Duck drifted in a grey whiteness. It was like static, white noise... oblivion. It felt good, peaceful. There were no worries, even the dull throb in the back of her skull didn’t really hurt. Everything was perfect... peaceful. She never felt so free.
She smiled slightly as the images drifted by, but something in the back of her mind was screaming, fighting, trying to warn her, trying to make her fight.
She didn’t understand the urge, there was no need to fight... this place was peaceful, there were no worries, no fears, only joy and peace.
She had no idea of how long she drifted. It was like floating in a mist. She laughed.
Still the voice kept fighting, kept trying to be heard. It knew... it knew the danger, it knew... what was happening.
‘What’s wrong?’ she thought as she shook her head at the voice. ‘Its beautiful...’
‘It is death,’ the voice finally told her. ‘It is the gift your mother gave you... it is your death if you do not fight it!’
‘Its not death... its peace... ‘ she objected, but the voice had found images now. It was flashing them at her angrily.
‘Is this peace? Is this?’ The voice was winning now.
She could feel it as she tried to move. Something was wrong: this was wrong. Then she felt a slight jab in her arm. The smile returned as the grey whiteness washed over her.
‘Pretty,’ she thought as she drifted away.
Warren looked at his watch as he set ‘Red’s arm back down on the bed. He raised an eyebrow realizing it had taken her a lot less time to work her way through the last dose than he’d expected. That meant she’d experienced the drug’s effects before, and that meant that she could easily be controlled by it.
He was smiling as he returned to the main room. Drugged she was easy to deal with; addicted, she would be easy to control. His smile widened. Things were definitely beginning to look up on this assignment. He hoped Barry would feel the same when he woke up.
He settled down and picked up the paper. He’d earned a rest.
Warren looked up as Barry groaned and rolled over. He was beginning to get worried when his partner had stayed out for so long, but he was finally beginning to show signs of life. He knew the effects of the taser were temporary, but it didn’t make him feel much better.
Mr. J. would pay for that. He owed them extra for this one, a lot more.
“Harmless girl, my ass,” he thought to himself as looked at his watch, then headed for other room to check on her.
As he walked passed his gear he snagged ‘the pack.’ and smiled: the contents of his precious little bag had proven most useful in handling her. Before she’d been most uncooperative. Now she was off in dream land.
He opened the door and checked in on her. She was already starting to come down off of the chemical induced high.
“You’ve had this before, haven’t you baby?” he asked as he prepped a needle.
“No...” she managed to gasp, but he could see the look in her eyes. She was starting to come around, starting to crave its effects, but somehow she was also fighting it. He inhaled deeply, as if savoring a perfume.
Nobody could resist Euphs for long, their power was too strong, and as the saying went : ‘Once a Euphie, always a euphie. Once Mr. J. had what he wanted, they’d get what they wanted, and they’d start with her.
He watched as her eyes glazed over and the chemicals hit her system. “There baby... everything is fine...” He stroked her hair as she stared at him a peaceful smile on her lips. “Oh yeah... everything is going to be fine.”
He chuckled to himself as he left the room.
“What are you smiling about?” Barry asked as he pushed himself upright.
“Just thinking about pay backs,” he answered with a slight smile.
Barry nodded then shook his head. “What hit me anyway?”
Warren’s head jerked as he was pulled from his own dream land. The girl would have to wait for now. He sighed as he looked apologetically at Barry.
“About Seventy-five thousand volts,” he finally answered. “She got you with the taser.”
“How?” Barry groaned, still not sure he wanted to open his eyes. “I thought you had the taser.”
“I did,.” Warren assured him. “I hit her with the darts, but then... she grabbed you. The charge passed through her and you got zapped.”
“Tell me we got that little...” His tone was very dangerous
“Oh, we got her alright,” Warren answered, his smile broadening as he thought about their... guest. “We’ve got her right where we want her.”
“Where is she?” Barry growled as he tried to stand. He was going to make sure she paid for the trouble she’d caused.
“Take it easy, she ain’t going anywhere.”
“I’m not so sure with this one... she’s not half as easy as the boss said...”
Warren smiled. “Trust me... she’s too relaxed to be going anywhere... and soon, she won’t want to go anywhere except where the next fix is...”
“Next fix?” Barry asked, a hint of a smile playing across his face.
“Oh yeah... baby’s got a monkey on her back, and she’ll do anything we want, once he’s got a really good hold.”
Barry smiled. Warren’s ‘euphs ‘ and once again proven quite useful. “I’ll make the phone call.”
“You do that,”
Barry held the phone away from his ear and pantomimed someone going on and on... and on. Mr. J. seemed, annoyed that it had taken them this long to pick up his ‘package.’ He was even trying to weasel out on the amount they’d agreed on.
“Look here,” he finally growled into the phone. “I’ve had just about enough of you!”
There was shocked silence on the other end.
“Your little package has cost us quite a bit, and maintaining its condition is costing us, so we’re passing that cost on to you...”
“She is to remain unharmed!”
“Relax, don’t get yourself in a bunch. She’s fine... she’s even enjoying her stay... but you’re going to have to cough up. And I do mean lots...”
“We... we had a deal.”
“A deal that did not include some Tasmanian she-devil!” Barry growled back. “Now.. Its 50K more... plus expenses.”
“What expenses?” the man demanded. “You’re holding her, where’s the expense in that?”
“We have to keep her amused, and entertainment ain’t cheap!” Barry told him. “Now, unless you want her getting loose, or ending up splattered all over the highway...”
“No!.. I’ll pay the 50K, but you have to cover her ‘upkeep.’”
Barry nodded, then sighed, “Okay... but if you lie to us again...”
“I didn’t lie to you, she’s just a waitress...”
“What?” Mr. J. countered noticing Barry’s tone.
“You better check your intel, cause that girl ain’t ... ‘just’ anything...”
“Just hold onto her until we’ve finished our transactions,” Mr J. instructed as he transferred the requested funds.
“Then you can dispose of her as you like.”
Barry smiled. He could wait a few days for his fun. Anticipation, after all, made things that much better. “You got it.”
Warren looked up as Barry reentered the apartment. “He go for it?”
Barry grinned. “Oh yeah... We got the 50K... good idea, asking for expenses, it gave us room to bargain.
Warren nodded. “So... we’re supposed to keep her safe and sound until Mr. J. gets what he wants?”
Barry nodded. “How’s it going?”
Warren grinned. “Won’t take much more... a few doses and she’ll do anything we want.”
Barry smiled. Things were definitely looking up.
Tatonka stared across the fire into the night. They had been out of communication with the rest of the world for almost three days and he was beginning to get antsy. They had been safe so far, but he knew that the others were still in danger. On the bright side, they hadn’t been attacked or hassled during those three days. The needed to get back in the game, but they needed a plan as well.
Whoever they were up against was not above killing their own to accomplish their mission, and that made them all the more dangerous. He found himself wishing WEJ were there but he knew that WEJ was in no shape for what they were going through right now. He tried not to think about how the opposition had learned Jen’s whereabouts.
Only WEJ had even known that she was still alive until he told Tatonka and by the time he’d gotten there, their enemy had already been there. That either meant that they had tapped WEJ’s room or... He shook his head. He was not going to contemplate the alternatives. They had already lost too many. He looked at his friends as they busied themselves around the camp preparing for the nigh. He tried not to think of Heartbreaker or Silly Wizard but they were always foremost in his mind.
“We’re going to have to go back you know,” Sundog stated softly as she joined him by the fire.
He looked up at her and nodded. “The big question is: ‘How do we do it safely?’”
Sundog smiled wryly. “We don’t.”
Tatonka looked at her for a moment then nodded. “I guess you’re right... I just...”
“No Tonk,” she sighed. “There’s no... just... we go back and we get to the bottom of this and we do it fast. Its not just us... its spilling over into our family’s lives.”
Tatonka thought about it for a moment and nodded. The ‘accident’ that had killed Wiz had taken out his fiancé as well. He took a deep breath and searched her eyes for a moment before finally speaking.
“What are you planning?”
“Well,” she sighed. “We can’t pretend to be anybody other than who we are... You and the boys are a bit... hard not to notice...”
He laughed at that. Trying to keep even one of them from standing out in a crowd was difficult, but all three of them together, well, you may as well be carrying a sign that said: ‘Here we are boys... ‘
Sundog smiled. “Good to hear you laugh again,” she sighed.
He looked at her. “Glad I still can...”
Together they stared through the fire into the night sky.
Tracker watched the sunrise, then looked over at Gypsy. It had been another restless night, and there had still been no sign from Duck.
“Maybe she found something,” Gypsy sighed.
“Or maybe something found her,” Tracker countered worriedly.
Gypsy’s expression remained the same, but there was something in his voice that indicated he feared the same thing. “Let’s go,” was all he said.
Tracker nodded, allowing the man to lead him to another vehicle. This car was much older than the one Duck had driven. It had only manual controls and it looked as if it had been used everyday of its existence.
“She may not look like much,” Gypsy sighed. “But she’ll take whatever those newer cars can dish out.”
Tracker looked at the car and then back at Gypsy.
“Do you have a plan?”
“Always,” Gypsy said.
Something in the man’s tone was both mischievous and dangerous. He nodded. “Lets do it.”
Gypsy did not need to be told twice.
Tracker let out a slow breath as the car skidded to a halt at a stop light. They had arrived at the city limits. He wasn’t sure which was worse, people gunning for him, or Gypsy’s driving. He was beginning to lean towards the driving.
Gypsy gave him a lopsided smile as he noticed the look on Tracker’s face. “You only live once,” he chuckled.
“And I’d like to spend it in one piece, thanks.”
Gypsy looked at him innocently. “We are here... and in one piece...”
“I’ll get back to you on that,” Tracker countered as he looked around. “Now that we’re here, what’s the plan?”
“I need to stop at a drop point, see if there’s anything from the other members of my team. Perhaps someone has found something while we were out.”
Tracker nodded. “That’s a good start. But what happens after that?”
“I don’t know,” Gypsy sighed with a shrug. “That will depend on the information we find.”
Tracker shook his head. He was paired with a madman, but somehow he knew that he could depend on Gypsy to get him through just about anything.
He gave Gypsy a sideways glance as he pulled onto a dark side street and pulled to the side of the road.
“The drop point is over there,” he said indicating a small, dimly lit store halfway down the block.
“Be careful,” Tracker warned as he got out and moved to the corner.
“You as well my friend.”
Tracker leaned against a boarded up window, standing watch as Gypsy went into a rundown market and picked out a few tomatoes and a quart of milk. As he checked out, the cashier gave him his change, slipping a disk in with the change.
Thanking the man, Gypsy palmed the disk and headed back to the car without a word. As he started the car, Tracker moved forward checking for signs of a tail. They were still clear.
Gypsy started the car and paused near the corner so Tracker could get in. “Anything?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Tracker answered.
Gypsy gave him an odd look. “Something from Katya...” he answered, showing him the disk.
Tracker noticed the tension that the older man tried to hide and nodded. “How do you know its from Duck?”
Gypsy looked at him. “It is a disk, only she would leave me a message like this.
“I need to go somewhere safe to review this information,” Gypsy told him.
“I know just the place,” Tracker told him.
Gypsy looked at him for a moment then nodded. He was suddenly feeling very old.
Papa Dan looked at the reports as Whisper paced around the briefing room. WEJ sat stoically watching him as Jules read off all the official reports he’d been able to find.
Silly Wizard’s official cause of death had been ruled a traffic accident. The explosion at WEJ’s place: a gas main leak. The attack on Tracker at O’Donnel’s: a botched robbery attempted.
Papa Dan sighed. “We have to assume the others are gone as well,” he finally stated as he looked at the remains of his team.
“No,” Whisper finally said. “They can’t all be gone...”
“Who,” a familiar voice called from the door way.
Four heads snapped up in unison. Big D stood in the doorway, a big grin on his face. As he moved into the room, he was followed by Little D, Tatonka and SunDog.
Papa Dan’s eyes lit up. “Dog?” he cried out as he rose and hugged her.
SunDog laughed as her back was pummeled by the rest of the assembled team. Her presence seemed to revive the team.
As things settled down, Papa Dan stared at WEJ meaningfully.
“What?” WEJ asked feigning innocence.
“We’ll talk about it later,” Papa Dan stated, but there was a slight threat to his words. “But for now, we work with what we have and try to piece through all of this.”
“The question is boss: ‘What do we have?’,” Jule’s voice was very quiet, but firm. “We’re still short three members, and no clue what this is all about.”
“Its about a black box,” Sundog stated quietly. “And the people who’ve taken our teammates from us.”
Silence filled the room as the others contemplated her words.
The silence was broken by a phone call.
Tracker was not expecting the reaction he got when Papa Dan picked up the phone. The conversation was terse but he could tell there had been some new developments. He signed off and looked over at Gypsy.
“You’re place?” Gypsy asked.
Tracker nodded. “My team is meeting us.”
“Naval shipping yard.”
Gypsy nodded as he fidgeted with the disk. He was beginning to get seriously worried.