THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF OUR FAVOURITE BIRDIES...

THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF OUR FAVOURITE BIRDIES...


 
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GreenHawk

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Posts : 82
Join date : 2012-10-02

PostSubject: Payback's a....    Fri 8 Nov - 20:37:51

A little explanation...

We should never be let out on our own.

That's it.

*****

Green carefully juggled the bag in her hand as she pushed the large door open.  It was a person sized door in comparison to the huge hangar door it was set into, but given it had been designed with Rygan sized Ryngers in mind, it was definitely on the large side.
 
And heavy.  It was made out of the same gauge metal as the hangar walls.  The Ryngers had centuries of experience in protecting their valuable craft from enemy attack from below, above and attempted sabotage from within.  Their hangars were vaults on a grand scale.
 
She winced as the door’s hinges protested her push against the slab of metal.  She hadn’t asked Kael why, when the Ryngers were so particular about maintenance of, well, pretty much everything else in their control, someone hadn’t just taken a can of oil to them.   She hadn’t asked because she knew why.
 
The hinges were on the inside.  Her ninja trained mind had noted that fact, stored it, tossed it around some and then come up with the conclusion that the hinges squealed on purpose.  All without her even considering it.
 
The noisy hinges were just another weapon in their armoury of defence.  Even with this particular base being encased in yet another highly secured base, they treated it as high risk.
 
They treated all of their bases as high risk.
 
She smiled up at the Rynger who had jumped to help her with the door – once he had identified her, of course.  Green noticed he made sure the door was securely shut behind her before returning her grin.
 
“Brother Kael is-”
 
“Not in his office.” Green frowned and then turned her head in the opposite direction. She sighed. “He’s playing with an old plane, isn’t he?”
 
Furel chuckled. “The Bond is truly remarkable.  I cannot wait to experience it for myself.”
 
“It’s... useful,” Green admitted. “Sometimes.”
 
“May I aid you with your burden?” Furel held his hands out for the bag.
 
“Oh, no, it’s okay.  Just Kael’s lunch....” Green bowed her head slightly. “But thank you for your concern.”  She jutted her chin. “If he’s busy, maybe I should just leave it on his desk...”
 
“Oh, I think he will happily join you for the meal you have so thoughtfully conveyed here!” Furel blinked. “That’s if... you planned to join him...”
 
“Well... yeah.” Green chewed her lip. “But if he’s busy, he might not.  I know what he gets like when it’s one of the old planes...”
 
“MIDORI!”
 
“I guess that answers that...” Green giggled as Kael strode out between two jets and beckoned to her, a huge smile on his face.
 
He turned and said something to someone she couldn’t see before disappearing again.  Frowning at his distraction, she walked down the length of the hangar to find him.
 
“-but if we can’t get the compressor working, we’re not going to be able to complete this project.” Kael ran his hand down the plane he was standing next to. “And unless we manufacture the parts ourselves I don’t think we’re going to get it working...”
 
“The cost of manufacturing anything for this one is prohibitive, Kael.  It’s got to be titanium which means we can’t use cadmium plated tools because of the corrosive effect cadmium has on titanium...” Kyros blew out a long breath. “We might just have to trade the whole craft for something we can actually use for one of the others.”
 
“We’ve been working on this SR-71 for so long, it would be such a shame to just give up....” Kael sighed. “But I fear you’re correct, Brother.”
 
Green knitted her brow as she worked her way through their Rygan. “You can’t finish this one and have to give it away?”
 
“Something like that, my love,” Kael answered morosely.  “It’s a very rare plane which means finding original parts for it is next to impossible.  Only thirty two were made... only five remain today.  Anyone who has spare parts is very unwilling to give them up.”
 
“Assuming they have the parts we need in the first place,” Kyros added.
 
“And making new parts is...”
 
“Very expensive.”
 
“Ah.” Green chewed at a fingernail.  “Why?”
 
Kyros blinked at her, then looked at Kael.
 
“Oh.  Um.. specialised metal alloys, specialised tools.”
 
“Oh.” Green sent a glare towards Kyros for his obvious impatience with her interruption of their conversation. “Before you give away this very... rare...” she flicked a finger at the plane, “thing, have you asked Maeda-san if the Black Hawk know anyone who has what you need?”
 
“Green,” Kyros cut through Kael’s reply. “We’ve contacted everyone we know who might even remotely know through rumour or fact where we can get the parts for the compressor.  I doubt if your...family... has a longer reach than the Ryngers.  Especially when it comes to planes.”
 
“You’d be surprised how long our reach is, Kyros, regardless of what it entails.” Green deliberately turned her attention to Kael. “Call Maeda-san later, when he’s up.  It can’t hurt to ask if he could look into it for you.”
 
“You honestly believe your Clan could help us complete the SR-71?” Kael tried to contain his hope.
 
But failed miserably.
 
“I can’t promise that they can, but... you can ask...” Green shrugged. “What do you have to lose?  You’re already talking about giving it up anyway...”  She flicked an eyebrow at Kyros. “At least asking means you have tried every avenue open to you.”
 
“Green.  As much as I... applaud... your desire to help, I don’t think you understand exactly what we’re talking about here.  The SR-71 is one of the rarest planes out there.  If anyone does have any spare parts for it, they’re not going to part with them.  They’d be fools to.”
 
“Kyros,” Green matched his tone. “I don’t think you understand what I’m suggesting.  A phone call, nothing more.  Maybe we won’t find the actual parts, but you were also talking about making them yourselves – if you could get your hands on the right stuff to do it at a price you can live with.  Now, that is definitely something I think we can help you with.”
 
“And we’d be in debt to the Black Hawk up to our back teeth if you can, wouldn’t we?” Kyros crossed his arms.  “Your people don’t do favours, Green.  That’s a well known fact.  How much will it end up costing us?  I’m thinking more than what sourcing the material ourselves would do – which is more than we can afford as it is.” He shook his head. “I’m not putting the Ryngers in that position.  No phone call, Kael.  Understood?”
 
“It’s just a phone call!” Green exclaimed. “That wouldn’t cost you a damn thing – and at least you would know that you have tried everything!”
 
“No.  That is my final word on the matter.” Kyros levelled a gaze at Kael. “You are not to refer this to the Black Hawk.”
 
“Yes, sir...” Kael saluted as Kyros turned away.  Sighing deeply, he rubbed the belly of the plane. “I suppose that’s that.”
 
He sighed again and then brightened, remembering his beloved Mate had brought him lunch.  He turned, plastering a smile on his face, to take her hand in his and thank her for her -  
 
“Midori?” Kael looked at the empty space she had left behind.  He looked up, down, over and, with a sense of rising panic, under the jet blocking his view from the main hangar.  “Oh, no.  Midori....”
 
Green jogged to catch up with Kyros. “What is your problem?” she yelled at his back.
 
“I am not having this conversation with you, Green.” The back continued to stalk down the middle of the hangar.
 
“So it is because we might succeed where the great Kyros failed!” Green threw her hands up as her voice rung loud and clear throughout the building. “You would rather sweep the... J...R... seventy-something under the carpet than admit that, maybe, you can’t do it all, that you can’t always come through!”
 
She placed her hands on her hips. “Naturally it hasn’t occurred to you that, given it’s an Earthern plane, that maybe you need an Earther to help you out!”
 
“Ahhh... but that’s the point, isn’t it?” Kyros turned his head slowly. “It won’t be ‘help’.  It’d be a debt to you and your kin.  I will not place the Ryngers in that situation – as I have already said.”
 
“It would be help.  Probably.” Green bit her bottom lip. “If I ask nicely enough I’m sure... something... can be arranged so... you know, the Ryngers don’t owe anyone...”
 
“But Kael would.”
 
“Actually... I was thinking you might, but... yeah, Kael might too.” Green blew a breath as Kael timidly began moving towards them. “But I think I can get around that.  I’m not me for no reason.”  She grinned. “I’ll just use my charm on Papa.  It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”
 
“No.” Kyros glared over her shoulder and Kael stopped in his tracks. “I am not going to allow you to get the Black Hawk involved in this.  Those planes are Rynger planes.  We source parts for them as Ryngers, we restore them as Ryngers, we fly them as Ryngers.  We do not need your Clan to ‘help’.”
 
“And as Kyros, you make the decision on behalf of all Ryngers to throw one away because it’s too difficult for you to complete.  Without help.  Help I might be able to provide with a simple phone call.”
 
“Help I will not accept!” Kyros snapped. “Not everything can be fixed by a phone call, Green.  That’s a lesson you need to learn.”
 
She blew a quiet raspberry. “I haven’t promised it can be fixed with a phone call.  I suggested it’s an option that might bear fruit.” Her gaze bore into his. “It’s an option you haven’t tried and you’re willing to just... dump... a very rare plane that you might actually be able to restore to flying capability without even... thinking... about trying everything you can to avoid doing that.” Green’s face took on a holier than thou expression. “That doesn’t feel very Ryngery to me.”
 
“That’s because you don’t know what Ryngery is.” Kyros pulled himself to his full height and glared down at her. “And I will thank you if you were to stay out of Rynger business because you are not a Rynger.”
 
She inhaled sharply, his words slicing through her soul.  Frowning, she pushed down on her sudden anger and... and pain... before Kael could react to his little Hawk's distress.
 
Straightening, Green adopted her usual mask and shrugged.  “Okay, have it your way.  Just junk the thing, then, which is such a pity, considering all of the hours of work, not to mention money, already put into it.”  She paused.  Yes, she was certain that that sound she just heard was Kyros’s back teeth grinding together.  Smiling inwardly, she continued.  “Just as well, really, because even if you were to find the compound ....”
 
“....Compressor ....” Kyros practically hissed.

“ ... whatever, you would all naturally want to fly the bucket of bolts, and I’m still not convinced that that would be the safest thing.  At least now I will not have to worry about Kael’s safety.”
 
“But my little Hawk, you would not have had to worry anyway,” Kael burst out, stepping up behind Green and placing his large hands on her shoulders, nearly engulfing them.  “The SR-71 has been restored like new.  We’ve spent hours running every system so that it will fly flawlessly, probably better than when it was new, even.  All we need is just that one part.”
 
“And see?” Green said with a sweet smile.  “Now, thanks to Kyros, I won’t have worry about you flying in it.  And all because he’s willing to throw it all away due to his pride having to suffer a little.”
 
“That is not the case, and you know it,” Kyros growled.  All the Ryngers watching this exchange now swung their heads over to look at Kyros.
 
“All I know is that you have a problem with being a little indebted to some people,” Green shot back.
 
Kyros snorted.  “With your family, there’s no such thing as being ‘a little’ indebted.  It’s like being ‘a little’ pregnant.”
 
“He does have a point there, my love,” Kael whispered into Green’s ear.  She stuck a sharp elbow into his stomach and heard him grunt at the contact.
 
“And besides,” Kyros went on, smugly ready to put the final nail in the coffin, “I would be willing to bet that you don’t even know what a compressor is, or what it does.  How would you even be able to relay the correct information?”
 
Green pursed her lips as she thought through all of what he just said.  “You’re right,” she conceded cautiously, “I do not know what a compressor does, but that does not mean anything.  After all, you don’t need me to understand it in order to be able to pass along the information.”
 
Kyros eyed Green a moment, then raised a hand to smooth his mustache.  Then he smiled.
 
“Point taken, Green Hawk,” he said smoothly, the smile still on his face.  “You would not need to understand the equipment.  All right, if you are so adamant about using your dubious contacts, then you may proceed.  I presume that your Mate can fill you in regarding the amount that we had set aside to acquire the part, and mind that you don’t go over it.  We have a strict budget and must stick to it.”
 
And then he turned and began to walk towards the door again.
 
“He just agreed,” Green muttered, then spun on her heel to look at Kael.  “Why did he suddenly just agree like that?”
 
Kael gave her a stunned look and shrugged.  “I-I don’t know, my love.  Maybe he had a change of heart?”
 
“He doesn’t have a heart,” Green retorted, narrowing her eyes at Kyros.  “Wait a second,” she yelled out.  Kyros halted at the door and slowly turned.
 
“Yes?” he asked, that smirk still on his face.  
 
Green itched to use one of her knives to remove it, and the only thing that stopped her was the fact that Lee would probably be upset and Green wanted to make sure that the pilot of Strike was nothing if not happy.  Plus, for reasons that Green still could not fathom, Lee seemed to love Kyros the way he was.   That, and the fact that a hangarful of Ryngers probably wouldn’t be too pleased either.  After all, he was their commanding officer, and a good one, though she would never admit that to anyone out loud.
 
“Before, you said that you would bet that I didn’t know what that thing is or what it does.”
 
Kyros raised a brow.  “So?”
 
Green fingered a small knife tucked just at the edge of her sleeve.  She gave him her most winning smile, head tilted down, and peered up at him through her lashes.  “I was just wondering, what would you bet?”
 
“You mean, now, with you?” Kyros turned to face her as he considered this.  
 
“Well... in a situation very similar,” Green confirmed.  “What would the stakes be?”
 
“Oh, I don’t know.  Since it must needs be something that you would be able to do, I would say that I would bet you cleaning all of the fighters, with the requisite toothbrush, naturally.”
 
There was an audible sucking sound as every Rynger in the hangar simultaneously inhaled.
 
“Naturally,” Green demurred.  “And what would I get if I won the bet?”
 
Kyros laughed outright.  “I highly doubt you would win.  After all, did you not just admit that you know nothing of compressors?”
 
“I did, but, just for the fun of it,” Green pressed, “what would you be willing to do if I won?”
 
“If you won, I would ....” 
 
“ ... do one of her shifts at the front desk,” Kael finished in an outburst.  Laughter rang from the metal walls.
 
“There you go,” Kyros said magnanimously, with a flourish of one hand.  “I would do one of your front desk shifts, not that it matters now, of course.”
 
“No, it doesn’t matter now,” Green murmured, more to herself than to him, “but it’s always good to know.”
 
*     *     *
 
As Kyros left the hangar, he found Purone falling into step beside him.
 
“So, out of curiosity ....”
 
“Curiosity killed the Predator Cat.”
 
“Yeah, well, I’ll take my chances.  Why’d you change your mind so fast back there?” Purone asked, stabbing a thumb back at the hangar.
 
Kyros sighed and smiled at the Rynger.  “Because it occurred to me that if we cannot find the part we need, they certainly will not be able to do so, and certainly not for the price we could afford.  We let her and her family try, they will fail, and I will forever more be able to stop hearing about the mighty Black Hawk and how they can seemingly do anything.  Just that easy.”
 
Purone rubbed at his chin.  “Suppose they do find one, though?”
 
“Suppose they do?” Kyros said with a grin that put ice into the hearts of his enemies.  “Like I said, the price will most likely be more than we could afford.  She will have to come to us in defeat and that will settle the matter once and for all.”
 
“So you’re willing to let that little girl try and fail?”
 
“I tried to stop her, but you saw.  She insisted she be allowed to try.”
 
“You know, Kyros, one day ....”
 
Purone stopped walking and talking at the same time.  Kyros was already a pace or two ahead of Purone when he stopped and looked back.
 
“One day what?”
 
Purone shook his head, then grinned.  “Never mind.  Not important.  We still have that meeting with Vo’Suth at two?”
 
*****
 
Green led her little parade towards the hangar door.  Taking a deep breath, she turned and pushed with her rear to open it.
 
“Yamazaki-san, let me help you!”
 
“No!” Green stopped, the manoeuvre not quite finished. “They know me, they don’t know you.”
 
Wakahisa Ren nodded his understanding. “Of course, Yamazaki-san.”
 
“Seriously, just call me Mi-chan,” Green muttered as she shoved at the door. “Considering what you’re doing for me, I think you’re entitled.”
 
“Are you kidding?  A chance to work on a real SR-71?  I should be calling you Yamazaki-sama!” Wakahisa exclaimed. “You honour me with this experience, you do.”
 
“Yeah... about that.” Green grinned up at Purone who had added his bulk behind the squealing door. “Don’t mention this as anything but you doing me a favour, right?”
 
“Oh, Maeda-san was very clear on that.  Especially in front of-” he eyed the large Purone. “Um... does he speak Japanese?”
 
“Purone’Ryn,” Green bowed as much as her burden would allow her to, “this is Wakahisa Ren, a member of my Clan.  He’s been passed by the Lorikeet.”
 
“A pleasure to meet you,” Purone rumbled before suddenly looking at Green. “Does he speak English?”
 
“I speak a little.  It is a pleasure to meet you also,” Wakahisa answered carefully, trying to bow without upsetting the overflowing box in his arms. “No Japanese?”
 
“Oh, me?  No, I haven’t had the opportunity to study it...” Purone wavered. “Um... come in?”
 
“You’re in the doorway and they’re a little... insistent... that it be kept closed if possible.” Green shuffled so Wakahisa could slip through.
 
“That’s a very solid door...” he murmured. “Very well made, excellent condition.”
 
Purone grimaced as the door screeched its’ protest at being closed. “We keep forgetting to oil the hinges.”
 
“Uh huh.” Wakahisa looked around, his eyes wide. “Ohhhhhhh....”
 
“Ah, Purone?  A little help here?” Green staggered slightly, knocking into Wakahisa and shaking him from his spellbound attention of the jets.
 
“Oh, my apologies, Midori’Green Hawk!” Purone jumped to relieve her of a box about to topple. “Oh.” He looked up from glancing at the contents.
 
“Wakahisa-san is a... what did you call it?  An Aviary technician?”
 
“An Avionics technician, Yamazaki-san...” Wakahisa bowed towards Purone again. “A plane maker, if you will.  Or a maker of parts for them, anyway.”
 
“Wakahisa-san has the tools necessary to make the compactor thingie you need for that, um... special plane.” Green sighed. “We just can’t find an intact one that’s not on a base and too heavily guarded.”
 
“Such a rare plane, it’s not surprising really...” Wakahisa beamed up at Purone.
 
“So...” Green added her gaze to his. “Where can we put this stuff?  It’s getting really heavy – and that’s after you’ve taken half of it.  And Wakahisa-san isn’t implanted either, so, um...”
 
“I wouldn’t mind putting it down.”
 
“It’s been through Security.”
 
“Completely safe.”
 
“Unless you’re a sample of titanium.  Then, well... they’re tools designed to cut you up, beat you around and then knock off the rough edges until you’re a compactor.”
 
“Compressor, Green.  The word is compressor.” Kyros ducked under the nearest jet. “And why would you be bringing us tools to make one?”
 
“Well... how will you make one otherwise?” Green answered, a look of complete innocence on her face. “We couldn’t get you the part you need, so we’re going with the second option, and for that, you need specialised tools, right?  Isn’t that what you and Kael said?  Because you needed special tools, it was going to be too expensive to make them?”  She smiled her winning smile. “Ta-da! Special tools, no cost.”
 
“Bullshit.  When it comes to you people, there’s always a cost.”
 
Green strode to him, dumped the box into his arms, reached up, grabbed his bicep, turned him around and began walking. “There is no cost.  I promise,” she said very quietly. “Not to the Ryngers.  Not to you.  Not to Kael.  Do you understand me?”
 
“What have you done?” Kyros stared down at her.
 
She thought she saw a glimmer of concern in his gaze.  She blinked and decided it had merely been a trick of the huge overhead lights.
 
“Nothing.  Yet.”
 
Kyros stopped dead, causing Green to stumble out of her hold on his arm. He shoved the box at her. “No.  I forbid this.”
 
“You can’t forbid anything because you agreed to it.” Green pushed the box back.  “You said, and I quote, ‘All right, if you are so adamant about using your dubious contacts, then you may proceed’,” she parroted in a deep voice.
 
“I doubt if I said it just like that.” Kyros held the box out.
 
Green ignored the unspoken order, her hand flat against the metal casing, holding it in place – in Kyros’ grip.  “Word for word.  Purone will bear witness to it!”
 
Kyros lifting his eyes cut the older man off before he could even open his mouth.  The slight smile around that mouth, however, confirmed Purone had been about to confirm Green’s words.
 
“My Midori needs to work on her impression of you, but... yes, you did say that.” Kael took a couple of steps out of his office and snagged the contested box. “Wakahisa-san?  Hajimemashite,” Kael bowed. “Welcome to Atlantia – and thank you for coming.”
 
“You knew about this?” Kyros hissed at his Second.
 
“Knew about what?” Kael answered carefully.
 
This, Kael!” The tone brooked no room for misinterpretation.
 
So Kael went for it anyway.  “If you are referring to me knowing about Wakahisa-san’s visit, then.. yes, yes, I did know about it.  Maeda-san contacted me a couple of days ago to suggest Wakahisa-san took a look at the part we need.”
 
“He’s an expert in plane thingies,” Green interjected.
 
“Green Hawk, I will thank you to stay out of conversations that don’t concern you.” Kyros tapped the box in Kael’s hand. “Did you know about this?”
 
Frowning, Kael thought his answer through. “No, I wasn’t given a list of his luggage, sir...”
 
“This doesn’t look like luggage, son – unless you’re in the habit of travelling with a full tool kit?”
 
“Well... If I thought I would need it where I was going....” Kael bit down on his lip at the fury on Kyros’ face.
 
“And why would this Wakahema-”
 
“Wakahisa.”
 
“Green.” Kyros slowly slid his head to her.
 
“If you’re going to insult the man after he’s come all this way to help you out, you can at least get his name right.” Green sniffed. “Just saying.”
 
“And I’m just saying get out.”
 
“Um... No.” Green shook her head. “Wakahisa-san, I believe the plane is this way.  Come along.”
 
“Green.” This time her name was spat and her arm grabbed.
 
“Kyros,” Green answered, her gaze boring into his eyes. “I am fulfilling my duties to my Clan.  Wakahisa-san is a very respected member and I have been tasked with his safety and comfort while he’s here, doing this favour.  You can either let us pass or you can answer to my father why, after we have gone to all this effort – effort you agreed to let us go to – you wish to back out now.”
 
Kyros glared, he breathed deeply, he even bit his tongue.
 
“Kael, take Wakahisa-san and show him the compressor.  Your Mate and I are going to go have a little... chat... in your office.”  Kyros levelled a look at him. “You are to remain with our guest, do you understand me?”
 
He saw the look of confusion, of division, on Kael’s face. “Now, Kael.  That’s an order.”
 
“But-”
 
NOW!” Kyros yanked Green by her arm and stalked towards the small room.
 
Pushing her ahead of him, he slammed the door shut.  He turned to find her leaning casually against the desk.
 
You,” he pointed at her, “you come in here – into our hangar – and just take over?”
 
“No.” Green shook her head. “I delivered-”
 
“I WASN’T FINISHED!”
 
“Oh, sorry, I thought you were asking a question.” Green held her hands up as he took a deep breath in preparation. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?  I’m sorry for backing you into a corner out there.  It was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it.  Not in your hangar, not in front of your men.”
 
Kyros blinked and frowned. “I am the leader of the Ryngers-”
 
“And I wasn’t very respectful of that, I know.  I can only apologise for that too.” Green bit her lip and looked down. “I am sorry.  I should have been nicer.  And not interrupted.  And made sure you knew Wakahisa-san was on his way.  And that he was bringing tools with him.”
 
Studying her intently, Green was aware of a strange feeling of Kyros was looking for a spot to sink his fangs into.
 
“Nice try, Green, but I’m not buying it.  You can apologise all you like, but you’re not sorry at all.  This is just another one of your ploys to get your own way.” Kyros moved so he was eyeing her face to face. “Not happening.  Wakahisa is leaving.”
 
“But you agreed to it!  You said I could use my dubious contacts – which, in this case, isn’t very dubious!  Wakahisa-san is very good at what he does, he’s legit, honest!  Google him and you’ll see!” Green nodded furiously. “He’s got certificates and all sorts.  If anyone can make the part you need, it’s him.  It’ll be so good you won’t even know it’s not the real one – and that’s what you want, right?  For it to be as good as it can be?  After all, you really want to fly this plane and it’s so rare and all – imagine what you could trade for a whole plane in working order if that’s what you want to do – later, I mean, when you’re bored with it.  I bet you could get all sorts of cool stuff if you put it on the table...” Her mouth shut with a snap.
 
“I don’t need to ‘Google him’ to know who Wakahisa-san is, thank you very much, Green.” Kyros straightened. “Which makes this even worse.” He rubbed at his forehead. “What did you bargain for this?”
 
“Nothing that affects the Ryngers, I swear.” Green stared at him. “On Kael’s life, I swear it’s going to cost the Ryngers nothing.  Oh, just a little bit of titanium, apparently.  But Wakahisa-san said you should have that already, it’s one of the tools you wouldn’t have because it’s specialised...”
 
“It is what manufacturing the part ourselves made financially prohibitive...” Kyros allowed.
 
“So, you see?  It all works out!  You get your part and for far less than you had budgeted for – since ‘free’ has to be far less than anything you had put aside.  So you can use that money for something else – and get your part made by one of the best in the business, although I know Kael really enjoys making things with his own hands, so I’ve spoken with Wakahisa-san and he’s agreed to show any Rynger who wants to learn how to do it.” Green drew a big breath. “So, not only do you get your part, you get it made by the best in the business who is willing to teach your Ryngers a new skill or two  - and all for nothing but your consideration and respect while he’s here.  That’s a fair trade, isn’t it?”
 
Kyros hitched a brow while he chewed the inside of his cheek.  “I have to ask,” he said quietly after a moment or two, “does your rambling logic tactic really browbeat Thunderbird into letting you do anything you want?”
 
Green sighed dramatically and threw herself into one of the visitor’s chairs. “You’re not going to allow Wakahisa-san to stay, are you?  Even after he’s come all this way.”
 
“I didn’t say that.” Kyros paused. “Actually, I did, didn’t I?” He looked to the ceiling.  “Fine, he can stay, since I did agree to you using your Clan connections in this matter, but this is the end of it.  You’re never going to interfere in Rynger business again, do you hear me?”
 
“I wasn’t interfering!  I was trying to help.”
 
“You jumped in where you weren’t wanted!”
 
Green looked like she had been slapped. “Kael wanted me there...” she responded in a small voice.  She shook her head and stood up. “Fine.  I get it.  I am not a Rynger-”
 
“No, you’re not.”
 
“So, I’m unwelcome in the hallowed halls of Kyros.” She threw her hands up. “Okay.  I shall keep myself out of your way and try to totally ignore that my Mate is Rynger and it’s a huge part of who he is, but, because I can’t have anything to do with the Ryngers, I’ll just try to pretend it means nothing.  Will that make you happy?”  She threw the door of the office open with a bang. “It won’t make me happy, it sure as hell won’t make Kael happy, but as long as you’re happy, we’ll just deal with it because, the gods forbid, that the Great Kyros is unhappy.”
 
"Green Hawk, wait," he said, his voice tempered now with a touch of weariness.  Slowly, reluctantly, she closed the door again, fully aware that Kael had covered the distance of the hangar and was within two strides of reaching her.
 
"What?" she asked cautiously, if slightly hostilely.
 
"What I am about to say is not to leave this room, do you understand?"  He paused as she nodded her head solemnly, wondering where he was going with this.  "I mean, no further.  Not even to Kael.  Nor to Lee.  To no one."
 
"I know how to keep a secret, Kyros," Green snapped, "in case you hadn't noticed."
 
“I know that, Green,” he nearly snarled back, then snapped his mouth closed and shut his eyes.  If Green was not mistaken, she could have sworn he was counting to ten in Rygan.  At twenty, he opened his eyes and looked at her.  “I realize that you have a ... dislike ... of flying which makes you feel as though you cannot understand your Mate, but it will not affect your Bond with him ....”
 
“... I know that ....”
 
“Will you please let me finish?”
 
Green gave him a startled look.  “Well, since you said please ....”
 
“Good, then you know that you do not need to be so ...involved ... with every aspect of his life.”
 
“But you don’t understand.  I want to be – at least at some level.  I love listening to him talk about these contraptions that he loves working on so much, because they mean that much to him.  And even if I don’t understand everything, or can’t help him fix them, if it is within my power to help him in other ways, or my family’s power, then I want to do that.  That is what I mean when I say I was only trying to help.  Because helping would make him happy, and, by extension, it would make a lot of the other Ryngers happy too.”  Then she drew in a breath and added, “even you.  What I do not understand is why this makes you so upset.”
 
Now it was Kyros’s turn to look surprised.  “I’m not upset,” he automatically denied.
 
“You must be joking.”
 
“All right, maybe a little.  Anyway, the point here is this.  You have a large family, one that is extended many times over, yes?”  Green gave a cautious nod of her head.  “And the members of your family, you support each other, help each other, and fight amongst yourselves, yes?”  Another single nod.  “Then understand this.  Growing up, I did not know that kind of security.  It was not until the Ryngers took me in and gave me a purpose and a plane.  They are my family, and just as you would not allow your family to become indebted, or beholden, to anyone else, I cannot allow it to happen to my Ryngers.  I will not. Even if that means fighting against you and your family.  Because even as Kael is your Mate, he was my Brother first.”
 
“I know he was!  Trust me when I say that I know he was.”  Green blinked and swallowed. “But, as I already told you, it will cost the Ryngers nothing.  There will be no debt held by the Ryngers,” she insisted, though the bite had gone out of her voice.  She was unsure how to deal with this side of Kyros, and definitely did not like it.
 
“I know what you said, but there is always a price to pay for everything, eventually.  And tell me, Green Hawk of the Black Hawk Clan, would you not defend your family to your last breath?  Would you allow the spouse of one member to interfere or help as you have done here?”
 
Green lifted up her chin a fraction and met his stare.  “I would.  In this case, I would.  And why not?  There is everything to be gained and nothing to be lost.”
 
“And that’s fine.  I’m willing to let this go this once.  But the next time you feel compelled to ‘help’, promise that you will at least clue in the rest of us beforehand so that we are not caught so unawares.  To have a guest here, and not be ready, to have nothing prepared, you know how this makes my family look?”
 
“But...” Green clamped her mouth shut and really thought through what she had been about to say.  Reminding him that Kael knew Wakahisa was going to arrive at some point would not bode well for her Mate.
 
“But?”
 
“But the hangar looks fine and I swear the door was extra squeaky today, so, um...” Green studied the ceiling, “I really don’t think you need to worry about how you appeared to Wakahisa-san.  To suggest you would need to clean up a little, make it extra pretty and all that would be suggesting your Ryngers do a substandard job on a day to day level and I don’t think that’s the case, do you?” She dropped her eye line. “You said you knew who he was so you’d also know he spends a lot of time in working hangars...  And I’d bet you run a much tighter ship than most...”
 
Kyros’ chest puffed out just that little.  “Than anyone.”
 
“So.... you’d always be ready for guests who turn up out of the blue...”
 
“That’s a moot point, Green.  The problem is we were caught unawares, not that we needed to tidy up the place.” Kyros pointed to the door. “That is a working hangar of a squadron at war.  We can’t just have anybody traipse through and look around.”
 
“Which is why he’s with me.  Not that you have to worry about him at all, he’s Black Hawk, he’s been to see Jeanette and so he’s totally been cleared on more levels than you can imagine...” Green nodded. “But I get your point.  He’s an outsider.”
 
“Exactly.”
 
“Like I am.”
 
“I never said that.”
 
“I’m not a Rynger therefore I am certainly not an insider now, am I?  You just said I can’t be involved in every aspect of Kael’s life.”
 
“I said so involved.”
 
“But I’m not!  I’m not involved.  At all.” Green threw herself back into the chair. “I listen to him talk about the planes and recruits and whatever.  I bring him lunch or dinner or whatever.  All the Ryngers know me.  They help me open that gods’ forsaken door – but only after making sure I’m me first.  Which is fine, I totally understand that.  How could I not?  I grew up in a place that had one just like it and it was for the same purpose – to keep outsiders out.”  She blinked and got herself back on track. “I’m allowed in because of Kael and that’s fine, the Ryngers help me with the door because of Kael, and that’s fine too.  You’re letting me help this once because of Kael, and I’m more than happy with that.  Trust me, I am.
 
“But the truth is... you would prefer if I was stopped at the door.  That I didn’t bring him food.  That I didn’t want to help.  That I was never here.”
 
“I have never said that!” Kyros bristled. “You wouldn’t get through that door if I didn’t allow it!”
 
“You allow it because of Kael, not because you welcome me here.” Green pointed at him. “In your own words, I am not a Rynger.”
 
“Your career path is really none of my concern.”
 
“Missing the point, Kyros.  Deliberately.” Green tilted her head back and examined him. “No, I’m not a Rynger.  I don’t fly, I don’t like flying, I don’t understand planes and all that stuff.  There is no way in hell I’ll ever become a pilot so there is no way in hell I’ll ever be a Rynger.  If it weren’t for Kael, I’d never get through that door.”
 
“If it weren’t for Kael, there’d be no need for you to get through that door.”
 
“If it weren’t for Kael, I wouldn’t want to.”
 
“Green...  What exactly is the point you’re trying to make?  I’m a busy man and these circles are taking up valuable time.”
 
Green pulled her legs up and crossed them.  Leaning her weight on her elbows on her knees, she frowned. “I... I get the Rynger family thing.  I’m Clan, so how could I not?  Which is why...” She bit her lip and stared at the wall by her shoulder. “I bring him lunch, I listen to him talk.  I can’t fly, I can’t understand half of anything he says, I’ve tried studying plane stuff, but... my brain just isn’t wired that way.  As you said, I’m not a Rynger...”
 
“Are you saying you want to be one?”
 
“No!  No... but it’s a part of Kael, such a huge part!” Green covered her eyes with a hand and, with a start of his own, Kyros realised her shoulders were shaking.  She cleared her throat. “If you were given the choice, Kyros.  If someone said to you ‘we’ll stop the war immediately, but you have to give up either the Ryngers or Lee’, which one would you choose?”
 
“What?  That’s a ridiculous scenario.”
 
“Just answer it.  Just answer it truthfully.”
 
“I’d keep Leona, of course.”
 
“’Of course’?”
 
“She’s my wife.” Kyros drew back. “Are you saying Kael would choose the Ryngers over you?”
 
“No... but he’d think about it.” Green turned moisture filled eyes his way.  Wiping at them she tried to smile. “You would choose Lee because you wouldn’t be losing yourself by giving up the Ryngers.  You’d always have her to talk about planes with, talk about the Ryngers – to be a Rynger with.  One day you’ll step down but you won’t stop being you – and you know that.  Because you know that, one day, you will step down and it won’t mean anything but more spare time for you, answering that question was easy for you.
 
“For Kael, it’d be a lot harder because I don’t have the connection to the Ryngers that he does.  He apologises for talking about ‘Rynger stuff’ when he’s home because he thinks it bores me...”
 
“That’s an understandable misconception on his part, Green,” Kyros answered gently. “You’re not a Rynger, or a pilot, or even an aviation mechanic...  Finding topics of conversation that suit you both can’t be easy and he should be applauded for thinking of you.  But it doesn’t mean that if he had to choose, that he would hesitate in choosing you.”
 
“But then he’d stop being who he is...”  Green drew her knees up until they were under her chin. “The Ryngers are what got him through the worst times in his life, Kyros.  They are as much of a family to him as they are to you.  Lee’s part of that family and if you spent every waking moment with her yakking about this plane or that, or Ryngers in general, she’d understand every word, and she’d be able to hold up her end of the conversation...  I can only listen and he knows I don’t understand what he’s s-saying...”  She dropped her legs and shook her entire body with a ‘argh’ of disgust at herself.
 
She finally stood up and began pacing, Kyros watching her with an air of concern, but knowing any word from him would be uninvited.
 
“My family have welcomed him.  He’s part of the Clan – not a deep part, no, not ever like that, not like me, but.. that’s because that’s the way I want it to be.  If I asked him to, he’d join up, he’d take on our purpose, he’d take on our debt.  He’d also kill himself trying to-” Green clamped her lips shut for a split second. “But, he understands how much the Black Hawk means to me and he shows that in everything he does.  He happily talks to Maeda-san about the history or the administration of the Clan for hours on end – the stuff he can know about.  Anything Clan related, he’s all over like a rash – and my family encourage him in that, within the boundaries I’ve set, of course.
 
“Some things... he just ignores.  And I just don’t tell him about others, but... he’s Black Hawk, part of my family.”
 
“And you want to be a part of his Rynger family?”
 
“Well... I can’t – because I’m not a Rynger and I just don’t understand the stuff you do.  I’ve tried to, I really have tried to learn stuff, but... I’m just no good at that type of thing.  So I’m never ever going to be able to relate to the Ryngers the way he connects to the Black Hawk.” Green took a deep breath and turned to him. “But what I can do is support his Rynger...ness.  To show him that I do support it, wholeheartedly and with my entire soul.  To show that, even though I’ll never be part of it, I do accept his Clan as much as he’s accepted mine.”
 
“Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the current reigning, um... Queen... of your Clan his aunt?”
 
“There is that... And it’s much more of a true family in a lot of ways than the Ryngers, but... the idea is the same, right?  There’s a lot about the Black Hawk he can’t know or wouldn’t understand, but... The Black Hawk is a huge part of me, more than just my family.  Just like the Ryngers are a huge part of him, more than just his parents...” Green shrugged and then smiled. “If I were to cut the Rynger out of him, I’d be left with one big toe by my reckoning...”
 
Kyros smirked. “That much?”
 
He was rewarded with an answering chuckle.
 
“Yeah, it’s more than likely I’d be lucky to walk away with a pinky...” Green sighed resignedly.  She stopped by the wall and rolled her eyes.  “Excuse me,” she said and then pounded against it twice as hard as she could. “Go play with Wakahisa-san!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “And stop trying to listen into things that don’t concern you!”
 
“Midori?”
 
“None of your business, you giant Rygan nutjob.  Go.  Play. Now.”
 
“’Kay...”
 
Green waited for a moment before turning around.
 
“I’m sorry about that,” she murmured politely. “But you know how he is...”
 
“Yes.  I do.” Kyros stood up from his lean against the desk.  “So.”
 
“So, um...” Green wrinkled her brow and looked everywhere but at him. “So... I just want to... support... Kael as a Rynger... because I understand his connection to them even if I can’t have that connection myself.”
 
“But you do support him, Green.  You don’t have to find an Avionics Engineer capable of manufacturing an outdated part for a long dead plane to prove that.  Your Bond does that all on its’ own.”
 
“But patting him on the shoulder and saying ‘there, there, you’ll have another JR-21 one day to play with’ isn’t the same.  Not when I can actually do something to stop him losing the plane he loves in first place.”
 
“SR-71....  The plane is a SR-71.” Kyros closed his eyes. “Maybe its’ nickname of ‘Blackbird’ will stick in your brain more easily.”
 
He opened his eyes to find her staring at him with an open mouth.
 
“It’s a Blackbird...?  And you were going to just throw it away?  By the gods, you’re a heartless bastard – why don’t you just throw away all of your implanted Ryngers while you’re at it?”
 

*** 

 
“Get away from the door!” she heard Kyros yell out just as she brought her hand up to the door knob.  Shocked, Lee snatched her hand back as though burned, and glanced around the hangar in a state of bewilderment to see if anyone else had witnessed this strange occurrence.  Kael came over first, trotting up to her.

“He’s ... in with someone,” he explained.

“Oh.  Okay.  Um, Gav said I should come down here right away, but he didn’t say why, so I thought Kyros ....”

Kael nodded and placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder, gently leading her away from the office, though not before giving the door one more baleful look.

“So, what’s going on?” Lee asked, then stopped in her tracks at the sight of a man, and definitely not a Rynger, standing beside their SR-71.  No, not just standing near it, but actually poking and prodding inside its engine while perched up on a ladder.  Lee’s eyes widened.

“Kael, what is he doing here?” she said in a voice only slightly louder than a whisper.

“That is Wakahisa Ren,” Kael announced as his chest puffed out as much in pride of his Mate being able to bring such a special person here as he was at the man being there at all.

“I know who he is,” Lee said with an impatient roll of her eyes.  “What I want to know is why he is here.”

Quickly, Kael filled her in on what she had missed since she had last spoken to Kyros.  By the time he ended, her mouth was pursed in a small ‘o’ and she turned back to look at the closed door.

“And they’ve been in there ever since?”

“Yes.”

“And no one’s thought to see if they were, um, okay?”

“Tried to, but you saw what happened.”

Lee bit her lip.  “Yeah, which means either they’re still talking or one of them is trying to figure out where to put the body.”

“Oh, my Midori would not have that much of a prob--”  Kael snapped his mouth closed at the hot glare Lee shot his way.

“Seriously, though.  Is this wise?  I mean, knowing how the two of them are on usual terms ....”

“I know,” Kael commiserated.  “I feel the same, but unfortunately, all of my efforts to discern what is going on have been frustrated.”

Lee suppressed a smile at the mental image of Kael skulking around the door and walls of the office, trying to hear what was being said within.

It also explained Kyros’s rather abrupt order to her.

“So, um, he’s really going to build a compressor?” Lee asked, switching topics as her eyes fell once on Wakahisa Ren.

“He’s going to see if he can at least try,” Kael answered, then added, “if Kyros will still allow him to do so, of course.”

“Well, of course he will,” Lee scoffed, astonished that Kael could even say such a thing.  “He knows what this jet means to all of us Ryngers.”

Kael gave her a doubtful look, but was prevented from answering when Wakahisa beckoned to him.

*     *     *

He could hear her bright voice over and above the other voices and noise, even though he could not see her right away at first.  Then she appeared from inside the plane’s cockpit, an indignant Ruffie left to sit squashed on the top of the console.  Kael was trying to answer her questions and Wakahisa’s questions while at the same time providing both of them with answers they could understand and still not get linguistically tied up.

“The space would be big enough to allow for a small margin of difference,” Lee said and waited as Kael translated, first her answer, then the next question.

“How much?”

“How much what?”

“How much of a difference?”

Lee held up her thumb and forefinger spaced about a centimeter apart.

“On all sides?”

Lee bit her lip and ducked under the console once more, then popped up again.  “We could probably push in the leg area a little, but it’s a tight fit now and you bigger guys might not be able to fit at all then.  Suppose we ....”

As Kyros and Green walked towards the jet, Kyros smiled at Lee’s suggestions, then cut a look to Green as her eyes went from Kael to Lee and back again.  Kyros could almost hear her.

This is what I was talking about.  Take you both out of the Ryngers and you will still be able to talk about your flying passion.  It will still be an intrinsic part of who you both are and neither of you would struggle to follow the conversation.

Of course, she probably wouldn’t put in it exactly those words, he thought, still watching Green’s face from the corner of his eye.  Green turned her head then, only slightly but still enough to know he was watching her.  He didn’t bother hiding it; to do that would only have made him look guilty about it, which he wasn’t.

But he did understand and could see her sadness at this gulf between her and Kael.  

Was there any common ground between them, he wondered, or was everything a compromise on one side or the other?

Then again, on the surface, it would appear to all outsiders that he and Lee had nothing to bring them together either, even with being in the Ryngers, and yet, there they were.  Even he did not understand it some times.

Green’s chin nudged up slightly higher, a fighter facing down her foe.

Kyros surprised himself by reaching out, following an impulse to give her some measure of comfort, no matter how small, but then he let his hand drop back down to his side.

Green did not need his help, nor would she welcome it.  People kept telling him that he only misunderstood her, but in this regard, he knew he was correct.

Lee, on the other hand, as formidable as she could be at times, would have accepted the gesture in the manner in which it was meant, and given him a thankful look and a quicksilver flash of a smile.  She would not automatically assume he was treating her like a child, or belittling her in any way.

Kyros mentally shook his head.  Kael certainly did not make things easy by taking this one for a Mate.  Though, Kyros supposed, it was not as if it had been a choice given to him.  The Bond, once discovered, was a very hard thing to deny, though it was possible.

Kael had waited for years before approaching Green, just as he himself had waited, though their situations had been entirely different.

A hush fell over the hangar as they approached, everyone turning to face him and Green, awaiting the dreaded verdict.  Did Kyros reject Green’s offer of Wakahisa making the part they needed -- or had Green withdrawn the offer herself?

Kyros shifted his gaze to the jet, the subject in question, whose fate would be decided with his next breath.  Even Wakahisa recognized the heavy import of the moment without a single translation being made, and stood, waiting as they all were.

“Wakahisa Ren-san,” Kyros began, bowing to his guest, “we are honored that you have come to see our humble efforts at restoring this jet ...,” he paused, waiting for Green to finish the translation so far, and when she had, continued, “and we would be further honored if you could assist us in getting her into operable, flying form.”

The expression of Wakahisa’s face never changed as Green translated this last, nor when he spoke to her in answer.  Only when he finished speaking, did Kyros turn to Green.

“He said that it is his pleasure to view such a craft which has been so lovingly restored.  He will still need more time, though, to be able to say if he would actually be able to help you with the part you need or not.”

“Fair enough.  Tell him to take what time he needs and that he will, of course, stay as a guest in Atlantia while he is here.”
 
***
 
Green tilted her head way back as Kael leaned down and kissed her soundly.
 
“Hmmm... I guess that means you had fun playing with Wakahisa-san today,” she murmured, closing her book and putting it on the couch next to her, even as she was being pushed over by Kael sliding his bulk down to sit at her side.  “What?  You couldn’t even walk two steps around the couch to sit down?” she giggled.
 
“I was too impatient to do this,” he grinned and pulled her to his lap, “My love... you are the greatest gift a man could ever desire.  That your Clan has the resources to bring one of the Federations’ leading aviation historians to our aid in completing the SR-71 is merely the icing on the cake.”
 
“But it’s really nice icing, right?” Green grinned before Kael silenced her with a kiss that weakened her knees.
 
And pretty much every other part of her body too.
 
“Very nice icing,” Kael agreed. “Even Kyros agrees with that.  Even if he would also deny ever thinking it.”
 
Green glared up at him. “Well, didn’t you just go and ruin the moment by bringing him into it?”
 
“How else am I to learn what you and he spoke of in the office?” Kael tightened his hold around her as she struggled to get free. “You are my Mate, I could feel your emotions through the wall and I wish to know what was said to make you feel the way you did.”
 
“Nothing you need to know about which is why it was said behind closed doors where you couldn’t hear it.” Green stared into his concerned filled eyes and just melted inside. “Kael...Ka-chan... People are going to say stuff... do stuff... be stuff that upsets me... They always have, they always do and they always will.  Fact of life.  And sometimes those people are going to be close to you – which is why I will keep you out of it, why I need to keep you out of it.  Today was one of those times.  What was said in that office... is done with.  You don’t need to know anything about it.  It’s done, okay?”
 
Kael shook his head. “No.  If it were your usual anger with Kyros, that would be one thing, but... this was not that.  I felt a very deep sorrow in you, in your soul.  Flashes of anger too,” he added with a small smirk, “but mostly a sadness I can’t explain.”
 
“And neither can I.” She caressed his jaw with the very tips of her fingers. “Just know that I regret nothing, that I would change nothing.  You’re my giant Rygan nutjob Rynger and I love every single part of you.” She tilted her head back and fluttered her lashes. “Especially the part of you that suggests we order in and then fill the tub for a nice long bath.”
 
“Really..?” Kael mock-leered at her. “You know... I think I definitely feel that part of me stirring...Oh.”
 
“Oh?” Green felt... him... deflating. “Oh??
 
“I said we would take Wakahisa-san to the Tea House for dinner...” He grinned at her. “And, as he is here as a favour to you, so...”
 
Green closed her eyes. “Yes, I know.” She pushed off from his lap. “So quick showers it is.  The bath will have to wait until after dinner.  And dessert.  And, of course, the conversation that goes long into the night...”
 
“Oh, my little Hawk, as much as I would dearly love to share our bath with you tonight, I am on the early shift tomorrow...” Kael turned his head to look at her.
 
And look at her he did.  He took in her position by their bedroom door, her half twisted posture as she had turned to look back at him, and the look on her face.
 
He really took notice of the look on her face.
 
And sighed.
 
“A nice long bath when we get home.  I promise.”
 
He waited until he heard the bathroom door close before he dared to mutter, “So much for this not costing me anything.”
 

*****

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PostSubject: Re: Payback's a....    Fri 8 Nov - 20:41:40

Green grinned happily as she shoved at the door, it suddenly becoming a lot easier with help from the inside. “Thanks, Furel,” she said loudly over the protesting hinges.  She stopped, looked up at him with a completely innocent facade. “You know, a little bit of oil would fix that.  Why don’t you just run along and find some?  I can stand here to make sure no one else comes in.”
 
“Oh, no, Midori’GreenHawk, I certainly can’t take up your precious time with such a...a...”
 
“Task that will have you drummed out of the Ryngers as soon as Kyros finds out you’re the one who ruined his perfectly screechy hinges?” Green chuckled and swept past him. “Relax, Rynger, I was only playing with you.”
 
“Forgive me for saying so, but... you appear to be in uncharacteristically high spirits today.” Furel jogged to keep up with her as she ignored the small office close by and made a beeline for the old planes down the back of the hangar.
 
“I have the day off, so I’m hoping to steal Kael for lunch.  I know it’s not exactly within the rules, but I’m hoping to buy off the Ryngers with a little present,” she hefted the small box in her hands, “that you might find... useful.”
 
“That may be difficult... Kyros is here.”
 
“And there goes my good mood.” Green rolled her eyes. “Seriously, does that man have nothing better to do than get in my way?”
 
“Since when is being in the Rynger only hangar considered in your way, Ms Green?”
 
With a ‘oops, got caught’ look over her shoulder for Furel, Green turned and smiled her sweetest. “Ah, Kyros, so nice to see you out of your office in the ivory tower and down with your men in the trenches.  Just like a real leader.  Excuse me, I believe my Mate would be over this way.”
 
“Did I hear you say you planned to steal Kael for lunch?” Kyros murmured as she walked around him. “That is very much against policy since he is, as you know, on duty. Considering his position, he would be leading by very bad example if he were to go against that policy.”
 
“Well, considering how he’s been led...” Green turned, her sweet smile not so sweet any more. “You should be thankful he’s as dutiful as he is.”
 
“You know, I believe you were right.  I have been spending far too much time in my office and not enough time in the hangar.  Certain rules have obviously become so relaxed they’re no longer worthy of being called rules.” Kyros clapped his hands together. “Starting now, the no unauthorised persons in the hangar rule goes back into effect – no exceptions.  You can see yourself out, I’m sure.”
 
Green flicked her fingers.  “I’m a Bird and part of Base Security.  There is no place here I can’t go.”
 
“Except this hangar is part of the old Rynger base.  You remember the old Rynger base, yes?  Back when there was a fence dividing the two bases because the Ryngers were separate from GalSec.” Kyros tapped a finger to his chin. “I don’t remember that rule ever being overturned – you know the one, the one that said you had to stay on your side of the fence.”
 
Chewing the inside of her cheek, Green stared at him through narrowed eyes.  Suddenly, she thrust out the box in her hands. “A gift to the Ryngers from the Black Hawk.” She smiled. “Because, you know, it’s just good manners to give a gift to your host when you’re a guest in his house.”
 
“Some would do well to remember they are guests.”
 
“Yeah, because not remembering that would be bad manners and that’s just not... done.” Green nudged his chest with the box.  “Here, take it.”
 
“What is it?”
 
“Open it and find out.”
 
“Midori...?” Kael murmured from behind her, a hand coming down on her shoulder. “What’s in the box you have just handed Kyros?”
 
Sighing as she leaned back into his chest, she added an eye roll that caught his own gaze in hers. “I was going to get you to open it, but, well... Kyros is here and he’s the Colonel and all that, right?  He should open it.”
 
“Hmmm.  I believe she’s trying to say it’s safe since you were the original recipient.” Kyros flicked a pen knife from his pocket and carefully cut the tape holding the box closed.  With a great show of caution, he used the small blade to lift the flap and peer in.
 
He blinked a few times and then put the little knife away.  “Is this...” he breathed, opening the box properly and brushing the packing away from the object inside. “Oh, by the Lady, it is...”
 
“Brother?”
 
“It’s a, um...” Kyros was clearly distracted by what he was trying to dislodge from the box.
 
“An original PFD for the Blackbird.  Wakahisa-san found one and he knows you’re currently using a modified Rynger PFD that’s not really doing the job right because it’s not the right one.” Green shrugged. “So... he sent the right one.”
 
Kyros froze, the device half out of the box and in his hand. “This is a gift.  From your people.”
 
“I told you it was!” Green stared at him for a second. “Oh.  No.  Wakahisa-san sent it because he knew you could give it a proper home, not for anything else.” She tutted. “It’s not an obligation gift.”
 
“That’s a gift you give knowing you tie the other person to an obligation to reciprocate at some stage,” Kael explained.  He cleared his throat at the glare he was receiving. “It’s a Japanese thing, Kyros.  However, if Midori says it is not such a gift, then it is not.”
 
“Maybe we shouldn’t accept it anyway.  Just in case.”
 
“And where else are you going to get an original PFD for this plane, Kyros?” Green waved her hand. “Just take it.  Accept it in the manner it was given and forget - just for a second - who gave it.”
 
“But I can’t do that, Green.  I cannot put the Ryngers-”
 
“But you’re not.” Green jutted her hand at the box with every word, “this is just a present from someone who knows you would appreciate it.  When he found that, when he sent it, Wakahisa-san was not Black Hawk.  He was just another... plane... fetish... person...”
 
“Enthusiast?” Kael supplied.
 
“Yeah, that.  Wakahisa-san loves planes, Kyros – probably more than you.  All giving you the PFD means is him knowing it’s going to a good home, where it will be used as it was meant to be.”
 
Kyros’ mouth thinned. “You called it a gift from the Black Hawk.”
 
“Well, it is!  Everything we do is done as Black Hawk, just like you do everything as a Rynger.  Doesn’t mean you giving Lee chocolate is the Ryngers giving her the chocolate now, does it?”
 
“Midori,” Kael muttered, an eye on Kyros trying to find comprehension in her words. “Thank Wakahisa-san for the gift and I will meet you at home later, okay?”
 
Green looked up and then over.  She shook her head and rubbed at her temple with a hand. “Fine.  Whatever.” She took a couple of steps and then turned around. “That,” she pointed at the box, “is yours to do with as you want.  You want to use it, use it.  You don’t want it, then you throw it out – just like you were going to throw out the plane it was made for.  I don’t care, do whatever you want.”
 
She barked a short laugh. “Look who I’m talking to – of course you’ll do whatever you want.” Turning on her heel, she walked off, muttering ‘and they call me stubborn!’
 
“Brother, if she says it’s a no strings attached gift, then that’s what it is,” Kael whispered, stepping forwards and taking the box from Kyros’ hands. “By suggesting it’s anything more than that is insulting her.”
 
“By suggesting a gift from the Black Hawk doesn’t come with conditions is insulting my intelligence, Brother,” Kyros hissed back.
 
“Kyros,” Kael let out a breath. “I have stayed out of the problems you and Midori have out of respect for both of you, but I’m stepping in now.  This,” he shook the box, “was a gift and nothing more.  I give you my word as a Rynger and as a man.”
 
“You would put your guarantee on a Black Hawk promise?” Kyros asked, a brow hiked.
 
“Yes.” Kael sighed and looked up. “You’ve disappointed me, Brother.  I know you’re ruthless when it comes to us, when it comes to the Ryngers, and we benefit from it.  But... you’re extending that to my Mate for reasons that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the personal issues between you.”
 
“Because I choose to see her for what she is – Black Hawk.  I know you’re enamoured by them, Kael, but open your eyes to what they are, what they do!”
 
Kael smiled and shook his head. “I know exactly what they are and what they do, Kyros.” He levelled a direct look into the man’s eyes. “And every day I thank the Lady my Midori is one of them, brought up with their sense of honour and duty – and honesty.  If a Black Hawk gives you their word then you can count on them to follow through on it, just as you would a Rynger.”
 
“I doubt-”
 
“Just as you would expect a Rynger to follow through on it, Kyros.  No exceptions,” Kael said firmly, definitely.  “You have insulted my Mate, Brother, and without cause.  You need to find a way to make it right.” He stepped back and turned around, carefully juggling the box and its’ precious cargo.  “As any Rynger would.”
 
Kyros watched him duck under the fuselage of their F1-11 and move towards the SR-71.
 
Letting out an explosive breath, he rolled his eyes and turned, looking down the length of the hangar.  It was a large building and Green hadn’t exactly run off, instead she was walking at a normal pace, her head high.
 
“Green!” he bellowed.
 
For a split second, the little figure paused.
 
“Oh, for-” Kyros clenched his teeth and began to jog. “Green!”
 
This time, she paused, took a single step and then, with a droop of the head, stopped completely.  Her hands made their way to her hips and she stood, staring up at the roof far above her.
 
She remained that way until Kyros caught up with her.  Then she refused to turn and look at him, forcing him to walk around her.
 
Finally, her eyes dropped to his level. “What?”
 
“I... will... write a letter of thanks to Wakahisa for his thoughtfulness.  He didn’t have to present us with an original PFD, certainly not after helping us with the compressor.  It is very much appreciated.”
 
“Okay.” Green tried to duck around him to get to the door.
 
“And... you’re welcome here.  In the hangar, I mean.”
 
“Okay.” She moved again.
 
And... I apologise.” Kyros licked his lip. “To you.”
 
Green blinked.  She swallowed.  She blinked some more.   She decided to wait him out.
 
Possibly because she couldn’t think of anything to say beyond ‘okay’.
 
“And... I think I can... allow... Kael to, ah, um... perhaps... take his lunch break now.” He stared upwards. “And I see no reason why he couldn’t accompany you to, say, the Tea House?”
 
“Oh.” Green licked her lip before smiling slightly. “Is that what an original PFD for a Blackbird is worth?  A meal at the local Japanese restaurant?”
 
A tick began in Kyros’ jaw. “Maybe the Kan and Kura then.”
 
“But that’s in town, will take much longer than just an hour to go all that way, eat and then come back.”
 
“Considering that original PFD is a gift, then maybe you should consider my offer as a gift too.”
 
“I was just pointing out the flaw in the offer, Kyros.” Green’s eyes slid sideways. “As my father taught me to do during negotiations.”
 
“The Tea House, so he’s still on base, and an hour and a half.  Final offer.”
 
“Final offer?  For a rare piece of equipment like the PFD?  A piece that you really couldn’t finish the plane without?”
 
“A piece that wasn’t really needed since we had jury-rigged a replacement.”
 
“But that’s the point, isn’t it?  Jury-rigged isn’t the same.  The Blackbird wouldn’t be complete without a fully restored, functional PFD-”
 
“What would you know?” Kyros swivelled so he could look straight at her. “I bet you don’t even know what a PFD does.”
 
Green’s eyebrows disappeared into her hairline. “You... bet...”
 
“Yes.  I bet you have absolutely no idea about it.”
 
Smiling widely, Green shook her head. “Oh, Kyros... wow.” She looked around, noticing the Ryngers who were ‘occupied’ with important tasks within hearing distance.  She spied Kael’s legs trying to hide behind the landing gear of a jet, close enough for his implant enhanced hearing to catch every word.
 
“Kyros, I am going to take you up on that.” Green stood to attention, her hands at her side and prepared to recite to the ‘class’. “The PFD is the Primary Flight Display.  It displays, depending on the model of course, the data that used to be shown by the ‘six pack’ – altimeter, attitude indicator, airspeed, magnetic compass, heading indicator and vertical speed.  If I’m correct, there will be the mechanical gauges as well, in case of total electrical failure, but the PFD condensed all this information into a smaller area, allowing the pilot to see at a glance everything he or she needed.  The pilot could also customise the display so it would show only what they wanted, making it even easier to read.”
 
She grinned and clasped her hands in front of her.  “Well?”
 
“Nicely parroted, Green.  What does it all mean?”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Well, you’ve demonstrated you can memorise complete passages, but can you explain...” Kyros waved a hand, “where does it get the information from, perhaps?”
 
“Oh, okay...” Green bit her lip for a second. “Well, it uses the same systems the mechanical ones do, only it all goes through an internal air data analyser... computer... thingie first, so it’s really just like a computer monitor.  Not like the real gauges, I mean – they’re directly attached to the,” she screwed her face up for a moment, “pitot...static... system... Yes, the pitot-static system!  The pitot tube thing that measures all the air speed and the air pressure.” She lowered her voice, “and the thing that made Kael’s father’s jet crash...”
 
Kyros took a deep breath. “Yes.” He cleared his throat. “What does an altimeter show?”
 
“Height of the plane above sea level.” Green smirked. “Important when flying over the sea.  Over land... not so much.” She chuckled. “This is fun, give me another one.”
 
“Attitude indicator.”
 
“Well... I would like to think it means the mood of the pilot, but... it is actually the artificial horizon.  It tells you if you’re flying level or not.  It’s the one with the picture of a little plane on it.” She grinned. “I don’t think I really need to tell you what the others do, do I?  Their names are pretty self-explanatory.  Airspeed is how fast you’re going, vertical speed is how fast you’re going up or down, magnetic compass and heading indicator tell you where you’re going...”
 
Kyros tilted his head at her. “I have to say I am most impressed, Ms Green.  You’ve obviously been studying.”
 
“No, not really.” Green looked past him to her Mate, who was no longer trying to hide.  Smiling, she said, “I told you before, Kyros, I love listening to Kael talk.  I might not understand all of it, but... I do listen.” Her eyes flicked up to his. “And obviously I do understand more than even I realised.”
 
“That is indeed a notable achievement.  You should be proud of yourself.” The look in his eyes was sincere.
 
“Yeah, I am.” The look in hers turned calculating. “Especially since it would seem I know enough to win myself a day off tomorrow.  The doors open at eight sharp so you need to report to the Front Desk by no later than seven fifty... although, since you’ve never done the duty before, I would suggest earlier than that in order to give yourself some time to become familiar with how things are done.  Kael, I believe you were given leave to take lunch with me.  I think we should go now.”
 
“Hang on!” Kyros exclaimed. “What the hell just happened?  Since when am I doing your Front Desk duty tomorrow?”
 
“Since you said ‘I bet you don’t even know what a PFD does’.” Green wrinkled her nose at him in amusement. “But... I do!  So you are.  Good day to you, Kyros, and thank you.”
 
***
 
“Green said you’d be early so we could go over a few things.” Brad pulled a clipboard over, an unhappy look on his face.  “This is the list-”
 
“I know what it is,” Kyros interrupted.
 
“Then you know how to read it?” Brad tossed it back on the desk at the glare he received. “Excellent.  Do not take your eyes off it.  Some of the more seasoned ‘clientele’ have begun trying to get their hands on it so they can add their own names.”
 
He patted the chair next to him. “This is usually Green’s spot as she’s usually the Senior Officer on duty-”
 
“Green.  Green’s the senior officer?”
 
“She’s got nearly six years with GalSec, Colonel,” Brad’s tone made the appellation sound like an insult. “She’s earned her stripes.  As you’re doing her shift, you’ll be responsible for shift changes, lunches and keeping things running smoothly.  If you need any help, just ask.”
 
“I run the Ryngers, dear boy, I think I can handle a simple shift on the Front Desk.”
 
“If you insist.” Brad shrugged. “Even still, we have signs we’ll look to you for.  A flick like this,” he demonstrated with one hand, “directed at a person will have the closest officer attempt to sit their butt down – far away from the desk if possible.  If one can’t do it, they’ll respond with this,” he showed another, “and you’ll need to direct another officer to intervene, or call for back up or deal with it yourself.  Now, one of us has to remain behind the desk at all times – that’s a non-negotiable.”
 
Brad pulled out a small shelf from under the desk with several brightly covered buttons imbedded in it. “Yellow will lock the connecting door so it can only be opened from the inside or with a master code.  You do have a master code, yeah?”
 
Kyros patted his pocket.  Green had emailed him earlier that morning.
 
“Cool.  We generally keep it on Yellow, just in case.  The green button will unlock it completely, but we only use that when the front doors are locked for the night.  The red will send this part of the base into complete lockdown and sound the sirens for back up.  Obviously, you’ll use that if we have a near riot on our hands and the crew here isn’t enough to deal with it.”
 
“Does that happen often?”
 
Brad smiled wolfishly. “Not on Green’s shifts.  She keeps the desk ultra clear.”
 
“How does a clean desk prevent riots?”
 
“Not a clean desk, a clear desk as in the space in front of the desk.” Brad pointed outwards. “You need to deal with people coming in as they come in.  Quickly and efficiently.  A few will sit straight down.  They’re our regulars and know the drill.  They’re not getting through, but they come just in case they get a glimpse of a Bird or someone else important.
 
“Cosplayers usually fall into that group, but every day we get one or two who’ll try something, thinking today’s their day.” He rolled his eyes. “Anyone else who approaches the desk has to be dealt with as they arrive.  If they’re on the list, stand up.  A couple of those guys,” he pointed at the group of uniformed security officers huddled in the corner, “will move in and protect the door, the visitor and you from the usual rush forward.
 
“If the visitors need to go to Legal or see the Lorikeet, there’ll be a notation on the list.  Someone should be waiting to collect them.  If they’re early, you’ll need to call Cristina to send someone down to collect them, but if we’re not busy...” Brad looked at him as he sat down. “Actually, no, just call Cristina.”
 
“What were you going to say?”
 
“Well... Green often takes them herself, but, um, she’s... trained.”
 
“Trained to take people to see Jeannette?” Kyros gazed at him. “I think I can manage that without ‘training’.”
 
“That’s not what I meant.  Green’s, you know, ninja....  if they’re not who they say they are and they haven’t been passed by the Lorikeet yet, it’s good idea to have someone who’s, um... capable... of dealing with it.  If you know what I mean.”
 
“I know what I’m hearing.” Kyros glowered at him. “I am a trained Rynger.  I can ‘deal’ with anything that might happen.  Really,” he snorted, “this is all a waste of time and breath.  It’s just a Front Desk duty.  What could happen?”
 
Brad controlled himself.
 
And really wished Green was there.
 
And Kyros wasn’t.
 
“If you insist,” he muttered. “Front door unlocked in three, two...one,” he announced in a loud, clear voice.
 
“Was that really necessary?”  Kyros blanched at the stampede heading towards the desk. “Oh.”
 
“I need to see the Kan!”
 
“The Lammergeier!”
 
“Thunderbird!”
 
“There’s these people in my street, I think they’re BlackCats!”
 
“Let me through, I’m the Mynah!”
 
“And I’m the Wren!”
 
“You’re not the Wren.  That is the most pathetic Wren costume I have ever seen.  Since when does the Wren wear jeans?”
 
“She started about the same time as the Mynah began making her helmets out of egg cartons!”
 
“Ladies!” Kyros stood up, thumped the desk and glowered. “You, sit there.  You, over there.” He paused, waiting. “Well?  I gave you an order!  Move it, move it!” He glared and the two slinked away, muttering.
 
“What do you want?” He demanded of the one who thought they had a neighbourhood BlackCat problem.
 
“B-blackC-cats...?”
 
“Where?”
 
“My s-street...?”
 
Kyros huffed a sigh. “Brad, get this gentleman’s address.  We’ll send someone out to have a look, okay?  Okay.  Next!”
 
And so it went.  For about five minutes.
 
Just long enough for Kyros to get comfortable with delegating officers to deal with this or that complaint, enquiry, request.
 
“I’m on the list.”
 
“You are?  Excellent.” Kyros reached for the list.
 
And found the list wasn’t where it should have been.
 
“Brad?  Where’s the list?”
 
“Don’t you have it?” Brad glanced down, bent to look under the surface, then closed his eyes. “It’s missing,” he pronounced in a low voice.
 
“Obviously.  Now find it.”
 
“And then what?” Brad gritted his teeth. “Kyros, we need to get everyone to send down their appointments again.  It’s the only way to be sure they’re real.” He reached for the phone and then snatched his hand back.  “You know what?  You call Cristina and tell her.  You’re the senior officer on duty.”  
 
“I’ll make it even easier.  Who was your appointment with, ma’am?”
 
“Doctor Torres in R and D.” The carefully made up brunette tapped a perfectly manicured nail on the surface. “Please hurry, I do have other things to do today.”
 
“So do the rest of us,” Kyros snapped, flicking through the directory. “Torres... here it is.” He dialled the number. “Yes, I have a..., what’s your name?  A Madison Jackson to see you.  Does she have an appointment? .... We can’t find the list. ....  I really don’t see why that’s your problem, does she have an appointment or not?  Thank you.”  He hung up. “Apparently you do.” He stood up. “Someone should be waiting for you-”
 
“Does she have to go to Legal?” Brad interrupted. “Or see Jeannette?”
 
“Surely the person waiting for her would know.”
 
“Not always.  That’s part of Cristina’s job when setting up the list in the morning – finding out if they need to be checked out first.” Brad looked at the phone. “You could try calling her, see if she has a copy or can remember if Ms Jackson needs to be checked.”
 
Kyros took a deep, deep breath. “Fine.  I’ll call her.”
 
***
 
Brad yanked the list from under Kyros’ elbow.
 
Again.
 
The Rynger Colonel was not going to let the damn thing out of his sight again.  Ever.
 
Not after the lecture Cristina had subjected him to over the loss of the first one.
 
“He’s on the list, Kyros.” Brad slipped the clipboard back. “Got to go to Legal and Lorikeet.”
 
“Right.” Kyros snatched the all important document and stood up.  He saw a few people get ready to run forward. “DO NOT MOVE!” he bellowed.
 
Nodding at their sudden stillness, inwardly chuffed with himself, he opened the small half gate and allowed the nominated party to walk through. “Right, someone should be waiting for you...” he petered off when he had the connecting door fully open. “Huh.”  Frowning he stared down each end of the empty corridor. “Uh huh.  Brad... I’m taking this gentleman to Legal.”
 
“Smith’s got to go to lunch...”
 
“So?  I’m sure I don’t have to personally escort her to the lunch room.”
 
“Her replacement hasn’t turned up yet.  If you go and she goes...”
 
Brad didn’t have to say it.  They’d be left shorthanded by two.
 
“Ah.  Um.”
 
“I’ll call Cristina.  If she has to, she’ll come down herself.”
 
“I don’t think we need to bother her, do we?  Call whoever he’s here to see and tell them they have to come down to take him to Legal and the Lorikeet.”
 
“We need to bother her to tell her Smith’s replacement isn’t here yet.”
 
“I’m here, I’m here!” A uniformed officer ran down the corridor. “Sorry, got stuck in the elevator.” The young man stopped by the door, heaving. “Just... give me a minute.”
 
“Are you here for the escort or for lunch duty?” Kyros demanded.
 
“Lunch.”
 
“Just... peachy.”
 
***
 
Once more, Kyros glanced around and wondered how it was that it all came to this.  Brad was just trying to make it more difficult for him, he was sure of that.  This was desk duty, for Lady’s sake, not brain surgery.  Not an organized, military strike.  Front desk duty.  Receptionists did it all the time -- and without the need for all the drama.  Still ....
 
He needed to turn away from the front of the desk for just a moment, to re-set the computer behind him, as he had just noticed it had gone off-line.  But to do that would mean relinquishing the clipboard and the damned list.
 
And he couldn’t bring it with him, because Brad would no doubt start demanding it the second Kyros took one step away.  So ....
 
What to do?  What to do?
 
He was still reviewing his options when a quick movement and a familiar churrup caught his attention.  He blinked and saw Ruffie materialize at the edge of the desk (though the wycol was smart enough to still remain out of view of those above the counter on the other side of the desk).  Kyros smiled broadly.
 
“Ruffian, my boy, just the one I needed.”
 
Ruffie gave a squeak and widened his black button eyes, an alarmed and confused look on his furry face.  He cocked his head to one side, his large ears at half-mast, as if he was not sure they just heard the words correctly.  
 
Kyros lifted a hand and patted the clipboard beneath his palm.  “Be a good sport and keep watch over this for me for a moment, will you?  I need to access the closed monitoring system a moment, but I don’t want to chance this list walking away.  Again.”  He blew a breath and drew in another before continuing.  “Anyway, you would just need to make sure that no one, and I mean no one but me or what’s-his-face over there takes this.  Think you could handle that?”
 
Ruffie leaned forward and sniffed at the edge of the board, then jumped onto the center of it, his little legs splayed.  The paper crinkled in the four small spots under his paws as he tightened his grip, his fluffy tail flickering, and he bared his tiny teeth with a menacing chitter.  
 
It was the right attitude, if slightly misguided, Kyros assessed.  Satisfied, however, that Ruffie would be a sufficient guard, Kyros turned and took the few steps to the monitoring system and re-set it back on-line and hit in the codes he needed to bring it back up.
 
Most sophisticated security system in the solar system and it still went on the fritz.  Why was nothing ever easy, he wondered as he turned back and stopped short at the sight of Ruffie, sitting on his back haunches, calmly licking at his front hand paws and alternately swiping at his ears and whiskers, first one side, then the other.
 
Ruffie.
 
Sitting there.
 
On a bare, empty space on the desk.
 
“Ruffian!” he yelled so loudly that not only did the wycol startle and jump, dropping instantly to all four paws, but everyone in the immediate vicinity likewise flinched.  “I told you not to let that list out of your sight!  What happened?  Where is it??”
 
“Will you relax, Kyros,” a light, calm voice said from beside Kyros.  
 
He turned fast and blinked to see Lee standing there, fanning herself with the clipboard.  
 
“It’s right here.  Ruffie knows you said no one, but surely that didn’t apply to me, right?”
 
Her mere presence astonished him, so keyed up had he been that he had not even felt her presence, and Kyros was just on the verge of saying her name when her raised brow stopped him.  So frazzled was he that he had not even known she was near, but more importantly, the horde behind the desk was not clamoring for her.  Then the real reason occurred to him.
 
Dressed as she was now, in a simple, nondescript pastel pink blouse and beige skirt, her blonde hair sleeked up into a small bun at the nape of her neck, no one saw her as the Hummingbird, or even as a Rynger.  She was simply one of the clerical staff.
 
“Right.  Of course,” he murmured with a slight bow of his head, then, taking a step closer and lowering voice, said, “Have you come to help?”
 
He gave her a look of such misery that she nearly wished she had.  “Actually, I’m afraid not,” she said with a small apologetic smile.  “Harrison asked me to come down and greet his old friends, three professors who want to pitch some research idea to him.  He knew you were .... well, he just wanted to make things easier, so here I am.”  Lee looked at the list and frowned.  “Have any of them arrived yet?”
 
“It’d be on the list,” Kyros mumbled, waving a hand in the direction of the clipboard Lee held.
 
“I see,” she replied, looking down at the list, quickly biting her lip to suppress a smile.
 
“So, uh,” Kyros began, turning his back to the line and dropping his voice as he sidled up to Lee, “how about I take these gentlemen upstairs and you can stay here for just a bit?  It wouldn’t take me long, and you’ve done desk duty before, right?”
 
“Um, yeah, I have,” Lee agreed, then gave him a full smile, “but no, I can’t let you do that.”
 
Kyros’s smile instantly evaporated and was replaced with a scowl.  “And why not?  What difference would it make?”
 
“Well, first off,” Lee began, holding up a finger, “Harrison already told these guys that they could expect me to be here for them.  Second,” another finger joined the first, “I’m not really off duty and, since my boss is not in the Command Suite where he belongs, I have to be there to keep on top of things and handle whatever comes in ....”
 
“Delegate it to Kael,” Kyros grumbled under his breath, his fingers flicking away that point.  Lee ignored him and put up a third finger.
 
“And last, but most important, you are here because you lost a bet to Green.”
 
“So what’s that have to do with anything?  I’ve been here.  My stepping away for a few measly minutes won’t hurt anything.”
 
Green, Kyros.  My teammate, and I don’t want her to think that I will always take your side in things matter what.”
 
“This isn’t a question of loyalty,” Kyros snapped, then frowned at her.  “What do you mean, you wouldn’t take my side in all things?  Why wouldn’t you?  You’re my Mate.  Not that I should have to remind you.”
 
Lee sighed.  “I know  I do.  Usually.  But this is different.  This is just between you and Green and it’s gonna stay that way.  Besides, I don’t want to get on her bad side.  It would just make life on Strike too unbearable and I like things the way they are now.”
 
“But I’m not asking you to do this, just mind the desk for a few minutes ....”
 
“Oh, look!  There they are.  Gotta go.  Bye!”  Lee said in a breathless rush as she stepped around him, slipped to the front of the desk and was already halfway across the foyer before Kyros could open his mouth to protest.
 
Ruffie, on the other hand, had sensed the shift in her voice, and was already moving and on her shoulder as she went past him, almost as though he had levitated there.
 
Kyros snapped his mouth shut and watched Lee approach the three older men who had just come through the door, all three of them blinking owlishly in the change of light from outside to indoors.
 
Still scowling, Kyros kept an eye on Lee, watching as she checked their identification, confirming they were who they said they were.  With those formalities completed, Lee gave each of them a visitor’s ID card to clip to their jackets, whose sleeves and collars were lightly frayed at the edges, the garments themselves long since out of fashion and probably older than Lee.
 
The bespectacled, bewhiskered men who trailed after her like confused puppies did not seem to be the sort to keep up with fashion trends, if they noticed clothes at all, Kyros thought uncharitably.  
 
The briefcases and bags they carried were sent through the scanners, all four of them went through the metal detectors as well, and then they were gone.
 
The moment the elevator doors slid closed, Kyros turned back to face the line on the other side of the desk.
 
***
 
“Why do you need to come through the front doors?  What’s wrong with the Rynger entrance?” Kyros demanded tiredly in Rygan.
 
“We were out and now we’re back and the Rynger entrance is the other side of the base and this is more convenient.” Purone held his Rynger ID out. “The delightful Midori’GreenHawk has never had a problem with us coming in this way, not if our identification is valid.”
 
“Yes, well, I’m not ‘the delightful Midori’GreenHawk’.  Go the long way.” Kyros waved him off.
 
“With respect, we are allowed to enter through here.” Purone smirked. “But... if you say we’re not, then we’ll just wait until you call someone who will tell you we are.”
 
“Like the delightful Midori’GreenHawk, perhaps?” Furel added helpfully, holding his own card out. “She’d know if we’re allowed through here or not.”
 
“It’s her day off though, we really can’t ask her to work on her day off.” Purone grinned. “It’s not fair to be asked to work on your day off.  Even if it’s just a matter of a simple phone call that she probably wouldn’t mind.  Even if it’s her day off.”
 
“Fine.” Kyros gritted his teeth and stood up. “I’ll let you through this one time, but hear me now, this had better be the only time I see you here, do you understand me?”
 
“Of course.” Purone stood at the short gate and presented his ID again.
 
“I know who you are.”
 
“But you’re supposed to check it anyway.” Purone flashed his card again. “It’s in the rules.”
 
“And the delightful Midori’GreenHawk always checks it.” Furel held his up too.
 
“...Fine.” Kyros ran a cursory glance over both cards. “Happy now?”
 
“Well, not really.” Purone nudged Furel. “Show him yours again.”
 
“Oh.” Kyros closed his eyes.
 
Furel blinked, smiled and looked at his card. “Oh, yeah, it ran out yesterday, but one day doesn’t matter, right?  You know who I am.”
 
“...But I can’t let you through without a valid identification card, can I?” Kyros muttered between gritted teeth. “I have to call someone to come and collect you – just like the delightful Midori’GreenHawk would, don’t I?”
 
“Well, I do believe that’s the proper procedure, yeah...” Purone tapped Furel on the shoulder. “Come, Brother, we’ll sit down over here while we wait.”
 
“Technically speaking, as your Commanding Officer, I can vouch for you.” Kyros swung the gate open with a pleased air. “After all, if it were any other time, Green would call me, right?  So, off you go.”
 
“This is true...” Purone grinned. “But since you’re not fulfilling your duties as our Commanding Officer right now, but those of a GalSec Security Officer... you really should stick to the rules.  I’m sure Kael won’t mind coming down to collect us since he is, right now, our acting Commanding Officer and all.”
 
“I said go through.”
 
“And I said we need to be vouched for by our Commanding Officer.”
 
“Purone.”
 
“Kyros.” Purone stood to his tallest. “Anyone in a Rynger uniform could walk through those doors and be let through simply because the officer on duty thinks he or she might know them.  Given there have been some rogue Ryngers in the past seeking to do us harm, following the rules is definitely ideal, don’t you think?  Isn’t that the whole point of our identification cards and the reason they need to be valid?”
 
“I wonder who came up with such a procedure,” Furel murmured, one eye on Kyros and quickly finding something else to look at when the man’s jaw developed a tick.
 
“Go.  Sit down.  I’ll call Kael.” Kyros slammed the gate shut. “When I can be bothered.”
 
“Take your time, good sir.  We know you’re only doing your job.” Purone sniggered quietly and turned around. “We’ll be just over here.  Waiting.  Watching.  Amusing ourselves.”
 
He watched as they filed past him, one after the other, when his hand suddenly shot out and grabbed one by the arm.  Kyros’s eyes narrowed as he studied the guy.
 
“Wait a second,” he growled, “you didn’t show me your ID.”
 
The man grinned at him.  “Sorry, Kyros’Ryn.  It’s right here.”  
 
The Rynger pulled out his ID card and flashed it at Kyros, who caught the man’s wrist before he could pocket the ID again. 
 
Kyros studied the card, looked back and forth between the photo on the card and the man himself, and then slid the ID card into his own coat pocket.
 
“Hey, what did you do that for?” the man yelped, his eyes widening as his ID disappeared.
 
“Just a formality,” Kyros said coolly.  “After all, the ID expired like the others, didn’t it?  So don’t worry.  If you belong here, you’ll get a new one.  And if not,” he glowered at the man menacingly, “you’ll get something else.”  
 
With that, Kyros turned and walked away, leaving the Rynger with his mouth hanging open in surprise.  After a few moments, he slunk away to join the rest of the Ryngers on the bench.
 
***
 
“How many Ryngers do you have that don’t have valid identification?’ Brad whispered, looking over the counter at the growing group in the corner.
 
Kyros sighed as he rubbed his forehead with his hands. “There was a delay in the last shipment.  It’s due this afternoon.”
 
“That’s cutting it fine.  Especially since it seems like half your men’s ID ran out yesterday.”
 
“They’re all from the same group. We cut it fine on purpose.  Less of a crossover of them having two valid IDs at the same time.  Cards get lost far too easily and can be used for purposes they were meant to avoid.” Kyros shook his head and pointed at his men.  “However, this situation could easily be avoided if they’d only go through the main Rynger entrance instead of insisting they go through here.  But, I suppose, this opportunity was far too much for them to give up so easily.”
 
Brad hid his smirk with a hand. “I could call Kael again...”
 
“He’s got a meeting with our insurance adjuster.  It’s going to be forever before he can come down.”
 
“We could try a Bird?  They’re considered reliable identification...”
 
Kyros tilted his head and looked at Brad under his hand. “They are?”
 
“Yeah.  Well, Commanders and Seconds are.”
 
Letting out a slight groan, Kyros closed his eyes. “What about Leona?  She’s a Rynger and a Bird.”
 
“But not a Commander or a Second...” Brad cleared his throat and looked upwards. “In this case... the only real person you could call would be-”
 
“I know who you’re going to suggest and the answer is most definitely no.  Over your dead body, hell, no.” Kyros slammed his hand down on the desk. “I’ll call Harrison before I call her.”
 
“It was just an idea!” Brad sniffed. “But, hey, it’s not me my men are watching like... hawks....”
 

***

“We need to see Thunderbird.”
 
“Then go through your own entrance.”
 
“But we don’t want to.  We want you to call him.”
 
“Firecrest.  I didn’t hear a please in that sentence.” Kyros sat back and smirked. “The last time I looked, I wasn’t a Bird nor under your command.”
 
“I told you, Skollie, this was a bad idea.”
 
“Relax, Hugh!  Sheesh.” Lukas turned back to the desk. “Please, Mr Kyros, sir, call Thunderbird down to see us.  See?  Using please isn’t that hard at all, is it?”
 
“Ah, but the answer is still the same.  Go through your own entrance.”
 
“But that’s no fun.” Lukas tilted his head and looked down at him. “Green would call him for us.”
 
“And then have to deal with what having Thunderbird down here would cause?  I doubt it.” Kyros flicked his fingers at him. “Go away.”
 
“We’re not going anywhere.” Lukas stood back. “What do you think, anyway?  Which one of us makes the better Thunderbird?  Me?  Or him?”
 
“Neither of you.  In my opinion, that woman over there has a far more authentic costume.” Kyros pointed. “Perhaps you should go ask her how she managed to do better than the two of you who see Thunderbird in uniform on a daily basis.”
 
“Her costume isn’t better than ours!” Lukas protested loudly. “Look, the red’s the wrong colour, it’s too dark.  And, and Thunderbird’s cowl is grey, not whatever that is.”
 
“My costume is perfect, you moron!” the woman stood up and yelled.
 
“I’ll admit it’s much better than that, are you supposed to be....me?  I mean, Firecrest...?? Lukas pointed at the man sitting beside her. “Oh, wow, dude... That’s one seriously screwed up costume.  The yellow stripes are supposed to stop at your chest – the way you’ve got them makes you look like you’re wearing suspenders!”
 
“And what makes you the expert on how Firecrest looks, huh?”
 
“Skollie...” Hugh murmured in a low voice. “Don’t.  Taking the piss out of Kyros is one thing, but starting a brawl over how messed up someone’s got your uniform in the lobby is another.”
 
“But it’s my uniform, Hugh!” Lukas flicked his wings over his shoulders. “Dude.  The stripes go to here.” He demonstrated on his own chest.  “Look at any photo of my, crap, his uniform and you’ll see.”
 
“It’s not like Firecrest is ever photographed without his chest sticking out...” Hugh muttered. “Right proud of it, he is.”
 
“Damn straight I’m, he should be.” Lukas thumped his chest again. “Which is why I know the stripes go to here.”
 
Dude.” The fake Firecrest rose to his feet. “I happen to know Firecrest’s uniform looks like this.” He stood so he was eyeball to eyeball with Lukas. “Just like I know your friend has the better Thunderbird costume.”
 
“Hey!” The She-Thunderbird exclaimed, pushing at him. “My costume is the best one.”
 
“Lady, be thankful you are a lady.  I don’t hit girls.  Push me again, though, and I might rethink that.”
 
“In my experience, girls hit back.” Lukas shrugged as they both levelled irate stares at him. “Hard, really, really hard too.  But, hey, you want to push it, go ahead, but my money will be on her.”
 

***

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Join date : 2012-10-02

PostSubject: Re: Payback's a....    Fri 8 Nov - 20:42:51

“I really think you should push the red button now.”
 
“No.”  Kyros eyed the ceiling. “My Ryngers are taking care of it.  Did you see that?”
 
“See what?” Brad winced as glass broke.
 
“I think there’s someone up there.”
 
“Well, then, in that case... Hit the red button.”
 
“I am more than perfectly capable of handling this little situation.” Kyros looked out at the chaos created by the foyer full of people, including his own Ryngers, and sighed. “Fine.” He pulled the shelf out and his finger hovered over the nice, shiny, guaranteed-to-bring-help button, then he pulled it back.  “No.”
 
He stood up and straightened his tunic. “I’ve dealt with bar brawls that were far worse.  Watch and learn, dear boy, watch and learn.”
 
“I have been watching, Kyros!” Brad exploded. “It’s time to admit you have no idea of what you’re doing and call in someone who does!”
 
“I will do no such thing!  Don’t be ridiculous.” Kyros turned on him and pointed at the melee. “If you had been doing your job, this would never have happened.  I haven’t been able to take my eyes off the lobby for a single second because you’ve just sat back and let me take care of everything!”
 
“Because that was your job and not mine!  My job was to make sure anything you wanted done got done.  Just like everyone else here!”
 
“I bet you would have done it better for Green.”
 
“Because she would have done it better than you.” Brad gestured at the foyer. “Look.  Are any of our people taking control here?  No.  Why? Because you couldn’t stop being a Rynger for two minutes and direct us to take charge.  No, it had to be your Ryngers, who – don’t get me wrong – make great pilots.” Brad shook his head. “Bloody useless GalSec Officers though.  We’re trained for this.  We know how to handle this!”
 
“Then handle it!” Kyros bellowed.
 
Brad chewed his cheek. “I can’t.  I am not Green.  Neither are you.  Hit the damn red button.”
 
“Everyone thinks that little girl is some kind of, of, of... supernatural being who can’t do anything wrong.  What is it with you people?  She’s just a person! And besides, what the hell do you people do when she’s not here?  What happens when she’s out on a mission?  Then what?” Kyros challenged.
 
Brad froze, his mouth open.  All he could do was stare.
 
“Yeah.  See?” Kyros gloated.  “I got you on that point, didn’t I?”
 
“I ... I ... It ....,” Brad stammered, his face paling as his eyes widened.  Instinctively, Kyros turned to see what it was that Brad was focusing on.  And received the same momentary jolt as Brad.
 
“Shit,” Kyros muttered.
 
“My thoughts exactly, sir,” Brad said, swallowing hard.
 
“Well, just ignore them and maybe they’ll go away,” Kyros advised.  Brad gave him a look that spoke volumes on his thoughts of Kyros’s mental state.
 
“But they’re Predator Cats,” Brad protested, “and everyone knows that when they all appear somewhere, there’s going to be trouble.”
 
“Superstitious nonsen --”
 
“Behold!” a voice yelled out as a figure swept to the center of the lobby, “I, the great Vaztal claim Atlantia as mine!”
 
At that moment, a second Vaztal also came in.  “I, the great ruler of Kethsis, seize Atlantia as mine own!”
 
Close on his heels came a third.  “I claim Atlantia in the name of Kethsis!”
 
“Now what?” Kyros moaned under his breath.
 
“Uh, the Cats ...” Brad said, nudging at Kyros.  Kyros swung his attention to the Cats, who were all tensed and ready to pounce.
 
“No,” he ordered sternly.  “These are not true Kethsii.”
 
The Cats collectively relaxed, but only just slightly.
 
“But is the leader of the lizardskins!” their voices protested in his head.
 
“You do not attack, you hear me?” Kyros ordered.  The Cats resumed their attack position, their tails whipping back and forth.
 
“But ...”
 
“NO!”
 
“But ...”
 
“You do not move.  At all!” Kyros clarified.  The Cats gave him sulky looks.
 
“Ruin all our fun,” one groused.  Kyros was fairly certain it sounded like Talon.  Or maybe Hania.  He never could keep them straight.  But he did know that the clock was now ticking and that it would only be a matter of time before the Cats decided to play with the Vaztal toys that seemed to come for the sole purpose of their playing with them.  In short, the temptation would eventually prove too much.
 
The first Vaztal marched through the crowd, accidentally shouldering a Kan.
 
“Hey, watch where you’re going,” the Kan protested.  Vaztal the First scowled at him.
 
“Didn’t I already defeat you?”
 
“No, must’ve been someone else.”
 
At the point, the other two joined them.
 
“What are you doing?” Vaztal the Second demanded.  “We agreed that you guys would come as goons.”
 
“No, you agreed to that,” Vaztal the First argued.  “I already told you that since I have the height, I should get to be him.  Besides, I have already done my job as a lizardskin for the Cats.  It’s someone else’s turn.”
 
“Not mine,” said Vaztal the Third.  “You guys promised me that I could be the leader this time around.”
 
“We did not!”
 
“Did too!”
 
“Did not!”
 
“Did too!  Did too!”
 
“Says who?”
 
“Me.”
 
“Like that counts,” Vaztal the Second snorted derisively.
 
“Yeah.  It does,” Vaztal the Third said, shoving Vaztal the Second back.  Immediately, Vaztal the Second pushed back, knocking the Third into the First, who pushed him back into several Gyrfalcons and a small flock of Shrike and Hummingbirds, who could not get out of the way quite fast enough.
 
Punches flew, as did several pieces of furniture and a couple of the dusty, fake fica plants that had been used to decorate the lobby when the building first opened and everyone had since forgotten about them.  
 
Until now, when they were sailing through the air, leaving trails of silk leaves and Spanish moss in their wake.
 
“So you admit you’re out of your depth, Kyros?”  Green smirked from her position leaning against the wall.  “Front Desk isn’t really as easy as you thought it was, is it?”
 
“I am not out of my depth.  I just...” Kyros blinked as a piece of chair flew past his nose.
 
“Just can’t understand why I would be able to fix something the Great Kyros of the Ryngers can’t...”  Green tapped Brad and he moved out of her way so she could stand closer to Kyros.  She flicked her finger and he leant in. “But that’s the secret, Kyros.  You are a Rynger.  Through and through.” She smiled up at him. “That’s not an insult, by the way.  I happen to be very much in love with a Rynger, as you well know, but he wouldn’t be able to deal with this.  But no GalSec officer could.  No ninja could... and no Bird could either. Isn’t it just lucky I’m a mix of all of them?”
 
“You’re not a Rynger.”
 
“If you doubt me, Kyros, hit the red button.  It’s the only way.” Green chuckled. “Or would you like to bet me I can’t deal with it?”
 
“What makes you think you can?” Kyros held his hand up. “Right, you’re going to call Papa and he’ll fix it.”
 
“Don’t be silly.  He’s asleep.” Green’s eyes hardened. “Besides, everyone knows you call Maeda-san if you want something done now.” She flicked her glance down. “Hit the red button, Kyros.”
 
“I can handle this.”
 
“Then handle it.”
 
Kyros looked at her, looked at the out of control throng and the GalSec staff who were waiting patiently to be told what to do and then back to her.  It was now or never.
 
“Fine,” he said brusquely, “I will.”
 
With that, he put two fingers to his lips and let out a whistle so shrill that not only did everything in the foyer stop, but the large plate glass windows even seemed to vibrate ever so slightly.
 
Kyros pulled his shoulders back and straightened his spine.  
 
“That’s better.”  He glanced around quickly assessing the situation before everyone recovered enough to start up again.  “I want everyone to get into their respective groups.  Ryngers, over there.  Ersatz Thunderbirds, there.  Assorted other so-called Birds to the back.  All those who believe they are leaders of Kethsis, over there.  Anyone who has actual official business being here -- meaning you have an real, true invitation -- and not one you made up and printed out this morning, up here.  The first person I see breaking rank will be shot.  Understand?”  As he was now holding his pistol in his hand, there was a collective head nod, made in silence.
 
And then, a voice.
 
“Uh, what about me?  Where should I go?  I’m not in any of those groups you named.  Or should I just stay here?”
 
Kyros turned and gave a weary look at the questioner to his side as he holstered his gun.  He scowled.  “What the hell are you supposed to be?”
 
“What’s it look like?”
 
Kyros raised a brow.  “You really want me to answer that?”
 
“Yeah,” he challenged.
 
“You look like an overgrown seagull.”
 
The man pulled a face, then shrugged.  “Close enough.  I think it’s a pretty good Albatross, though, if I do say so myself.  I’m the genuine article, man.”
 
“Well, it’s fitting, at any rate,” Kyros replied through gritted teeth.  “Very fitting.”
 
“Is it?” the man asked innocently.
 
“Yes.  This whole day is nothing but an albatross around my neck!”
 
“So do I get extra points?  Can I go upstairs and meet the others?”
 
“NO!”
 
“Cookies!” a voice yelled out over the din.  “Get your fresh cookies here!”
 
“Hey, I’ll take one of those,”  the Albatross said, his face lighting up as he ambled over to where the cookie seller stood with a large box of wrapped treats.
 
Kyros shoved around the crowd until he managed to get to the cookie seller.  He paused at the sight of her, but only just.  Every time he thought he had seen it all, someone managed to come up with something new.
 
This .... woman, he assumed, for, along with an elaborate wig of sorts that he was guessing was supposed to be a stand-in for a helmet, she had what looked like pieces of several Bird uniforms on -- a rainbow color of stitched-together fabric cape in hues of brown, white, green, and blue for wings, and, for one heart-stopping moment, Kyros thought that all she wore on her body was the Wings symbol strategically placed across her chest, until he realized that she wore a body leotard in a beige shade matching her own skin tone so closely that it only looked as though she wore nothing but wings and the knee-high boots of white.  She grinned as he approached.
 
“Would you like a cookie, cookie?  Going fast, and reasonably priced, I might add,” she said as she offered one out to him.
 
“There is to be no solicitation here,” Kyros informed her gruffly.  Her eyes widened in surprised.
 
“Soliciting?  Soliciting?!  I beg your pardon,” she sniffed, outraged.  “I am not that kind of a woman.”  
 
And with that statement, there was a loud crack as her flat palm met his cheek.  The entire lobby froze as there was a collective inhale.  Kyros’s cheek turned as red as his uniform as a livid imprint of her hand came up on his skin.
 
“Madame,” Kyros said, his voice soft and low, and all the more deadly for it, “I will thank you to take up your wares and leave this building immediately.  If you do not do so within the next ten seconds, I will have you arrested for assaulting an officer.  Do I make myself clear?”
 
Numbly, the woman nodded, then promptly burst into tears.
 
“I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to hit you so hard,” she sobbed.  “It’s just that you were being so mean to me ...”
 
“Yeah, man, why you gotta be so mean?” the Albatross said around a mouthful of cookie.  The woman shot him a grateful look and handed him another packet of cookies.  Others around them now took up the chorus.
 
“Yeah?  What’s up with that?”
 
“What’s wrong with you?”
 
“Why you have to harsh my buzz?”
 
The crowd now surrounded Kyros and slowly, as he moved, so did they, until he found himself surrounded on all sides.
 
Now, he thought, would be a good time to call for help.
 
“Ryngers!  Front and center!” he yelled out.  But when he turned to look, unbelievably, he found that they had all seemingly disappeared.  The lobby was still mobbed with people, but they were all cosplayers.  What the hell?
 
Before he could call out again -- or try to figure out where his men disappeared to -- the crowd moved in and the Predator Cats sat up taller.  Waiting, watching.  
 
Anticipating.
 
And then it happened.  Everything seemed to explode at once.  The Cats leapt onto the Vaztals, who shrieked and tried to get away, but only succeeded in crashing into bystanders, who joined the melee and began swinging back.
 
A small movement to his left caught his attention and he glanced down to find Green at his side.
 
“Just say the words,” she said quietly.
 
“Green, I don’t need your help,” Kyros began, then stopped.  The din from the mob was deafening.  “However, I may require some assistance.”
 
Green snorted.  “Some assistance?”
 
“All right.  Fine.  I need help here.  Is that what you wanted to hear?”
 
She considered this a moment.  “No, it is not.  I wanted to hear you say that you are out of your depth.  And you are, you know,” Green leaned in, “and that’s because you’ve not been doing this for six years.”
 
“Duly acknowledged.  Now will you help?”
 
Green studied him again, then sighed.  “Obviously that will be the closest I will come to hearing you say the words.  All right. Fine.  I will accept that admission then, since that is probably the best you can do.”  
 
Without wasting any more time, and before the crowd destroyed the entire foyer, Green jumped onto the desk itself. “Right.  You and you, break them up.  You and you, get between those two.  You, make sure that guy over there has identification.  Lukas, Hugh, get your arses over here.  I’ll deal with you in a moment.  Ryngers!  Stand down.” She pulled a knife and stabbed upwards through the ceiling. “I have no idea who you are, but I suggest you come out now.  Do not make me come up there or it will not bode well for you.”
 
Kyros’ jaw nearly dropped as all movement ceased except for the ceiling tile that opened to reveal a figure who dropped to the floor.
 
Emiko?” he gasped.
 
“Well.... I couldn’t let Alex have all the fun now, could I?” the ninja grinned cheekily at the fake Firecrest, his hand still around the She-Thunderbird’s arm, who grinned back.
 
“Alex.”
 
“Kyros.”
 
“Kyros,” She-Thunderbird murmured.
 
“Maddy...”
 
“Maddy?!” Lukas exclaimed happily. “See?  I told you I’d put money on her!”  He sidled over towards her. “So, I really do have the best costume, right?”
 
“Why don’t you let Thunderbird be the judge of that, Lukas?” Maddy’s eyes twinkled.
 
“But he’s not here and you are.” Lukas pressed the back of her gloved hand to his lips. “And, besides, you are a much prettier- ack.”
 
“Lukas, you are a poor substitute for me.” Thunderbird pulled him closer to his face by his throat.
 
“Nice wig, Commander...”
 
“Yeah, I’m sure.  For your information, Maddy’s wearing my uniform.  Well, is hers really, but with a bit of Lija’s magic, she’s wearing my template.”
 
Lukas shot a look over his shoulder. “Hugh.  Why didn’t we think of that?”
 
“Because you don’t have my Madilayn’s devious brain.” Raptor broke from the group of Ryngers, straightening his tunic as he presented himself to his lady love.
 
“Is there anyone here who’s not a Bird or Rynger?” Kyros glared at Green as several more Birds revealed themselves. “You set me up.”
 
“Actually I didn’t...” Her face was as confused as he was feeling. “I didn’t tell anyone... well, only Brad but that’s because he needed to know you’d be replacing me.”
 
“I didn’t tell anyone because you told me not to!” Brad exclaimed as they both turned to look at him.
 
“And once it was out there, everyone just couldn’t resist,” Kyros noted, “but do you all realize what sort of security risk you put all of Atlantia in?”
 
Brad shrugged apologetically.  “I guess it really was an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.  If it makes you feel any better, there really weren’t any other people here except us.  Oh, and the three men who came to visit Chief Harrison.  They were real.  Everyone else got moved to the other side doors.  We told the guards outside to say that ... uh ... the lobby would be sort of, kind of, closed for a few hours and headed them off in the parking lots.”
 
“I see,” Kyros said as he surveyed the lobby once more, and this time, he found that his Ryngers had turned to cosplaying quasi-Birds, which was why they disappeared so quickly.  However, he strode up to the one Rynger who had the questionable ID.
 
“Exactly who are you?” he demanded.
 
“You really couldn’t guess?” he asked delightedly as he peeled away the prosthetic pieces that altered his face.  
 
Kyros’s eyes widened.
 
“Thane!”
 
Said man grinned back at him.  “I always said I wanted to be a Rynger for a day.”
 
“So do you think you can keep the uniform?” the cookie seller purred as she sidled up under Thane’s arm.  “At least for one night?”
 
“Sarah?” Kyros gasped.
 
She beamed a large smile at Kyros.  “Of course!  Who else?  And I am sorry ... I really didn’t mean to hit you quite so hard.”
 
“Uh huh.”
 
“Hey, you got any more cookies?” the Albatross asked as he stepped up behind Sarah.  Now Kyros narrowed his eyes, trying to place who this man was until Thane spoke up.
 
“Graham?”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“You came as yourself?” Kyros asked incredulously.
 
“Yeah, why not?”
 
“Then why didn’t you just wear your own uniform?” Sarah asked, taking in the homemade one he wore.
 
“Why?  I think I did a pretty good job,” Graham said, holding out his arms with a flourish and giving a dramatic turn.  “In fact, I made some improvements that I might have to talk to Thunderbird and the Chief about incorporating.”
 
“Oh brother,” Sarah moaned as she rolled her eyes.
 
“Alright.  Everyone who is not part of Security needs to go away.  Now.” Green pointed at the front doors. “This part of base has gone into lockdown, so you need to go that way.  You have three minutes before I start telling the real cosplayers out there who you people are.  I suggest you don’t dawdle.”
 
“Green... you didn’t really mean us, right?  The ones who have to go back to the Command Suite?” Thunderbird moved towards the half door. “We’ll just-”
 
“No, you won’t.  Out the front way.  Go.”
 
“But-”
 
“But nothing, Thunderbird.  This entrance is officially closed.  It went into lockdown when you lot started brawling.  So.  Out.”
 
“I order-”
 
“You can’t.” Green stared him down.  “Because of what you have done here, I have certain procedures that must be followed and not even you can order them to be ignored.  Two minutes.”
 
“I can overrule them though,” Thane pushed forward.
 
“Can you really?  Are you so sure about that?”
 
“I am the Kan.”
 
“Well, you see... right now, that’s a little in question, so I would need to call Chief Harrison to come down here and confirm who you are before you can attempt to order the lockdown to be overturned.  Because, after all, you have already infiltrated the Front Desk masquerading as a Rynger so that’s exactly what it’s going to take.”
 
“I really don’t think-”
 
“You’re not thinking, Kan!  That’s the problem here!” Green gestured around them at the mess and broken furniture. “Yes, great joke – and it was, I really did quite enjoy it – but now my people have to deal with the aftermath of it.  As per protocol.” She pointed a single finger at him. “Protocols put in place to protect you and everyone else here, remember that.  After something like this, we have to shut down the Front Desk to completely clear the area and make sure it’s safe.  That’s standard operating procedure, and one you can’t counteract just because it’s a shortcut to the Command Suite.  You all have to enter through the side doors, following the usual identification process.  Cristina has already dispatched a team to make it as quick and as easy as possible for you.  Now, go, hurry – you have one minute.”
 
“You wouldn’t really tell the cosplayers who we are, surely.” Alex shook his head, smirking. “That would be-”
 
“Brad, go make the announcement.  Tell them it’s a special treat to make up for the interruption to their usual entertainment.” Green turned cold eyes Alex’s way. “Guess again.  I need this area cleared now and I will do anything I need to do so it happens.  Brad, you have your instructions.”
 
“Yes, ma’am!” Brad jumped to his feet. “Excuse me, coming through.”
 
“Wait!” Thane nodded at Green. “Understood.  We’re going.  Now and without a fan fare.”
 
“Quickly too, please.  We have a lot to do.”
 
“Of course.” Thane turned around. “Alright, you heard the Shift Leader.  Out, now.  Come on, don’t waste time!”
 
“You might as well go too, Colonel,” Green said, picking up the list and flicking through the pages. “Tom, I need you to go find a Professor Zamuel and make sure she gets to Legal.  Adelan, I need you to start scanning over there and work your way around,” she pointed at the side wall, “while the rest of us start the clean up.  Brad, take a note of anything that’s been broken, we need to get it replaced before we can open the doors again.  Use whoever you need to get it done quickly.  Our goal is twenty minutes.”
 
Green turned to find Kyros righting a chair. “I said you can go, so... shoo...?”
 
“I am a man of my word so I will see this through to the end.”
 
“Our... agreement... didn’t cover this situation, Kyros.”
 
“Our agreement is the cause of this, Green.”
 
“Of course it is, but the consequences fall on my head, not yours.”
 
“Well, they shouldn’t!  Our bet was I would do your shift.  That includes dealing with whatever happened during your shift as you would have to.”
 
“But if I had been here instead of you, this wouldn’t have happened, Kyros.”
 
“All the more reason for me to deal with it, then, isn’t it?” Kyros practically crowed in triumph.
 
Green stared at him, finally shaking her head and rolling her eyes. “You know what?  I don’t have time for this.  I have a Front Desk to put back together.  Derek, I can see from here that chair has had it.  See Brad and get a replacement from storage.  Winnie, get the vacuum cleaner out, please.” She jumped up on the desk. “I’ll be in the ceiling.”
 
“Want a scanner, Green?” Adelan called from the cupboard.
 
“Yes, please.” Green caught the device thrown to her.  “Thanks.”
 
“Is that really necessary?  You know it was Emiko playing around up there.”
 
“It’s protocol.  We were infiltrated from the ceiling.” Green wriggled her way through a tile.
 
“She’s just doing her job, Colonel,” Brad murmured, marking something down.  “You know we’ve had Birds go rogue before, so it doesn’t matter if this was all some... prank.  We have to follow procedure, no exceptions.”
 
“Emiko is one of...her... people.”
 
“Black Hawk, you mean?” Brad cocked an eye over the clipboard. “So?”
 
“Well...”
 
“Her father’s first lieutenant.  Half the family of one of her mother’s longest serving retainers.  A staff member of her Uncle’s house.” Brad nodded at Winnie and moved over so she could vacuum under his feet. “And, of course, those Birds who went rogue.  Green knows where danger can blindside you from, Kyros.” He tossed the board to the table. “You know what? I get that we’re not Ryngers or Birds, and so you guys see what we do as not all that important.  You roll your eyes when we insist on seeing ID before you can go through even if you’ve gone through three times already that day.  You get snotty when we find out your ID is expired, or you’ve forgotten it or that we’ve even asked for it again on your fourth trip through.  You bite Green’s head off when she asks you come down to get one of your Ryngers who has forgotten theirs... But, guess what? Maybe you don’t consider what we do all that important, but we do.
 
“Every single one of us knows what you Ryngers and Birds risk to protect us and our loved ones, so we do our absolute most to make sure you can relax in your own homes on this base, safe and sound, secure in the knowledge you and your loved ones are not going to be facing the worst here.  If that means Green climbs up into the ceiling and checks for bugs and explosives, even if she knows it’s one of ‘her’ people who has been climbing around up there as a prank, then that’s what she’s going to do.  She knows better than anyone that it doesn’t matter if you know them or not, the risk is still there, so she’s going to do it.  It’s what any of us would do.  Even if the rest of you do think we’re a joke.”
 
***
 
“Well, hello, Kyros.” A set of perfectly manicured claws tapped on the counter.  “Whatever did you do to find yourself among the rabble?”
 
Kyros instinctively sat back, well out of Natalia Sorensen’s reach. “I...” he cleared his throat and straightened. “I decided to join our GalSec Brethren for a day so I might gain a more thorough appreciation for all that they do for us, Ms Sorensen.  Who would you be meeting with today?”
 
Natalia perched her elbows on the counter and leaned further over than necessary. “I have an appointment with Daniel.”
 
“Daniel.” Kyros reached for the list. “I’m afraid you need to be a little more distinct.  Daniel who of what department?”
 
“Daniel Nguyen of the Geology department, dear Kyros,” she muttered with a touch of impatience – as if there could only be one ‘Daniel’.
 
“Ah, yes, here you are.” Kyros raised a brief eyebrow at the notation next to her name.
 
Green stood up. “I’ll take her through, Kyros.” She smirked slightly. “You can handle things here for a few moments, can’t you?”
 
His eyes hardened. “I’m sure we’ll be just fine.”
 
“Why isn’t Kyros taking me?” Natalia glared at Green before dropping her eyes to the Colonel. “Given my stature around here, it’s only fitting.”
 
Green caught the brief moment of distaste cross Kyros’ face. “Oh... the good Colonel is currently, um... acting... as a trainee, Ms Sorensen.  Therefore, he really isn’t, ah... cleared... to take you to see Jeanette.  Procedure, you understand.  Our most senior GalSec staff are required to accompany our...” her mouth twisted slightly, “esteemed... guests on their journeys through the complex.”
 
“Ah, yes, it is as Green says, dear lady.” Kyros bowed his head just once. “It would not be appropriate to, ah... go against the procedures put in place to ensure the very best of care is taken of our... special... guests.”
 
Natalia’s face became stony. “Very well,” she snipped. “If you insist this... child... is the ‘best’ you have to offer-”
 
“Oh, she is,” Kyros interrupted with finality. “She is the Shift Leader, after all!  Who better to see to your safety than the one tasked with protecting us all, Ms Sorensen?  Good day to you.”
 
“Do come this way, Ms Sorensen.” Green flipped the half door open with a glare for the couple of people who moved forward. “You know the drill.”
 
“Of course I do.  Off to see Jeanette to answer the same damn questions that make no sense whatsoever.  Such a waste of time!” Natalia swept through. “The only reason I subject myself to it is because everyone else has to.  That, and I’m sure dear Matthew is working on getting me an exemption from the whole ordeal.”
 
Brad sat down in Green’s ‘seat’. “Natalia Sorensen is a permanent Must See Jeanette,” he explained quietly as the door closed behind the two women. “Although it’s not about protecting the base as it is about looking after her latest target.  And her.  One of these days she’ll choose the wrong man, and around here, that can be deadly.” He looked at Kyros. “Has she ever seen Kael?”
 
“Is that really... appropriate?” Kyros glared back.
 
“Green already likes... her, ah...company.  I was just suggesting a possible connection that they could share, that’s all,” Brad said piously. “One that would amuse the rest of us no end.”
 
***
 
“Brad, can you run this to Valk in Intel for me?” Green held a palmpad over the counter. “And tell him it’s urgent he checks it out.  Now, Mr Oros, I’m going to arrange for someone to take you home, okay?  Just sit down over there for me because they might take a while getting here.”
 
“You believe me though, don’t you?  That they’re watching me, listening to me?”
 
“I don’t need to believe it, sir,” Green answered the sixty something year old wearing an alfoil helmet. “That you believe it is enough as far as I’m concerned.  Go with Adelan now, she’ll find you a nice quiet seat.”
 
“Thank you, oh, thank you!  Such a lovely child.” He looked over the counter at Kyros with reluctance. “You should be proud of your daughter, sir.  She is a lovely young lady!  So nice, so polite.”
 
“Oh, I’m sure Papa is very proud of me, Mr Oros, but thank you for saying such sweet things.  Adelan, you’ll sit with Mr Oros and keep him company for me, won’t you?”
 
“Of course I will, ma’am.  Come on now, Mr Oros, I see two very nice and comfortable chairs over there.”
 
“Valk in Intel?” Kyros raised an eyebrow.
 
“A code phrase for Mr Oros is off his medication again and Brad needs to call his daughter to come collect him.”
 
“Perhaps Valk should really see him.  There is obviously something very wrong there.”
 
“He doesn’t like Valk.  Actually... he’s not fond of men in general.  We call Carol Hua down for him if it’s worse than normal.” Green sat down behind the desk. “Emi-chan if he’s really bad.  But today, he’s just a little paranoid so we don’t need to do that.”
 
“How often does he get ‘just a little’ paranoid?”
 
“Once a fortnight or so.”
 
“Someone should be taking care of him!” Kyros exploded. “He needs to be in a home or something!”
 
“He is, Kyros.  His own, where he wants to be.  It’s only just in town and his daughter is really good about coming to get him when we call her, so no harm done.”
 
“No harm?  Do you realise he took half an hour of your time just then?  That’s half an hour you were listening to someone’s paranoid fantasies instead of doing your job.”
 
 Green sat back and glared at him. “What is my ‘job’ then, Kyros, if it’s not listening to someone when they come to us to report suspicious activity near the base?”
 
“But you said he was off his medication.”
 
“But that doesn’t matter.  I listen because what if he is being watched?  Just because I know he has paranoiac delusions doesn’t change that he might actually be being watched.  I have to take every case as it comes, without judgement, because what if, this time, he’s really is being watched?”
 
 “It’s.... inefficient.”
 
“Yeah, it is.  But...isn’t it worth it?  Our only other option is to subject Jeanette to a permanent posting to the Front Desk, Kyros.  As it is... she will some times do an observation shift if we don’t have any appointments for her to deal with, but... it takes a lot out of her so she can only do short stints.” Green rolled her eyes at the cosplayers. “I’m sure you can understand why.”
 
“Yes, I think I can.” Kyros frowned. “Why is this shift so long?  I didn’t realise it was a full twelve hours.”
 
“So the same team is here the entire time the doors are open.  Less chance of trouble makers getting back in after they’ve been ejected.  We finish at eight instead of at six when the doors close because that’s Shift’s end.  We use the time to clean up, to write reports, have a team meeting... we can usually send people off earlier than that though.  It’s rare that we all need to hang around.” Green snuck a look at the clock on the computer screen embedded into the desk. “You know, if you wanted to leave before then, it’d be okay.”
 
“I’m doing your shift.” Kyros tugged at his uniform tunic.
 
“Well... I was just thinking that Natalia Sorensen’s been upstairs for an hour and a half now... that’s usually about the limit, so, ah... if you want to make a run for it, we’d all totally understand.”
 
“I am a Rynger, thankyouverymuch, we do not ‘make a run for it’.  We face our adversaries.” Kyros sniffed, reached out for the phone and dialled an extension. “Yes, hello, it’s the Front Desk.  We were just wondering if Ms Sorensen has finished her business with you yet.... uh huh... Really.  Thank you.”
 
“It occurs to me that you haven’t had a break yet, Kyros.  Lunch room’s down the right corridor, first corner, third door on your left.”
 
“Well... I think I will wait.” Kyros smoothed his moustache. “By the way, Natalia told the geologists she was going to swing by the Command Suite on her way out.”
 
“Oh.  I hope they thought to warn Maddy to expect her...” A fingernail made its’ way to Green teeth.  “That’s a surprise no one likes.”
 
“Well, after this morning, I’m not feeling very... sympathetic... about certain people having surprises sprung on them.”
 
Green rubbed at her face. “Yeah... believe it or not, I can understand that.”
 
“I do expect your... cohort... to face discipline for letting it happen, you do know that, don’t you?”
 
“...My cohort...?” She scratched at her ear. “Disciplining the people responsible really doesn’t fall under my jurisdiction, Kyros...”
 
“I thought you were the Senior Officer.  The Shift Leader.  Surely that means you are responsible for handling disciplinary actions when the need arises?”
 
“Yes... But... only of the people who fall under my leadership, Kyros.”
 
“Are you telling me Brad isn’t one of your team members, Green?”
 
“He most certainly is.  But... he didn’t tell anyone – just like I told him not to.  Cristina had to know because I was being replaced as Shift Leader, but she wouldn’t have told anyone either because she knew what would happen if it got out...”
 
Kyros pursed his lips and turned impatient eyes her way. “How about you just spit it out instead of talking in riddles?”
 
“Where’s the fun in that, Kyros?” Green smiled. “But, to make it fair, since you’re not ninja and obviously don’t think like us, let me ask you this.  Who were the first group to turn up to make your life interesting today?”
 
“That would have been... Oh.”
 
“Uh huh.  Now, who not only had a very large hand in suggesting the terms of our wager, but was present when that wager was won?”
 
The Colonel’s eyes narrowed. “That would have been.... But he wouldn’t have...”
 
“Oh, I think you’d find out he very much did – which would explain why he’s the only Rynger who hasn’t walked through here at least once today.”
 
Kyros examined her. “Why are you giving him up like this?  What do you gain?”
 
“Because I have the most delicious idea for payback.  One that will make sure that wonderful, sweet, devious man never messes with my Security team again.” She pointed at him. “But, if you go along with it, you’re promising that it’d be done with, no more retaliation allowed.”
 
“Well, that depends.  It can’t be something inconsequential. The punishment must fit the crime.”
 
“Well, you see... obviously I don’t know the rules and regulations of the Rynger handbook pertaining to pranking one’s Commanding Officer in what you have to admit is a fairly mild manner, but... it’s a particularly... ninjary... response that won’t prevent your Ryngers from responding to an emergency should there be one.” Green grinned. “And it’ll let you be all Kyros-the-Bastard to boot.”
 
***
 
Kyros handed Kael’s Rynger ID back with a nod and switched off the torch he had been using to see the expiration dates in the darkness.  He had assembled the entire Atlantia-based contingent in front of the main hangar for an official inspection to end the day.
 
His day, not theirs.
 
“Excellent,” he announced as he began pacing up and down the front line. “Every single one of you has a valid card.  No one has lost theirs, no one is carrying expired identification, no one is holding a fake in their hands.  Just the way it should be at all times.”
 
He paused and then turned to face them.  “Kael, Purone, Furel, front and centre.”
 
They gulped as they all stepped forward with a salute.
 
“Hand these out.” Kyros thrust a wad of papers at them. “Quickly now, it’s been a long day, it’s late and everyone has something better to do than stand around here.”
 
He waited patiently until roughly a third had received their orders.
 
“Now, Ryngers, you all know I... experienced... a different view of life on this base today.  Certain events got me thinking.  We share this base with our Winged Brethren.  We also share it with our GalSec Brethren who have been tasked with not only the safety of the Birds, but of ours as well. Working with them has opened my eyes in ways you can only dream of. 
 
“I was also thinking that you should not have to ‘dream’ it.  That I should not be the only one with such a new perspective.  I wish for you all to benefit from the experience as I have.  So in your envelopes you will find the day you will perform the lunch relief duty on the Front Desk.  Be happy it is only a six hour shift instead of the full twelve.
 
“Look closely and note the Shift Leader you will need to report to and when.  This new initiative goes into effect from tomorrow.  Do not be late, be on your best behaviour and do what you are instructed to do or it will not bode well for you.  Understood?”
 
“Ah, sir?” Kael held his out. “I think that perhaps there has been some mistake with mine.”
 
“Really?  Do tell, Brother Kael.  I am all ears.”
 
“I am down for tomorrow, but, um.... itsmydayoff.”
 
“Oh, there has been no mistake, Brother.  Such an educational experience is mandatory for you all, but I cannot allow it to impact your duties to the Ryngers either.  You all will find your Security shifts are rostered for your day off.”
 
“Oh.  I see...”
 
“Look on the bright side, Brother.” Kyros beamed. “Each of you will be replacing the rostered Security Officer for that shift.  You, in fact, will be taking the shift of your delightful Midori’GreenHawk, giving her a full day off to replace the one she lost today when she had to step in and resolve certain... issues.  Rather appropriate, don’t you think?”
 
“Yes, sir.  I suppose so.” Kael turned towards the hangar, frowning.
 
“Now.  You all have your orders.  You are all turned out as Ryngers should be and you all are carrying your ID.  A perfect end to a rather full day.  If it were the end of it, of course.” Kyros stood with his hands behind his back. “The ‘delightful Midori’GreenHawk’ and I had a discussion today concerning efficiency after I questioned her spending a significant amount of time talking to a particular visitor to the Front Desk.
 
“Even as I queried her decision to do so, it reminded me of how many of you spent the morning, sitting around, waiting to be cleared to enter the base.  Not a very efficient use of your time as Ryngers, is it?
 
“Purone, you are to lead your Brethren in a forced march into town to find the house at forty three North Main.  Susha.”
 
“Yes, sir?”
 
“While the others remain well back, you are to take Dorinda and Emlai and knock on the door.  Should a gentleman answer it, you will tell him he is being guarded by the Ryngers so if he feels as if he is being watched, it is just you, not the Kethsii, and so he can rest easy tonight.” Kyros blinked. “Do not be surprised if he’s wearing... interesting.... headgear.”
 
“Yes, sir.” Susha saluted.
 
“You will then patrol the area for two hours before returning to base.  Understood?”
 
“Yes, sir!”
 
“No, not really...” Stosh muttered.
 
“Kael, Furel, you’re with me.  The rest of you have your orders so... go.”
 
“Why are we so lucky?” Furel murmured.
 
“I don’t think luck is playing any part of this,” Kael answered quietly, falling into step behind Kyros as he headed for the small door to the hangar. “That was Kyros’ punishment.  We are about to face the punishment meted out by someone who is not as... restrained... by what is considered ‘appropriate’.”
 
“Forgive me, Brother, but I am at a lost to your meaning.”
 
“We’re going to be facing my Mate, Brother, and whatever her inner ninja has decided is suitable payback.” Kael took a deep breath. “And she is feeling especially ninja right now.”
 
“...That’s not a good thing?”
 
“No, Furel, it’s not.” Kael sighed as he stepped through the portal into the hangar. “Not when you’re the target.”
 
“Leave the door open,” Kyros commanded, continuing to walk down the centre of the huge building.
 
Furel almost bumped into Kael as he practically cowered at his side.  “Where is she?”
 
“I’m not sure...” Kael glanced around. “She can hide herself from me and she is.  I just know she’s in here somewhere.  Being all ninjary and smug.  So very... smug.”
 
“Gentlemen, here should do it, I think.” Kyros turned and faced them, smiling ever so benevolently. “I have a special job for you two.”
 
“Hello, boys,” Green drawled from behind them.  She waited until they were both looking at her before pushing the door to.  It swung easily on its’ huge hinges and slammed with a bang that echoed around the hangar.  She swooped and picked up the large plastic container at her feet. “I’m so sorry, Kyros.  I accidently spilled oil all over the door and it’s lost that wonderful screech it had...”
 
“No matter, Green.  Furel will be more than happy to spend the next few hours cleaning all the oil out of the hinges until it screeches just perfectly again.”
 
“Oh, excellent!” She grimaced. “I did make a bit of mess though.  Oil just gets everywhere, you know.” She looked down at the impeccably clean floor. “Oh.  Wait.”
 
Producing a small knife, she stabbed the bottom of the container and began walking towards them, swinging her arms in great, unnecessary, gestures.
 
“Oh, look at that.  Oops.”
 
“Not a problem, dear Green!  It so happens I have a spare Rynger on hand to clean that up.”
 
“But it’s such a pain, Kyros, when you’re left to clean up after someone else’s... mistake.  Even if they weren’t physically present themselves when the mess occurred.”
 
“I completely agree with you.” Kyros crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “On a completely unrelated matter, I do hope the next transport carrying replacement Rynger IDs doesn’t get a mysterious order to delay shipment for a day.  It would be rather inconvenient for those at the Front Desk, wouldn’t it?”
 
“Oh, it would, Kyros!” Green grinned. “Of course, we would have call you down to collect them – oh, hang on... Don’t you have a meeting that day with the Council?  One that goes all day so you’ll be off base?”
 
“I do believe you’re right.  Of course, that would mean my Second would have to run over to the Front Desk every time a Rynger wanted to come through.  Very inconvenient for the poor man.” Kyros straightened. “We really should leave these men to get on with their jobs.  They have a long night ahead of them.”
 
“Yes, yes, they do.” Green smiled sweetly. “You don’t mind if I speak to my Mate before we go, do you?”
 
“Of course not!  As I have said before, you’re always welcome here.” Kyros grabbed Furel’s arm on the way past and pushed him towards the door. “I suggest you do not dawdle, Brother.  Those hinges are not going to get screechy clean on their own.”
 
Green clasped Kael’s arm and stood on her tippy toes, her head tilted up for a kiss. “Have fun.  And, next time, remember what I am before you involve me in your pranks.” She looked down even as Kael felt an odd sensation. “Oops.  Well, that’s going to be a bitch to deal with,” she remarked casually, watching the line of oil running from the bottom of his tunic, down his thigh and into his boot.  “You will remember to deal with that before coming home, won’t you?  I’ve already had to clean up after a near riot by Birds and Ryngers at the Front Desk today, I am in no mood to clean our quarters too.”
 
“Of course, my little Hawk.” Kael shook his head, smiling slightly. “I love you.”
 
“I know.” Green flicked her finger near his nose, making him jerk his head backwards. “By the gods, you’re lucky I love you.”
 
Kael dropped his gaze to the puddle being formed by the punctured container in her hand. “Yeah.  Lucky.”
 
She looked at him through her lashes. “If I didn’t, I would have told Kyros you were the one who blabbed to the Commanders instead of letting him think you were only responsible for the Ryngers finding out.”
 
“I did not-”
 
“You didn’t?  You didn’t speak to Vo last night after we got home?  Was I imagining that phone call?  Huh.” Green placed a fingertip to her chin. “Then there would be absolutely no reason for me not to mention that phone call to Kyros.”
 
“As I was saying.  I did not blab to the Commanders.  I may have mentioned it in passing while on the phone to an old friend, however.” Kael lifted his nose in mock-haughtiness.  “I was proud of my wonderful, sweet, devious Mate.  I do not believe Kyros needs to hear about a conversation I had with a friend where I expounded the virtues of the one true love of my life.” He lifted his mouth in a half smile. “Although I’m sure he would just love to hear how Wakahisa-san sent a detailed explanation of the PFD.  In Japanese.  And, apparently, at your request.  Which is rather odd, when you think about it.  Why would you ask Wakahisa-san to send an explanation of something you didn’t even know he would send in the first place?  After all, the PFD was supposed to be a gift.  A spur of the moment gift.  Something he just happened to ‘find’.  Something I do believe was delivered, not by conventional means, but by three of your brothers... Who spent last night in our quarters talking about how much fun it would be if they were to turn up at the Front Desk one day all dressed as Vaztal...”
 
Green stared up at him, chewing on her bottom lip.  Suddenly she smiled brilliantly.  “Love you, see you at home.  Don’t be too late!”
 
Kael grimaced as he just managed to catch the oil container – after it had bounced off his stomach.  Closing his eyes, he flicked the fingers of the hand that caught it just at the point of its’ stab wound, spraying tendrils of the lubricant to join their brothers already on the floor.  “Yeah.  I will do my best...” he called to her rapidly retreating back. “Love you too.”
 

***

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Join date : 2012-10-02

PostSubject: Re: Payback's a....    Fri 8 Nov - 20:44:02

Kael leant against the wall and removed his shoes.
 
Not his boots.  Shoes.  His boots were in his locker in the hangar, one stuffed with paper towel in an attempt to soak up the oil.  His spare pair were in the crook of his arm, his uniform thrown over his shoulder, oil stain carefully tucked in so it wouldn’t transfer to his clothes.
 
He made a mental note to run another set of spare clothes down to the hangar in the morning before his Security shift on the Front Desk.
 
Sighing, knowing the time, he wondered if his Midori had left him dinner or if he had to grab a quick bite before heading to bed.
 
He was rather ravenous.  Scrubbing oil out of places it should not be had that effect on him.
 
Palming the door open, he was surprised to find the lights still on.  Even more surprised when the blonde head of his Mate popped up as she sat up on the couch.
 
“Still awake?” Kael murmured, placing both shoes and boots on the rack by the door.
 
“I was napping,” Green answered, stretching, the blue sleeves of her sleeping yukata slipping down and revealing her shapely arms.  “Hungry?” she asked, suddenly standing up.
 
“Starving.” Here it comes, Kael thought to himself, It will be ‘then make something, I’m going to bed’.
 
“Dinner’s in the oven.” She stood on her toes for a kiss. “Ton’el and those sauced pork strips you like so much.”
 
Kael blinked as Green pulled two plates from the cupboard. “You waited for me?”
 
“Uh huh.” She pressed the button on the kettle.  Smiling slightly, she added, “it’s not like I have to get up in the morning.”
 
“Which one of you came up with the shift idea?” Kael asked, leaning on the counter and crossing his arms.
 
“Kyros.  He said that he realised a lot of Birds and Ryngers consider Front Desk duty as a bit of a joke because they only see the cosplayers when they walk through.  They don’t see what else the Front Desk teams have to deal with on a daily basis, nor do they understand why the rules are as tight as they are.”
 
“Wow.  Kyros said that?”
 
“I know, right?  Shocked me too.” Green shook her head as she carefully transferred the ton’el to the tray. “All I really wanted him to get was how annoying it was for us when we have to call someone down to collect one of their people so maybe he wouldn’t rip our heads off quite so much when we have to ask him to.”
 
“I think we can safely say that will not be happening quite so often anymore.”
 
“Well... if he gets what he wants, you lot will use your own entrance a lot more too, so...” She grinned up at him. “Win-win.”
 
“I am not so sure of that happening, my love.” Kael picked up the tray. “Many of our single Brethren quite enjoy the reaction they get when they walk through in their uniforms.”
 
She laughed. “We’ll see how much they enjoy it after they’ve endured six whole hours of those reactions, Ka-chan.  Why do you think I wanted you to go first?  In a couple of days, it will be common knowledge that a Rynger is regularly stationed in the public area of the base and we’ll be overrun with groupies trying to catch the eye of a Rynger Red.”
 
“Oh.” Kael watched her fold down into a kneel and then he passed over her chopsticks.  “Did you tell Kyros that?”
 
“Um... let’s call it a nice side effect to what he already wants to do.” She shrugged. “It might work, it might not.  Only time will tell.”
 
“Who came up with the march into town?” Kael dipped some bread into his ton’el and swished it around to coat it with the thick soup.
 
“Kyros again.” She widened her eyes in mock-surprise. “Who knew the man had a heart?”
 
“... I do not follow your train of thought.”
 
“Mr Oros came in.  Kyros... found his story to be rather, well, sad, I guess.  After Mr Oros daughter picked him up, he started asking questions... I told him how Mr Oros’ wife died in the same attack that killed Jenny and Peter and how he had a nervous breakdown afterwards...”
 
“And how he does not seem to know who you are, but always turns up when you are rostered for the Front Desk...?”
 
“Yeah, that too.  Kyros thinks he does recognise me but can’t remember that it’s from the memorial services...  Same conclusion Carol Hua’s come to, that he comes because of our shared... um... grief.”
 
“He knows you understand even if he does not understand why.”
 
“Yeah.”
 
“It was a nice touch, I thought - that Kyros knew Mr Oros does not like men in uniform.” Kael peeked up at her as he chewed a bite out of a pork strip.
 
“It came up...” Green let out a long breath. “And Kyros even said that if a bunch of Security guys had to hold him down to be sedated after hearing about his wife’s death... he’d be wary of them too.  Told you – who knew the man had a heart?”
 
“Well, a few Ryngers will have to be forgiven if they doubt that after tonight...”
 
“Yourself included?” Green wrinkled her nose at him.
 
“...Actually, no.  I deserve to do the shift after I... ah... let it slip... Kyros would be on Front Desk duty.  However,” he sent a level gaze her way. “I told Vo last night.  And I have to say... he was not surprised.  He did not even pretend to be.”
 
“Oh.  Really?” She became very interested in getting just the perfect amount of soup on her bread.
 
“That was pretty much his reaction too.  And then, of course, I heard Maddy turned up in Thunderbird’s template.  Little Lija is very good, I will admit, so I would not be surprised if it did not take her very long to do the swap.  However,” he added heavily. “Graham made his costume by hand, as did Sarah, Lukas and Hugh.  Thunderbird had to source his... and both Thane and Vo had to find Ryngers of their size.  Down to their boots.”
 
“Uh huh.”
 
“And Thane also visited the prosthetics department.  Oh, and Sarah had to make and package her cookies.”
 
“They certainly did throw themselves into the spirit, didn’t they?”
 
“Very much so.  So much so, in fact, I would not be surprised if they required yesterday afternoon for their preparations as well.”
 
“...Or stayed up late doing them...?” Green countered, still refusing to meet his gaze.
 
“Hmmm.  There is that possibility, I suppose.  Unless you add in Lukas and Hugh’s involvement.  Vo would have told Maddy.  Maddy may have told Sarah who then told Prime Team.  Thunderbird could have heard from either Thane or Alex... but Lukas and Hugh...”
 
“Could have been told by Lija!  After all, she had to know, right?” She grinned at him.
 
“Yes... I had forgotten that connection.  Possibly because I know you all too well.” Kael bumped her with his leg under the table. “I know it was you who told them.”
 
“...You can’t prove that.”
 
“I... do not really need to.  It is just a simple piece of information that anyone who knows you will believe.  Like Kyros, for example.” Kael smirked.  “And perhaps, depending on what punishment Kyros comes up with for me telling Vo about his stint on Front Desk, it is one I may keep to myself for a while.  To be used at another time.”
 
“Kyros promised me that tonight would be the end of it.  After all, it was just a prank that got a little out of control, wasn’t it?  You and Furel got punished for blabbing, and the Ryngers got punished for playing games.” She shrugged. “It’s done with. Why did you take so long to clean up the oil, anyway?  Kyros told me the hangar floor was sealed.  It should have only taken you an hour or so.”
 
“And leave my Rynger Brother to struggle with the door on his own?” Kael inflated. “That would not be very Brotherly of me, would it?”
 
“Well, I hope he appreciated it.” She looked up at him through her lashes. “Since he was the one who told the Ryngers Kyros was on the Front Desk and you didn’t.”
 
“Well... ah... How did you know?”
 
“Because you’re not the only one who knows their Mate.” Green tried a sweet, charming smile at him over her plate.
 
“How did you really know?”
 
“Fine.” She rolled her eyes. “I took you off to the Tea House for lunch straight after, remember?  Lee messaged me while we were there, asking if it were true.  You didn’t have time to tell anyone else, but you didn’t have to... because Furel was there too.”
 
Kael nodded. “So, what you are telling me is.... I was punished for other people.  After all, we have already established you told the Commanders and Hugh and Lukas, and Furel told the Ryngers.  I was an innocent in all this and you set me up to take the fall with Kyros.” He pointed a finger at her. “You owe me, my love.”
 
“Huh.  You really think so?” Green slapped his hand away as he reached for a piece of her pork. “Let’s talk about who owes what to whom, shall we?” She studied her fingernails. “After all, it was me who made Kyros promise that tonight would be the end of it.  Made him swear it as a Rynger no less.  Which.... made him rather peeved afterwards when he found out that someone had ordered the transport ship with the new Rynger IDs to be delayed by a day.  Someone with the authority to do so.  Now... remind me who is the only one besides Kyros himself who can do that again?”
 
“Ahh... Um...”
 
“Something like that goes beyond a little pranking, doesn’t it?” She waved a hand. “Or so Kyros said, anyway.  But, he agreed to stick to his promise that tonight would be the end of it.” She leaned across the table a little. “And I never told the Commanders.”
 
“But Hugh and Lukas probably did.”
 
“Or Lee could have told Maddy – or Lija, for that matter, since she’s a known prankster and Maddy did use her skills.  Or, perhaps, one of the Ryngers told any number of people who then passed it on until it reached the Commanders.  Cristina knew before I told her... You know what this place is like.  Stuff you need to know you’ll find out too late, stuff you don’t... flies around as if it has Wings.”  Green smiled at him. “But one thing is a definite.  You owe me or you would have had to do a lot more than mop up some oil.”
 
“And clean my boots.”
 
“You have spares.”
 
“And my uniform.”
 
“Got plenty of those too.”
 
“And stand a shift at the Front Desk.”
 
“The first one so you don’t get mobbed by groupies.”
 
Kael stared at her, chewing the inside of his cheek. “Midori.  You waited up for me.  You cooked for me.  You even cooked my favourite food.  You are feeling guilty about something, do not try to deny it.”
 
“Nope, no guilt.” She took a sip of her tea. “I cooked because I was going to wait up for you anyway since I don’t have to work tomorrow and I chose these dishes because it was going to be late so you wouldn’t want anything heavier.  I feel no guilt about anything.” She grinned. “Personally, I think today was a wonderful day that has topped off a wonderful couple of weeks.  Your Blackbird plane is almost finished, Ryngers are about to discover why we want them using their own entrance, Mr Oros spent the night knowing we do truly care, and Kyros may possibly not rip as many heads off when we call him down to deal with his people.  I think it’s been a rather successful exercise all around, don’t you?”
 
“Says she who has tomorrow off because of it.”
 
“Minor detail,” Green said dismissively before looking up at him calculating. “Or... you could consider it a day for your Mate to ponder how exactly she is to repay you for your aid in pulling it all off...” She snorted. “And Thunderbird says Kyros and I should have a Geneva Convention against us ever teaming up.”
 
*****
 
“You have your instructions, please make sure you adhere to them over the next few days.” Harrison sat back. “Thank you for your time, you may go.”
 
“So... sir,” Thane said, his frown deepening almost to a scowl. “Are you going to give us a reason for your instructions...?”
 
“Ah.  No.  You’ll find out for yourselves soon enough.  Do close the door behind you, please, Thane.  I don’t like watching transformations, they make me feel... odd.”
 
“Yes, sir...”
 
“Why does he want us to be in full uniform at all times while in the Command Suite?” Sarah asked as they filed out. “He’s never insisted on that before.”
 
“He probably has some visitors coming through later, Sarah,” Maddy murmured, bringing her communicator in line with her implant. “He obviously wants to impress someone.”
 
“Personally I don’t like the sound of ‘leave your office doors open and do not leave the Command Suite without my permission’,” Thunderbird muttered.  “That had the definite ring of something up.”
 
“I wonder where Lee is...” Maddy said musingly, eyeing the empty desk.
 
“Ladies, gentlemen, come through, come through.” Kyros waved the throng of cosplayers into the Command Suite. “Remember what we talked about downstairs.  No inappropriate touching, bumping or grinding. Yes, Ms BlackCat, I am looking at you.”
 
“...Ah, Kyros...?” Maddy stood up.
 
“Yes, Mad – Mynah?  Just a moment.” Kyros tossed a smirk at her over his shoulder. “Here we have the Command Suite where we should find all the Wing Commanders hard at work.  You can see Mynah has turned up today, she runs quite a tight ship, so please do not bother her assistants or it will not go well for you.  I’ll hand you over to my esteemed colleague now for a more detailed explanation of what goes on up here as I believe my presence is required.  Green Hawk, if you would?”
 
“Of course, Kyros.”
 
“What are you doing?” Maddy hissed as Green launched into a spiel, pointing out items and people of interest.
 
“Right now?  Talking to you even though I should be conducting a tour.”
 
“Yes, I can see the tour.  But why?”
 
“Because I thought it was an excellent idea,” Harrison said, dropping a couple of files onto her desk. “You will deal with those immediately, won’t you?  We have guests who aren’t exactly... cleared... to see them.”
 
Maddy’s eyes widened as a camera crew staggered through the door, led by a cheerful Graham in full uniform.
 
“Oh, thank you, Albatross, I see you managed to get them up here, safe and sound.” Kyros beamed at them. “I hope you don’t mind that we started without you, but you’ll have plenty of time to get all the footage you could possibly want.”
 
“Maddy, the files?” Harrison murmured, smiling.
 
“Sorry?  Oh! Yes, sir.”
 
“Now, if I can have very nice straight line, please,” Green called.  She waited, tapping her foot.
 
Line now!” she bellowed, her knives flashing under the fluorescent lighting. “I chop knees off last person ready, understand?”
 
“Graphic, but brutally effective.” Kyros covered his grin with a hand as the cosplayers rushed to comply. “We’ll talk about the grammar later.  Where shall we go first?”
 
“Tunderbird,” Green answered decisively.  “This way.  Stay in line.  No touch stuff.  Tunderbird don’t like us touch stuff and he is not friendly man.”
 
“’Tunderbird’?”
 
“The th sound is difficult for Japanese speakers, Maddy.  By rights, Green would have difficulty with his name.” Harrison smiled at the loud exclamation from Thunderbird’s office.
 
“Harrison!” The man himself pushed through the people still waiting in line. “Why is there a...a... tour group in my office?”
 
“I’m glad you asked that, Commander.” Harrison rubbed his hands together. “Those people happen to be the very same people who were... shall we say inconvenienced?  Inconvenienced the other day when the Front Desk was inexplicably shut down for several hours.  Since they lost out on their usual entertainment, Kyros and I thought we would make it up to them with a special tour.  To apologise.”
 
“And was the film crew ‘inconvenienced’ as well?” Thunderbird demanded.
 
“Uh, no.  However, Kyros suggested it would be great PR if we were to invite them along for the insider’s perspective, so to speak.” Harrison waved him off. “Back to your desk now.  Our guests can’t see you at work if you’re not actually working, can they?”
 
“Like hell-”
 
“That’s an order, Thunderbird.” He glared at the riled Commander. “Do not push it or you’ll be cleaning the Front Desk after close for a month.  On your own.”
 
Thunderbird’s jaw clenched and, without a word, he whirled and strode to his office.
 
“Yay!  Look, Commander Tunderbird come back!” Green clapped her hands. “Sit, Tunderbird, sit!  Many want photos with great Commander!”
 
“Green, I’m going to kick your arse for this,” Thunderbird spat in Japanese as he sat down.
 
“If only you could,” she answered, beaming broadly. “All this means is that maybe you’ll actually try on Friday.”
 
“To the wall, kid.  To.  The.  Wall.” He considered it for a second. “Black needs cleaning inside and out. By hand.  You’ll deal with that, won’t you?”
 
Green covered her mouth and giggled. “Where do you think Lukas and Hugh are right now?” Leaning over the desk, she adjusted his wings. “The next time you mess with my Front Desk, Commander, it’ll be your body parts they’ll be cleaning out of Black’s upholstery.  Got me?”
 
She stood up and switched back to English. “Now, who first, give me camera.  Hey!  No push, no shove, we have lot of time with Tunderbird, no rush!”
 
***
 
“Thank you, sir.  This has been fantastic!  To have had such unprecedented access to yourself and the Wing Commanders has just been amazing.”
 
“You’re very welcome, Victoria.” Harrison shook the reporter’s hand. “But it’s not over just yet.  Kan, Mynah, would you take our special guests down to IT Information?  They know you’re coming.”
 
The last was said as reassurance. ‘IT Information’ was the code name for Intel.
 
“Yes, sir,” both of them sighed.
 
“And after that, over to the gym for a game of Pin the Wing on the Lammergeier.” Harrison smiled somewhat evilly. Winking, he whispered, “You didn’t think Alex had gotten off scot free, did you?”
 
He reached out and snagged Green’s wing as she tried to flit past, her part done.
 
“Not so fast, young lady.  I still have a job for you.”
 
“Sir?” Green felt more than saw Kyros come up behind her.
 
“Victoria, given we have opened more of the base to you and your crew than we usually do, how about something a little special to round out the day for you?  How does an interview with the notoriously media shy Green Hawk sound?”
 
“Oh, no.  No, no, no.” Green stared up at him. “I don’t do interviews,” she hissed.
 
“But, my dear Green Hawk!” Kyros clasped a firm hand to her shoulder. “Today was all because of you and you should be acknowledged for it!”
 
“Exactly.” Harrison grinned down at her. “Your involvement in this definitely needs to be...ah... celebrated.”
 
“But...” She blinked. “My English no good!” She smirked, fluttering her lashes.
 
“That’s quite alright.  We have made arrangements.  You do know Emiko, don’t you?” Kyros waved his free hand at his door.  “She’s been waiting in my office for this moment.”
 
Emiko stepped out, her fingers busy signing her apologies and horror.
 
“Oh, um.... fuck.”
 
Looking to all the world as if he was just being encouraging, Kyros bent down and murmured, “You and Kael are good, I will admit that, but Matthew and I have been playing this game for a lot longer.  Did you honestly think I wouldn’t work it out eventually?”
 
“But, um...” Green shook her head. “It wasn’t like that!  Honest!”
 
“There are days when I’m shocked you don’t just burst into flames when you use that word, Green.” Kyros beamed at the world in general.  “However, it does give me the chance to prove, once again, why I am who I am.  You do know what they say about payback, don’t you?  It’s a-”
 

Bastard!

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