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shock stick over to Franklin, who looked at it questioningly and then tried to hand it back to Zack. But Allan put up a hand, indicating that Franklin should keep it. Zack was the one who was on full-battle autopilot. Franklin was a surgeon-he had to worry about his hands. Last thing he needed to do was risk busting those irreplaceable finger joints on the chins of a bunch of insurgents.

Still, he couldn't resist saying to Franklin, "Next time maybe you'll listen?"

"If there is a next time ..." Franklin said grimly.

Zack rolled his eyes in mock scolding mode. "You're such a Pollyanna..."

And that was the last thing he had the opportunity to say before the minions of the One attacked.

"Beg," whispered Leo.

He was positive Sheila was awake. She was lying on the ground, unspeaking, unmoving, her head slumped to one side. But he knew that he'd seen her eyelids fluttering. She was awake, playing possum. He was sure of it.

He glanced across the room at Alex, who was lying on the floor where Leo had left him. His shirt was completely soaked with blood, his eyes staring upward glazedly. To Leo's surprise, there was still very slight breathing coming from him. He might very well be in a coma, but there was an off chance that he was still aware of what was going on around him. Well, that was okay. In retrospect, if it meant that Alex was witness to Sheila's final humiliation, then so much the better.

"Beg," he whispered again, this time a bit more loudly.

He felt a pounding in his head and had to lean back against the wall. The words of Vir came back to him, about how he was needed in the Zocalo. And he felt the One pushing in his head as well, trying to urge him to do what had to be done. He had thought that the One understood. That the One loved him. The
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