Ursa Non Gratis

Part VIII.

Duck - The first casualty.

We were ahead of schedule. The incident on the practice field had forced my hand, but it was just as well. Now instead of general training we could cover the specifics of what the team will need for their mission.

Archer's Fist knew we were up to something, but as usual, they struck through other people instead of hitting us head on. The words 'straight fight' are not in their vocabulary.

As I said, things were going well, which should have been my first warning. Guess I haven't been sleeping enough, or maybe because I didn't have Tracker to keep my optimism in check, I thought it was a good sign. Stupid.

Then the chopper arrived, and with it the news. Bear had confessed to the murder and admitted that I was his accomplice. That confirmed my fears, somebody had been playing with my favorite Shaman's head. I knew Bear hadn't gone to Quebec with the intent of killing Othello, but I also know that things can and do go wrong, so it was entirely possible that he did kill him. But by saying I was there, I knew something was up. I know where I was, and I have the broken ribs to prove it!

My CO came over, at least they sent somebody who knew me. The MP with him however, was all business and sure that I was to be handcuffed and dragged off immediately.

"Sorry Kate," The Old Man told me. "Soon as he confessed, we had to let them extradite you."

I nodded. There was still too much to do, and with Bear's supposed confession, I knew I had to take out some insurance. "How soon?" I asked, ignoring the MP who was moving behind me.

"I'm supposed to take you in for immediate debriefing," he answered.

I let out a deep breath then looked at him as Gadje, our pilot joined us. "Is there anything you have to do while you're here, refueling, I don't know, paying your respects to the Elders here?"

The Old Man smiled, but it was Gadje who spoke up. "Actually boss, there was a vibration in the rear rotor I really should check into before we fly all the way back to base."

The Old Man smiled again and said, "how long?" to Gadje without taking his eyes off me.

"Two hours, sir." Gadje answered, then winked at me.

"There you go Lt. Wjowski, two hours." I nodded and started to turn when I heard the MP.

"But sir?"

"We're grounded for two hours while our pilot has a look-see at the tail rotor Sargent. You got a problem with that?"

"No sir," the MP answered sharply. "But aren't we going to secure the prisoner?"

The Old Man looked at me and his smile broadened. "She looks pretty secure to me." Then he looked me in the eyes again. "Red, on the pad in two hours."

"Yes sir! Thank you sir!" Old responses die hard.

"And Wjowski, make it count."

"Does Gran's Chili count?" I asked with a grin.

"Always," The Old Man answered. "Think I might check it out myself. Pay my respects to the Elders and all."

As I moved away, the MP tried to follow, but the CO called him back. I had two hours, and the news they gave me, meant I had to make those two hours count. It also meant I had to ask a very big favor of our own John Doe. If he said no, it would mean having to contact Eclipse, no way would I ask this of Rabbit, he's been through too much to ever ask this of him.

When I got back to the training room, they were waiting for me. They knew something was up. The next two hours were spent telling them what I thought they'd need to know, and asking a few questions.

- Updated 05/26/98 I gave them the items I'd collected for them. The eyeball remotes for Dragger, and a set of video feed shades. That way he could see what the remotes saw without have to take them over. Steve got a pair of smart shades. They work like the goggles, but they're sheeker, easier to wear, and a lot easier to hide. Of course, they're also easier to break, but if you need them, its always nice to have them handy.

I didn't have much for the Inquisitor. A collection of pharmaceuticals, magic equipment and a chemical analysis unit. I also asked him what to expect during the censure. Something I am seriously not looking forward to. Now that I know what to expect, I'm looking forward to it even less.

Doe I gave a smart gun converter. He likes the plug-in connection, most of the available weapons come with pad connectors. Now he can use either. I also gave him two bullets. One for me and one for Bear. My insurance policy.

I knew that somebody had been able to control Bear, get him to confess to the murder and that I was his accomplice. I hade no illusions about my own abilities. That means that if somebody mucks with my mind, we could be worse off, even if we're proven innocent. Its a very dangerous game the Archer's Fist's been playing. Plots within plots, that's their style.

I asked that if we don't get off, or get away, that we not die by guillotine, that he take us out. Additionally, if anything happens, either of us try to hurt the other, or anybody else, that he take us down. That's where the bullets come in. Anything but a head or heart shot will cause a fake death. Head or heart, and we're dead. I'm leaving it to his discretion. I hope it doesn't come to that, but just in case, I don't want to serve the Archer Fist in any way shape or form.

He accepted the mission and promised we wouldn't feel a thing if it comes to that. I don't think it was easy for him, I know it wasn't for me. I could have asked Eclipse, but he's already shot me once. Hell, some of my best friends have shot me at one point or another. There was no way I could ask this of Rabbit.

- end revision

Niki handed me a bowl of chili on my way to the pad. I finished the chili waiting next to the pad. As I finished, Gadje gave me one of the sorriest looks I've ever seen.

"We'll get through," I stated. "We've been through worse."

Gadje tried to smile, but he knew it didn't look good. And now that we were ready to ship out, I'd have to be treated like a prisoner. The Old Man and the MP had arrived, and the MP had pulled out his handcuffs.

"Sorry 'bout this Red," the Old Man stated as the MP pulled my arm behind me and locked the cuff around my wrist.

I nodded as I put my other arm behind me so the MP could cuff it as well. "How'd we make out on the concessions?"

"Pretty well," he admitted. "We'll discuss it in debriefing."

We headed out a week ahead of schedule, proving once again, that the first casualty of war is the battle plan.

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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