Eclipse allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief. The strangers had finally given up their search. The constant darkness and the lack of results adding to the doubt that had really seen anything. People saw things down here all the time, and none of them were real.
That was part of why he had always used the storm drains as his sanctuary. He thought back to his first introduction to Bear. It had happened here in this very alcove. Bear had come looking for Geoff, and he had thought that Bear was looking to attack him. Now, years later he had brought Bear here without thinking.
He checked on his patients and shook his head. Both of them were out cold. Bear's heart beat stronger, but he knew that something was still wrong. He could sense it. Then there was Kai.
Nothing had prepared him for Kai's appearance, or his condition. Suddenly it all seemed to fit into place. Why Duck would laugh when he'd worry about trouble visiting Mihn. Why she would always assure him that Minh was more than capable of taking care of herself.
But if that were the case, then how had Kai been injured. His memory of Kai's arrival was already clouded in his mind. It would have to wait until the man was conscious. It was enough that they were both breathing and the hunters had finally given up. At least he hoped it was.
The shadows swirled around him and he could hear movement nearby. "E?" he called out softly.
Eclipse turned as he heard Bear call to him. "Bear?"
"Oh," Bear groaned. "I think so..."
Eclipse moved to his side when Bear gasped. "What's wrong?"
"Hurts to move," Bear answered softly. "Hurts not to."
"Just take it easy," Eclipse told him. "You've been through a lot."
"He's here," Eclipse told him. "You just rest."
Bear nodded the effort took all his strength. "I think I'll just rest."
"Good answer," Eclipse stated as he made sure Bear was comfortable. He knew Bear was in worse shape than he cared to admit, but for now, he was through the worst of it.
‘Now all we need is some sign of life from Kai and I'll believe it,' he thought to himself.
Niki TwoBears stood guard outside the chapel. Gran had made it clear to the security man that his presence was not longer required, but there was no point in taking any chances. As she paced in front of the door, he heard her begin a chant.
It was the song of farewell. Niki bowed her head and added her voice to the chant. Danny deserved a proper send-off.
Gran TwoBears heard Niki's voice outside the door and smiled. Niki, like most of her grandchildren, was a good singer. She lost herself in the song until nothing else existed. It carried her through the sorrow, into Bear's realm. It was time to say good-bye.
Gran TwoBear's heart soared as she heard the Spirit answer her prayers.
‘Father,' she answered as she opened her heart to him. She could hear his thoughts as if they were her own, but her grandson's voice was lost to her.
These are indeed dark days.
‘I understand,' she answered sadly. Daniel was lost.
No dearest daughter. He is lost to me, but not to you.
He has sacrificed his strength and power to protect those you now watch over. That is why you cannot hear him. Why I cannot help him.
‘But he lives?'
He is weak and he will have a hard battle ahead of him, but he lives.
‘Then all is well?'
I am afraid things are far from well. For now, you must be vigilant here. The enemy will seek out those you protect. You must be ready.
Gran nodded as a vision of Bear appeared before her. He rested his head in her lap, comforting her with his warmth.
‘You have done so much,' she stated unsure how to begin. Duck should have contacted her and even now she could feel nothing from her.
She is in the enemy's hands.
Bear's voice was lost, even to her ears. ‘Then, they have turned her?'
Not yet, but that is their hope. There is something about the enemy that blocks me. I only know that it will take much work to defeat him, and he has hurt us more than we have hurt him.
‘What do you ask of us?'
Protect yourselves, protect your charges. I will prepare for battle, when you call, I will come.
‘Thank you father,' she thought as the Bear's eye's met her's. There was comfort there, but something more. Sorrow?
You are dear to me.
She knew there was more than he said, but she had followed Bear's path since she was a child. She knew that when the time came, she would know what he did not reveal. She had the wisdom to know that Bear was only trying to protect her.
‘And you to me,' she answered. ‘You have been both guide and friend.'
And you, my child. And you.
"Wulf, we aren't finding anything," Jade told him as she cleared the last of the circle she and Gris had made.
"Or too much," she answered. "The net result is the same. He's got too much influence over the area. It would take us the better part of a week identifying which signals are those he controls, those who serve him willingly and may not even be able to actually get a line on him."
Wulf nodded. None of this was to his liking. Then he noticed the circles under her eyes. "Jade?"
She waved off his concern as he guided her to the couch. "I'll be fine," she assured him as she staggered slightly.
"Yeah, I believe that one," he countered gently. "Sit."
"Of all the pompous... arrogant..."
"Humor me," he interrupted.
"Go to hell," she growled as she took a seat on the couch. "I notice you don't fawn all over Gris."
"I use to, but the last time I did, he tried to get too personal," Wulf countered half jokingly. "Besides, he's already out cold on the floor."
Jade looked and raised an eyebrow. "Go figure," she stated sleepily as she looked over at Gris.
"Yeah," Wulf agreed. "We'll talk more when you're rested."
Wulf watched worriedly as Jade fell into unconsciousness. Once he was sure she was alright, he went and checked on Gris. His skin was cool to the touch, but he was also soaked in sweat. As he picked the man up and deposited him in a recliner, Gris began snoring softly.
He knew time was running out for the unfortunate tech in MindBender's clutches, but he'd already pushed his team too hard. They had to rest, and there was nothing he could do until they had a fix on the decker or on MindBender himself. Wulf hated being useless.
Tracker monitored the video feeds as the others waited in silence. It had been four hours since Rabbit had disappeared and everybody was on edge. Kenny and Finagle agreed that MindBender no longer controlled Whisper, but Tracker still couldn't bare to face him.
There had been nothing from Duck, nothing at all. He knew that if she could, Duck would find a way to communicate. Failing everything else, she still had the French Prototype in her head. He thought back to the mission where they'd met, the mission where she ended up, rather rashly, having the unit installed.
She'd been captured there too, but the enemy wasn't trying to brainwash her, just hold her until they used her to catch her uncle. She'd managed to leave enough clues that he could find her then, he had to believe that she would find a way now.
‘But if she did, would she still be Duck?' The thought came unbidden and he fought to get rid of it, but it was a possibility. Duck was stubborn, but that wasn't always enough. Kenny had analyzed the darts Whisper used and the prognosis there wasn't very good either. A neuro-toxin that destroyed the neurotransmitter. It was only enough to effect voluntary muscles, but that was more than enough.
‘If she couldn't communicate, what would she do?' He questioned himself, trying to keep from going off on Whisper. It wasn't his fault, but Tracker had to keep reminding himself. Then he remembered, as far as Duck knew, they were dead.
‘She'd still try to communicate, get help. Duck would never give up, that was their mistake. He just had to believe. He started a full frequency scan, praying he'd find something. In the meantime, they would wait for Rabbit.
*** *** ***
Rabbit paused as he neared the church. He knew he was supposed to follow the proper procedure of contacting the Sushi Ninja before approaching the church, but Duck didn't have that kind of time.
He needed the Rabbi's network and he needed Ian's music. He'd lost Bear, and now, unless he could find something, Duck would be lost as well. That was something Rabbit was not willing to accept.
As he strode for the front door of the church, three men stepped from the shadows, blocking his way. He remained calm as they pulled him back into the shadows and began patting him down.
"I need to see the man," Rabbit growled as the first man relieved him of his weapons.
"You will do nothing of the kind until we have cleared it," the man informed him as he signaled the all clear.
Rabbit growled as the men held him there. Duck's time was running out.
As they waited the doors opened and Ian stepped out. "Rabbit?" he called worriedly. "What are you doing to him."
"Ian," Rabbit called. "Tell the Rabbi ‘IT' has a friend of mine. We have to find her now!"
Ian saw the look in Rabbits eyes and nodded. "He's with me," Ian assured the three men, but they merely shook their heads.
"Not until the man says so," the leader of the three countered.
Rabbit looked at Ian and shrugged.
"I'll let him know," Ian assured Rabbit as he headed back into the church.
As Rabbit forced himself to be patient, one of his guards slipped further into the shadows and disappeared. As he waited, Rabbit felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand out.
"Sniper," Rabbit growled in warning as he tried to get a line on the shooter.
One of his guards smiled at the others and nodded approvingly. "He is ours," he assured Rabbit softly. "Please understand."
"I understand," Rabbit countered. "I don't appreciate it, but I understand."
"Even recognizing you isn't enough," the second guard told him. "Not when the enemy can turn a friend into a foe."
"You don't have to tell me," Rabbit growled. Whisper, one of Duck and Tracker's most trusted friends had set them all up. Worse, he had betrayed Duck, and he never even knew what was happening until after the fact.
"The woman you mentioned?" the man asked worriedly.
"If we don't get to her soon enough she will be," Rabbit countered. "A friend of theirs, turned her over to their main ‘recruiter.'
"How long?" the second asked.
"Nineteen, twenty hours by now," Rabbit answered.
"I'm sorry," the first guard told him as he looked around.
Rabbit could tell by the man's expression, the odds were she was gone. But then Duck always had a way of turning the odds to her favor. Years of experience told him, never count the Duck out of anything. If anybody could out stubborn MindBender, his money was on her. Only problem was, if MindBender couldn't break her, that would be all they wrote for Duck.
He stiffened as he felt rather then saw the third guard return with someone.
"Derrick-san," the leader of the ninja greeted him gently.
Rabbit turned and bowed towards the man.
"We were worried when you and your friends did not visit us last night," the man stated as he returned Rabbit's bow.
"Somebody was trying to kill us," Rabbit answered nonchalantly. "Bombed the warehouse where we were staying, we lost some equipment, but everybody inside survived."
"But," the man asked as he read Rabbit's expression.
"One of our men had been compromised. He set us up. Gift-wrapped one of my friends."
The man bowed his head and nodded. "Which one?"
"Duck," Rabbit answered softly. "They attacked the family business last night."
"So, they have decided that discretion is no longer needed," the man stated as he shook his head. "So you have come here."
"I have no other choice," Rabbit answered. "If we are to save Duck, we must find her soon."
"They've already had her nineteen to twenty hours," the first guard told his leader. "He has admitted that much already."
"Duck," the man said as he thought back to their meeting. "She is a decker no?"
Rabbit nodded. "Decker, Rigger, if it's tech, she can work it."
The old man nodded again. "The enemy has been searching for one such as she. They would go slowly with her, try to keep her mind in tact, but they will only go so far before it becomes more of a risk that it is worth."
Rabbit nodded again. "That's what we figured."
"Come with me," the man urged. "Kemuri, walk with us, the rest of you, be alert. The enemy has become bold."
With that, they headed through the alleyway to the sacristy behind the church.
*** *** ***
The Rabbi lit the candles in front of him as he began a prayer. As he prayed, he could hear Ian augmenting his prayer with song. Soon they would begin their search, but first they would offer up a prayer for the object of their search. A woman known as Duck.
As the candle flared, then settled to a steady flame, he pulled out the object Rabbit had given him: a medicine pouch. He laughed, a Catholic priest, referred to by the old word for ‘Teacher', searching for a woman of unknown religious beliefs, via a medicine pouch dedicated to the Bear spirit; aided by a man who follows the calling of the muses; fighting against a foe with magical and possibly demonic leanings. If that didn't sum up the state of things, nothing did.
In the darkness, of the shadows
We travel down the road,
and soon we are forgotten.
The words we take for granted,
the things we ought to say.
Lost without a sound.
Until silence is all we know.
Where are you, what are you... seeking...
In the darkness, of the shadows
We search for what is missing
it mustn't be forgotten.
The words we take for granted,
the words we say today
lost without a sound,
until silence is all we know.
Where are you, who are you... seeking...
In the music, in the silence
We search the paths of old
for now they are forgotten.
The words we take for granted
the things we dare not say
Lost without a sound,
until silence is unheard
Where are you, who are you... seeking...
The music and light faded into darkness as the Rabbi tried to find the owner of the pouch. The darkness had a scent, a feel, a sound. It was damp and echoed with the sounds of water. She was not alone. As the location solidified, he felt the spells that surrounded the place, protecting it, hiding it, yet somehow he could see it. He didn't understand, but he knew where she was.
Now to describe the location to Rabbit. He realized the amount of power he had used and knew he would not be able to maintain consciousness very long once he dropped the spell. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"The storm drain," he gasped as his vision returned to the physical world. He grabbed the map and circled the area he'd recognized. "Go my son."
Rabbit nodded gratefully as Ian half supported the Rabbi. "Thank you."
The Rabbi smiled at him as exhaustion overcame him. "Welcome..."
Rabbit gave Ian a worried look, but Ian merely smiled. "It's a tough spell to work," Ian told him. "He'll be fine."
Rabbit nodded as he took the map and headed for the door. "Take care of yourselves."
When he turned to leave he found his way blocked by the third guard, Kemuri, ‘smoke.' As he prepared to object, the man handed him his weapons. "You will need these," he stated with a smile.
Rabbit nodded. This was not the time to make careless mistakes.
Tracker signaled an alert as the proximity alert flashed on his screen. He had been watching if for over eight hours now. As he primed the defenses and Boomer took the wheel, he heard Rabbit over the secure channel.
"We've got a location," he stated. "Get ready!"
The other's looked up and smiled. For the first time Tracker met Whisper's gaze. He could see the guilt and shame on the man's face. Tracker bit his lip and nodded. It wasn't Whisper's fault, but he had a hard time trusting him after what had happened.
"Maybe you should leave me," he signed. "If I can't trust myself, how can you?"
"I trust Kenny," Tracker countered. "And he says you're clear."
"But for how long?"
Tracker nodded. It was the same concern he had. "I don't know."
"Thought so," Whisper answered with a nod. "Have Kenny knock me out."
"Tracker, she's there because of me. That's bad enough, but if I blow her rescue, or get you hurt..." He shook his head. "I couldn't take that."
"Okay," Tracker signed then turned to Kenny. "Knock him out," he said.
"Tracker, he's clear," Kenny objected. "This isn't fair to him."
"Yes it is," Whisper told him softly. "And I asked him to."
Kenny looked from Tracker to Whisper then nodded. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"Me too," Tracker stated as Rabbit knocked on the side door. As Kenny prepped the needle, Mercury opened the door for Rabbit.
"Got a map," Rabbit stated with a smile as he showed them the results of his quest. Tracker looked at the map and shook his head.
"Hey Boom," he called. "Take a look."
As Boomer looked at the map he turned and looked at Tracker. "Isn't that where E used to hang out?"
"Yeah," Tracker countered. "He always said it was a good place to hide away..."
"Looks like he's not the only one who thinks so," Boomer stated. "Let's go!"
Without further discussion, they were on their way.
Tracker signaled Mercury and Rabbit to take positions where they could cover the truck, the access panel and each other. Tracker would take the lead with Finagle, while Boomer and Kenny took up the rear.
They knew they'd have to move quickly and be ready for anything. MindBender was mostly likely protected. But by grouping the way they had, each team had somebody who could at least sense magic.
They knew they'd have to move quickly and be ready for anything. MindBender was mostly likely protected. As it was, it had taken them the better part of an hour to get to the access point, now they were on foot.
As Tracker checked his equipment one last time, he nodded towards the others. Boomer gave him a thumbs up. Tracker was the first to enter the storm drain. As he scanned the area, he heard a rustle behind him.
"Well boys, it seems that this place is getting more and more popular," a voice stated. "Just ease your hands off of your gun and you might live to see tomorrow."
Tracker smiled as he raised his hands over his head. He had hoped to get further into the tunnels before encountering opposition, but in his current state, here was as good a place as any to start the fighting.
"Check him," the voice ordered as two men stepped forward. The first man to touch him received a heavy stun charge from his suit, the next a hit from the expandable baton he'd strapped to his wrist.
"Tracker?" he heard Finagle call over the comm as the fight started.
"Come on in, the water's fine," Tracker answered as he hit the third man.
Finagle dropped in just in time to duck under a fourth man's attack and counter with a spell that activated all the man's nerve endings at once. He collapsed in a series of spasms.
As the three who remained standing looked at them, it was obvious, they had no stomach for victims who fought back. They ran without a word.
Boomer and Kenny dropped in behind them as Tracker checked on the four downed men. "Three got away," he sub-vocalized.
Boomer nodded and pointed down the tunnel. Tracker nodded. They'd have to move quickly.