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on moving her any further without..."

"What are they doing outside?"

Slowly Zack and Franklin looked up toward the person who had just spoken. It was Vir. He was standing several feet away, and there were a few people with him. They were all wearing that look of menacing calm that Zack had come to recognize as a very, very dangerous expression. But Zack forced his voice to stay level. "Don't know what you're talking about," he said casually.

Slowly the people began to advance. Their gaze never wavered, their posture never came across as anything other than menacing. Franklin, sounding as authoritative as he could, said forcefully, "Vir ... look, don't make us ..." His voice trailed off as he realized that-considering he and Allan were sorely outnumbered-they were not in the best position to make threats. He switched tactics, going for sympathy, trying to appeal to some basic core of decency that was buried within these people- hopefully beyond the artifact's reach. "This woman's injured, she needs help..."

It was as if Franklin hadn't even spoken. Vir and the others formed a circle around Zack and Franklin, leaving them no way out. "I asked you a question," said Vir in such a way that Franklin couldn't determine whether Vir had heard anything he'd said. "What are they doing outside the station?"

By this point, Zack knew it was hopeless. There was no way they were going to get out of the situation without a fight. To Zack, it seemed as if he'd been doing nothing but fighting for the past twenty-four hours, and it wasn't as if it was about to get any easier. He was in batde mode, though, operating on instinct and fighting everything that was thrown at him.

This time was going to be a little trickier, but one has to play the cards one is dealt. He handed his
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