Acts of Sacrifice by WyldKat
Summary: Infiltrate a base, rescue three scientists who have gotten over their heads with the wrong people, destroy all the data and research the enemy has, get the scientists, your contact, and your team out in one piece. And what would you like us to do after lunch?
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters: Chief Anderson, Jason, Jun, Mark, Original Character
Genre: Action/Adventure
Story Warnings: Death, Graphic Violence, Strong Language
Timeframe: Other
Universe: Alternate Universe
Challenges: None
Series: Galactic Federation of Planets
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes Word count: 18361 Read: 4822 Published: 06/04/2007 Updated: 06/04/2007
Story Notes:
foreign language used in some places, short dictionary provided at end of the story.

1. Chapter 1 by WyldKat

2. Chapter 2 by WyldKat

Chapter 1 by WyldKat
Author's Notes:
Part one of a two part series

First the legal type stuff.

Gatchaman is the property of Tatsunoko and Battle of the Planets is the property of and Sandy Frank Productions. No profit, gain, hire or reward is received for this work.

 

Conversations enclosed by carrots < .. > are in Regalian.

Conversations enclosed by brackets { .. } are done in sign language.

Conversations enclosed by colons :: .. :: are telepathic.

 

Contains depictions of violence and some foul language used.

 

=======================================

 

“Acts of Sacrifice”

Kat Ross

 

 

 

One of the most vital assets of the Galactic Federation was its renowned Security Department. The foundation of which was the 18 Security Operatives: two full teams, and a handful of auxiliary members backing them. People trained to perform near surgical strikes against those who sought to endanger the safety of the Federation, or threatened the lives of the citizens of the member worlds. Young adults who used specialized skills, to retrieve information, people and stolen classified items, even to remove people and entire bases when necessary. They operated out of a hidden base in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Contact with the base was made possible via a complex satellite/beacon system. Entrance was gained through id codes, codes that changed as frequently as the seasons. Movement around the base was possible only if a person knew precisely where they were going since the complex had miles of corridor, some of which seemed to lead nowhere, and no correct maps. Getting turned around and lost was common for new recruits.

In charge of this organized chaos was Galactic Federation Security Chief Neal Anderson, a former member of the NSA and ISO, and one of the minds responsible for the formation of the department.

 

 

Security Chief Anderson took his glasses off, rubbed his eyes, and leaned back in his chair. He eyed the small stack of papers on his desk wearily. Most of the stack was paperwork that could wait until the morning, if necessary. Slipping his glasses back on he turned to look at the clocks behind his desk. The one on the right showed 2300hrs. GMT, the second one showed 17:00hrs. CT. He considered briefly letting the papers wait until morning, and going to get something to eat. That thought only lasted a second. The work would take about another hour, at most, and the mess area stayed open around the clock, so getting something to eat was not a problem. Besides, work finished tonight, was work he would not have to worry about later. Still facing the back wall, he reached out and keyed the intercom.

“Duffy’s Roadside Café,” a musical tenor voice cheerfully answered. “You kill it, we grill it. Duffy’s na in right now, this is Ian, kin I take a message.”

The Chief chuckled and turned towards the intercom. “Ian, what are you doing still down there?”

“Probably tha same thin’ ya are, Chief – workin’. What kin I do fer ya?”

“Wanted to see if I could get something sent up.”

“Sure thin’. What’cha got in mind?”

“Preferably something simple,” a small grin crossed his face “and quiet.”

“Ye'll na be wantin tha Texas Surprise then. Are ya wantin dinner, or jus a snack?”

“A light dinner,” he said after a moment's thought.

“All righ’ then. Gi’e me a few minutes. I’ll ha’e ya somethin’ shortly.”

Neal turned off the intercom, shook his head, and returned to his work. Ian had a sizable screw loose, but the man was an excellent gourmet chef. One who did not become insulted when someone ordered a simple ham and cheese on rye. He knew that it was safe to give Ian a general idea of what you wanted. Some how the chef always knew what would best fill the bill.

A couple of minutes later, the monitor screen to his right informed him that the docking bay had been activated. A few quick keystrokes brought up the identity of the incoming craft, and a raised eyebrow.

“She’s early.”

So was his dinner.

“Chief Anderson, it’s Bobby from the kitchen,” door comm. announced.

“Come in, Bobby.”

“Ian sent this.” A youngster walked in carrying a tray. “Said I was to stay long enough to be sure it was okay.”

Neal shifted a couple of papers around and made room on his desk for the tray. Once the boy had set tray down, he lifted the lid, half expecting to find a sandwich of some type and some form of side salad. Instead he found a small dinner salad, baked fish, boiled baby potatoes, and French style green beans, with a hot cup of coffee.

“Does he prepare this, and then hold it at temperature till I decide what I’m going to do?” Bobby looked at him like the mouse the cat is about to corner. “Strike that. It’s bad politics to reveal how your boss accomplishes his miracles. Tell Ian this is fine, thank you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Bobby almost bowed then scampered out the door. The poor kid was still intimidated by the Chief.

A few bites into his meal his computer beeped, warning him of an incoming message. He let it wait until he had finished jotting a note, and swallowed.

“Yes, Mycroft.”

“Message from Lt. Commander Kimpel: “I’m in, and I got the data”.

“Thank you, Mycroft. Let her know I am in my office.”

 

 

A sleek fighter jet cut through the early December air, wings raked for hypersonic flight. The setting sun reflected shades of red and orange off the skin as it screamed over the mountains.

Lt. Commander Kristen Kimpel grinned as Chamel rolled in response to subtle pressure on the stick. The plane was quite simply fun to fly and for a brief few moments she could almost forget the rest of world and enjoy the solitude; just her, the sky, the clouds and Chamel.

Eventually the reviver was broken by Chamel’s radio.

“Frank Sam Baker 2, this is Colorado Springs.”

Sighing, she flipped the mike switch on. “Go ahead Colorado.”

“Confirmation check. We show you at Angles 15, moved north by northeast, at one six.”

She did a fast glance over the control panel. “I check you, Colorado.”

“That’s a Roger, Frank Sam Baker 2.”

Spreading the wings out she started dropping speed as she guided the Guardian class jet into the pass. A steady hand kept her clear of the mountain wall as she reached out and keyed the ID beacon. A few seconds later, as she glided across the lake, her console showed a new light. The light blinked red a couple of times then changed to a steady yellow. Through the deepening shadows, she saw the side of the mountain open. The lights of a large landing bay guided her the rest of the way.

As always, she said a silent prayer as she dropped the tail hook. Everything had to be precise; there were no second chances here. One mistake and the jet crashed into the side of the mountain, or took out the back of the bay.

An orange-jacketed member of the flight crew waved her in as she flared Chamel’s nose a fraction. Seconds later she felt the hook catch the dragline and nailed the brakes. She had less than 200 yards to get the plane stopped before she met the wall. Those 200 yards quickly vanished while the dragline played out its length before snapping to a stop. The resistance of the line, combined with the wheel brakes, slowed and then stopped the plane still over 100 yards from the wall.

Kris breathed a sigh of relief and popped her canopy. Her skills she trusted, but the mechanics of the dragline worried her. Off to her left she saw the crewmember pantomime wiping his forehead as one of the other crew disengaged the line from the hook. She grinned, tossed him a salute, then put her hands together as if praying. He laughed, shook his head, and waved her towards her dock. Sweeping the wings back, she nudged the stick to taxi Chamel towards the lift. On the way down to the hangar, she radioed ATC.

“Colorado, this is Frank Sam Baker 2. I’m down and docked.”

“You’re clear, Hawk. Have a good evening.”

“Thanks, RC. Tell Maggie I said Hi.”

Kris killed the mike without waiting to see if RC would reply and took off her helmet. That item ended up hanging from the stick as she started unbuckling her harness and reached into the side pocket of her seat and extracted a small package. Once the lift stopped, she stood up.

The ground crew would move the plane into its usual bay. Once it had been checked over it would be moved back up and placed in the launching bay.

 

Lieutenant Jun Anderson watched from the shadows near the door as Kris scrambled out of the cockpit. She had been next to a computer terminal and had heard the crew call for the secondary dock. A fast query showed the id of the incoming craft. She had decided to come down and see her friend in.

“Hi.” She called across the bay.

Kris started slightly, dropped the rest of the way to the floor, spinning as she fell. Coming up from a half crouch, she looked in the direction of the voice.

“Jun,” she growled straightening up, “I expect that kind of terminal stupidity from one of the guys, not you.” She pointedly tapped the knife that had appeared in her left hand against her thigh a few times.

“Sorry,” Jun laughed. “I didn’t mean to startle you. What do you do, sleep with that thing?”

“No, I don’t need to. That’s what the dog is for.”

“Speaking of which,” Jun nodded towards the door behind her where Kris’ dog, Flash, patiently waited. When she looked back the knife had returned to its hidden sheath.

“Thanks. I really appreciate your taking care of him.” Kris signed to Flash to come. He bounced to his feet and trotted towards her.

“No problem. You’re early.”

Kris grinned as she ruffled Flash’s ears and moved towards the door. “It doesn’t take long to pick up a disk.”

“Perhaps, but you weren’t expected till tomorrow.” Jun subtly eyed her comrade as she walked over. Kris looked tired. It was probably a safe bet that behind those tinted lenses, Kris’ eyes sported dark shadows. Her fight-suit was not quite as meticulous as she normally kept it. Otherwise, she looked okay. At barely 5 foot 4 inches, with a dancer's build, she was physically unimposing; however, the lady was easily as quick and as deadly as a hawk.

A non-committal grunt was the only reply she received. Mycroft,” she spoke into her communicator, “if you haven’t already, tell Dumb-Shit I’m in. And I got the data.”

A few seconds later Mycroft replied, “Message relayed. Responding message: I am in my office.”

Kris grinned at Jun. “Ever wonder if he relays those messages as is, or if he paraphrases them?”

“No, I’m usually more intrigued that he knows who the message is for.” She fell into step beside the younger woman as they headed down the long corridor leading away from the bay.

“Why? I’m usually consistent with my names.” Kris stuck her sunglasses in the top pocket of her flight suit.

“I thought I heard you call him Idiot Child one day.”

“No,” Kris glanced over, grinning widely, “Idiot Child is Jason. “By the way, how’s the sea-monkey?”

“Kris!” She swatted at the younger woman’s shoulder.

“Sorry.” The wide grin Kris wore suggested that she really wasn’t sorry. “They all look like that to me.”

Jun sighed. “I thought you liked children.”

“I do. Once they become human, and self motorvating.”

“She’s fine. We’re both fine. We’re taking her home tomorrow.” Jun shook her head, not fooled in the least by her friend’s act. Kris had hardly waited two days before stopping in to see the baby.

“Looks like I got back just in time then.”

“We named her Crystal.”

“Pretty. Brings to mind gems and clear, white light. So how long are you staying off the field?”

“At least another four weeks, possible as long as six.”

“Hun, the others probably are hoping for the four weeks. From what I’ve heard, you’ve been missed. The reserves are good but it takes time to feel comfortable with an unknown person, ask Ben.”

Jun nudged Kris in the shoulder as she stepped into an elevator. “Go get some sleep woman and take this walking flea circus with you.” She patted Flash on the shoulder as he quietly followed Kris.

 

 

Kris really wasn’t surprised to learn that the Chief was still in his office. There was speculation that he all but lived in there some days. After all, with a mini kitchenette, a couch large enough to accommodate that 6’3” frame, and an executive type washroom, the only thing he would have lacked was a change of clothes. For all anyone knew, he may have a spare suit the washroom. She entered in response to his summons and grinned when she saw the remnants of dinner.

“Ordered from the mess I see.”

“You’re back early.”

“You wouldn’t have sent me to pick this up,” Kris held up a small black plastic case, “if you didn’t want it back yesterday. Speaking of which, is it still Thursday or is it Friday already. And no I didn’t back time,” she said, referring to a feature of the engine used in the small Guardian jets, one that allowed the jet to arrive at any location at any time the pilot chose; literally giving them the ability to move through time. “I set the drive to arrive here five minutes after I left Liscus. I just lost track of time while I was there.”

“It is Thursday evening.” Anderson reached out to take the case.

“Good, I have an English paper due next week and I don’t think the Professor is going to accept “I was out saving the galaxy as an excuse for turning it in late.”

“I hope you have it done, your team is “On-Call”.” He turned slightly, opening the disk case, and slipped the disk into a drive.

“Great,” Kris groaned softly, turning to leave. “I thought the days of half week turn arounds were over.” She motion for Flash to follow and headed out muttering to herself.

Chief Anderson ignored her half-hearted grousing and started looking over the data she had brought back.

 

 

Commander Mathew Allen Kentrel roused to the insistent beeping of his watch. He groaned, rolled over, and threw the covers over his head. He and Mark had flown a new proto-type jet to the Pax River station on the eastern cost of North America for additional testing. After going out for dinner with some of the base’s test pilots they had opted to stay over in the BOQ.

“Matt,” a sleep heavy voice came from the next bed “your communicator.”

“Yeah, I hear it,” Matt muttered into the pillow. He reached towards the nightstand and fumbled for the offending object. Not finding it by touch he rolled his head and tried to see if he could locate it by sight. He finally got hold of his watch/communicator and shut the beeping off. “Crikes! It’s only 4:30. Who the hell is calling at this ungodly hour?”

“Answer it, and you’ll find out.”

Matt groaned again and buried his face in the pillow. A moment later he levered himself up on one elbow and reached for the communicator. In the process, he glanced over towards the next bed. In the moonlight filtering through the window he could just make out his cousin’s form “How’d you know it was mine?”

“Mine’s in my shoe.” Commander Markel Allen Dacanrus - Anderson rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

“That’s a good place for it,” Matt laughed.

“Will you answer that blasted thing,” Mark growled as the object in question started beeping again.

Matt laughed at his cousin. “Are you always this pleasant in the morning?”

“Only when I’m woken up too damned early.”

“Boy, are you in for some fun when you guys take the kid home.”

“If you don’t answer that thing, now, the Chief is going to have to promote Kris.

Matt laughed and strapped on his communicator. “Wolf, go ahead.”

“Wolf,” Chief Anderson’s voice issued form the small speaker, “gather your team and report to the base.”

“Clear.” Matt turned off the communicator and sat up. Glancing over at his apparently sleeping cousin, he grabbed his clothes and headed for the bathroom. His lean and solid, wolf like, frame, showed several old battlescars. Evidence of a rough existence, even at a young age.

“Mycroft,” he called softly into his communicator once he had the bathroom door closed.

“Go ahead, Mathew.”

“Where are the other members of Force Seven?

“Lt. Commander Kimpel is in her quarters at Alpha Base. Lieutenant Kimpel is in his apartment in Bolder. Lieutenants’ Cyne, Thomas, Tanake and Masters are at their house in Dayton.”

“Okay, thanks.” He paused long enough to tug his shirt over his head then tapped a code into his communicator.

 

Lt. Yale Thomas rolled over and sat up when his watch started beeping.

“Yeah.”

“Fox, time to rock and roll.”

Yale dropped his head into his hands and breathed heavily.

“You awake enough to remember where you left the Falcon?” Matt asked, referring to their team’s command craft.

“Yeah,” Yale straightened up and rubbed his eyes. “She’s in her bay at Wright-Pat.” Even at 19, Yale was considered one of the Security Department’s top pilots.

“Good. I’ll pick up Mustang. We should be there in about an hour and ten minutes. See you at Alpha.” Matt closed the line.

Yale stood up and reached for his pants. The mind and reflexes of a fox coupled with the build of a blonde beach god gave him the agility to strike quickly and quietly; both in combat, and with women. A talent he happily used whenever he had the chance.

“I caught part of it.” Lt. Ellisha Cyne, licensed Paramedic and Navigator for the Falcon, stood in his doorway, tucking her shirt into her pants. Graceful and lithe as a gazelle, but as deadly as a cobra, she reminded many people of a ballerina in looks and movements. “He let on what was up?”

“Nope.” Yale grabbed a shirt and pulled it on. “Wonder what’s so important that we get called out at 4:30 in the morning.”

“Guess we’ll find out soon enough. I'll go get the other two.”

Lt. Benjamin Masters, electronic counter measures officer for the Falcon, rolled and sat up, instantly awake when he heard his door open.

“What?”

"Matt just called. We've been called in to Alpha."

“Okay. What kind of time marker are we looking at?”

"He said he'd be a little over an hour."

Ben turned and looked at the glowing numbers on his clock. “Hmm, ‘bout 05:45 Eastern. Okay, just needed to know how forceful I needed to be with Pet.”

Ellie grinned, relieved. That member of the team was notorious for being hard to wake.

Ben stood up and paddled out of his room. His graceful movements and slightly diminutive statue called to mind a South American jungle cat. A lightning and deadly strike only added to the image. He paused part way down the hall and glanced into his team mate/foster brother’s room. Pet was still sleeping soundly. He continued down the hall and went downstairs to the kitchen. Once he had some coffee brewing, he went back upstairs to Pet’s room.

“Rise and shine, Stretch,” he cried turning on the overhead light.

Lt. Janaritanke, Pet to his friends, engineering support for the Falcon, yelped and dove under his pillow. After a moment, Ben shoved him with a foot.

“Come on, Pet, we have to go to work.” A soft snore was his only response. Ben’s counter was to pull the blankets off the bed and yanked away the pillow.

“Good grief, Ben, it’s not even 5.” Pet growled and snatched the pillow and put it back over his head.

“I know. Matt just called.”

“Great,” Pet sighed. Shifting the pillow up a fraction, he looked at Ben. “How long we got?”

“Bout an hour. I got coffee started.”

“Good, just enough time for breakfast.” Pet tossed aside the pillow, stood up and stretched.

Ben looked up his friend’s lanky frame and shook his head. “Are you ever going to stop growing?”

“Eventually.” Pet returned his grin and started for the door. At just under 6½ foot and hardly 175 pounds dripping wet, many of his friends jokingly compared him to a greyhound. A comparison he usually laughingly agreed with, reminding them that many people underestimate the dog.

“Before you hit 7 foot?” Ben stepped back and let him go down stairs first.

“That I don’t know,” Pet called over his shoulder. “Hey, did you get that History homework done?”

“Yeah. Didn’t you?”

“Man, my system crashed, I spent half the day tracking and fixing the problem."

“Mr. Lewis is going to kill you.”

“I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about it. Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to be in class today.”

 

 

Lt. Paulus Kimpel, Weapons Tech for the Falcon, snarled and shut off the alarm on his communicator. Keeping one hand over the speaker he got up and went into the bathroom. Hard, compact muscles bunched and rippled like a pale chestnut stallion as he moved.

“What?”

“Good morning, Mustang. We have a call. Can you get to the airfield?”

“Yep.”

“Okay. I have to get one of the ScramJets. I can pick you up in about 60 minutes.”

“Great. I’ll see you there.”

Paul killed the link, went back out to the room and started searching for his cloths.

“Huhn, wha’z wrong?”

Paul looked towards the bed, and his girl friend. “Nothing, I just got something I need to take care of, babe. Go back to sleep.”

 

 

Flash raised his head and growled when Kris’ communicator started going off.

She reached out and scratched behind his ears until he lowered that massive head back onto her leg. “Your life, it better be fucking good,” she growled into the speaker.

“The life, or the call?” Matt sounded disgustingly cheerful, and worst yet – awake.

“Either .. both.”

“Hmm, can I get back to you on the first? On the second, shag yer tail to the briefing room.”

“Mathew, do you know what time it is?”

“Yep. It’s almost 10:00 Greenwich.”

“I’d kill him, but then I get stuck with his job,” she thought gazing across the dark room.

“Growl all you want, just get up and get moving.”

Kris growled one last time and shut the line off.

Flash grumbled at her when she moved her leg out from under his head.

Kris patted him then stepped over to her desk and cut on a dim, red, light. A few moments later she headed out, having found a pair of shorts and a set of moccasins.

 

 

Chief Anderson looked up from the computer screen as the first of the department’s team, code name Force Seven, walked into the briefing room. Ellie paused on the threshold, gave him a quick appraisal then casually nudged Matt’s heel. A pointed look in the Chief’s direction drew a faint nod from her Commander. He was past exhaustion and was going on pure will power alone.

“Morning, Chief.”

“Matt,” The Chief nodded. “Where’s the rest of your team?”

“Kris should be here momentarily. I believe Ben and Pet headed for the Mess as soon as they arrived.”

The two boys walked in on the heels of Matt’s comment.

“Sustenance has arrived,” Pet announced, holding a tray laden with food.

“Pet, what the hell did you do?” Yale asked dropping into a chair.

“Got breakfast,” Pet shrugged. “Considering the hour I figured we all could do with a halfway decent meal.

“I thought you grabbed breakfast before you left.” Ellie countered.

“I did.” Pet grinned. “Here Chief, Galen said your cup would probably be empty.” Pet moved over to set a fresh cup of coffee on the Chief’s desk.

“Hey, Paul, what’d ya tell your girl friend this time?” Yale teased.

“I told her I had something to do.” Paul grimaced.

“Gee, I ought to try that some time.”

“You would need to have a real girl friend first,” Pet countered.

“Or at least one that wouldn’t object to him being prettier.”

Yale turned in his seat and smirked at Pet and Ben. “You guys are just jealous that I have them lining up every weekend.”

“In your dreams, brother,” Pet laughed.

Paul reached for a rye bagel with Swiss cheese and shaking his head at the younger boys.

“Stow it, you three,” Matt chided.

“Sure, Matt,” Pet sniggered as he moved to set the tray on the table.

“Now, if our Co-Pilot would just deign to show up.” Yale changed targets.

“Right here,” Kris’ voice came from the doorway.

“Here Kris,” Ben held up a mug. “We got ya some tea.”

“Thanks,” she nodded, fell into a chair, then took the mug.

“Geez, Neal,” Kris eyed the Chief over the rim of her mug. “What’d ya do, stay up all night going over that data? You look like somethin my dog would decline.”

“Here,” Paul stepped over to her seat and held out the bagel. “You need something to eat.”

“With his appetite?” Ben returned. “I’ve never seen Flash pass on anything.”

“True, my hound is a glut.” She leaned past her brother to answer Ben. “If it holds still for more than 30 seconds, it’s worth investigating for edibility.” Looking at Paul, she shook her head. “I’m not really hungry.”

“You crashed less than 10 minutes after returning from a long flight, and have been dead to the world for over 8 hours. I wouldn’t care to hazard when you last ate.” Paul had dropped his voice to the point Kris was the only one who could really hear him.

“You know, sometimes having a twin can be a pain in the ass,” Kris responded in similar vein.

“I know.” Paul grinned and switched to their mother language.   He added truth to his cover by grabbing a raisin bagel, then sitting next to his sister.

“If we are all settled now?” Anderson asked with a touch of sarcasm.

There was a slight ripple as the seven youngsters settled back into their seats and gave the Chief their attention.

“Based on recent information, a situation we have been watching is about to become critical.” Chief Anderson leaned back in his seat and steepled his fingers. “In the past several weeks, three leading minds of the science world disappeared. In all three cases the circumstances were, apparently, routine enough to not draw attention.”

“I didn’t know that any disappearance was considered “routine"." Ellie gave him a puzzled frown.

“Perhaps routine was a poor choice of words, but the situations were less than mysterious. One was involved in a messy divorce, another was believed to have died in a plane crash, and the third was a bachelor who left his job for another company.”

“What was the cause of the crash?” Matt asked.

“According to the investigation team, engine failure.”

“Nice simple cover story,” Kris muttered.

“According to data we just received, all three of these people are now located at a small complex in the Southern Hemisphere of Liscus.”

“Liscus, isn’t that the Rigan colony that’s about to try for their own seat on the Federation Council?” Ben leaned forward in his seat directing the question to Matt.

“Yeah. It looks like they’ll get it too. Barring serious objections from Riga.”

“Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t your uncle the rep. for Riga this term? We know how he feels about any of the colonies gaining independence.”

“Kris, just because you don’t like the man,” Yale started.

“Don’t like?” Kris interrupted. “Yale that is the understatement of the century. I don’t like Jason. Lavel, I would kill if I could.”

“Can we table the political discussion, please?” The Chief quickly cut in to the conversation before it became too heated.

“Sorry.” Kris slumped back in her seat, growling softly for a moment.

“I presume this complex is a base for someone who’s chosen to associate themselves with the Alliance.” Ellie tried to get the briefing back on track.

“Any one remember when all we had to worry about was Spectra?” Pet cracked. “We got so many franchise groups now; we can hardly keep track of them all.”

“Pet, shut up, before you depress all of us.”

“Sorry, Paul. Just a stray thought.”

“In answer to your question, Ellie, yes it is - Remklin.”

“Who are the scientist?”

“Dr. Busaya Ananthanrayanan, Dathan Grosstrel, and Dr. Rueben Tobianski.”

“Tobianski?” Kris sat back up. “What in all that is holy would they want with a Bioprosthestist?”

“A Bioprosthestist?” Ben turned a puzzled frown on towards her. “I’m afraid I am not up on some of the new buzz words.”

“Tobianski is one of the Terra’s leading experts on Bioprosthestics. PopSci did an in-depth article on him, and his work, a few months back.

“Most people refer to what he does as cybernetics. Others sometimes call it Bionics, the science of constructing artificial systems that have some of the characteristics of living systems, commonly associated with either that old 1970’s TV show, or cyborgs. Bioprosthestics is the fusion of biology and technology to repair or replace damage to organics.

“Dr Tobianski’s been making some interesting advances in limb replacement as well as repairing crippling nerve damage. His replacements, according to the article, are nearly indistinguishable from the organic original.”

“Hmm, this is interesting.” Pet leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, and chewed a thumbnail. “Grosstrel is one of Riga’s leading minds in the computer world. Particularly the area involving A.I. He was a step short of a designing a fully sentient computer.”

“Until he allegedly demanded more money from the company, and walked when they wouldn’t pay.”

“What do you do, Kris? Subscribe to gossip weekly?”

“No, Yale. However, I do subscribe to Science Today. You might try it sometime. Then you wouldn’t sit there with a blank look on your face while the rest of us carry on a meaningful conversation.”

“I’m not as lost as you may think. Dr. Ananthanrayanan is a ranking nuclear engineer from Anteron. She was working on micro nuclear engines. She put her work in hold a year ago, when her husband filed for divorce. A rather long, drawn out, nasty mess. I heard the university stopped funding for the project afterwards. Sounds like she may have found a new supporter.”

“The question is,” Matt leaned back and stared at the ceiling, “what do these people have in common? And why is the Alliance interested in them?”

“Besides being leaders in their fields?” Ben asked.

Ellie chewed on her lip thinking for a moment then looked up. “You don’t suppose that they are trying to build a real android?”

“O Kevas.” Kris leaned forward, set her mug on the floor next to her feet, and rested her head on her knees for a moment.”

“Kris?!” Three members of the team looked at her, alarmed.

“Praying,” she told them sitting back. “If Ellie’s right, we’re fucked.” She sighed and looked at the ceiling. “How do you kill an android?”

“You destroy the power supply.” Pet told her. “But, if the power supply is nuclear,” he paused, frowning, “you may end up killing yourself. You’re right, we’re fucked.”

“Oh, bugger. You guys are jumping to conclusions. They may just be working on improving their Cyborgs. Beside, even if that is what they are doing, I doubt they managed to get very far along.” Ellie shot her pessimistic teammates a glower then looked back at the Chief. “How long has this base been fully operational?”

Chief Anderson had picked up his coffee and moved around to the front of his desk when the debate started. He leaned against the right corner and watched the team discuss the situation. He had learned over the years that this was how this team worked best. G-Force tended to work better when he presented all of the information up-front, answering their questions after he had given what data he had. The Force 7 tended to latch on to a comment, pause the briefing long enough to dissect that data, then move on.

He was not surprised, nor disappointed when they reached the same conclusion his own staff had. Their varied interests in the science world, coupled with IQ ‘s that started at 120, and went as high as 150, frequently tended to produce interesting as well as quick results. They weren’t always right, but rarely were they seriously wrong.

He set his cup down to answer Ellie’s question. “The base has been operational for five months. The first of the scientist turned up six weeks later. The second showed up a few weeks later. The last just arrived 10 days ago.”

“So, the chances are that what ever they are working on, it’s not quite ready,” Matt pounced on the possibility of time being in their favor.

“It is possible, yes. However, we’d rather not take the chances that they succeed. With that in mind,” The Chief straightened up and moved back around his desk to the computer terminal. The picture behind his desk vanished, to be replaced by an image of blue prints for a base. “These are the most recent plans we have for that base. The central computer, main power supply, and ammo dump are indicated in blue, red and gold, respectively.” He pointed to the three colored areas on the main floor.

Pet shoved his glasses back into place, grinning. “You’d think they would learn not to put the power supply and the ammo too close together.”

“Pet,” Yale gave his adopted brother a puzzled look, “they’re practically on opposite sides of the facility.”

“Yeah,” Pet’s grin widened. “But with Kris going, if they’re in the same time zone, they’re too close.”

Soft laughter rippled around the room. They were all familiar with the second-in-command’s penchant for blowing things up.

Kris shook her head. “Accidentally blow up a few ammo dumps and ya end up with a reputation around here.”

“Oh, yeah, a tossed grenade is really an accident.” Matt laughed.

“How recent are these blue prints?”

“Less than a week old, Ben.”

“And you’re sure we’re not being set-up?”

“These plans are from a reasonable reliable source, Yale.”

“What, you’re not bitching about Intel trying to screw us again?”

Kris sighed and closed her eyes for a second. “The info is from an inside man, Yale.”

“How do you … eh, never mind.”

“We know there are two labs on the second floor. Most of the work is being conducted there. The records of the projects and experiments are stored on the main computer on the first floor. What we don’t know, is where the Scientists are being kept when they are not working. Our informant was never able to gain access to the areas where we suspect them to be.” The screen flickered and the building rotated to show the two lower levels of the base. "The lower levels are a mix of offices, barracks and officers quarters.

“What we need is the Scientists out, what information may exist destroyed, if possible copied first, and the base closed down.”

“And what would you like us to do after lunch?” Yale asked. He was promptly smacked in the back of the head by his commanding officer.

“Cool it,” Matt growled at their pilot. He shot his second a glare when he noticed that she was silently laughing. “Joking aside,” Matt turned back to the chief, “do we have a time mark?”

“As soon as possible. Access codes and a copy of the blue prints have been transferred to the Falcon’s computer.”

“You heard the man, people. Let’s roll.”

At Matt’s order, everyone stood, placing mugs on the center table, and started to move around the chairs and table towards the door. A few paused to grab, or finish, a bagel on the way.

“The Falcon should be on the Cat. and about ready to launch. Good luck, team.”

“Am I the only one who cringes when he says that?” Kris said softly to Pet. “Luck has nothing to do with us getting the job done.”

“It’s kinda a Terran custom. You wish someone luck before they do something.”

“Like that odd custom of asking if everyone is ready just before doing something massively unwise.”

“Yes.”

“Kris, a moment, please.” Matt caught them just outside the door. Pet smiled down at his commander, nodded and continued towards the docking bay. “A favor, if you don’t mind. Could you bring Flash.”

Kris stared at him for a moment, annoyance flickering across her face. “Why?”

“We have a lot of ground to cover, and not a lot of time. Flash is a good tracker. I know he’s your dog, but I would like to have him along.” Matt patiently explained his motives.

Kris stared down the corridor for a long moment before turning to glower at him. “I take it you want to leave the bird behind.”

“Hun?”

“I can’t keep track of Flash and Neeta at the same time. And if you are asking for Flash, you’re going to be wanting Pet on Scout/Tracking detail, which means he won’t be able to keep an eye on her.”

“Hmm, that’s right. You two are the only ones who can control her.” Matt grimaced at the mental image of their team’s mascot, a six year old Peregrine Falcon, diving on some of the Federation Council members.

“Who said anything about control?” Kris gave him a lopsided grin. “I just keep track of her.”

“Yeah, I guess it would be best if we left her here.” Matt shook his head. “Not that I object to her participation, just her enthusiasm.”

“What can I say, we taught her well.” Kris’ smile was more than slightly vicious. “I’ll meet ya on the Falcon.”

Matt nodded and started towards the docking bay. He wasn’t sure exactly when, but at some point during the conversation, she had decided to bring her dog.

Moments later he walked through the doors into the Main Docking Bay. Sitting in the middle of the bay was a huge black aircraft. He paused a few steps in to admire the craft. Some of the maintenance crew use to joke that the ship looked like a YF-12 and an X-29 had mated. Her official designation was SSTOS/A 32, call sign GFS2, affectionately known as the Falcon. She was big, streamlined, invisible to most forms of RADAR, and very deadly.

Just behind, and slightly to the left, was a smaller version. The GFS5, called the Raven, was the department’s 4-man quick insertion/strike ship. A ship designed with one thought in mind: “Go in, hit hard and quick, and get out.” The Raven lacked the bay space of the Falcon and Phoenix, and didn’t have the capacity to do the extended missions, but made up for what she lacked in sheer firepower.

Not present was G-Force’s command ship, the Phoenix. She was down in the maintenance bay being checked over after her last mission, having any damage repaired.

“Hard to believe something so deadly could be so gorgeous,” a soft voice came from behind him.

Matt turned to see Kris standing just behind his left shoulder. Standing at her left knee was her dog. Flash stood almost three-foot at the shoulder, his head reaching Kris’ belt, had the lean, muscular, build of a cattle dog and sported a dark sable and white coat, reminiscent of smooth coat collie from Scotland.

“I know what you mean.” Matt kept his voice casual, while he eyed his second. Kris wasn’t one of those females that thought you had to be skinny to be good looking. Not that she worried about what other people thought of her appearance. Her uniform did little to disguise the well-conditioned figure beneath, if anything, it served to enhance her form. He idly wondered if she had taken time to chance clothes before switching to her uniform, while noting that she had as usual, tossed her cowl off leaving it to lie between her shoulder blades.

“I see we’re ‘bout ready to launch.”

“Huhm. Only thing left is us.”

“You plan on going like that?” Kris pointedly looked at his jeans and flight jacket.

“Yeah, I thought I would try a new look, what do you think?” he struck an exaggerated modeling pose.

“I think you’ll end up very dead very quickly.” Kris rolled her eyes.

Matt laughed and keyed off the sequence on his communicator to transform his civilian clothes into his uniform.

Kris pushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes then motioned Flash towards the ship. Matt let her get a few steps in front of him then followed silently.

Kris gently quieted her dog’s soft rumbling. Both Kris and Flash had noted Matt’s silent appraisal. Flash interpreted the examination as a challenge to his “pack leader” and was inclined to inform Matt of the error of those actions. she leaned down and whispered in his ear Flash’s response was a loud snort. Kris stifled a snicker and looked over her shoulder to see if Matt was coming. “I’m taking him in back. I’ll be on the bridge as soon as I get him settled.”

Matt nodded as he reached the base of the loading ramp. Letting his mind shift to analyzing the information from the briefing, trying to judge the best way to arrange his team to maximize efficiency and minimize injury.

A few minutes later, all the members of the Force 7 were completing standard preflight checks. Matt took one quick glance around the bridge before commencing launch procedures.

“Okay, people, by the numbers.”

“Main engines are on-line,” Pet’s contra-base rumble followed rapidly from the port side. “Jump engines on standby-by. Board shows green. We’re good to go.”

“Course plotted, transferring to helm. All systems green.”

“Flight control shows green,” Kris’ measured contralto just after Ellie’s soft soprano was always a bit startling. “Ship systems show green. Flight crew signals clear. We’re good for go.”

“Helm checks,” Yale followed the routine absently. “Fuel pressure - minus .5 pounds, nominal.” He glanced over his shoulder towards Matt’s station and nodded. “We are go.”

“E.C.M. shows green.” Ben’s voice drifted back. “All systems check. We’re good to go.”

Paul flipped one last switch, locking his board down, before adding his report. “Weapons loaded and locked. Board is green. Good for go.”

Matt turned slightly in his seat and flicked the comm. line open. “Colorado Springs, this is George Frank Sam 2. We are good for Go.” Another flick changed the channel and he spoke quickly with ground control, warning them of impending launch switching back in time to hear the launch command.

“George Frank Sam 2, Colorado Springs, you are cleared. Go.”

“George Frank Sam 2, Clear.” Matt killed the comm. and turned attention back to his crew.

Yale looked up towards the mirror above the pilot’s seat, watching for the clear sign. He caught Matt’s half nod and keyed in the launch sequence.

With a roar heard even through the insulation in the cabin, the Falcon’s four main engines shifted from idle to full thrust. Yale started easing off the brakes, letting the ship roll forwards a fraction, as Kris reached for the catapult release. He released them as the cat. kicked the ship forward, slamming the occupants against their seats.

As the Falcon blasted out of her mountain strong hold, Kris tapped a set of keys on her console. One bathed the cockpit in red light another engaged the StarLite mode of the main viewscreen. Meanwhile Yale's attention was claimed by the intricacies of controlling the ship as she cleared the bay, and started her skyward ascent.

Once they were clear of the base, and outside Colorado Springs area, Matt radioed back and informed them they could resume regular traffic.

Conversations were kept at a minimum as they angled southwest, out of the mountains, and Yale started increasing the angle of their climb.

Several long minutes later, Kris leaned back in her seat and gave Yale a grin. "A-n-d, we're black," she announced, telling them that they had crossed that invisible barrier between the upper atmosphere and space.

Yale cut the thrust of the main engines, allowing inertia and the laws of physics to keep them in motion until he fired the jump engines for the 10.7 light-year jaunt.

"What's that noise?" Pet interrupted, looking past his left shoulder, towards the rear of the bridge. A faint wailing sound could be heard through the door. A wail the rose and fell, the rose again.

Kris swung her seat around, reaching for the belt release. "That's Flash. He does not like zero-g." She used part of the momentum of her spin to launch into a gentle dive for the door.

"I can help a little." Pet typed a command into the engineering board. The wail dropped off slightly, to a whimper as Kris opened the door. "I set up a pseudo-field in the cabin. That should make him a little more comfortable."

"Thanks, Pet." Kris continued out the door. "But I better go check on him, make sure he isn't getting ill."

Matt chuckled as the Second disappeared. "Well, I was going to wait a few more minutes. We have just over 10½ hours till we reach Liscus. That's long enough to split into two five-hour shifts, I want everyone on the bridge half an hour before we reach our destination.

Yale glanced up at the mirror as he finished setting the jump commands. "Well, since Kris' already vanished, I guess I get the first watch."

Matt leaned back against his seat, stretching his back, and watched as Ben turned around and leaned across Pet's station to talk. Paul and Ellie were doing similar. He rarely cared how they set the shifts, as long as the three main stations were manned. A few minutes later Pet and Ellie unstrapped and moved towards the rear of the bridge. Paul and Ben also unbuckled, but they were moving into their teammates' stations.

"See you guys in a few hours."

"Yeah, just don't over sleep Pet."

Pet just laughed at Ben's subtle reference to his sleeping patterns and continued out the door, Ellie literally at his heels. As they neared the door to the crew-cabin, it became possible to walk, after a fashion.

"What did you set the field at?"

"A 10th of a gee. Just enough to give Flash a feel for ground." Pet shrugged. "We don't really need it, and I don't want to expend too much power. He can handle a 10th, I know."

"It's set up for the Infirmary too?" Ellie glanced across the narrow corridor at the other door.

"Yeah. It's in the same zone."

"Okay. I'm going to make sure everything's in place; just in case." Ellie turned towards the port side door. "One never knows what will happen."

"True." Pet softly concurred, opening the Starboard door.

"Keep it down, okay." Kris softly spoke from across the small room. "I just got him about settled."

Pet glanced over and saw that Kris was in "her" bunk, safety netting in place. She was lying on her side with her left arm across Flash’s shoulders, comforting him.

"How's he doing?" Pet quietly asked, moving towards the double bunks across from her.

"The pseudo field helped, thank you. But he's still edgy."

Pet causally hopped into the upper bunk, snapped the safety net in place and settled down. "Even I sleep better with some gravity.

Kris laughed softly, scratching Flash's ears. Pet, like the rest of the team, could sleep anywhere, anytime. In their line of work, you never knew when you might have to go a day, or better, without real rest. Therefore, they had taught themselves to get what rest they could whenever it was possible, even if they had only been up a few hours.

By the time Ellie finished her checks, and entered the crew-cabin, everyone was asleep, including the dog.

 

End of part one

Chapter 2 by WyldKat
Author's Notes:
Part two - conclusion

"Okay, it looks like they've buttoned down for the night."  Matt crabbed back from edge of the bluff several feet before rising to his knees.  He looked back to where his team crouched.  The light from the two small moons made them look like shadows from the nearby trees.  It was times like this that he was glad their battlesuits were dark colored.  "We start moving.  You have the access codes?" 

      One of the shadows detached and moved forward.  "Yes."  Ben's normally soft voice was barley above a whisper.  Matt returned his monocular and watches as that item disappeared into his one of his numerous pouches.

      "Everyone knows where they're to go?"

      A muffled contralto groan told him his second was complaining about being reminded for the "hundredth time".  A patch of moonlight near the shadows stood up with a low grunt and shook.  Flash was ready.  A low rumble suggested he was in agreement with his mistress.

      "Yes, Matt."  Paul practically yawned.

      "We only went over it five times in the past 45 minutes," Yale complained.  "Don't you think we can remember that long?"

      A soft growl from the opposite side of the group from Flash drew Matt's attention.  "Etu, Pet?"  Another of the shadows moved and a second dog stood up, stretched and yawned, exposing a set of sharp teeth.

      "No," Ellie's voice drifted from the back.  "He's complaining because Kris and Flash get the lower level.  He thinks that's were the all the fun is going to be."

      "Okay, people, we have work to do.  Let's get moving."

      If anyone in the base noticed that some of the shadows on the bluff seemed to move, they didn't raise any alarms.

      The alarms still had not sounded when those same shadows reached the main door.  The security camera above the door mysteriously became unfocused as one especially dark wraith drew close to the door.  A few seconds later the door slid open.  The shadows waited, watching, for a couple of heartbeats, then slowly drifted inside.  Once inside they spread out along the walls, watching and listening.

      A wide, empty hall, about 150-foot long, greeted them.  The only light was a small "exit" light above the door.  Each searched their memories of the blueprints they had studied on their way out, matching those with what they saw.  Halfway down the hall was a pair of doors on the right side, and a single door 20 feet beyond on the left.

      Matt reached back and tapped Paul's arm.  {The power supply is down there.}  He pointed to the first door.

      Paul nodded, acknowledging the signed comment, and implied order.  A quick glance at Yale told him that he was ready.  They started towards the door.

      ::Take care, Braithair.  The barracks are also down that way, so watch your back.:: 

      Paul glanced back in Kris' direction, a smile twitching his lips.  ::You too, Peiuthair:: he answered her silently.

      Matt and Ben started down the left side of the hall.  The central computer was behind that door.  Kris let them get a few yards before signaling her dog.

      ::Rach.::  She tapped his shoulders to emphasis the command.  He moved in front of her, head lowered to shoulder level.

      Across the hall, Ellie and Pet silently followed Paul and Yale.  They would meet up with Kris and Flash when they got to the elevator.  Assuming no one was ambushed.

      Paul reached the door and tried the knob.  It was locked.  A touch light as a summer breeze on his shoulder pulled his attention to Yale.

      {Let me,} he signed.  {Ben taught me a few tricks.}  He pulled out a set of lock picks.  {Quieter.}

      Paul nodded, stepped aside, keeping an eye on the hall. 

      Pet came up next to Yale, pausing to sniff at the base of the door.  He snorted and shook his head.  No one was standing on the other side.

      "Watch your head," Yale hissed.  "It's hard enough without someone jostling my arm."

      Pet whined an apology and moved to the next door, the one that according to the blue prints lead to the officers' quarters.  It received the same scrutiny before he turned to look back down the hall.  He lowered his head then brought it back up, once.  A dark shape moved away from the wall several feet down from Paul and whisper silent came towards him.  As soon as Ellie reached his side, he resumed his journey towards the other end of the hall.

      Ben reached the door a step ahead of Matt.  Like Paul, he found it locked.  A set of picks, similar to the ones Yale had, appeared from a pouch and he set to work.  He stopped working on the lock when Flash rumbled a warning, rocked back on his heels and cast a glance at the dog.  Flash had his nose at the base of the door, snuffing and growling.  He looked towards Kris and Matt.

      {Someone's inside,} she signed.  ::Caisg,:: she warned Flash.

      Ben went back to work, quietly.  A few moments later, his efforts were rewarded with a click, felt more than heard.  He slowly rotated the knob and nudged the door open.

      Flash thrust his head forward as soon as the door was open far enough, his shoulder pushing it open farther.

      ::Cha, Flash.::  Kris reached out and grabbed hold of his harness.  She didn't want him to be the first one in the room.

      Matt slipped between Flash and Ben to stand next to Kris.  A brief nod and they were through the door, pistols out and held on point, at hip level.  Ben moved silently into the room behind them, his ninjato drawn and held slightly off the side.  Flash crouched in the doorway, ready to leap into the room at Kris' command or the first sign of threat to her.

      The dim light from a desk lamp revealed numerous desks with data access terminals, some of which were still active.  A large metallic counter was set against the back wall.  A man about 40 Terran years old, with thinning brown hair and an ill kept mustache, turned towards the door, a look of fear on his face.  It wasn't every night that dark garbed people burst into the computer room waving weapons.

      Kris eyed the man for a second, then signed, left-handed, for Matt and Ben to hold back a moment.  "Jeptha?"

      "Hawk?"  The man stared at this apparition.  The voice sounded like his contact.  But, she was supposed to be on her way to Terra, not standing in front of him, pointing a gun at him.

      "Told you I'd be back."  He couldn't see her face, she was standing to far from the light, but the grin was evident in her voice.  She casually holstered her pistol.

      "But how … I mean it's a 10 hour flight - one way.  You've hardly been gone a full day.  That's 20 hours flight, even if you didn't have to have the information analyzed.  You shouldn't be here till tomorrow.  No one should."

      "What can I say," Kris smirked, "I caught a tail wind.  Its okay, guys.  You can holster em.  This is our contact, Jeptha."  A rapid glance back towards the door, showed Flash slowly advancing inside.  "Flash, sheas sheeos."  The dog stopped, looked at her for a second, shook himself, and sat down.  "As you can see, I brought a few friends with me."  She returned her attention to Jeptha.

      "So I see."  He was openly staring at Flash and Ben.

      "This could make part of our job easier."  Matt stepped forward.  "You have access to the computer?"

      "Sure."

      "Can you crack their security and store the information on this?"  He handed Jeptha a mini laser disk.

      "I believe I can."  Jeptha took the disk, examined it briefly, the slipped it into the nearest terminal.

      "Good."  Matt nodded, looking back over his shoulder.  Ben had made a scuffing noise.  That meant he wanted Matt's attention.

      {If you want to stay here, I can go help Yale and Paul.}

      Matt nodded again, and Ben disappeared out the door.

      Kris watched Ben leave, Flash demanding an ear scratch before moving out of his way.  Looking at her dog gave her an idea.  She turned back to their contact.  "Jeptha, you don't happen to have something the scientists handled or wore handy, do you?"

      "Hmmm, Dr. Grosstrel was in here earlier this evening.  He left his jacket lying in his seat."  He motioned towards a station against the back wall.

      Kris shook her head with a soft laugh and walked over to the seat with the jacket.  "Flash, hig." Flash stood up and trotted over to her.  She held the jacket out to him, letting him sniff it for a couple of seconds.  When he got a fix on the scent, Flash backed up a step, shook himself, and turned to head for the door.

      ::Hey, Ellie, hold up a second.::  Kris silently called her teammate.

      ::What’s up?::  Ellie’s mental voice sounded very much like her normal voice.

      ::I got something that’ll make our search easier.  I’ll meet you at the lift.::      “I’ll check in with you later,” she told Matt.  “I’m going to go get our Scientists, now that I have a get out of jail card.”

      Matt simply nodded, only mildly amused at her odd sense of humor.

      “Interesting lady.”  Jeptha watched her slip out like a grey ghost.

      “Interesting is an understatement in her case, my friend.”  Matt turned to look at Jeptha. 

      Jeptha decided that silence was the best reply and turned back to his computer.

     

      Across the hall, Ben slipped up behind Paul and Yale.  "No luck?"  He asked softly.

      "Ayya," Yale started, dropping his tools.

      "Here," Ben knelt down next to Yale.  "Let me have a go at it.  I got the other one, but it is tricky,"

      "Where's Matt?"  Paul scowled, looking down the corridor.

      "He's in talking with Kris' contact.  Got it." 

      With a gentle click the door swung inwards.  It opened on another corridor, also lit only by emergency exit signs.  "Shall we?"  Ben stood up, pocketing his tools.

      Paul glance back when a ghost with a pale shadow flitted across his peripheral as Kris and Flash moved to meet up with Ellie.  A scowl flickered briefly as he tapped his communicator.  "Wolf?"

      "Yeah."

      "Everything okay?"

      "Yeah.  Our contact is pulling some of the files now." 

      "All right.  If you don't object, I'm going to take Panther with us."

      "Go head.  There's only one door in this room.  I think we're pretty safe."

      "We'll check in soon as we get to the power center."

      "Clear.  The line went dead as Matt shut off his comm.

      Paul turned back to the two junior members.  "Let's go, guys."

      They moved through the door and started down the corridor.  Ben paused long enough to push the door closed behind them so it would not be quite so obvious that someone was wandering the base.

 

      Kris caught up with Ellie and Pet at the door to the elevator.  “This should help matters,” she told Ellie.

      "What've ya got?"  Ellie turned at the sound of Pet's soft whine.

      "Grosstrel's jacket."  Kris held the object in question up.  "Seems he has a habit of leaving it lying around.  Thought I just might return it to him."

      "Right."  Ellie slipped her leg between Pet and Flash when she noticed that they had their heads lowered, and were showing each other their teeth.  "I thought Flash liked Pet."

      "He does, as a human.  When he looks, and smells, like another male dog, he's competition."

      "Competition for what?  And what do you think you're doing?"  She nudged Pet back an inch.  "Well, I suggest you put your ego on the back burner.  He could rip your throat out without much effort."

      Kris snickered softly and gently tapped Flash between the ears.  "Gioolen.  Here," she handed Ellie the jacket.  "Flash has a pretty good fix on the scent for now."  She glanced down at her Tiair.  "Based on current behavior, I would suggest that we keep these two on opposite sides of the lift."

      Ellie nodded silently while Kris nudged Flash through the opening elevator door.

      "Someone has been bucking to get himself Neutered recently."  Pet yelped at Kris' comment, ducked his head and sat in the rear corner of the elevator.

      ::You are so cruel.::  

      Kris punched the elevator buttons and flashed Ellie a wicked grin.  ::I love the way men react when you say something like that.::

      ::Yeah, but while Pet is in four-footed form…::  Kris only shrugged and gave her another grin. She dropped Ellie and Pet off at the basement then continued on to the lower level.

 

      Paul moved down the corridor a few steps in front of Yale.  Ben brought up the rear on the opposite side of the hall.  They had gone just over 12 feet when they found a door on the right wall leading into the hangar.  Paul paused next to the door and checked to see if it was locked.  He glanced over his shoulder and made out the dark form of Ben paused a few feet down the corridor, watching him.  A flick of the wrist sent the young man down the corridor past him.  Yale dropped back a few paces and turned to watch behind them.

      About 30 feet farther down the hall was a wide door on the left side.  They knew from the blue prints that this door opened into the main barracks.  Preferring to avoid an immediate confrontation, the boys moved past the door and headed towards the one barely visible at the end of the corridor.

 

      Matt waited a few minutes after Kris left, watching Jeptha work his way through the security levels.  When the man paused for a moment Matt spoke.

      "I want to take a look in the labs.  You be okay in here alone?"

      Jeptha looked back at him, blinked as if surprised to see him still there, and grinned.  "Yeah, I'll be fine, Commander.  I managed to draw night watch this week, so no one would be surprised to see me wandering around."

      "Perhaps, but nosing around in "classified" files?"

      "Oh, they'd get perturbed if they actually caught me."

      "So -- lock the door behind me."  He watching in silence until the man nodded agreement the turned to leave.  Like Kris, he turned left once he exited the room.  Staying close to the wall, he moved down the hall to the same lift that Ellie and Kris had used.  He kept an eye turned to the other end of the corridor while he waited for the lift to arrive from the lower level where Kris had gotten off.  A quick check showed it was empty when the doors opened.  Satisfied it was relatively safe, he stepped in and punched the destination code for the second floor.

      Matt paused for several seconds after the doors opened, waiting to see if there was any movement or reaction.  Seeing none, he slipped out of the lift and looked down the corridor.  On a quick glance survey, the second floor looked like a twin to the main floor.  No real lights, only an exit light over his head and one several yards down the hall on the left-hand side.  Nevertheless, those two small light sources provided enough illumination for him to make out the doors on either side.  Since the plans they had indicated that the scientists they were after had normally used a lab at the end of the corridor, Matt started in that direction.  If time permitted, he would try to get in to some of the other labs and see what he could find.

 

      Pet stepped off the lift a pace in front of Ellie, his head lowered trying to pick up Dr. Grosstrel's scent.  He turned left, slowly making his way down the corridor.  Ellie held back and watched for a moment, letting him get his bearings.  Like all the other floors, there was next to no lighting, but they had gotten use to working in low light situations over the years.  She started forward when he paused, brought his head up and looked back at her.

      ::Where's that jacket?::

      ::Right here.::  She held it out for him.  ::Can you tell anything?::

      ::I think he is down this way.  There's a lot of traffic in this hall.::

      Pet snorted softly, shook, and sniffed at the jacket.  After a moment, he started back down the hall.  Ellie stayed within sight, but held back to watch behind them.

      They had moved past several doors towards a juncture on the left wall.  The small "exit" sign on the ceiling allowed Ellie to make out a set of doors on the far wall.

      ::What do you think, offices?"::

      ::No.  All the ones I've passed have a distinctive scent trail.  Most offices would have several scent trails.  I would say they are quarters of some type.::

      ::Hell of a lot of rooms then.  This place must be bigger then we thought.::

      ::Better still, both of the scent trails lead down this hall.::

      ::Both?::

      ::Didn't I mention the other trail?::

      ::No, you didn't.::

      ::Sorry.  Guess I was busy concentrating.::  Pet turned and started down the hall leaving Ellie to shake her head at him.

 

      Kris stepped off the lift and stopped.  A small light over the lift allowed Kris to make out a couple of doors, approximately 50 feet apart, across the corridor.

      Flash nudged past her left knee, head lowered.  A deep growl rumbled from his chest as he took a few stiff-legged steps into the corridor.  A gentle tap to the shoulders silenced him, for the moment.

      Just beyond the second door, Kris could make out another exit light on the same side of the corridor as the lift.  The light suggested an intersecting corridor, roughly where the corridors intersected on the main floor.

      After a moment's hesitation to study the situation, she signaled Flash to start searching.  He moved out to the middle of the corridor and started casting about for the scent.  He started into a spiral pattern that slowly worked its way out towards the walls.

      While he worked, Kris stepped back against the wall and tried to watch both ends of the corridor.

      Four slow revolutions brought him to the middle of the corridor a couple of yards to the left of where he had started.

      "Caisg."  Kris moved to where he stood, after checking to be sure no one was moving, and gave him an ear scratch.  "Dag gilloo."  She scratched the other ear and talked to him for a moment then walked him down the corridor to the intersection where she signaled him to start searching again.

 

      Ben made short work of opening the door to the power room.  Paul and Yale held their positions on either side of the door, weapons drawn, for several heartbeats.  After a dozen or so seconds had passed without anyone sounding an alarm the guys moved into the room; Paul taking high point, Ben low, and Yale covering their backs.

      Unlike the corridors the power room was lit.  Several dim bulbs served to make the contents of the room visible.

      A quick visual sweep of the room showed two large generators in the middle of the room and several smaller units for circulating air and pumping water lining the back wall.  The near wall was taken up by control banks.

      The noise from the generators masked any sounds they made on entry and made verbal communication difficult.

      {Set the explosive at the base.} Paul signed the order to Ben and pointed to the nearest generator.  Ben nodded as Paul turned towards Yale.  {Keep watch.}  He turned to head for the far generator before Yale could acknowledge the order.

      As he bent to set the explosives, Paul looked towards the door.  He had told Matt he would check in with him when they reached the power room, but with the noise in the room, he would have to shout to be heard over the communicator.  If he shouted Matt would hear, so might anyone else in the vicinity.  He hesitated, considering his options.  He could contact either of the girls telepathically.  Kris he could reach through their bond easily, but she would have to contact Matt via the communicator, possibly betraying her location.  Ellie could reach any on the team and not betray anyone's location, he hoped she would be able hear him and still maintain a link with Pet. 

 

      Matt stared in awe at the figure before him.  A partially completed man-sized android that appeared to lack only the power system based on the open chest cavity.  As Kris had said, Tobianski's work was near indistinguishable from the genuine article.  He idly wondered if the brain lived up to Pet's assessment as he circled the figure.  While there were parts of limbs and various circuit boards lying on a worktable against the back wall, this was the only nearly complete model in evidence.

      "Shame to destroy it," he thought as he finished his track.  He pulled out a handful of small explosives and started setting them around the room, placing two inside the android's chest cavity for good measure.  Much as he might like to preserve the creation, there really was no way to get it back to Alpha Base intact.  Better to destroy it so it could not be used.  Moreover, with the records destroyed, they should not be able to rebuild it, at least not any time soon.

      He was back out in the hall headed for the intersection when he felt the mental itch that preceded a telepathic conversation with Ellie.

      ::Matt. ::

      ::Yes?::

      ::Messages from Paul and Kris.  Paul is in the power room.  The background noise too high to use communicators, otherwise all is well.  Kris said she has her communicator off.  Flash is behaving as if they are under imminent attack.  She does not care to risk comm. going off..::

      ::Any sign of our scientists?::

      ::Pet thinks he's got a trail of two of them.  We should know for sure in a moment.::

      ::Tell Kris to pull back to your level.::

      ::Acknowledged.::

      Matt turned his attention back to the job at hand and started down the long side of the T intersection.  There were a couple of labs on the left side of the corridor and he wanted to make sure there were no other partially completed androids.

 

      ::Kris.:: Ellie called her team mate as she followed Pet down a side corridor.

      ::Yeah?::

      ::Matt wants you to pull back to our level.  Pet is pretty sure he's found at least two of our scientists.::

      ::He has?  Good.  I'm on my way.::

      Pet stopped in front of the second door and looked back.  ::You mind?  Paws are a bit inconvenient for turning knobs or knocking.::

      Ellie reached past him to try the door.  ::You think it strange that we have seen no sign of guards or patrols?::

      ::Actually, I do.  But, let's not question good fortune for once.::

      ::Unlocked.::

      Pet leaned into the door, pushing it open, and stepped into the room before Ellie.  A slightly built man with light colored hair rolled off the bed as Pet stood blinking in the light from the lamp on the desk.

      "Who are you?"

      "Galactic Federation Security, Dr. Grosstrel.  We were sent to find you and the others."   

      "The others?"

      "Drs Ananthanrayanan and Tobianski.  I presume they are down this hall?"

      "Ah, yes, they are."

      Ellie nodded to Pet, who turned to go down to the next door.  "You may wish to gather some of your things, like notes and what not.  There is not likely to be much left of this compound once we get done."

      Dr. Grosstrel nodded and turned to throw a few things into a small bag lying at the foot of his bed.

      "Gazelle?"

      Ellie stepped back to the doorway and tapped her communicator.  "Yeah, Hawk."

      "I'm at the main intersection; left Flash in the lift, blocking the door open, so you have a clear path out."

      "Good idea."  She glanced down the hall to where Pet stood in human form.  "You catch any of that?"

      "Enough.  You have your pistol?"

      "Yeah, why?"

      Pet walked back to Grosstrel's door.  "That one is locked."

      Ellie handed over her pistol with a shake of her head.  "One of these days you are going to start carrying your own piece."

      "Most of the time I have no need for a weapon."  Pet shot over his shoulder.  "I am my own weapon."  He paused for a moment to burn out the lock then glanced back in her direction.  "But the lasers do have their advantages."  'They're loads faster then Panther's lock-picks' he added to himself as he nudged the door open.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone moving in his direction.  A quick dodge and standard block stopped the attack.

      His attacker took a step back and peered at him through the dark, height and build suggested the person was male.

      "Dr Tobianski I presume." 

      "You're not one of them, you're too big.  I would remember seeing one that tall."

      "No, sir.  Galactic Federation Security, sir."

      "Chief Anderson sent you?"

      "Yes, sir.  You may wish to turn on a light and gather some of your effects."

      Pet stuck his head out the door as Dr. Tobianski flicked on a small lamp and quickly packed a pillowcase with some papers. Ellie was still leaning in Dr. Grosstrel's door.  A soft tap on the wall drew her attention.

      ::Yes?::

      ::Is he packing for two?::

      ::I think he wants to be sure he has all his notes.::

      ::What ever.  I'll go on to the fourth door.  That should be Dr. Ananthanrayanan.::

      A glance over the shoulder showed Dr. Tobianski ready to go.  He motioned for the man to follow and moved down the hall to the last door.  A short pause and a puzzled look towards Dr. Grosstrel's door followed the discovery that His had been the only unlocked door.

      ::Ellie?::

      ::Yes, Pet.::

      ::Keep an eye on him.::

      ::Hun?  Why?::

      ::I'll explain later.  If I'm wrong.::   

      The second lock burned as quickly as the first.  Pet held back and let Dr. Tobianski step in first while he watched down the hall.  The conversation between them closely followed the one he had had with Dr. Tobianski.  He saw Ellie and Dr. Grosstrel come out of his room and move to the intersection a few moments before Dr. Tobianski, followed by a tall female, stepped out of Dr. Ananthanrayanan's room.

      A couple of seconds later they joined Ellie and Dr. Grosstrel. 

      Dr. Grosstrel looked up at Pet then down the hall behind them.  "Where'd the dog go?"

      Pet cocked his head and studied him for a moment.  "I sent him back to the lift."

      "I advise us move hastily while still unobserved." Dr. Ananthanrayanan stepped forward.

      Ellie gave her teammate a long look then nodded and started up the corridor to join up with Kris.

 

      Paul straightened from placing the last explosive and took a fast scan around the room.  He could neither see nor hear Ben but Yale signed that he was all right, and almost finished.   Paul nodded and moved to the door.  Seconds later Ben slipped up beside him.

      {All set?}

      Ben nodded.  {All we have to do is key the trigger on the ship.}

      {Let's get some place a bit quieter.}

      The others nodded and moved follow him out.

      ::Brathair.::

      ::Yeah?::

      ::If you have not already, pull out.  We have what we came for.  Ellie is calling Matt.::

      Paul waited until they were outside the power room, with the door firmly closed behind them to relay the message.

      "They have the packages, let's head for the exit."

      A pair of soft, relieved sighs followed his announcement; the primary purpose of their mission had been accomplished.

      "Then let's go."  Ben quickly and quietly moved away.

      After a second's pause, Yale, then Paul followed, spacing themselves so as to protect each other's backs.  Before they could reach the exit to the main corridor a loud wail filled the base and the lights started coming on.

      "Kevas!"  "Kuso!"  "Fuck!"  All three stopped and stared at the ceiling for a second before starting a headlong dash for the door.

 

      Matt walked around the second lab, examining the parts for the second android he found.  This one was not as completed as the previous one, giving him an opportunity to see how some of the parts fit together.

      ::Matt, we got the packages.  We're pulling out.::

      ::Good.::

      Matt scattered a few explosives around the room, adding a couple to the android, and headed for the door.  The alarm started sounding and lights came on before he was two strides outside the door.  Opting for speed over stealth, he pulled his pistol and shot out part of the observation window to the hangar.  A quick dive took him through the gaping hole and down 25 feet.  Roughly half way down he flipped to take the landing feet first.  A well-coordinated drop and roll brought him safely to his knees a few yards from the door and a small remote detonator from a back pouch set off the explosives he had set in the labs.  The resulting shower of glass shards forced him to duck and run for the door: while the battlesuits provided the wearer with good protection from bullets and other forms of blunt trauma, even limited protection from lasers, they were vulnerable to objects that could get between the fibers of the material.  The lock on the door received the same treatment as the observation window.  A few seconds later found him in the hallway, in a near collision with Ben.

      "Well, if the alarm wasn't already sounding, it would be now."  Yale growled.

      "Fox, the others should be on the main level by now, get Gazelle and the packages and get your butt to the Falcon."

      "Roger."  Yale ducked down the hall and through the door as the others turned to lay some cover fire in the direction of the forces spilling out of the barracks.

      The other half of the team was standing on the other side of the door with Kris, Flash and Pet forming a loose half circle around the scientists and Ellie.

      "Wolf said to take the packages and prep for launch."

      A crash from the door to the officers' quarters brought a loud growl from Flash and a gasp from one of the scientists as Pet shapeshifted into a Bengal tiger.

      Kris swung around to face the other door.  "You have your orders then, go,” She said over her shoulder.  ::Flash, Corag!::

      Yale nodded and headed for the door while Ellie nudged Dr. Grosstrel in the back.

      Dr. Tobianski paused as Pet and Flash charged towards the group of men running into the hall.  "Young lady, surely you do not expect us to leave you and your friends behind."

      Ellie reached back and grabbed his arm.  "With all due respect, Doctor, our primary objective was to get you three out; anything else is unimportant."

      "Does that include your friends' lives?" 

      "Trust me, doctor, they know what they are doing.  Now, go before this becomes for naught."

      Ellie kept hold of his arm until he started moving.  Once he did finally start, she dropped a few paces behind, covering their backs as Pet and Flash leapt at the two Remklin officers.

      Flash grabbed the wrist of the officer nearest him.  The young man reflexively tried to jerk his arm back and screamed as Flash's fangs slashed through skin and muscle.

       The second officer took one look at a charging tiger and turned to flee.  He made two steps before he was knocked into the door, his neck snapped by over 500 pounds of solid feline muscle slamming into his back.

      Pet looked up in time to see half a dozen more Remklin officers training weapons on him and Flash.  A warning snarl was followed by a spinning dive for cover.

      Kris saw Pet's leap and started backing down the corridor towards the entrance to the access hall.  ::Flash, hig arfal, glay.::

      Flash backed away from the door, ignoring the bullets that narrowly missed his head.  He stopped midway across the corridor, several feet from Kris and growled a warning to the officers moving into the doorway.

 

      Seconds after Yale slipped out the door, Ben drifted from behind Matt to alongside the near wall while Paul rolled out towards the far wall, opposite Matt.  All three kept their attention, and weapons, focused on the Remklin forces moving down the hall towards them.

      Seeing the invaders split and start laying a heavy cover fire down the middle, the non-comms had their soldiers separate into two groups and ordered the lead men to open fire, concentrating on the two they saw moving.  The guys dropped to avoid being shot, Matt going prone and Paul taking a knee and putting his back to the wall.

      The one they missed seeing allowed the other two to get several paces away, pulling a small black throwing spike from his belt.  A flick of the wrist sent the spike flying towards the lead man on his side of the hall, burying the weapon in his eye.  The lead man stopped as if surprised then fell over.  Those behind him finally noticed Ben standing along the wall and started redirecting their fire towards the shadowy figure.  A second spike sliced through the air towards the new lead man.  He dodged aside, letting it fly past him, but also breaking his concentration when the spike struck another man in the shoulder causing him to cry out.  Ben took advantage of this break, and some heavy cover fire from Paul to turn and make for the door.  Matt rolled and come up on one knee and joined Paul in spraying a rain of laser fire down the hall.

      A sharp command from one of the non-comms and the Remklin forces reconfigured their lines into a v-shaped line, allowing each a relatively unhampered shot down the hall at the intruders.

      Paul inched his way down the hall sideways till he could reach the door that Yale had left ajar with his right foot, then pulled it back till he could grab it and block the door open.  Holding it open with his right hand he continued firing and called to his teammates.  "Wolf, Panther, go."

      Matt threw a handful of small impact explosives then spun and bolted through the door and across the main corridor, brushing past Kris.  Once across the hall, at the far wall, he turned to add his fire to give Ben and Paul some coverage.

      Soon as Matt was clear of the door, Ben tossed a few of those explosives, adding a smoke bomb to his offering, and slipped out the door, swinging around to stand against the wall just outside the doorway.

      Paul seized the opportunity given by the confusion caused by Ben's smoke bomb and dove out the door.  He pulled the door closed behind him, hoping that between the smoke and a closed door they would have a few extra seconds to get out of the base.  A quick shot to the lock fused it to the door, giving them a bit more breathing space.

      A few of the officers ignored the warning growls from Flash and moved into the doorway.  They also ignored the body of the officer Pet killed and the one lying on the floor bleeding from a lacerated wrist. 

      Kris opened fire on the officer at the same time they started firing on the team.  The first one through the door fell barely a step into the hall, but the others kept coming.  The fire they sprayed around partially achieved their desired objective.  Pet and Flash backed up past Kris as she dropped to the ground.  Once Kris and Flash had cleared the line-of-fire, Matt and Paul opened fire and dropped the other two officers.

 

      Jeptha stepped out of the computer lab, took measure of the situation and started moving down the corridor towards the team.  He kept as close to the wall as he could to avoid being seen for as long as possible.  If he could get close to the line of soldiers, they may assume he was fighting with them.

      The respite that Paul had tried to give them lasted only as long as it took the soldiers to blow the door.  The force of that explosion knocked Matt and Paul down and disoriented the others for several seconds.  By the time everyone had regained their senses there was a group of Remklin soldiers swarming through both doors.

      Having the protection of the walls, Ben and Kris were the first to recover.  Ben slid his ninjato from the scabbard on his back and slit the throat of the man nearest him.  Kris pulled up on one knee, sized up the situation, gave a mental command, underscored by an abrupt hand gesture to her dog.  ::Flash, mar.::

      Kris opened fire on the left flank of the line of soldiers that had come out behind the officers as Flash went barreling towards the center of the line.

       Pet shook his head to clear the ringing, spun around and leapt on the far right man from the group coming out of the access hall.  A snap of the jaws severed his spine, felling him in the blink of an eye.  He sprang from the body before it had time to settle to the floor, dashed across the corridor in a tight arc and charged the left flank of the forces Kris and Flash were facing.

      Having taken the brunt of the explosion, it took Matt and Paul a bit longer to get reoriented.  But the chaos caused by two people being killed by previously unnoticed assailants, and the panic resulting from seeing a large tiger charging your line, gave them enough time to catch their breath.  They scrambled their feet and directed their attention towards the access hall.

      The soldier closest to Pet's surprise victim turned, drawing back from the body, and spotted Kris in the act of shooting a comrade and decided to take advantage of her apparent lack of attention.  What he failed to notice was that he had attracted Paul's attention.

      ::Kris, sheos!::

      Kris rolled to her left a fraction before the soldier, and Paul, fired.  She fired from a near prone position towards the second line; her shot hit the next man since Paul had already killed the one who had fired.  The shot he had fired had passed where her head had been and continued on to strike one of his own men.  A second and third shot as she came up on her right knee, facing the opposite direction from her starting position, took out another man in the line and picked off one from the second wave starting through the door.

      Flash noticed Kris' change in position, paused and looked back, confused.  That confusion nearly cost him his life as two Remklin soldiers tried to draw aim on him.  The first was taken care of by Pet; one massive paw to the base of the neck ended his life.  Matt had also noticed Kris' movement, and the man trying to shoot her dog.  A laser bolt over Kris' head stopped the threat.

      The man on the far-left flank spun towards Ben, falling back to avoid his sword, and fired.  The bullet struck Ben in the upper portion of his left arm, nearly causing him to drop his sword.  The battlesuits deflected bullets, preventing penetration, but they did not stop the force of those bullets.  Ben spun his sword one handed, drove it into the man's abdomen, then yanked the blade out sharply with a deft twist.  The man slumped over the body of his comrade-in-arms, blood and organs making the floor around them slick.  Ben dropped back a few paces, flexing his left hand, trying to get feeling back in his fingers as a third squad of Remklin soldiers started to move through the doorway.

      Matt, Kris and Paul opened fire simultaneously, catching the entering forces in a 3-way crisscross pattern.

      Pet shouldered a still distracted Flash out of the way then charged a soldier aiming to score himself a tiger pelt.  Trying to avoid being shot, Pet mistimed his leap and knocked the man into his partner instead of killing him.  A set of claws slashing across his chest prevented that man from rejoining the battle.  His partner was spared the worst; he took several deep cuts to his legs.

      Goaded partially by Pet shouldering him aside, and one of the officers swinging a rifle at his head, Flash swung around and leapt at that same officer.  The butt of the rifle glanced off his shoulder a split second before Flash's jaws closed over the man's throat.  His screams died in a gurgle as the dog dropped to the ground and turned his attention to two soldiers that were trying to flee.  Spurred by bloodlust and seeing prey running, Flash bolted after them.

      Pet started to go after the dog to turn him back towards the others but noticed someone moving down the hall; someone who looked to be doing their best to remain unseen.  Figuring Kris could bring her dog under control if necessary, he turned his attention to this new threat; ears flattened and tail lashing he turned and snarled at the person.

      Ben noticed his teammates sudden chance in direction and looked at his newest target.  After a few seconds, he recognized the man as their contact, Jeptha.  "Greyhound, break!"

      Kris and Paul ignored what ever Ben was yelling about and kept up their target practice on the Remklin soldiers while Matt turned to look.

      Pet heard Ben's voice over the din of the battle and took a slow step backwards, head lowered.

      Jeptha watched the massive cat back up and slowly started edging past him towards Matt, who had started back his way after hearing Ben. He saw one of the officers look in his direction after the shout and snatched a rifle from a body.  His chances of getting out alive, never very high, had just gotten very narrow.  He tossed the disk to Matt and turned to shoot at the officer.  It was more important for these "kids" to get out with the scientists, and the information, then for him.

      With the dog and tiger distracted, one of the Officers braved the corridor.  He saw one of their junior computer techs approach one of the invaders and toss something to them.  When he saw the tech pick up one of the fallen rifles and start firing at one of his fellow officers he realized they had a traitor. 

      Matt caught the disk, dropped it into a pouch in one fluid motion, and started to fire at the officers.

      "Get your people out, Wolf."

      "You're coming with us."  Matt spared Jeptha a glance as he dropped one of the remaining officers.

      The officer that had watched the transaction moved around the doorframe and shot Jeptha in the back before the Intel agent could respond.  Matt blinked at their, now dead, contact then returned fire.  The officer didn't make it back around the doorframe before a laser bolt sliced open his head. 

      Pet bounded from the crouch he had taken during the shooting and charged towards the doorway, spooking the remaining officers into a panicked run.  He spun at the door with a scrabble of claws as he tried to get traction and maintain his speed and charged down the corridor scaring one of the remaining soldiers back into Kris's line of fire.  He skidded to a halt just outside his teammate's line of fire panting and watched Ben slipping up behind the left flank.

      Unimpeded by team members or gunfire, Flash attacked the closest of the running soldiers.  A hard bite to the guy's calf brought him tumbling to the ground.  The man's comrade paused and looked back, he swung his rifle without thinking and hit the dog in the side of the head.

      Ben closed in on the inattentive left flank, whisper silent, and ripped the man's throat open with a slash of his sword.  Using the momentum from the strike, he pivoted and brought the sword down into the stomach of a man standing in the remnants of the doorway.  The bodies hit the ground at about the same time.  He smiled to himself at the accuracy of his friends' fire; standing in the edges of their line of fire and not one bolt of Kris and Paul's crisscross fire came close to him.

      Flash's yelp of pain reached Kris as the charge pack in her pistol went down.  Dropping the spent pack out, reaching for her boot knife, she turned on her knee.  She spotted the man who had struck Flash getting ready to strike again.  A subtle adjustment to her grip shifted the balance of the blade as she drew her arm back. The knife landed in the side of the man's throat before he could hit her dog again.

      Matt looked around the corridor, saw bodies of the dead and dying lying all over the place, his team looking around for new attacks, and a small handful of Remklin soldiers or officers cautiously looking out the door.  Seeing no immediate threat to his people, Matt let out a high pitched drawn out, whistle.

      Kris slowly stood, looking around for any indication of imminent attack and saw Flash holding his last victim at bay.  The man was bleeding from a severely lacerated leg and was trembling in combination fear and shock.  ::Flash, sheas sheeos, hig.::  The dog snarled at his victim one last time before turning and making his way slowly back to Kris' side, favoring his right shoulder.

      Paul glanced towards Matt, confirming the 'pull out' order, and saw his commander starting to lift Jeptha's body.  Trusting Ben and Pet to watch his back, he jogged over to Matt.  "Here, let me take him."  Matt eyed his muscular teammate for a second, then nodded and left Paul take the body.  He started trotting towards the exit once he had the former Intel agent balanced over one shoulder.  Matt followed a few steps behind.

      Ben started drifting towards the exit as soon as he heard Matt's whistle, trying to watch both ends of the corridor.

 

      The abrupt silence following that loud whistle drew the base commander towards the main corridor.  He noticed while most of the men there were dead, some were still alive and might survive if treated soon.  A few of them did not appear to be too seriously injured; they were just trying to stay out of the way of the fighting.  The invaders had been more concerned with stopping the men then killing them.

      He watched them pick up a body and start heading for the door, leaving the other dead and dying in their wake.  Remembering the explosion that had followed so close to the alarm, the report of them receiving a data disk, and noticing their quick withdraw, he guessed they had left explosives somewhere in the base.  Based on the damage they had inflicted to his forces and reports of similar invasions in other bases, he figured it was safe to assume they were highly efficient.  Which meant any explosive devices left would destroy the base, killing all left inside. 

      He stepped back and looked at his aide.  "I'm going to distract them.  When I do, I want you to go to the computer room and key in the evacuation order."

      "Sir, let me distract them.  You get out."

      "Son, there is no way I could make it in time to give our men a chance.  Now, do as I say."

      The aide looked at him for a long moment then snapped a sharp salute.  "It's been an honor working with you, Sir."

      The commander returned the salute with a nod and half smile and turned to the door.

 

      Pet heard someone moving in the doorway to his right.  The man that stepped out looked too old to be a field soldier yet he handled that gun like an expert.  A roar drew the attention of his teammates a fraction of a second before the man started firing.  By the time he turned to attack, the man had been hit by two shots; one head, one heart.  He saw the young man bolt out and across the corridor, but disregarded him when it was apparent he was headed away from the team and carried no weapon.

      The remaining members of the team made their way to the door, pausing for a second when a new alarm sounded; this one had vocals of some kind. 

      "Isn't that Rigan?"  Ben stopped and looked at the ceiling.

      "Yes, it is."  Matt nudged Ben in the back to move him.  "It's an evacuation order.  They are clearing the base and I suggest we do likewise."

 

      With everyone safely aboard the Flacon, Matt took a moment in the access hall between the bridge and rear deck to gather himself.  The others knew their jobs well enough to do them without his presence.  The mission had not gone as well as he expected and he was not looking forward to the debriefing.  The loss of one of the intelligence department's best men was not going to be accepted very well.  Lost in thought, he scarcely noticed Kris come out of the barracks and lean against the bulkhead.

      "How's Flash?" he finally asked.

      "I think he's just bruised up a bit. None of the blood appears to be his. Good thing he has the same kind of bone density as a human Reglian. I'm still going to have him looked at when we get back though.  You?"

      "I'm okay, just frustrated.  Ellie thinks Ben may have a cracked humerus."

      Kris shook her head.  "Paul's okay and Pet is unharmed but whipped.  I predict he will be asleep within a few minutes."

      Matt nodded.  "We forget how much that takes out of him."

      "All things considered, we got lucky.  We fucked up and Neal is going to have our asses.  This was supposed to be an 'in-n-out'."

      "True.  I am hoping the chief does not have us inform Director Vossilnova.  She is going to be very displeased.

      "No shit she is not going to be happy, considering Tatiana and Jeptha went back over 15 years.  It should not have been necessary for Jeptha to sacrifice himself so we could get out with the data.  There were not supposed to be any direct engagements.  We let that alarm go off and we let them evacuate the building, allowing too many of them to escape."  A low growl underscored her words.

      "Kris, sometimes I think you take this vendetta of yours too far."  Matt took a step back, holding his hands up, when his second gave him a dark glare.  "I just think you need to let it go."

      Kris straightened up and walked away with out responding.  Matt sighed and waited a few seconds before following her to the bridge.

 

      "What the fuck happened?"  Kris paused on the threshold of the bridge and glowered at the rest of the team. 

      Ellie glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the scientists.  "Grosstrel set off the alarm."

      Dr. Grosstrel stood up and made as if to move towards Ellie.  "Why you little bitch.  How dare you."

      Ben stepped back from Pet's station and blocked the scientist.  "The Lady Gazelle is a Telepath, Doctor." 

       Dr. Grosstrel stared at him for a moment then looked at Ellie.  "A telepath?"

      "He set off the alarm when he went back to get that briefcase he left on the lift."  I didn’t catch it in time to stop him.

      By the time anyone saw Kris move, she had Dr. Grosstrel pinned against the bulkhead by his shirt front, two inches off the deck.  "Kevas shakani cherkow andarn!"  One of her knives appeared in her right hand.  "Cause o'you we lost a good man and mah friends were put in danger.  Gi'e me one damn good reason why I shouldna slit yer fuckin throat righ' now."

      "I would be of no use to your people dead."

      "We ha'e tha data disk, we donna need yer traitors' lies."

      "Hawk, put him down!  Go man your station."  Matt moved past the irate Regalian to check Ben's station     Kris released the man and turned to go to the front of the bridge. 

      "Good idea, little girl.  You just run along and play now."  The back of Kris' fist caught him just above the jaw, knocking him head against the bulkhead.  He slumped forward onto the deck, unconscious.

      Kris swung back around, started towards the front of the bridge, ignoring Ben as he lifted the scientist up, and strapped him in one of the jump seat, and the joking comments about what not to say to her.  "What is it with you Rigan males?  You all have to be such asses."

      Matt looked up and shrugged.  "Don't ask me, I was raised on Terra, remember."      Kris’ only response was a soft snorted as dropped into her seat.  "Okay, people, the job is not quite done.  Let's get these folks back.  Give me statuses." 

      One by one the members of Force Seven dropped into routine and called out board status.  Within minutes, they were airborne and Paul was setting off the explosives they have left.  Matt contacted Alpha Base and gave a preliminary report, advised they had the scientists and the data.  He didn't mention that one of them was handcuffed and bound to his seat, or that they had been unable to extract Jeptha. 

      Once they were clear of the atmosphere and headed back to Terra, the team started to relax.

      "So, who won the pool?" Ben leaned back in Pet's seat.

      "Who always wins the pool?"  Yale cast a glance at Kris.

      "Greyhound." 

      "Greyhound?"  Ellie stared at Kris.

      "What kin Ah say, ya donna want ta fuck wit tha boy."

      "Hang on a sec.  We can't be too sure.  Wolf got an early score."

      "Mustang has a point.  We weren't all together, so there's no way to determine."

      The two conscious scientists looked around the bridge in dismay. 

      "You people have a betting pool on who gets the first kill?"  Matt nodded to Dr. Tobianski.  "I'm afraid to ask what the prize is."  The only answer he got was a low chuckle from Kris.

      "Hey, Gazelle, I think you better check Hawk."  Yale pivoted and winked at Ellie.  "See if she is sick or that it's really her."

      "Why would you think that?"

      "Two people got a kill before she did, Mustang."

      "Keep it up, Fox, an there'll be one more ta add ta tha tally sheet."

      "Off hand, I'd say we don't have to worry about an imposter," Ben laughed.

      "Yeah," Yale chuckled, "no one growls like our Hawk

      "Shut up and fly."

      Dr. Ananthanrayanan looked at her compatriot then turned to Matt.  "I presume this is normal post mission behavior?"

      "Actually, they're trying to behave themselves, since we have company.  Usually we get graphic descriptions of flying body parts." 

      The laughter that followed told the scientists that Matt was only partially kidding.  They looked at each other and wondered how long the flight back was.

 

      Later, after the reports, after the debriefings, various members of the department gathered in Rec. room.  Ben, Pet, Key and Matt were watching a program; Mark and Jason were involved in some research on the computer; and the twins were playing pool.

      Paul quietly watched his sister take a sip of her drink, set the glass in on a small shelf, then move around the table to lineup her next shot.  After she dropped the 5 ball, followed quickly by the 6, he spoke up.

      <So you going to tell me what is bothering you?>

      <Who said anything was bothering me?>

      <You've been unusually quiet since before we left.>

      <So? > Kris shot him a half scowl a she lined up to drop the 2 ball.  <I didn't know it had become crime to keep my thoughts to myself.>  She glowered at the 2 ball as it followed a shallow arch and rebounded off the lip of the top right pocket. 

      "Hey, the master marksman missed a shot."

      "Jason," Kris spared the G-Force second a brief look over her shoulder, "if ya donna wan ta find o't if mah aim with a knife is ane better, ya best shut-tha-fuck up."

      "Jase, hush."  Mark nudged his friend to return his attention to their research.  "Less then 24 hours after returning from a mission is not a good time to harass Kris."

      "As if there is every a good time."  Jason snorted in contempt but he turned back to their research.

      Paul studied his sister for a moment before making his shot.

      <You’re avoiding the question.>   He watched the 10 ball drop and moved to set up his next shot.  <Something has been biting on you most all day.>

      Kris raised an eyebrow as the 14 bounced into the pocket, followed by the cue ball.  She pulled the 14 and the cue ball out of the pocket.  The 14 she dropped on the head spot then moved around the table to place the cue ball near the 2 ball.

      <You’re off your game, Brai.>

      <And you are still avoiding the question.>

      Kris sighed.  <I don’t care for the idea that we lost of our best inside men.  If that bastard had not gone over just for the blasted money, Jeptha would not have had to sacrifice his life so we could get the others out.>

      <That explains now, but not this morning.>

      <I broke up with Gale. > She quietly told him as the cue ball kissed the 2, dropping it gently into the corner pocket.

      <Oh.  I’m sorry. >  Paul flinched and looked away.

      <Don’t be. > Kris told him as the 1 ball rolled across the table to drop in bottom left pocket.  <It was my decision. >  She leaned her cue stick against the table for a moment and looked at her brother.  <As long as I am in this job, his life would have been in danger.  I could not ask that of him.  So, in the interest of his continued health and my peace of mind, I broke it off. >  

      <I’m still sorry.  You two were good for each other.  And I liked seeing my sister happy once in a while. >   

      <Thanks anyway, Brai.>

      “Hey, Kris.  Look what is coming on.” Key’s voice interrupted the conversation.

      Kris glanced over towards the entertainment center and heard the theme song of some of the members of the department’s favorite show.

 

who is it?

That shadow dancing in the sky. 

It's the white wings of Gatchaman,

leaping on faith in the science technique firebird 

       

      “Jus a sec, Key.  Let me finish tha game.”  She turned and gave the table a cursory examination.  “8 ball off tha rail, top left pocket.”

      Paul watched in shocked dismay as the 8-ball did precisely what she had said it would do.  “You bitch.”  He mockingly growled at his sister. 

      Kris grinned at him as she racked her cue stick and headed over to the couch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

==========================

Glossary of Regalian terms used:

 

Andarn -insult name - no direct translation

Arfal – away

Braithair (Brai) – Brother, bro

Caisg – stop

Cha - no

Cherkow – insult name – no direct translation

Comhrag – fight, battle

Dag – good

Gilloo – lad, boy

Gioolen - behave

Glag – hold, guard, keep

Hig – come

Kevas – expletive (closest translation – damn)

Mar – kill, destroy

Peiuthair (Pei) – sister

Rach – go

Shakani – off worlder, outsider

Sheas – stand, stop

Sheeos – down

 

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