Ariel sat across the table from Mike as he ate. However, Ariel just could not force herself to eat a bit because her stomach was too upset from nervousness. Ever since she met him, Ariel has never had such an uneasy feeling about telling Mike something as at this very moment. She finally said, “Mike, I have something to tell you about what happened at the hospital.”
Mike looked at her and smiled. “It’s okay I told you. And this dinner you made is more than making up for anything you think you did wrong. You really outdid yourself.” He took another bite and swallowed. “Besides, I told them no and that’s that.”
Ariel gave him a half smile. “But there’s something else you should know. It’s all my fault.”
After swallowing another bite, Mike asked, “What do you mean?”
Ariel said, “That agent Kurt Wade that asked you to do that. Well, he did it because of me.” When Mike put the fork down, she continued, “You see, Kurt and my father go way back. At one point in time, they were good friends. So good that I started calling him Uncle Kurt.”
Mike said, “I hope our meeting wasn’t some plan.”
Ariel shook her head. “No. You see, Kurt and my father stopped speaking when my father retired and started Hunter Enterprises. They seemed to have a difference of opinions when it came to the Metahunters. I ran into Kurt about a month before I met you and we talked about why he wasn’t around. I still don’t know the full story but Kurt seemed to… well… understand how I felt about the Metahunters too. Anyhow, I met you and then we got to know each other. I guess I have a big mouth because I told him how great of a person you were. When he was assigned by the President to create this team, the President said he wanted one person as a requirement. But Kurt wanted you because I said so much about you.”
Mike shook his head.
Ariel reached across the table to touch his hand. “Mike, I just figured you’d be the perfect person to show the world how some metas actually have hearts of gold.”
Mike replied, “But it’s not the world you want to teach and you know it.”
Ariel nodded slowly. “Okay, I want to show my father.”
“But what about us? I can’t do the long distance relationship thing. Never could.”
Ariel said with a small grin, “I’ll move there too. Uncle Kurt said he’ll work out getting me a job. I will be a behind the scenes person there. And honestly, I want to do it because it’s something I believe in.”
Mike grinned. “Because of me being a meta?”
Ariel smiled but suddenly went sad. “No. Sorry but I want to do this for an old friend.”
Mike frowned. “Kurt?”
Ariel shook her head. “Not even him.” She paused a moment. “I want to do it for Nikki.”
Mike thought a moment then asked, “Now who’s Nikki?”
Ariel said sadly, “She was my best friend.”
“Was? You two have a fight?”
Ariel tried to stop the tear from rolling down her face. “No. She’s dead. Killed by the Metahunters as she was on her way home from school. So you wanted to know why there’s a wide rift with my father, now you know. And the thing Uncle Kurt is doing is the best way to stick it to him.” She pulled out a necklace she wore that her shirt covered. She looked at the crystal on the end. “See this? That was her big, bad meta power that got her sentenced to death. She could create crystals. She could only make something beautiful like this.” She really began to fail to stop the tears.
Mike got up and walked around the table. He kneeled down and put an arm around her shoulders. “I never knew where you got that from or why you never go anywhere without it.” When she looked at him, he smiled. “Call him.” After she just looked at him with a perplexed expression on her face, he continued, “Call your Uncle Kurt and arrange a meeting.”
At the Federal Security Service, Yuri poured himself a cup of water out of the water cooler. He quickly drank it down then proceeded to pour another cup. After filling the cup, he turned to see a familiar face. “Do you always like scaring an old man?”
The tall blonde female replied with a slight smile across her lips, “You’re not old.”
Yuri shook his head then asked, “Did you track them down yet?”
“Actually, that is a yes and a no. We tracked down Dark Force who just finished an assignment up in Saint Petersburg and on the way back as we speak. Hammer is a little more difficult to track down. He was last reported in Siberia.”
Yuri coughed. “I hope he’s not doing there what I think he’s doing.” After a subtle shrug was given as a reply, Yuri continued, “Hammer is going to cause me to get another ulcer.”
Two hours after the plane landed at Dulles, Travis, Jai, and Ryder arrived at the NSA headquarters. As they were exiting the cab, a familiar face pulled up in a car that stopped. Rex rolled down the window and called out to them. After they walked over, Rex asked, “Just got here?”
Travis replied, “We were needed for questioning at the airport.”
Rex put the car into park. “Why?”
Travis answered, “Someone attempted to hijack the plane.” He looked at Ryder. “And somebody got a little overzealous.”
Rex said, “Well, glad I caught you guys. I just need to run inside to pick up a few things then I guess we can head over to where you guys will be working.”
Ryder asked, “We’re not going to be here?”
Rex smirked. “No. You’re in for a nice surprise actually.” Rex rolled back up the window and parked the car. He walked over to them and escorted them inside. He led them to an elevator and took them to the fourth floor.
As they were walking down the hall to his office, Jai asked, “What exactly do you do around here?”
Rex replied, “Nothing anymore. I’m going to be assigned to StormStrike to help Kurt with you guys as Assistant Deputy Director.” He looked at Jai and smiled. “And trust me when I say I’m rather happy about it.” Rex opened his door and entered an almost empty office. He walked behind the desk and began looking through the drawers. He picked up the phone and dialed a single number. “Got to check the voicemail.”
As Ryder got ready to reach for a trophy sitting on a file cabinet, Travis warned, “Don’t.”
Rex said, “Damn!”
Travis asked, “What?”
As he hung up the phone, Rex replied, “It’s personal. I’ll just say I have family issues right now.” He quickly grabbed up several folders out of the desk and said, “Let’s go.”
The icy forest of Siberia is normally not disturbed at night. However, this was no normal night. Even though it was late, the full moon on the clear starry night with the fresh snow on the ground gave a bit of luminosity to an otherwise dark night. Out of the forest, a screaming figure flew out into the open and slammed into the ground. Sliding to a stop after another twelve feet into a snow drift. As he tried to get to his feet, Gregor slipped and noticed the white snow had some marks of crimson. He wiped at his forehead and noticed something wet that was not snow. He was bleeding. He looked back from where he came and saw a rather large individual in the shadows of the trees. Gregor could tell he was not doing well as he began to feel dizzy. “No, stay away from me!”
As the large figure got closer, he tried to flee but due to losing blood, he was having a harder time keeping conscious. He reached a small hill and tried to go down but lost his footing and fell down the hill. When he reached the bottom of the hill, his head hit a large rock. Everything went black.
As the pursuer walked up to the body in the snow, there was a pause. The large individual stood at least six feet nine inches and even in his black thick coat, one could tell he was solid muscle. He kneeled down and began to slap the back of the head of the fallen before roughly turning him over.
After opening his eyes, Gregor flinched when their eyes met. “Please.” When no reply other than a cold stare came after a minute, he continued nervously, “You know, I always liked you, Nikita. You really are a monster.” He felt something in his mouth and Gregor spat it out. A dash of red hit the snow. Gregor wiped at his mouth then forced a painful smile. “But I like that. What happened before with your sister was not my idea.”
Nikita Vilkas snarled while grabbing him by the throat. Nikita’s mind raced back a few years when he sat in Moscow International thinking he was on his way to Lithuania to live a normal life with his uncle and sister. And the man he had by the throat now was the one in charge of stopping them. Nikita wanted to very much to squeeze. However, he stood up without releasing his grip.
“Are you going to kill me, Nikita?”
Nikita really wanted to squeeze even more just hearing him sounding so pathetic. However, Nikita figured another way to save himself from the pleading. Holding him by the throat with his right hand, Nikita leaned closer to look him in the eye. After a moment, Nikita effortlessly lifted him into the air with one hand.
The silence of the night was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter. As the helicopter began to land in the nearby clearing, the snow whipped around the area.
As Nikita watched the copter land, he remained holding up Gregor effortlessly with his right hand. When he read the side of the helicopter that was marked Federal Security Service, Nikita quickly slammed the older male to the ground with such force that he almost bounced.
One individual exited the helicopter and quickly made his way over to Nikita. He stopped about fifteen feet away from Nikita then said, “You are required back to Moscow. There is a matter that you are needed for.”
Nikita waited a moment with a scowl on his face. He began walking towards the new arrival. As he took a step backwards from the approaching Nikita, Nikita motioned towards the fallen male and said, “Bring Gregor along.” And continued towards the helicopter.
Rex maneuvered the car through traffic on the interstate heading into Virginia. He turned off and made his way to Langley. After showing his identification to get by the gate, he made his way to a secluded area of the installation and parked the car. He pointed at the building he parked in front of and said, “Just go in there and someone will help you get settled. I have that family issue to deal with and then I’ll be back to help you out.” After they got out the car, Rex quickly drove off.
Ryder looked at the building and said, “Um… am I the only one worried about going inside? I mean, where are the windows on this place?”
Jai added, “I have to admit that it does seem odd.”
Travis nodded while looking up at the top of the building. “Yeah but what choice do we have now?” He walked up to the door but it was locked. He pressed the button on the side and stepped back.
After five minutes, the door opened and a redheaded female walked out. She smiled then asked, “What happened to Rex? I thought he was bringing you three.”
Travis said, “He had to run off on personal business he said. Wait a minute. You again?.”
“Yes.” She extended her hand. She mainly directed her attention to Jai and Ryder when she said, “I’m special agent Victoria Malloy. Do you have any questions?”
Ryder said quickly, “Yeah, does this box have a place I can get a bite to eat?” He looked at Jai. “Someone who shall remain nameless wouldn’t share any of her fries with me.”
Victoria snickered. “This box?” She shook her head. “You have a lot to learn, Mister Harrison.”
Ryder asked, “You know my n…?”
Victoria cut him off. “Of course. Mister Wade sent over a full report on each of you. And of course, we were able to fill in some parts ourselves. You’re Ryder Harrison, a meta with the ability to shoot electricity.” She looked at Jai. “And you are Jennifer Cabarini, the flamer.” Then to Travis, “And finally, Travis Blake. We already met.” She smiled at Travis as she looked him up and down. “The son of some legends around here. But let’s go inside where we can talk some more.”
As Victoria led them inside with Travis a step behind, Jai asked, “Son of legends?” After Ryder shrugged to her, Jai followed them inside.
Victoria led them to an elevator and pressed the down button. When the doors open, she entered and waited for each of them to follow. The elevator moved down and opened to a small area with an awaiting vehicle that almost resembled an escape pod of some kind on some tracks. “Get in.” Victoria sat down in one of two front seats while they took the three back seats. After the doors closed, she said as she pressed buttons on the panel in front of her, “I’d lean back if I were you.”
The vehicle quickly shot forward down a long dark tunnel at incredible speeds. After about four minutes, they came to a stop.
When the doors open, Ryder was the first other than Victoria to exit. “Hey, that rocked.” He looked at the open spaced room with shiny walls and a high ceiling. Many lights on the ceiling gave the room ample lighting.
As the other two exited, Victoria said, “Follow me.”
Ryder looked to the other side and noticed a tunnel leading further out. But instead of a track, it was filled with water. “What’s over there?”
Victoria said while standing next to an elevator, “Oh, that’s the tube for your submarine. It’s out on a test now but you can see it later.”
Ryder smiled. “Cool.”
After they entered the elevator, Victoria hit the number four and the elevator moved. When it stopped, Victoria said pointed towards the end of the corridor that greeted them. “The kitchen’s down at the end. Help yourselves to whatever you want. I need to take care of something really fast and will meet you there in about fifteen minutes.”
Ryder quickly made his way down the corridor while Jai calmly walked behind him. However, Travis watched as the doors to the elevator closed before turning towards the kitchen. As he walked down the corridor, he noticed that five doors on each side of the corridor. He looked through an open door to see a very spacious living quarters with walk-in closet and own bath. He then walked into the kitchen where he saw Ryder eating out of a bag of chips and Jai just sitting at the counter.
Jai asked, “Mind explaining the son of legends remark?”
Travis replied, “Apparently, we’re not the first group they had. There was a secret team before the Metahunters in which apparently my folks were a part of it. But they retired just after I was born.”
Ryder mumbled something but his mouth was full of chips.
Jai looked at Ryder with a disgusted look on her face. “Shut it while you’re eating around me. First warning, last warning, only warning.” She looked at Travis. “Okay, so whatever happened to this team?”
“Don’t know. I didn’t even know my folks were involved until I met Wade.”
A female teenager listened to music through headphones at a music store in Washington. She got so much into the music that she was not paying attention to all the suits around her with earpieces and sunglasses. She finished and removed the headphones before grabbing a CD and adding it to her rather large group in her basket then making her way to the checkout.
The young guy that worked at the register asked, “Did you find everything okay?”
She smiled. “Yeah.”
One of the suits walked up to her and said, “You know you aren’t to just talk to anybody.”
As the cashier began to ring her up, she frowned then rolled her eyes. “Look, just because my dad runs this country doesn’t mean I really need you Secret Service guys always around.”
“Miss Gordon, I must…”
She interrupted, “And I don’t want to be called that. My name’s Heather.” She looked at the cashier then continued, “How much?”
He answered nervously, “Three-hundred and fifty-seven dollars and eighty-three cents.”
Heather smiled then reached into her small purse. She withdrew a credit card and handed to the cashier. She could feel the other agents getting closer to her as she has grown used to it over the years. After signing for the purchase, she gave the cashier a subtle wink. Heather then looked at the agents and said as she was walking for the door, “Make yourselves useful and grab the bags.”
When Heather reached the outside, she looked up at the clear sky then grabbed sunglasses she had resting on her collar and placed them on her face. She waited for the limo while being flanked by agents much to her dismay. She looked at the agents who all constantly scanned the surroundings with their eyes.
Suddenly, Heather noticed all the agents began to cringe in fear and moved away from her. She frowned. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the joke isn’t funny. But you guys don’t know how to joke.”
The limo sped up and stopped abruptly in front of her. A guy Heather did not know jumped out of the driver’s seat and pointed a gun at her. “In the car!”
She looked back at the agents overcome by fear. Heather looked back at the gunman. She wanted to say something but was unable to think of anything. As a matter of fact, she found it pretty hard to think of any kind of witty remark she could use.
“I said get in! Don’t make me kill you!”
Heather once again looked at the fearful agents. Slowly, Heather got into the limo. After the door was closed, the gunman quickly got back behind the wheel and drove off quickly.
Across the parking lot, a male in a black trench coat watched. He smiled slightly. He slowly got into his car and drove off in the same direction of the limo.
After the car vanished, the agents regained their composure. They all looked around frantically for Heather and could not find her anywhere. One agents said into his radio, “We have a situation here. We can’t find the dove. Someone needs to tell the eagle.”
Aurora walked into her spacious room at the hotel. She looked around and smiled. She let the bellhop put her bags inside then said to him, “That is as far as you need to take them.” She extracted some money from her pocket and handed it to him. “Thanks.”
Aurora closed the door behind the bellhop then walked over to her luggage. She grabbed the small bag with her notebook. As she set the bag on the table, a knock at the door caught her attention. She walked over and opened the door. When she saw who it was, she smiled broadly. “Hey.”
Rex asked, “What are you doing in DC?”
Aurora’s smile turned into a pout. “Good to see you too.”
Rex walked in and she closed the door behind him. Rex frowned at Aurora. “Stop that. Things are starting to work out and now you show up. You could ruin everything for me.”
Aurora made her way over to the table and pulled out her notebook. She held it up and said, “I’m here on an assignment, Rex. But I thought you’d be happy to see your baby sister but maybe I was wrong.” She made a sad face.
Rex sighed. “Not the puppy dog face.” He walked over to her and gave her a hug then smiled slightly. “I’m always happy to see you, Nuny. So, should I tell the folks that you’re here?”
Aurora smiled. “Rex, it’s been a while since you called me by that nickname. Although, I wish sometimes I never told you what my name is in Al Bhed from Final Fantasy.” Slowly, her smile vanished. “But the answer to your question…” Aurora shook her head.
He laughed. “It’s your fault about the name. You played the game, I didn’t.” He waited a second then continued seriously, “And I have a hard time because of you. They want to know you’re okay and I have to keep from them that I’ve seen you.”
Aurora sat down in a chair next to the table. “I miss mom.”
Aurora thought a moment while looking away from him. She looked back at Rex to ask, “What do you think?” She sighed. “Look, they still have you.”
Rex sat down in a chair opposite of Aurora. He inhaled deeply before slowly exhaling. “Nuny, you know how much they both miss you. After all, they had four kids and two dying as infants makes someone want to keep the others as close as possible. With you running away from home, they really keep harping on me to move back.”
Aurora grinned. “Damn, it must be tough to hear that when you’re the first born.” When Rex only gave her a serious expression, Aurora continued, “Do you really think that things would be different if our brother and sister were around while we were growing up?”
Rex replied, “Yes.”
Aurora waited for him to say something more but he did not. She said sadly, “You know, I wish I could have at least seen them. Being the youngest, I feel I missed out on so much.”
Rex laughed slightly. “Hey, I was alive when they came and I didn’t get to see them either. By the way, what is your assignment you’re working on?”
Aurora asked sarcastically, “Worried it’s a matter of national security, Rex?” She shook her head. “No. No secrets. I’m just doing a review of this hotel.”
Rex smiled. “That means I can’t invite you to stay with me?” When she frowned, Rex continued, “But at least they are making you review the Four Seasons and not a Motel 6.”
“Yeah. And plus it will keep me out of your hair, right?”
Rex grinned. “True.” Rex noticed his pager buzzing and took a look at it. He frowned then stood up and walked around the table while putting the pager in his coat pocket. He kissed her lightly on the cheek. “I got to get back to work. I’ll let myself out.” After he opened the door, he looked back at her. “Let’s do dinner at least once while you’re here, okay?”
“If you’re paying…” Aurora nodded with a smile on her face before he closed the door. After the door closed, her smile quickly vanished. She reached for her cell phone and dialed a number. “Hi. I’m here.” She paused a moment. “You know, my brother just left here after getting a page. Did something big happen?” She waited another moment. “Okay, just keep me informed.” She paused a long moment then said, “What? Are you nuts? I didn’t tell him the truth and I really hate lying to Rex but he thinks I’m doing a review on the hotel. If I told him I was really doing a story on the crime problems here, my over-protective big brother would go into overdrive.” She paused to smile. “Oh, and got something already. Wait until you hear about the plane that was almost hijacked you put me on.” She listened intently. “No. No, I’m fine. There was a true hero on the plane and believe me when I say I’ll find him again. I bet he’d make a good story. He’d fit right in to my other series.” Aurora frowned. “No, I think he’s pretty cool and think he could be a friend. He made me laugh for one. So no butcher job on this one because he’s a hero. Now, I got to run. Bye.”
Aurora put the phone down and powered up her notebook. She brought up the word processor and clicked to open a document. She moved the cursor over one called metaheroes.doc and clicked open.
Ryder found a large recreational room on the same floor as the kitchen. He could not believe his eyes. It was as if he had died and gone to heaven – sixty-five inch high-definition television with dvd player and surround sound, a pool table, arcade games, a stereo. “Sweet.”
He ran over and jumped onto the sofa. He reached for the remote on the coffee table and looked at it closely. “Oh, man. Satellite.” He turned on the television and noticed the channel was set to All News Network. He read the caption at the bottom of the screen which mentioned New York.
On the screen, the anchor said, “…going to Lacey Harper who is in our Dallas studios. Lacey?”
The screen changed to show Lacey Harper. She said, “Yes, I’m still in Dallas trying to uncover the story of a police sponsored metahuman. However, I have ran into nothing but brick walls here.”
The screen changed back to the anchor who asked, “Since you have reported on metahuman activities since the Metahunter massacre at a mall in Canada, what you think of the metahuman problem, Lacey?”
The screen once again changed to Lacey. She frowned at the camera a second. “Problem? With what happened in New York being tragic, I find it hard to believe that it was a plan by the metahumans to hurt people. To me, it seems like it was unfortunate that innocent lives were lost in a fight between them. Hopefully, something like this will never happen again.”
The screen quickly switched back to the anchor. “But if it does, should the government step in and do something about them?”
Ryder laughed. “Yeah, they offered us a job, dumb ass!”
Lacey replied, “I can’t answer that. However, I must say…”
Ryder turned off the television when he heard someone entering the room. He looked back to see Victoria. Ryder grinned at her and only got a blank expression from her in return. “Hope it’s okay to watch this.”
Victoria nodded. “No problem. But we have an issue that needs to be dealt with.” She turned and said, “Time to clock in, Mister Harrison.”
Ryder jumped up and followed Victoria to the kitchen where Travis and Jai were sitting at the table.
Victoria said, “We have a problem. Heather Gordon was kidnapped a little while ago.”
Ryder asked, “Shouldn’t that be handled by the Secret Service or something?”
Travis added, “He’s right. I mean, we’ll help find her but I thought we handled metahuman issues.”
Victoria nodded. “Normally, you’re right. But the agents assigned to protect her were all overcome by fear while she was easily kidnapped. All of them were hit with this fear. Now, do you think you shouldn’t be involved?”
Travis nodded. “Seems a meta was involved.”
Victoria said, “Unknown to the general public, the first family all have tracking devices. Our satellites tracked her down. However, any attempts to get close and our agents get put down by the metahuman one way or the other. Seems the meta is a telepath.”
Travis replied, “The three of us haven’t trained together but we’ll do what we can.”
Victoria shook her head. “Not yet. The jet just landed and Mister Wade wants you to meet with him first. I’ll show you to the briefing room.” Victoria led them back to the elevator and they went up one floor. She showed them to a room with a large table surrounded by chairs. On the far wall, a large screen. “Take a seat.”
Travis sat down near the end where the screen was on the wall with Jai taking the one next to him. Ryder walked around and took the seat across from Travis.
Kurt walked in quickly. “Hi. Sorry we can’t give you more time to prepare for your first mission.” As he sat at the end of the table, he continued, “Travis, since you were a detective in Dallas, I hope you can lead them properly.” He looked at the doorway. “And your fourth member should be along shortly.”
Ryder asked, “Fourth? We have four?”
Kurt smiled slightly. “Yes. He just had to make… um… a stop at the… um… you know.”
Ryder laughed softly. “You mean he had to take a dump?” When he noticed the stern look on Travis, Ryder asked, “What?” Then he looked at Jai who frowned at him. “What?”
Kurt said, “No. It seems that he has an issue with flying and got a little sick.” Kurt looked back at the door and smiled. “How are you doing, Mike? Feeling better?”
Mike nodded slowly. “Yeah.” He walked in and sat down two seats away from Jai. When he looked at a grinning Ryder, Mike frowned at him then looked at Kurt.
Kurt smiled. “Good.” He looked at the others. “Mike has been informed on what we know so far while we were on the jet. The rest of you must know that you are up against a telepath apparently. Things can get sticky.”
Jai replied, “When are we going to take care of this?”
Kurt said, “I think you’d need to know where to go.”
Travis asked, “By the way, what was the ransom demand?”
Kurt replied, “That’s the weird thing. There has been none. Look, your assignment is to get the first kid back. She’s being held in a warehouse on 7th. We have agents surrounding the building but none can get inside. Best way to get there would be to take the jet. No traffic problems.”
Jai asked, “And just how do you land it there?”
Kurt answered, “We got that covered. We’ll have airspace cleared.”
Jai shook her head. “No, I mean how do you actually land a plane in the street.” She thought a moment then as Kurt was about to say something, she continued, “Wait a minute. It has V.T.L.?”
Kurt looked at her in amazement. “Yes. You’re a pilot?”
Jai slowly nodded. “I have a pilot’s license. I’ve flown single engine and double engines. Small planes.”
Kurt asked, “How about a jet?”
Jai gave him a slight frown. “Just what kind of jet is this?”
Kurt replied, “A new one. A next generation blackbird.”
Jai gasped. “SR-71 blackbird?” After Kurt nodded, she said, “Then the answer to if I can fly one would be a hell no. That’s way outside of my league.”
Kurt said, “Just having flying experience puts you over anyone else. So you will learn to fly it but we don’t have time to teach you today.” He picked up the telephone in front of him and pushed a single button. “Get the SR-71D ready for takeoff. And have Ray ready to pilot it for our team.” He hung up the phone then looked at Mike. “Remember how to get back to the jet?”
Mike nodded. “Not hard to remember.”
As they were making their way to the door, Rex walked in. “Sorry for being late. Had a family issue come up.”
Kurt said, “Not a problem, Rex. Just sending our team on their first assignment.”
Rex looked at them then back at Kurt. “They haven’t even trained yet. Are you sure?”
Victoria answered, “President’s daughter was kidnapped by a meta, Mister Michaels. So no choice in the matter.”
Ryder glared at Rex. “Your last name is Michaels?”
Travis said, “Enough wasting time. Let’s go.” He looked at Rex. “I’ve done things like this before being a detective on the Dallas P.D.”
Mike led the way as they made their way to the elevator. He pressed a button marked H. When the elevator stopped, the doors opened behind them to show outside. Mike pointed. “That way.” Mike walked out and the others cautiously followed. He walked across a large field to the awaiting black jet which had the door open. Mike quickly walked up the ramp with Jai a step behind him.
Ryder looked at the jet in awe. “Whoa.”
Travis said, “Admire it later, kid.” He walked up the ramp and entered the jet.
Ryder walked into the jet and noticed Jai actually sat in the cockpit in the co-pilot seat. He figured since she knew she would have to learn to pilot it, she would watch the pilot fly. He noticed Travis sat in the first seat behind them on the left side. Ryder saw Mike in the third seat back on the right. Ryder quickly sat down in the seat behind Travis and buckled in. He looked across the aisle at Mike and grinned. “Hey, what changed your mind?”
Mike replied coldly, “Nothing.”
Ryder laughed slightly. “Ariel changed your mind.”
Mike replied, “Shut up.” As the plane lifted off, Mike put his face in his right hand. “Oh, man.”
Ryder asked, “What’s the problem with you?”
Mike replied, “I get airsick, okay?” He glanced at Ryder a second then returned his face to his hand. “One word out of you about it and you’ll eat it.”
As Ryder was about to say something, he noticed Travis looking back at him from around his seat with a frown on his face. Ryder gave him an innocent smile. “What?”
Ten minutes later, the jet vertically descended on a cordoned off area of 7th Street. The engines were turned off and the ramp descended. Mike quickly ran out of the jet and ran behind a parked car to proceed to throw up.
Ryder calmly walked to him saying, “Now, that’s just plain nasty.”
Travis asked Mike as Jai joined them, “You’ll be okay, right?”
Mike wiped at his mouth then slowly nodded.
Travis said, “Good.” He noticed an obvious agent walking up to them. Travis asked, “Are you in charge here?”
“I was until you four showed up. I was told this will be your handle and we’re here to assist in anyway. We have them in the building and can’t get them out.”
Travis said, “I want power to this building cut.”
Ryder said, “Power? That’s my job.” When Travis looked at him sternly, Ryder continued, “I got this.”
Travis thought a moment. “Okay, kid. Take out the power.” He looked at Jai. “You stick with him to cover him.”
The agent said, “Power to the building is around back to this one.”
Travis looked at Mike. “We’re hitting them from the front to keep them from knowing what they’re up to.”
Jai asked, “And what do we do after the kid kills the power? Stand around?”
Travis replied, “No. I expect you two to get to the President’s daughter. Situation like this normally the hostage is not in the same room as the perps. They will probably have her locked up in another room. So while they are dealing with us, you two get to her and get her out. That is your top priority. No matter what.”
Ryder grinned and put his arm around Jai’s shoulder. “We got this.”
Jai looked at his arm then said menacingly, “You’re touching me.”
Ryder quickly removed his arm. “Sorry.” He and Jai quickly went two buildings down to get around back. As they made their way behind the buildings, they noticed several guards by the backdoor. Ryder noticed Jai about to fire at them, but grabbed her arm. “I got this.” He unleashed a bolt of electricity towards the guards. When the bolt hit them, they yelled in pain for a brief moment before losing consciousness and falling to the ground.
Jai said softly, “Not bad.” She looked at him then looked back at the building. “Something seems wrong though. Can’t put my finger on it.”
Ryder smiled. “Hey, I’m just good.” He walked over to fallen guards. He looked around and noticed a power line leading to a box. He looked up at the building then smiled slightly at Jai. “One electric pulse coming up.”
Jai asked, “What are you talking about?”
Ryder put his hand on the side of the building and everything in the building flickered then went out. He said offhandedly, “They are using walkie-talkies to communicate as you see with them.” He smiled. “Or they were. Just took out the majority of electronics in the building along with the power.”
Jai said, “Not bad at all.”
On the third floor, one of the kidnappers said, “We seemed to have lost power.” He looked back out the window to see Mike and Travis approaching. He saw Travis unleash an energy bolt to the front door. “Holy shit! They have metahumans helping them, too?”
The male in the black trench coat walked up beside him. “Interesting. But no matter, they will be kept back one way or the other.”
“Can’t you stop them, Brainwave?”
He smiled. “Of course.” He concentrated on Travis but quickly shook his head. “He seems to be a bit harder to breakthrough. However, his friend…” He turned his attention to Mike. “Got him.” He watched as Mike grabbed a parked police car and threw it towards Travis, who barely dodged it by flying into the air. “I think they’ll be busy with each other for a long time.”
On the street, Travis flew down and tried to restrain Mike. Travis could not believe how strong Mike was. He asked, “What’s gotten into you?”
Mike broke free of Travis and gave him a right cross that sent him flying about ten feet. Swiftly, Mike ran at Travis as he was getting to his feet and hit him full force to send him flying backwards to slam into parked car.
As Mike rushed him again, Travis said, “Mike, get a hold of yourself! It must be the telepath controlling you! Don’t make me fight you!” After Mike gave him an uppercut to send Travis into the air, Travis said, “Control or no control. I’m not taking this anymore.” He quickly flew back down and hit Mike although a part of him made him pull his punch slightly.
Mike’s head went to the left due to the punch but quickly snapped back. He hit Travis with a right backhanded fist that sent Travis into the side of one of the buildings.
Travis said, “Damn. That’s what I get for holding back.” He paused a second. “Although, not sure if not holding back would have made a difference.” He noticed Mike rushing him again. Travis unleashed a bolt of energy that hit Mike in his chest and sent him flying backwards into a police car with such force that the car almost caved in on impact.
Inside the building, Jai and Ryder noticed the fight out on the street. Ryder asked, “What are they doing? Have they lost their minds?”
As Ryder took a step towards the door, Jai grabbed him by the arm. Jai replied, “They’re under the control of who we’re up against apparently.”
Ryder nodded. “Of course. The telepath. We have to do something.”
Jai shook her head. “Not a telepath.”
Jai interrupted, “If it was a telepath, why doesn’t anyone know we’re here and doing the same to us as those two? We’re actually dealing with an empath here.”
Jai answered, “Someone who can control emotions. Makes sense since the agents were overcome by fear.”
Ryder asked, “So, what do we do about Travis and Mike?”
Jai replied, “Nothing. I hope they don’t kill each other. Look, Travis must have suspected something like this might happen. That’s why he told us to get the hostage no matter what. Only way to stop them from killing each other is the source.”
Ryder nodded. “But what about the President’s daughter?”
Jai looked at him. “You got that.” She frowned. “I got the metahuman.”
Ryder asked, “You’re trusting me alone?” After she nodded, Ryder grinned. “Party time.”
Jai said, “I noticed the windows on the third floor were the only open ones so probably means the one I want is there. And I’d guess since the building only has four floors that you might want to check there.”
Ryder said, “Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t have killed the power to the elevators when I tapped the building.”
“No problem.” She motioned to the staircase. “We do it on foot.”
When they reached the third floor, Jai stopped. “Be careful and watch your back.”
“You too.” Ryder continued up the stairs as Jai watched. When he reached the fourth floor, he looked out and noticed two guards at a door at the end of the corridor. He unleashed a bolt of the electricity down the corridor that slammed into the two guards before they knew it. “Way too easy. Weird they only put two guards here.”
Ryder walked to the door and looked through the small window in the door. He saw Heather Gordon inside the room. He took a step back and used his power to blast the door open. He quickly walked inside and saw Heather give him a slight grin. Ryder said, “Let’s go.”
She leaned back in her chair and propped her feet up on the desk in front of her. “Why? I like it here. I don’t want to go.”
Ryder glared at her. “This is a rescue.” When she just grinned at him, he continued, “I’m with the NSA and here to rescue you.”
“I’m not going.” She put her hands behind her head. “Nope. Can’t make me.”
Ryder thought a moment. “Oh, I see. The person who can control emotions apparently made you think you like it here.” He grabbed another chair and sat down across the desk from her. “I’ll wait here with you then.”
“Are you really with the NSA? Aren’t you a little too young?”
After she smiled at him, Ryder said softly, “Jai better hurry up and nail that sucker.”
Jai thought she waited long enough for Ryder. She had hoped she could see him return back with the hostage. However, she was growing impatient. She walked out onto the third floor and noticed many armed guards paying attention to what was happening outside.
When one of the armed individuals noticed her, he ran over to Jai and held his gun up to her. “What are you doing here?”
Jai just stared at him.
“I asked you a question, bitch!”
Brainwave walked over calmly. “And what do we have here?” He looked Jai up and down. “Impressive.” He smiled at her. “And what can I do for you, babe?”
Jai just stared intently at him.
Brainwave said, “I can feel your anger. One so beautiful and yet so angry. You shouldn’t be that way.”
Jai replied slowly, “I like my anger.”
Brainwave smiled. “Really? Then maybe I should let you feel more of it. Emotions can be such a wonderful thing.” He concentrated on her to make her anger grow.
Jai felt herself getting madder by the second. She then thought of the one thing that made her angry without realizing it. Her thoughts focused on Duncan Grant. The person in front of her may have looked nothing like him, but that was all she saw in her mind. It was Duncan as a meta that killed her non-meta boyfriend and her blood boiled.
“She’s loving it.” Brainwave grinned. “She’s got a lot of stuff built up inside.”
Suddenly, Jai lost it. She let loose with a large burst of flames that burst the nearest gunman into fire.
Brainwave quickly tried to gain control of her emotions. However, the only result he got was her giving him a swift right cross to his mouth. He fell to the floor.
Jai glared at the other approaching gunmen. When they began to fire at her, she noticed the bullets were not even reaching her before melting into nothingness. With her face full of rage, she blasted the next closest three. She noticed Brainwave trying to run behind the other gunmen.
Jai slowly began to pursue the fleeing Brainwave. Without knowing it, her feet were not touching the ground as she was actually levitating off the ground by two feet. As she approached the wall of ten gunmen firing at her, she blasted them with a single widespread fire attack. She unleashed enough heat without thinking about it that the gunmen all burst into flames screaming.
Brainwave found himself trying to get into the elevator frantically. Unfortunately, no power. When the doors did not seem to open, he looked back at Jai as she approached. He thought how she looked almost like an angel – angel of death. “Hey, show some mercy. Please.”
Jai stopped just in front of him and then tilted her head to the side. She slowly inhaled as she moved her head to the other side with her eyes closed. She slowly opened her eyes as she allowed a wicked smile to cross her lips. “Mmmm. Your fear. I can smell it.” She looked at him as her smile slowly faded. “But you want to know what I hate more than anything? When a metahuman uses their ability to hurt or kill those who don’t have powers. Now you want mercy?” She looked back at the smoldering remains of the gunmen. “Did I show them any?” She looked back at him. “It’s time for you to feel the burn.”
Jai grabbed him and lifted him into the air with unbelievable ease. She shifted backwards then did a couple of loops through the air until she let him go to slam him into the closed door of the elevator. She grabbed up the unconscious body and threw towards the open window to the front. Before he hit the ground, she blasted him to shoot him out the window.
Jai went over to the window and looked down at the ground. She noticed that Mike caught his body before it hit the pavement. She noticed Travis standing next to Mike looking up at her. She frowned.
From behind her, Ryder called out, “Jai!”
She spun around quickly. She shook her head quickly as if to clear herself. She suddenly stopped levitating and dropped to the floor. Jai asked, “What happened?”
Ryder asked, “Don’t you remember?”
“No.” She looked at Heather standing behind Ryder. “I see you got her.”
Ryder said, “She was under the influence of the meta but apparently, you caused him to release everyone to try to concentrate on you.” Ryder looked around. “Fat lot of good it did him though.”
Jai shrugged. “Last thing I remember is being approached by them. Then suddenly, I was getting madder then… well… just now.”
Ryder smiled politely. “Um… okay. Look, we got the hostage and it’s time to go. Besides, all the stuff around here is just plain nasty.” Ryder walked over to Heather and led her to the staircase.
Jai just looked around at the damage. She stood there for a long moment trying to remember how it happened. The smell from the burning remains began to get to her as she slowly walked over to the staircase. As she was about to take the stairs down, she looked back at area again. She walked down the stairs and made her way outside. Jai quickly made her way over to Travis and Mike.
Travis and Mike were watching an ambulance leaving with Brainwave in the back. Travis turned towards her. “What happened up there?”
Jai shrugged. “I don’t know. He tried to control my emotions and make me angry. After that, I blanked.”
Mike said, “If she’s in trouble for what she did under his control, then so should I be. He controlled me, too.”
Travis shook his head. “Neither of you are in trouble. I just wanted to know what happened. Look, we’ll discuss more of it with Wade because I’m sure we’ll have to give him a full report. You two just get on the jet and don’t say anything to anyone.” He looked over at Ryder who was with Heather and some agents. “I’ll get the kid.” He walked over to Ryder.
Ryder said to Heather, “I think they will be able to show you home okay.”
Heather smiled at him. “Thanks for rescuing me. Are you sure you’re old enough to be an agent?” Heather smiled at him. She then got into a car with two agents.
As the car drove off, Ryder turned towards Travis. “Let me guess. You will say I did something else wrong.”
“Actually, kid, I want to ask you something. How did you two get separated?”
Ryder shook his head and sighed. “Look, we made a call. You and Mike were out here beating up each other so I got the hostage and she went after the bad guy. She hoped she could break his grip on you guys.”
“He didn’t have a grip on me. He had it on Mike. So, you got the hostage alone without backup?”
Ryder nodded slowly. “Sorry for disobeying your order. Maybe next time…”
Travis cut him off. “Maybe next time you won’t take so long. Mike was not holding back out here and he’s incredibly strong.” Travis gave him a small grin.
Travis said, “You did good, kid. You got the objective.” Travis gave him a slight punch on the shoulder. “You might work out better than I thought.” After Ryder smiled broadly, Travis continued as he made his way back to the jet, “But you still need some serious training because of that incident on the plane and almost getting shot.”
Ryder caught up and said, “Are you going to ever let me forget about that?”
Travis looked at him. “I don’t want to have to bury you, kid. Like this, I want all of us to always return home. Do I feel more responsible for you because of your age? Yes. But today, you showed me something. You’re good.” He stopped and Ryder stopped with him. “But, kid, you can be better. And I’ll make sure you get better.”
Ryder grinned. “So, you’re saying you respect me.”
“Yeah.” Travis looked at him. “But if you tell the others I said that, I’ll deny it.” He gave him a subtle wink. “Now, get on the jet.”
Ryder smiled. “Yes, sir.” He quickly ran to get on the jet.
Travis looked back at the building and the huge hole on the third floor. Then he looked at the jet and wondered.
Yuri exited the bathroom and made his way back to his office. When he opened the door, he noticed a dark brown haired female sitting in a chair with her feet up on his desk and her eyes closed although it was hard to tell with her wearing sunglasses. She wore a weathered black leather jacket, white t-shirt, black pants, and black boots. He looked at her for a moment then said as he made his way to his chair behind the desk, “Comfortable, Natasha?”
She slowly opened her eyes, moved the sunglasses to the top of her head then shrugged.
“So, how are you feeling?”
Natasha Vilkas smiled slightly but something in her eyes made it seem she was not completely there. “I had a long night and your chairs are very uncomfortable. No way to treat a guest.”
“You are hardly a guest.” Yuri looked at her closer. “Natasha, have you been drinking?”
“Yeah.” She placed her hands in the jacket pockets. “The assignment I was on made it a required thing. I was undercover and the target loved his vodka.”
Yuri frowned. “How many did you have?”
“Four.” She paused then said, “No, make that five.” She looked off into the distance. “Wait. It was six.” She placed her left hand up to her face then moved it through her hair. “Hell, I lost count.”
“Natasha, I have a very important assignment for you and you are not yourself. I hope you didn’t do anything stupid while drinking.”
She laughed. “Do you mean did I sleep with him?” She laughed again. “Trust me, he was trying to get me drunk because he thought I’d be good in bed. Too bad he’ll never know since he will be locked up for life. He underestimated how much vodka I can hold. You know that no matter how much I drink, I can never get drunk because of my… well… specialty.”
Yuri replied, “Natasha, actually you do not seem to have hangovers. Someone as young as yourself should not drink so much however.”
“Hangover. Drunk. I don’t see the difference since I don’t get the after effects. And someone as old as you shouldn’t be working this late.” She put her feet down on the floor and leaned forward. “So, what’s the assignment?”
Yuri answered, “Not until your partner gets here.”
“Partner? I don’t want a partner and you know that. Furthermore, I don’t need a partner.”
Yuri said, “This time, you have no choice in the matter. He’s as much involved in this as you already are.”
The door quickly swung open and Nikita slowly walked in. “Yuri, this better be important.”
Natasha looked at Nikita then glared at Yuri. “Oh, hell no! I don’t have time for this!”
Yuri said, “Natasha, please.”
Natasha stood up and looked up at Nikita who had a blank expression on his face. “Bye.”
As she was making her way out of the office, Yuri said quickly, “This is about Ivan.” When he noticed Natasha stopped without turning around, he looked at Nikita. “Both of you never knew this but Ivan is still alive.” He eyed the frowning Nikita nervously.
Natasha turned towards them. “Alive? But Gregor said…”
Yuri nodded. “I know what you were told.”
Nikita leaned over the desk to get close to Yuri’s face. “Where is Ivan?”
Yuri gulped. He said cautiously, “America.”
Natasha said, “Screw that. I think it’s time someone finds Gregor and make his life a living hell.”
Without moving his head, Yuri shifted his eyes to Natasha briefly then returned his gaze to Nikita. “Natasha, I think your twin brother here already got to him. Nikita, did you really have to make him need medical attention though?”
Nikita replied, “He’s lucky he didn’t need to be buried. Now, what is Ivan doing in America?”
Natasha looked at Nikita although he continued to eye Yuri. Natasha began to think about how when they were growing up, he was everything to her. She had a hard time not smiling as a slight grin crossed her lips. However, the years that followed have not been good to their relationship and she quickly frowned. Still, a part deep within Natasha Vilkas missed her brother greatly.
Yuri thought a moment. “You two must bring him back before the Americans know he’s in their country. If the Americans find him, we will have World War Three on our hands.”
Training day. Ryder in school. Harbinger of Death continues.
THE POWER AND THE GLORY