Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc.

This is a work of fanfiction and I make no profit of it.

Author's note:

The dialogue is from Mindnet. The scene is written mostly from Killbane's point of view; parts from Goose are in italics.

Thanks to R. E. Lyngard for beta reading this.


Killbane has always been able to do more transformations than I, and I doubt X-factor has changed that ratio in my favor. But I've always been able to outsmart him. He thinks he's invulnerable, and that makes him careless. Only that this is no training ground. Zach and the others are counting on me. I cannot afford to loose.

Poison attack. I should have seen that coming.

I can't let him know my implant is only half charged. I have five transformations at most, but I shift to insect man form nonetheless to neutralize the poison quickly. I must not appear weak. Never to Killbane. I can beat him anytime.

We stand facing each other.

I hate his smile. I swore to myself one day I'd wipe it off his face, and I think today is that day. No matter how hard I practiced: if I beat up the battle droids more thoroughly, could take more laser shots, or found out my way from under a ton of rubble faster, he'd always find a way to steal the commendation that should have been mine. He'd do some acrobatics or draw out Nova with him, and Walsh would be all impressed with his 'superior strategy and responsibility for the team'. Only that this is no gymnastics contest. Finally we'll have a real fight. I'm stronger than ever, and his fast reflexes won't save him this time.

"Where are the other Supertroopers – Gravestone, Darkstar, and the rest?"

"Don't worry about them. They're gonna live a lot longer than you."

His smile is like poison, and I spit it right back at him, just with a higher concentration of toxic agents.

He turns into a bug. How fitting. I'll squash him.

When I spit poison at him again, he is unmoved. So the implant does boost his bio-defenses to regular strength. It won't save him.

There used to be one rule at Wolf Den. A Trooper never kills another Trooper. Not that I cared, but Gooseman did. He quoted it to me enough times to make me sick. I guess rules changed for him too. He's hunting those who he used to pull stunts for to get them out of the fire. I suppose a dead Supertrooper wins him more approval from the brass than a live one now.

He's worse than me. I don't hunt my own kind – unless they get in my way. Gooseman certainly is in my way.

I form claws and slash at him, but he avoids the confrontation.

He's been searching for us everywhere, even on Tortuna. When I came here and trashed some of those maddening spy droids in my organic metal form, the Crown troops thought I was him. Stupid androids – can't tell a copy from the original.

After I demolished a company of her soldiers, the Queen offered me a job. Steal Mindnet and blame it on Gooseman. Who says work can't be pleasure? I'll prove to her that I'm better than Gooseman.

I'll finally get what I deserve. X-factor is the best thing that could have happened to us! I used to be like a caged animal, but now I'm free and ready to strike. I don't need Walsh or the League. Life is full of opportunities, and I'm going to take them!

He backhands me, but I can take that easily. We grapple, and he can't even pin me to the wall.

"You always were the weak one. You were never good enough to be a Supertrooper."

Advanced genetic design – hah! When the scientists at Wolf Den thought of a new transformation, they would have me try it first. Radiation, poison, crushing pressure, extreme heat or cold – I'd prove I could survive it, and only then would they have their precious baby try it. He'd work on the fine points, but I'd just walk in and take whatever they threw at me.

The grappling is getting tiresome. As I throw him off, I aim a gun at him. Let's see if he can survive this.

I manage to hit him, but he somersaults as if this were a circus arena and shifts into insect man form two, this time with an extra-hard exoskeleton. There's no beauty in bio-defenses, only brute strength and stamina. When we fight, his handsome looks can no longer impress the girls.

I aim a volley of shots at him, but he shakes them off. Let him. He can't keep this up forever.

Click. Click. My finger pulls the trigger, but the weapon doesn't fire. The gun's empty! Curse the Queen. I could have finished him off if not for her games.

"You can't win, Runt. You're inferior!"

He depends on his implant. He couldn't even do the transformation against radiation at first. Walsh put him on light duty for a week so that he could heal. I never got special treatment. I never needed it. I'll destroy him!

"So how come you're the one who's backing away?"

"We'll see about that!"

He may be able to do more than one transformation, but I can still outperform him. Let's see how he handles…this. The 'ogre' is my specialty, immune to any type of energy blast and ten times my normal strength.

Now he's backing away. He'd never have made it through Wolf Den if Darkstar hadn't covered for him, and even she knows better now.

The coward just leapfrogs over me. He's nothing but a cockroach: it keeps moving even after you've stomped on it, but I know how to exterminate vermin for good.

We both grab rifles. He's rolling over the ground while I keep standing. Can't take a little gunfire, Runt? The salvo of shots is soothing to my ears. He'll wish for the cryocrypt when I'm done with him. I'll walk all over him. He may shoot faster, but I can take more hits in the long run.

"What?"

As I pull the trigger, nothing comes. The gun is empty again.

"Out of tricks?"

He's taunting me. He's always been slick with words. He may be able to jump an obstacle course with live ammo battle droids and make smart remarks that the droids need a tune-up, but that's not what counts on a real battle field. What counts in the end is who walks away alive.

"What about this?"

The damned weapon has run out of ammo again. The witch is playing tricks on us. But the rifle has a blade. Let's settle this the good old-fashioned way. It's faster, bloodier, and more painful.

"You're finished."

I lunge at him, but he evades my moves, refusing to engage me.

"Stand still."

We cross bars.

"Fighting you is like standing still."

He tries to let my rifle slip past his and side step me, but I counter by moving slightly back and pressing in on him again.

Still the ballerina. It won't help him. I spit poison at him.

He hits me with the rifle's butt and doesn't even flinch at the poison.

His bio-defenses must be better than he let on earlier. Cheating liar. That's how he got Walsh and Negata to like him, holding back until he could take over the mission and make everyone but himself look stupid.

"You were always a loser."

He's a trickster, but he's always been too weak, too soft-hearted. He could never finish a kill. Rage flares up inside me. I'll finish him. I slash at him, but he parries.

Something I can't read flickers in his eyes, and just as I prepare for the final blow, a determined look comes over his face. Suddenly my rifle is gone, and his blade is at my throat.

"It doesn't have to end like this. We can help you."

I hate him. I'm looking him straight in the eyes. I see anger – and pity?

There's one thing I'll never do, and it's accept mercy from Gooseman.

We should have been officers. They hunted us like rabid foxes instead, but I showed them what I'm made of. None of the hunters, not one from all the squads they sent, lived to tell the tale. I won't die wearing a leash.

"And be like you? A slave?"

He hesitates but not enough for me to break free. So this is how it ends. I won't show fear. Killing me once won't be enough. He'll have to counter every regeneration of my healing factor. He won't do it.

"This has gone far enough."

The Queen calls it off. I should have seen that coming; she's as much of a liar as everyone else in power I have ever known.

"We had a bargain," the Ranger Captain protests. Only humans make bargains. They are for weaklings.

Her mental lash shoves me against the wall. Gooseman doesn't react. The harsh texture of the wall slides against my fingers, and I push myself off.

I'm free again. Gooseman will pay.

--

Queenie underestimated the human psychic, but that's her problem, not mine. My head is aching from the psychic collision, and I know that psychic pain is something my bio-defenses don't cover.

I give the brunette woman a wide berth. Maybe Shimmerer will want to play with her. It's Gooseman whom I seek anyway.

My vision is blurry, but I can still see him. I'll always see red when I see him.

"We know you're coming after us, and I'll be waiting for you."

I'll retreat – for now. I underestimated him, but that won't happen again.

"Killbane – when you see the others, warn them. I'm not a Supertrooper anymore. And I'll never again be a Supertrooper."

"You're not human. You're not a Supertrooper. Just what are you, Gooseman?"

He's throwing away the one thing he's been proud of, to fight me for who is the best among the Supertroopers? What kind of fool is he?

"I'm a Galaxy Ranger. Make sure you don't forget that."