Hannah snatched the gift-wrapped package from her older sister and tore the paper off revealing a dirty white teddy bear. "Where'd you get it, Chrissy?" the little girl asked.
Christine shrugged and said, "The leader of the Northwest Resistance gave it to me after his daughter got digitized. I figured you'd want it 'cause you always wanted a teddy bear."
"Thank you Chrissy!" Hannah squealed, throwing herself into her sister's arms. Christine giggled and put her sister down.
That's when she heard it. "Mom?" she said, getting to her feet. "You hear that?"
Susan O'Connor nodded and motioned for her oldest daughter to stay sitting while she went to look out the window. "Oh my God...Christine take your sister and hide..."
"Soaron?" Christine asked. Susan nodded, and Christine scooped up Hannah and bolted out the door. She had to get somewhere safe, but in the middle of the desert there was no place to hide. And on top of that, Hannah was squirming to get down. "Quit squirming Hannah!" Christine said.
"Lemme down!" Hannah whined. Christine ducked behind a sand dune and closed her eyes as she let go of her sister. "Stay with me, Hannah!" she ordered.
"But Chrissy, my bear..."
"FORGET THE DAMN TEDDY BEAR!" Christine screamed at her sister. "Hannah, I'm sorry but I don't want anything happening to you," she said a few minutes later.
Hannah, obviously, didn't listen to her sister and when she was positive Soaron wasn't looking, she bolted for the house.
"HANNAH!!!" Christine cried just as Soaron turned around and saw the five-year-old reaching for the teddy bear by the door. Raising his digitizer, he aimed at her. Christine couldn't even look, but she heard everything.
"Chrissy!!!!" Hannah screamed as the digitizer fired.
Christine sat straight up in bed with a half-strangled scream dying in her throat. Looking around she found she was in her quarters in the Power Team's headquarters in Northeastern Canada.
She'd had this nightmare every night since she was seventeen. She hadn't been able to save her little sister, the one person who meant more to her than anything.
Getting to her feet, she quietly crossed the room to her desk where a single framed picture sat. It was a picture of herself at twelve with a newborn Hannah. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I should have stopped him."
"You would have been digitized too," said a quiet voice from the door. Christine nearly fell out of her chair. "Dammit Scout don't scare me like that!"
"Sorry," Robert Baker said as he walked into the room. "You okay?"
"No," Christine said softly, looking back at the picture she held in her hands. "I should have saved her."
"Ranger, listen to me," Scout said, sitting on the edge of the desk. "It's not your fault. Hannah wanted her teddy bear back and she'd stop at nothing to get it back."
How the hell would YOU know, Baker? Ranger thought sullenly. Out loud, she said, "I could have held on to her..." With that, she did the one thing nobody ever thought she was capable of.
She started to cry.
to be continued...