Megan's Mark(4)

By: Lora Leigh




She looked across the gully walls, eyes narrowed against the sun as she

enabled the Raider's vehicle security. The hum and vibration of the tire protectors sliding into place, along with the energized bulletproof shielding, accompanied the rapid beat of her heart.



Death. She sensed it now.



"Fields, we show security engaged on your vehicle. Are you in trouble?"

Lenny's voice was suddenly alert.



"Negative, Control. Not yet, anyway," she answered as she checked her field gun, sliding an extra clip of ammo into her vest as she disengaged her seat belt. "I found the vehicle. It appears abandoned, all tires flattened, windows shattered. I'm going in for a closer look."



She breathed in deeply, fighting to block the remnants of horror that pulsed through the gully. Death. Her chest clenched, her lungs aching as she forced air into them, fighling past the pure grief that rolled over her.



I failed_ She flinched at the sudden random emotion that drifted to her.

It wasn't her thought, nor her failure, but she felt it pierce her soul.



This was why she hid in the desert. Because of this curse, she wasn't safe to work with, nor to work around.



Because of what she felt now, she knew she could never do the work she had always dreamed of. The empathic abilities fractured her attention,

drew her so deeply into the morass of emotions that flowed from others that her concentration and her control began to crumble.



She breathed in harshly, determined to push back the pain and rage of another's emotions as she attempted to find the reason why it existed.



"Negative, Fields." The voice of her cousin, Sheriff Lance Jacobs, came over the receiver. "Get out of that gully and await reinforcements. All copters are out of range and unable to assist. I'll head out with Crawford now."



Megan snorted. She could hear the demand in his voice.



"I'm not the meter maid, boss," she drawled. "Regardless of your attempts to make me one. The tracks into the gully are at best twenty-four hours old. Whatever happened here is done and gone."



She hoped.



She activated the display board on her windshield, watching for signs of life within the gully. She couldn't trust her senses now; they were too flooded with the rage and pain that flowed from the vehicle in front of her. But she had a feeling she really wasn't alone.



"Display shows the gully clear of life signs. I'm going to do an initial

investigation while I wait on you."



His curse was muffled, his frustration wasn't. He knew the problems she had experienced during training at the Law Enforcement Academy, just as he knew that it was the reason she had returned home rather than taking one of the offers from the larger cities that had come her way.



"Proceed with extreme caution, Megan," he warned her. "I don't like the feel of this."



Neither did she.



She stepped out of the vehicle, cocking her head at the silence of the gully. It was as though all life had deserted the area. Normally it would be filled with the whisper of birds' wings, small wildlife and insects fighting for food and survival. This gully was one of the few areas that managed to retain moisture within the small caverns the water had carved from it. There should be life here.



There was only death.



A peculiar, horrifying stench filled the air as well. The smell of death wrapped around her, thick and filled with menace in the late afternoon stillness. She felt the tension thicken, and it wasn't just her own.



"Lance, it stinks here." She heard her own voice tremble as she stared at

the SUV gleaming beneath the hot sun.



Her chest tightened as she glimpsed the presence of two bodies through the heavily tinted, rnostly shattered glass.



"Goddamn, Megan. Get the hell out of there." Lance hissed, his voice heavy with dread.



Chills raced over her scalp, her shoulders, tightening her muscles as she pushed back the sensations and fought to get a better grip on what was there. Releasing the light field Wounder from the holster at her hip, she held it confidently, her senses rioting and sending adrenaline coursing through her as she walked to the vehicle.



Damn, she wished she had a real weapon, rather than the Wounder used for lighter duty such as patrol. It only slowed down a criminal rather than incapacitating him. Its greatest plus was its extended range. One of its drawbacks was the inability to predict its effect in any given situation.



"The vehicle is riddled with bullet holes. We have at least two dead," she spoke into the microphone, relaying the information she found to the control center.



The windows of the SUV were punctured with bullets. The tires had been ripped apart by them; the cliffs rising from the gully were scoured with

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