Future Nerf: Chapter 3

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READ THIS FIRST!

This is being added to the beginning of every chapter of the former "Future Nerf" series that I wrote several years ago. While the story is available for nostalgia purposes, it must be understood that the story as I've understood and developed it is a far cry from what you'll find here. Please do not modify or construct any prequel/sequel/alternate stories of your own based on these. One day when I've put all my thoughts into words there may be a re-release...not only of these chapters, but of the entire story, beginning to end, which no one has seen yet. Aside from this, enjoy :-).


February 1, 2012

"Yes, well, it's empty now," Custer agreed, looking at the large, dark, empty room, "but this will soon be our headquarters." The room was about 15 by 25 feet, and the entrance doors were on either end nearer to one wall. Duncan and Custer stood by the right-hand door. "Finally tired of people dropping by your apartment, eh?" Duncan asked. Custer frowned. "Yes, that will be a plus too..." Just then, Curt walked in pushing a cart with several large boxes. Cam followed closely behind with another. "Techie tools," Curt remarked, grinning "this'll take all day to set up. I love my job." "Probably longer," Cam said, "We're going to have more processing power in one room than several normal city blocks," "Sounds good," Duncan said, "Where are Boom and Sharp?" "Out," Custer began, walking toward a door on the center of the near wall, "gathering supplies for this place." Custer opened the door to reveal a ten by ten-foot room. It's dark gray walls were lined with gun racks, ammo cabinets, and other tools for organizing munitions. A few of the team's weapons were in there already, but for the most part, it was empty. Duncan's head spun at the thought of all the fun items that would soon be lining those shelves. "Now that you've seen our new home, I've got a job for you," Custer added, "Go to the Luna Landa. If Mir isn't there, try to get a message to her that we need to meet soon." "What if she is there?" Duncan asked. "See if you can bring her back here," Custer replied dryly. "If you don't mind my asking..." "I do. Get going," Custer interrupted.

Twenty minutes later, Duncan was entering the Luna Landa's mirrored door. He walked up to the bar and ordered a quick drink. "Is Mir around today, Harvey?" Duncan asked the bartender. Harvey laughed, "She's hardly ever here. Don't know where she's off to this time. Unless your one of her mercs, which I don't exactly qualify for, you don't know nothing." Duncan nodded and said, "Tell her she needs to meet me soon. That is, if you can get a message to her." Knowing what was coming next, Duncan put an extra tip on the bar. "I think that can be arranged," said Harvey, pocketing the tip. Without another word, Duncan finished his drink and left.

Sharpknux and Boom pulled two large boxes out of the Phoamtech store on a cart. They loaded them into the nearly-full back of Sharp's van. "That should do it," Sharp said, wiping his hands, "Weapons and ammo from five companies. I hope Custer's weapon locker can hold all this." "Better get it back to base and find out," Boom replied, "I'll go back later. I'm going to learn a little more of the city." "Gotcha," Sharp said, "watch your back. This is no Utopia." Boom nodded, waved, and began walking as Sharp's van pulled out. Now out of the parking lot, Boom slipped on his sunglasses, and took to the sidewalk.

He was halfway down the street when he heard something down an alleyway. Wishing he had brought something heavier with him, he pulled out a modified Secret Shot, and prepared to investigate. He continued down the alley until it made a T-intersection with another building. Two dirty-looking young men in white tanktops walked in from either direction. Glancing back, he saw a third closing from behind at a distance. Deciding not to say the word his mind was tossing around, he instead decided that this was going to be the moment that showed him whether or not he could make it here. These people were obviously street trash, and weren't carrying any weapons other than one small knife. If he couldn't take them, he probably couldn't take professionals. Boom didn't want to underestimate them, but he knew he could take one, maybe two of them. He needed an equalizer for the third, and shooting wasn't going to be much of an option: even handguns could be cumbersome in a close fight. Boom lowered the gun and dropped it, preparing to catch the hidden combat knife up his right sleeve. Once the first two were fairly close in, one demanded Boom's money. "Sorry, seem to have spent it all," Boom replied cooly. "Then show us what you bought." said the thug. "I'll find out," the thug behind, the one with a drawn knife, volunteered as he was about fifteen feet away. "Well, for one thing, I'm carrying a bigger knife than that," Boom said quickly. He pulled his own combat knife, twisted a half-circle, and threw it into the approaching mugger's chest. The unlucky target teleported out immediately. Swinging back around, he faced the next two. They charged him immediately, not knowing where the knife had come from. Boom dropped, stopping one cold with a boot in his knees while planting his palm in the second one's stomach, using the thug's mometum to carry him farther than he had intended to go. Pushing off the ground, Boom was back up. The first thug, while in pain, was standing again and began launching punches.

He's faster than I thought. Boom observed, concerned, I better take him quick. Boom had to move fast to block one punch and dodge two more, but finally he landed two quick punches to the thugs stomach, staggering him backwards to the wall.

In the meantime, the second thug had picked himself up, and rushed back. Boom feigned a side kick, which slowed the second thug, and made him mistakenly attempt to catch the boot. He was caught totally off-guard when Boom's right palm impacted his jaw in an uppercut. The thug's head snapped back, and he fell like a sack flour. The first thug, recovering again, decided to run. Boom scooped up his knife and gun, brushed his sleeves off, and left the alley. He didn't notice the fourth thug following him.

Custer was inside the walls at RADHQ running wires when Duncan returned. Curt and Cam had unpacked a good portion of their new gear, and were arranging racks and desks for everything. There was one central table, with the room's only light fixture swinging over it. It was this table that most of the unpacked equipment was on.

"Whoa," Duncan said, eyeing a two by one-foot unit, "a 305. We are serious, aren't we?" Cam nodded, not looking away from her work, "We have four of them." "Four?" Duncan exclaimed in disbelief, "This base must be costing a fortune!" "Don't mention it," Custer said, dropping from the ceiling, "Took the better part of the team funds, and the three of us put a lot into this equipment. Likewise, Sharp and Boom are buying the weapons." "What should I be spending my money on?" Duncan asked. "Nothing," Custer replied, "you and Starbuck are going to be our financial reserves, it seems." "I've been investing a lot of mine since our last pay," Duncan said, "should go okay, let me know if we need anything though. Where is Starbuck anyway?" "I'm can't say," Custer said, "he's out on a one-man mission. He should be back in a couple of days. Now, I take it you left Mir a message?" "Yes. She'll reply if she feels like it, I guess."

The door opened, and Sharpknux walked in alone, pulling a cart with two boxes. "Sharp," Custer said, "What have you done with Boomslang?" "I let him go wandering off to explore the city, mommy" Sharp retorted, "He'll come home when he's hungry." Duncan and Custer helped unload the boxes Sharp brought in, and Custer opened them. "That's just what we got at Phoamtech," Sharp said. "There's more in the van."

Sharp left to get the rest of the equipment while Duncan and Custer explored the first open box. "I need guns, lots of guns," Duncan said jokingly. Custer laughed, "Whoosh, there you go. Let's get them organized." He brought out a stack of Duzi 3 boxes, and began opening them, mounting the guns on the shelves.

At nineteen hundred hours, the supply room was full, the important computers were finally hooked up, and Curt was about to connect their technical power to the world.

"Okay, remote contacts are up?" Curt asked. Cam confirmed they were. "Okay, let's give the MLRC a shot."

Cam, seated at their server, typed several lines of commands into a console program, then switched a large, router-like device on. After a moment of watching stats, she opened a web browser, and was able to view the NerfArena.Com Memorial Site. "MLRC is online," she reported.

Curt didn't bother to reply. Quick as lightning, he opened his custom-programmed version of Telnet, TelCurt, and began pinging a list of servers. Before long, he had gained access to a small Tycoon database, and set one of the 305s to work pulling all the data from it. Smiling, he opened TelCurt several more times, and began cracking servers everywhere.

"Do you think he'll get used to this?" Custer whispered to Duncan. Duncan, seeing Curt melt into his chair, not taking his eyes off his main screen, said "I think he just did." Cam said, "Looks like everything's up now. Question is, do I go home, or hack. Hmm...I'm thinking hack." "All right, just don't do anything destructive, and don't get caught." Custer ordered. "The MLRC is secure," Curt assured Custer, "If someone notices the connection, they'll never find out who it was."

Boom walked in just as Custer was about to leave. He seemed okay for the most part, but had a black eye, and his hands were covered in dirt. "You know," he declared tiredly, "someone really should do something about the gangs around here." Custer raised an eyebrow. "You don't look too bad, if you just got mugged. I trust your opponents have been trashed?"

"Oh, yes," Boom nodded solemnly, "that group is gone, and that felt good. Duncan, want to go find another one tommorrow?"

Duncan smiled grimly, "Talk about a sense of adventure. Either the odds weren't that bad, or you've got some real skill."

Boom shrugged "I've done some training. It was three against one first. I ended up taking five later." "I'm impressed," Duncan admitted, "We need to train together sometime. I've been studying a lot of disciplines lately. You should join Custer and me sometime. But let's go get a steak first." "Thanks, I'm not hungry," Boom replied. "No, I mean for your eye."

Curt and Cam worked on their new systems long into the night. By midnight they had still only scratched the surface of what was out there. What they had hit so far had been easy. Curt wanted a challenge. Making sure everything was secure, he began scouting government and military servers. There were three particular military servers that interested him. One was in Spain, and two were in Nerf Central. One of the two appeared to be Orthanc Tower's mainframe. These three interested Curt so much because their security was unlike anything he'd ever seen. At midnight, Cam left to go home, but Curt stayed, fascinated by this new challenge.


February 3, 2012; 0600 hours

Duncan's internal clock woke him, as it always did. However, he did not awake where he always did. He was still kneeling on his floor in perfect meditating posture. Those relaxation techniques really do work effectively Duncan reflected. Standing up slowly and stretching out, he prepared for the day.

While Duncan was eating breakfast, at about 0630, his phone rang. Wondering who had the courage and stupidity to call anyone that early, he answered the phone. "Hey, Slam, sorry to call so early, but I wanted to make sure I caught you before you left." "Not a problem, I've been awake. Who's this?" "It's Ace, you noob! I wanted to let you know, I'm coming to Nerf Central. I signed up, and I'll be flying in in less than a week!" Duncan smiled. This was definately Ace. Where Ace had gotten his phone number... "Sounds great! e-mail me the details, and I'll meet you." "Okay, cool. By the way, I heard about you and RAD when those other guys tried to take the NPG. It was all over the news at the Nerf coverage site. You think you can get me in?" "Yeah, no sweat. I'll tell Custer you're coming, and have him contact you today."

Curt did not wake up the way he normally did. It started with someone saying his name. With a start, he sat up. He was still at his workstation, where he had fallen asleep, face pressed and drooling on the desk. Custer had walked in, expecting to be the first one to open shop.

"That's one heck of a rackburn," Custer observed as Curt rubbed his hands over his face. "I found some stuff last night, and..." "Curt," Custer interrupted kindly, "go home. Get some rest." Curt was still tired, and instead of objecting, he followed Custer's last order. He flopped down on the desk again, snoring quietly. Custer massaged his temple. He shook his head, turned, and went for the door. The phone on the main desk rang. Custer answered it. It was Duncan. "Custer, I think we've got a new member," Duncan said.

West woke up around 0700. He was tired from the night before. He had been out, scouring the underground for any sign of his last employer. Today, he'd go down again, and search some more. Getting up, he stretched, and went through some Tai Chi routines before preparing to leave.

Boom met Duncan at the martial arts studio near RADHQ at 0800. They changed into lighter fighting attire and prepared to compete. Striking defensive positions, they began.

Boom was the first to take the offensive. He launched a roundhouse, which he already knew Duncan would duck. With his other leg, he jumped over Duncan's answering leg sweep. He landed in a half crouch, then leapt forward in a flying kick. He found himself sidestepped and overshooting his target. He felt a tug at his collar as he was flipped hard onto the mat. Flipping forward, he stood and turned. This time Duncan attacked. Boom initiated forearm blocks rapidly as Duncan pounded out shots for his chest. He ducked to the side just in time as Duncan's right fist cut the air where his head had been. Spinning 180 to the right, Duncan pivoted on his left foot, while his right delivered a roundhouse to Boom's head. Decked again, Boom stood up and attacked more fiercely than before. Duncan was genuinely surprised at Boom's new effort, and was finding it difficult to keep up. Finally, he saw his opportunity. Boom launched a fast, powerful right punch. Duncan dropped slightly as he leaned to the left. Spinning to gain a little momentum, Duncan found himself beside Boom, behind his arm, still facing the opposite direction. He brought his right leg up and kicked at the back of Boom's knees. Before Boom finished his backwards descent, Duncan had a palm planted on Boom's chin, not slowing him down any. Boom knew exactly what had happened, and didn't slow down. Backflipping, he landed on his feet, and began punching again. He decided to try the same trick that he had used on the thugs the day before. After his last punch, he leaned sideways, and threw his leg out lightly, pretending to kick. Duncan took the bait, his hands closing on thin air as the foot unexpectedly withdrew. Before he knew it, Boom's palm had rushed forward, impacting with Duncan's chin, and lifting him off his feet. "Very nice," Duncan commented a moment later when he could think again. "Again."

Officer Jim Backer of the NCPD was having a good day. From his passenger-side view of his partner's patrol car, he had so far observed no problems, no disturbances, not even anything slightly suspicious. He took a first massive bite out of a powder sugar-covered jelly doughnut, and mentally complained about the powder and goo suddenly all over his fingers. As he reached for a napkin, he suddenly heard his partner radio the dispatcher.

"Dispatch, we have a vehicle weaving dangerously on South Kensington, possible DUI. I'm going to pull him and check it out."

With that he switched on the sirens and lights and pulled up closer to the car in question. It slowly pulled over and stopped. Backer watched his partner as he got out of the patrol car and approached the pulled car. He seemed to ask several questions, and then motioned for the driver to get out of the car. Backer looked down for a second as we wiped his grimy fingers.

Two shots rang, and Backer looked up in surprise to see his partner and the driver fall to the ground. Apparently, he had drawn fast enough to stop the suspect but not save himself. Backer instantly threw his door open and grabbed his weapon with a still-sugar-covered hand. Taking cover behind the door, he saw the other three doors on the suspect car open, revealing men in suits, carrying Tommy Fours. They opened up immediately, making him duck and cover his head. He dived back in the car, flattening the box of doughnuts. He grabbed for the radio, but had no time for a message. Simultaneously, the three gangsters had rushed forward, broken the windshield and side windows, and sprayed the interior down with over a hundred PhoamTech EF micros. In less than a minute, Backer's good day was no longer good.

An hour later, Duncan and Boom arrived at RADHQ. The first thing they noticed was that each workstation had several additional monitors. The second thing they noticed was that everyone's attenion was fixed on a monitor displaying a news report.

"...and according to reports from the dispatcher, the patrol car was pulling over a vehicle for possible drunk driving. Exactly what happened next, we don't know for sure, but both officers were zeroed, one by a standard megadart, the other slaughtered inside the patrol car by a barrage of exploding microdarts. It's certain that automatic weapons were in use by several people, but for now, it's going to be difficult to tell exactly who those people are," the reported paused as an image of the scene was displayed, "several witnesses say that the attackers were wearing suits, but so far, no more specific descriptions have been turned in. Forensics is inspecting the scene now, trying to turn up clues about what really happened. More on this when we come back."

Custer hit the Mute button on a remote control. "Several suspects, gunning down officers with automatic weapons for being pulled over. One might think they had something to hide."

"Agreed," Sharpknux said, "Am I the only one that smells a reincarnated Al Capone? The suit thing...is just too obvious." Curt nodded. "It's been just less than a month since prohibition took effect. It would be enough time for gangs and rumrunners to set up shop." "If the government turns up evidence to that end," replied Custer thoughtfully, "They'll probably set up bounties for captured merchandice and gang members. I think we had better start tracking them down." "Whoa, hold on," Curt said holding his hands up, "If the government says to go hunting, that's one thing. Going and messing with a gang that we know nothing about is different." "Or multiple gangs doing the same thing," Duncan replied, "He's right, Custer, we can't jump into this now. Not alone." "We better be on the defensive though," Sharpknux said, "In a lot of ways, we helped pass the prohibition laws. I'm thinking that even if we lie low, some of them might come hunting us for fun." "Yes, that is possible," Custer reflected, "Okay, I want everyone armed at all times. We're taking no chances about defense."

West was in a dingy cantina deep in the underworld of Nerf Central. He decided that even if he didn't find who he was looking for, he would come back again. The dark establishment surrounded him, surrounded his booth, with smells from many different exotic drinks, and the mood was amplified with a slow, quiet drum'n'bass tune. West kept an eye on the crowd, watching faces, looking for the one that had hired him for a mission against the government without his knowledge. West was good at getting what he wanted. For days now, he had been silently tracking his employer, watching his patterns of travel via a tiny transmitter. During their first meeting, West made sure it found its way into the man's coat, and there it had remained, undiscovered.

At length, West saw the face he was looking for. The former employer walked through the front door. He surveyed the bar carefully, and saw West's hat. Without a second glance to confirm, he turned quickly and walked back out. West was on his feet and on the way to the door. He reached the sidewalk just in time to see the man duck into an alley, breaking into a sprint. West went hunting. He saw the man run to the end of the alley and turn right. Just as the man hit the turn, his coat's pocket snagged on some jagged metal, and ripped. He kept running. but the tracking device fell from his pocket. West tried to chse him down, but the man obviously knew this place well, and managed to avoid being seen.

Finally, West had to give up. His first plan failed, but his second would not. It never did. He would do it the hard way.

Duncan sat in the Luna Landa, alone at his usual booth. He ate and thought: those two things always seemed to go well together. It was getting late in the day, and t-shirt and bumper sticker manufacturers were already drafting ideas to capitalize the earlier tragedy. It was always the same, something terrible would happen, and companies would prey on it for its profit potential. Duncan thought back to September 11th, 2001. He had never bought any of the much-marketed variations of "Thank you to our heroes, we'll never forget today, and united we stand for ever and ever and ever." He had the utmost respect for everyone involved in helping that day, but he believed that companies violated those peoples' honor in their merchandising. He wondered what they would come up with for this occassion.

Without warning, Mir appeared from the bar crowd, and headed for Duncan's table. She sat down, saying nothing. "I take it Harvey gave you my message," Duncan said after he had finished his dinner. Mir nodded once, slowly. "Custer told me to leave it. I don't know what he wanted, but it sounded serious." "I know what he wanted," Mir said finally, "I was on my way to see him, now I'm waiting for you."

Not sure what Custer had planned, Duncan pushed away the empty plate and stood up. Crystal appeared from the crowd as well, and followed as they walked outside, and started on their way to RADHQ. Custer greeted them as they entered.

The entire team was assembled, including Starbuck. "Hey, Starbuck," Duncan said, "thought weren't due back for a few more days." "Good," Custer said, "because that's what you were supposed to think." Duncan didn't have time to ask why, because Custer started the meeting. "Most of you don't know what this is about. In short, we're forming a partnership.

"We all know what happened today. The partnership was discussed some time ago in secret, in an attempt to avoid things like that. Apparently, our enemy has moved faster than we thought. It's no doubt you're confused. Let me explain.

"Last month, a group thought to be the Green Hats attacked the NPG here. We believed that the real Green Hats might take advantage of the situation. I spoke with Mir, whose team has had some...encounters with the Green Hats. I told her that I would send a message for her when we had something on them. Duncan, Starbuck has been out determining the Green Hats' resources and member following. He was scheduled to come back tommorrow, but the enemy was on to him. They were planning to take him out when he got here, so he came back a day early to make sure we got the information."

Crystal spoke up next, "We know that Green Hats were involved today. Forensics turned up one clue about the attackers. A shard of broken glass, covered with powdered sugar, happened to come into direct contact with the finger of an attacker. The print identified him as Michael Scott, a Green Hat member. We captured him this afternoon and turned him over to the government."

"Fast work," commented Sharpknux with a nod. "The getaway car was found shortly after," Crystal continued, "They were carrying a trunk full of liquor. The alcohol trafficing has started." "Gang wars aren't going to be far behind," Custer cut in, "So this is it. The government and military are powerful, but not invincible and omniscient. They're going to need help from the people that support the law." "The last time the NPG saw us was when we accidentally hit one of their convoys," Duncan reminded him, "regardless of the capitol hostage matter, are we sure they want our help?" "No, and I haven't asked them," Custer admitted, "As long as we stay away from their operations and turn in any merchandice and prisoners we seize, they should be grateful for the help. In the mean time, a little urban warfare training might not hurt."

"Training," Duncan said, "to that end, I have a little news for you, Custer. I meant to tell you, but it slipped my mind." "What?" Custer wanted to know. "I'm going to Hong Kong tommorrow morning. I'm taking specialized training in, among other things, urban warfare, wilderness survival, and more martial arts."

"Great Scott, Duncan, more martial arts training?" Custer exclaimed, "And at a time like this...Alright, we're not starting our campaign yet, so I suppose a couple weeks of vacation can be spared, if that's what you call vacation."

"Part of the two month training," Duncan replied, "is a solo survival trip across the forests and mountains in China. Hardly a vacation."

"Two months...I'm not sure about this," said Custer, "I'm just about to find some allies in Britain. I don't know about two of us being gone at once." "Probably wouldn't hurt," Curt said, "We can hold the place down if you go, and we'll grab some information for you before you get back." "Ace is going to be arriving on the ninth," Custer told Starbuck, "Curt can put him to work. Are you all sure Duncan and I should both leave?" "We can handle it," Starbuck confirmed. "In case the Green Hats catch on to us, or try for Starbuck," Mir volunteered, "we'll have your backs."

"Well, then that is that," Custer said with a sigh. Without official announcement, the meeting was adjourned. Crystal followed Mir out to the hall, leaving the rest behind. "I'd better be going now," Duncan said, heading for the door. Custer followed him to the door. "Need to pack? I ought to get to that myself." "Nope, nothing to pack," Duncan replied, "I am all that needs to be there, and in good shape, which is why I'm going to bed." "Yes, I see. I know I'll be quite happy with where I'm going. I wish you to find the same, and good luck." "I'll be happy with the results, I hope," Duncan smiled. "Good luck to you too. Get us some allies, but make sure you put in some time for yourself too." "I'll do that."

The two shook hands and parted ways. I hope this all works out, Custer thought to himself, and headed up to his apartment.

West had decided a long time ago that he would never be without enough information to solve a mystery. The tools he used reflected that philosophy. Now he sat at a desk in his apartment reviewing what his wired sunglasses had captured during his meeting with his last employer. He had memorized the man's face, voice, and even thermal image (The camera saw all). But he was not looking at the man this time.

West was looking for someone, anyone that saw him with the man. After several hours of reviewing the footage and pulling files on people, West found a woman there, a Luna scientist of about twenty-five years, five foot six, who had kept up the Luna's physical fitness standards very well indeed. According to the record he had pulled, Dr. Echo Kim worked in the Luna's Research and Development building in Nerf Central after having completing six years of advanced biology and chemistry at a prestigous college. West decided the best way to contact her would be at the Luna Landa, where he had first seen her. It was getting on twenty-one hundred hours, still relatively early for a night club and Bar. With a passing curiosity about Dr. Kim's partying habits, West loaded his weapons, threw on his coat, and made for the Luna Landa.

Ten minutes later, West secured his bike outside the bar, and stepped in. It was a nearly full house. People were dancing and downing drinks everywhere, and yet, it was fairly quiet, the music dark and down-beat. His work cut out for him, West cut through the crowd. Several moments later, he saw Dr. Kim sitting alone at one of the booths, working on a PDA. Enjoying the idea of a less-crowded booth, he approached.

"Mind if I join you?" West asked. "Sure," Echo looked up with a smile, "Just finishing a little office work. What's on your mind?" "You've seen me here before, right?" "Yes...why do you ask?" "I was talking to someone here. Did you see him? Echo shifted uneasily. "Yes." "I'm trying to find him, I have more business to conduct. I was wondering if you knew anything about him."

Echo looked back suddenly at her work, and began packing it up. "I can't say." She grabbed West's hands and pulled him out of the booth to the dance floor. She stood close to him and leaned up to whisper in his ear. "If you want to know, get authorization to meet me in the labs soon. I'm not saying any more here." To West's surprise, she kissed him. He realized it was a diversion for anyone who might be watching when she pressed a card into his hand. He pocketed the card, then they parted. West went home, and read the card.

Dr. Echo Kim Director of Medical and Biological Enhancement Research Luna Labs Nerf Central, California Floor 29, Lab 3

There was a number on the card, but when he called, he found that he could not speak directly to any of the research staff without special permission and escort. The receptionist helpfully offered information about the daily guided tours of the second floor, but that wasn't what West needed. He picked up the phone again and dialed a different number.

Curt answered the phone for the fifth time in the last hour. "What?" he nearly yelled. He was sick of telemarketers. "It's West, you noob, and I'm not selling anything." "Oh...okay," Curt replied sarcastically, "Then what do you want to buy?" West snorted, "I need to contact Mir." "She's not your type." "Yes she is, but that's beside the point. I need to set up a meeting with someone at Luna Labs." Curt exhaled. "The Labs...not many people get in there. If anyone, it's people they already know and trust. Even if you do get through to Mir, she wouldn't let you in." "Leave that to me. Just tell me the number." Curt held up a finger in thought. "There might be another way. They wouldn't let you in, but they'd let us. What's this about?" "Look, I need to meet someone. All I need you to do is tell me how to get in there." "There's a chance you can get in, but only if you go with someone that vouches for you." "Can you do that?" "Probably. I'll get Starbuck on it tommorrow morning, and see if we can set up a time to go in." "That's what I need. I need to meet Echo Kim, twenty-ninth floor, lab three." "Got it," Curt said typing in the info, "We'll let you know." Curt hung up.

Mir had gone to bed, and Crystal was sitting watch in the suite's living room. Her phone, set to vibrate, went off right on time, and she answered it.

"There's another problem," said a voice at the other end, "one of our deep cover agents could be exposed, and you now have an additional target: Echo Kim, a researcher at the Labs. Fortuanately, she and Starbuck may be in the same place at once. Wait for the right moment, then take them both out at any cost."

"Got it," Crystal whispered. Hitting Starbuck was one thing, but she didn't like the idea of hitting one of her own. It had to be done. She closed the phone, and leaned back to rest.