by ElenaRoan

Alternate ATF Universe: Pantheon

Character Focus: Vin, Chris, Nathan, Josiah, JD

Disclaimer: Donít own any of them, written purely for enjoyment. Mog created the ATF universe.

Betas: Geris (Grammar and Spelling), Silivren Tinu (Comprehension)

Summary: A warning allows Chris to avoid disaster.

Please note: Text within '#' indicate that the words are being spoken by the Silver Archer using a voice modulator.

Prologue: Heroism

He only caught a glimpse of the kid out of the corner of his eye but it was enough to spur the hero into action. The three year old kid was old enough to be scared but not old enough to know to hide. In one fluid motion the Silver Archer dived over him, putting himself between the child and the 'fireball' Desiccation Wave had thrown in his direction.

The Silver Archer bit back a gasp of pain, his bow lying discarded nearby, now useless as he used his own body as a shield for the innocent beneath him.

The barrage let up but the burning pain didn't. He didn't move in case there was another attack headed in their direction.

"Silver Archer!"

He could see the armoured knees of the medical hero as he knelt down by him. The Silver Archer looked painfully up at the other hero; he'd be able to get the kid to safety.

With a groan he half rolled half collapsed to the side, revealing the small child to his companion. Medical Marvel gasped as he pulled the kid into his arms.

"Aerotik, I need you!"

Seconds later the small speedster was by his side and Medical Marvel pushed the child into his arms.

"Get him out of here; take him to the hospital!"

A fast nod and the tiny hero was gone with the child.

Turning back to the archer still on the ground he injected him with the triple injection he'd prepared especially for the hero; combining nanites, painkillers and an antiemetic.

Glancing at the battle still going on Medical Marvel reacted instinctively, putting himself between the oncoming shot and his downed friend. It never hit, Ajax leapt in the way before it could.

As Desiccation Wave prepared to fire off another wave he was suddenly hit with an echoing strike from Dark Thunder.

Medical Marvel did a double take at the black clad hero as he pushed himself well beyond what he had ever done before. When the dust settled the villain lay in a heap.

"Wooee, I didn't know you could do that!" Joculator exclaimed turning towards Dark Thunder. As he laid his eyes on the black clad hero they widened behind the lenses in his full face mask and he leapt forward, barely managing to catch his friend as he collapsed.

Shadow Mirage went to assist him in laying Dark Thunder down.

"I would say that is because he actually can't," the shadowy hero noted in his cultured English accent.

"Shadow Mirage!" Medical Marvel called, and he spun around to look at the armoured hero.

The medical hero was just injecting Ajax; the near giant was sitting down with his knees pulled up to his chest, arms folded on those knees and his head resting in his arms. It shook the suave hero to see the near invulnerable Ajax in so much pain.

"I need you to take Ajax and Silver Archer to the Medical Treatment Point," Medical Marvel continued. Their small med lab didn't have room for more than one patient and the medical hero knew that he didn't have the resources to find a treatment for such an unknown injury as this.

Shadow Mirage nodded and moved over to the two injured heroes. Laying a hand on each, he shifted them through the shadows to the usual place heroes went for treatment.

Aerotik returned as Shadow Mirage shifted away.

"Dropped him off, they're going to see if they can find his parents. How's Silver Archer, where's Ajax and what happened to Dark Thunder?" He finished on a worried note.

"Ajax got hit by the same thing Silver Archer did. Shadow Mirage took them both to the treatment point. Dark Thunder took out Desiccation Wave but pushed himself beyond his limits doing so," Medical Marvel answered tiredly.

Shadow Mirage reappeared and they all gathered around Dark Thunder for the brief journey to the treatment point.

Dark Thunder had simply exhausted himself and was put on an energy restoration drip. The Silver Archer and Ajax were a different story, medics were still struggling to stabilise them.

Suddenly Dark Thunder sat bolt upright, both Medical Marvel and Joculator coming to his side in response.

"Settle down, big guy," Joculator said, "Ain't nothing to be getting worked up about."

"He's gone," the hero in black stated, his voice a mere whisper.

"What?" Joculator asked in confusion, feeling dread start to form in his gut.

"He's gone," he repeated before curling up into a ball with his back to his friends.

A door opened softly to admit a Hero Medical Authority medic. Medical Marvel swallowed nervously before moving over to them.

"We lost them, I'm sorry," the medic stated with true sadness, "The villain's power ate away at them at the molecular level and we were unable to counter it."

Medical Marvel bowed his head, tears beginning to run down his face behind the face plate of his helmet.

Chapter 1: Communication

'Vin!' Chris sat bolt upright in bed, panting heavily.

'What?!' The blond noted in the back of his mind that their mental link had jumped another level.

'Nothing.' He took a deep breath, 'Just a nightmare.'

Burying his head in his hands he considered getting up and having a stiff drink. His bedroom door was pushed open and a lithe form slipped through. Chris looked up at him in surprise; he had to have come through the base to get there that quickly.

"What are you doing here?"

"Y' woke me up out of a sound sleep, only an hour b'fore dawn," Vin replied, "Wanna talk about it?"

"Not particularly," Chris replied, burying his head in his hands again.

"Not an option. Come on." Vin gently but firmly grabbed his arm and pulled. Reluctantly Chris gave in and let his best friend lead him to the kitchen.

The sharpshooter made two cups of hot chocolate in silence, placed one in front of his friend and sat down with his own to wait the blond out.

"Never had a nightmare that real or that bad," Chris said finally.

"What happened?" Vin could still feel the fear radiating off his friend.

"You died," came the soft reply and he nodded; he'd expected as much given how he'd woken, "Ajax too."

"A mission?"

"Yeah." Chris shivered, "Just a dream."

"Might be just your subconscious fears coming to the fore," Vin replied, "We ain't been out there together all that long, had some close calls."

Chris nodded then looked at his friend curiously, "Might?"

Vin shrugged nonchalantly, "Seen enough weird stuff to know not to discount a dream as nothing but the subconscious playin' tricks. Could be a warning."

Chris chewed on his lip. If it was a warning then that meant two of his friends would die and he would turn into a killer.

"And don't think to make us stay home to prevent it; that may have worse consequences," Vin stated quietly.

Chris sighed, "I can't go through that again."

Vin reached out and gripped his forearm, "I know. And I'll do everything in my power to stick around. But would either of us be able to live with it if in keepin' ourselves safe an innocent died?"

The blond looked up at him sharply, "Thought you didn't see what the nightmare was."

"Didn't," the sniper replied, "That what happened?"

Chris nodded, "You used yourself as a human shield to protect a three year old kid."

Vin nodded, "Can't tell you I wouldn't if there was one in danger."

"I know, that's part of the reason the city likes you so much." It was true, even with the rest of them with him now he was still THE hero of Denver. Vin gave him a lopsided smile; he never could understand that.

Chris took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair, looking at the lightening sky outside the window.

Vin finished his hot chocolate, "Well, think I'll head back home, get ready and head in early. You?"

"I'll be in, in a bit. Want to check some stuff first."

Vin nodded knowing his friend wanted to see if he could find a villain like the one that featured in his nightmare.

Chapter 2: Aftermath

The Silver Archer wasn't surprised to find Dark Thunder in the base before him.

#Find anything?#

"No. But that doesn't mean much."

The archer nodded; just because there was no records on the villain could just mean he hadn't made his début yet.

The rest of the team filtered in slowly and soon they headed out into the night. There hadn't been any warnings about recent activity so they were actually expecting a rather quiet night. It was not to be.

"Who the hell are you?" Joculator demanded of the super villain who had just appeared.

"Desiccation Wave," he replied with an evil looking smile, "You will rue the day you met me for the rest of your very short and painful lives."


The Silver Archer glanced sideways at Dark Thunder, 'What?'

Dark Thunder didn't reply to him, instead speaking aloud to the rest of the team. "Aerotik, that bakery two streets over..."

"Yeah...?" The young speedster replied slightly confused.

"There's a three-year-old near it." The Silver Archer looked sharply at the hero in black, "Grab him and get him to safety."

Aerotik nodded and raced off.

"The rest of you, don't bloody well get hit! Let's do this!" He finished silently to himself, 'I don't want to have to say something nice at your funeral.'

'Stop being so pessimistic.' The Silver Archer chided him. 'You know anything about how his powers work?'

'They destroy at the molecular level and nanites can't do a dang thing to stop it."

"Yow." He frowned in thought while he shot an arrow at the villain.

#Shadow Mirage, think you can find a way to block those blasts without any danger to yourself?#

The elegant hero raised an eyebrow and quickly shaped his shadows into a shield, successfully blocking the first blast he pushed it in front of.

#I'll take that as a yes.#

Aerotik reappeared just then, "Kid's safe at the hospital, they're going to see if they can locate his parents."

"Good. Keep your distance and don't get hit. Those blasts are nasty," Dark Thunder instructed.

"I believe I can structure the shield to reflect his blasts back at him," Shadow Mirage suggested.

#No.# The Silver Archer stated quickly, #Not even he deserves that.#

"Something you ain't telling us, hot shot?" Joculator asked.

Desiccation Wave slapped at his neck, knocking a small dart loose. The Silver Archer smiled as he saw that, moments later the villain wavered then collapsed.

#Nice shot.# The archer complemented Medical Marvel. He walked over to where Dark Thunder was standing staring at the downed villain. 'You ok?'

'I killed him.' Came the shaky reply, 'When he took down you and Ajax I...I killed him.'

'You avoided that path. And we now have a defence.'

Dark Thunder looked at him for a few moments then nodded.

Special force turned up to take custody of the villain and their recordings. It was only after the cuffs were fastened on him and confirmed cancellation of his powers that Shadow Mirage relinquished the guarding of him to them.

#Get someone to check the integrity of the objects he managed to hit, we have reason to believe it may have compromised it.# The Silver Archer told the officer he handed his disk to. The officer nodded and made a note.

Finally everything was taken care of.

"Let's go," Dark Thunder ordered and they all stepped close and linked arms so that Shadow Mirage could whisk them back to base.

Once they were back inside the safety of the base Vin pushed his mask over to the back of his head with a weary sigh.

"Ok junior, want to tell us now?" Buck demanded, pulling off his own mask.

"Ain't Vin who has to tell you..." Chris stated softly, drawing the rest of the team's eyes to him where he sat staring at his mask that he held in his hands, "Vin only knows 'cause he got rudely woken up last night."

"First," Vin interrupted the questions he could see on everyone's lips, "Nate could you make sure Ezra didn't take any injury blocking the blasts like he did. Hell...that none of us took injuries from any near misses."

Nathan stared at him for a few moments before nodding slowly, "Don't sense anything but I can give everyone else a scan to make sure though." He wasn't about to scan the Texan if it wasn't vital.

Vin nodded and the medic gestured at Ezra to precede him into the med lab. Ezra shot the lean man a contemplative look before heading into the small room.

"What's going on, Vin?" JD asked.

Vin shook his head, "Wait 'til everyone is free, only need tell the story once."

Turning he ambled across to Chris and sat down next to him.

'Thought about how you're going to tell them?'

'No. Not sure I can even figure it out in my own mind let alone try to explain it.'

'Reckon you won't have to explain, Josiah is good at that sort of thing.'

Nathan slowly worked his way through the team, leaving Chris for last and just doing a visual inspection of Vin.

Finally they were all sitting down and ready to find out exactly what was going on. The communicator beeping gave the blond another reprieve.

Vin pulled on his mask and moved over to the unit, knowing Chris wasn't up to facing anyone else just then.

Scintillation Shock's costumed face appeared on the viewer.

"Silver Archer," the veteran hero greeted him seriously, "I saw the report on what happened down there and the preliminary report on the villain's powers. Is everyone ok?"

#Yeah, we're all fine.#

Nathan put his helmet back on and stepped into view, "I ran a scan of everyone bar Silver Archer and they are all fine."

"Why not Silver Archer?"

"Scans disagree with him; I'd rather not subject him to that unless it's necessary."

"Trust me; you'd know if someone had taken a hit," Dark Thunder commented from where he still sat.

"How?" Scintillation Shock asked.

The Silver Archer bit his lip trying to figure out how to explain it succinctly.

"Long story?"

#Yeah. We don't even know all of it yet.#

"Wait until I get there then," he ordered softly before signing off.

Those who hadn't put their masks back on did so now and Joculator coaxed Dark Thunder's back on. A short while later the Silver Archer let Scintillation Shock and High Flyer into the base. Joculator chuckled at the hug that the avian heroine greeted the archer with. Needless to say the lean hero squirmed out of it.

"So what's going on?" Scintillation Shock asked, looking around at them.

'You ready, cowboy?'

'No. But I don't reckon I got much choice.'

"When did that bounce up to the next level?" High Flyer asked, her keen eyes having noted that there had been an unspoken exchange between the pair.

#Last night.#

"How?" Medical Marvel asked.

"I had a nightmare," Dark Thunder answered, looking up for the first time.

"About?" Scintillation Shock questioned, sensing that this was what the issue was.

"Tonight," Dark Thunder admitted, taking a deep breath, "Except it wasn't what did happen but what could have happened."

"That's how you knew the kid was there?" Aerotik asked and Dark Thunder nodded.

#One thing you gotta know,# the Silver Archer put in hesitantly, unsure he had a right to speak it but knowing his friend was unable to actually voice it, #Is that in the dream...Ajax and I died. That's how he woke me, calling for me because the dream was so real.#

If lenses hadn't covered their eyes the shock would have been visible in those of the team.

"How?" Scintillation Shock pressed gently.

"Silver Archer dived over the kid to protect him from a blast," Dark Thunder started shakily, "Medical Marvel went to him then got Aerotik to take the kid to safety. Ajax leapt in between Silver Archer and Medical Marvel and another blast and then..."

They looked at the Silver Archer when his voice trailed off but the lean hero shook his head to indicate he didn't know this bit.

"Dark Thunder?" Joculator coaxed softly.

"I..." He hung his head, "I crossed the line. Silver Archer and Ajax were down a lot of pain...I just lost it...went way beyond what I'd ever done...and...Desiccation Wave died."

Scintillation Shock nodded silently, thankful he didn't actually have to navigate through that particular minefield.

"What happened next?"

"Medical Marvel got Shadow Mirage to transport Silver Archer and Ajax to a treatment point then returned for the rest of us. We were waiting for word; me hooked up to a drip..."

"A drip?" Joculator interrupted.

"Yeah...when I...well...I went beyond what my body was actually capable of...if I'd gone much further...I think I'd have died."

There was silence for a few moments before Scintillation Shock broke it.

"You were waiting?"

Dark Thunder nodded, "And...I felt him go...fighting it but unable to hold on with the damage it did. The medics came out and told us they'd lost both of them, that...that the damage from the blast had destroyed them at the molecular level." His voice shook and he dropped his head into his hands, "I'll understand if you wish me to retire, sir."

The last sentence was directed at Scintillation Shock and the hero slowly shook his head.

"For a dream?"

"Showed I got potential to go off the rails."

"But you didn't, even managed to avoid the situation entirely. Many a hero has come closer than that and still remained a hero."

The black clad hero's head remained down.

#A little boy in danger from a villain throwing things that looked like fireballs around, both Ajax and I down in extreme pain and Desiccation Wave not looking like he was going to stop would have driven you over the edge and anyone who knows you would realise that.# The Silver Archer interrupted softly, #You kept it together, even though it scared you enough you woke me from a sound sleep, recognised the signs and avoided it completely.#

Scintillation Shock smiled and tilted his head in the Silver Archer's direction, "What he said. Even if you had been driven past reason you would not have been required to give up being a hero. Go through counselling maybe but not resign. But I will ask this of you; if you get any more dreams like that, write them up and contact us."

Dark Thunder nodded and the two visiting heroes stood to say their goodbyes, the Silver Archer ducking out of the way of High Flyer's hug and causing the avian heroine to laugh.

"Keep him safe; he's too selfless for his own good," Scintillation Shock murmured softly to Dark Thunder.

"If it is within my power," was the answer.


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