Chapter Six

*** *** ***

Allison watched as Tracker and Duck started going over the consultants' decks. There was no hint of the jesters he'd encountered in the alleyway. Here they were professionals, on the trail of something very dangerous.

"Same basic models," Tracker stated as he looked from one to the other.

"The second one's been upgraded to a comparable series of processors, better imaging hardware, better defensive. Still both are pretty standard," Duck agreed.

"Do you know what softs they had loaded?" Tracker asked.

"We have a list," Allison told him as he flipped through the case file. "We check before they come in, then cross check the list on their way out."

"Thanks," Duck stated as she looked at the list he offered her. "Browse, Firefly, Weeze, those are the softs in common. One's got Crack the other DeCode, same job, different softs. How about the firms?" She asked as she looked back at Allison expectantly.

"That we never bothered with," he admitted.

Tracker and Duck looked at each other and shrugged. "Mind if we crack the case?" Tracker asked.

"Go ahead," Allison told him. "We've gotten as much as we can from it."

Duck reached into her bag and pulled out a small, leather bound kit. As she unzipped it Allison's eyes widened. Inside was a very neatly organized collection of tools and equipment. Everything needed to break down and repair the hardware at hand. He was once again struck with how incomplete the information in their folders was.

Another thing that surprised him was that they were taking extensive notes on the condition of the equipment as the broke it apart. Each took notes on the deck in front of them, yet the form layout was identical. Each listed the minutest detail. This included the number of screws and condition of the casing.

As they began checking the firmware, Duck let out a low whistle.

"What you got? Tracker asked as he leaned over. Duck carefully pulled the remains of the firmware's board.

"Ferret?" Duck stated in disbelief. "It says its a Ferret, but the markings are all wrong."

"What is Ferret?" Allison interrupted. "What markings?"

"Ferret, is one of my better firms," Duck answered. "This deck was loaded with Duckware, or what looks like Duckware. But see here," she asked as she held the base of the chip up so he could see it. "The emblem."

Allison looked and saw what looked like a duck burned into the chip. "A Duck?"

Duck nodded then looked at back at the deck in disbelief. "That's my trademark. Except this one is burned into the chip. All of mine are etched in. Makes it a little harder to fake."

"So somebody using faked or pirated Duckware, goes into one of your sites..."

"And dies," Duck finished with a snarl. "This whole bloody thing reeks."

"Oh it just got better," Tracker informed her.

Duck turned as Tracker handed her a chip he'd pulled from the second deck.

"What is it?" Allison asked.

"Labrador, one of my more whimsical retrieval programs," Duck answered as she inspected the logo. "Holy freaking hand grenades," she gasped.

"Duck?" Allison asked worriedly as Duck pushed away from the table. "What is it?"

"Black Rose," Tracker answered with a growl. "Another freakin' black rose."

"Black Rose?" Allison asked in alarm, then turned to Masters. "Briar? Briar, here?" He paused as Tracker's words sunk in and turned back to Tracker. "What do you mean 'ANOTHER?'"

Masters looked at his watch and then at Sergei. His expression was plain, there wasn't enough time. Sergei nodded.

"Allison, I'm asking Duck and Tracker to work on this investigation for us," Master stated then turned to Duck and Tracker "I'm activating your services, Allison will be working with you on this."

Duck nodded. "How much do you trust him?"

"I trust him to watch your back," Masters answered then added. "I trust him with your lives."

"Sir?" Allison asked.

"There's a lot you don't know and won't find in those folders of yours. They'll fill you in. In return I need you to fill them in on Briar."



Duck looked around the room. "Maybe I'll see you sometime when all hell isn't breaking loose," she told her father with a wink.

"At least things are never dull," he father countered.

"How do you want to do this?" Tracker asked.

"You three will take my car," Sergei stated. "Masters and I will have them chasing wild geese."

"Be careful," Duck urged.

"I'll take care of him," Masters promised.

"Both of you," Duck countered as she packed up her gear. As they headed towards the door, Duck heard the faint hiss of gas, then all hell broke loose.

*** *** ***

Duck and Tracker looked around the room as Masters went for the door. "Don't touch it!" Tracker ordered as Duck looked out the window. He'd seen the tell tale flare of a charge unit. "Shock charge."

Masters nodded and backed off.

"Fourth Floor," Duck stated as she began pulling the repelling line from the mission bag. "Last rope."

"Hook the release kit," Tracker suggested. He hated to loose the kit, but the rope might prove more important later on. As Duck began rigging their equipment, Tracker picked up a chair and tossed it through the window, then stood clear as Duck took the rope launcher and aimed it at a support structure on the other side of the first fence.

Duck pulled out a sling and handed it to Tracker. "You lead." she told him as she looped the mission pack over his shoulder.

Tracker took the sling and looped it over the rope. "Give me five," he stated then slipped out the window."

"Masters, Dad, you coming?" Duck asked as she checked around the room.

"No," Masters answered after exchanging looks with Sergei. "We'll leave this to the young."

Duck nodded. "Allison, you're up."

Allison looked at the others and shook his head. Two hours earlier, he would have been one of the first to arrest the two of them, but now...

Duck watched him as the thoughts crossed his mind. "You aren't a weasel boy," Duck stated cryptically. "You've got a puzzle and a challenge and you know we aren't your enemy. We'll get to the bottom of this. The question is, are you with us?"

Allison nodded as he took the sling.

"Be sure and lift your feet when you go over the fence," Tracker warned over the comm-unit.

"Tracker says to lift your feet at the fence," she warned Allison as he stood on the ledge. He nodded then jumped. As he slid down the rope, Duck saw the remote flyer clear the corner. She drew her gun and aimed as it tried to get a line up on Allison. Duck waited for its ready light came on, and fired, knocking it out of commission.

She took a deep breath as she prepared for her turn on the slide. "Clear," Tracker called into the comm unit. Duck nodded and pushed off from the ledge.

*** *** ***

Tracker watched as Duck started to slide towards them. Then he heard the familiar thrumming of a helicopter's rotors. "Move it," he urged. "They got a chopper coming."

Duck drew her legs up so that she was parallel to the rope. She was picking up speed, but Tracker could see it wasn't going to be enough.

"Come on, come on," Tracker urged as the chopper came into sight. "Steady, steady," He called into the comm-link. His heart raced as he saw the gunner draw a bead on Duck.

"Drop!" he yelled as the gunner opened fire. Bullets sprayed the rope where Duck had been and the ground around Tracker and Allison as they dove for cover.

Tracker opened fire as Duck fell to the ground, hoping to give her some cover. The chopper swerved, but Duck didn't move. He could tell by the way she hit the ground she'd been hurt.

"Duck?" he called into the comm-unit. "Talk to me."

"Woof," Duck answered as she tried to catch her breath. As she took stock of the situation, she could see the ground security closing around her. "Charlie Foxtrot here," she warned him. "Better move it."

"What about you?"

"I'll catch up." She answered, then added, "England."

"Copy," Tracker answered as he pulled Allison out of the ditch. "Go," he ordered. Even as they moved on, Tracker could see Duck forcing herself to her knees as the chopper moved back in to position, trying to pin her down. He watched her fire three shots, then roll away from the lights. He tried to keep track of her, but he knew they had to get out of sight before the chopper or patrols caught up with them.

Tracker heard three more shots, but by then he had his own problems to worry about

*** *** ***

Duck pushed on as she tried to get oriented. She tried to mesh the satellite reports she'd gotten with what she knew of the site. Three fences, security cameras along the fences and on the buildings. Key holes in the security were the drainage areas, which tended to be dismissed because they were almost always filled with water. Of all the areas within the compound that she had been forced to escape from this was the least familiar.

She knew she had to find someplace to hook into the security system. Then she could cover Tracker and Allison's escape. All she had to do was slip past the security teams that were looking for her.

Things had changed since the last time though. This time they were using live ammo. They were perfectly happy to eliminate instead of merely capture. That meant playtime was over. Duck promised herself that if she had the chance, the weasel-boy Max was going down and hard. She went over the available gear in her mind and realized that she still had his gun.

Thinking about it she felt the pit of her stomach sink. She pulled it out and inspected it. The gun was rigged with a tracer unit, and she'd fallen for it. She pulled the clip, checked it and smiled. It at least was safe, and the same caliber as her gun. She pocketed the clip, then emptied the chamber and hefted the gun away from her, back towards the fence. Before it landed she was moving, trying to keep to the shadows.

Movement was difficult. The stark lighting gave very little when it came to cover, and she was hurting. The fall had screwed up her back, possibly breaking her tail-bone. What worried her more was the tingling sensation in her legs. ‘This is not good,' she told herself.

"Denmark," she heard Tracker call on the comm-link.

Duck smiled. Tracker had found his first mark. He was safe for now. Time to move.

She heard the footsteps as one of the pockets of security officers took to the open court yard. They were heading directly for the fence where she'd thrown the gun. They were trying to herd her into the fence. "Kiribati," she sub-vocalized, then moved closer to the drainage ditch. She allowed herself a slight smile. It was full as usual.

"Irkutzk," she heard Tracker in her comm-unit.

"Kyrgyzstan," she answered as she slipped into the water. 'Cold and miserable,' she thought to herself then she submerged. "Foxtrot Whisky," she announced into the comm-unit as she surfaced several yards back the way they came.

"Copy," was Tracker's only response.

*** *** ***

The chopper had given up on Duck and was looking for them. Tracker pulled Allison out of the light and into the best cover the area afforded them a heat vent. The big problem was the chopper. He'd seen the FLIR, Forward looking Infra Red, systems and knew it would pick them up if they moved away from the vent. He had to eliminate that problem and fast. He reached into the mission pack and smiled. ‘They want heat, let's give them heat,' he thought with a smile.

*** *** ***

Masters watched as Tracker reached into the large bag Duck had given him. Then he saw the smile on Tracker's face as he pulled out two light weight long coats and two balaclava. Allison watched in amazement as Tracker tossed him a set. ‘No wonder these two have been so difficult to catch.' he thought to himself. ‘Resourceful and prepared. As he donned the gear he heard Tracker sub-vocalize something into the comm-unit.

Once they were masked from the sensors, Allison figured they'd simply move on, but Tracker signaled him to wait as he once again reached into the bag and pulled out a torch canister. He watched as Tracker rigged a timer to the canister, then dragged it over to the next fence. Allison was confused.

Tracker had signaled him to wait. He stood completely still as the helicopter passed over head. Once it was out of range, Tracker signaled him to move, but he directed him away from the next fence back towards the first. He moved, trusting Tracker to know what he was doing. The hardest part was avoiding direct line of sight with the helicopter.

A minute later, the canister flared behind them, drawing the helicopter towards it. Tracker placed a hand on his shoulder and grinned as he led him to their next hiding place. The drainage ditch. Allison winced, he'd finally gotten dry from his adventure under the truck, and he was about to get wet again. As he slipped in, he found that the coat actually helped a little. Very little.

Tracker seemed to be waiting for something, then turned and smiled. "Copy," he said into his comm-unit.

*** *** ***

Duck slipped past two more security details, then rolled out of the ditch and into the overhang on one the buildings. The overhang was designed to provide artistic lighting to the courtyard, with lights set every twenty yards. Inside the overhang was a six inch ledge. Not enough for a person to hide in, or so they thought. Duck had managed to wedge herself between the ledge and the wall of the building once before. It was not the most comfortable position, but her concern was cover, not comfort. Cramped quarters beat getting shot any day of the week. She looked at the lights and smiled.

What security had failed to notice, and she never bothered to point out, was that the system was computer controlled and that system was tied directly to the area's security system.

As she pulled herself into the overhang, Duck tried to make herself as small as possible. This was the most dangerous part, once she decked in, she'd have no real way of knowing what was around her. She slipped her glove on and hooked it into her combat deck.

The combat deck didn't look like a deck, you didn't carry any externals for it except the controller glove. Everything was wired into the body suit she wore. It wasn't as powerful as her main unit, but it was more than enough to get the job done. She thought about the Black IC Masters had warned her about and took a deep breath. ‘Got bigger things to worry about,' she told herself, as she pulled out her ‘Tap' kit and began hooking it into the lighting control system.

She listened to the comings and goings as she attached the line tap and made her final checks. From the sound of things, the patrols were already past her location.

"November Tango Foxtrot Bravo," she sub-vocalized.

"Nepal," Tracker responded a second later. Duck nodded with a smile. They were still safe and waiting for her signal. She stretched her neck one more time, then activated the link.

The control flow for the lights was represented with plus and minus signs floating by. It was boring, but it indicated how little thought the designers had put into the lighting. It was like walking through a blue print. It never ceased to amaze Duck how much people took for granted. How many security professionals had been in on the design of Aerocomm's happy little fortress, how many of these ‘holes' were there.

She moved into the node that controlled the lights and felt a little bit better, there was at least a ‘guard' construct. Designed to watch what signals flowed out to the lights. Duck moved past it with practiced ease. It was never programed to check what came in from the lights.

Duck continued to float gently along until she found the security tie in. Now the real work began. Her forward sensor sub-processor signaled her. Three forms of IC ahead, all bad.

‘Well, they had to have something sooner or later,' Duck told herself as she activated her chameleon program. Chameleon would hopefully allow her to slip by unnoticed, simply blending in with the surrounding data constructs.

‘This is not the construct you're looking for,' Duck thought to herself as she drifted to the check point. She passed through and faded into the system before anything noticed.

Once inside, Duck took over two cameras on opposite sides of the campus. She recorded the empty views, then looped them back through the system. Then she activated the recording that would transmit directions to Tracker.

*** *** ***

"Lebanon," Tracker heard a mechanical voice transmit over the comm-unit. "Smile for the camera."

He looked over at Allison and grinned. "Okay, when I give you the signal, we're going to stand next to the fence and go through some poses."

"What?" Allison asked in disbelief.

"Long story, I'll explain later. For now, I want you to do what I do. Okay?"

Allison shook his head resignedly. "I'm beginning to think it's way past medication time."

"Nicaragua," Tracker called to Duck. 'Your turn.'

"Standard set," the mechanical voice answered over the comm-unit.

"Okay wait till I signal, then repeat what I do," Tracker told him, then ran along the fence, stopping just beyond the camera. Then he signaled Allison to join him. Allison looked over his shoulder, then followed Tracker's lead.

Tracker took Allison through several other positions before going through as series of 'Surrender poses.' Then moved back to their hiding place.

"Argentina," the mechanical voice replied. "Thank you and have a nice day."

"Aberdeen." Tracker countered.

*** *** ***

Duck started recording as soon as she gave Tracker the signal. they had less than two minutes to capture the poses before the next patrol was due. She could tell that Allison was confused, but he was being a good sport about the whole thing.

Once Tracker finished and moved back under cover, she gave him the signal. Now the real work began. She started translating the pictures from the camera into a new feed for the system to play back on command. Those images would tell a very different story.

While she waited for the system to analyze and translate the images she had requested Duck used the security system to give her a layout of the area and the patrols. As she passed by, one camera caught her eye.

Weasel Boy was in the conference room with Masters and her father. He was holding them at gunpoint and gloating.

"We will have them very shortly," he announced. "Then I will take you, and them to the main office in the helicopter."

"They were here at my request," Masters growled.

"Which is why you're in custody. Head of security, working with known felons."

Duck almost laughed, except she could see that Weasel Boy had roughed Masters up a bit before cuffing him. Max was dangerous. Duck upgraded his status from 'if I get a chance' to 'I will get this man' status. Nobody hurt Masters and got away with it, not when she had a say in the matter.

Duck scanned the area and downloaded the video and audio feeds. The patrol chopper was now running a perimeter sweep. ‘Have to give that some new orders,' she noted mentally. She also noticed Max's chopper waiting on the pad.

Then her status construct pinged her. ‘Time to get to work.' Duck reviewed the sequences and when it felt smooth enough programmed the timer and the alarm order. Once she was sure things were set, Duck exited the system.

The first thing she noticed was the cramp in her neck, the second was the pair of guards standing near the light 10 yards away.

"Nantucket," Duck sub-vocalized, then added, "Pad B. Buffalo Soldier."

"Tibet," Tracker answered. "No Woman, No Cry. Pick you up on the way?"

"Negative," Duck answered. "Got Company."

*** *** ***

Tracker stiffened as Duck's final message came over the comm-unit. "Damn," he swore.

Allison looked at him worriedly as Tracker let out a low growl. "Problems?" he asked.

"They've got Duck cornered," Tracker answered quietly.

"What do we do?" Allison asked.

"We wait," Tracker forced himself to answer. "In five minutes, all hell is going to break loose on the other side of the compound. When that happens we make our move."

Allison nodded. Noticing the distance between the current location and the next fence, he asked, "shouldn't we move into place?"

"We are in place," Tracker told him. "Just follow my lead."

Allison shook his head. Something told him he had a lot more to learn about these two and school was just getting started.

*** *** ***

Duck checked the time and clenched her jaw. The alarm was set to go off in one minute. If she could hold on that long, maybe, just maybe the guards would move on. Her neck was killing her and the tingle in her legs had turned into a numbness. ‘One minute, sixty seconds,' she told herself. She made it to thirty before her leg slipped. She pulled it back up, but the effort caused a shooting pain in her lower back.

She bit back the gasp as she waited to see if the guards had noticed. Twenty five seconds, the guards were moving closer, slowly, almost as if they knew she was there. Twenty: they stopped within one yard of her position, one of them lit a cigarette, the other knelt to tie his shoes. Fifteen: Her lower back, already strained started to spasm. Ten: The kneeling guard stood and spoke to his companion. Duck held her breath as her pulse raced. Five: They moved on.

Duck started breathing again as the radio announced the alarm on the south side of the security complex. She heard the guards grumble as they began running towards the disturbance. She stayed, listening to the comings and goings. She started making small movements, isolating her leg muscles. She needed to be ready to move.

"Turkey," she said into the comm-unit.

"Yemen!" she heard Tracker's reply.

*** *** ***

Tracker held his breath as he followed the countdown mentally. Guards were starting to double back. It was going to be tight. He could feel Allison tense next to him. Two guards were standing over the ditch looking over them. Their search light passed within 3 feet of them.

"Over there," one of the men stated. Tracker launched himself at the men as they brought the light back around. As he landed on the first one, Tracker was already swinging. The first guard was out before the second even knew what was happening. Tracker was ready to lunge, when Allison charged in. Tracker nodded in surprise. The man was unconscious before he hit the ground.

"Now what?" Allison asked worriedly as Tracker looked around.

"Take their coats and weapons." Tracker stated as he started searching the guard he'd knocked out. Allison nodded and did the same.

Tracker also took their radio and searchlight. Once they'd finished checking they rolled the men into the ditch and took their place on the hill. As Tracker checked their position, Allison nudged his arm and moved his eyes to the left. Tracker gave a barely perceptible nod. It was going to be close. Tracker held his breath as the radio crackled.

"Alert, Red sector," the radio blared. Tracker smiled as the guards turned and started heading for the gate. Tracker and Allison started to follow them, then ducked back down into the ditch.

Tracker smiled as he heard Duck's call of ‘Turkey' and answered with "Yemen."

"Now what?" Allison asked breathlessly.

"This," Tracker answered as he reached into the pack and picked up the radio jammer and turned it on. A stream of static came from the radio. Tracker smiled at Allison then signaled him to move on, not towards the next gate, but back through the first.

Allison gave him a surprised look then shook his head. He definitely had a lot to learn about and from these two.

*** *** ***

Duck listened intently. Once she was sure she was clear she relaxed her legs, allowing them to drop to the ground. As she eased her legs down, and prepared to roll off the ledge, she heard a gruff voice.

"Come on out, we know you're in there," the voice growled.

Duck closed her eyes and took a deep breath. With her predator resting on her chest, she dropped to the ground and rolled out. As she came up, she found two rifles trained on her.

"Morning," Duck stated evenly as the men looked at her. She could tell they were weighing the situation. "Seems we have a small problem here," she stated simultaneously to the guards and through the comm-unit.

"No problem ma'am," the first guard stated.

"Just drop the gun," the second added.

They were far enough apart that she wouldn't be able to get them both before one of them got off a shot. Duck looked at them and shook her head. "You know, Max doesn't have any authority here, its Masters, and we were here at his request."

She kept her voice even. No threats, just a nice calm, easy going assessment of the situation.

The guards shook their heads. "Masters has been relieved of duty," they informed her.

"Masters will be the one who decides when he leaves Aerocomm," Duck countered. "Lets just take this nice and easy."

"Just give us your gun," the first guard told her. "We'll stay nice and calm as long as you co- operate."

"Well, you see that's the problem," Duck told him gently. "I was called here to investigate something, next thing I know, I've got people shooting at me. Live fire exercises where I'm the target tend to make me reluctant to give up my arms. You understand don't you?"

"You are here illegally, and the last time I checked, ‘Shadowrunners' breaking into secure facilities get what they deserve."

"Son, you aren't listening," Duck told him. Duck adjusted her eyes for low-light as she saw a movement behind the guards. "I'm a security consultant, on retainer with Aerocomm," she added as she recognized the ‘shadows': Tracker and Allison.

"That'll be the day," the second guard growled. "I've heard what you've done to the company."

Duck was about to adjust for Tracker's approach when Allison called out to the guards. "Here's the other one," he stated as he pushed Tracker in front of him.

Duck felt her heart sink. She had hoped Allison would prove her right. He didn't strike her as a Weasel Boy. "Netherlands," she growled.

"Sudan," Tracker answered after a pause.

Duck nodded as she uncocked her gun and glowered at the guards.

"They've jammed the radios," Allison informed the guards as he shoved Tracker to the ground in front of them.

"Should have known you were a Weasel Boy," Duck snarled at Allison.

"Coming from someone with your background?" Allison countered as he let his eyes flair ever so slightly. Duck realized he was pointing out the helicopter overhead. She gave him a barely perceptible nod as she looked at the guard on her left.

"Well then," Duck stated as she tilted her neck to the right and got it to crack. "There you have it."

"Guess so," Tracker agreed.

Duck hit the clip release button on her pistol, then racked it, ejecting the bullet that was already in the pipe. Once she had emptied the gun, she handed it to the guard nearest her. 'Better to loose a clip then be shot with your own gun,' she thought to herself.

Allison smiled at the guards as Tracker and Duck were forced back to their feet. The plan was simple. Rather than try to sneak back to the landing pad, they were going to march right in. With everybody thinking they'd been captured, the risk of being shot was much less than any other option he could come up with. Here they would keep their ‘capture' under control, and simply turn the tables when they got to the chopper. Finding Duck already captured just made it that much easier.

He knew he could take out Max if need be, and Duck and Tracker had proven themselves capable of taking on just about anything that came their way. This plan was evidence of that. Simple, reasonably safe, and it was definitely not something he would have thought of.

The guards waved off the chopper and then positioned Duck and Tracker in front of them where, as far as the guards knew, they would be unable to do anything. The plan was working rather well, until Duck stumbled.

Duck bit back a scream as she landed on her side. The impact jarred her back and the pain was excruciating. The guards acted as if it was a ruse, just the sort of thing they were expecting from two people with Tracker and Duck.'s reputation.

"Get up," the first guard ordered her gruffly as the second guard forced Tracker to his knees. Duck looked up at him. Her pain was obvious as she tried to comply. "Move!"

Duck took a deep breath and tried to force herself back up, but as she stood, her back wouldn't let her straighten up completely.

"Stand up, or we shoot your friend," the second guard told her.

Duck's posture didn't change, but her expression did. Allison knew then and there that the guard had just pushed her beyond her limit for tolerance. He was trying to think, trying to be ready, but it was really Tracker's show.

"I am standing," Duck growled. Anger and pain radiated across her face.

"Try that again and it will be the last move you make," the second guard growled. So sure he'd thwarted their attempted escape, the guard didn't realized how big the hole he was digging for himself had gotten.

Allison noticed. He also realized that Duck's pain was real enough. Of course, he'd seen her fall, and had a much better idea of the pain she was in. He also knew that somehow she'd figured out Tracker's plan.

"Let's move," he urged trying to get them moving before things got out of hand. He could tell that Duck was having trouble, but there was nothing he could do about that right now. His concern had to be getting them to the chopper safely, and that meant keeping an eye on the two guards. From everything he could see, they were the type of men who took this kind of job for the power. That made them even more of a liability than he had originally thought they were. As far as he could tell, Duck had classified them as ‘Weasel Boys,' and that meant she didn't care what happened to them.

The guards kept Tracker and Duck apart from each other, sure in the fact that they knew what to look for. If they had known what to look for, they would have known just how much trouble they were already in.

Allison saw the smirk on Max's face as they started up the rise of the Heli-pad. "Welcome," he called to Duck and Tracker with a huge smile. "So nice of you to join us."

"Pound salt pale face," Duck countered with a growl. Allison watched as the second guard made his next and final mistake. Taking Duck's insult for defiance, the guard shoved her to her knees. Duck screamed in pain.

"Katya," her father called worriedly.

"Stay where you are," Max ordered Sergei as he signaled two more guards to handle Duck and Tracker. As the guards started to comply, Allison trained his gun on Max.

"I don't think so," Allison countered. As the guards wheeled to face him, Tracker and Duck made their moves. Tracker tackled the first guard as Duck drew her backup weapon and shot the second. As the other two guards rushed in, Duck trained her gun on them.

"Don't, or you're dead," she stated as she forced herself to breathe. The guards raised their hands. "Good answer," Duck told them.

Allison watched as Tracker dropped the guard. He knew from the way the man fell, he was dead before he hit the ground. He tried to feel bad, but he knew the guards had brought it on themselves. Every file they had warned people, that Duck and Tracker would meet force with like force. He was surprised nobody else had gotten hurt in the whole fiasco. As Tracker drew his gun and joined Duck in covering the remaining two guards, Allison focused in on Max.

"You... You're with them?" Max asked in disbelief.

"They were called here as consultants," Allison informed him. "You overstepped your bounds and will be dealt with accordingly."

"They just killed two Aerocomm employees," Max countered angrily.

"Because of the situation you created!" Allison growled.

Max shook his head as rage overcame him. "They're nothing but criminals! They killed those two men in cold blood, and you helped."

"Cold blood? Because of you, Duck was injured. Because of you we were hounded by our own men. Because of you, and your ambition, our company's honor has been compromised. Because of what you told the guards, they provoked this incident. And you have the audacity to blame them?"

"Frag him," Duck stated cooly.

"Duck?" Tracker asked gently.

"Frag him," Duck repeated. "He's a Weasel Boy, there's no way he's ever gonna change. You let him live, he'll come back, sometime or another, he'll come back, they always do."

"Katya, we'll take him to headquarters," Sergei urged. "They'll make sure he never does anything like this again."

"Duck?" Tracker asked again.

"Big mistake. Big freakin' mistake," she swore between clenched teeth.

"Shit," Tracker growled as he looked at Duck. He knew she had just about reached her limit for pain. "Allison, get Max on board. You two," he added as he looked at the guards. "This lady needs my help, and I'll kill you before I let anything happen to her. You may be able to take us, but it won't be easy, and I guarantee you won't be gloating about it. You can walk away or you can die, I don't care which, but you have to decide now."

The two guards didn't even give it a second thought. They dropped their guns and simply walked away. As Tracker had pointed out., it wasn't worth it.

Allison shoved Max into the chopper and handed Masters the gun. "If he moves, shoot him," Allison stated wearily. Then he moved over towards Tracker and Duck.

"Get her in," Tracker told him. "Take care of her."

"You know it," Allison assured him. Then added worriedly, "what are you going to be doing?"

"Somebody's got to fly this bird," Tracker answered with a shrug.

Allison nodded. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised. He carried Duck to the chopper and strapped her into one of the seats. He had enough time to hook her into the med-unit before the chopper took off. As the chopper moved he put on the head phones and signaled Masters to do the same.

"Hold on, we're in for it," Tracker warned. As they lifted off, the patrol chopper had moved in on them. Now it hovered over them, trying to keep them down. "Allison, kill the jammer, we need to talk to these boys!"

"Copy," Allison answered as he reached into the mission pack and pulled out the device. Once he turned it off, he slipped it back into the bag along with the weapons he'd collected.

"They're not backing off," Tracker warned. "Make sure you're strapped in."

"Tracker," Masters called into the headphones. "Transmit the following codes directly to the helicopter's computer... 1-3-99..."

Allison realized, Masters was giving Tracker the security override codes. He smiled and nodded. It was a breach of security protocol, but if it worked, it could save more lives.

As Tracker transmitted the codes, the other chopper was forced to land. They made one more attempt to force Tracker down with them, but Tracker simply moved their chopper out of the way. Once they were clear of the patrol chopper, he went for altitude.

*** *** ***

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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