Sitting Duck

This story takes place in an alternative time-line, which is a nice way of saying it's not part of the story arch, it will never happen, but its fun to contempate. There are some very special guests in this story, and as I said... in the story reality it would never happen... but hey... this is fiction. And this is just for fun!


*** *** ***

It had been a wonderful meal, Duck had to admit. The only thing missing was Whisper. He’d promised that he’d try and meet them, but no one really expected him to show. Too much had happened to him– between them for him to easily let go. Still she understood, there are some things you never get over.

Bear and Tracker exchanged looks and smiled. Sometimes Duck was just too transparent. All too often she’d opt to be flip or irreverent, but they knew all too well that she cared a great deal about her friends, especially the blatantly missing combat mage.

“He knows,” Rabbit told her gently as he caught her stray thoughts. “He knows you don’t blame him...”

Duck nodded and gave Rabbit’s arm a gently squeeze. “Some times...”

Rabbit nodded. Of the four of them, he knew far more about the demons that haunt your memories and what they can do to you.

Still, the trip to Seattle seemed to be doing all of them some good. For once they weren’t ‘on assignment.’ They were merely four friends in town for the opening of ‘The Playful Dragon - Seattle.’

Duck nodded and tried to make the best of it.

*** *** ***

Harris leaned back in the passenger seat as he waited for the transmission to finish. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he waited, waited and smiled to himself. He was close and he knew it.

He’d been on Ramon’s trail for six months, even since he had dropped off the face of the earth. But a man like Ramon Juarez couldn’t just vanish and not have people come looking for him. Especially not someone like Harris.

Ramon had insulted his family– stolen from them and then used their own money to finance his ‘rebirth.’

This did not sit well with the members of his house and honor demanded that Ramon pay– in a very public and unpleasant way. Such is the end of traitors.

He smiled with anticipation as a single tone announced the arrival of the long awaited file. There were two names in the file and as he read through the listing he selected his most likely target, an all too perfect young ‘fixer’ going by the name 'Gabriel.'

The profile matched Ramon’s tastes: young, handsome -- the boyish looks that women just seem to die for– the other profile was flat, no flash, no style. Harris smiled and gave his team the go ahead. They knew where the young fixer was and there was no time like the present for revenge. If he was wrong– it was the risk of doing business and of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

*** *** ***

Gabriel smiled as his friends enjoyed their appetizers. It felt odd and yet so right to be here with them.

‘Friends’ he thought to himself with a slight smile.

He hadn’t really thought about it much lately, but when he first took on the role of fixer he’d just wanted to meet people, and meet then he had. The parties had been fun but he’d gained something far more important in his tenure as 'Gabriel the fixer'– and that was the friendship of the three dining with him now, his friends.

Sure there were people who called him friend; people who vied for his attention and slipped him key cards and propositions, but they weren’t his friends.

Friends like Kestrel, Ocelot and Winterhawk were few and far between. They’d done so much for him in such a short amount of time and knew more about him than most people could imagine.

It did his heart good to hear the light hearted banter as his friends relaxed. It was good to see them laughing... especially Kestrel.

*** *** ***

Harris watched from the control center as his men moved into position. Everything was going perfectly. He looked at Kinkaid as he stared blankly at the screen in front of him. Only his eye movements betrayed the fact that he was working hard to earn his pay.

Harris’ gaze slipped to the monitor on Kinkaid’s deck. The security system was theirs. He smiled and signaled the others, it was time to begin.

*** *** ***

Duck tensed as the men began scanning the area. She could feel Bear place a hand on her shoulder, its message clear. ‘Now is not the time.’ So she watched, trying her best to look less like she was sizing them up. Whoever they were, they weren’t looking for her or the others.

She counted fifteen of them in the main dining room. Their armament was impressive and she could tell they had experience working together. She also knew that these men were just the soldiers. Whoever was calling the shots hadn’t arrived yet. She looked at Tracker, who gave a barely perceivable nod. Rabbit for his part was trying to keep himself occupied. She somehow knew he’d heard the take over team’s thoughts and they weren’t pleasant.

“The area is secured,” one of the men announced into his radio.

They had done it without firing a shot. They not only knew the full layout of the restaurant, they also knew exactly how many people were in there and exactly where to find the object of their search: a well dressed young man and his companions. Oddly enough, none of them really seemed surprised.

Duck tensed as a busboy picked the wrong moment to come through the doors. The man guarding the door took him down with one shot. Then the panic started. Patrons that hadn’t noticed the take over were now screaming and trying to move out of the way. Duck felt herself thrust under the table as Bear threw himself over her.

The stampeded was stopped by a spray of automatic fire into the ceiling. “Nobody move and nobody gets hurt,” the shooter announced. Duck gave Bear a sour look as he helped her back into her seat.

“Sorry dear,” he told her gently. He refrained from saying more, knowing it would only earn him another glare.

They watched as the men began herding the restaurant’s customer’s towards the banquet room. Then they signaled her and the others to follow along. Duck pushed her stomach out further and made it look like she was much further along than she was. Adding to the effect she struggled to hoist herself out of the chair, making the effort of getting out of the chair look that much more difficult.

“Please,” Bear stated evenly, picking up on Ducks ‘delicate condition ploy, he slipped into the roll of worried husband. “My wife...” She caught the slight catch in his voice that meant he wasn’t entirely playing. He was worried.

“Yeah, yeah,” the man growled. “Don’t try nuthin’ and she’ll be fine.”

“Easy,” Bear urged as he helped Duck stand. He winced as he saw the look on her face, he wasn’t sure why, but somehow he began to pity the man. As they moved towards the banquet hall, they noticed that two of the men were patting down the patrons as they passed into the room.

“Terrific,” Tracker sub-vocalized.

“No worries,” Duck replied. “Just take your cues from me boys.”

As they neared the men, Duck doubled over in pain, and began breathing in panic laden gulps.

“No,” Bear gasped as he half supported her. “Not now, not now...” he all but wailed in a very non-Bear-like panicked voice. “Try and keep it in.”

That earned another glare from Duck as he all but carried her into the room. The men let him pass and Tracker and Rabbit for their part surrendered their pistols quietly. Then they joined Bear and Duck as Bear set Duck down on an overstuffed couch. “Blankets,” he called pleadingly as Tracker and Rabbit scurried around getting table cloths. As Bear positioned them around Duck he also removed his collection of handguns, tucking them underneath her.

As things settled down, the two men at the door signaled him to come over. Playing their parts to the hilt, Tracker assured Bear that he had everything under control, only then did Bear submit to the search.

One of the men followed him back to Duck. “I’m sorry Ma’am, but I’m going to have to search you.”

“Look at me,” Duck growled. “Do you think I’ve hidden a gun... in ... my....” she stopped as another ‘contraction’ hit. “Get me to a doctor!” she demanded as grabbed the man by his harness and pulled him close. When the ‘pain’ subsided, she let go and looked at him pleadingly.

The man backed away in a hurry. ‘Sucker,’ Duck thought with a smile.

They continued to ‘comfort’ Duck as the rest of the patrons were brought into the room. The last three ushered into the room were the man in the white suit’s dining companions. She noticed how the men paid special attention to them-- two men and a woman. They were carefully searched for weapons as two men kept them in a crossfire and the others kept their guns aimed at the people in the Banquet hall.

She also noticed how the older of the two men had stepped to the side when they were finished frisking him and watched intently as they searched his friends. The man patting them down for his part seemed to miss some of the more obvious weapons.

‘Cute trick,’ she thought to herself as the older man continued to watch.

Still, they confiscated a rather impressive armory for three people. She began to wonder exactly what they were in for. When the doors were finally closed, Duck noticed that everybody who’d been in the Dining room with them, with the exception of the young man that had been the focus of the take over.

*** *** ***

Ocelot stiffened as the men slowly slipped into position. “Heads up,” he warned the others. He wondered if anybody else in the room had noticed the take over team.

“I see them,” Kestrel confirmed as she slipped her gun out and placed it on her lap.

“Not the sort of place I’d expect some one to rob,” Winterhawk commented.

“This is no hold-up,” Ocelot answered. “They want somebody, and they’re willing to take them in a place this public. That makes them very dangerous.”

It didn’t help that the lead pair of men stopped at their table and looked at Gabriel. “We have him,” the man radioed to someone outside the room.

The comment didn’t make anybody at the table very happy. As the two kept their guns trained on the others, Gabriel smiled to himself. Without making any moves, he started to reach out mentally towards the two men when gunfire erupted: first one shot, then screaming, then a steady burst of automatic fire. The screaming stopped.

Ocelot scanned the faces of his friends and nodded. They would play along for now.

*** *** ***

“I count 15,” Duck stated as the attackers closed the door behind the man’s companions.

“Same,” Tracker confirmed, as he looked around. “Duck, you up to checking things out?”

Duck let out a snort as she activated the link-up in her head. This was not an exercise, and every advantage they could get was well worth taking. Bear for his part continued fussing, playing the part of the worried if ineffectual husband.

Duck activated the hardware in her head, allowing the system to integrate with the machine. She was decking naked in one of the worst possible environments, but it had to be done. They had to know who and what they were up against and what they wanted. As she completed her link into the matrix via an overhead satellite she could feel the wrongness in the system around her. They had somebody in the system, watching over them, watching over the main dining room.

That would explain how they’d known where everybody was. It also meant she had to be very careful, if he found her here that would be it. She checked the video feeds as they came off the cameras. There were three doors to the banquet room, two men on each door. She counted ten in the main room. The original fifteen plus one. Another three on the elevator, two more on each set of stairs, bringing the total to twenty two, plus whoever was in the system.

Now she at least had a tentative headcount. That left motive, and that seemed to center on the young man in the white suit. As she watched, the extra man signaled for a piece of equipment. Duck recognized it as an extractor. It was designed to take a simple tissue sample. It was a common enough tool among organ legers. But Duck got the feeling their plans were much more sinister.

Once again in the main system, she took control of the cameras in the banquet hall, feeding them in and then programming a loop. Praying it would give them a few extra minutes, she prepared to exit the system. Then she noticed the activity in the hallway. Out of sight of their guest, a team of 4 was placing explosives along the wall. No, things did not look good at all.

She made one last sweep through the security systems, then checked the banquet hall. It was unnerving, seeing her motionless shell laying there, with Bear, Tracker and Rabbit watching over her. She was about to break connection, she noticed the young man’s friends. They seemed to be discussing something between themselves, but the looks the older looking of the two men kept giving Bear and the others gave her the impression that they were discussing their options. From the looks of things they’d pegged her friends for what they were. She watched as he walked over to Bear and knelt down next to the couch.

“Is this as bad as it looks,” he asked cooly.

As she broke her connection, she became aware of a strange voice talking to Bear and the others. She forced herself to remain calm, then relaxed as his words finally started making sense. The shift from matrix to normal was always harder when she decked naked.

Bear was looking at the man, trying to figure out exactly how much the man had figured out.

Duck looked at her watch and took a deep breath. “Danny, we got less than an hour,” she stated.

“Is that how far apart your contractions are?” Rabbit asked excitedly.

“Nah,” Duck answered as she sat up. “That’s when the sitter starts charging us by the minute. Geez Rabbit, I’m still in my second Trimester.. these things take time.”

“It never took mom that long,” he interjected.

“Your mom adopted...” Duck countered. “Seriously we need to move and soon.”

Rabbit gave her a sidelong glance as her expression shifted into one that indicated she meant business. There was no time to get a feel for the man’s friends. That only left playing it straight.

“They’re taking a tissue sample on your friend,” she told the man as she looked around. “And they’ve got a team placing explosives in the hallway... not a good night to be out.”

The man’s eyes narrowed as he studied her for a minute, then he looked at the others. “I take it you’ve been in this sort of ‘situation’ before?” he asked. His tone and words were neutral.

Rabbit merely smiled at him then looked back to Duck. “Yeah,” Tracker admitted.

“But usually we’re briefed before hand,” Bear added.

“Well, then lets go over what we’ve got,” Duck countered. “They’ve got two on each door, three on the elevator, four in the hall, ten in the main dining room. Two on each set of stairs, and at least one decked into the security system.”

The man gave a worried glance around the room, indicating the cameras there.

Duck nodded. “Oh yeah, that. Five minutes into the season and they’re already in repeats.” she told him. “I’ve looped the surveillance tape. It’ll buy us a few minutes, not much more. No matter what, they aren’t going to let these people walk.”

The man looked at the doors, towards his friend then back at Duck and the others. “We have to help our friend,” he stated. “Can you deal with getting these people out of here?”

Duck gave him a sly smile and nodded. “Bear? Rabbit?”

“What about you and Tracker?” Bear countered.

Duck looked at Tracker who merely nodded. “Somebody’s going to have to run interference with the security system,” she answered.

“Doctors said you’re supposed to take it easy,” Bear reminded her.

“Yeah, but consider my usual level of ‘activity’,” she countered. “Decking is fine, its the decking while suspended 50 stories by a guy-wire that I need to cut down on.”

He looked at her and shook his head, then looked at Rabbit and shrugged. “Lady’s got a point,” he stated.

“You guys manage to slip anything through?” Duck asked the man.

“Not bloody much,” he told her with a sigh. “You?”

Duck moved off the couch to reveal the cache of weapons they’d managed to keep. Three Predators, a sub-machine gun, two ‘hold outs’ three concussion grenades and a small collection of rocks.

“That’s it?” Tracker asked in mock disgust. “No real explosives? Geez, you two were going to a restaurant for dinner.”

“Well we were going to bring more,” Duck countered innocently.

“But we had to leave some for the baby sitter,” Bear added with a smile.

“Just in case,” Duck finished batting her eyes.

The man smiled, realizing that in spite of their joking, they were serious professionals. “Seven to twenty six,” he stated as he let his breath out.

“Plus your friend,” Duck added.

“Plus Gabriel.”

*** *** ***

Gabriel tried to maintain an air of concern as the men studied the results of their tissue sample. They had controlled the area well enough. The whole thing had been planned that much was obvious, but he also knew they didn’t really know who they had.

They said they were looking for a man who had disappeared about the same time he’d made his appearance on the Seattle scene. He knew from the way these people had taken over the restaurant that they weren’t concerned about stealth, more to the point, they wanted to make a statement with the takeover, and that made them dangerous.

For now he would play his cards carefully. He smiled as the man with the sample machine banged his hand against it. “Worthless piece of...” the man trailed off.

“You know, you could save us a lot of time if you just admitted to us who you are,” their leader told him.

“If I knew what you were talking about, I’m sure we could work something out,” Gabriel offered. Carefully offering the man no useful information.

The man glared at him a minute and drew his hand back as if to hit him. Gabriel merely looked at the man. The man shook with rage then turned away.

“Fix the damn thing,” the man growled, then pushed himself away from the table and Gabriel.

As another man began working on the machine, Gabriel thought back to the hostages. Most of them seemed barely alive, at least in comparison to his friends.

Kestrel, Ocelot and ‘Hawk, he had never met three more different people, and yet, there was a vitality that they shared. He realized that they knew better than most the value of the gift they had.

The other patrons seemed to lack that vitality. He hadn’t really noticed until they men started herding them into the next room. Most of them were scared, but they had little else in their carriage. Then there was the group of four. If his attackers had known what to look for, Gabriel knew they’d have searched them at least as well as they had searched Kestrel and the others.

He smiled as he thought about those four. They were not as ‘dead’ as the others, although they pretended to be. He could feel their concern as the woman in their group doubled over as if in pain, but he also noticed how quickly the concern was replaced with an almost mischievous air when they recognized her ruse. No these people were like his friends, alive in every sense of the word.

He hoped they would be able to get the hostages out safely. From the amount of explosives he could smell from the hallway they were going to have their hands full.

*** *** ***

Duck looked around the room and then to the man’s companions. She nodded as if she had made a decision. “I’m Duck,” she stated introducing herself. “That’s Bear, Rabbit and Tracker.” she added as she nodded towards each one.

“I’m Winterhawk,” the man stated introducing himself. “My friends are Kestrel and Ocelot.”

Duck looked at Tracker for a minute and gave him a barely perceivable smile. “Okay then,” she stated with a nod. “Bear, you’re in charge of getting the hostages out, what do you need?”

Bear looked around as he tried to think. “I’ll need a distraction,” he commented evenly. “The hardest part is going to be rounding these people up and getting them to follow me. If you’re keeping the computers busy and maybe using them to our advantage I’d say we should be able to pull it off.”

Duck nodded, then turned towards Winterhawk. “The rescue of your friend we leave up to you, once the hostages are clear, we’ll give you what cover we can. I’ll be running interference in the computer system, Tracker will be covering me. I’ll do what I can to help you and yours, but the hostages come first,” her tone was even and calm.

Again Winterhawk nodded. “Do you have any idea what they’re doing?” he asked.

Duck shook her head. “They want something,” she answered. “And I’ll be damned if I know what it is, but as much explosives as they’re laying out there, I think the point is pretty moot from our end.”

As she waited for his response, Duck saw the questioning look in his eyes as something behind her caught his interest.

As she turned she could see Bear’s distraction forming in front of him. There was the faintest hint of smoke as she appeared. As always, she faced him and seemed to ignore everybody else. Duck felt of twinge of something, but ignored it. This was about survival. At least this time she’d materialized with something akin to cloths on.

Please tell your woman I mean no...disrespect... Duck shook her head as ‘Marlena’ turned towards her. Please do not be offended...

Duck nodded as Marlena turned back towards Bear. ‘I’m never going to get used to those eyes,’ she swore to herself. No matter how ‘normal’ Marlena made herself appear, there was no way of hiding what she was when you looked into her eyes. Two dark pools of obsidian, with a wild flicker of a flame where the iris should be.

Why do you call on us?

Duck scanned the room again as Bear explained their predicament to Marlena. As Bear had pointed out, the hardest part was going to get the others to follow him. She also noticed that they were going to have to do it soon. Some of the patrons were beginning to shuffle around amongst the others.

Winterhawk raised an eyebrow at Marlena as she nodded, then vanished from sight. ‘Not another one,’ Duck muttered to herself.

*** *** ***

As Bear circled the room he noticed another man doing the same thing. As he approached the man, Bear listened. The man was trying to talk people into helping him take out the terrorists.

“Son,” Bear called to him. “There’s no way you or any of these people are going to take on these folks. The key here is to get these people out.”

The man turned and gave him a cool look. “Look, I’m sure you have the best intentions,” the man told him. “But you’d be better off looking after your wife and leave this to people who are equipped to deal with it.”

Bear looked at the man and shook his head. “Come again son?” Bear asked, unsure what to make of the man’s comment.

“If you don’t have the stomach for this, then let the real men fight for you. Like your kind always does.”

“My ‘kind?’ What exactly is ‘My Kind’?” Bear asked incredulously.

“Look, you’re a civilian, I don’t expect you to understand.”

Bear lowered his head and let out a low chuckle. “Ah junior, if you only knew,” he sighed, then reached out and grabbed the man’s throat. “Now Mr. Junior G.I. You don’t go out taking on 23 or more of anything, let alone a trained military attack force with a hold out pistol. Our first goal is to secure the hostages, then we can worry about the ‘terrorists.’ Got that?”

As the man nodded Bear let go and waited for him to make the next move. When he chose, Bear merely shook his head. “Cub, ya got a lot to learn,” he stated as the man pointed his gun at Bear’s chest.

As the man held his gun on Bear trying to figure out what to do next, Rabbit moved in behind him and cocked his gun. “Mine’s bigger,” Rabbit told him in a very cold tone. “And if you’re smart, you’ll listen to this particular bunch of ‘Civilians,’” he added as he relieved the man of his gun.

“So they put ringers in with the hostages,” the man growled.

“No, they made the same mistake you made,” Rabbit answered. “Never judge a book by its cover!”

“Next you’ll tell me that your wife’s a SEAL or something,” he muttered.

“Na,” Bear answered. “That’s the other guy. She’s just SpecOps...”

The man turned as Duck holstered her Predator II and prepared to jack into the security system again.

“You aren’t kidding are you?” he asked stiffly.

“No son, I’m not kidding,” Bear answered. “And I wasn’t kidding when I said there were 23 or more of them. We have to get these people out of here. Now, are you with us?”

The man paused for a minute, then nodded.

“See kid,” Rabbit told the man as he handed him back his gun. “You’re learning...”

*** *** ***

Duck took a deep breath as she holstered her Predator II and looked at the others. Winterhawk and his friends were discussing their plan of attack amongst themselves when Tracker gave her the all clear.

As she lay back on the couch she looked at the others and shrugged. “Here goes nothing,” she muttered as she activated the device.

Tracker watched long enough to make sure she was alright, then turned to the others. “She’ll try and let us know what’s going on through morse code,” he explained to them as he pointed to the motion detectors. “When she’s got a clear track, Bear and Rabbit will lead the others out. From there one of two things will happen, they’ll get trapped, in which case, that’s the signal for you to go, or they’ll get through in which case...”

“That’ll be our signal to go,” Ocelot stated with a nod. “Sounds simple enough.”

“That’s why it’s plan B,” Tracker answered.

“What about plan A?” Kestrel asked.

“It always falls through,” Tracker answered with a shrug. “So we just gave up on it.”

Ocelot looked at him and smiled. “I like the way you think,” he commented.

“Duck will run through security, try and take control without letting them know. She’ll keep an eye on the bad guys and let us know if they start anything. Once the hostages are clear, we are completely at your disposal.”

Winterhawk nodded. “From the sound of things you have your end pretty well covered.”

“That leaves us to work on ours,” Ocelot added.

Tracker nodded and left the trio to plan their attack.

*** *** ***

“What do you think?” Kestrel asked as she looked around.

“Difficult, but not impossible,” Winterhawk answered.

“Difficult, he says,” Ocelot muttered as he uncoiled his monowhip. “23 men with machine guns on the other side of the door; we’re counting rocks as weapons, and he only rates it ‘difficult.’”

Winterhawk gave him a dour look as he tried to prepare for the battle to come. “Remember,” he stated. “We do have Gabriel on our side.”

“What do they want with him anyway?” Kestrel asked as she checked her blades.

“The...Duck, says that they’re trying to take a tissue sample,” Winterhawk answered. A concerned look crossed his face as he thought about the implications.

“But if they get it...” Kestrel started then stopped. She knew Gabriel could handle them if need be, but with the hostages he was forced to play a waiting game, depending on them to handle the situation accordingly.

*** *** ***

Duck scanned the systems as she prepared to take over. She didn’t want any more surprises than the ones she’d already gotten. As she sifted through the information, she picked up a signal from the motion detectors near the banquet hall. Activating the feeds from the main dining room, she quickly got the answer. It wasn’t good.

The leader of the take-over team was leaning over the man in the white suit, Gabriel. She could see the man pull back as if to strike Winterhawk’s friend, but instead, he signaled his men. Three of them turned and headed for the door of the banquet room.

Their leader was yelling at Gabriel, and obviously getting frustrated with the lack of response.

‘Incoming!’ she sent through the motion detector. ‘Incoming.’

She quickly broke into the video feeds and edited the tapes back to real-time play. She had just enough time to signal ‘live feed,’ before she exited the system.

*** *** ***

Tracker gasped as the signal came through. “Trouble,” he called over the comm-link. “Incoming,” he announced verbally to Winterhawk and his friends. As the last part of Duck’s message came through Tracker nodded towards the cameras then, knelt back down along side Duck. Bear barely made it back before the doors opened.

Two of the take over team stood in the doorway aiming their guns at their captives while the third strode into the room and started looking around. “You,” he declared roughly as he pointed towards Kestrel then jerked his thumb towards the door.

Ocelot tensed as Kestrel looked at him and gave a barely perceivable nod. He could tell she was up to something, but he wasn’t sure what. He closed his eyes briefly, let his breath out, then nodded. Then Winterhawk caught his attention as he nodded towards the man as he moved in on Duck and the others.

The man moved towards the couch and roughly jerked Duck to a sitting position. “And you, he snarled.

Bear responded without thinking, only to meet with the barrel of the man’s rifle. “You just stay right there chief,” the man told him as his finger tightened on the trigger ever so slightly. “Boss just wants a word with your lady friend.”

Bear was seething as Tracker and Rabbit all but sat on him. Tracker gave Duck a worried look as the men herded her out of the room with Kestrel. He winced when he saw the look in her eyes. Those three men were walking dead, they just didn’t know it yet.

When the door was once again locked, Bear stopped fighting them and let out a low rumbling growl.

“Bear?” Rabbit asked worriedly.

“If they’re lucky, Duck’ll get to them before I do,” he stated as he forced himself to calm down. Once he had, he nodded. “You can get off me now.”

“Good,” Rabbit said. “Cause I didn’t want to have to have you hurt me.”

Bear snorted, then looked at the others. “You know this changes everything.”

“Not really,” Tracker responded. “Just the location of the players.”

He locked eyes with Bear until he nodded in agreement. Then he looked at Winterhawk. Things were getting more complicated by the moment.

*** *** ***

Ocelot watched grimly as their captors roughly grabbed the woman and yanked her to her feet. He could see the glare her team gave the man. From the looks of things Bear would have torn the first man to shreds and been working on the others before he’d even notice that the he’d been shot. He was controlling himself, but it was obviously an effort.

It was also obvious that her friends trusted her to take care of herself, just like he knew Kestrel would take care of herself and everyone else. Still, he was getting tired of playing this waiting game.

He looked at Winterhawk and realized he was helping as best he could under the circumstances. Following his gaze he realized 'Hawk was concentrating on the man’s rifle. He watched tensely as the situation defused and the man finally took his finger off the trigger. Winterhawk let out his breath sharply and wavered slightly on his feet. He looked over long enough to make sure he was all right, then concentrated once more on the woman’s friends.

When the three left with Kestrel and Duck, Ocelot turned his attention back to Bear. As he watched the man calmed down enough that the others let him go. Then he began pacing like a caged animal. As Ocelot watched, he realized the purpose to the pacing: the security cameras were still rolling.

It was almost five minutes later when Tracker stood up and signaled Bear. “We’re off the air,” he stated, then walked over towards them.

Ocelot gave the camera’s a worried look, then realized that they had stopped moving. He looked at Winterhawk, almost expecting him to have stopped them, but he merely shook his head and nodded towards Tracker.

“Camera’s are looping again,” Tracker told them.

“I thought you needed a physical connection to do something like that,” Ocelot objected, suddenly more tense over the whole situation. Something wasn’t right.

“You do,” Tracker answered evenly.

“But I didn’t see any...”

“Nothing to see,” Rabbit told him as he all but teleported between him and Tracker. His eyes were wide giving the impression of ‘nobody home.’

“I thought...” Ocelot started.

“Nothing to think about...” Rabbit told him as he moved his head, but kept his eyes fixed on Ocelot. He seemed totally unfazed by the angry gleam that flickered in the man’s eyes.

“Get out of my face,” Ocelot snarled as he pushed Rabbit away from him.

Rabbit was already moving back into position when Tracker intervened.

“Rabbit,” Tracker called. “Give it a rest.”

“Fine,” Rabbit stated with a shrug as he relaxed his eyes and moved back towards Tracker. “I liked my explanation better. ‘Side’s he’s still trying to figure out our angle.”

Ocelot did not like the feeling he was getting, but even as he tried to figure out what was setting him more on edge then usual, Winterhawk spoke up.

“How does this effect your plans with the evacuation?” he asked.

“We move to plan C,” Tracker told him.

“Which is...” ‘Hawk prompted.

“Hell if I know,” Tracker answered as he looked around. “I was just getting used to ‘B’ and they pull this on me.”

Ocelot was beginning to wonder if he really wanted to know what plan ‘C’ was, when Tracker shrugged and spoke up again.

“Looks like I don’t have to watch over Duck,” he stated. “So I guess I’m at your disposal.”

Ocelot nodded as ‘Hawk sat down at a nearby table and leaned up against the back wall. He smiled to himself. This was more to his liking. “We’ll get back to you on that,” he stated as he scanned the room again.

*** *** ***

‘Hawk’s head lolled forward as he shifted his attention to the astral. He was suddenly more aware of Bear and the oddness of his aura. He could also sense the fire elemental as it moved around the floor, waiting for Bear’s signal.

Once he had a feel for the area, he moved back to the main dining area. He couldn’t feel Gabriel, but that was no surprise. After a cursory check for any magically active people in the next room turned up negative, he began noting the enemy’s positions and levels of awareness.

He was not entirely surprised to note that on the whole, the men guarding the hallways were very alert. Judging by the way they handled themselves, they were all well trained and used to working as a team. That made them more dangerous yet at the same time, more predictable.

His next concern was the explosives Tracker had mentioned. Stretching out his senses he could feel the concentration of the people planting them. They were leaving nothing to chance, and yet he could almost feel a change in their focus every now and then.

He made a note to check into it later, but for right now, it didn’t matter in what they were doing. His head count matched the one Duck had given, but now he had a better feel for them and their locations.

*** *** ***

Kestrel scanned the area as she was ushered back to the table where she had been dining with Gabriel and the others. Each of the other members of the invasion team seemed to be concentrating whole heartedly on their assigned task. She couldn’t tell if it was devotion to duty or a distinct desire to not be involved in what was about to happen.

Whatever their leader was planning on doing, she knew it wasn’t pleasant. As they arrived, the first guard tried to shove her towards Gabriel. She turned and glared at him as the second guard pulled the same trick on Duck.

Almost immediately she could tell Duck had overcompensated for the force. As Duck started to fall Kestrel turned and caught her. She could feel Duck tense. She could also tell from the woman’s expression that it took everything she had to keep from striking back.

Kestrel glowered at the man as she helped Duck regain her balance.

“Swinia!” Duck muttered under her breath. Kestrel wasn’t sure what exactly Duck had called the man, but she had a pretty good idea from the tone in her voice.

Gabriel started to stand, but the man standing over him put a restraining hand on his shoulder. Gabriel was oblivious to the man’s efforts, but then he saw something that made him relax and sit back down.

“Ah ladies, so nice of you to join us,” the man stated as he pulled out two chairs. “Won’t you have a seat?”

Kestrel looked at Gabriel for a moment, waiting for some sort of sign. She sat when he gave a barely perceivable nod. Duck, for her part staggered slightly against the man as she lowered herself gently into the other chair.

“What do you want?” Kestrel asked, her tone sounding more exasperated than concerned.

“I was hoping you could talk some sense into your friend here,” the man answered. “You see, he’s not talking to us.”

Kestrel shook her head as she looked at the man for a minute. “I can’t see why not,” she countered sarcastically as she looked pointedly around the room.

The man moved so that he was standing between Duck and Kestrel then faced Kestrel. “I was really hoping you’d co-operate,” he told her as he looked back at Gabriel, “but some how, I figured you’d be as co-operative as he’s been.”

He moved away from her and stood behind Duck. “That’s why I wanted this young lady along.” He grabbed Duck by the hair and pulled her head back. “You see, I want you to re-think your position.”

Kestrel forced herself to do nothing more than glare at him as she noticed Duck reaching back and dropping something into the man’s pocket.

As quickly as he’d grabbed Duck he let go. “I’ll give you a little time to rethink your position,” he told them, then strode off.

“Dupek!” Duck muttered as the man walked away.

Kestrel looked at her and could see the barely suppressed smirk on Duck’s face “What did you do?” she asked.

Gabriel chuckled.

*** *** ***

Whisper looked at his watch as he hailed a cab. If he was lucky, he’d still be able to catch Duck and Tracker at the restaurant. He’d been out when they left the message, and now it looked like he was going to miss them entirely.

He was in luck, a cab pulled over and he was on his way. As he looked out across the Seattle skyline he once again wished he was back in Memphis, but the city wasn’t home any more. More to the point, it was home to a lot of memories he was better off without.

It would be nice to see the gang socially for a change. He tried to remember the last time he’d seen them without any gunplay and found he couldn’t.

‘Who are you kidding?” he asked himself. ‘With Bear and Duck in the same room, gunplay somehow always figures into the picture.’

*** *** ***

“What did you slip into his pocket?” Kestrel asked, keeping her voice low enough that nobody else could hear.

“I, am more interested in what you removed from his pocket when you sat down,” Gabriel added with a slight nod.

“You caught that?” Duck smiled innocently at Gabriel and offered him her hand. “I guess I’m losing my touch. That was the tissue sample,” she told him.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow at the comment. He was surprised, not that she had taken the sample, but that she’d known about it in the first place.

“I’m Kaczka,” she introduced herself, using the polish word for Duck, since they had to call her something that didn’t sound like a handle.

Gabriel smiled as he took her hand. “I’m sure you are,” he commented as she slipped the vial into his hand. “I am Gabriel.”

“I think this is where I endear myself to you two so that when they threaten to do nasty things to me you’ll give them whatever they want,” she stated as she looked around. “Either that or they show you they’re not afraid to hurt some pregnant broad you don’t even know, so you can imagine what they’ll do to your friends...”

“I believe that is their plan,” Gabriel answered with a nod as he retracted his hand, and the sample Duck had palmed over to him. “The problem is, I’m not entirely sure what it is they want.”

Gabriel paused as he closed his hand around the vial and burned the contents with a thought. Kestrel ignored the burning smell and concentrated on Duck as she studied the walls for a minute, then smiled.

“As for what I slipped into his pocket,” Duck answered. “I gave him one of my earrings.”

Again Duck was suppressing a smirk. “They were a gift from a friend who likes to blow things up.”

Kestrel smiled. Things were definitely looking up.

“I’m going to need you two to cover for me long enough for me to get back into the system,” she added as she looked at both of them. She didn’t like using the ware in front of strangers, but something told her she could trust them, and if there was one thing Duck had learned in all her years, it was to trust those instincts. Usually when she got hurt, it was because she hadn’t listened.

Gabriel nodded then smiled at Kestrel. “I think we can do that.”

Duck smiled at them both. “Figured you could,” she answered as she began tightening her muscles. Once they were locked enough, she shifted her mind to the device and activated it. Something told her they were running out of time.

*** *** ***

Kestrel looked at Gabriel as he studied the woman for a minute then turned his focus back to the leader of the take over team.

“He seems to think I am someone other than who I am,” he told her. “They want something from this man, yet they are unwilling to hurt him.”

Kestrel nodded. “I noticed,” she told him with a hint of relief creeping into her voice. “What are you planning on doing?”

“They plan to kill everybody but this man,” Gabriel told her. “I know that much. I have stalled them, and I think I have been able to keep them from setting up the explosives, but we still need to get the hostages out of the building.”

“That may be taken care of,” Kestrel told him as Duck let out a small shudder and opened her eyes.

“Mission accomplished,” she told them, then stopped as she heard a voice in her mind.

‘Woman of our brother,’ the voice called.

‘Marlena?’ Duck asked in surprise. The elemental rarely talked to her.

‘Yes,’ Marlena answered then paused. ‘They will hurt you,’ she finally added

‘That’s their intent,’ Duck admitted.

‘This must not be!’ Marlena exclaimed. ‘The child must be protected!’

“We’re working on it,’ Duck thought with a shrug.

‘When the time comes, you must summon me,’ Marlena told her.

‘Fine, except I don’t have a magical bone in my body,’ Duck reminded her.

Say the words and I shall come,’ Marlena thought back, and this time Duck could hear the laughter in the ‘voice’. ‘I will protect you and the others from their bullets, and you will still be able to shoot them.’

‘Are you sure?’ Duck thought anxiously.

Woman,’ Marlena countered, with a slight hint of anger in her thoughts. ‘Do you think I would let anything happen to you?’

‘I wasn’t worried about me,’ Duck thought back, a slight hint of concern tinged her thoughts. ‘Won’t it hurt you?’

‘You are ... worried.. about me?’ Marlena asked in surprise, then answered softly, ‘I will be unharmed, Katya, Thank you.’

Gabriel listened to the exchange quietly. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the fire elemental watching over them. Waiting. He also realized that the elemental had not been summoned as much as ‘asked’ to be there.

This was going to be a very interesting evening indeed.

*** *** ***

The man sauntered back over to the table. Gabriel could feel the smugness in the man’s thoughts. Kestrel could see it in his walk. Duck heard it in his voice when he arrived.

“So, have you talked some sense into these people?” he asked Duck.

“I didn’t have to,” Duck told him as she turned and looked at him for a minute. “They were already doing the sensible thing.”

The man’s look shifted to one of anger. “What are you doing? Think about your child.”

“I have,” she stated.

“What would your child think? Sacrificing him for some ideal? Have you thought of the consequences to you and to him?”

“Actually yes,” Duck answered. “And my son will be very unhappy that his mother and future sibling were out having all this fun and he was stuck at home with a baby sitter.”

The man pointed his gun at her belly and growled. “I was talking about the unborn one! Tell them about the plans you have for it. The name, tell them what you plan on naming it.”

Duck shook her head. “We haven’t named it yet. Until it pops, its merely ‘the spud.’ Traditionally it doesn’t get a name till a month after its born.” Duck turned back around, once again muttering under her breath. “Isc sie pierdol....”

*** *** ***

Winterhawk had almost finished his scan when he noticed activity in the hallway. Several of the guards were suddenly gathered round the elevator. He reached into the elevator and realized the occupant was magically active, not only active, but activated.

He pulled back and realized things had changed. As his consciousness returned to his body and he became aware of his surroundings, he heard Tracker call to the others.

“God, I hope they don’t speak polish,” he commented as he exchanged looks with his friends.

“Won’t be long now,” Rabbit commented with a sigh as he and Bear moved everybody back to the back of the banquet hall.

“What?” Ocelot asked as he scanned the doors.

“Duck’s swearing in Polish,” Tracker told him. “That usually means she’s about to start shooting.”

“So are they,” Winterhawk told him. “Somebody’s coming up the elevator, and they’re about to open fire.”

There was a pause as Tracker realized who it had to be.

“Mage, rather high powered?” He asked worriedly, then swore when Winterhawk nodded. “Dammit, Whisper!

As Tracker tried desperately to contact Whisper over the comm-link, gunfire erupted in the other room.

*** *** ***

“Whisper!” Duck exclaimed, as she heard Tracker’s warning call and then the gunfire. Without thinking she pushed herself up, ramming the back of her head into the man’s throat and grabbing his gun arm. Reflexes took over as she kicked the chair out from behind her and knocking the wind out of him. As he fell, she turned to face him, drawing her gun in the process.

Duck snarled as she forced herself to concentrate on the living. There was nothing she could do for Whisper now, but there was plenty she could do to make sure it didn’t happen to anybody else. She recited the words Bear had always used to call on the spirits, this time calling on fire. She knew it was merely for show, but she followed through with it as requested. Suddenly fire sprung up between them and the take over team. Their leader managed to roll out of the way as the flames sprang up between him and his prey.

Kestrel was already providing covering fire as Duck finished ‘summoning’ Marlena. Once Duck finished, Gabriel moved back slightly and prepared to help out where he could.

“Go!” Duck called to Bear of the comm-link as she fired another shot. Kestrel was already concentrating on the guards at the middle door when the back door flew open and Rabbit jumped out firing. He took out the two men guarding his door, then concentrated on the ones on the middle door as Bear moved ahead to scout out the area.

Kestrel shot one of the men as he tried to get out of Rabbit’s line of fire. But the other one quickly ducked into an alcove that provided cover from Rabbit and Kestrel’s line of fire. They were able to keep him pinned down, but it was a standoff at best.

Kestrel could hear a low whistle from Bear as he signaled the hostages to follow him. As she watched, Rabbit took up a position in the middle of the hallway. He was providing cover with his own body to make sure the hostages were protected. She wasn’t sure if it was courage or insanity. Either way, she gave him what cover she could. The only problem was, bullets were at a premium.

As she watched, Tracker came out the back door and put a hand on Rabbit’s shoulder. There was no discussion as they seamlessly covered each other and switched positions. Watching them she realized they were too well trained to be anything other than what they were: military.

As she concentrated on covering the side of banquet room, Ocelot came crashing through the front door. Winterhawk emerged a beat later.

*** *** ***

Ocelot took stock of the situation as he provided cover fire for his and ‘Hawks’ advance. He caught the movement out of the corner of his eye as one of the take over team prepared to take down‘Hawk. He relaxed as the man fell to his knees clutching his ears.

‘Score one for our side,’ he thought to himself as he scanned the area and took stock of the enemy positions.

Things were moving fast as he noted that Kestrel and Gabriel, along with Duck, were surrounded by a ring of fire. He could hear a fight raging in the hallway, but there was nothing he could do about it from where he was. For now his concern was limited to the people inside the main dining room.

Ocelot snarled as he saw one of their opponents draw a bead on Kestrel. He fired reflexively at the man, then ducked behind a pillar for cover.

Automatic gunfire sprayed the area where he had been only seconds earlier. He took a deep and then moved further into the room, counting on his speed to surprise any would be attackers.

*** *** ***

Tracker moved slowly down the hall, all too aware of the man hunkered down in the back of the alcove. He could almost hear the man’s heart beat as he clutched his rifle to his chest.

‘Shouldn’t have come if you don’t like firefights,’ he thought as he moved forward. The man and his buddies had planned on killing everyone without a second thought. He had spent his entire career dealing with self appointed avenging forces and trained military forces. These were good at taking over and controlling the situation– but they were definitely not used to having people shoot back.

‘Got to learn sometime,’ he thought as a mirthless smile quirked in the corner of his mouth. He started running and then dove for the floor, allowing his momentum to carry him down the polished floor. He fired three shots into the alcove and came to rest on the far side of the inset. As the man’s gun clattered onto the floor Tracker fired three more shots into the alcove then picked up the gun.

“Should have stuck to something safer,” he told the still form as he checked for a pulse. Once he was sure the hallway was secured, he began sealing the side doors to the banquet hall. The last thing they needed was to leave a hole for the terrorists to exploit.

*** *** ***

Bear signaled the people behind him to wait, then moved ahead to make sure the way was clear. He had cleared the first landing and was nearing the second when he heard people moving up the stairs. He looked back up the stairs and signaled the others to fall back.

He could feel the upward motions cease as the others started moving back up the way they’d come.

He tensed, prepared for the attack that never came.

“This is the police,” a voice announced softly from around the corner.

“No offence sir,” Bear asked evenly as he moved forward, deciding to chance it. “Can you prove it.”

The lead member of the Lonestar SWAT team’s eyes widened as Bear rounded the corner, arms in the air. He stood and pointed towards his badge. Bear nodded.

“We have approximately 40-50 people coming down the stairs,” he said with a nod.

“You know we have to cuff everyone until this matter is sorted out,” the officer asked in an even voice.

“I know... but you’ll have to excuse me... members of my squad are still up there.” Bear’s voice was even, but his expression was one of concern.

The officer studied him for a moment. “Is there any way you can prove that?”

“No sir,” Bear answered evenly as the hostages started down the stairs. “But just the same... they’ve placed enough explosives to destroy the restaurant and possibly the floors below it, and my place is with my team.”

The officer remained still watching as the others filed past them. The last man came down and didn’t pass them.

“That’s all of them,” he informed Bear then started back up the stairs.

Bear nodded without taking his eyes off of the officer. “We’re going back up now,” he stated then turned and followed Rabbit. He could feel the gun that traced his movements and the hand that gently guided the gun back down until it was pointing at the floor.

Bear allowed himself a slightly relieved smile as he heard the officer order his men to secure the building. That left them to handle the terrorists.

*** *** ***

Gabriel smiled to himself as he heard the exchange on the stairs. The hostages were safe.

“Bear and Rabbit are coming back,” Duck stated as she tried to keep their opponents pinned down.

Gabriel could feel her relief and her anger. Stretching out his feelings he finally understood the source of her anger. Her friend, who had been on the elevator. She didn’t know he lived– that for some reason Gabriel couldn’t understand, he had traveled up the elevator with a bullet barrier spell locked firmly into place.

It was almost as if he had been expecting something.

As Gabriel watched Duck and her friends he thought about that, and the sayings such as “with friends like these...”

Looking at Duck he realized she was running on empty and still pushing. Despite and arguments or actions to the contrary– her mood was becoming dangerous. He understood fully her emotions– if anyone had hurt Kestrel, he would probably be in much the same state.

He forced himself to think of other things. Nothing would happen to Kestrel– not here, not under his protection. Perhaps... if he let Duck know that her friend was not only alive, but trouncing the men in the lobby...

*** *** ***

Whisper was pissed. If he had been anybody else, or if he’d been coming to see anybody else... there wouldn’t have been enough of him to identify as human let alone let anyone know who to notify.

Whatever Duck and Bear had landed in, he hoped they were holding their own. As he started working on his attackers, four of them– he could hear the firefight in the dining area.

He shook his head, knowing that Duck and Bear and the others were somehow in the middle of whatever was happening in the next room, but he still had... pests to deal with. Sometimes he wished he was like Duck and Bear, always armed, always armored.

As one of the shooters popped up to snipe at him, Whisper launched a spell to take him out. As the man clutched his chest and screamed, Whisper smiled.

Technically, with magic, he was always armed.

For a while it became as stand off. He’d realized early on in this fight that he needed to hit his attackers individually. He’d seen the explosives that they’d lined along the wall. ‘Overkill,’ was an understatement.

*** *** ***

Bear and Rabbit froze as they heard people rushing down the stairs towards them. As Bear strained his hearing he could hear their breathing, feel his own heartbeat as it raced in staccato to the footsteps as the continued to draw closer and stopped.

He turned to Rabbit, to say something and noticed the far away look in Rabbit’s eyes. He knew that Rabbit was with them... reading their thoughts, feeling their emotions.

“They’re the roaches in the woodwork. They were with the decker who took over security. They’re heading for our people.”

Bear nodded and activated the radio. “Tracker, three coming in the back way,” he warned then started moving again.

Rabbit pushed off the wall and was right behind him.

*** *** ***

“Duck, we need cover fire.” Tracker radioed over the comm-line.

Duck nodded then quickly informed Gabriel and Kestrel what was happening.

“We’ve got trouble coming in from upstairs. Bear and Rabbit’ll be behind them, but Tracker’s going to have to concentrate on them.”

Gabriel nodded as he gave Duck a concerned look. He could hear the strain in her voice, sense her waning strength as she rallied it to her but he kept his own council on the matter. Something told him that telling her to take it easy would be met with a rebellious glare.

“Do what you must,” he urged. “We will handle the rest.”

Duck’s expression was grim as she nodded and turned her concentration to covering Tracker and the back stairwell. She tensed as she focused in on the door and saw the movement.

“Opening now,” she hissed into the comm-unit.

“Got it,” Tracker countered grimly. “Clear?”

Duck checked their opponents. “Crystal!... GO!”

Duck moved to the edge of Marlena’s protective wall and proceeded to empty her remaining pistols, providing Tracker with the cover he needed to deal with the threat from the stairs.

The three men were not prepared for the greeting they received.

“Welcome to the party,” Tracker growled as he dove back under cover. “Duck!?”

Duck turned her concentration back to the door to the stairwell and smiled as two familiar forms moved through the doorway. “Bear and Rabbit have it now,” she sighed with relief.

“Ammo check!?”

Duck chuckled as she holstered her pistols. “I got a rock!.”

“Terrific,” Tracker muttered as he moved closer to the main room. “How we doing?”

Duck gave a quick look around and grinned. “About usual.”

“Even better,” Tracker answered with sarcastic sigh.

*** *** ***

Ocelot turned slightly as he noticed the woman, Duck holster her pistols and begin scanning the area for anything she could use as a weapon. As he moved along the edge of the firefight he saw the rifle muzzle emerge from the plants to his right.

With a well practiced pop of his muscles he extended his cyberspur and dove it deep into the plant. He allowed himself an almost feral smile as he felt the resistance and then backed away from the falling body.

Even as the man hit the ground, Ocelot was once again scanning the area. To his left he could see Winterhawk holding his own against three of their attackers, while a fourth tried to slip in behind and blind side him. Ocelot smiled.

That one was his.

It took very little to move into place. Then all he had to do was wait.

Ocelot smiled as ‘Hawk’s would be attacker all but stalked into him. The man was already raising his gun as Ocelot moved. The man never new what hit him. He was about to deal with one of the others when he heard a warning from across the room.


*** *** ***

Duck grinned as Tracker moved through Marlena’s barrier handing her a spare clip as he surveyed the area. “Doesn’t look as bad from here,” he teased.

“Yeah well... it looked a lot better when I still had bullets,” Duck answered as she replaced her empty clip and chambered a round.

“What do you think?” He asked.

“Wil is really going to be ticked off with us...”

Tracker smiled and nodded. “Well, we better not disappoint him...”

Duck grinned and then her eyes widened. “EVERYBODY DOWN!” she yelled.

Tracker’s eyes widened as he followed Duck’s gaze.

“Oh... shit,” he groaned.

Without thinking he grabbed Duck and pulled her behind one of the pillars as the restaurant’s windows splintered into a spray of glass and bullets.

Duck looked over at Tracker and shook her head. “From now on...”

“Room service,” Tracker agreed.


*** *** ***

Whisper had finally managed to whittle away his opposition and was moving forward to check out the main dining room when he heard Duck yell. Without thinking he dove back into the elevator car and forced the doors closed for good measure.

If it was bad enough for Duck to seek cover... it was a good bet World War three was about to erupt.

It wasn’t quite World War three, but it was close enough for Whisper. He heard what sounded like at least two chain guns on full auto. Judging by the ricochets it was a good thing he hadn’t made it to the main room.

There was a long enough pause for him to begin to relax, before another barrage had him hugging the far wall.

Finally he heard Duck’s familiar voice over the comm-link. “Head count?”

*** *** ***

Duck held her breath as glass and marble chips rained down on them. She counted to fifteen then looked at Tracker. “Reload?”

He nodded. They would have maybe 5 seconds to move before the guns could be reloaded– hopefully that would be enough to deal with whatever it was.

As the guns spun down he moved out. He had just enough time to see the remaining members of the take over team roping themselves off before the second barrage began.

“They’re getting away,” he growled to Duck, frustration tinging his voice.

As they hugged the ground, they could hear the chopper leaving. Suddenly everything was silent. Duck looked up from behind the pillar and let out a relieved sigh. “Head count?” she asked.

“Duck! I’m going home now,” came Whisper’s reply.

“Whisper– glad you could make it!”

She laughed as Whisper’s answer drowned out everybody else’s reply.

Tracker stood and helped Duck to her feet , then joined Bear and Rabbit at what used to be the window. The watched the retreating helicopter with a sense of frustration.

“They’re getting away,” Rabbit grumbled.

They stood watching the helicopter as it headed out over Puget Sound. Once it was clear of the land and shipping traffic, Duck smiled and looked at the others innocently.

“Has anybody seen my earing? I know I put it somewhere?”

Rabbit turned and grinned at her.

Tracker turned to Duck. “You didn’t?”

Duck batted her eyelashes innocently as a distant flash filled the sky, three seconds later the sound of the explosion reached their ears.

“Duck,” Rabbit sighed. “I think I found your earing.”

Duck laughed as she looked around.

It was hard to recognize the once grand dining room. Shattered tables lay scattered as the chandeliers sparked from their fixtures. Duck turned as Winterhawk joined them at the window. He gave a disdainful look at the plaster dust that coated his suit jacket.

“That’s one way to make an exit,” he commented dryly.

Duck chuckled and shook her head. “Your guys all right?”

‘Hawk gave a quick look around and nodded. “We should however... be leaving.”

“You want to be edited out of the tapes?” Duck asked with a slightly serious expression.

“That might be for the best,” Gabriel agreed as he, Kestrel and Ocelot joined ‘Hawk by the window.

Duck nodded. “Consider it done.”

Gabriel nodded and then smiled. “Thank you.”

With that he and the others headed towards the back stairs. Something told Duck they didn’t need to worry about those four.

After a long pause she sighed. “Anybody know a good place to go for a cup of coffee?”

As I said - A romp with some unexpected guests. - If you don't recognize them... please- go imediately to Winterhawk's Virtual Magespace and find out what you've been missing.

Copyright 2000 - M.T. Decker
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