Salizar closed his eyes as he mentally sifted through the information he'd received. Everything was going according to plan but he knew all too well how quickly things could fly apart – especially when those plans involved the Duck.
He sneered as he thought about her. He'd hurt her– now he would ruin her, and her boyfriend. They had been the ones who finally ruined his plans. They were the ones who exposed the movement before its time.
They had ruined him then, he would ruin them now.
It was so easy too. Their desire to find him would prove their undoing, and their undoing would bring his other enemies within reach. Soon, Duck would be dead, her precious Bear ruined and the Wilsons would be destroyed.
He allowed himself a satisfied smile as he sifted through the reports once again. Othello had sent the message as planned. Duck and Bear would be all too willing to come to him, and when they did– the trap would be sprung.
All he had to do was wait– and make sure his quarry did as he expected them to.
Duck closed her eyes and sighed as the steam curled around her. She was retired, but retirements such as hers were temporary at best. She could be reactivated at a moment's notice. Moments like this one. At least this one was for training, and training only.
Two weeks of training– just like she was in the reserves.
She shut off the water and toweled herself off. She ran her hand over the stubble that now passed for her hair. It was easier this way, the last part of her preparatory ritual. She was changing attitude– preparing for her role as a military ‘jacker.
She took one last deep breath, and then left the warmth of the bathroom to the relative chill of the bedroom, where her uniform waited.
"Bear!" she groused as she found that her functional military briefs had been replaced by a pair of very feminine, lacy panties.
She shook her head as she heard him chuckle from the other room. With a playful growl she charged out of the room with one end of the elastic from the panties stretched over her right index finger. Her appearance made Bear only laugh harder as she stretched the waistline to its full extent and launched them at him.
She joined in the laughter as they landed three feet short of her intended target. "Military issue goes further," she grumbled as she headed back towards the bedroom.
"I'm sure it does," Bear answered.
Duck was already gone, her mind focusing once again on the task at hand. She checked the pile of clothes and checked them off of her mental packing list. Uniforms, briefs, socks, toiletries, boots, polish, belt, brasso... it was all carefully packed into her duffel. Then the final packing, her deck.
The basic packing was done, giving her time to focus on her equipment. She carefully checked out the deck, her repair kit and her collection of accessories. She easily spent twice the time with the deck than she had with her clothes, but this was no surprise– she was after all, the Duck.
She smiled to herself, knowing that Tracker and Bear both were of the opinion that she'd gone with the military so that she wouldn't have to worry about what she wore, or when she ate. Things like that tended to detract from her true interests. Duck had never done anything to disprove his theory.
With one last look around the apartment, she deposited her duffel and kit next to the door. Bear watched as she finished her last check and holstered her service weapon. She was just about ready.
She gave a satisfied smile and then joined Bear at the table. One look at the maps and she knew he'd made up his mind.
"Do you really think this is wise?"
Bear looked up at her. "Probably not, but this man, Othello... he knows where we can find Salizar."
Duck shook her head. "It sounds like a set up to me."
"Me too," Bear admitted. "But you know as well as I do that if Archer's Fist is at it again... nobody's going to be safe."
Duck let her breath out slowly. "Why don't you wait– I'll be back from the training mission in two weeks. We could go then."
Bear shook his head. "We don't have that kind of time."
He looked up and saw the concern in Duck's eyes. "Hey... I'll be fine. You know as well as I do that once Salizar knows Othello's contacted me..."
Duck nodded. "I know– but I'd feel better if you had someone with you."
Bear smiled. "You know, I only get shot when you're around."
Duck locked eyes with him, her expression serious. "Danny, I'm worried."
Bear smiled, pleased that she was being straight with him. "Me too Katya, me too."
Duck nodded and gave a half chuckle. "But these are the chances we take?"
"Exactly." He smiled at her. "Just be careful."
"Me?" She as asked in a dismayed tone. "You're the one breaking into a medium security prison– I'm just going camping in the woods."
Bear smiled, gently pulling her into his lap. He rested his hand in the small of her back, taking in the faint scent of pachouli. "Last time we were on training exercises I got three bullets in me."
Duck nodded, then rested her head against his chest. "I know," she answered softly. "I know– but still..."
"I'll be careful," he promised.
"You better," she muttered into his chest. "I want you here when I get back."
"I'll be here," he promised. "I'll be here."
Duck closed her eyes, afraid to say more. If things worked out, they'd see each other in two weeks. If not– there was no point in dwelling on it.
Finally she sighed and stood. "Let's get this over with," she finally said.
Daniel TwoBears nodded.
"Bear..." Duck paused and then gave him a slight nod.
He could see the sparkle in her eyes and nodded. "Me too."
They held each other's gaze for a moment, thoughts and understanding passing without a word. Finally Bear closed his eyes and smiled at her.
"I will be here," he promised softly.
After a long moment Duck turned towards the door. "I won't if I don't get my butt moving," she finally said. "Bad form to be AWOL your first day back."
Bear smiled and picked up her duffle. "I'd hate to have to visit you in the brig," he dead panned.
"Been there," she answered, her tone taking a deadly serious tone.
Bear gave her a confused look before he caught the reference. "Right," he answered as he mentally kicked himself. "Didn't mean..."
"I know," she answered. "I know."
He gave her a moment to gather her thoughts and then gathered up her gear and headed down the stairs.
The trip to the train station was a quiet one. Bear tried not to think about how many things could go wrong but it was hard. Harder still when he saw the look in Duck's eyes. She knew as well as he did that this whole thing could be a setup. He also knew that they couldn't take the chance of it not being one.
He watched her things, silently running his hands over the small leather pouch he'd made for her. His parting gift– a medicine pouch.
He could see the change as she returned to pick up her gear. She wasn't Katya Wjowski anymore– she was LT JG Wjowski - The Duck. He smiled at her as he handed her the pouch.
"Think of me," he said his voice soft enough that only she could hear it.
"Always," she promised in the same tone. "Stay sharp."
He gave her a fierce smile. "You too."
He watched her walk away, checking her duffle she quickly moved into the train and out of sight. He knew she was there– that she would not turn for one last look, but she would know that he was watching her.
He waited until the train had pulled away from the station then headed back to the car. Duck was safe– and he would do everything he could to make sure she stayed that way.
"Stay well," he said softly.
‘You too....' The voice was faint, just inside transmitting range.
He smiled-- trust Duck to get the last word in.
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