The Challenge


Brian W. Antoine

January 2, 1993

Chapter One

I stood in the middle of the remains of my lab, trying to remember the general layout. When I thought I had the correct area picked out, I began to sort through the rubble.

"What are you looking for? Maybe I can help."

I stopped, turned around and signaled Kal, *Quiet*, then went back to my search. It took about 5 minutes, but I finally found the small case I'd been searching for in the remains of a workbench. Walking back to the middle of the lab, I cleared a small area and then began to setup a tripod and to install the crystals from the case. When I had everything setup, I focused and touched each crystal in turn to activate them.

"Huh..." <<SHIELD>>

The partially activated shield was all the kept both Kal and I from becoming part of the rock face behind us. As it was, the explosion threw me off my feet and into the pile of rubble behind me. Kal was a little better off, she had been sitting down and had grabbed hold to avoided being bounced around. I sat there in the rubble and looked through the shield at what used to be a rock wall. Now the wall was glowing red hot and slumping onto the floor from the heat of the explosion.

I finally picked my self up and began to dust myself off. With another look at the wall, I checked to make sure the main shield I had been activating had survived the attack, then turned to Kal.

"Say thank you."

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"The son of a bitch who did this just made his second and third mistakes, and made my job a hell of a lot easier."

With a puzzled look, Kal just stared at me. "Would you please make sense. What are you talking about."

"If I'm right, I know who's behind this, and he just screwed up again. He tried to kill me, and he failed. I might have forgiven him the lab and stealing Penny if he had groveled enough, but he just signed his own death warrant."

"Him? Do you know who it was?"

"Given that there are only three Mage's on Earth and that one of them made me the ArchMage when she retired, that leaves the third as the most likely target. I need to double check something, but I'd bet I'm right."

Kal sat and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Only three?"

"Just the three of us. The records go back for about six thousand years and there has never been more then five or fewer then one. The strongest becomes the ArchMage, usually because the previous one turns over the job voluntarily. I got the job when Kimi retired. There have been cases where the title was acquired by force and this whole mess stinks of a challenge."

Kal knelt down by the shield generator. "Is this some kind of shield? It seems to be generating something like one I would have created."

"Yes. That's why I motioned you to stay quiet. I couldn't tell if we were being watched, and I didn't want to say anything until we would be safe. It will block everything from esper through radio. Nothing that I don't evoke is getting through it until I drop it. Now I need to verify something."

I sat down and pictured Kimi in my mind. It would be sometime in the afternoon in Tokyo, so she should be available. After a few minutes I felt the link open on her end.

*Konichi Wa, Kimi San*

*Konichi Wa, Antoine Sama What may I do for you?*

*I have a small problem, if you could spare a few moments to talk?*

*I believe I have the time, about what do you wish to talk?*

*Have you heard from Jon lately?*

*No I haven't. Is there some reason I should have?*

*Hummm... It would appear that he is challenging me. Take a look at what remains of my lab.* I expanded the link to include visual information and turned my head to give her a view of the remains.

*Hi! Oni!*

*Huh? Oh.* During my turn, Kalindra had been included in my field of vision. *No, not Oni. This is my friend Kalindra, I believe you should remember my talking about her once or twice before.* I opened a link to Kal and included her in the conversation.

*Kalindra, I would like to introduce you to my friend and predecessor Kimi. Kalindra Chan, this is Kimi. Kimi San, this is Kalindra.*

Kimi caught the reference and I could feel her puzzlement, then something like a grin. Kal must have caught some of it also, but didn't understand the undertones. I'm going to have to deal with that sometime, but not now.

*So, Antoine Sama, you will have help?* I knew what she meant and had to clear that up in a hurry.

*No, Kal will only watch or help retrieve some of my possessions, if that is her wish.*

*It is!*

*But she will definitely NOT interfere during the challenge.* The look I threw her direction told her that I would not listen to any arguments either.

This seemed to satisfy Kimi. *Very well, I will watch and witness the challenge for the records.*

*That is all I ask. Now I must track Jon down and finish this.* And with that I closed the link.

I could here Kal growling softly. "What do you mean I'm not going to help? Penny is my friend too!"

"That's just what I mean. You can help find Penny and retrieve her, but you cannot interfere in the challenge between Jon and me. It's just that, a private matter between the two of us. If you interfere, Kimi will be honor bound to join the battle on Jon's side against me and I can't allow that to happen." That seemed to quiet her down a little, but I could tell that I would have to watch her.

"Ok, now to track that bastard down. If he's got any brains at all he's hidden himself, but I think that I can track him down by where he isn't, instead of where he is."

It took Kalindra a second or two to unwind what I had said. Then she grinned up at me. "That should be interesting to see."

"Watch and learn." First I had to cleanup the lab area. The more I looked at it the sicker I felt. "First things' first," and I walked to the center of the lab. I looked around, "Would you mind moving over by the gate please," and then closed my eyes and began building a picture in my mind of the lab the way is was supposed to be. When I was ready I released the spell that should restore almost everything.


When I opened my eyes, the lab was almost back to normal, or at least the mundane parts of it were. The magical creations and such that had been destroyed would have to wait for a later date. "There, that's better. Now let's see if what I need survived." I opened up a chest that contained things useful in information retrieval and wide area searching. Most of the contents were gone, destroyed in the first blast, but the one case that I had hoped to see had survived. "Good, this will save me some time."

"What is it?"

"A few years back I had need to chart voids in the magical field of the Earth. Using an idea from a book I read, I created these little things to chart those voids using the Drunkards Walk algorithm. They exchange signals with each other and record areas where they loose contact with each other. The dropouts are sent back and displayed for me to see. If I'm right, Jon will have gone into hiding and shielded himself from a direct search. This will find him by locating the new area that appears on the chart of know voids."

"Sneaky," and Kal stepped over to watch me setup the display.

When everything was ready I activated the main display. Above the projector, a hologram of the Earth formed with bright red areas where there were voids in the magic field that surrounded the planet. "I have to hope that he didn't go into hiding in one of the know voids. If he wants to do any kind of research," and the thought of what he might be doing to Penny pissed me off all over again, "he will want access to magic. So I'm betting he just picked a spot and shielded it from me. There's no way of knowing until the search is complete."

"How long will it take?"

"Well the sensors teleport from spot to spot, splitting as needed to map voids. The last time I ran this it took about 3 hours, so we're going to have to wait." I touched the pad on the control unit that activated the sensors and the small group that were the seed units glowed, then vanished as they began their mapping. "Well, now we wait."

"Anything to do until they return?"

"Just one. I'm going to checkout and repair the computer complex so it will be ready when we get Penny back. Care to help?"

"I don't know anything about computers. How much help can I be?"

"How about moral support and passing tools as needed?"

"That I can handle."

"Good, lets get started. First thing is the door."

I had goofed in not protecting the computer room in the first place. This time, I planned on throwing everything I knew in making that room the safest place on Earth. Behind us, the hologram began to light up with small areas of green where the sensors had been. When they finished, I had a friend to rescue and a bastard to teach a lesson.

Chapter Two

I was just about finished up with the computer room defenses when the mapping unit began to chime. It had taken almost an hour to restore the power and checkout the hardware. I had taken it slow in case any more 'gifts' had been left behind. The last thing I needed was for the micro-fusion plant to detonate when I brought it back on line. Kal was still doing something to the door as I went to check the results of the survey. She was writing something in her own language below the nameplate, and it had to be more then a normal inscription as I could see the letters glowing faintly.


I flipped a switch and shut off the chime. "Ok, lets see what we have." The hologram of the Earth was covered with small areas in red that represented the voids in the magical energy field.

"Compare against previous map and delete duplicates."

The image before me changed to almost solid green. Of the hundred or so natural voids, only three remained.

"Detail area 103" and the display zoomed in and magnified the first of the three areas that remained. "Hummm... Looks natural. Detail area 117," and the display switched focus. "Another natural. It's to irregular to be man made. Detail area 137" and I crossed my fingers. If this wasn't what I was searching for, I was out of ideas.

"Gotcha, you son of a bitch!"

"Find something?" Kal had finished whatever she had been doing, and walked over to see the display.

"Yep, not many naturally forming voids just happen to come in the shape of a sphere." The area in question was a sphere about 200 yards in diameter in the middle of the Australian Outback. "That's got to be man made and I'll bet we find Jon sitting inside it."

"What's next?"

"Next I probe it manually and get an idea just what I'm going to be up against, but the very first thing is to locate Penny and get her out of there. I don't want her crystal to be in the line of fire if this turns as ugly as I suspect its going to."

I shut down the mapper and packed it away, its job was done. Now I needed to find out just how good Jon was at building defenses and how good I was at sneaking through them. I needed the layout of his lab so that I could pick my entry point. I grabbed a nice comfortable chair and after dimming the lights got ready to begin my probe.

"Ok, this part is between Jon and I. It will probably be considered part of the challenge, so you can't interfere or help in any way. Understand?"

"I think so."

"Good. If I find out what I need, you'll get your chance later. I want you to help get Penny out of there while I concentrate on Jon."

Velan's don't grin for the same reason as humans, so the grin on Kals face didn't bode well for anything that got between her and the job I had just offered her. I sat back and tuned out my surroundings, then extended the smallest probe I could generate in the direction of the shield I had found.


The tip of the probe brushed against the shield. The feeling was like a feather dropping against my skin and I hoped it was light enough to avoid setting off the alarms I expected to be tied into the shield. Brushing the probe back and forth, I slowly built up a mental image of the surface. The image was like the skin of an orange, spherical but dimpled. In my mind I could see the strands of energy that flickering back and forth across the surface. Using the probe, I began to lightly test the energy flow to determine just what I was up against.

Slowly, I began to pick up bits and pieces. Here was something that felt like a teleport barrier, and another seemed to be a general electromagnetic screen. Then I found what I had been expecting and gave silent thanks for the precautions I had taken. Interwoven with the other spells was an alarm that would have gone off the moment I had tried any kind of overt action against the shield.

Ok, overt was out. This was going to be done the slow way. I laid the end of the probe against the shield and waited. Sooner or later the various lines of energy would shift such that the probe would fall between them and slowly work its way inside. I don't know how long I waited. With each tiny slip I would extend the probe ever so lightly and wait for the next opening. Finally, the resistance vanished and I had my entryway into the home of my enemy.

I anchored my side of the probe and keeping a light link with it, returned to my lab. "Ok, I'm in. Give me a pen and paper." Kal handed me a sketch pad and dropped back into my trance far enough to access the link and began to sketch the layout of Jon's lab. The first thing that I saw just about caused me to break the link.

"I'll kill him!" And I broke the pen I was holding as I balled my hand into a fist.

"What wrong?"

I my mind's eye, I could see both Jon and Penny. The crystal that was her physical existence was resting on a stand in the middle of a workbench surrounded by electronics. I hoped that all Jon was trying to do was extract information from her memory, I didn't want to think of what else he might be trying. Grabbing another pen I quickly sketched the rest of the lab, and retreated from the link.

"Ok, we don't have much time. Jon is trying to access Penny somehow. He's got her crystal hooked up to some gear in his lab. I don't think he can really get at her memory banks and read anything out of them, but he could manage to destroy them with his fumbling about. If he manages to activate her, she isn't going to help him any and may actually erase stuff before he gets to it."

I needed a plan and didn't have a lot of time to get fancy. This was going to be hit and miss at best. I just hoped that it was more hit, then miss.

"Ok, I've got an idea. Take a look at the sketch here." I showed Kal what I had in mind. With luck she would be able to retrieve Penny's crystal while I dealt with Jon. As I described the plan, I stood up and began to gather things from the lab I was going to need. Not everything had survived the initial attack or the follow-up so I was going to have to rely more on skill then instrumentation.

"Ok, are you clear on what you're going to do?"


"Remember, you have to be gone by the time either Jon or I declares the challenge. After that, anything you do will be interference and will pull Kimi in on Jon's side."

"I'm know," she said, but she still had that damned grin on her face

"Ok, get ready," and I accessed the link to Jon's lab and got ready to jump.

Chapter Three

Through the link, I took a final look around Jon's lab and when he was facing the workbench where Penny was sitting, I jumped in behind him taking a chair with me to sit on.


Now I had to get ready for Kal's arrival. She was going to have to use one of the single use teleporters I had created, as she was unable to teleport on her own. We were both sure that the emergency teleporter would not get her through Jon's shield without triggering the alarm, so I needed to distract him.

I got comfortable in my chair, balanced my staff across my legs and started things in motion by saying "Hello Jon." His reaction was all that I had hoped for. He dropped what he had been holding, whirled around and saw me sitting there staring at him as if I'd come for a pleasant visit. At the same time he turned, I send a quick signal to Kal. *Now!*, and tossed a probe at the shield to set off the alarm.

"What the... How did you get in here? What the hell?"

I just sat there looking at him while the alarm spell screamed for attention. "You want to turn that off now? It's kind of annoying."

Jon returned my look for a few seconds, then sketched a sign in the air and killed the alarm. Then he started to sketch something else.

I shifted my staff slightly and smiled. "Careful."

He paused watching me, "How did you get in here? This room is shielded."

I just kept smiling, "Oh, was that supposed to be a teleport barrier? I hadn't noticed." I divided my attention between watching Jon and looking for Kal. Jon didn't seem to realize that two people had come through his shield. We had relied on my arrival to provide the distraction she needed to sneak in. I had sensed Kals teleport because I'd been expecting it, Jon had focused on me and missed the second entry signature. Now I had to keep him occupied while Kal went to work.

"So you wanted to talk to me about something? I got the calling card you left behind." There, let him chew on that for a moment.

Jon seemed to ignore the dig, though I'd bet he was wondering how I'd avoided the little present he'd left behind. "I've got nothing to talk to you about old man. Why don't you leave before I get mad and kick your butt."

Old man? I might be almost twice his age, but I wasn't that old yet. "Old Man? Don't you think you should show a little more respect for this planets ArchMage?"

Kal had arrived on the other side of the workbench Jon was standing in front of. She had been kneeling so she would not be visible if Jon had been looking that direction. I could see her underneath the bench as she double checked to see what direction Jon was facing, then peaked above the bench to locate Penny.

"ArchMage, are you trying to be funny old man? You haven't got half the ability I do and even less power" and then he leaned back against the bench and looked at me. "The only thing you even created that was of any value to me was this thing" and he waved a hand at the stand behind him that held Penny's crystal. "I plan on stripping the memory banks and then selling the thing to some New Age freak that thinks crystals have magic properties. It should bring a few bucks."

I almost fried him where he stood. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that it would signal a challenge and Kal hadn't finished her task yet. "Oh? From what I can see, you don't seem to be having much luck with your spells lately. What makes you think that you have the skill to figure out one of my creations?" I shifted my staff to my other hand, which as I had figured, caused Jon to pause and watch to see what I was going to do, if anything. Behind him, Kal had stood up and was gently detaching the last of the wires that Jon had jury rigged in his attempt to access Penny. I needed to give her a few more seconds.

Standing up, I brushed some imaginary dust from my cloak and then looked at Jon. Kal was lifting Penny from the mounting hardware when she brushed against something. The noise wasn't loud, but it was more then enough to catch Jon's attention.

He turned around and caught sight of Kalindra, who was now holding Penny. "What the... Holy shit!" He glanced back at me, then looked back at Kal. I don't know what he was thinking, but I remember my reaction to Kalindra the first time I saw her. "What the hell are you? Put that down!" And he started around the workbench.

Kal froze him in his tracks with a low growl that seemed to reverberate within the small lab. Then she smiled, "Bastard! Be glad I don't kill you myself" and she triggered the second teleporter which took her back to my lab.

Behind him, I chuckled. "It's nice to have friends. Now, I think we have a few things to discuss. For starters, I'm not real happy with the redecoration of my lab. Then we'll talk about your research methods. I don't consider kidnapping a friend of mine to be very healthy, do you?. Then I think we'll discuss this terrible lack of respect you seem to have developed!" By the time I finished, I was letting my anger show, but all the restraints were off. Now the fun would begin.

Chapter Four

Jon must have started to realize just how badly he'd screwed up and decided to try for a quick kill. For a reply, he turned and fired an energy bolt right into the shield I'd activated as Kal had vanished.

I'd been expecting something like this and was ready as the bolt struck my shields. I just stood there smiling. In my hand I held a small glowing sphere, the sum of the energy that had been fired at me. "Hummm..." And I played as if I was weighing the sphere. "Seems to be about three quarters of a megawatt. Was this suppose to be a targeting shot?" I tossed the sphere over my shoulder towards a rack of equipment I'd noticed earlier. When it touched the rack, the sphere detonated, blowing the rack and a good sized chunk of the wall behind it into fragments.

"Oops, sorry. Now where were we. Oh yes, redecorating." Jon just stood there looking at me and then the remains of the wall. After a few seconds he pulled himself together and I could feel the energy buildup for another shot. This one I didn't bother getting fancy with, I just deflected it into the wall again. However, as the wall exploded I felt the telltale energy discharge of a teleport and after the flash died down, Jon was gone.

"Nice try, but your not getting away that easy asshole." I concentrated and went after him.


Everything would have been fine had I been a little more careful. The trace worked as intended, I just appeared in mid-air instead of on solid ground.

"Shit!" And I found myself in freefall. I got my flight field up and started getting control of my fall. As I spun, I spotted Jon standing on the top of a rock spire. I had appeared about 20 feet away and was supposed to have fallen to my death. Jon wasn't through with me yet though. While I was still getting my balance and stopping my fall, he fired another energy bolt. This time it caught me off balance. My shield saved me from the direct effects, but I was slammed across the sky and into a cliff face by the backlash.

"Oooph. Oh shit, not the damn wrist!" The flight field had cushioned the collision, but I had still hit the cliff and being stupid, had tried to brace for it with my arms. Now my wrist was acting as if I'd fractured it and was hurting like hell. I cradled it in my other arm and was just turning around when the next shot hit my shield and deflected into the cliff behind me. In seconds I was being buried in the rubble blasted free by Jon's attack.

I think I must have passed out for a few seconds. When I came to, I was in the dark. My shield had saved me again, the rock was being held about 5 feet away. Beneath me, I could feel the ground vibrating. Extending my senses, I felt bolt after bolt being shot into the cliff above me and the pressure was starting to build on the shield.

"Ok, enough is enough. I'm getting fucking tired of being used as a target!" I'd seen what Jon could do power wise, now it was time for his first lesson. Concentrating, I teleported two thousand feet straight up.


I turned and located Jon. He was still firing bolts at the cliff face trying to bury me in the rubble. "Surprise asshole!" And I fired a plasma bolt of my own at the top of the spire he was standing on.

He must have felt the energy discharge and shielded himself. It didn't help the spire however. The top two hundred feet flashed into plasma and exploded outwards. I didn't see how bad I had hurt him. As the glow from the expanding plasma cloud died down, I felt him teleport out.


This time I checked the destination before teleporting. It was another rock spire. I shifted my arrival point and fired another plasma bolt just as I appeared. I caught Jon by surprise, it looked as if he didn't know how to trace a teleport jump and so he could tell when I arrived, but now where. He spun and fired a bolt in my direction and then teleported.


Three more times he did the same thing. He must have memorized the locations ahead of time just in case something like this had happened. The fourth time however, the trace vanished underground.

"Not bad. You might have caught me." It was a good thing I'd been looking ahead. Jon had appeared in a hollowed out area about 1000 feet underground, just big enough to hold him. If I'd kept following him without looking, I'd now be part of the rock somewhere nearby.

*Nice try kid, but not good enough. I'm tired of having you pick the battleground. No use scaring the locals anymore, and we need a bit of privacy. How good are you at breathing vacuum?* I needed to get this battle someplace more private. Anyone watching was getting one hell of a show and I was going to have enough trouble cleaning up as it was.

Reaching down from where I was hovering, I visualized the area Jon was hiding in and sucking the power needed, yanked and teleported us both to a place I knew would be safe from prying eyes. I appeared about 2000 feet above the crater that had once been my experimental lab on the backside of the moon. Below me, about 1000 feet above the surface, the rock sphere that contained Jon started its slow fall to the crater floor.

*Come out when your ready asshole, it's time to finish this* and I waited for him to appear.

Chapter Five

Below me, the rock sphere that contained Jon started its long fall to the crater floor. Inside, Jon was in freefall and probably wondering just what had happened. As the sphere picked up speed, I figured that in just a few seconds he was going to find out the hard way when he impacted into crater floor below.

*Come out, come out, where ever you are... Asshole* Just a few seconds more. The lack of an atmosphere prevented my hearing the impact, but what I saw was beautiful. The crater floor was baked hard by the force of the original explosion and instead of imbedding itself, the sphere had bounced. It now began a slow arc across the crater headed for the other side. As I watched, it began a slow tumble which had to be miserable to its occupant.

As I watched, it occurred to me that I didn't want to be chasing Jon around the lunar landscape when he did emerge. Concentrating, I tapped the power needed and created a teleport barrier that encompassed the crater. He might run, but he wasn't going to get far. When the barrier was in place, I checked on the sphere. It had just bounced off the other wall and was making the return trip. Its tumbling was getting more pronounced, he couldn't last much longer in there.

As it reached the apex of its return arc, it slowed and came to a halt above the crater floor. *About time, that was getting boring.*

*Then watch this!*

I guess I'm not cut out for this kind of stuff. Like an idiot, I did just that and was blinded by the flash as the sphere exploded in front of me.


My personal shield deflected the rock fragments as they shot by on their way out of the crater. I couldn't see a thing when I tried to locate Jon though. All I could see when I opened my eyes was the afterimage of the explosion.

*Ha, caught you! I'd like to stick around, but I'm afraid I've got an important date in Spokane. You may have gotten it back, but you won't keep that stupid computer for long. I haven't gotten to the good stuff yet, but it won't take me much longer.*

I went cold inside. If he wasn't just trying to yank my chain, it meant that he had managed to gain access to Penny's memory banks. God knows what he had done with his blundering around. If I survived this, I might have nothing more then a hunk of useless diamond to show for it.

My eyesight was just starting to clear when I felt the telltale trace of Jon trying to teleport home. The next thing I felt was his mental scream as he hit the barrier I'd brought up. It hadn't stopped him from trying, it had forced his re-emergence as he hit it.

*God Damnit! You think that thing is going to stop me!*

*It seems to have worked just fine so far.*

*We will see about that.* As my sight cleared, I could see Jon as he launched an attack on the barrier. I didn't expect him to have any more luck breaking through it, then he'd had attacking my personal shield, but he was welcome to waste his time while my sight returned. When I was ready, I got his attention by bouncing a plasma bolt off the crater wall in front of him.

*Hey, remember me? We still have some unfinished business.* The next shot hit his shield dead center. *You're not going anyplace until I say so. You have only two ways out of here. Either you kill me, or you submit to a memory wipe.* All I got for a reply was a laugh.

*If you think I'm letting you play around with my memories, you're crazier then I thought.* Jon turned around and stood facing me. *First, I think I'm going to kill you. Then I think I'll take out a few of your friends and family, starting with that stupid creature I saw in my lab.*

For a few seconds I stopped thinking and stared at him. *You can't be serious.* He just laughed and began to describe in detail what he was going to do after he had killed me. At that point something snapped inside me. I'd accepted the possibility that I might lose when I'd first gone after him, though I hadn't really thought that I would. Now I no longer cared about anything other than stopping Jon at any cost. *You just signed your death warrant*, and I began my attack.

I put everything I had into a plasma bolt aimed right at Jon. The impact threw him backwards into the crater wall, but didn't get through his shield. Again and again I fired, trying to break his shield and either kill him outright, or let explosive decompression do the job for me. If we'd been on the nearside, the flashes of my shots would have been clearly visible even during the day. Around and around the crater I chased him. Once in awhile he would turn and fire back, but his shots did nothing more then fuel my anger even hotter.

It could not have been more then a few minutes when I felt his shield begin to give under my attack. He was finally beginning to weaken. Now he tried something desperate and landing in the center of the crater he began to cast a spell. I didn't recoqnize until it began to take shape. What started to form in front of me was something I'd experimented with while Penny had been monitoring. It was supposed to have been a shield that would have allowed me to monitor my power plant experiments on site. I had abandoned it because it could not withstand the energy flow from a possible accident, and it turned out to be harder to take down then to bring up.

I had been capable of breaking through an ordinary shield, but this would withstand anything I might throw at it. I was stuck. If I let him live, none of my friends would ever be safe again. I had to break that shield.

Then I thought of a way. Once before I had controlled the kind of energy that was needed to break something like that shield. That time I had acted as a conduit rather than the source of the energy and with the help of five others had saved a world. This time I would have to do it alone.

Without even a backwards glance I took off and headed straight up from the crater floor. Faster I pushed myself, I was going to need as much room as I could get if I was going to survive the backlash of what I planned to do. Finally, at an altitude of about 100 miles, I slowed and came to a stop. If I did survive, I might not be able to get home on my own. I concentrated and cast a recall spell and set the conditions that would activate it. Then I began the spell that would settle this fight once and for all.

Chapter Six

In my mind I began to form the wave guide that would channel and direct the energy I needed. The first time I'd done this there had been five of us. Two to form and control the wave guide and three others to tap and direct the energy. This time I was going to be alone. Below me, the tunnel began to form. There was no atmosphere to interact with it, but the energy itself shimmered faintly.

I scanned below and located Jon. The moon had continued rotate beneath me as I had prepared and I needed to align the wave guide on the crater. With a corner of my mind, I setup a trace on the shield below. I wanted to make sure that I had succeeded and that Jon didn't escape at the last minute. With a final thought, I began to energize the weapon in front of me.

*Good-bye Jon, this was your choice...*

I opaque my shield to protect my sight and reached for the Sun with my mind. If there had been anyone to see it from deep space, they would have seen bar of light spring into existence in lunar orbit. I touched a solar prominence and fed its energy into the wave guide. As the energy level began to build I could feel it strain to be free. Back and forth it began to bounce between the two ends. At some point I'm sure I must have screamed with the pain of trying to control that kind of energy. As I began to lose control, I let the far end of the wave guide weaken and a solar powered laser flashed into existence, aimed right at Jon.

Somehow, I had held the scan of the shield he had created through the pain. I don't think he even had time to realized he was dead, as the laser cut through the shield as if it hadn't even existed.

NASA hasn't monitored the equipment left behind by the Apollo missions in years. If they had, they would have seen the seismic detectors go crazy as the Moon began to ring as if it were a bell struck with some horrendous hammer. I wasn't in any condition to care however. As I felt the shield below me vanish, I passed out. The last thing I felt was the cold of naked space as my own shield and flight field fell apart as I lost consciousness.

* * *

When I awoke, I was laying on a cot in my lab. I must have made some kind of noise because Kalindra stepped to my side along with Kimi.

"Idiot! If you ever try something like that again, I'll kill you myself!"

"It's nice to see you too Kal," and I grinned up at her. I wanted to sit up and ask Kimi something, but my body let me know in no uncertain terms that it had no intention of doing much of anything for a while.

"Ohhnnn... Who's the guy with the hammer in my skull?"

"You just lay there and stay quiet. Your lucky to be alive, you've been unconscious for almost 18 hours. I lost track of you when your recall brought you here. Kalindra tells me that you just appeared in mid air and collapsed."

I managed to turn enough to face Kimi. "How did you get in here?"

"Your shield around the lab here dropped when you did. I picked up your trail and came to find out wether you still lived. Kalindra and I have been watching over you while you recovered. I knew you'd make it when the shield came back up a few hours ago."

"What time is it anyway?" It was stupid, but the first thing that occurred to me was that I had just missed work without calling in. Of all the asinine things to think of...

"It's about 1 AM Tuesday morning, why?"

"Nothing, just something stupid."

"Well never you mind anyway, your not going anyplace for awhile. Unfortunately I have to, if you would be so kind as to open a hole in your shield and let me go home."

"I take it then that you have nothing to say about the challenge?"

Kimi looked back at Kal for a moment then turned back to me. "Nothing."

"Then I will see you later. Thanks for checking up on me." I keyed the lab shield to allow Kimi to pass through it, and watched as she vanished. Then I closed my eyes and collapsed.

When I felt stronger, I looked around at Kal. "Is Penny safe?"

"As safe as I can make her. Her crystal is resting in the computer room and the door is sealed."

I started to try to get up and found myself facing a set of fangs and a low growl.

"Don't even think about it. You're not moving until I'm satisfied your not going to fall over and kill yourself."

I looked at her for a moment and then settled back into the cot and grinned. "Yes mother. Whatever you say."

The growl vanished and was replaced by her version of a grin. "None of your lip cub. Just lay there and shut up while I fix you something to eat."

I started to make some smartass remark about her cooking being the last thing I needed and then thought better of it. I could hear her moving, and as she started humming to herself I drifted back to sleep.