Future Nerf: Chapter 6

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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 :-).


RAD Leader's log, April 16, 2012, 0400 hours:

All the hours of planning that Mir and I have spent over the last two months have not been in vain. We've been sharing strategic data and coordinating resources with the Luna team. While we were only able to take small infiltration and combat tasks, we are now capable of larger-scale assault.

An assault is exactly what we finished planning. We've located a small Green Hat base of operations in Oregon, but intelligence shows lots of enemy movement. Clearly, it's more important than it seems. We are attacking because the Green Hats are now publicly known as the primary instigators of violence and illegal material trade, which has increased at least three-fold. The Lunas have other reasons as well, obviously. I've noticed their hatred for this team for a long time, but Mir still refuses to talk about it.

I anticipate success for this battle plan by a wide margin, as long as our initial attack does its work. Maybe this action will convince the NPG to permanently give RAD martial deputy status. We can carry out our own raids and investigations within the city if this happens. It won't change what we do a whole lot, but it will get us paid better for it. Signing out for now, I'm getting some sleep before we present the briefing this morning.

Seven warriors shrouded in white coats with high collars and white berets sat in the back of a hovercraft bound for Oregon. A clock above the side door chimed when it was only one minute till their target destination was reached. Silently they all brought out their weapons, weapons like none ever made before, and checked them over twice, loaded them, and checked them once more. Once satisfied, the owners returned the weapons to their coats.

“Target's been confirmed,” one of the two pilots reported, “They'll be taking the Green Hat base tomorrow.” “Good work,” the fighters' leader responded, standing up and approaching the side door, “continue with plan, drop us ten miles north of the target.”

The pilot flew in low, and cut his speed. When they were about ten feet from the ground, the group's leader nudged a switch, and the door slid open. The seven passengers dropped out of the craft one at a time, landed with several steps, and rolled the rest of the momentum off. The figures crouched at the northern edge of the forest, weapons out, checking for any activity, using sight and hearing enhanced by special glasses and other hidden systems. Declaring the area clear, the leader led the group in a charge south through the forest. In less than an hour, they halted, taking up hidden positions in the forest near the Green Hat base. And then, they waited.


0850 hours

Mir and Custer strode through the troop staging area of the Lunas' Nerf Central skyhook. Custer was seeing for the first time the changes he had heard about the Luna team undergoing. While previously it had been a relatively small group of experienced vets, it now included a large number of inexperienced, but rigorously trained troops. While not qualifying in size as a military-style team, they certainly carried enough in the combination of numbers and skill per unit to carry out a heavy assault. Custer saw that preparation for this assault was exactly what was going on as they walked past a hundred Luna troops readying weapons and clips, strapping on light armor, and testing equipment. Five of them wore the insignia of mercenary, instant proof that they had more experience than their troop teammates, and would end up leading the squads. Finally, they reached the end of the locker room and entered the briefing room.

“Briefing's in eight minutes,” Mir said, “You ready?” “Everything seems to be in order,” Custer confirmed, reviewing their battle plan once more, “My team should be here any minute.” A little while later, the door opened again, and the Luna team poured in. The outnumbered RAD team followed them in, Boom and Sharpknux fraternizing rather enthusiastically with a pair of Luna troops.

“Good morning,” Mir addressed them, “Tomorrow will be the first tour of duty for many of you. For the rest of you, it'll be a long-awaited opportunity for revenge.” The five experienced mercenaries coolly nodded their agreement. “This is a Green Hat base in Oregon, our target,” Mir indicated on the screen, “It appears to be used as a weapons storage area, troop barracks, who knows what else. Now, we've possibly got official government deputization riding on this mission, so don't screw it up. Munitions are to be seized, any contraband to be destroyed, and the Green Hats…they count as contraband too."

“We are deploying south of the target,” Custer began, pointing at the projection on the wall, “Because of long range patrols, bringing in vehicles is out of the question. At the north side of the base is the beginning of a forest. Because forest are easy to defend and difficult to attack through, and because going around far enough without vehicles is infeasible, we've ruled it out. To the east is a large plain, which affords no cover. The south and east outskirts of the base are shrouded by a quarter-circle ridge. Although a couple of guards are usually stationed on the outside, it is otherwise undefended. That's where we will strike, from every point on and around the hill.”

“The element of surprise is ours, but only if we keep it during our approach,” Mir said, “We're moving in under conditions relatively easy to hide in. Once we're within a mile of the target will be the tedious part. We have to move in quietly in small groups, and silently take out any patrols on our path. That means no radio transmissions, and no screams. You remember how they screamed at Flagstaff.”

The veterans and a few of the troops laughed, while the RAD team had no idea what thay were talking about.

“You're teams have been pre-assigned, check your comms' visual displays for the listings,” Custer informed the team, “Each squad will either be led by one of your veterans, Mir, myself, or one of my team members.”

Boom and Sharpknux wooted from the back of the room. Ace laughed at them. Half of the Luna troops looked at them in amusement. Curt looked at them like they were idiots. Custer looked at them and didn't need to tell them to shut up.

“Prepare your gear and take any training time you want. We ship out at twenty-one hundred hours,” Custer finished, a half smile on his face.

“Dismissed,” Mir said finally, and the group left the room to finish their preparations.

Mir and Custer left the room last, after packing up their materials. “They, ah…seem like a couple of really loose cannons,” Mir commented on Boom and Sharp, “Are you sure they're good choices?” Custer chuckled, “They're the best in combat, and I have no doubt they'll lead your troops admirably.” “Or lead my troops on admirably," Mir said, rolling her eyes, "Think they can keep their hands off my people?"

No sooner had Mir spoken than they spotted Sharp and Boom talking and flirting with some of the troops again. “Yeah, Hasbro troops are real wusses. Just look at them and they zero,” Sharpknux was informing them in his usual cocky manner. One of the Luna troops started leaning on him a bit. “Careful kid, don't touch the armor," Sharp warned.

Custer observed the situation and said, “I don't think mine will have any problem. What about yours?” Mir cracked a slightly embarassed smile, “I think it'll all come down to the combat, like you said.”

They split up, Mir going to ready her own gear. Curt walked up to Custer, something obviously bothering him. "I want Crystal to be assigned to another group," Curt said plainly. "Ah, I see," Custer replied, a finger on his chin, "Why?" Curt glanced over his shoulder at the woman sliding on her combat armor. "I don't want to work with Crystal," Curt declared, "I don't care if everyone thinks she's the innocent one...it just seems weird to me. I'm not ready for ut"

Custer looked down for a moment, then looked back up at Curt. "These people are our allies and our friends," he said, "and that includes Crystal, whatever has happened, and whatever she was possibly involved in. You're going to have to face up to the fact that she's not what you thought she was. You were wrong, so let it go."

"I'm not asking that much, I'm just asking that..."

"The teams," Custer interrupted sternly, "will remain the same. The squads have been well-balanced, and I am not going to reorganize because you have a personal dislike of one of your squadmates. No, get ready, the mission is continuing as planned."

Curt quietly acknowledged the order and went back to his work. He shouldered Crystal as he passed, growling "Just stay out of my way."


0900 hours

The leader of the white coated fighters was watching the Green Hat base, hidden in a small pit covered by a bush. The team had taken turns on watch, communicating noiselessly with the software the special glasses provided. Now it was the leader's watch again. Brining out a nutrition pill, he swallowed it with the accompanying vial of water. Any hunger he had paid attention to vanished. Watching the Green Hats scurry around to start their daily routines, he had only two wishes: To get up and stretch, and that the RAD team would get here soon so he could finish this. Furthermore, he was disgusted at the Green Hats' undisciplined nature, not even waking up until now. This would be their destruction.

“Lead,” one of the warriors, positioned in a tree, radioed down. “Go,” the leader whispered back. “Check out the guy going for the Hummer, you see him?” “Yeah, looks familiar,” the leader said, zooming in on a man with a long, dark coat and a hat climb into a hummer. “It's the Interdictor,” the lookout said, “What's he doing here?” “Looks like he's doing nothing now,” the leader replied as the hummer started up and pulled away, disappearing over the east field.


2110 hours

West walked towards Echo's apartment, thinking about the future, but still in the corner of his mind, thinking of the Interdictor. "I will catch him," West thought, "He will pay for deceiving me. No one gets away with making a fool out of me."

Just then, West's glasses beeped and an automatic target lock lined up on a man walking down the sidewalk. A identity profile popped up and he saw in the corner the replay of the bikers chasing him through the city. The picture zoomed in and he saw that this was one of the bikers who tried to attack him. He did not seem to notice West as he slipped a tracker into his collar.

"Damn. I need to follow him, but Echo is waiting for me…" West ran to Echo's apartment, only half a block away. He buzzed her apartment number. “Hello?” Echo's voice buzzed. “Yeah, it's West. Something came up and I have to run an errand real quick. I will be about half an hour. Is that ok?” “Sure, but don't keep me waiting too long.” Echo said with a soothing voice.

West ran off after the biker, infuriated that he would show his face in public after trying to run him down. West executed a series of eye movements and blinks behind his glasses and a city map popped up. He saw the red blip up in the northeast quadrant of the map. He tracked the biker down to a club in the bad side of town. West unslung his Wildfire Guided and hit the ready button on the side, linking its targeting system to his glasses, preparing for a fight. He kicked down the door and hit a button on his gun, while whipping it up, and targets lit up on everyone forehead.

“This Wildfire is set on death blossom mode. Once I hit the trigger, it rains darts in here. Anyone care to try me?” West threatened.

Everyone froze and there was a creaking noise as West noticed that the bathroom door closed. He looked through the crowd and saw no sign of the biker. He realized where he was hiding and kept an eye on everyone as he backed towards the bathroom door. He burst in and saw an empty room with the window smashed, glass all over the floor. He kicked down the door to all the stalls and saw no one. He climbed out the window into a dark alleyway. He noticed the tail of the biker's jacket disappear around the corner. West followed and stopped dead in his tracks upon discovering a gun pointed at his head. Everything went black, and his glasses flew into the wall.

"Right into our trap. What a sucker,” West heard before going unconscious.

Echo looked at her clock impatiently. “Ooooohhhh, if he stood me up, there will be hell to pay. I finally found a guy I like and he stands me up? I don't think so,” Echo said to herself.

She gave up after 40 minutes, grabbed her coat, and walked out of her apartment angry. She decided to hunt him down. She thought to check the bars, he must have taken a break and gotten drunk, forgetting all about their date. She walked down the street of a well-known bar and noticed a flash out of the corner of her eye. The last glare of evening sun flared off a pair of sunglasses against the wall.

"That's odd," Echo thought, "those look like West's sunglasses."

She picked them up and noticed a strange light on the inside of the lenses. She put them on for a better view. Suddenly a screen popped up and she noticed she could see not only in front of her but also a computer overlay. As she blinked, her apartment building showed up on the screen and she could see West's sleeved arm reach out for the button, and after a few seconds she watched him run away. She noticed him following this guy in the crowd with a target box aiming at him.

"What is this?" Echo thought, really freaked out.

She saw West go into a bar and go through the crowd. She saw him kick down the stall doors and climb out the window. Then she saw the thug pointing the gun at West's head. The view shifted suddenly, as the glasses fell. The last thing she saw was West being dragged into a hummer.

“Oh no!” She cried out. “West's been kidnapped!”

Echo wasn't sure what to do. The RAD team, the closest thing to allies that West had, were off somewhere on a mission with the Lunas. Most of the Lunas in the area were off on this mission as well, leaving her nowhere to turn. She investigated the glasses further, and it was a simple matter to figure out that the screens and menus were navigated by the tracking of eye movements. In moments she was able to see a blinking red dot moving rapidly over the city map. Adding in a satellite overlay, she could zoom in on the location and see the same hummer from the playback. At least now she knew where they were.


2200 hours

Custer sat in the tightly-packed dropship near his team. They had been in flight for nearly an hour now. Their preperations had gone smoothly, and all that was left now was a tedious march north, and the final assault. A moment later, the dropship landed between two hills. It was followed by four others that each deposited twenty troops. When everyone was out and the area secured, Custer gave the signal, and the dropships took off and returned home. According to plan, everyone was for the most part already in their teams. Readying their formation, Mir and Custer, in the command team, led the group forward on their eight-mile march to battle.


April 17, 2012, 0100 hours

Meanwhile, Echo knew what she had to do, but only had a slight idea of how to do it. She had run to West's apartment, which wasn't too far away, after discovering that the glasses were the means for unlocking the door. Echo didn't know for sure if she'd find the weapons she needed in his apartment, but she knew that, in his line of work, a small arsenal within arm's reach would not be a peculiar thing. Sure enough, as she approched the door, she was able to disable the electronic locking mechanism and enter.

It didn't take Echo long to find her way around: the apartment was relatively small. She also didn't have to look long for West's cache of weapons: it was a large metal closet, covered with mesh doors. Upon finding it, however, she was thwarted by a typical mechanical lock for which she had no key. In desperation, she looked everywhere in the apartment, finally happening upon West's bedroom. She stopped in her tracks.

A photo of Echo sat in an ornate frame on the nightstand. It was taken, obviously by West's glasses, at Echo and West's first meeting, now weeks ago, in the Luna Landa. Echo held the frame for a moment, realizing that she actually did mean something to this man. Finally, she sat the frame down on the nightstand slowly. She now noticed the gold-bound book next to the frame. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, read the cover. A book mark laid on a page in chapter two, and the following text was underlined in red ink:

"Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle."

Echo looked at the silk bookmark, picked it up from the page. An odd weight hung at the bottom, where the silk wrapped around and formed a sort of pouch. Turning this upside down, Echo found herself with a key in hand.

Moments later, Echo was wearing a flak vest, and carrying three pistols and a shotgun. She left West's room, remembering to lock it up with the glasses, and headed for the parking deck.

"If I actually manage to get West out of...of wherever he is," Echo thought, "We're going to need a fast getaway."

Echo found West's bike, its control system locked down. One confirmation with the sunglasses was all it took to bring the bike online and power up the antigravs. Stowing the shotgun in a sidepouch, Echo jetted out of the parking lot, and towards the angry red blip on the city map. She didn't know how to do this.

She only knew that she had to.


0600 hours

One hundred Luna troops, led by veteran mercenaries and the RAD team, slowly crawled up the long hill surrounding the south and west sides of the Green Hat base. Staying down to avoid detection by the few guards on watch at this time in the morning, Custer observed the camp through binoculars.

"No surprise," he said, "They're not even awake yet. We can take the entire camp in ten minutes if we knock out the sentries quietly." "Not a problem," Mir replied, then tapped her comm, "Snipers, acquire targets and fire at will." In three seconds flat, twenty darts flew in various directions. Every guard in the area fell.

Except one.

The Green Hat in the guard tower, the one with access to the base's general alarm, had ducked his head to pick up a dropped item, and sat back up to see a dart firmly attached to the beam behind him. Looking down, he got a glimpse of the last sniper ducking down. He also saw that every guard had bitten the dust. In a panic, he hit the general alarm, setting sirens wailing all over the base. He ducked again as the sniper reappeared to correct her mistake. He stepped up to the mounted Chainblazer V, fed the ammo chain in, and smacked the loading pin.

"Great," Mir growled between clenched teeth, "Not the star entrance I had hoped for. We better get in while we still can. All units, move in!"

As soon as the attack force crested the hill, the Chainblazer in the watchtower opened fire. The sniper assigned to take him out was hit several times before her armor could no longer handle it. On of the veterans dropped to one knee and yanked free a Triple Strike II. Compressed carbon dioxide rushed from the tank to the compression chamber as she slapped the arming button. Aiming carefully, she fired one, two, three times, knocking the guard off balance, tearing away the armored wall in front, and finally blowing out the floor. If the explosion didn't zero the gunner, the fall did.

The Lunas rushed towards the buildings, hoping to continue their mission as planned, but the Green hats were awakened. Although not the brightest or most disciplined individuals, the Green Hats were a tough type. They slept late, but in full combat gear, ready to fight at any moment. They were alert now, and their numbers nearly equalled that of the attacking group. The Lunas fought hard, but eventually had to pull back and take cover behind the outer fortifications. Heavy fire was exchanged between the Lunas' dug in positions and the Green Hats' simple wooden structures. Custer knew that their force would start running low on ammo soon, and wouldn't have a chance if they did. The Green Hats, on the other hand, had access to a large ammo storage shed. The Lunas kept it under fire as much as possible, attempting to prevent the enemy from resupplying. Nevertheless, ammo was getting to the Green Hats. It was at this time that Sharknux contacted Boomslang.

"Hey, buddy!" Sharpknux yelled over the comm, "What does this look like?"

"A lose-lose situation?" Boom replied, stuttering with the kick of his assault rifle.

"Right, right, but try again, and this time, think opportunities."

"Okay...ah...our blaze of glory?"

"Yeah, our blaze of glory!" Sharp yelled back as two darts zipped past his ear,

"You see that ammo shed? It's my team's or we're not coming back. You with me?"

"Any time," Boom gave his support, "What do we do?"

"We're taking the base of that guard tower, for starters," Sharp instructed,

"That's all that's standing between us and the shed. I'll go in first and draw their fire, you'll come in second. Since you've got a different position, they'll have incoming from two sides, and we'll take it no problem. Once we secure that post, we take the shed."

"One question," replied Boom, tracking a rocket as it flew overhead, "have you asked Custer about this?"

"No, he didn't," Custer's voice suddenly crackled on their channel, "but it's the best shot we've got right now, so do it."

"Got it," Boom acknowledged and watched as Sharpknux leaped from his trench, and led his team in a mad dash for the tower base.

Boom lent some covering assault rifle noise before signalling his team, then jumping out of cover himself and charging for the control point. Halfway to the target, Sharpknux heard a scream of air being torn apart behind him. He ducked as a bombshell arrow blazed overhead and landed dead center in the tower base.

"Our job just got easier," Sharp reported. He closed the rest of the distance under fire, and dived into the tiny fort. Seconds later, Boom and his team flew in as well. Nine soliders dug in and started firing on the enemy positions (Sharpknux had lost one of his troops in the charge). They saw a Green Hat slip into the shed suddenly. They kept a bead on the door, and as soon as he left, brought him to the ground. Sharp ordered the three Lunas left of his group to hold the position at the tower while he and Boom's group took the shed. They counted off, and then made their run. A mere twenty feet from the shed, an explosion ripped through the morning air. The shed blew apart in front of them. The explosion had knocked Sharp and Boom's attack group off their feet for a moment, and before they knew it, they were under heavy fire once again. They scrambled to their feet and stumbled as fast as they could for the guard tower again. Three Lunas from Boom's group were mowed down in their attempt to reach cover, and Boom's shoulder armor took two glancing hits. Boom flew into the fort first, and Sharp dove in after him. Before he was halfway in, a dart struck his left thigh. He tumbled into the back corner at a bad angle, barely able to move his leg. Both teams, now limited by ammo, kept their fire up. The Lunas shot just enough to keep the Green Hats at bay, while the Green Hats kept spending their ammo as if they had no limits. Finally, however, both sides ran low, and the Green Hats started rushing out of their buildings. Both teams met in the open area, and the hand to hand fighting started.

Curt loaded his last dart into his weapon, his confidence sinking considerably. He was a good shot, but a fist fight wasn't his strong point. Twisting to his left he shot a Green Hat who was attempting to pull a knife behind one of his squadmates. As soon as he looked forward again, he saw a Green Hat jump in front of him. He ducked as the enemy threw a punch, and countered by swinging the butt of his pistol towards the attacker's head. Somehow, the Green Hat threw Curt. Curt rolled and stood again in his original position, missing his weapon. He fired off a one-two-punch at the Green Hat. The right was knocked aside, and the left was caught and lowered by the Green Hat's left arm. His right arm now clear, the attacker punched Curt straight in the jaw, knocking him to his back. Curt saw stars right before he witnessed the looming guard preparing to stomp his throat. Just then a leg flew from the left, and caught the Green Hat in the stomach, doubling him over. A pair of delicate but strong hands gripped the front and back of his head and twisted in a sudden, fluid motion. The Green Hat zeroed and teleported out before the twist was even complete. One of the hands grabbed Curt's and hauled him up.

"Okay, boss, I'll start staying out of your way next time, okay?" Crystal said, still injured by Curt's behavior the previous day.

Curt wasn't sure what to say exactly, but he managed to squeeze out, "Ah, just forget it."

The leader of the elite fighters was still in the forest, watching the battle progress. He had hoped that the Luna and RAD assault would work, even after the alarm was sounded. Watching now, he wasn't so confident.

"Alright, move in," the leader said over the comm, "Go stealth until you're right up on the battle. Empty your clips, then go hand to hand."

The seven warriors, even coming out of a cold start, moved quickly, stretching and preparing their muscles as they ran. Their long coats were no longer white, they were almost clear, showing a very slightly distorted view of the forest behind them. The berets matched the same pattern, and they kept their heads low under their collars as they ran, keeping their approach a secret. Once they were in a semicircle around the battle area, they switched their stealth systems off in unison. Coats flew open, and weapons were produced. Seven forty-round clips were unleashed with lethal precision on the unsuspecting Green Hats. Not bothering to reload their weapons, the fighters simply dropped them, and each produced a two-foot long metal pipe. Upon hitting a button in the middle of the pipe, the pipe's length increased threefold. Two telescoping sections popped out of the ends, and the fighters leapt into the battle. At least thirty Green Hats had fallen to the gunfire, and now they faced a greater danger. Taking them one at a time, the elite moved through the fray. Any individual that stood up to them was crushed, and any group that attempted to team up on one quickly became a body pile. Another fifteen minutes of fighting, and it was all over. A few remaining Green Hats staggered away over the eastern field. The Lunas, whether using combat knives or neck twists, moved among all the Green Hats that were still on the ground, and viciously zeroed them one by one. The screams gradually died out with those that made them. Custer watched the senseless vengeance with distaste before turning to the fighters that had just saved the attack. They collected their weapons, turned and walked away in various directions, seeming to disappear as they went.

All but one, who walked straight for Custer, his face still mostly hidden by the wrapped collar. The leader of the fighters threw off his beret, and unlatched the trench coat when he stood before Custer.

Custer's puzzlement became an overjoyed visage as he recognized him. "Duncan," he greeted his friend with a grin, "It's good to see you again!" Duncan smiled as he clasped Custer's arm. "You too. You didn't think I'd gone forever, did you?" "Well, I wasn't sure," Custer replied, "You were gone longer than you said you would be." "I know, I'm sorry for that, but," Duncan said mysteriously, "circumstances required my attention."

"So I gathered," Custer said, "We've been giving you a cut of the team pay, since you've been training, but most of it seems to have been spent..." "Yes, I know," Duncan assured him, "And it's been well spent, let me tell you that. You'll see some day, but it's not all complete." "Does this surprise include, ah.." Custer could no longer see the other fighters, "your other friends?"

"The Knights? In part, yes," Duncan admitted, "but not entirely. You likely won't see them for a while. I'll tell you more about them later." "Well, whatever you've been up to, it's good to have you back. Now, let's see what the Green Hats have left us for breakfast..." "Not for me, thanks," Duncan replied, "I've some other business to take care of today, but after that, I'm back. I'll see you at HQ." Duncan walked off into the horizon, but unlike his men, he took to the eastern field.

"He's probably hunting down the last stragglers," Mir said wistfully. "Mir, would you please tell me what your grudge with the Green Hats is?" Custer asked, fed up with the mystery, and stressed by the battle. "No, not now," Mir replied definitely, "There will be a time, but it is not now. However, judging from what I've seen, the time will come sooner than I thought."


RAD Leader's Log: April 17, 2012, 0800 hours:

Yet another day where no amount of planning could account for what happened. I guess it's true what they say, that the best plans are destroyed upon contact with the enemy. What we did was risky, and bought us the recognition we wanted with the government: The Lunas and my team have officially been deputized. Although we kept this a secret, it won't be long before our actions outvoice our silence. Once we start working, we're commited, and we're going to be in more danger the deeper we go. But I'm convinced this is the right thing to do, and I'm not about to back down now. But on to the administrative things. The daily financial report began with expenditures on the following gear and munitions...


0900 hours

Echo had been following the hummer for hours. It hadn't stopped. It hadn't so much as left the city, it just kept cruising the same streets over and over again. She guessed that a trip that long was being done to disorient West as he rode, making him think that he was getting farther and farther from the city. And farther from having any hope of help coming to him.

Echo was tired, but she wasn't about to give up on West. Not like this.

Finally, after all the waiting, she saw the red blip on the map pull into a parking lot, and stop. She waited a few minutes, and then drove into the lot herself. She picked the shotgun up, made sure it was loaded, and headed for the one door on the side of a dilapidated old building. With a gasp, she was suddenly halted from entering the building by a firm grasp on her upper left arm.

West sat. There wasn't much else he could do, tied to a chair, without any gear, and without the luxury of any light to illuminate the room he was in. As he heard footsteps approach the door, he contemplated on what a botched venture this had been. He had finally tracked down his target, only to be taken alive. He had no backup, no allies, and, for all he knew, no one that even knew what happened to him. In the event he actually got out alive, Echo would probably kill him before he had a chance to explain why he stood her up.

West heard a doorknob turn, and thought, "This is it."