by Tim Francovich
Cannonball could already see fang troops running across the arena floor toward them as he landed next to Shatterstar. The Rebel let go of Sam and knelt beside Star, who was still writhing in pain.
"What's wrong with him?" Sam asked.
"It's the control device," the old man replied. "He managed to remove Windsong's, but I have no idea how to remove this one."
Lepton abruptly materialized next to them. "We don't have much time," he growled, drawing his pistol and firing at the approaching soldiers. "Here, kid, you want my extra gun?" He offered a second energy pistol to Sam.
"No, thanks. Ah'll fight in mah own way," Cannonball responded. He pointed both arms at the oncoming squad and concentrated intensely.
"I suppose I'll have to guess," the old man muttered. He grabbed Shatterstar's head and pushed three of the buttons on the side of the control device. It fell off into his hand.
"If you're expecting me to be impressed, forget it," Lepton observed. "I've gotten used to your little tricks."
Suddenly, Sam's blast field erupted out of his body, focused forward and down. It tore into the ground in front of the fang troops, blowing the earth apart. The blast field continued outward, smashing into the troops themselves and carving a deep gouge in the ground. The entire squad was tossed about like toy soldiers.
Sam relaxed and his blast field dissipated. "YES!" he exclaimed. "Eat your heart out, Rictor!"
"Okay, so now I'm impressed," Lepton admitted. "But there's plenty more where they came from." Even as he said it, more soldiers came pouring out of the arena entrances, coming at them from all sides.
"I never intended to commit suicide," Lepton continued, "but I always suspected that it would come to this."
"Is he always this cheerful?" Sam turned quickly, because the voice, though strained, was Shatterstar's. The Rebel was helping the exhausted warrior to stand.
"Guthrie. It is good to see that you still live," Star managed.
Sam grinned. He knew that was as close to an emotional reaction that he would get out of Shatterstar. "It's good to see you, too, although you've certainly looked better."
Star looked at the old man holding him up. "Do I know you?" he asked.
"Not personally," the Rebel answered. "Can you stand on your own? I must see to Windsong."
"Yes," Star answered, stepping away. "She will be fine. I did not hit anything vital."
"Sorry to break up all the reunions here," Lepton interrupted. "But we do have problems approaching!"
Shatterstar looked around. "Za's Vid!" he murmured. "If only I weren't so tired..."
"A Cadre Alliance warrior does not surrender, Shatterstar!" said a weary female voice.
Star turned to see the Rebel supporting a bleeding Windsong. She was holding her own sword and offering Shatterstar his blade, still coated with her blood. He nodded and took it from her.
"We fight together, then," he agreed.
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