this. Derek still thinks that's what happened?"

"He's not sure. There really isn' any evidence either way."

Just then a flash of lightening followed by a loud bang of thunder illuminated the nearby window. "Sounds like a pretty bad storm's coming," Alex commented even as clouds gathered and lightening multiplied.

Philip said nothing, but stared out the window into the dark mid-evening sky.

Before either of them could do anything more, a low, guttural groan escaped from their friend.

"Nick?" Alex whispered softly, "Philip, I think he's waking up."

Nick's body gave a sudden jolt as he sat up, wide awake, with a feverish determination on his face.

"Whoa, take it easy!" Alex tried to lay him back to rest.

"No! I have to go! Now!" he cried frantically, and shoved her away, jumped off his bed and tried for the door. Philip quickly stepped in the way, only to meet with the floor as Nick knocked him out of the way and ran out of the room, down the hall and to the stairs.

Meanwhile in the living room. . .

"So what do you think?" Derek asked Rachel as soon as they were alone. She had gone to bring Kat home and they hadn't had a chance to talk yet.

Rachel sighed, then said, "I'm not sure what to think. It's so weird. I mean, Nick a psychic? Who just develops psychic powers out of nowhere? Frankly, I find that hard to believe."

"It's really not as uncommon as you'd think. Many people subconsciously suppress their abilities for years before they even know that they're there. The thing is, it usually takes something to bring them out. And in this case, the only event of late that may have done this was the confrontation at the pet store, which the situation in itself wasn't really something so out of the ordinary for someone like Nick. I wonder. . . " Suddenly, Derek stopped as a sound in the House caught his attention. Shouting, followed by a thud and running.

With cat-like reflexes, Derek rose and sprinted to the main hallway where Nick was just reaching the door to leave. "Nick!" he called out.

"Nick, come back!" Alex, now just behind Derek and running to the door, shouted desperately.

Nick ran as fast as he could out the door, past the drive and into the open grass toward the woods, leaving his friends far behind.

Derek had to admit, he'd never realized just how fast Nick could run.

Clouds, black and menacing, gathered together above Angel Island in a lightening- illuminated fury. One after another, bolts of lightening touched from the black mass to the water surrounding the island.

Now far ahead of the others, Nick began to chant in the same strange language as he had several days ago. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, a great burst of blue lightening struck him, stopping him dead in his tracks and throwing his followers back to the ground.

For several moments it engulfed him, and then, as suddenly as it started, the light vanished and the clouds began to depart.

Nick was overwhelmed with the whole experience and collapsed to the ground, at once in another world as his eyes stared up at the night sky.

In another state of being, Nick watched as images flashed like wildfire in front of him. A great war as old as time itself; blackened, desolate earth; a man presenting a circular box of stones to a young woman; the stones, each unique, glowing with an internal power in the woman's hands. In the same fashion, a ring of people, also glowing, around a portal, so deep and so terrifying in appearance that it must've led to Hell itself. And finally, the image of a great, raging fire which moved and flicked with a life-like hunger and curiosity. From the depths of the inferno flew a creature of the flames themselves; beautiful, powerful, deadly. Straight at him. A phoenix, Bird of Eternity.

Shock was quickly replaced by terror as the remaining conscious members of the House watched Nick as he fell to the ground.

Panic gripped his heart as Philip rushed to his comrade's side. Turning him onto his back, Philip desperately checked for signs of life. Sighing with relief, he shakily announced to the others that he was alive, but definitely in need of medical attention.

Alex, wide-eyed and shaking, looked up at each of her friends, finally settling on the face of her mentor and asked, "Derek, how did this happen? What is going on? He should be scorched right now."

"I don't know, Alex. I honestly don't know. We'd better get him inside before something else goes wrong," he responded, already attempting to shoo Rachel away from her examination, which had shown no life-threatening injuries. But she shrugged him away. "Derek, wait. Look at this." She showed him an odd burn on Nick's left shoulder. It was maybe 3 inches long and 2 high, perhaps 1/2 an inch deep, and would obviously be quite painful. Rachel ripped his shirt to reveal it as a burn in the shape of a bird.

"Wha' is that?" Philip asked.

"A phoenix," Derek answered, gathering the young exSEAL into his arms and beginning to walk the long way up to the House.

Shadowed by the surrounding trees, five figures began to emerge in the darkness. One by one, the snarling beasts took shape. Each must've been six feet tall when sitting back on their haunches. Black, scaly skin showed off well-toned muscles across the demonic features, broken only by large, glinting red eyes and gaping jaws lined by rows of jagged white teeth, covered in drool of anticipation, as the five creatures watched their prey hike the distance up the lawn to the sprawling mansion.

For what seemed now to be the millionth time that night, the young woman checked her watch as the ferry crept across the water toward Angel Island.

For all the good it did her checking, but if only there was still time. . .

Back in the House Derek was laying Nick on the living room couch as Rachel gathered antibiotics and bandaging for his injury. Immediately, she began to make a further examination.

"How's he doin'?" Philip asked warily.

"Not great. We're looking at a large loss of bodily fluids, mild malnutrition, a second degree burn, even a bump to the head that could be a slight concussion." Sighing, she sat back for a moment in thought. "Derek, with an. . . event like that, it's a miracle he's even alive. But this entire situation is just like that boy from the cemetery. Every detail of his condition is similar, and that boy committed suicide two days ago. Something is going on here and it's not natural."

"Well, you're right about that much," came a much unexpected voice from the doorway.

There in the doorway stood a tall, beautiful woman. She couldn't have been more than 25, with eyes like sparkling emeralds and hair like the wind-tossed sea on a moonless night, which she wore down all the way to her waist. She stood a full 5'9" and slender, her curvy figure wrapped in an earth-toned tank top and khakis under a black suede jacket, all of which only added to her exotic style and beauty. Finally, her skin, which must have been a great mixture of all the cultures in the world, glowed a marvellous golden brown; smooth and brown, yet light and golden tones contrasted and molded to create a beautifully unique complexion.

As all eyes turned to acknowledge the young woman, even Philip couldn't help staring at her. From behind her Duncan pushed his way through. "I'm sorry, Dr. Rayne, she refused to wait," he apologized.

"That's all right, Duncan, I'll take care of it," he responded.

As Duncan nodded and turned to leave, Derek gestured her in. "Won't you come in and sit down, Miss. . . ?"

Unmoving, she stated, "Jeckal. Natalia Ji Sook Jeckal. But you may call me Natalia. Derek, I presume?" she responded in a smooth, slight and implacable accent.

Philip and Rachel exchanged a look at the sound of her name, but they stayed nonchalant. Startled by the use of his first name, Derek inquired, "What brings you here, Miss Jeckal?"

Gazing over at the figure on the couch, "Nick does. He's gone through the transformation already, hasn't he," she asked, mostly to herself.

"Transformation?" Alex repeated, breaking the momentary silence.

Looking to the researcher for the first time, she paused momentarily.

Suddenly, the electricity shut off, sending Natalia to action. "We've got company. Bad company. Look, we've got to get out of here and we've got to get out of here now." She walked over and knelt beside Nick's still form, care and worry written on her fine features. "Nick, it's Natalia. You've got to wake up now, Nick. It's time to go."

Then the generators kicked in, sending light into the room again. Rachel, who had stood silently all the while, had finally gotten fed up with the intrusion, and showed it. Grabbing her arm and spinning her up to look into her eyes, she spat out, "Look, Miss, I don't know who you are or what you want, but Nick almost died tonight, and as a doctor, I can't allow him to be taken anywhere until we get some answers. What's going on with him? Who or what is here?"

"Flair for the melodramatic, Doctor? All your questions can, and will be, answered when there is time. All I can say is that a great thing is happening and there are those against that. Namely, Satan, who's found it fitting to send some of his scum to celebrate the occasion, 'kay?" the last was dripping with patronizing and sarcastic venom as Natalia angrily, but calmly responded to the hostile words. "The bottom line is that if we stay here we're all dead. Who else is here?"

"Just Duncan. Everyone else has the night off," Derek said.

"Get him and meet us back here. Hurry and watch all entrances in each room. Run for cover at the first sign of anything. If you aren't back in five minutes we'll come for you. Got it?"

Reluctantly, hating not to be the one in control, he nodded his agreement and began to turn to leave when she stopped him. "Derek - take this," and she reached into her back jeans pocket, pulling out a sleek silver handgun and handed it to him. Derek took it silently, and giving each person in the room one last look, turned and headed out of the room.

"Wait just a minute, you're telling me there's probably Hellspawn in the castle and you're sending him out there alone??!!!" Alex exclaimed.

"He'll be fine. They don't even want him, not really," she answered smoothly and softly, turning back to Nick, "C'mon, Nick. This is no time to sleep. Wake up."

First he stirred, then his eyes fluttered open until they rested upon Natalia's caring eyes. "Natalia. I almost forgot how beautiful your eyes were. I knew you'd come," Nick spoke, fully awake now, his bare chest rising and falling rapidly.

"Hello to you too, Romeo. We must leave, Nick. Can you see the demons on the island?"


"Where are they?"

"In the castle. One on the roof, two in the basement, one on the first level and one in the library."

"Where on the first level?" Philip interjected, sudden fear stirring.

"In the dining room. Derek!" Nick sprang up to his feet, nearly knocking Rachel and Natalia down. "It'll find them, we have to help!" Nick pulled out his Colt .45 revolver and held it, fully loaded, in a poised ready-for-anything manner.

"Whoa, hold on a minute," Alex said, "We can't leave. If they come back and we're gone, they'll stay here and probably get killed."

"Then we'll split into groups," Nick argued, his normal attitude making at least one person in the room smile.

No one objected, so Natalia continued on, "Okay, then it's settled." Thinking for a moment, she directed, "I don't like this, but we'll have to make due. Alex, go with Nick and find us a quick way out of here. Rachel, stay here and wait to see if they come back. Philip, come with me. And Nick. . . just be careful, okay? You're still hurt, and there's a lot going on that could make this harder."

Nick wanted to question her, but stopped himself and nodded, gesturing for Alex to follow.

In the hall nearest the kitchen, Derek stopped, a sudden prickly sensation stirring his senses and sending his heart racing. Something was definitely close by. Aiming the handgun in front of him, somewhere, anywhere, he braced himself as he entered the kitchen.

Food and broken dishes were strewn across the floor, the dinner Duncan had been preparing trailed into the adjoining room, the dining room.

More tense now than ever, Derek approached the open doorway and prepared to be mauled by some creature or another. Peering in, still and quiet as he could be, Derek forced himself to force down the urge to scream as before him sat the ugliest demon he'd ever seen and by far the most terrifying, some strange cross of a lizard, a dog, and God-knows-what, molded into the form of pure evil. It was bent over something and tearing it apart. Derek stopped breathing as he desperately searched the room for any other signs of life and was put to ease by the limp shape slumped over and unconscious by the far wall. "Thank Gott," he mumbled, barely audibly. Still, the creature's head shot up in his direction.

As Derek realized this would be his only chance, he instantly moved farther into the room and began to empty his clip into the snarling beast.

Not a minute after Nick and Alex had left, the remaining three people split up, Rachel staying behind as Natalia and Philip went after Derek and Duncan. Suddenly, they all started as they heard gunshots as loud as being in a bass drum as they rang through the house.

Rachel decidedly ran into the hall where Natalia and Philip were still standing. The shots had come from in the house somewhere nearby and there was no doubt where or who they'd come from.

Without thinking or speaking, they sprinted the distance from their current position in the main hall to the kitchen and stopped dead in their tracks as they reached the entrance to the dining room.

Derek had emptied the last of his bullets into the demon and was now attempting to drag an unconscious Duncan out of the room before the stunned creature recovered and came after them.

Taking immediate action, Natalia began to fire on the beast, allowing Philip and Rachel to run to Derek's aid.

Without even looking up, Derek gestured for Philip to help him carry the hefty elderly butler as his dragging had accomplished little so far.

As soon as the others had reached the exit, Natalia knew she'd need more than a gun and determination to defeat the thing. But advanced telekinesis and determination, there was another story. . .

Outside the castle, Nick and Alex had decided to take the most reliable escape route and had taken a side door to the helicopter. The only problem was the attention the noise could attract.

So once the machine had been started and the perimeter secured, so to speak, the younger of the two began to get restless.

Just when Nick thought he couldn't stand the wait any longer, a sudden bolt of intuition hit the two companions like a gunshot wound.

Both minds were simultaneously bombarded with sounds as well as several images. A demonic roar; multiple gun shots; screams of anguish (human??) and a molding pot of images which separately resembled the five people in the House; a vicious creature having a late night snack and Natalia unloading rounds into an unseen attacker.

All this was taken in in no more than a few seconds time and each of them exchanged a quick look after the experience made them jump to their feet.

"You Saw that, didn't you?" Alex demanded questioningly over the roar of the helicopter's engine. Nick only responded by pulling out his gun and several rounds and handed them to Alex. "I'm going in there. If you see anything, I don't care what it is, I want you to shoot at it - and stay here!" Nick informed her authoritatively.

Alex only nodded as he was already walking to the House. She wanted to go so much, but knew she'd have her hands full enough here.

Just when Nick thought that he'd make it back in without any trouble, the demon from the roof leaped off the ledge. It hit the ground four stories later, unphased, and prepared to pounce on its prey.

Instinct as his only guide, Nick turned just in time to see the ugly beast as it landed with an earth shattering thud.

With no time to think, his mind reacted for him. With one instinctive thought, the demon was lifted several feet off of the ground and surrounded by a spherical force field which radiated pure light, a fact which seemed to deprive the creature of the very air it breathed, the evil essence of its very existence, until soon it went limp and the field disappeared, letting the body fall to the ground in a lifeless heap.

Astonished and near exhaustion, a stunned Nick stood still as death, staring at the dead creature. As he continued to stare, he didn't even notice the second demon crawling out of a first floor window, no doubt one of those from the basement.

Stalking closer to its meal, the demon raised itself to its full height, sat back on its haunches and prepared to attack. Finally, a mid-air war cry alerted Nick to the danger, but before he could turn around to see or react, a loud thundercrack rang through the dark night.

By the time he turned around, the animal was on the ground, barely a yard away from him, one neat gunshot splitting its skull almost in half, though it was hard to call it 'neat' now. Behind it stood Alex, her body rigid and shotgun raised, shock evident in her beautiful features.

The two friends stood there for a mere moment which lasted forever, their eyes locked. But before either of them could say anything, the door burst open behind Nick and a small group of people emerged, Duncan still being carried by Derek with help from Philip, as Rachel followed close behind.

Nick and Alex were immediately relieved, but it didn't last as they saw no sign of the fifth person. "Where's Natalia?" Nick inquired, dreading an answer.

Rachel opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, all heads snapped in the direction of a large crash as a dark mass was hurled through a nearby window.

A furious demon whipped its head back and got onto its hind legs in a hunting position, sending up another spray of glass and more than a few negative vibes.

Natalia, surrounded in radiating white light, stood no more than five yards from a terrorizing death, but the fierce, hard-set determination on her face showed that she wasn't about to go anywhere.

All stood silent as the staredown continued for endless seconds. Finally, when the pressure of anticipation had reached the breaking point, the demon gave a fierce cry into the darkness and took one great leap to end it then and there.

Its body spread out, claws and jaws ready to kill. But it never got the chance, for when it was only a heartbeat from mauling her, Natalia used the most primal of her instincts. With a sickening sound, the beast's body began splitting in two as if torn in different directions by some invisible force, straight down the middle, steering the dead parts away from the intended victim to fall harmlessly to the cold earth.

Everyone stood stiller than the corpses adorning the surrounding grass as each struggled to grasp the reality of what had just happened.

Alex was the first to speak. Her voice shook and she was near hysteria as she asked into the night, 'What is happening here? What is this all about?"

"The end of the world," Natalia answered, ever coolly, as she strolled casually toward the two demons Nick and Alex had killed. "You two did this? I'm impressed. By the way, Nick, how in God's name do you expect to fit 7 people into one helicopter?"

Nick looked at her thoughtfully for a minute, "Ya know, I forgot about that," he said in such an honest way it was almost comical.

Smiling, Natalia turned to the small group of people by the door, "So how are those of us who won't fit going to get off of this island?"

"There's a launch down by the dock," Derek stated, "Some of us could take that."

"Great. We need to get out of here before more of these things come looking for us," Natalia commented.

Philip was standing next to Alex now and looked down at the object in her arms, "Nice gun, there, Alex."

"Oh, you really think so? I got it at that nice little helicopter over there," she said, trying for humor. At least they wouldn't go down in poor style, right?

"Okay, now you've got a little explaining to do, I believe," Derek said later, when they had met, taken care of some business and taken off in the quaint jet Natalia had provided.

Natalia sighed and made herself comfortable on an overstuffed armchair. This was getting to be a long night, and it was far from over.

To Be Continued. . .