He was looking for a mate and she couldn't run fast enough  ....

 

DARK PHOENIX

 

By

 

Madelaine Montague

Chapter One

 

Cassie Burks was working hard to keep her mind off of her gas needle.  She wouldn’t have had to if she’d had her mind on the gas needle when it would’ve done some good.  Unfortunately, she’d been focused, then, on whether or not she could collect the photos from her cameras and make it back to her apartment—or at least out of Yellowstone, before the park closed. 

“Serious miscalculation,” she muttered to herself, narrowing her eyes in the waning light and trying to pinpoint the location of the last of her time lapse cameras in the gathering gloom.  The area was already cloaked in deepening shadows, but as she parked her truck and examined her map with the aid of her dome light, she saw she had marked it within walking distance of where she was currently parked.

Leaving the truck running, she set the parking brake and hopped out.  Walking briskly toward the weather proof blind that concealed the camera, Cassie squatted to open it with the universal key on her key ring, pulled the camera out and removed the chip.  Shoving the chip into the pocket of her jeans, she dropped another chip in and then set the camera back in place, carefully aligning it as it had been before. 

A flash of light caught her eye as she closed the blind, instantly diverting her attention from her task.  Car lights-ranger-stranger flickered through her mind in quick succession, making her tense, but as her gaze zoomed in on the source of the light, she came slowly upright, gaping at it.

A fireball was shooting toward the ground and looked to be on a collision course—with her.

Lava bomb was the first thing that popped into her head that time, but a swift scan of the sky didn’t produce a visual of any others.  A part of her mind was rapidly calculating the odds of only one lava bomb being launched, the unlikelihood that the Yellowstone Super volcano had chosen this particular moment to erupt, and the lack of any sounds around her to support the central focus of her mind.  Most of her attention, however, was on the missile heading her way.  The moment she realized where it seemed most likely to strike the ground, she whirled and ran for all she was worth in the other direction.

Considering the size of the thing, the impact should have produced a concussion of sound comparable to an actual bomb going off.  There wasn’t any sound that she could hear above the frantic tattoo of her heart against her chest wall, though, and when that sank in and she realized that, considering the incoming speed of the thing, it should already have made impact, she couldn’t resist the urge to slow enough for a quick look behind her.

A ball of fire roughly the size of her truck lit the clearing just beyond her camera blind.  Cassie stopped, staring at it without comprehension … because what she was seeing defied everything she knew of volcanoes and her mind was still frantically sorting through her storehouse of data in search of an explanation.

“Brush fire!  Oh my god the whole park will go up at this rate!”  Rushing to her truck, she turned it off and searched behind the seat for the little fire extinguisher she kept there.  There was a heavy blanket, too, and she got that, wondering the entire time if she was doing the right thing, if it would be better to try to get to a phone and call the park people.

Someone was bound to see it, though, she told herself. 

And it might be completely out of hand in she didn’t do what she could to beat it down instead of just standing around wringing her hands.

She discovered to her horror when she rushed toward the wall of flames that there was something in the middle of it, writhing as the fire was burning it alive.

“Oh my god!  The poor thing!”

She searched the extinguisher and finally managed to get it going and tried to aim for whatever it was that had been caught in the blaze, but the extinguisher was pathetic and she knew in her heart that, whatever it was, it was dead before she even arrived with the extinguisher.

She didn’t realize tears were streaming down her face until she blinked and saw a dark figure rise from the ground—at least that was what it looked like.

It also looked like a man—the shape.

Dark Phoenix

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