*** *** ***

Rabbit watched as the cover man moved closer towards him. It was going to be close, but he knew he had to take out the sniper first. Otherwise, he'd be short one brother.

He could feel the change come over the sniper, the rage calmed as he prepared to carry out his job. He was going for the kill. Rabbit was concentrating on the sniper almost to the exclusion of the cover man. When he finally checked he realized that the cover man had not only seen him, but was in the process of lining up the shot.

"Shit, move," Rabbit swore as he fired on the sniper. He felt, rather than heard the cover man's shot as it pegged him in the mid-section. He turned, allowing his control unit take over and take the shot, he thanked god and the military for giving him the wiring. They'd saved his live many times before, and they didn't let him down this time either.

As the man fell, Rabbit forced himself to breathe.

*** *** ***

Boomer and Kenny waited, knowing that the sniper could easily hit them while they waited for Rabbit's signal. Then it came.

"Shit, move," Rabbit yelled as three shots rang out in the night. It was over before either of them could move.

"Rabbit?" Boomer called worriedly over the comm-link. "Rabbit?"

"Wooof," came Rabbit's breathy reply.

"How bad?" Kenny asked worriedly, recognizing the sound of Rabbit in pain.

"Armor caught most of it," Rabbit assured him, but the strain was apparent in his voice. "Knocked the wind out of me is all."

"Rabbit!" Kenny countered worriedly.

"I'll be fine, figure we got 15 minutes to check the area and book. I'll cover you from up here, find out what you can."

"You heard the man," Boomer stated as he exited the van. "We'll pick you up in ten," he told Rabbit. "Hang in there."

"Ain't goin' anywhere," Rabbit assured him weakly.

Boomer slowed his pace as they neared the burnt out area where Tracker's car had been parked. Kenny watched as Boomer knelt down and looked around. "Flash Bang," he stated.

"Flash Bang did this?" Kenny asked in disbelief. "No," Boomer answered as he looked at it. "This looks like C-4, old, not pretty, Flash Bang set it off,"

Kenny looked around as Boomer finished his survey and signaled him to move on. As they moved further down the street, Boomer would stop and look along the curb, or along the edge of the buildings.

"What's up?" Kenny asked as Boomer muttered under his breath.

"I was hoping to find a casing or two," Boomer answered. "Looks like the investigation team cleaned ‘em all up."

"Ten minutes," Rabbit warned over the comm-link.

"Almost done," Boomer assured him. "You see anything?"


Boomer exchanged a worried look with Kenny, there was no mistaking the pain in Rabbit's voice.

Together the proceeded to the next burn mark on the pavement. "Flamed," Boomer commented as he took a sample of the ash. Then he smiled. Melted into the asphalt he saw a french hook and the remains of an earring.

"Duck was here," he stated with a smile.

"How can you tell?" Kenny asked.

"Remember the earrings Rabbit and I gave her last year?" Boomer answered with a question.

"The sentex ones?"

"Yep," Boomer answered. "She used one of them here."

"Guys, we've got a van prowling the area," Rabbit warned.

"We're on our way," Boomer stated with a nod towards Kenny.

"No time, find cover," Rabbit interupted. "They're heading your way."

As Boomer looked around, he saw the door to the Playful Dragon open. "Quickly," a voice called from the doorway. Boomer paused for a moment then motioned for Kenny to go. Once Kenny cleared the door, Boomer followed. As the door closed behind them, the van rolled around the corner and continued down the street. It was dark inside the club, and their rescuer made no move towards the lights.

Once he was sure the van had passed, Boomer went to open the door again.

"Wait," the voice told him. "It will double back."

Boomer strained his ears, trying to identify the source of the voice. "Aren't you afraid of trouble?"

"Young man, I am trouble," the voice stated with a slight laugh.


"Yes child," she answered softly. "As you have no doubt surmised, the earlier trouble involved your friends. They were able to escape, as you two must now."

"Thank you," Boomer stated earnestly.

"You will join them on their long journey, that is good," Minh added. "And you, Kenneth, you will finally make your journey home."

"Ma'am?" Kenny asked worriedly.

"You will see," she answered softly. "Go now."

"Thank you," Boomer stated as he opened the door and slipped outside. He could hear Minh say something to Kenny and then he too was out on the street.

"Rabbit, we're on our way back," Boomer called softly into the comm-link.

"Copy," Rabbit answered.

"We gotta move," Kenny stated when he heard Rabbit's answer. "He's hurt worse than he's willing to admit."

Boomer nodded, then took the lead as Kenny checked behind them. They made it back to the van without incident. "Okay Rabbit, we're on our way."

"Be here," Rabbit answered slowly. This time he didn't even try to disguise the pain in his voice.

Boomer saw the worried look Kenny gave him as he started the van. Boomer checked the area and made a u-turn in the middle of the deserted street. It took him two minutes, but by the time he reached the corner, Rabbit was standing there, with his thumb out. Boomer stopped and waited for him to climb in.

"Get moving," Rabbit urged softly. "Van's coming back."

Boomer nodded and started down the street. Once they were clear of the area, Kenny climbed into the back and started checking on Rabbit.

"Derrick," he called worriedly when Rabbit sagged forward.

"Wooof," Rabbit answered groggily.

"Get us someplace where I can work on him," Kenny stated as he pulled Rabbit's shirt up and started to inspect the wound. "Quickly," he added softly.

Boomer nodded and started looking for safe place to crash for the night.

*** *** ***

Duck moved forward at a brisk pace. "We're almost to the boroughs," she stated over the comm-link. It had been about three hours since their contact with the 47th Street Regulars, and since then, they had had very little contact with others. Duck attributed some of that to the hour of the night, but she also had the feeling that the word was out. Whoever or whatever Briar really was, people were plenty scared of them.

"Plan?" Tracker asked as the continued on.

"Once we hit the area, we duck into the shadows, stick to the edges, then double back in around 12th. I want to be inside before dawn."

‘12th Street,' Tracker thought. ‘Low rent, no questions.' "Gotcha." he answered.

Duck let out a deep breath as she signaled a halt. "Let me take a quick look-see," she stated.

Tracker waited as Duck moved forward and headed down the street. Once she was sure it was clear, she signaled Tracker and they continued on. It took them another three hours of travel to reach the 12th Street District.

"I'll handle the rooms," Tracker told her as he took the lead. He knew enough about the area to know that a man getting a room for the night would draw less attention than a woman. Women did not travel the 12th Street area without an escort, even the working girls, it just wasn't done.

Tracker picked a hotel off of the main drag and staggered into the room. The clerk looked up and shook his head, Tracker knew by the look, he'd been dismissed as another drunk.

"Room," he stated with a slight slur.

"Sign," the clerk ordered as he handed Tracker the log. It was an old paper registry, no computer trail, part of the ‘charm' of the area.

Tracker picked up the pen and scawled something illegible onto the paper.

"10, in advance," the clerk stated as he pulled out a key. Tracker nodded and riffled through his pockets until he finally found the right one. Slowly he pulled out a twenty and handed it to the clerk.

He took the key and was heading for the stairs when the clerk called after him. "Sir, your change..."

Tracker allowed himself a slight smile. The clerk was honest a good thing to know. "Have company," Tracker stated with a slur.

"You still get change," the clerk countered.

"Keep it," Tracker stated with a smile.

The clerk smiled back at him. "Thanks, Mr."

"Weathers," Tracker answered.

The clerk nodded and went back to whatever it was he had been reading. When the door opened and Duck slipped in, he made very sure he didn't see her go past. Tracker led the way up four flights of stairs as they both surveyed the area. There were three sets of stairs on each level, no surveillance cameras, but there were smoke and motion detectors mounted along the hallways. Once they had a good idea of the layout, they went back down to the third floor. Tracker opened the door and slipped inside while Duck watched the hallway. Once he was sure the room was secure, he signaled Duck.

Duck entered the room and locked the door behind her. Then she took a look around. "You take me to the nicest places," Duck stated softly.

"Yeah well, if you weren't such a ‘cheap date,'" Tracker countered.

Duck chuckled as she pulled out the scanner and checked for bugs, then shook her head at Tracker. "Cockroaches, that's it."

Tracker nodded as he checked the locks on the side door and the window. "I'll take first," he told her as he moved the rooms one chair to a position that let him cover the window and both doors.

Duck nodded as she tried to relax, then the stress of the day caught up with her. She was out in less than five minutes.

*** *** ***

Boomer drove as fast as he dared. The last thing he wanted right now was for the police to pull him over. Not with Rabbit in his current condition. Kenny was doing what he could for him, but knew they had to get him somewhere safe fast.

He headed the van away from the city. He knew there was a truck stop less than twenty minutes away. It was probably their best bet.

He continued to check his rear-view mirrors as he drove. They'd been waiting for somebody to show up at the Playful Dragon, he began to think about Rabbit's theories and came to his own conclusion. They were being drawn out, not necessarily to be killed, but to be followed, and back tracked. Each group leading to the next. He'd have to let Rico know, as soon as they got Rabbit taken care of.

"Fifteen minutes too long?," he asked as he eased onto the highway.

"Only if I can get him to let me give him some pain killers," Kenny answered.

"Got to stay cool," Rabbit muttered. "Got to be ready."

"Dammit Derrick," Kenny growled. "You won' t be any good like this, and I'm not going to be able to keep you from feeling it and get the bullet out. So unless you want to leave Boomer on his own to watch over both of us, you'll let me do this the easy way."

Boomer listened to the exchange. "You're going to have to operate?" he asked worriedly.

"Yeah, Derrick's idea of 'slight' seems to include anything that doesn't kill him," Kenny answered wryly.

"Death is serious, everything else is debatable." Rabbit countered softly then nodded. "Okay Doc, do your thing."

"You want serious, wait until you see the bill," Kenny joked as he prepped a needle and gave Rabbit a shot. "Never seen anybody so reluctant to take his meds."

"Ain't the meds," Rabbit commented. "'Fraid of needles."

"You'll let Gina give you shots," Kenny objected.

"Girl's got a soft touch," Rabbit offered as his started to drift off. "You enjoy it too much, sides, never could say no to Gina."

"You know Rabbit, you really should get out more," Kenny offered.

"I keep trying," Rabbit answered. "But I don't want you to get bored."

"Never happen," Kenny assured him. He watched over his brother as the meds finally took effect.

"How bad is it?" Boomer asked when he was sure Rabbit was finally out.

"Bad enough," Kenny answered. "He's lost some blood, but we should be alright. His vest caught most of it. If he hadn't been wearing it, we'd be calling mom about now."

Boomer nodded as he checked the rear view again. They were still clear. "I'll have us there in 10 minutes," he promised. "You okay?"

"Haven't lost a Wilson yet," Kenny answered.

"Probably not a good time to start," Boomer agreed.

*** *** ***

Rico took a deep breath as he headed towards the receiving area. Lightning had arrived on schedule, and now it was up to him to brief her on the night's events and the incidents that had let up to them. He knew she wasn't going to like it, but then again, nobody did.

Duck's remote had landed on the roof an hour earlier and he was still in the midst of decoding her message. Added to that, a dead body had been found near the Playful Dragon. It had not been one of their better nights.

He saw her as she finished unloading the truck and waved. She started to wave and then shook her head when she saw that Boomer wasn't there.

"We got trouble," Rico confirmed.

"Just tell me he hasn't been shot," Lightning commented half jokingly as she joined him.

"No, not that I know of," Rico answered with a grin. He knew it was the easiest way to tell her: get the worst part out of the way first, joke about it, then get down to the details. It had taken him a while to get used to Lightning's approach to life. She could be a bit gruff at times, but there was no real surprise that Boomer had fallen for her. They seemed to be the perfect match: Boomer's jester to her direct ‘no bull' approach. Somehow they seemed to balance each other out.

Boomer had first asked her out as he was defusing a bomb. His brother's way of saying there was nothing to worry about: make plans. Their date had been canceled when Boomer was almost killed, not by the bomb, but by an experimental projectile their enemies had gotten their hands on. The two had been an item ever since, but their luck when it came to going out on a date, had been less than stellar.

The unofficial score maintained by the Boomer/Lightning dating pool held that of their first ten dates, two had been postponed due to work, two due to schedule conflicts, five were postponed due to Boomer being hurt and or missing, and the final date was postponed due to work, where Boomer was later injured. These were not good odds, but somehow the two had managed to persevere.

"Are you going to tell me about it," Lightning asked after a pause. "Or are you just figuring how to update the pool?"

Rico looked up at her guiltily then grinned. "Pool, what pool? There's no betting pool. Really. 7 to 1 odds Boomer'll get hurt on the next date you two schedule..." he added with a wink.

"So were you supposed to take me out and break the news to me?"

"As usual," Rico answered with a bow. "Although, with the latest news, I think the cafeteria might be the best choice."

"Let me get washed up and I'll met you there," Lightning offered.

"I'll see about getting us a seat," Rico promised.

*** *** ***

Lighting watched as Rico headed back the way he'd come, then headed for her room. She'd been looking forward to seeing Boomer, especially after the last few days. She'd managed to keep hell from breaking lose, but she was fairly certain, they wouldn't be getting any repeat business from the hotel.

She'd gone over the building with a fine tooth comb. Twice. Yet in spite of her thoroughness, somebody had managed to get in range of the party she'd been hired to protect. She was fast enough that nobody else even noticed how close they'd gotten, but it bothered her. The rest of the evening had passed uneventfully, but when she finally went off duty and returned to her room there had been a black rose resting on her pillow. Worse, there was one waiting for her client as well.

From there things had gone down hill. The client had accused her of negligence, the hotel had accused her of incompetence. Even though every problem could be traced back to the Hotel and or the client not co-operating with her, they'd still managed to convince themselves that it was all her fault. Hotel security and even the client's own chief of security agreed with her, but there was nothing she could really do.

Now, topping all of that, the Backer Brothers seemed to have gotten themselves involved in something again, and Boomer was unavailable. She sighed as she dropped her gear off and hit the showers.

She was feeling more herself when she got back to her room. She looked at her bags and shook her head. She'd picked up a dress, especially for tonight, but Boomer wasn't going to get to see it. 'Hell with it,' she thought as she pulled it out from her bag. Rico deserved it.

She slipped on the dress and smiled to herself. Serves him right, betting on our love-life! She wondered what Boomer was up to as she headed for the elevator.

*** *** ***

Boomer cursed as he saw the tail lights flash ahead of him. "Hold on," he yelled as he slammed on the breaks. They were five miles from the truck stop, but from the looks of the traffic, it may has well have been a hundred.

"Boomer?" Kenny called as he poked his head up from in front.

"We ain't going anywhere," Boomer swore as he slammed his fist into the dashboard.

"Easy," Kenny warned. "I got enough trouble without having to deal with broken hands."

"How's he doing?" Boomer asked worriedly.

"From the looks of things, I'm going to have to do my thing here and now," Kenny answered with a sigh. "Keep it as steady as you can will ya?"

"Is stopped still enough?" Boomer asked as he turned to face the back of the van.

"Just let me know if things start moving," Kenny countered.

"Will do," Boomer assured him. As Kenny disappeared back into the back of the van, Boomer turned on the radio and started scanning the news to find out what was going on.

Kenny positioned Rabbit so he had a clear view of the wound area. He had hoped to do this somewhere other than a moving van, but circumstances had made that impossible. He made sure the rear window was covered and then pulled out his kit. Scalpel, and surgical implements on his right, candle and fetishes on the left. Modern medicine and magic combined hopefully it would give him the edge he needed to deal with the current situation.

Once he was finished with his preparations, he smiled to himself and lit the candle. As his senses extended beyond the normal, he felt something drift over the van. 'We've been followed,' he realized, but for right now, that would wait. He reached out and picked up the scalpel and made a slight incision over the entry wound. The bullet was visible, but just out of reach. as he reached for the forceps, he felt the change in his surroundings. The watcher was trying to get to them.

The shields Kenny had placed around them flared as he felt the anger rise within himself. Wasn't it enough that these people had hurt his brother, now they were trying to interfere with his healing? Without another thought Kenny strengthened the shields around the van and concentrated on Rabbit.

"Moving," Boomer called from the front as he eased off the breaks.

Kenny braced himself as the van swayed slightly. He could tell Boomer was being careful, but he needed for them to be stopped.

"Slowing," Boomer called as the van decreased to more or less of a crawl.

"Can you give me about a fifteen second all stop?" Kenny called worriedly.

"You got it." Boomer answered as he gently stopped the van. "Give me a clear when you're ready."

Kenny concentrated on the bullet. Forceps in hand he slipped them into the incision and went for the bullet. The world around him exploded into agony as the watcher slammed itself through his shields. ‘I don't have time for this,' Kenny growled to himself as he began the healing spell, Rabbit was still his first concern.

Once he was sure his work with Rabbit was done, Kenny concentrated on the watcher. He let his anger cool and solidify as he prepared to defend himself and his brothers. He lashed out at the watcher, sending a surge of magical power through it and hopefully on down the line to whoever or whatever had sent it. The watcher resisted for a moment, as it forced all of Kenny's shields down. For a mere instant he was completely defenseless, but the watcher was unable to press its advantage. As pain and anger fueled his attack, Kenny drew what remained of his strength together and pushed it through the watcher. As he felt his knees give way under him, the watcher finally lost its link with the physical world and vanished.

"Ken?" Boomer called as he heard his brother's painful gasp for air.

"Go," he managed to gasp. "Just keep moving."

The watcher was gone, but the full force of its attack had yet to be dealt with. Every fear, every pain he'd ever experienced washed over him as he was unable to defend himself from his own mind. Memories surrounded him as he tried to fight his way through the pain, but the memories wouldn't let go.

*** *** ***

Boomer bit his lip as Kenny screamed from the back of the van. "Kenny?" he called worriedly, but this time there was no answer. Boomer slipped the van into park and went to back of the van to check on his brothers.

Rabbit was still, but he could see that Kenny had managed to heal the wound. He took the time to check Rabbit's pulse before turning towards Kenny.

"Kenny?" he called worriedly as he saw the terror in his brother's eyes. "Kenny!" he yelled as he tried to reach him.

"Please help me," Kenny cried out softly. "Don't leave me here!"

Boomer looked at him and took a deep breath as he ran a hand through his hair. "Kenny, talk to me," he urged gently. "What's going on?"

As Boomer looked around as he tried to figure out what had happened, he could hear somebody blowing their horn behind him. He looked at Kenny as he stared in horror, of what Boomer could only guess.

"Damnation!" Boomer swore as he grabbed Kenny by the shoulders and forced him to look at him. "Kenny, you got to snap out of this," He stated evenly. "I can an only handle one emergency at a time, and your time is up, you hear me? Kenny?"

He held him, trying to call Kenny back from where ever he had gone. But there was no reaching him. He held him, hoping the physical contact would bring him back to reality. He relaxed as he felt Kenny shake his head.

"Boomer?" Kenny gasped as everything came back into focus.

Boomer let out his breath and looked his brother in the eyes. "You okay?"

Kenny shook his head, then heard the horns blaring outside. "Go," he stated. "I'll be alright."

Boomer looked at him one more time, the haunted look in Kenny's eyes worried him, but he had to get both him and Rabbit someplace safe. "Just hold on," he urged, then went back to the driver's cabin. In front of him there was two car lengths worth of open space. Boomer was not amused.

*** *** ***

twenty some odd years ago

They'd been playing in the park when the man came. He was huge and angry. Especially when you're seven and small for your age.

He had watched them as they played, Kenny and his brother Geffen. Geffen was only a year younger than Kenny, but he was already bigger than his brother. ‘People were always confusing the two of us,' Kenny thought.

They had no way of knowing the man's plan, or that he had timed it so that none of the adults could see what was happening. All Kenny knew was that the man came from nowhere and grabbed Geffen by the arm. He started to drag Geffen away as Kenny came tearing out after him. "Leave him alone," he yelled at the top of his lungs. "Leave my brother alone!"

The man whirled around and hissed, "Silence, or I'll kill him right here!"

Kenny didn't stop, didn't think, he just plowed into the man full tilt. Somehow Geffen had managed to slip out of the man's grasp, but Kenny was hurt. The man grabbed Kenny and hit him, hard. Geffen was ready to try and hit the man when Kenny saw the gun.

"Geffen, go," he screamed. "RUN!"

Geffen looked at them one last time as Kenny grabbed the man's gun arm and bit down for all he was worth. The man growled as he picked Kenny up and shook him like a rag doll, then threw him to the ground. Kenny saw the look in his brother's eyes as he looked at him. Kenny looked pleadingly at his brother ‘run' was his only thought. Geffen nodded then ran. Kenny heard the gun fire overhead and saw Geffen fall to the ground. It was the last time Kenny saw any of his family.

*** *** ***

Kenny gasped for air as once again, he found himself in the van. He shook his head as he looked around, still trying to piece together what had happened.. Rabbit was still out cold on the floor, he remembered that, but splinters of memories still haunted him.

He forced himself to get up and check on Rabbit.

Pulse: stable. Breathing: Regular. Wound: sealed tight. "You'll live," he grunted then slid back into the passenger's seat.

"You look like hell," Boomer told him as he strapped in.

"Good, cause I feel worse," Kenny answered as he looked around. He could tell they'd only moved about 40 feet since he'd gone back to work on Rabbit. He noticed the worried look Boomer gave him and shook his head. "Somebody sent a 'watcher' after us. It decided to hit me while I was working on Rabbit."

"You okay?" Boomer asked. Kenny could see the relief in Boomer's eyes as he spoke.

"," Kenny looked out the window as he tried to explain what had happened. "It stripped me of all my defenses," he finally stated. He could feel Boomer tense as he tried to explain.

"I'm okay," he assured Boomer. "I got rid of it before it could do anything else to me."

"Kenny, you were screamin' man," Boomer told him.

Kenny nodded. "Memories, ghosts...we all have things we keep from ourselves so we can function," Kenny explained. "Like Rabbit and Archer's Fist." He took a deep breath and looked out the window. "For me, well I always thought it was Baltimore, but there was something bad, really bad, from before the Wilson's took me in."

Boomer tried to think about what he knew about Kenny. He was 13 when Kenny came to stay at the Wilsons. His Grandfather had died, and he had no other family. Wilson's was the only logical place to take him.

"Your grandfather dying?" Boomer suggested. "Being alone?" When none of that seemed to help, he added, "abducted by aliens?".

"Abducted, yes," Kenny answered seriously. "Aliens, no, just a man," Kenny tried to tell him, but instead he just stared out the window. "Just a man."

He was huge, and angry. Kenny remembered him now, his rage, the way he shook him and hit him until he'd passed out. The fear gripped him until he couldn't move, and the man just stood there laughing.

"Kenny!" Boomer called urgently. "Ken!"

Kenny pulled himself from the memory and looked around. "Boomer?"

"Okay, Kenny, I need you to stay here with me okay? We've got a problem..." Boomer's voice drifted out.

"You aren't going to give me any more problems are you?" the man asked as he towered over him. Kenny tried to make himself smaller, then shook his head.

"I'll behave..." he promised quietly. He tried to be brave, be strong, but in the end, he was only a child...

"Kenny, you ain't getting any of this are you?" Boomer asked as he noticed Kenny's blank stare. "Just drool if you can hear me," he added then shook his head. "It just keeps getting better," he muttered as he turned up the scanner and tried to get a fix on the problem up ahead.

"...Road blocks on interstates 70 and 66... no full description available. "Subjects are armed and dangerous..."

Boomer looked at the scanner and noted the channel: Lonestar: interstate ops. He thought he recognized the dispatcher's voice. He reached up and hit the lock button. This sounded like what he'd been looking for. Ten minutes and about 5 yards later, he had the answer, things were a lot worse than he'd suspected.

"...Responding to a report of shots fired in the Club District of the Memphis Metroplex, Lonestar police found one of their own gunned down by sniper fire. Reports are sketchy at this time, but this was the second incident in the District tonight.

The first incident resulted in property damage, but no loss of life. Police have a partial description of the suspected gunman and are searching for him at this time. He is described as a white male, human in his mid to late 30's, balding.... He is to be considered armed and dangerous. He was last seen getting into a brown panel truck.

Road blocks have been placed on all the major routes leading out of the area. Officer Miguel Rodriguez, a Memphis native, is survived by his wife and two children..."

'Wonder if Lightning will visit me in prison,' Boomer mused as the radio broadcast was repeated in its entirety. "Okay," he told his brothers knowing full well they couldn't hear him. "Lets review our situation, shall we?"

"I give up a date with the most incredible lady in the world, so I can be shot at, hassled, and end up on the lam, stuck in the biggest traffic jam in recent history with the two of you. You with me so far?" he asked Kenny. "Cause it gets better..."

*** *** ***

Kenny whimpered as the man yelled into the phone. "You have 2 million waiting for me, or you'll never see the brat again!"

The man shoved the phone into his face. "Speak," he ordered. "Tell them you're okay!"

"Mom...momma?" Kenny asked softly.

"Its okay baby," he heard his momma tell him. "We'll get you back, you just be brave okay?"

"Geffen," he asked urgently. "Is Geffen okay?"

Before he could get an answer the man had pulled the phone away and shoved him back into his seat. "2 million. I'll call you back with instructions." he hissed, then turned off the phone.

He grabbed Kenny by the collar and pulled him close. "I don't want to hear a thing from you, you understand?" he growled at him coldly.

Kenny nodded and turned away. He prayed Geffen was alright.

*** *** ***

Lightning smiled as Rico offered her his arm and led her to the cafeteria. He had dressed up for the occasion and she was surprised how nice he actually looked in a suit. "So you want to fill me in on what's been happening?" she asked brusquely.

"Why don't we get seated, its a long story," he countered.

Lightning looked at him a moment, then shook her head. "Does it involve black roses?"

"How did you know?" he asked as he dropped her arm and faced her.

"Just a feeling," she answered with a shrug. Things had started to fit together, in an odd, ‘Backer Brother Trouble' sort of way. "Lets eat, then we'll talk," she added when she realized that things were a lot worse than she had previously thought they were.

Rico shook his head. "I had this whole thing rehearsed," he told her as he pulled on his tie and loosened his collar. "Pretend everything is normal, have a nice pleasant dinner. May as well forget it, I don't think either of us is really up to it."

As he talked he guided her into the dining area. There was no problem discerning which table was to be theirs, Rico had carefully draped it with tablecloths and napkins. "Kitchen?" he asked with a nod.

"Kitchen." she agreed, there was too much that needed to be discussed.

Rico walked by the table and pulled the folder off of it. Then they headed back to the kitchen. He handed her the folder then walked over to one of the walk-in fridges. "Lasagna or Turkey?" he asked.

"Lasagna," Lightning answered as she opened the folder and started reading. As Rico came back with two plates of Lasagna she looked up and shook her head, his serving was easily twice the size of the one he gave her, and her's was huge. She took a bite and reread the report.

"Two clients last week?" she asked.

Rico nodded as he picked up a fork and took a bite from his plate. "Showed Duck, she had five more cases on file. Three clients, one on Voodoo and another on Black Paw. Earlier today there was an incident at the Playful Dragon, this time a bouquet for The Duck. She and Tracker got ambushed leaving the place."

Lightning tensed as he told her, but waited when he raised his hand in a calming gesture. "They got away, Duck sent her remote here with a warning. Boomer and the others were already out by then."

"Boomer and what others, and what are they up to?" Lightning asked as she started a mental list of the events.

"Boomer and Kenny were going to start and investigation, Davy and Geoff sent Rabbit with them," Rico answered. "They won't be coming back until this thing is over."

Lightning nodded. The non-combatant members of the family had to be protected. It would be too dangerous to allow the enemy to follow them back to base. Especially when they had no idea who the enemy was. "So where do I fit in?" she asked.

"We need you to help cover the move. We've got associates in all the major cities covering our operations while the Transpo-unit's down. Tommy broke it apart two days ago, figure it'll take another three to four weeks for him to put it back together."

"What about recoding the software?"

"Duck and I did that a while ago when we re-worked Tommy's preliminary version of the control software. Man's a genius when it comes to physics, but he just doesn't get the finer points of coding. Hard-coded all the referential locations. Took us four weeks to get that straightened out and debugged. But in the end we ended up with a system that was easily adaptable. All the referential points are now variables. That's are what make hot-linking possible."

Lighting smiled. She'd not only followed Rico's explanation, she actually understood it, either he was getting better at communicating what he did, or she was finally learning to translate what he said.

"Want some ice cream?" he asked as he ate the last bit of Lasagna on his plate.

"How did you eat all that?" she asked then shook her head. "I don't want to know. And yes, I would like some."

Rico smiled as he took their plates to the sink, then disappeared into the freezer. While he was gone Lightning reviewed the folder then added her own information to it.

"What you got?" he asked as he showed up with a tub and two spoons.

"Um, another case with black roses," she answered with a shrug. "You?"

"Chocolate raspberry."

"Trade you."

Rico grinned as he took the folder and handed her the tub of ice cream.

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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