by MovinTarget


Part 2: Previous Engagements


Captain Peter Green was a falcon-morph, he was also extremely uncomfortable. He shifted in the cramped seat of the F-16, it wasn't his usual plane and there hadn't been sufficient time to modify it for him. Although its usual pilot was also a bird-morph he was non-flighted and as a consequence Greens wings were crushed awkwardly beneath him, every small movement of the fighter as it automatically followed its predetermined route seemed to awaken new pains in him. He cursed quietly as the fighter banked, and his G-suit compressed to combat the forces now acting on him, sighing with relief as the horizon reasserted itself.

He was currently flying a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) over a Pakistani nuclear power station, one of the few high value targets that hadn't been touched in the short, but destructive border war between India and Pakistan that had flared up unexpectedly in the early summer. The UN had quickly stepped in to end the dispute and an uneasy peace now reigned. The Pakistani Air Force had suffered heavy losses and it was for that reason that he and several others had been attached to the UN air wing, to strengthen their hand against a possible renewal of fighting if the current peace discussions should fail.

While he was uncomfortable, he knew that his wingman and friend, Thomas Andrews was beginning to get bored. He could tell because Andrews was trying to get his attention by tapping on the inside of his perspex canopy and pointing at him. Against his better judgement he glanced across at the ghostly shape of the other F-16 hanging in the air several tens of meters to his right, it was easily visible in the pale moonlight as was its pilot.

Seeing that he had his attention Andrews began gesturing and mouthing the word 'WANKER' at him. Green flicked on the mike. "Tom, don't make me go over there"

The reply came back in a burst of static and a terrible Mexican accent "Eey gringo, your mammas tortilla's taste like donkey shiiit!"

Green shook his head."You know, sometimes I worry about you, I really, really do"

A burst of laughter filled the cockpit. "I'm just bored!"

"I noticed. You're a dog chase your tail for a while"

"Very funny, you Irish git. Besides I'm a wolf" Bloody Scouser,thought Green.

"Oy, I heard that!"

You were supposed to

"Pete, don't do that telepathy crap you know it gives me a headache"

They flew on in silence for several seconds.

Green squirmed again, although he loved flying he'd be glad when this particular assignment was over and he could have his own Eurofighter back.

He had to admit though that this American machine was a nice piece of kit, although beginning to get a little outdated. The plane was known as the 'Fighting Falcon', a fact that Andrews seemed to find particularly amusing.

The comms crackled

"God, I wish something would happen for a change" They'd been here for 3 weeks and they'd never even detected an 'enemy' plane.

He'd been about to reply when an excited Pakistani voice came over the radio, he listened carefully but couldn't make much sense out of the rapid flow of heavily accented English.

The voice suddenly cut off and another replaced it, this one was calmer. "ECHO-12 do you read me?"

"We read you, what's the problem. Over"

The voice seemed to pause as if its owner was catching his breath. "ECHO-12, this is Oscar Station, Vector 012 degrees, Angels 30, Strike Package Incoming, low and fast" Again the pause. "Engage and Destroy"

Green was confused, that was impossible, 012 degrees was almost directly North, only Afghanistan lay to the North and it had no airforce worth speaking off. India lay to the South and East, any attack should logically come from there.

There must be some mistake.

"Oscar Station, could you repeat please?" The message was repeated, it was correct. "Christ, this is it!" he heard Andrews declare.

Green tried to think, they were the only fighters in the local airspace, he knew others would be scrambling even now, but until then they were the only line of defense.

It was time to earn their pay.

He pressed the comms. "OK, you heard the man, lets go. Strict radio silence, lets find out what we're dealing with first."

"Roger" He could hear the excitement in his friends voice.

He flicked off the Autopilot and the plane was once again his to control, due to its light armament it was delightfully responsive.

He banked north watching as the horizon disappeared below the plane's nose as they began to climb.

He resisted the urge to turn on the radar, it would quickly show where the enemies were, but would also give their own position away. With luck and some skill the hostiles wouldn't even know they were there until it was too late.

But, he reflected, they didn't have much choice, the sad state of the Pakistani Air Force meant they had no long range missiles left.

Andrews and himself had only two short-range Aim-9M Sidewinders each, and almost obsolete ones at that. Once again he cursed the policy makers that had decided their presence in Pakistan must be a secret which meant they had to use the local equipment and which had quite possibly put their lives at risk.

Instead he turned on the IRST, which would detect any heat emissions, it had a range of approximately forty miles and Green was shocked as it showed contacts at a range of thirty and closing fast.

How the fuck did they get there!the stunned thought of Andrews exploded into his mind.

I've no idea,he thought back.

He was trying to remain calm, this situation was crazy. No enemy plane could possibly be where the contacts seemed to be. There were at least two major airports and an extensive radar network to the north. To be this close the enemy planes would have had to have flown undetected through some of the most heavily defended airspace on the planet. No nation had that kind of technology.


He spoke to the F16's targeting computer. "Analyze Contacts" There was a tense wait as the computer scanned the contacts and searched through its prodigious memory bank to identify them.

The cockpit filled with the computer's precise female voice. "THREE...TU-26...BACKFIRE"

Shit, thought Green that's Russian kit.

A horrible feeling that he might be witnessing the opening moves of World War 3 flooded through him. He knew that Andrews was having similar thoughts. "SIX...SU-27...FLANKER"

It was getting worse. The Flanker was more than a match for his F16 and to attempt a direct fight against those odds was almost certain suicide. "PLUS...ONE...UNKNOWN..."

What the fuck? Thought Green.

Unknown? The F16's central computer might be outdated but it still had access to a databank that covered every make, model and class of armament from handguns to ICBM's.

Unknown? That was impossible.

Unless?...A shiver of excitement passed through him. Unless it was new.

A new Russian plane never seen before.

All thoughts of danger fled from his mind, he must see it, he had to.

We're going in,he thought to Andrews.

They held their course, slicing silently through the freezing sky, racing towards the unknown. They had decided on their tactics, it was to be a hit- and-run attack. A single firing pass to get the enemies attention and then a high speed dash back towards their base, but to pull it off they'd still have to be very, very lucky.

His eyes scanned the glowing dials and counters of the Cockpit, checking and rechecking.

Twenty five miles.

He watched the range counter flick frantically down.

Twenty miles.

He could just make something out. Gleaming at the edge of vision.

Fifteen miles

The contacts course held straight, they still hadn't seen them.

Ten miles.

His taloned fingers twitched on the control column, he rolled the fighter onto its back, staring through the canopy at the mountainous terrain far below.

His eyes searched.

He could see them now, gliding like metallic sharks, approaching rapidly. The smaller planes flanking the large bombers protectively.

Where was it? There!!!

It was different to the others, the moonlight reflecting of its dark metallic shell. It was small, a fighter, with wings sharply swept forward. He could see its sinister beauty even at this distance.

The contacts were now almost underneath them, he could feel his heart pounding against his chest. He glanced across at his companion, flying inverted like himself. They were about to engage a far superior enemy, quite possibly to die.

No words or even thoughts were necessary.

They fell on them, like raptors upon a flock.

Green followed his friend down, the ground seeming to rush towards them, the canopy beaded with moisture as they punched through the thin cloud cover.

He knew he had one chance, only one, a quick slashing attack to sew panic among the bombers and a desperate dash for cover and safety.

The enemy was scattering now, they had been seen. The bombers slow and clumsy, like beasts seeking cover. He could imagine the panic of their crews the frantic calls for help, but he felt nothing, only a calculating coldness.

He selected one, feeling calm almost serene, the back of the bomber quickly expanded in size, he squeezed the trigger and fire streamed from the Falcons nose, reaching out towards the bomber.

He saw small spurts of flame as the cannon ate into the target which swelled to almost fill his vision. He threw his fighter over and the bomber flashed past his canopy trailing smoke.

The ground seemed to lunge at him, and a persistent warning sounded 'CHECK ALTITUDE', 'CHECK ALTITUDE'.

He ignored it, diving down the valley that seemed to suddenly appear.

He pulled back on the stick moaning as the G-forces assaulted him and the plane leveled out mere feet from the bottom of the tree lined valley, sharp rocky outcrops almost seeming to tear at the planes sides. But he felt safe, he'd been born and grown up in a glen such as this, it would hide him, protect him. The valley walls smeared in his vision as he pushed the throttle open, and he was pressed back in his seat as the Falcon shot along the jagged floor.

His surroundings glowed orange and somehow he knew that his friend had just died, but still he felt nothing, only a terrible coldness, there would be time to mourn later.

The valley widened now, becoming flatter and more open, a lake flashed under him.

A wave of exhilaration passed through him, he had done it!

The horrendous beeping of the ECM shattered his mood, it registered a missile incoming.

Part of him was frozen with fear even as he flung the fighter onto its wingtip slamming on the airbrakes to cut speed. The ground and cliffs swapped position as he hauled the plane around in a vicious circle, turning within the confines of the valley.

The mounting, crushing, G-forces momentarily stupefied mind and body, his vision greyed, the cockpit became blindingly bright as the missile screamed past impacting into the rocky terrain, creating a fiery fountain of rock and dirt. The fighter shuddered at the explosion and he eased out of the turn, now pointing the way he had just come.

He felt close to panic, where was the enemy!

A shadow fell across him and he looked up, blood chilling as he saw the black fighter arcing towards him.

One part of his mind refused to react, all his years of training fleeing him.

But another more ancient part told him what to do, and as a thousand generations of the bird he resembled had done when faced with a threat from above.

He rose to meet it.

He eased back on the control stick and the nose of his plane pointed at the dark craft, a bright stream leapt from it towards him, he spiralled gently upwards cannon fire thrashing past the cockpit, then they were past.

He again dived for the valley floor. Where was he! He had lost him, he felt a cold twist of fear in his stomach, there! behind him. He twisted his head backwards to watch, diving from side to side in a desperate effort to lose him.

Green was experiencing a personal nightmare, locked in mortal combat with a pilot who was at least as good as he was, but flying much, much superior equipment. His mind fragmented, one part gibbering in terror, while another, cold, calculating, examined analysed and recorded what little he could see of his exotic enemy. But the fear was winning, he could hear his own harsh breathing, images of the past flickered before him even as he concentrated on controlling his rampaging fighter.

And he thought of her.


The glowing thread again reached for him, he tramped hard on the rudder entering a fierce barrel roll, his vision again darkened, becoming narrow, the onset of unconsciousness he knew.

He squinted at the G-meter as if through a tunnel.

+7G. His body felt consumed by fire. Once again he lay dying in a bloody field, back in his native land. But still he held the roll.


He screamed into the facemask.



He eased off, opening the roll, his vision returned, like curtains rising.

And there, in front of him, the black fighter! Twin columns of fire painting lurid shock-diamonds as it clawed for altitude. He hissed in triumph and snatched the trigger, a missile leapt of the wingtip and rushed towards its target with a terrible hunger..

He eyes followed in it, but then... the dark plane seemed to shimmer, then fade. In moments it was gone, the missile spearing through the space it had just occupied.

Greens eyes widened, what! He glanced around frantically, panicked, but he couldn't see his enemy. He forced himself to calm, and examined his radar, nothing. He brought the plane round in a wide circle, still nothing.

The fighter and its comrades had simply disappeared, seemingly into thin air.


The arctic-fox morph walked quickly along the narrow corridor, pausing at the solid metal door at its end. She was late and slightly out of breath. It had taken her longer than expected to get ready for the meeting. She brushed at the hem of her uniform smoothing it, before leaning over and pressing the comm. button. "Hello, Sergeant Jacqueline Lewis here"

There was lengthy pause before a buzzer sounded and the door swung open. She stepped through into the brightly lit and comfortably warm reception area, glancing at the Generals secretary. He was a brightly coloured parrot- morph, rather incongruous in the rooms pastel surroundings. He waved a feathered arm dismissively, head almost invisible behind the monitor on his desk. "Go on through, he's waiting"

She knew keeping General Woods waiting wasn't a good idea, so she hurried to the double doors of the General's office. She considered knocking but thinking better of it pushed the heavy wooden doors open and stepped inside. It was almost pitch black in the office, lit only by the pale glow of an image projected on one of the walls.

It took even her canine eyes several seconds to adjust to the sudden darkness as the door swung shut behind her, but in that time she'd picked up the almost overpowering scent of the general and of someone else. Horse? she wondered.

"Glad you could join us!" roared the General, a huge bear of a man (literally).

"Sorry Sir, I was..." She stammered, she'd always been slightly intimidated by him.

"I don't want to know... stand at ease"

She did so, somewhat surprised.

She could still scent the other person. Definitely horse, and female at that.

"OK, Miss Lewis, down to business, I've got a mission for you." The General had never been one for pleasantries. He grinned. "Don't look so glum, you'll like it, I promise"

He still hadn't introduced the Horse-woman, who Lewis could now dimly see sitting in an expansive leather chair behind the generals desk, one leg curled beneath her.

She seemed to be studying the projection. General Woods picked up a laser pen and shone it on the wall. "What do you see?"

Sergeant Lewis peered at the grainy image, it looked like a satellite surveillance shot, of some sort of base or facility, she guessed. There was a long gray streak, sited near a few scattered buildings. A runway? She thought. "It looks like some sort of base, an airbase perhaps?"

"Very good. What you see here is Kavelyarsk, it's a Russian facility sited in Northern Siberia, near the Arctic circle. That image was taken 18 hours ago, on one of the few occasions when the damn place isn't covered by a blanket of clouds."

He leaned over the desk and switched the projection off, plunging the room into darkness before the automatic lighting flickered on.

The Horse-morph had swung the seat to face her, she seemed to be wearing a slightly amused expression. "You've heard some of the recent rumours concerning our Russian friends?"

She paused before answering, of course she'd heard the rumours. There were reports of some strange occurrences, on the Russian borders and inside neighboring countries.

Tank columns suddenly appearing and roaring towards, border emplacements only to vanish at the last moment, squadrons of planes tracked miles inside another nations airspace, in positions they couldn't possibly have been.

Apparently on bombing raids, but when interceptions were staged nothing was found.

The stories were weird, and although infrequent were becoming more common. The official line was that nothing was wrong and the sightings were being put down to drunkenness or hallucinations.

So she was surprised when the general stated that they were, to a large extent true, as far as the American intelligence services were able to determine. "And all the activity has been traced back to the facility you have just seen. We aren't entirely certain what goes on there, according to the Russians it doesn't even exist. We think it may be a bit like our own Area-51"

"Anyway" he continued, "Your job will be to penetrate the facility and find out what the hell is going on" He smiled. "Don't worry your not on your own this time, your taking Misters Michael Henrys and Randy Carrano" Shit,she thought Randy

Woods grinned expansively, "Knew you'd be pleased"

She and Randy had joined Department Null at almost the same time. She'd had, what she'd considered to be a minor fling with him, but he'd taken a while to get over it. Things were still a little tense between them, and she tended to avoid him. But in the bases close knit community, this wasn't always possible. Like now.

"I know what your thinking, 'but he's one of the best snipers we've got,' you'll need him.

"Oh, Yeah and before you leave, you've also got him."

He pushed a thin manila folder across the desk. On it was attached a small passport sized head-and- shoulders shot of a bird-morph and on the cover was the bold print:


She looked up in surprise.


It was the acronym for the Combined European Services, pronounced 'kez'.

The CES was formed in 1998. It was the Military Arm of the European Union, which had seemed to view the Change of 1996 as the impetus it needed to unify itself properly, along similar lines to the USA. It had become in effect a United States of Europe although that wasn't its official name.

Part of the unification process had been the bringing together of all the separate national armed forces under a central European command. NATO had been disbanded as Europe prepared to take charge of its own affairs.

There had been many protests raised at the beginning of unification and although there had been teething problems and even several minor internal conflicts, in the ten years since the Change the European Union had risen in power and prestige, almost challenging the USA itself. Measures were now being taken to establish closer bonds between the two.

Neither side wanting a "Cold-War" scenario to develop.

"Yeah" the General replied, "Apparently this is to be a joint-op, this guys supposed to have seen one of these disturbances. He's a pilot for the European Air Force" Woods raised his thick eyebrows, his low opinion of Air forces in general plain to see. "But you haven't heard the best bit...we think he might be a member of ARES"

ARES was to all intents and purposes the European equivalent of Department Null, named after the Greek God of War, it was feared and respected, although little known outside military and government circles. Like Department Null it was composed of the elite, the very best its society could produce, trained to survive and fight in even the most apocalyptic conditions.

Unlike Department Null it never used civilians, all its operatives were head-hunted from within branches of the CES. It was also very much smaller than Department Null believed to have fewer than 100 members.

Of course according to the official European line it didn't even exist, like the legendary Spetsnaz of the Soviet Union.

And like the Spetsnaz it was just as real.

"Could he be a spy?" Lewis asked.

"Doubt it but keep an eye on him just in case, he'll be staying in your apartment." The grin returned. "Don't worry he's a bird, they don't take up much room, just give him a perch"

The way this last statement was said, indicated that the briefing was at an end. Lewis saluted and turned to leave the room, but was startled when the horse-woman spoke. She'd forgotten about her.

The woman told the general that she was leaving with Lewis. The General didn't disagree or question the statement. Lewis realized that the horse-morph was the General's superior, or something like that.

_Who was she?_ she thought.

They left the office together, the manila folder tucked under Lewis's arm, neither spoke till they reached the corridor.

"Where's your apartment?" the woman asked.

"Umm...7th floor down"

"I'm going to the fifth, mind if I come with you?"

"No, sure"

"I'm Dr. Maya by the way"

"Jacqueline, everybody calls me Jackie"

They shook hands.

On the short walk to the elevator they engaged in casual conversation, the Horse-woman seemed pleasant enough. The lift shuddered to a halt at the fifth floor and Dr. Maya got out. The doors were about to close when she suddenly turned around.

"Jackie, have you ever heard of the Philadelphia Experiment?"

"No, why..." But the doors slammed shut cutting off the exchange. "Damn"

She quickly pushed the return button but the lift was already moving. By the time it finally returned to the fifth floor the woman had gone.

She walked slowly back to the small apartment that served as her home while she was on the base. It was on level 7, several stories below ground.

The surface base functioned as a normal Army facility while below it was a fully functioning underground complex, part of Department Null.

She threw open her door and crossed into the bedroom sitting down heavily on the mattress, being careful not to crush her tail. She was glad to get the uniform off, although it had been specially tailored for her, she still found it constricting.

She slipped into more casual light clothing and examined herself in the small mirror. Her thick winter coat was coming through. She thought it was a rather attractive creamy white, certainly more exotic than her current light brown, but all that fur could get a little hot.

She wasn't looking forward to her trip to the surface, to collect this; What was his name again? She glanced at the folder "Oh, yeah Peter Green." She wasn't sure why they needed him anyway.

She glanced idly through his details.

Twenty-six. Two years younger than herself.

Hidee Gyrfalcon morph (flighted).

Pilot in the European Air Force.

That was unusual, she knew that relatively few bird morphs were pilots, most seemingly content to fly under their own power.

Powers: Telepathy, Telekinesis (others?).

Citizen of the Independent State of Northern Ireland.

She picked up a little at that and flicked to the Personal Historysection.

There was very little information on him before the Change, most of his records had been destroyed during the Civil War in Ulster. He'd fought on the side of the Rebels and had been severely injured just as the conflict was drawing to a conclusion.

After his release from hospital he'd joined the European Air Force. Shortly afterwards it was believed he had been recruited into ARES.

She wondered just how powerful a telepath he was. Most likely very powerful indeed if he was in ARES. She sighed, she'd have to be careful what she was thinking around him.

In the ten years since the Change, techniques had been developed that provided a certain measure of protection, but these were useless against a determined attack by a skilled telepath. The most useful skill she'd learned in her training was how to detect, *when*, she was under telepathic scrutiny so that other measures could be taken. She herself had a minor ability as an Empath, and she wondered if maybe that was why she'd been chosen to keep an eye on him.

She looked around her flat.

"God, this place is a mess"

If she was having a guest she supposed she should clean it up a little.


Captain Green leaned his head against the cool glass of the window, his thoughts drifting.

He wondered what he'd find when he finally reached the base, he'd heard rumours about Department Null of course. Mostly hearsay and gossip, but if half of what he'd heard was true, well... it would be some outfit.

A sudden jolt of turbulence startled him awake, he yawned and looked out the window, the plane was several thousand feet above the sandy desert floor and descending, they would be landing soon. He squinted his eyes at the brightness outside, although he'd been in the states before, he'd never been this far West. The sunlight seemed different somehow, thicker than he was used too, he glanced at the desert floor rushing up to meet him.

How could anything live down there?

He thought it looked like a wasteland.


Sergeant Lewis shielded her eyes against the evening sun as she watched the lumbering Hercules circuit before finally turning in to land, kicking up huge clouds of dust and almost obscuring itself from view as it did so. She got out of the Jeep's cab and leaned against the hot metal, she was feeling impatient to get back into the cool underground. Where was he?

She watched the few troops unboarding, they were of all shapes and sizes and were laughing and joking among themselves.

Then she saw him, standing in the shade of the big planes wing, two bags at his feet and looking around with a somewhat lost expression.

She waved and started walking towards him.

Green had been taken aback by the sheer heat when he'd stepped out of the plane, it was like standing in a furnace!

He looked up to see a small fox-morph signaling. Good, she must be here to meet him, he picked up his luggage and with a little difficulty threw one onto his shoulder, and walked towards her. They met each other halfway. He dropped his bags and, carefully, shook her outstretched hand.

"Hi, I'm Jackie Lewis, I'll be showing you around"

"Great, Pete Green, nice to be here"

He gave her a very discrete scan, fixing her particular mental 'fingerprint' for future reference. Every person had their own unique thought processes, even twins, and a trained telepath could learn to recognize a specific individual by that alone. He knew most people thought of telepathy as being simply an extension of normal conversation, but in reality it was very much more complex than that and in many ways more art than science.

He thought of it in terms of peeling an onion, the surface layer was conscious thought and instincts in those who had them, peering deeper required more effort but included the subjects subconscious and their memories.

Sometimes he could tell more about an individuals true intentions and motives than even they could themselves.

"Oh, and I'm the team leader as well." She laughed lightly, a curious yipping sound. "Don't look so surprised!"

"I'm not" he lied.

But he *was* surprised, she was small, just over five feet tall, even delicate looking, certainly not what he was expecting of a Department Null agent. But then he knew that looks could be deceiving, after all it was impossible to tell what Powers she had.

"OK, I've arranged to meet the other two members of our group later. Until then lets head back to base"

He picked up his luggage and as they walked back to the jeep she studied him carefully, she noticed he wasn't as high degree as many bird-morphs, he still had a basically upright stance. His plumage was a crisp white with speckled black markings, he also appeared to be getting his winter coat. He was wearing clothing of sorts, a rarity for bird morphs. He wore a matt-black combat vest, idily she wondered how he put it on over his prominent wings, and what looked like some sort of covering over his left fore arm. It had a carbon-fibre effect and sturdy clasps. She also noticed he had a compact and lightweight titanium watch/flight computer on his scaled wrist. He was relativly tall, 5 and 1/2 feet she guessed, taller if was capable of standing fully upright, and had a slight almost gaunt build. But his quick, powerful movements belied that image. He also walked with the slightest of limps, almost unnoticable if she hadn't been looking for it.

She felt his most distinctive feature were his eyes, pale blue and very expressive.

"Is it always as warm here?"

"What?" The sudden comment had caught her off balance. He glanced towards her, with that intense gaze of his.

"It's roastin' is it always this warm?"

Cute accent, she thought. "If you think its warm now, you should see it in summer!"

"Aye, I suppose"

She resisted the temptation to tell him he should enjoy the heat, he'd miss it where they were going to. They reached the jeep and he threw his luggage into the back before climbing in. She drove off and after some small talk he turned to her again. "Sorry, but are you from New York?"

She looked up surprised. "Yes! How'd you know?"

He smiled as far as he was able too, which wasn't much. "I've got relatives there, I recognized the accent"

"Really, what part?"

"Umm...Queens I think, I'm not sure exactly"

"Well, there you go... I'm from Long Island"

The conversation died after that and he returned to looking out the side window, seemingly engrossed by the activity outside.

I wonder if he's from Belfast? She thought.

"Nahh, a little further North than that" He didn't glance around for several seconds and when he did, he recognized the odd expression she was giving him.

"You didn't actually say that did you?"

She just shook her head.


She could swear he was blushing beneath his feathers. They laughed.

Several minutes later she pulled up at the entrance to the complex and as they entered it they were stopped by several very bored looking guards, a Bison and a young Tiger.

The Bison searched them and in a surprisingly feminine voice told them that they'd be unable to take the luggage in with them, but that it would be searched and sent down later.

"Do you have any firearms?" she asked

"Aye, just a second."

Green quickly unzipped the sportsbag and pulled out a leather briefcase. The Bison indicated he should open it, he did so on the small desk, with the tiger-morph looking interestedly on.

"Wow!" the tiger whistled appreciably, "Nice."

Green pulled the gun from it's casing, seemingly enjoying answering the tiger morphs many questions, Lewis heard him saying: "Its a JNP-12, standard CES issue, with a few added extra's of course." He winked at the tiger who nodded understandingly. The bison-morph looked distinctly unimpressed.

Lewis turned to her and whispered, "Boys and their toys."

The bison simply rolled her eyes.

Lewis looked over the tigers shoulder. Actually it *was* impressive, sort of like a compact machine-gun, she didn't recognize the model. "Is it safe?" the Bison interrupted, obviously impatient.

"Oh, Yeah" Greens brow furrowed. She watched him twist the stock visciously and several metallic objects popped out and clattered onto the desk. "It is now." He carefully put the gun back into its case and handed it to the tiger morph. "Look after it for me, and please don't mess with it"

"No, problem!" the young tiger looked inordinately pleased.

The bison-morph waved them through and they entered gratefully into the cool interior. As they walked along the short corridor to the elevator she noticed he was rolling the metallic objects in his hand. She gave them a curious look, he glanced up. "They're HEAP round's, three of them are always kept in the chamber, just in case."


A cunning look glinted in his eyes. "High Explosive Armour Piercin'."

They paused waiting for the doors to open, and she heard him sigh. "What's wrong?"

"I really hope they don't tamper with the gun"

"Why not?" They stepped into the lift.

"Its booby-trapped."

The doors closed.


Lewis sat typing at her personal computer sending messages to her family and friends, she knew that when training began she might not get the opportunity again.

She looked through the open bedroom door, Green was sprawled on her sofa flicking through the channels of the internal TV station. Typical guy, she thought. They'd arrived at her flat an hour earlier and she'd shown him around, he'd seemed pleased enough but it was hard to tell with that stony face. She glanced at her bedside clock, it was 7.45PM, she'd arranged to meet Mike and Randy at 8.00 in the level's café/bar, it was about time they were leaving.

When they entered the cafeteria it was almost empty, with just a few scattered groups of people at the various tables and a low murmur of conversation.

They picked a small table in the corner, and just as they sat down there was a blue flash. She looked up to see Michael Henrys at the entrance looking around, he saw them and bounced--almost literally--over to the table.

"Hi, Mike Henrys here, arctic-hare and teleporter extraordanaire!" he said in a Californian accent. He shook the somewhat startled Greens hand and sat down heavily.

"Hi, Mike... you always did like to make an entrance."

"Well, if you've got it..." He turned his attention back to Green. "So then...what's your favorite sport, soccer I suppose?"

"Uhh...no its F1."


"You know... the cars?" He made a steering motion with his free hand.

Henrys sat back. "Oh, right!"

Lewis decided to take the opportunity to go to the bar, she knew what Henrys was like once he started talking. "So what would you guys like?"

"I'll take a Guinness in honour of our friend here." He indicated Green.

"Just a Vodka and Coke, thanks."

She left and they continued their conversation.

She waited patiently at the bar for the barmaid (a chameleon-morph) to serve her. They greeted each other and the chameleon took the order. She was currently her light brown, 'neutral' colouration.

As she was pouring the Guinness she nodded towards their table. "So who's he then?"

Lewis leaned forward secretively. "That's Captain Green."


"He's from Europe."


She watched the two of them, Henrys was waving his arm excitedly, apparently Green had made a particularly controversial point. He was leaning back with an amused expression.

The chameleon morph studied him. "He's cute" Lewis was surprised, "cute" wasn't the word she would have chosen to describe him, in fact there was something about him she found a little...disturbing.

"To tell you the truth I think he's a little shy."

The barmaid paused before answering. "Well he seems to be getting on well with Mike."

"Oh, come on! Everyone gets on well with Mike!"

"That's true, so where are you going to any way?" She'd obviously heard about the mission.

Lewis tapped her muzzle and picked up the tray of drinks. "Well lets just say, the vodka's kind of appropriate."

The Chameleon slowly turned a pale copper denoting 'surprise'.

Lewis manoeuvred her way back to their table with a little difficulty as the crowd in the bar was beginning to pick up.

Henry's was gesticulating wildly, as she sat back down. "No sign of Randy yet?"

Green snorted and as she handed him his drink she could have swore he was trying not to laugh.

"Nope late as usual" Henry's replied. He turned around. "Wait there he is."

The Snow-leopard morph was just visible moving gracefully towards them through the crowd. He was extremely low-degree, almost human apart from the pointed ears, cat-like eyes and light coat of pale white, spotted fur. But his movements were unmistakably cat-like and his build was that of the star-quarterback he had once been.

He introduced himself and sat down, and didn't apologise for, or explain, his lateness. Lewis noticed that Green seemed to be watching him very closely, maybe their forms were natural enemies? She doubted it, they were both predators after all.

They chatted amicably among themselves for a while, slowly getting pleasantly drunk before Carrano turned to Green. "So, your from Ireland?"

"That's right" he replied, speech very slightly slurred.

Lewis had an uneasy feeling, Randy was known for being a little abrasive when he was drunk, and there was a recognizable gleam in his feline eyes.

"So...were you on the winning or the losing side?"

Everyone went quiet. Randy was practically purring.

Fuck thought Lewis.

Greens answer when it came was in neutral tone, but she could detect the warning in it. "I don't think there actually was a winning side..."

Carrano just shrugged and sat back. "Whatever"

Henrys interrupted just as Green was about to respond his taloned hand tight on his glass. "So... does nobody else detect a distinctly wintry theme here?" he grinned benignly. Green and Carrano looked around the table; Arctic-Fox, Snow Leopard, Arctic-Hare, Gyrfalcon.

All animals of the extreme north. "True, enough" Carrano commented, "What's the mission then Chief?" The last was directed towards Lewis.

Nice one, Mike, she thought. She grinned, savoring the moment. "We're going to Siberia"

There was a stunned pause, except for Green, he'd already been briefed before leaving his base in England.

"Why?" questioned Carrano

She signaled towards Green. "Perhaps he could explain better than me." He raised his eyebrows, questioningly. "Tell them about your little encounter"

"Oh, That" he said, "Now *there's* a story."

He began to tell it.

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