Chapter 1

 Checkwolf was again operating at less than half of full power.  Sean had decided to let seven of the members have the next few days off and had had them leave their walkies at the base.  The whole of Checkwolf's staff consisted, at the present time, of: Sean Matts, Wil Huggins, Jesse Ince, Karl Dexter, and Brent Spencer.  Currently, Karl and Brent were scouting out a four-block radius.

Sean was glad to have seen Wil and Jesse return in the past two weeks, after Brian Michaels' vicious death.  They were Brian's closest friends and had seemed to make the adjustment well.  Sean was worried, though, about Scott Spencer, Brent's brother.  He hadn't seen him since the day after Brian's murder, and despite repeated phone calls hadn't talked to him.  Even Brent, his brother, didn't know where Scott had disappeared to.  Sean just hoped that Scott was all right. 

It was a slow day at headquarters.  Only one phone call had been made to the base so far that morning.  It had been from the mayor, who said that it would now be less than three weeks until the new base was prepared.  They were running a little behind, and the mayor had apologized profusely for that, but Sean was still impressed that they could remodel a building so quickly.  It lent additional credence to his theory that there was actually relatively little remodeling to be done, that the building must have been designed for something akin to what they needed it for.  Sean had wanted to stop by the project, but the mayor insisted that its location remain under wraps for the time being.  That was fine. Surprises were nice.  Sean just hoped that the promise of "state-of-the-art" equipment that the mayor had made wasn't just him blowing hot air, though Sean wasn't holding his breath on that.

Sean's attention next turned to the matter of the other Checkwolf members.  They had, of course, seen some slight behavioral differences after Sean had returned from New York, things that Sean had no control over.  But twice, now, in the past two weeks, necessity had forced Sean to act out of character: first, because he had let on that he knew Belsky, and again when he had pulled an actual gun on Lazotti.  The Sean that the other Checkwolf members used to know didn't even own a gun.  Sean knew that those two instances had sent his friends' minds to thinking more seriously about Sean's mysterious time away.  Sean still wasn't ready to discuss those events.

Sean's thoughts drifted off as Jesse barked a laugh.  He looked up.  "What's up, Jesse?"

Jesse batted with the back of his hand at the paper he was reading.  "This stupid paper."

"What are you reading?" Sean asked, rising from his seat.


Sean grinned one-sidedly.  "Well, you knew what you were getting into."  He strode over to Jesse's seat.  "What's so funny?"

Jesse held up the paper, pointing to a box over in the corner of page seven.  "The Enquirer has received several reports of people floating in midair, shortly before crashing to the ground, in Kewanee.  When we tried to contact Morrison, the chief of the Kewanee police department, he wouldn't answer our questions."

Sean straightened up slowly, the smile slipping from his face.

"Isn't that hilarious?" Jesse asked, closing the paper and tossing it on the desk.  "Nice job faking the pictures, though."

"Yes," Sean said distractedly.

Something in the tone of Sean's voice alerted Jesse.  He looked up, half-smiling still until he saw Sean's face.  "What's up, Sean?  This isn't legit, is it?"

Sean peered into Jesse's unblinking gaze.  "Don't worry about it.  Why don't you check in with Karl and Brent?"

Jesse nodded, still looking askance at Sean.  He went over, picked up a walkie-talkie, and began speaking into it. 

Sean went back to thinking as he picked up his jacket and assorted other small items.  There was certainly the possibility that it was just another made-up story to get attention; the Enquirer was good at that.  However, there was that incident in New York, the mere thought of which made Sean uneasy.  The thought of this man appearing in Kewanee had been resting at the back of Sean's mind for some time.  He assumed that eventually this particular piece of trash would come here, unaware and uncaring that Sean was here as well.

Like before, it would probably be difficult to catch the perp, considering the years of experience that the man had.  But Sean believed he was up to the challenge.  He only hoped that the rest of Checkwolf was as well.  If there was even a chance that this was what he thought it was . . . .

What a lousy time for half the force to be taking a vacation.

 Chapter 2

 Sean parked the old Chevy van outside police headquarters.  He entered the station, ultimately heading for Chief Morrison's office; he assumed he could get in since Morrison was an old friend.  He acknowledged nods and "hello"s as he walked to the front desk.  The desk sergeant looked up.  It was another of Sean's acquaintances, Dale Watts.  "Hey, Sean," he said.  "What can we do for you today?"

"I wanted to speak with the chief, if I could."

"Sure thing," Sergeant Watts said as he buzzed Chief Morrison's office.  "Go right in," Watts said.

"Thank you," Sean said.  He walked away from the desk and down to Morrison's office.  He rapped on the door.

"Matts?" came the voice from within.

"Yes, sir."

"Come right in."

Sean opened the door and stepped in, then closed it behind him.  

The chief of police stood.  "What can I do for you today, Matts?"

Sean sat down without an invitation.  Chief Morrison sat as well.  "I've heard reports," Sean stated.

Morrison steepled his fingers.  "What kind of reports?"

Sean paused before replying.  "Do you remember New York?"

The chief narrowed his eyes.  "I think I know what you're getting at.  It was, what, five, six years ago?" 

Sean nodded.  "Seven, actually."

"Yeah, I remember.  I was called in to help out on that case, remember?  That was the only time we got to work together."

Sean nodded.  "Right.  Now that I've jogged your memory, perhaps you can give me a little more information on these flying cases," Sean said as he looked through a pile of folders on Chief Morrison's desk.

"Didn't think you read the Enquirer, Sean," Morrison said with a grin as he reached for the appropriate file.  "But at least you can find the stuff worth reading in there.  You think the stuff they asked me about is related to New York."

"What do you think?"

"Yeah.  Honestly, I'd made the connection, but it's not the sort of thing that is easily investigated by a traditional police force."  Sean noticed the emphasis he had put on the word "traditional" glancing meaningfully at Sean as he did so.  "Ah, here it is," he said as he yanked a file out from one of the many stacks on his cluttered desk.  Sean marveled at the intriguing filing system.  "Here we go," the chief continued as he opened the folder.  "Eighteen instances of flight recorded, ending in three deaths."

"How are the incidents related?" Sean asked.

Chief Morrison consulted the file.  "Hmm.  Six of the ones involved are in the city government, though none are higher than midlevel."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Another correlation."

"That's what I was worried about," Sean said, nodding.  "That's the same as New York, too."

"That could be big trouble," Morrison said.

Sean nodded.  "This stuff is very addictive."

"I thought as much," the chief responded, reclining in his chair as he mulled over this information.  "I wasn't told very much in New York, but that much was obvious.  I hear that it took them a long time to get all of the corrupted officials out."

"Seven months," Sean confirmed.  "As I was thinking earlier this morning, this character is very slippery.  Hard to catch."  Sean paused, judging the police chief.  "Not many people realized how big the difficulty in New York was.  Not only was Awe distributing the flight drug, but he had manufactured another one, more potent, more dangerous."  Sean paused for effect.  "He could control people with it; in essence, it was a mind control drug."

Chief Morrison's mouth dropped open.  "A mind control drug?  What in the world?"

Sean nodded.  "I don't think your captain wanted you to know.  You see, Awe-Inspiring is not a particularly dangerous drug, other than its addictiveness.  But evidently, Awe was hooking government officials on Awe-Inspiring, then substituting the flight drug for this other one and starting to control the city's government."  Sean leaned forward conspiratorially.  "Incidentally, Awe's tendrils had reached extremely high into the city in some key departments.  My estimation was always that if he had had another month, he would have had near-total control."

"Then what would he have done?"

"Dump the mind control stuff on the city and control it."

Morrison raised his eyebrows.  "Ambitious."

Sean stood.  "Very much so.  What we have to hope is that Awe hasn't learned from his mistakes."



"I hoped you would say that.  So you'll take care of this?  Quietly?"

Sean headed for the door.  "Isn't that what we're here for?"

 Chapter 3

 "Word on the street is that Awe's holed up in Moline on West 147th."

"Good job, Jesse," Sean complimented, reaching for his jacket.

"Or in Peoria on East 45th."

Sean slumped.  "Great.  Those are on opposite sides of the city."  Jesse nodded his affirmation.  "And we can't split up," Sean continued.  "We're shorthanded enough as it is.  Plus, if we check out one place and miss him, we may tip our hand enough for him to disappear again."

Jesse shrugged.  "That's how it goes.  You call it."

Sean thought for a moment.  "Let's try Moline," he said, going on a hunch.  He stood.  "All right, guys.  Let's get going."

They piled into the van.  Jesse started it.  He glanced at the gas gauge and saw that it was riding on empty.  He hoped that he had enough to make it to the nearest gas station.  He put the van into drive and pulled out onto the street.

 Sean, Karl, Wil, and Brent sat and rested outside the van as Jesse filled the tank.  It was certainly considerate of Jesse to tell us how low on gas the van was, Sean thought sardonically.  The van had died three blocks from the gas station, on one of the primary arteries of the city.  Pushing a vehicle in such a situation was not particularly fun.

As if voicing Sean's thoughts, Wil spoke up.  "It sure was nice of you tell us how low on gas the van was," he told a smiling Jesse. 

Finally Jesse filled the tank and paid for the gas.  After they had gotten back in, he pulled out onto the street and they were on the way.  He turned onto Central Boulevard a few blocks north of the gas station and raised his speed to a steady fifty.  He sat back, rolled down the window, letting the wind ruffle his hair,  and relaxed as the traffic moved around him on the wide, eight-lane highway.

Fifteen minutes later, as he was taking a glance into the rearview mirror, Jesse saw a car, a Dodge from a few years back, tailgating.  A guttural sound escaped Jesse's throat, annoyed.  There was no reason for the car to be doing that, since the area around the car was relatively clear.  As he watched, the car got even closer.  Jesse resisted the temptation to slam on his brakes and teach the guy a lesson.  If they didn't have somewhere to be . . . .  Jesse's attention was riveted to the car as it touched its raised bumper against the van's.  The van was jarred slightly.  Jesse accelerated to sixty. 

Sean glanced at the rearview mirror on the passenger side of the van.  "What's going on?"

Even as he asked the question, the car accelerated also and bumped into them again, even more noticeably.  Jesse accelerated again.  "Guess."

Sean nodded, idly running his finger along the shoulder strap of his seatbelt.  

The Dodge again rear-ended them, harder than the previous two times.  Jesse glanced at the speedometer as it moved past seventy.  "What is this idiot doing?" Jesse muttered.

"Looking for trouble evidently," Sean stated.

Wil leaned forward from the backseat.  "You see that, Jesse?" he asked, pointing ahead.  He was indicating a semi directly in front of them.  It had arrived on the road at the previous ramp and was now going only thirty miles per hour, showing no signs of acceleration.  Jesse was still going seventy-five, so there was a definite problem.

"I don't like this," Jesse said as he moved to switch lanes.  Surrounding him on all sides, as if in formation, were more of the same model of car.  They were even all the same color.  "Hold on!" Jesse called out as he depressed the brake, desperately trying to slow down, to avoid hitting the back of the semi and doing serious damage to the van. 

A ramp slowly lowered from the back of the semi.

"What is this, Knight Rider?" Wil said, half-heartedly joking as he looked around, seeing the Dodges enclosing the van even more tightly.

Jesse looked over to Sean for confirmation on the next action that they should take.  Sean nodded.  Jesse took a deep breath and moved the van closer to the semi.  There was a slight bump as first the front wheels, and then the back wheels moved over the lip of the ramp.  Jesse easily pulled it into the trailer and they waited.  The ramp lifted back up, shutting them in.  Sean saw that he couldn't open his door; he was too close to the side of the trailer.  Wil couldn't open the door on his side either.  And the back of the trailer kept the back doors shut.

On the other hand, there was enough space on the driver's side of the vehicle for the man approaching them to walk.  He stopped next to Jesse.  Jesse calmly looked at him.  The man lifted an aerosol can and sprayed something in Jesse's face.  Knockout gas, in a highly concentrated form, Sean surmised.  Jesse fell forward, his forehead coming to rest on the horn of the van.  It started blaring incessantly.  Also, Jesse hadn't put the van into park.  His foot slipped off the brake and the van started slowly moving forward. 

The man outside the van cursed.  He then reached in and moved Jesse off of the horn, reaching to put the van into park.  Sean leaned over and pushed up on the button to roll the windows up.  The window moved quickly.  The man realized what was happening and tried to pull his arm out.  With his other hand, Sean grabbed the man's wrist, holding him in place until the window had moved far enough to hold it, pressing into the man's flesh.  Instead of snapping the man's wrist with the inexorable power of the window mechanism, Sean simply slammed the door open, knocking the man unconscious.  He lowered the window enough for the man's hand to come free.  He fell to the ground.  Sean put the van in park and turned it off. 

Wil had laid on the backseat, facing the wide window on the left side of the van.  After a sudden, powerful kick, the whole window popped out and clattered to the floor of the trailer.  Wil, moving swiftly, followed it out and landed lightly.  The other three conscious Checkwolf members followed.  They cautiously stepped over the unconscious thug lying on the floor. 

Sean poked his head around the corner of the van and heard the sharp report of a gun.  He fell backward as the bullet grazed the van's hood, losing his balance as the semi swayed slightly. 

"Now what?" Wil hissed.

Sean motioned for the smaller forms of Karl and Brent to get under the van and come out in the front, hopefully surprising whoever was wielding the gun out there.  They did so. 

Karl and Brent hid behind a crate on the right side of the trailer and surveyed the situation.  There were six other men out there prowling around.  Three of them had weapons; the other three seemed to be weaponless and they were staying near the front of the trailer, several yards away.  Quietly, Karl and Brent moved along behind the crates.  When they were near the front, Karl loosened the bonds on a stack of crates and sent them tumbling noisily to the floor.  Instantly, gunshots were fired in that direction.  They moved for the three men standing weaponless.

Sean and Wil heard the crates come down.  As if with one thought, they both moved forward as the gunshots began being fired.  They assessed the situation quickly, then each made a flying tackle at one man, bringing each of their men to the ground.  Sean quickly chopped his victim's arm, sending the gun flying.  Wil did the same.  Sean immediately turned and forcibly removed the gun from the third man.  He then smashed the butt of the gun into the man's jaw, who stumbled backward and fell to the floor, unconscious.  Wil also disposed of his opponent with a massive uppercut, followed by a powerful right cross, sending him flailing and knocking over some more crates.  Sean and Wil then turned on the final man.

One of the three men saw a motion out of the corner of his eye, namely, Karl and Brent.  Brent ran for him, then quickly ducked aside when the board that the man had been holding behind his back came for his head.  He hit the floor and rolled, then jumped to his feet as Karl barreled into the unsuspecting bat wielder, knocking him clean off his feet and sending them both sprawling into the fore wall of the trailer.  Brent did an artful backflip as another man swung a punch at him, landing two yards away.  But the uneven terrain of the moving semi made him miss the landing, dropping him to the floor right in front of the third man.  Karl happened to glance that way as his opponent slumped to the ground.  "Brent, behind you!" he yelled out.  Brent spun around and saw the man directly in front of him.  He tried to roll out of the way again, but felt the blow of a board or a piece of crate on his shoulder.  Fortunately for him, nothing broke.  He completed his roll and leapt back to his feet, perhaps a little more slowly than usual. 

"You don't have a chance, punk," Wil said through gritted teeth.  His normal good humor had evaporated in the heat of battle.  A trickle of sweat ran along the side of his face and his short, brown hair was slightly damp from his exertion.  Wil was a couple of inches shorter than Sean, but made up that slight deficiency in his physique, which he had spent considerable time building up.  He utilized that power now by flattening the remaining former gun-wielder with a single blow.  The man fell backwards, bouncing up slightly as he hit the floor, then remaining still. 

"Good job, Wil," Sean complimented as he surveyed the other end of the trailer.  Brent was holding his left shoulder as he warily observed a man that was holding a board.  And even as he watched, Karl used his lean, wiry strength to slam the only other standing foe against the front wall.  He then punched him, knocking him unconscious. 

Wil moved forward to help Brent, but Brent stayed him with a single motion of his hand.  "He's mine," he said, though if it was to himself, Wil, or his opponent was anyone's guess.  Brent stepped backward a couple of steps, then jumped forward, propelled himself off of his right hand, and vaulted over the man's head, his long, dark brown, braided hair following after him as he tucked into a ball.  He landed behind the man, who swung the board around at him.  Brent easily ducked, then brought his right fist up in an uppercut, following with his right foot.  The man groaned, dropped the board, and fell to the floor. 

"Is anyone hurt?" Sean called out. 

"Not me," Wil said.

"Yeah, I am a little," Brent stated, "but I'll be okay."  He was holding his shoulder.

Sean felt fine, if just a little winded.  He turned to Karl, who was walking over to the others.  "You okay?" Sean asked.

"Yep.  How about you?"

"I'm fine," Sean said, dismissing the question as irrelevant with a wave of his hand.  "You all did a good job."  He then stopped suddenly, his face lifted into the air, his piercing brown eyes staring off into infinity.  "Does anyone smell anything strange?"

"It wasn't me," Wil and Brent said simultaneously, each grinning.

"No," Karl said, a serious expression on his face.  "I think I do.  It smells like gas."

"Like I said, it wasn't me," Wil said, his smile still wide.

Sean glanced up toward the front of the trailer.  A makeshift vent was attached to the ceiling.  As Sean watched it, a motor started up inside.  "Look!" he exclaimed, pointing at the vent.  "Take a deep breath of fresh air and hold it for as long as possible!" Sean commanded as he did so.  They all followed suit.  The gas, though, had spread more quickly than Sean had realized.  Brent was too close when he breathed in deeply.  He immediately fell in a heap to the floor. 

Karl ran over and started pounding on the wall at the far end of the trailer.  He quickly realized that that was no use.  He ran over to the others, a "what now?" expression on his face.  Sean looked over to the van, the other two following.  He slammed his palm against the van's side for forgetting that Wil had popped the window out.  He then heard a sudden expulsion of breath.  He spun around and saw Karl lying face down on the floor.  He had exerted himself too hard and had evidently compulsively taken a breath. 

Now Sean saw that Wil was laboring to hold his breath.  It seemed like they had been holding their breath for hours, though in reality in had been little more than a minute.  Then Sean had an idea.  He grabbed a piece of a broken crate, barely noticing that there were drugs inside, then headed with Wil toward the source of the gas.  It was mounted on the outside wall of the trailer.  Sean's hope was that he could break through the trailer wall there and open it up to fresh air.

Sean motioned to Wil to lift him onto his shoulders.  Despite his intensive training, Sean was even now beginning to feel the effects of holding his breath for two minutes and counting.  He only hoped that Wil stayed conscious for a little while longer.  A little longer, Sean silently pleaded.  Just a little longer!  Sean stood on Wil's sturdy shoulders and felt Wil's hands close around his ankles.  He reached up to jab at the vent. 

Suddenly, Wil gave way beneath him.  So close, Sean thought as he fell to the ground.  The breath was driven from him as he landed next to Wil.  Reflexively, he breathed in.  And almost instantly fell unconscious.

 Chapter 4

 Jesse awoke in an unfamiliar place.  The first sensation that he had was of his hands being numb, so he assumed that they had been tied behind his back.  He wiggled a little.  Tightly bound, but not overly difficult to escape from.  Upon looking around, he saw that he and the other four Checkwolf members were in a small room, alone.  Or so it seemed, until Jesse noticed a camera in one corner of the room.

As Jesse sat trying to plan an escape,  Brent awoke.  Within the next two minutes, the other three were awake as well.  Karl and Wil stretched their tight necks.  Sean looked up and instantly saw the camera.  He looked at the camera, then at Jesse, then back at the camera.  He lowered his head a fraction, then raised it again.

Jesse took Sean's nod to meant that he was sufficiently out of the camera's sight.  He twisted and turned his fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders while being especially careful to keep his legs still.  In a short span of time, the bonds had loosened significantly.  He shook them off easily. 

Jesse then carefully drew in his legs, as if he were sleeping and was adjusting his position.  He then rose to his feet and silently crept toward the camera. 

Sean talked to the spot that Jesse had just been occupying, as if he were still there.  "Jesse, are you awake yet?"

Jesse moved directly underneath the camera, examining it.  "What makes you think that he is?" Wil asked.

"Well, he moved his legs," Sean explained, still craning his neck to look at Jesse's former position.  He then acted as if he were looking more closely.  "No, he's still out."

At that instant, Jesse wrenched the camera off of the wall and shattered it against the floor.  Pieces of it flew everywhere.  He turned toward Sean, looking for direction.

"Quick!" Sean exclaimed, turning toward Jesse.  "Grab the switchblade out of my pocket!"  Jesse rushed over to him and grabbed the blade out of Sean's jacket pocket.  He then reached behind Sean's back and quickly severed the ropes with the extremely sharp blade.  "Do Wil's," Sean ordered as he rushed over to Brent and Karl.

Jesse ran over to Wil.  With one quick swipe, the ropes fell to the floor.  Sean quickly untied Brent while Jesse moved over and cut Karl's ropes.  Within seconds, they were all standing, rubbing the stiff, sore areas where they had been tied. 

"Why aren't we dead?" Karl asked.

"He doesn't operate that way," Sean responded.

Brent looked at Sean, a half-suspicious look on his face.  "So what now?" he asked.

Sean held up a finger for quiet.  He listened.  They all heard it at the same time.  Footsteps coming down the hall.  The door swung open, inward.  The five Checkwolf members attacked as one.  Two men and one woman ran through the open door.  Sean lashed out with a kick, connecting with the first man's head.  He stumbled forward a little further before hitting the ground.  As he did, the gun skittered across the floor.

Simultaneously, Wil kicked the next man in the gut, forcing the air out of him and forcing him to lose his grip on his pistol.  Wil then uppercutted him, knocking him clean off of his feet and to the ground.

As the woman entered, Karl punched her in the side of the face.  Her head snapped to the left, but she stayed on her feet.  She wondered where the attack had come from as she saw Brent's fist coming straight for her.  She stumbled backward and fell against the wall, slumping to the ground. 

"Let's go," Sean said.

They spread out and tried all of the doors on the floor they were on.  All were either locked or the rooms behind them were empty.  They then ran up the next flight of the stairs, wary of anyone who might meet them.  The door to the second floor was shut tight.  Wil kicked it open and peered out. 

He turned back to Sean.  "No lights anywhere."

Sean looked up.  "Up we go."  He then started running up the stairs, with the other four close in tow.  When Sean came to the door, which was unlocked, he pushed it open and strode into the room.  The five were immediately stopped in their tracks when they saw who was in the room. 

The room was huge, and probably took up the majority of the floor that they were on.  There were three people already there.  One stood facing them, aiming a laser pistol directly at them.  Beside him was an immense bulk of a man.  He stood at least seven feet tall and looked to weigh well over three hundred pounds, nearly solid muscle.  The main oddity about him, though, was his right hand.  It was made of a sturdy metal alloy.  Great, Sean thought.

The two men were flanking a desk.  Behind that desk sat a man wearing dark sunglasses.  His black hair was slicked back, with a noticeably receding hairline.  He also wore a leather jacket, unzipped about a third of the way down his chest.  He was seated and smiling. 

"You certainly do have an extensive wardrobe, Awe," Sean commented.

Awe's smile didn't falter.  "And it's so nice to see you again, as well, Matts."  Awe's voice consisted of a slight New York accent and a very slight nasal twang.  Now Awe's smile dropped completely as he leaned forward and rested his arms on his desk.  "What do you want, Matts?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Awe.  Why did you capture us?"

"Trade secret," Awe said, grinning humorlessly.  "What are you looking for?"

"Trade secret."  Smiling, Sean turned toward the big man on Awe's right.  "Long time, no see, Metal Hand," he said.  The man with the metal hand grunted in acknowledgment but kept his arms crossed across his massive chest.  Sean then returned his attention to Awe.  "Fancy weapons you got, Awe," he said, indicating with his head the man holding the laser.  "Tell your man to put his gun down."

Awe spread his arms.  "That wouldn't be very smart, now would it?"  He stood up.  "Now, what can I do for you nice gentlemen?"

"Staying out of Kewanee would be a good start."

Awe frowned, scratched his chin, and shook his head.  "Sorry.  Can't do that."

Sean noticed out of the corner of his eye that Wil was impatient to hurt something.  Sean stayed him with a quick slice of his hand.  "Come on, Awe," Sean taunted.  "Take me on.  Without your goons," he said, indicating Metal Hand and the laserman.

"I'm not . . . a goon," Metal Hand said ponderously.  

Sean directed his attention back to him, an amused expression on his face.  "Well what exactly are you, then?"

"Part . . . ner," Metal Hand answered with a smile.

Sean barked a short laugh. "With Awe?  About likely."  Sean turned back to Awe.  "Anyway, take me on."  He paused, then added with a slight smile, "Just like old times."

That elicited a response from Awe.  "Shut up!" he yelled, pointing at Sean.  "Hand, get him!" he ordered, indicating that the man with the laser stay out of it for now.  

Metal Hand lumbered toward them. 

"Sean?" Wil asked.

"Go for it."

Wil moved in front of Sean.  "Let's go, Hand.  But don't expect me to be too scared of you, big and ugly."

"Not . . . ug--" Metal Hand started to protest until Wil brought an uppercut directly into the underside of Metal Hand's jaw with a tremendous amount of force.  Metal Hand's head snapped backward violently, his body following behind. He thudded to the floor on his back.  Awe and his henchman were stunned.  Sean was impressed as well. 

Then Metal Hand lifted his head and started to get up.  "Mad . . . now."

"I don't get it," Wil said, shaking his hand slightly.  "I don't think I can hit him any harder."

Metal Hand got back to his feet, lumbered closer to Wil, and swung at him with a right cross.  Wil dodged out of the way, the metal hand narrowly missing his head.  Hand was noticeably groggy.  Wil directed four, quick, light jabs at various places on Hand's head.  They all connected and Hand dropped to the floor with a thud, out cold.

Awe motioned at the laserman, who aimed his laser at Wil's head and prepared to shoot.  Karl, who had been sidling in that direction, ostensibly to avoid the fight between Wil and Hand, sprinted forward.  He knocked the laser off target and punched the man in the face.  The man's head whipped to one side, but he shrugged off the blow with a smile and swung the pistol around, hitting Karl in the temple and knocking him to the ground.  While his attention was redirected, Sean moved forward, leapt, and tried to jumpkick him.  At that moment, the laserman ducked and Sean barely missed his head, tumbling to Awe's desk instead.  He moved out of the way in time for Awe's wild punch to miss. 

By then, Wil had moved over to the gunman.  He punched him and connected powerfully.  The man slumped to the floor, his laser dropping from his hand.  Wil then turned to face Awe. 

On the other side of the room, another man stepped away from a doorway in which he had been hidden and took aim at Wil.  Jesse, who was still on that side of the room, shouted out.  "Wil, look out!" he called as he dove for the new man.  The shot went wild, burying itself in the ceiling.  The man cursed and kicked Jesse off of him.  He sat up and aimed his gun at Jesse.  Before he could shoot, Brent kicked him in the side of the head, knocking him out. 

The other four Checkwolf members looked up.  Sean and Awe were facing off.  "Stay back," Sean warned them.  "This is my fight."

Awe took advantage of Sean's distraction.  He pushed a button on the underside of his desk.  Behind them a window came down.  "Sean, watch it!" Brent exclaimed.

"Don't worry."  Sean grabbed Awe before he could leap out the window.  He turned him around.  "I've been wanting to do this for a long time," he said to the smaller man.  He reared back and punched Awe.  Awe fell back, narrowly missing the open window directly behind him.  Instead he fell against the one next to it, smacking his head against it.  His sunglasses became slightly askew, letting the other see that he was truly unconscious.  "Well, that's all for Awe," Sean stated.

 "So, what was the deal behind this guy?" Jesse asked.  "Was he a drug dealer, or what?"

"Yes," Sean answered as Jesse drove the van.  They were on their way to police headquarters to take Awe, Metal Hand, and the five others into police custody. 

Jesse nodded.  "So what made him different from other drug dealers?"

"Awe invented a drug called Awe-Inspiring.  Simply put, it . . . ."

"Made people fly?" Jesse asked.

"Basically, yes," Sean answered.  "Awe-Inspiring is a very addictive drug.  Not extremely dangerous to your health, but very addictive.  Awe's plan, though, was to spike the drug with another one, a mind control drug."

"Hmm.  Mind control, huh?" Jesse said.  "So who was he going after?"

"From what I saw of his timetable, Awe's next step was to spike the batches of the drug that he was handing off to some city government officials."

"So I guess we were just in time," Jesse said. 

Sean nodded.

"Good," Jesse said.  He raised an eyebrow.  "Government, huh?  Pretty ambitious."

 By the time they arrived, Awe had awakened.  After they dragged him out of the back of the van, Awe started sniffing his nose.  "Aw, poor Awe," Wil said with mock sympathy.  "Got a runny nose?"

"No."  Then suddenly, Awe lifted into the air and floated away.  

"Hey!" Wil called, trying to run after him.

"It's no use," Sean said.  He pounded his fist into his palm.  "Not again!  He did the same thing in New York!"

"And you didn't see this coming?" Brent asked, a slight taunt in his voice.

Sean glared at him briefly before looking up again at Awe, who was now receding steadily into the sky.  "I did.  That's why we searched him so thoroughly.  He must have had his personal stash hidden somewhere else."  Sean took a deep breath and calmed himself rather than swear and hit the side of the van, which is what he felt like doing.

Wil, however, had a different question.  "So, tell me about what Awe did in New York."

Sean ignored him.  "Let's get these others inside."

The others were taken inside without incident and the Checkwolf members were detained for a statement.  The police chief, Chief Morrison, personally talked to Sean.  "So, did you find out where his local supply is?"

"No," Sean said, shaking his head.  "I didn't."

"Did you find out if he had started with the mind control drug yet?"

"Yes, I did," Sean answered.  "He hadn't."

Morrison breathed a sigh of relief.  "Good."

"But since he escaped, and since we didn't find his cache . . . ," Sean said.

The chief drew the obvious conclusion.  "You think we'll see him again."

"I'd bet on it."