Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 2: Chapter 04

Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: “The Mexican, The Lawyer, And The Mechanic.”

Volume 2: “The Villains.”

Chapter 04: “Bikers, Babes, And Hoverbikes.”

By Paul Cousins.

Copyright Disclaimer: All copyrighted places, characters, items, and events, within the story, are held by their current owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.

(_)

Reality, unknown, those on a modern Earth. Date, sometime in the very early twenty-first century. Place, somewhere in the United States, in a hotel, during a sci-fi convention. Time, mid morning.

It was the middle of the morning at the hotel that was hosting a sci-fi convention.

The sci-fi convention was full swing, while in the hotel restaurant, Fabiola, Leigharch, Matthew, Pedro, and Matt, were sitting around a table, as they finished the breakfast they had eaten.

They were all dressed in their usual, casual clothing.

The last few months had been interesting for this group of five adult badasses. With their ups, downs, and close calls. But, they were always about to get away, just in time.

And they finally were able to achieve some downtime, and they were using this time to help two members of their team. Matt and Leigharch.

The group of five were were in this reality, at this sci-fi convention, for very specific reasons. They had come to the convention, to purchase a copy of the first sixty-five episodes of the Gargoyles animated series, and the first three seasons of the Black Lagoon animated series. So, Matt and Leigharch could see their own series.

Fortunately, due to selling some gold, Pedro had enough money to rent five rooms for a few nights, along with their meals, and other items.

At they sat around the table, Fabiola asked, “So, are you guys ready to do this?”

Leigharch replied, “Of course.”

Matt replied, “Sure. Though, from the size of the series, it is going to take at least a couple of day, or so, to watch it.”

Matthew commented, “Don't worry, we will wait for you.”

Pedro inquired, “Are your copies and video equipment already in your rooms? Hooked up, and ready to play?”

Leigharch said, “Yea.”

Matt answered, “Yes.”

Pedro mentioned, “Good. I even arranged so you can order in, when you are hungry. We will meet back here for breakfast at nine. Lunch at noon. And dinner at six. So, when you get finished. Just meet back here, to find us. And don't worry about what we will be doing. We will be enjoying the convention.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he thought, 'Yea. Pedro is a fanboy, And he is likely enjoying being here. Though so am I.' He turned to look at Fabiola, as he continued his thoughts, 'And while Fabiola prefers to hide it. I can tell that she is as much a fangirl, as I and Pedro, are fan boys.'

Leigharch said, “I got it.”

Matt replied, “Okay. I understand.” Matt turned to Fabiola, as he asked, “So, what are you going to do? I have a feeling this isn't your scene.”

Fabiola looked over at Matt, as she said, “Not usually. But, among us, I am likely going the get most out of this convention. I am going to in enter the cosplay contest, as myself.”

Matthew pointed out, “Just don't be upset if you lose. Keep in mind, those that have seen the series, saw you as a teenager, not an adult. You might lose for being an adult, and not your younger self.”

Fabiola replied, in a halfhearted tone of voice, “I didn't think of that.”

Matt suggested, “Actually, now that I think about it. You will be fine. Just dress in a maids outfit, that can still show your figure, while remaining tasteful. And do some gymnastics. With your boyshorts on. So, there is no accident peepshows. As long as you keep your footing, you will get first place.”

Fabiola said, “Thanks. I think I will do that. Also, keep in mind that watching your series can mentally mess you up. I have seen that first hand.”

Leigharch inquired, “How bad could it be?”

Fabiola stated, “I was present when Garcia and Roberta watched our series. I handled watching the series well. Though, they didn't. And I had to deal with the fallout of helping Annie, after she watched all six Star Wars movies.”

Matt inquired, “How did Annie take it? I can only imagine her anger.”

Fabiola responded, “Quite the opposite, She completely broke down into tears. I had to do a lot of hugging, and verbal comforting, to help calm her down enough, to stop crying.” She thought, 'As you will find out, when you read book two of Lee's stories.'

Matt said, “I can see that. And not because of the gender bending.”

Fabiola stated, “I am glad you realize that.”

Leigharch questioned, “Speaking of Annie. Didn't you guys say that only the prequel trilogy happened to her? Not the original trilogy?”

Fabiola turned to Leigharch, as she commented, “Yes. But, she saw what would have happened, if she had not been taken. And she didn't take that news very well. Mainly because she found out she would never make up for what she did.”

Leigharch replied, “Yea. That could do it.”

Fabiola agreed, “Uh huh. It took a few hours for me to calm her down. And that is a good lesson of how seeing yourself from a different point of view can mess with your head.”

Matt stated, “I will keep that in mind. I doubt I have much to worry about. Not a lot happened to me.”

Fabiola turned to Matt. She shrugged, as she replied, “You are right about that.”

Leigharch commented, “And from what you all told me. I was just a bit character anyway.”

Pedro stated, “We prefer the term, dark horse. While you did not get much screen time, you were very memorable.”

Leigharch turned to Pedro. He smiled, as he replied, “Thank you. Then, I look forward to seeing myself.”

Matthew looked at Leigharch, as he said, “You will probably get a laugh out of seeing yourself, completely out of it, while having the time of your life.” He turned to Matt, as he commented, “And you will likely gain greater insight into your friends and foes.”

Matt turned to Matthew, as he said, “That is what I hope to learn.” Matt got out of his chair, as he stated, “Well, I guess I better get going.”

Leigharch got up from his chair, as he said, “Same here. No time like the present.”

Pedro commented, “I will take care of the bill and tip.”

Leigharch said, “Thank you.”

Matt replied, “I appreciate it.”

Fabiola stated, “Well, have fun. Or, lack there of. We will talk about it, when you two get finished.”

Matt said, “I look forward to.”

Leigharch commented, “I always enjoy talking about so topic. See you.”

Matt and Leigharch turned and headed out of the restaurant, and for their own suites. While Pedro, Matthew, and Fabiola, had fun at the convention.

(_)

Around five minutes later, Matt used his key card to open his door to his suite. He then entered his suite.

He closed the door behind him, and he put away his key card. The curtains to the window were closed, so there was no other light than from room, except for what escaped around the edges of the curtains. Still, that was enough light to make it to his bed, where he turned on the electric lamp on the nightstand by his bed.

Matt then turned to his chest of draws. On top of it was a flat screen TV, which a blu-ray player hook to it. And by the blu-ray player was a few boxes of DVDs of the first two seasons of Gargoyles.

Matt continue to look at those items, as he thought, 'I might as well get this done. Leigharch is doing the same thing in his room, right now. '

'Still, we could not find the comics here. At least, watching the series will help a lot. Since season three didn't happen to me. There is no point in seeing it. Besides, I barely have the time to watch what I do have. And the reason we didn't get Leigharch the Black Lagoon manga is because he is not that big a reader. And those manga volumes take a while to read.'

'Now, watching this series could be interesting for me.'

Matt then walked over, turned on the TV and blu-ray play. Opened the boxes, and put in the first disc of the Gargoyles series. He then closed the disc tray. Next, he picked up both the blu-ray and tv remotes, as he turned he walked back over to see on his bed.

As he sat down on the foot of his bed, the disc loads.

A few minutes later, Matt selected through the disc options, as he started watching the five part Awakening pilot of the series.

After Matt finished the five part series, he thought, 'That was pretty good. And that explains how they ended up in New York City.'

A few episodes later he reached the Deadly Force episode. After watching it, he thought, 'So, that is how Broadway accidentally shot Elisa. That explains a lot.'

A couple of episodes later, he reached, the episode, The Edge, which introduced him in the series.

As Matt watched his younger self on screen, he thought, 'Was I ever that young?' At the end of the episode, he thought, 'I really should not have been surprised that David stole the Eye of Odin back from the city. That is very Machiavellian of him.'

When he reached the episode, Metamorphosis, he mentally grumbled, 'David Xanatos can be a real SOB for doing that to Derek, Maggie, Claw, and even Fang.'

As he watched the episode, The Mirror, he thought, 'So, the entire city turning into Gargoyles, myself included, was not my imagination. Also, what Puck did to Demona was funny, and poetic. To bad it didn't temper her hatred of humanity.'

'Still, back then, we all noticed that Elisa and Goliath did have feeling for each others. I am glad they finally admitted to each other, years ago.'

While he watched the episode, Eye Of The Beholder, playfully thought, 'Oh, the teasing I am going to give Elisa for that princess costume, she wore. And she certainly looks nice in it. Though, I am going to first have to figure out an excuse on how I know she has that costume. Maybe, I will just say I saw an old photo, of her in that costume, with her dancing with Goliath, that someone let me see. That might work. They did dance out in public, on the street. And it is partly true.'

After watching the next episode, Vows, he thought, 'David really does take time travel to the extreme. Still, that ending makes me wonder. With the past Goliath splitting the Phoenix Gate medallion in half, and giving it to Demona, with the scene panning to show the clock toward. I wonder, was that just either the symbolism of time they spent with each other? Or, was it an animation error? I will ask Pedro, later. Either way, it was a nice way to end the episode.'

Matt looked at the clock in his room, and he saw that it was well passed lunch time.

Matt paused the series, as he thought, 'Well, I am kind of hungry. Now, to get something to eat.'

Matt then used the phone in his room to order in some food, and drinks.

After which, Matt resumed watching the Gargoyles series.

Half an hour later, the food and drink order was delivered to his suite.

A little while later, after the bellhop had come to take the food cart back, Matt finished the four part City of Stone episodes, he thought, 'Okay. I will admit it. Demona is one messed up woman. Though, she is also coldblooded to murder all those people she turned to stone.'

After he finished watching the episode, Highnoon, 'Okay. So Elisa, that was went you learned that Demona turned human during the day. At least you told us, soon after.'

When Matt each the episode, Revelations, which dealt with his meeting with Mace Malone, and his former FBI partner, Martin Hacker, he thought, 'Well, that does answer a few more questions I had on that matter. But, not many.'

Then, he watched the episode, Double Jeopardy. He thought, 'Well, that explains the background on how Thailog came to be. And this is one of the few times that David is willing to admit he made a mistake.'

After a few more episodes, he reached the Avalon episode trilogy, he mentally reflected, 'I have to admit that the Archmage was pretty clever to figure out how to bend the rules, instead of break them. And those episodes explain how Angela and her siblings ended up on Avalon. I wonder what happened to Tom's mother, Mary? Still, that is a mystery for another time.'

When it was supper time, Matt ordered in, as he continued to watch the series.

By the time Matt made it half way through the Avalon tour, it had gotten late, and Matt turned in for the night.

The next morning, after Matt got cleaned up, and had some breakfast, which he had ordered in, he soon resumed watched the Gargoyles series.

By the time he reached the two part Gathering episode, it was the middle of the afternoon, and he ordered in some lunch.

By the time he had finished the Gathering episodes, his lunch order had arrived.

As Matt ate lunch, while he watched the beginning of the next episode, Vendettas, he thought, 'While I did find out Puck was Owen, a few years later, it was clear the rest of them, including Elisa knew, much earlier. Not that I am going to hold it over them. Considering, I now know about this series. And I am watching it. Still, I do find that slightly annoying.'

'Though, now I know the events surrounding Alex's birth, and the reasons behind David eventually offering Goliath and his clan to move back into Castle Wyvern, and why Goliath eventually accepted.'

'Still, my one question is on those events is. Where did they get that harpoon-gun from? Was that David's order his father's harpoon-gun? Petros Xanatos' harpoon-gun? It is likely Petros' weapon, considering David likes to think of himself as high class. And he would probably consider such a weapon would be a little lowbrow for himself. Still, if it is Petros' harpoon-gun. When did he bring it with him?... Hmm... A question for another time.'

At the end of the Vendettas episode, he saw Vinnie give Golaith a cream pie to his face, he thought, 'Okay. That was funny. And the icing on the cake was that the guy got away with it.'

When Matt finished watched the episode Reckoning, he though, 'When I found about about Dililah, I was shocked that someone was cross the DNA of Elisa with Demona. Though, I have nothing against Dililah herself. She is a nice woman. And I wish her and the other clones, except for Thailog, the best. Still, I find what Thailog did in creating Dililah, to be disgusting, and a major violation, in so many areas.'

Soon after, Matt reached the series finale. The Hunter's Moon trilogy.

As the video stopped playing, and Matt finished watched the series, he thought, 'Well, that kiss at the end was nice touch. And all in all, that was a good series. I can see why the others are fans of this series. And I now have a lot of questions answered. Still, that series was just an appetizer to what happened over the next thirteen years.'

'Perhaps, I will tell the others about some of what happened over those years. But, that is for later. And now that I am done, I need to know what time it is?'

Matt looked over at the clock to see that it was six PM on the dot.

Matt happily continued his thoughts, 'And just in time to meet up with the others, for dinner. At least the Black Lagoon series is far shorter than my series. So, I know I am the only one holding things up. As such, I better head down there, and meet with them.'

Matt then got up, turned off everything in his room, and then left his suite, for the restaurant.

(_)

A few minutes later, Matt made it to the restaurant, and he immediately saw Pedro, Fabiola, Matthew, and Leigharch, sitting in the same table he had left them, a day ago.

All of them were dressed in their casual clothing.

As Matt approached them, they turned to look at him.

Pedro said, in a kind tone of voice, “Welcome back, Matt. How was your viewing experience?”

By then, Matt had reached the table. As he sat down in an empty chair, he answered, “Splendid. There is much I want to talk about.”

Pedro responded, “Well, I am sure we all look forward to answering your questions.”

Matthew mentioned, “Also, you are just in time. We haven't even ordered our drinks, yet.”

Matt replied, “Good.”

Leigharch said, “Still, we were wondering when you would get finished.”

Matt responded, “Well, I am done. Thought, before we talk about this. I do have a question, for Fabiola.” He turned to looked at Fabiola, as he asked, “So, how was your contest Fabiola?”

Fabiola warmly smiled at Matt, as she answered, in a cheerful tone of voice, “The cosplay contest went great, last night. I did what you suggested, with the maid's outfit, and gymnastics. I made first place.”

Matt said, in a happy tone of voice, “Congratulations.”

Fabiola maintained her smile, as she replied, “Thank you.”

Matt turned to Pedro, as he inquired, “I have a question about my series, Pedro. It is the clock tower background at the end of the episode, Vows? Is there an animation error? Or, symbolism?”

Pedro stated, “From what I read, it was an animation error. Though, it could have been symbolism. I am not really sure, myself.”

Matt replied, “That is okay.”

Fabiola asked, “So, what part of that series did you like the most?”

Matt answered, “The part where I didn't get my ass handed to me all the time. At lot happened, and concerning a lot of it, I am grateful that I was not a part of what happened, most of it.”

Fabiola commented, “I can appreciate that.”

Matthew asked, “So, what happened to you, after the series ended?”

Matt stated, “Quite a bit. To the point it makes what happened during the series look like an appetizer.”

Matthew said, “You will have to tell us about it, sometime.”

Matt replied, “Oh. I will. But, not tonight. Besides, I have questions of my own, for Leigharch.” He looked over at Leigharch, as he inquired, “How did you handle watching your series?”

Leigharch stated, “I was perfectly fine watching my series. Except for Shenhua, I didn't really have any emotion invested in any of those people the series showed. And Shenhua is just a friend. Still, I found it touching that Shenhua mentioned me, during that siege of Lagoon HQ. That woman really does have a nice side for her friends.”

Pedro commented, “No arguments that. Besides Fabiola here, she is one of the nicer Lagoon women we personally know.”

Fabiola looked over at Pedro, as she kindly replied, “Thank you.”

Pedro turned to Fabiola, as he said, “You're welcome.”

Leigharch stated, “And like you pointed out in your own series, Matt. A lot of shit went down in my own series. And I am happy I wasn't there for it.”

Matt agreed, “You are preaching to the choir.”

Fabiola said, “I had to agree with you on that, as well.”

Pedro thought, 'I find it interesting that these three people have the same reaction. That as the side characters, and bit players, they are happy they were no part of the main events. For the most part. It shows a sign of maturity on their part that they understand there is a difference between watching a work of fiction, that has a lot of danger in it, and being a part of those dangerous situations.'

Leigharch stated, “Though, just one thing. When I finished my series, this morning. And yes. It was a bit weird watching myself.”

Fabiola commented, “It is for everyone.”

Leigharch said, “Anyway, since my native language is english, I watched the anime in english. And Pedro was right. The english track is very good. Though, I don't have as bad an accent as the guy who voiced me on that series?”

Pedro joked, “Actually, yours is worse.”

Except for Leigharch, There was some mild laughter from the rest of the group, for a few seconds.

Leigharch ignored their laughter, as he said, “Also, while I was watching that Black Lagoon series, I was so happy I made it a habit of not working in Roanapur, most of the time.”

As everyone calmed down, Fabiola said, “I can sympathize.”

Leigharch mentioned, “And from the series, and what I have seen you have done, first hand. I can see the transition on how dangerous you have become.”

Fabiola commented, “I will take that as a compliment.”

Leigharch replied, “Please, do.”

Matthew turned to Leigharch, as he asked, “By the way, what did you usually do for Chang?”

Leigharch coyly answered, “In a few ways, I was his errand boy. I would go in and out of the various cities. Taking packages, and picking up people. And going where I was told to go.”

Pedro commented, “That makes sense.”

Leigharch replied, “Yea. And the pay was okay.”

Matt asked, “So, where are we going to go next?”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he answered, “Wherever our imagination takes us.”

Fabiola commented, “Corny. But, true.”

The group lightly laughed for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, the waitress came by and took their drink and meal orders. Soon after, they were eating dinner, as they continued their conversation well into the evening.

(_)

Reality, unknown. Date, unknown. Place, Gomez's office, on his spacestation. Time, morning, local time.

Except for a single lamp light on his desk, the Gomez's large office was dark.

Gomez sat behind his desk, with his back facing a window that showed the starry night sky.

Standing across the desk, from him, was his head of operations logistics and personnel, Nechla Geeze.

The two individuals were going over the last little details of Gomez's plan.

Gomez inquired, “How did things go at Chang's casino, last night?”

Nechla said, “While the mission, itself, was accomplished without a problem, by both the Xanatos family, and Takenaka, our contact, in the casino, later stated that casino security personnel found the electronic bugs less than a day later. Local time.”

Gomez commented, “Well, bugging the casino was a long shot. And that was only a secondary mission. And I am more concerned with the primary mission being able to move forward. Is that still the case?”

Nechla replied, “From what I have seen in our reports. So far. We are still a, go, with the primary mission.”

Gomez questioned, “And the trap has already been properly baited?”

Nechla stated, “Yes. Our prey should be arriving in the target zone, very soon. And from there, we will simply need to decide when to take our next course of action.”

Gomez commented, “Our next action will have to be soon after they arrive. But, not on the first day. That would be too soon. We want them to get comfortable. Then, we strike.”

Nechla said, “As soon as you decide when to act. I will see that your forces to take action.” She thought, 'And I will play along with you for a little while longer, Gomez. Then, when the time is right, I will have my revenge, for what that writer, put my people, and myself, through.'

Gomez stated, “I will have a time table for you, before then end of the day. Now, onto another matter. Recruitment of other alien species in our organization. How goes that end of your job.”

Nechla responded, “Unfortunately, I am still hitting the same road block. No many beings can handle learning the truth about humanity, human fiction, and the multiverse. Or, at least this branch of the multiverse. Even John has hit roadblock, in attempting to recruit some of the more mystical beings in the multiverse.”

Gomez commented, “Sadly, it seems that most aliens cannot handle learning they were created from the imaginations of a backwater world of primitives.”

Nechla said, “It took me a while to come to grips with the truth, myself. And it was not easy.”

Gomez stated, “It took us all some time. And since we come from the same reality, there is some commonality between us. Which I believed helped you deal with these issues.”

Nechla replied, “Yes. That did help.”

Gomez responded, “I know. And on this matter, I was surprised when I found that the Vulcans, of the Star Trek reality, seem to go insane the quickest.”

Nechla shrugged, as she joked, “Yes. For them, the logic did not compute.”

Gomez did not laugh at Nechla's joke. Instead, he calmly commented, “I should have never shown you the various Star Trek series and movies.”

Nechla responded, “I found it funny that another space federation exists in the multiverse. And that it is actually nicer than mine, even though it is run by humans.”

Gomez stated, “One of better traits that humanity has is they try to better themselves.”

Nechla replied, “That we agree on. Still, there are exceptions. Including, exceptions to Vulcans handling the truth.”

Gomez said, “Yes. Even among Vulcans, there are some that can handle the truth. Unfortunately, those individuals are of the mindset that precluded them from joining us.”

Nechla commented, “It does seems that the more independent minded can handle the truth better than most.”

Gomez stated, “And this is both a good thing. And a bad thing. It does allow us to have a pool of people to draw from, in missions. Though, these are the same types of people that usually make for poor rank and file personnel.”

Nechla commented, “There are ways around all problems. We just need to figure out those approaches.”

Gomez responded, “True. And I have seen first hand how brainwashing does not work. So, we will have to find another way. Though, that is for later. After we deal our targets. Then, we will be able to move on with our other plans.

The two individuals continued their conversation for another half hour, before Gomez dismissed Nechla, so she could carry out her duties, and her orders.

(_)

Reality, Pedro and Lee's home reality. Date, two days after the events with the Xanatos family. It was Thursday. Place, De La Plata Podrido, Mexican. Time, middle of the morning.

It was a cloudy, chilly, slightly windy morning, on the island of Plata Podrido.

In a deserted section of the island of Plata Podrido, a Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly appeared in the air, right over a dry, flat area of the beach dunes.

The space ship was then hovered around, to where the back faced into the shore. The ship then gently landed in the sand, with its landing gear.

Next, the ship immediately shimmered and cloaked from sight, and sensor instruments.

A minute later, the back cargo bay ramp of the space ship opened up to the beach sand below.

Suddenly, several hover-cycles, motorcycles, and a few trikes, three wheeled motorcycles, roared to life, down the ramp, and to the beach below.

The dozens of riders of these vehicles were made up of men and women, of various ages, and physical sizes.

The clothing the riders wore were a mix of nineteen eighties rock styles, clothing from a post-apocalyptic film, and standard black leather biker clothing.

All of the riders wore various types of helmets, and biker armor on their shoulders, elbows, and knees, as they headed into town.

(_)

Ten minutes later, in the middle of town, George Benedict was getting a late start to the day.

His alarm malfunctioned, and he had accidentally slept in a few hours. But after getting cleaned, dressed, and ready, he had a quick breakfast. And now, he was on the road in the car he rented, heading for the Devil's Hotel.

At the moment, George car was stopped at a red light, at an intersection.

As George waiting for the light to turn green, he saw a mix of a few trikes, along with dozens of motorcycles, and hover-cycles, driver passed him, down the perpendicular street he was facing.

George thought, 'What the hell?! Some of those are hover-cycles! No time to think! I need to get my camera!'

George immediately picked up his camera, which was laying on the front passengers seat. The camera had a regular lenses on it. Fortunately, years of experience allowed George to, within seconds, point and pull the lenses into proper focus on the bikers. And he was about to take a number of photos, in focus, of the later half of the biker gang.

A few seconds after all the bikers had passed by, the light turned green. But, George just sat there, while still in slight shock at what he had just scene.

George set his camera back down, beside him, as he thought, 'Along with the motorcycles, and trikes. Over a dozen of those vehicles were hover-cycles. While I have seen online videos of prototype hover-cycles, I have never seen them mass produced. And all of those vehicles seemed to be customized. Are they even of this world? Are those bikers even of this world?'

'Okay, this is getting to be Twilight Zone level weird. But, this story is far too big for me to drop now.'

'Still, they are heading heading for the casino. With that being the only logical place they could be heading in that direction. And as tempting as it is to follow them. I better not head to the casino, because they are going to stir up the casino security even more than has already been done over the course of the week.'

'Such as, while I am not sure what happened two nights ago. From those I spoke to yesterday, and the photos I took, it seems some major players came to town, to the casino, for the evening. Those I talked to gave no names, nor descriptions of whom they were.'

'At least I know what they look like. A woman with long orange hair, and teal tattoo over here right eye. A man with brown hair, a short ponytail, with a mustache and goatee. And their chauffeur, a smaller man, with long white hair, and pointed ears, that make him look like an elf.

'But, I can still photos of them entering the building, and I can confirm that something happened inside the casino, right after the entered that building.'

'Also, I heard that at the same time those three strange people entered the casino, some sort of dance incident happened at that Devil's Hotel restaurant. But, there is even less details on that event.'

'And after the robbery earlier this week, all this has set the casino management on edge.'

'So, it is better for me to just head out to stake out the Devil's Hotel, today. Because if I went to the casino, right now. Either the security would catch me, or those bikers might notice me.'

'There is a fine line between catching a story, and having the story catch you. And I realize that right now I am walking on the edge of that line.'

Suddenly, George heard a car honk right behind him.

George looked in the rearview mirrors, and he noticed a car right behind him. He thought, 'I guess, I better get moving.'

George then let go of the break pedal, and gently pushed down the gas pedal, making his car move forward, towards the parking lot across from the Devil's Hotel, for his morning stake out.

And while most of the bikers were heading to the Daiyu Palace Casino, not all of them were.

(_)

Across town, outside of the Devil's Hotel, the beach was mostly deserted, due to it still being the winter, and the off season.

And while the wet salty breeze had a cold bite to it, two figured where sparing with their weapons, near the shoreline.

Shenhua had her two kukris in her hands. Though, the hilts of her blades were not connected to the cords rapped around the bracers, on her forearms, under the loose sleeves of her clothing.

And the man she was sparing against was Barbossa, with his cutlass.

A few hours ago, after they had finished breakfast, they had come out to the beach to spar. Given that it was too cold for swimming and sunbathing, the deserted beach was perfect for training.

With wearing shoes on the sand forcing the combatants to focus on their balance, while sparring with each other.

The two of them had been sparing, for a few hours a day, for the last three days. Tuesday, they sparred in the afternoon. And yesterday, Wednesday, they had spared in the morning.

Fortunately, the cool weather did not both either of them.

Shenhua was dressed in her red qipao, under her white cloth jacket. And she wore her red, flat soled slippers.

Barbossa wore his, black leather biker clothing, black boots, and black newsboy cap.

And while Barbossa was showing how much more skilled at swordsmanship he was, than his student, Shenhua. Shenhua found Barbossa to being a firm, thought fair instructor.

Barbossa constantly gave Shenhua pointers, even while sparring, in what she should and show not be doing. With the pointers being polite comments, and not rude insults.

And to Barbossa delight, they could both tell that Shenhua was making progress. Bringing her already brilliant skills at swordsmanship up a number of notches.

Though, Shenhua was still nowhere near as good at Barbossa. But, she was slowly closing the gap between them.

While Shenhua sparred with Barbossa, her three children were being watched by their other two parents, Sawyer and Lotton.

Just then, they both stopped sparring, as they turned to look at the shoreline. Running across the water, twenty feet from them, were two bikers on hover-cycles, speeding by, at about around sixty miles an hour.

As they continued looking at the bikers riding by, Shenhua commented, “Not very subtle of them.”

Barbossa said, “Still, I won't mind learning to ride on of those things. It cannot be any harder than learning to ride a horse.”

Shenhua turned back to Barbossa, as she teased, “Well, that would explain your biker clothing.”

Barbossa looked back over at Shenhua, as he conceded, “True. I dress like this because my usual pirate clothing attracts too much attention. And I like this style of clothing. Plus, it seems that most people know to leave me alone, when I am wearing attire.”

Shenhua replied, “I can appreciate where you are coming from.”

Barbossa inquired, “So, my dear. Shall we start this from the top?”

Shenhua answered, “Of course.”

They then when back to sparring, with each other, some more, that morning.

(_)

Ten minutes later, on the other side of the island, the hover-cycles, motorcycles, and trikes came to a stop under the large, front awning of the Daiyu Palace Casino.

As the riders revved down their engines, with the hover-cycles sitting on the paved ground, the casino valet, all of whom were young adult women, turned to look at the riders.

On of the closest valets said, in english, “I apologize. But, we do not know how to drive your... vehicles.”

Nearby, one of the bikers, on a trike, a man, in a full black helmet over his head, with dark skin seen between his the cuffs of his loose sleeves, of his closed black leather duster, and his black leather gloves, turned to the women. He calmly stated, in english, “That is alright. We will park our own vehicles.”

The bikers then revved up their vehicles, and drove out from under the awning, as they look from parking spacing for their various types of vehicles.

(_)

At that moment, in the main casino security room, along with a few security personal, whom were sitting some workstations in the room, Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Jayne, were standing in back, as they watched the monitors on the wall that show cameras station outside the casino.

The four adults watched as the biker gang was looking for places to park their vehicles in the front of the casino parking lot.

Zoe commented, “And I thought Tuesday night was interesting.”

Mal stated, “I'll call, Chang.”

Jayne said, “I will round up the personal. We are going to need them.” He then pulled out how own cellphone, as he started call in security personnel from within the casino.

Wash complimented, “I will start praying.”

Zoe complimented, “Wise idea, Wash. It can't hurt. And at least the valets bought us some time.”

By then, Mal had already pulled out his cellphone, and he had already dialed Chang's cellphone.

As the held his phone to his right ear, he stated, “Let us hope that it iis enough time, to prepare.”

(_)

At that moment, in the casino penthouse, Chang had decided to take the morning off, to spend with River and Lee. The day before, he had finally caught up with work. And now, he felt he could take a little time off with his two lovers.

They were in their apartment living room, sitting on the couch, across from their TV. Chang was in the center cushion, River was to his left, and Lee was to his right.

All of them were dressed for the day, in their usual clothing. And they were watching TV, as they talked.

Suddenly, Chang cellphone started to ring.

Lee had the remote, and she immediately muted the TV.

Chang held his phone to his right ear, as he said, “Hello.”

On the other end of the line, Mal stated, “Sir, we have a situation. A group of bikers are outside the front of the casino, about to come in. Some of them are driving hover-cycles. So, I do not think they are locals. We estimate we have about five minutes before they make into the front lobby.”

Chang asked, “What you have done so far, to handle this matter?”

Mal answered, “Jayne is already rounding security personnel for this. Though, we figure you might want to take point on this.”

Chang responded, “I do. And thank you for informing me. And let us be discreet concerning our weapons.”

Mal realized that Chang was telling him that his personnel should only be armed with this concealed weapons. Though, Mal suggested, “Understood, sir. Also, given everything that has happened, this week. I would suggest we call in Annie, and maybe Arcee for this.”

Chang agreed, “Good idea. I will inform Annie and Arcee. Bring your personnel, and we will meet you in the front lobby, in a few minutes.”

Mal replied, “Yes sir. We will see you there.”

Chang then hung up cellphone, those he kept it in his right hand.

River asked, “What is it?”

Chang looked over at River, as he answered, with a bit of sarcasm in his tone of voice, “More fun girls. It seems a biker gang is about to come into the casino. And we need to round up the security team to confront them.”

Lee commented, “Well, that is new.”

River said, “This should be interesting.”

Chang asked, “What do you think?”

River answered, “I am honestly am not sure.”

Lee commented, “Well, I have known some bikers, in my life. Baring the one percenters. Most of them just want to have some fun. And unless they are literally looking for trouble. They will likely behave themselves.”

Chang replied, “That is comforting to know.”

Lee inquired, “So, are you going to let them in?”

Chang looked over at Lee, as he said, “We will talk to them. And if they agree to abide by my rules. And behave. Then, yes. They can stay.”

Lee commented, “That is more than reasonable on your part.”

Chang replied, “I know.” He then dialed the cellphone number of Annie. He held it up to his right ear, as the phone began to ring.

As soon as Chang heard the line on the other end pick up, he stated, “Annie, we have a situation developing at the front of the casino. I am going to have to cut your time with Ahsoka this morning, short. And I need you in the front lobby, as soon as possible. And please, also inform Arcee that on stand by, in one of the cage hallways. In case we need her. And I guess have her watch Ahsoka, while you are with us.”

Over the phone, Annie replied, “I will inform Ahsoka and Arcee. And I will be there in a few minutes.”

Chang replied, “Thank you.” He then hung up his cellphone, and put it away.

Chang then looked at River, then to Lee, and back to River. He stated, “Okay. Let's go.”

The three adults got up, as Lee used the remote to turn off TV, and then set the remote on the coffee table in front of them. They then headed for the door to the living room that lead to the main interior hallway, outside the apartment section of the penthouse level. From there, they would take the front express elevator to the gaming floor, and walk the rest of the way to the front lobby.

(_)

A few minutes later, Chang's group was assembled in the front lobby, before the bikers had made it inside.

Chang was in the center front of the group. To his right was River. To his left was Lee. To the left of Lee was Annie, then Jayne. To River right was Mal, then Zoe. Behind Zoe was Wash. With the reach of the security personal that was call in, fanned out behind them.

While both the security personal, and Chang, were armed. Their weapons were concealed in their clothing. As was Annie's lightsaber, which was attached to the right side of her belt, under her jedi robe.

The casino group then watched as the bikers came into the casino. There were about two dozen of them. And while the bikers left their helmets with their vehicles. the casino group noticed that some of the bikers had weapons on them. Mostly pistols, and blasters, holstered in side holsters, on their belts.

Chang kept his eyes on the group, as he calmly ordered, “Keep cool, ladies and gentlemen. I do not want any itchy trigger fingers.”

As the bikers came closer, the casino group noticed three members, in front that stood out from the group.

In the front, middle part of the group, was a dark skinned man in very good physical shape. He had a bleach blond, almost white, mohawk.

Over his black boxer shorts and black socks, he wore black pants, with a black leather belt. He had on black, steel-toed military style boots. He did not have on a shirt. Instead, had had on a long sleeved, black lather duster, which he had opened to show his bare chest, with his rock hard abs. And he had on a pair of sunglasses over his eyes.

Lee thought, 'Okay. I will admit that guy with the mohawk looks good.'

Across from Chang, River giggled a little from Lee's thoughts.

To dark skinned man's left left was a fair skinned woman, in good physical shape. She had long red hair that went loosely down to her shoulder blades.

The woman wore a black leather jacket that was open to reveal she was wearing a black midriff shirt, that exposed her toned stomach. She also wore tight, black pants, a black belt, and black boots.

To the dark skinned man's right was a fair skinned man in nice physical shape. He had dark short hair, and green irises. And unlike the others, he was dressed like he was Sherlock Holmes. Including, among other things, a deerstalker hat, an open long coat, shirt, pants, belt, and boots.

The bikers clearly saw them, as they came to a stop ten feet from Chang's group.

Everyone else in the lobby saw what was going on, and disappeared from the room. Including, the clerks, and tellers on staff, in the alcoves on the left side of the wall.

Chang stated, in english, “Hello. I am in the owner of this casino. To whom am I addressing?”

The dark skinned man stated, in english, “I am Professor Johnathan Durban, and these are my boys.

Chang replied, “Nice to meet you, Professor Durban.”

Lee immediately realize who Durban was, as she thought, 'This is Johnathan Durban from the end of book two. And he has changed.'

Durban said, “The redhead, beside me, is, Sally Finnegan. She is a former reporter who is now the communications officer, on my ship.”

Sally looked over at the casino group, as she kindly said, in english, “It is nice to meet new people.”

Chang replied, “Likewise.”

River inquired, “With this many people, I can see why you would need a ship to travel. So, what type of ship do you captain?”

Durban answered, “A modified Klingon Bird of Prey.”

Lee thought, with curiosity, 'A Klingon Bird of Prey... Could he have gotten the idea from?... Oh, I am going to have to ask him about this, later. Still, it makes sense, given his ship is likely on this island, and cloaked. Though, it is better if we leave their ship be. But, I can ask one question, right now.'

Lee questioned, “So, you are multiverse travelers?”

Durban asked, “Yes. And you two are?”

River answered, “River.”

Lee stated, “Lee.”

Durban replied, “Nice to meet you both. Now, let me introduce you to my good friend, and second in command, Arthur D Clemens. He is also my science officer.”

The black haired man, in the deerstalker cap, said, in english, “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances.”

Lee immediately recognized the alias, as he thought, 'And this is Data, from Star Trek, The Next Generation. I should have realized it sooner. He is using the alias I created for him at the end of book two. Also, that is Sally, the reporter, with them.'

'Still, when I created these characters, I did not plan for them to go Mad Max on me. But, then again, I have changed a lot, as well. So, I am not one to judge. And I think it will be best if I do not mention that, except for Data, I am their creator. It would just complicate matters for all of us.'

Annie turned to Arthur, as she calmly said, “Hello Data. It has been a long time.”

Those that did not immediately recognize Data, immediately realized who he was, to their surprise.

Data turned to Annie, as he answered, with a hint of joy and happiness in his tone of voice, “Yes. It has.”

Annie inquired, “So, what have you been up to?”

Data said, “Making new friends. Seeing new places. Sort of like my old job in Star Fleet. Only with better hours.”

Annie giggled a little. She then replied, “That is nice.”

Data asked, “So, what about you? What have you been up to?”

Annie replied, “The same as you.”

Data commented, “Yes. I see you, and a number of others, are now working for Chang.”

Chang showed a little uneasiness in his body language. as Data was hinting at some of the dark parts of his life. But, a second later, Chang immediately forced him to stop moving.

Chang thought, 'I dare not comment on this matter. It is best I just let the situation play out, while hoping that Annie does not leave me out to dry.'

Annie coyly said, “A lot has changed.”

Data commented, “I hope for the better.”

Annie responded, “Yea. It has been for the better. Such as, we have settled our differences with Chang.”

Data replied, “I am glad to hear that.”

River mentioned, “No one has been brainwashed to work here. And everything is on the up and up.”

Annie said, “She is correct. Everything is on the level.”

Data replied, “Good.”

Lee turned to Durban and Sally, as she asked, “Not to be rude. But, do all of you know your friend here is really, Data.”

Sally answered, “Yes. We have known for a while, now.”

Lee replied, “Cool.”

Data mentioned, “And the redhead in front, to Chang's right, is River Tam. She dyed her hair red. She is also a telepath.”

River quickly said, “I can only read surface thoughts. And I cannot turn off my ability.”

Lee thought, 'Touche. We reveal a secret and you reveal a secret. And any of the other secrets would likely cause a problem. Such as Annie use to be Darth Vader. And I see you have the problem handled, River.'

Durban commented, “That is fine. We have dealt with psychics before. Just keep what you learn about us to yourself.”

River stated, “If I didn't, I would long since be dead.”

Durban said, “Point taken. Now, to deal with another matter.' Durban turned to Chang, as he inquired, with slight anger in his tone of voice, “So, you're Chang, from Roanapur?”

Chang looked at Durban, as he sheepishly admitted, “Yes. I am.”

Durban stated, with force in his tone of voice, “I have some questions for you, about some students of mind that went missing, years ago, in Roanapur.”

Chang thought, 'It is best for me to just answer his questions. After everything that has happened this week. I do not need a brawl in the front lobby of my casino.'

Chang stated, “I will be more than willing to answer your questions. But first, I need some background information on you. What field of study were you in?”

Durban answered, “In my previous job, I oversaw the technology sections of Georgia Tech. And these students were hired by a company from Hong Kong, to go Roanapur, to work on research dealing with m-theory. Or, should I say, multiverse fact. And from what I understand. You were the one behind all this.” Durban punctuated the last five words of his statement, as he continued, “So. Where. Are. My. Students?”

Chang replied, “Oh...”

Chang thought, 'This is starting to come back to me. And it is not good. I now realize that this is the Durban from the end of book two. And he wants to know what I did with his students.'

'The problem is. I don't remember. But, I didn't kill them, or imprison them. I might have put them in the vat process. Though, I am sure they were alive and well, when I fled my tower. Yet, I cannot tell him that, without starting a major fight. I am going to have to play this very carefully. And I know just how to do it.'

Chang stated, “I will be honest with you. That was a number of decades ago, for me. And when my organization collapsed, I fled into the multiverse. And sadly, I do not remember your students. But, for those that worked for me. And even those I had brainwashed. I treated them well. And unless someone betrayed me. I did not kill them. And those that worked under me, held the same philosophy. So, I am sure, they were alive, and in good health, when I left the tower.”

Annie said, “That is correct. Chang is many things. But, he is not wasteful. He prefers to treat those that work for him, well.”

Chang kept his eyes on Durban, as he thought, 'I am going to have to give Annie a bonus, this month, for backing me up on this.'

Mal thought, 'It has been a while since I have seen Chang so honest and forthcoming. I guess there is hope for him, after all.'

River overheard Mal's thoughts. She hid her smile, as she she mentally reflected, 'Mal, I am glad you feel that way about Chang.'

Durban stated, “At least you are honest. I will give you that. And now I know they are alive. So, it is just a matter of finding them, in the proper time and place.”

Lee suggested, “They might have gone missing, because your future self retrieved them from your past.”

Durban shrugged, as he conceded, “That is possible. And I can use that to my advantage.”

Lee thought, 'I think I will leave out that there is a good chance the male students that he is looking for, are now female. All that would do is risk starting a fight.'

River thought, 'Intelligent thinking, Lee. On several points.'

Chang cautioned,”Just be careful in traveling to the past. Paradoxes are only one of the dangers in doing so.”

Durban stated, “Oh, I know about paradoxes, and how to avoid them. And as to trouble. I am not worried. Because if there is trouble.”

Durban put his hands down, to his sides, to the front, downward sides, of himself, at a diagonal angle, away from everyone.

Suddenly, through use of a gamblers' rigs, on the undersides of both his sleeves, two weapons slid out into his hands. In his right hand was a small blaster pistol. In his left hand was a small lightsaber, that he ignited with a snap-hiss. The blade was yellow, and two foot long.

Durban looked over at the casino group, as he continued, “We will handle that trouble.”

Annie thought, 'I have not seen a small lightsaber like that, in years. I wonder where he got it from? Not that I mind. It is best that I just leave the matter be.'

Chang calmly said, “We would prefer to avoid trouble.”

Durban deactivated his lightsaber. He then retracted his weapons, back up his sleeves, as he stated, “Good. Because I feel the same way. And my group will behave themselves.”

Chang replied, “I hope so.”

Mal commented, “Still, you will need to leave your weapons at the door, if you wish to enjoy this establishment.”

Durban replied, “That will not be a problem, for my boys, and myself.”

Chang said, “Good. Also, you will need something to pay for the poker chips here?”

Durban asked, “Do you accept gold as payment?”

Chang commented, “If it is pure. Then yes. We have an exchange rate on that. And we use current market prices for that exchange rate.”

Durban stated, “That is fair.”

Chang replied, “We would like to think so.” He mentally reflected, 'There is no point in charging a fee for the conversion of gold to cash, considering people come here to gamble. All it would do is upset customers whom are already going to lose their money to me. Still, it might be best, since Pedro is gone, right now, if I call Balalaika, and then the police station, to talk to whomever is currently in charge. To let both those groups know I am handling the situation when these bikers. Also, I wonder what Durban calls his group?'

Chang asked, “So, what do you call your group?”

Durban answered, “I call my team, Professor Durban and the Atlantic Riders.”

Chang let out a laugh, as he got the reference. He accused, “You're a Buckaroo Banzai fan? Aren't you?”

Durban cracked a grin, as he admitted, “Guilty as charged.”

Chang replied, “I am a fan, as well.”

Durban responded, “I am not surprised. So, are you really Chang, from the Black Lagoon series? If so, then we share the same reality, and the events of that series happened in our home reality. Though, after we left our reality, my boys and I have seen both the anime and manga versions of that series.”

Chang replied, “Yes. I am. And I have seen my series, as well. And it was the anime that happen to myself, and the others. Though, it has been years since the events detailed in the anime.”

Durban commented, “Okay. I can see from your demeanor that it has been a while for you.” He thought, 'You are nowhere near as cocky as you were in that series.'

River suppressed a giggle from Durban's thoughts. She mentally reflected, 'Oh, how true that is.'

Durban continued, “And by confirming that it was anime version that happened to you, you have answered some of my questions.”

Chang inquired, “Yes. So, why do you ask?”

Durban requested, “Some of my crew, and I, would like some autographs from you, and your friends. If that is okay?”

Chang thought, with a mix of concern and amusement, 'So, we have gone from threatening me, over your charges. To asking for my autographs. Interesting. Not that I am complaining. I like this change, and it works for everyone.'

River suppressed a desire to giggle from listening Chang's thoughts.

Chang said, “Sure. We will talk about it later today.”

Durban responded, “That will be fine. And thank you. Also, I was wondering, what did you think when you saw your series?”

Chang answered, “It confirmed my suspicions that I was living in a fiction world.”

Durban commented, “Let me guess. It was kind of obvious, after the maid first came to your town?”

Chang let out a laugh. He then said, “Oh, I like you. And you are correct. Also, don't get me started on those twins.”

Durban replied, “I won't dream of it.”

Zoe asked, “What has brought you to De La Plata Podrido?”

Durban looked over at Zoe, as he said, “We heard about a casino, where a number of badasses, from various realities, had set up shop. And we wanted to check this place out. And so far, you have not disappointed us.”

Chang happily reflected, in thought, 'Word of mouth is almost always good.' He commented, “We are glad to hear that. And we hope you enjoy your stay.”

Durban turned to look at Chang, as he replied, “So do we.”

River asked, “Will you be checking into the casino?”

Durban answered, “No. We will be staying in our ship.”

River replied, “Okay.”

Lee then remembered, as she thought, 'We need to warn them about the Devil's Hotel, and the Rats Nest. But first, I need to ask a question?'

Lee inquired, “Durban does you group have radios on them?”

Durban stated, “Yes. We have encrypted radios in both our helmets and on our person.”

Lee responded, “Good. You need to order you group to avoid the Devil's Hotel. The large hotel on the north side of the island. And the Rats Nest bar. Because, one of the rougher groups in town stays at that hotel, and parties at that bar.”

Durban asked, “What do you mean by rougher groups? We are a bit of a rough group, ourselves.”

For a few seconds, there was smiles and mild laughter from among the Atlantic Riders, beside and behind Durban.

Lee let the laughter die down. She then stated, “Don't get me wrong. You dress the part. But, none of you have that violent, insane look in your eyes, of the people I am talking about. On the other hand, the group I am talking about include. Revy. Roberta, whose now a cyborg, due to that whole Grey Fox debacle.”

Lee thought, 'I will leave out the super-soldier serum.'

Lee continued, “And a number of other Black Lagoon women. Along with other badass women of the multiverse. And these are the type of women that it would be best to leave alone, unless they want to talk to you.”

The casino group immediately saw the bikers drop this smiles, and go silent, as the bikers understood what Lee had just said.

A few seconds later, Durban turned to Lee, as he responded, “Okay. You have a point there. And thank you for the warning. I will do as you requested. While I don't mind asking Chang here for an autograph. The others are a little too crazy for my groups' tastes.”

There was some mild laughter among the casino group.

Chang offered, “I completely understand. Now, I hope you all some fun in my casino.”

Chang thought, 'That reminds me. I believe Jetta is on shift, this morning, as the pit boss. And I believe she has experience in dealing with bikers like this. So, this shouldn't be too much of a problem for her. Still, I will speak to her. And I will have Mal assign some more security personnel to the gaming floor, while the bikers are here.'

Durban looked over at Chang, as he replied, “Thanks for the offer.” He then turned around to face his group, as he said, “Okay. Let's get this party started.”

The bikers cheered, and then they walked over to where the tellers were suppose to be at.

Chang saw the tellers were gone. He stated, towards the Atlantic Riders, “We will have our staff back in a few minutes. So, turned over your weapons for safe keeping, and you can purchase some poker chips. Also, if any of you lose your reciepts, or have problems retrieving your weapons, when you leave. Just, inform security. And we will help you, with the matter. Though, we do have a policy of not turning over weapons to those that are drunk. So, have someone sober,with you.”

Data turned to Chang, as he stated, “That will not be a problem.” He then turned back around, to join his friends.

Chang thought, 'Yes. With Data here. He will help keep his friends from doing anything foolish, while here. Now, to talk to Mal.'

Chang turned to Mal, as he ordered, “Find where our staff went. And get them back here, as soon as possible.”

Chang mentally reflected, 'I don't blame them for running. It just shows intelligence on their part. But, someone needs to give them the all clear.'

Mal looked at Chang, as he replied, “I'm on it.”

He then pulled out his cellphone, and he started dialing a number for the casino security office, to contact the personnel they left there, to track down where the staff had run off too.

Chang then turned to River and Lee. He saw his two lovers look at him. Chang stated, “You two, with me.”

Chang then turned and started walking toward hallway, that lead to the gaming floor. With River and Lee walking right behind him.

Chang left Mal, Zoe, Annie, Wash, and the security staff present, to keep order among the bikers, as things were being handled.

(_)

Five minutes later, the staff had returned to the front lobby. The bikers left their weapons with the tellers, while receiving a receipt for them. Even Durban left his weapons with the tellers. The bikers also bought some poker chips, with some of their gold. And they headed to the gaming floor, to gamble.

Meanwhile, Chang, River, and Lee, when over to gaming floor, and talked to Jetta for a few minutes.

As soon as Mal had found some of his security personnel, he could spar, he assigned them to the gaming floor, with Jetta and the guards already stationed there.

With that taken care of, the three lovers headed back up to their penthouse apartment, to enjoy the rest of their morning.

Meanwhile, Annie went back to rejoin with Ahsoka and Arcee, for some fun that day.

And the security personnel, that was not reassigned to the gaming floor, when back to their posts. And Jayne, Mal, Zoe, Wash, heading back to the main security room, to continue doing their jobs.

(_)

Across town, around the time Durban, and those of his group that were with him, started gambling at the Daiyu Palace Casino, another part of Durban's group was heading to the Last Resort Diner.

At that time in the morning, it was between breakfast rush ending and lunch rush beginning. And there were usually no customers in the diner. And that was the case this morning.

This was why Ed had called an employee meeting for that time on this morning.

Everyone was there. Ed, Lori, Rico, Stan, Lewis, Leona, and Irene. Ed and Lori were in their cooks clothing. While, Stan and Lewis were in their waiters uniforms. Rico, Leona, and Irene were in their casual clothing. Rico was off the day. And Leona, and Irene would be on shift, later that day.

This was just a regular monthly meeting, to touch base with everyone, on what was going on, concerning the diner, and what future plans were. Such as how the diner was doing. How revenue and tips were doing. And if there were any really nice customers that need special attention. Or, problem customers to watch out for, should they show up.

They had held the meeting while standing, or sitting in stools around the counter, in the middle of the diner.

They had just finished their meeting. With the meeting going great for everyone.

Stan turned to his brother, Lewis, as he asked, “Lewis. I have been patiently waiting for a response. Which you so far have not told me. So, I am going to just ask. How as yours and Irene's date, two nights ago?”

Lewis stated, “I am surprised you didn't ask us earlier.”

Ed comment, “We were hoping you would bring of the topic.”

Rico cracked a grin, as she looked at Lewis, then Irene, and back to Lewis. She said, “Which you didn't. Now, we get to ask you both questions. While we tease you.”

Lori calmly requested, “So, come on, and tell us what happened?”

Leona cracked a grin, as she said, “You know, you want too.”

Lewis stated, “Alright, it was fun.”

Irene commented, “Yes. It was quite fun.” Then, her lips curled into wicked grin, as she said, “And afterward, Lewis showed me his female form. If Stan's female form is as hot as Lewis' girl form, I can see why they were concerned about us being jealous.”

Stan admitted, “Yes. My female form is as hot as Lewis' female form. Like our male forms, are female forms look very similar to each other.”

Leona questioned, “They cannot be that hot?”

Irene stated, “Oh, yes they are. But, they also have been very polite about this. As such, I see not reason in being jealous.”

Lewis looked over at Irene, as he said, “I am happy you feel that way, Irene.”

Irene turned to Lewis, as she commented, “No problem. It is call being an adult.”

Ed agreed, “That is true.”

Irene requested, “Anyway, we would prefer not to talk about that, right now.”

Lori commented, “That is okay. We just wanted to make sure everything went fine.”

Lewis said, “It did. Though, we didn't do anything afterward, except kiss.”

Irene commented, “No offense. But, you were quite modest, Lewis.”

Lewis replied, “None taken.”

Lori stated, in a plain tone of voice, “Well, should you sleep together. Remember to use a condom.”

Besides Lewis and Lori, the other adults giggled a little, as Lewis blurted out, “Dad!”

Lori said, “Sorry. I just do not want you to have any grandchildren, until you are ready.”

As everyone calmed down, Leona than noticed something outside of the front windows of the diner. She said, “Guys. Take a look outside. I think we are about to have some trouble come our way.”

Everyone else turned to look out the front windows of the diner.

They saw three motorcycles, two hover-cycles, and one trike, come into the parking lot, and park.

There were six bikers in all. The bikers were dressed in black leather, biker clothing. And they were all wearing helmets.

They watched the bikers get off this vehicles, take of their helmets, place their helmets on their vehicles, and then turned to walk toward the front entrance of the dinner.

Stan said, “I don't think they are local.”

Ed commented, “No. They are not.”

Leona asked, “What does this mean?”

Stan looked out the window, as he answered, “Likely trouble. Though, I hope not.”

Lori stated, “Relax everyone. We just play this cool. We should be fine.”

Leona turned to Lori, as she asked, “And if we have trouble?”

Lori brushed a folds of the right side of her skirt to reveal a hidden slit, that revealed her outer right thigh. On her thigh was a holster that had her six round revolver in it. She stated, “I am always armed. And so is Ed, and Rico.”

Lewis commented, “Our family and friends love to be prepared.” He thought, 'Though, Stan and I prefer to be unarmed. Unless, we feel we are in going into a situation, where we feel we need to be armed.'

Leona looked over at Ed and Rico, both of whom were looking back at her. The two women each nodded once towards Leona. Leona turned back to Lori, as she replied, “Glad to hear it.”

As the bikers go closer, they got a better look at them. All of the bikers had various types of pistols in side holsters, on their person.

Three of the bikers were women, and three were men. There were two caucasian men, and one asian man. One caucasian woman, one dark skinned woman, and one native american woman. All of them looked to be in their mid-twenties.

Then, Lori got a good look at their faces, and she could not believe whom she saw. She commented, “I think I know these people. From my childhood.”

Rice commented, “Really?”

Lori responded, “Yea. I have seen them since... That would make so much sense. The convention while I was looking for B's cure.”

Ed asked, “From the stories?”

Lori answered, “Yea. Those are the six people I met. And they don't look that much older from when I met them, then.”

Ed said, “Okay. This could work out well for us.”

Lori continued to look at the bikers approaching the front doors of the diner, as she replied, “I know. Let me do the talking. Now kids, get behind us, in case this goes south.”

Lewis, Stan, Leona, and Irene walked around, to the back of the counter.

With Rico and Ed standing by the left side of the entrance to behind the counter, and Lori standing behind the middle counter. With the Lewis, Stan, Irene, and Leona, standing behind Lori, Ed, and Rico.

A few seconds later, the six bikers walked inside, and they came to a stop in front of the counter. With them standing staggered, though, nearly side by side, as they face the counter, and those in front of them.

Those inside looked at the six newcomers, as the newcomers look at them.

Lori said, in a happy tone of voice, “Welcome to the Last Resort Diner?”

The six bikers chuckled a little.

As they calmed down, the caucasian woman inquired, “So, this place is named after the whorehouse in the original Total Recall movie?”

Lori complimented, “That is very astute of you.”

The caucasian woman replied, “Thank you. I take it, you have a sense of humor?”

Lori stated, “Of course. It makes life worth living. Cindy.”

The women stated, “My name is Cynthia. Though, Cindy was my nickname, when I was younger. How do you know my name.”

Lori about about to answer, but she found herself tripping on her words, as she suddenly realized how much she would have to explain. She hesitantly said, “You see... Well, I now sure how to tell you this... And I know you likely won't believe a word of this... But, it is me, Bob. I have, or had the ability to change genders. And due to that ability, and old age of my male form, I am stuck in this form, of a young woman.”

The bikers burst out laughing, for a few seconds.

Lori thought, with concern, 'That is not the reaction I was expecting.'

As the bikers calmed down, one of the caucasian men, then sneeze, on command. And he instantly turned into a she.

Lori thought, with less concern, and more mild amusement, 'Okay. This just got interesting. In a good way.'

The man turned woman cracked a grin, as she stated, “It is not that hard to believe, Bob.” The woman then sneezed, and she changed back into a man.

The other caucasian man commented, “Stop showing off, Wyatt.”

Wyatt playfully replied, “Oh. But, it is fun.”

Leona commented, with a little surprise in her tone of voice, “Okay. That is a nice trick.”

Irene leaned over and whispered into Leona's left ear, “That is how Lewis and Stan can change.”

Leona replied, “Oh.”

The native american woman stated, “Don't worry. You will get use to dealing with gender benders.”

Rico said, “That is true.”

The native american woman teased, “You might even someday become a gender bender.”

Leona said, “No thank you.”

The native american woman giggled a little. She replied, “Don't knock, until you have tried it.”

Lori commented, “I guess there are more of us back home than I thought.”

Lori mentally reflected, 'That reminds me. I really need to talk to my extended family about our hidden abilities. My parents, my siblings, and my siblings' children. While my wife and kids know what is going on. The others do not have all the details.'

'My siblings, and their children, could use this ability as a way the extend their own lives. And while I did tell them about my gender bending abilities. I did not tell them where I got my abilities from. My parents seem okay with it. Considering they got grand-kids. And my siblings are still talking to me, when I visit them.'

'As for mom and dad. I need to talk to them about the rejuvenation therapy that that Ed used. Though, that is for later. Now, I have to talk with my old friends, about this.'

The asian man said, “Yes. There are many of us. Actually, more than we can counter. Anyway, we already knew it was you, Bob. We heard on the grapevine, what happened to you. And we decided to check on you, and your family.”

Lori thought, 'That is surprising. And now, to introduce everyone.' She responded, “That is great to hear. Now, let me introduce everyone to everyone. First, I no longer go by Bob. I am now, Lori.” She thought, 'Except, in private, from my wife and close friends.'

Lori then used her right hand to point to Ed, as she continued, “And this is Ed, my wife.”

Ed looked over at the bikers, as she said, “Nice meet you.”

Cynthia replied, “Likewise.”

Lori pointed at Stan, as she said, “This is Stan, one of my sons.”

Lori next pointed at Lewis, as she continued, “This is Lewis, my other son.”

Lori pointed at Rico, as she stated, “This is Rico. A good friend of the family.”

Rico commented, “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances.”

Lori then pointed at Irene, and Leona. She said, “And this is Irene and Leona. New girls. We just recently hired them. But, they know how to keep secrets.”

The dark skinned woman commented, “That is good.”

Lori turned to face her family, as she stated, “Now family, these are some old friends of mine, from high school.”

Lori pointed at the caucasian woman first, “As you know, this is Cynthia.”

Lori pointed at the asian man, as she commented, “This is Tommy.”

Tommy said, “It is a pleasure.”

Lori pointed at dark skinned woman, as she commented, “This is Denise.”

Denise said, “It is always nice to meet new people.”

Lori pointed at one of the caucasian men, as she said, “This is Wyatt.”

Next, Lori pointed at the other caucasian man, as she stated, “This is Kyle.”

After which, Lori pointed at the native american woman, as she said, “And this is Evelyn.” She then dropped her right hand back to her side.

Evelyn commented, “It is always interesting the journey life takes us on.”

Ed agreed, “That is very true.”

Stan asked, “Okay. We know at least one of you can change gender. What about the rest of you?”

Cynthia commented, “All of us. In one way, or another.”

Lewis said, “Interesting. We will have to talk about this more, later.”

Denise responded, “We would be more than happy too.”

Lori thought, 'While we are on the subject. I might as well tell them.'

Lori stated, “Before those that change, like I did. There is one thing you all need to be aware of. Like I said. When you reach old age, you will remain young in your alternate gender form. But, you will eventually lock in that gender. Like I am now locked as a woman.”

Tommy said, “That is interesting to know. Thank you.”

Evelyn asked, “So, how old are you?”

Lori teased, “Don't you know it is rude to ask a woman her age? But, to answer you question. Physically, I am in my mid-twenties. But, I am around seventy now.”

Denise stated, “We haven't been gone, but for a few years.”

Lori explained, “I have been gone for much longer. That is time dilation for you. But, I have lead a good life. And everything is fine.”

Denise replied, “We can clearly see that.”

Tommy said, “Though, we always did wonder what happened to you.”

Lori admitted, “Yea. I kind of left you all very abruptly.”

Wyatt said, “That is to put it mildly.”

Lori inquired, “So, how did you end up as bikers, traveling the multiverse?”

Cynthia answered, “After you left us. We looked into m-theory, and we found that it was possible, with our combined skills, know-how, and access to equipment, in Georgia Tech. And the most interesting thing happened. It seemed, in a nearby reality, a another research team at that Georgia Tech, was working on m-theory. That team was being lead by Professor Johnathan Durban, with his teachers, and his students. And our two portals met up.”

“For both sides, it was like the moon landing for both our teams.”

Lori said, “I am glad to hear that.”

Ed mentally reflected, 'That sounds like the Johnathan Durban whom Data met at the end of book two of Lee's stories. I will need to talk to Lori about this, later. I think it would be best if we don't mention to her old friends, about Lee's stories.'

Cynthia went onto say, “And there is more. As both of our groups were getting to know each other, members of a secret organization crashed our party on Durban's side. Fortunately, we were able to get all of Durban's team on our side of the portal, and close it behind us.”

“But, that did not slow them down for long. They soon followed up to our home reality. Meaning they were reality travelers. And they had the intent to either imprison us, or worse. Though, we were are able to use our portal to flee into the multiverse. That was went we joined Durban's group, as part of his crew. Whom he named, The Atlantic Riders.”

Stan complimented, “That is a cool name.”

Cynthia responded, “I know. It is a good name. And we like the name, as well. Anyway, we have been on the run since then, as we have fought this secret organization.”

Lori offered, “I have connections pretty powerful people. If you tell us more about your enemies, we might be able to help you.”

Denise commented, “As you pointed out. You have pretty good life here. And we do not want to wreck your life. Or, the lives of your family and friends.”

Tommy said, “Denise is right about this.”

Kyle stated, “Durban, and our crew, has be able to handle the situation, so far. And we are not going to drag you into our mess.”

Lori responded. “Alright, I appreciate your concerns.” She thought, 'I will find what is going on, later. And then, we will be able to help all of you, then.'

Suddenly, the radios on this bikers belts came on, with a man's voice, which stated, “To all Atlantic Riders. You are hear by ordered to avoid the Devil's Hotel. Which is the large hotel on the north side of the island, opposite side of the island where the casino is located. Also, avoid a bar called the Rats Nest. A dangerous group stays around both those places.”

“Still, if you are looking for a good time. You are more than welcome to join us at the casino. It is very fun here. And it is on the level.”

“And remember. Check in, if you get into trouble.”

Irene asked, “Who was that?”

Cynthia answered, “That was Professor Durban.”

Rico commented, “That is wise advice on his part.”

Wyatt inquired, “Why is that?”

Rico questioned, “Have you ever seen the Black Lagoon series?”

Wyatt replied, “Yea.”

Rico stated, “Well, that hotel and bar, are where Revy, Rock, and a number of their family and friends stay at, most of the time, in this town.”

Wyatt said, “Oh. Okay... Thanks for the warning.”

Rico replied, “You're welcome.”

Denise inquired, “Wait a minute, there was a man in that series, named Rico?”

Rico stated, “That was me. Long story short, like you. I got my gender changed. Only, I am locked in this form. And before you ask, we are from the anime version of that series. After the third season ended.”

Denise replied, “Okay.”

Evelyn asked, “And the casino?”

Ed stated, “Chang owns and runs it. Yes. That Chang. But, it is a legitimate business. As long as you are nice, have money, and don't cheat. You will be fine there.”

Tommy said, “We will keep that in mind.”

Stan cracked a grin, as he inquired, “So, what would you guys like to talk about?”

Evelyn turned to Stan, as she returned Stan's smile. She replied, “Oh, so much.”

Lori suggested, “Yes. Let's catch up, on old times.”

The group then continued talking for another hour, as they talked about what they had been up to, and what wonders they had seen in the multiverse.

Though, by the end of the hour, customers starting coming in for lunch rush. But, even then, the bikers stuck around, to keep their old and new friends company for a few more hours, before they left for the day.

Though, the bikers promised to return tomorrow morning. And Lori stated that she would look forward to their visit.

(_)

Later that afternoon, at the casino, Lee hand come back down to the gaming floor, alone. She looked around and she soon found whom she was looking for, Johnathan Durban. She saw that Durban was near the back of the gaming floor. He was just leaning against the wall, as he look at his men from a distance, as they gambled.

Lee walked up to him. When she came within ten feet of him, she stopped. She asked, “Durban, can I speak to you, for a moment?”

Durban turned to Lee, as he said, “Sure. What do you want to talk about, Lee?”

Lee commented, “Well, you said you fly around in a Klingon Bird of Prey. I wanted to ask you about that. But, in private. That is why I waited until now.”

Durban questioned, “Okay. What about that?”

Lee inquired, “Well, first let me get this straight. To confirm what you said earlier. You are traveling around the multiverse in a Klingon Bird of Prey?”

Durban replied, “That is correct, Lee.”

Lee inquired, “So, don't take this the wrong way. But, it sounds like you ripped the idea off, from the fanfic, Legion's Quest? Didn't you?”

Durban gave Lee a warm grin, as he said “Yep. I loved that story. I wished that epic fanfic had been completed. I have checked other realities, none of their versions are complete, either. And I know better than to look for those lunatics, in the multiverse.”

Lee stated, “Yes. It is wise to stay away from such people.”

Durban agreed, “Very true. And besides, I figured, if I was going to ride around in the multiverse. I might as well ride in style.”

Lee inquired, “I can agree with that. So, on another matter, I have to ask. What is it like working with Data?”

Durban answered, “Well, given he has matured and grown up, since before a met him, he is a great guy to be a friend with. He is funny, social... And nice to be around.”

Lee commented, “Well, you're welcome?”

Durban replied, “Huh?”

Lee thought, 'It is tempting to tell you about my stories. Though, I don't believe it would be a good idea, on my part. So that, you're welcome, is as close as I am going to get to telling you.' She said, “Nothing. So, how does Data handle traveling with all of you?”

Durban stated, “Data seems to not mind traveling with us. And he gets to explore the true finale frontier. The possibilities. The multiverse.”

Lee questioned, “Like what Q say at the end of The Next Generation series?”

Durban replied, “Exactly.”

Lee asked, “Do you think the Q know they are fictions characters?”

Durban responded, “Hell yes. After the seeing the whole Voyager Christmas Ornament scene, and that possibilities comment by Q, to Picard. In the TNG, All Good Things series finale. I think the Q know they are fiction characters. In the T.N.G. finale, you could see in that scene, the look on Q's face, as he was sorely tempted to tell Picard the truth. But, he could not do it. Though, with that, possibilities, comment, he did leave Picard some clues.”

“Plus, in the scene. You noticed how most of the time, when they changed reality, it was to some human setting. They were playing to the audience. And the main Q, we know, clearly likes to ham up his role.”

Lee giggled a little. She then commented, “Yes. You make some good points. Though, I hope the Q don't show up here.”

Durban commented, “And risk ruining our adventures I doubt it they will show up, anytime soon.”

Lee asked, “I hope you are right. So, do you think they are watching us, right now?”

Durban lips curled into a wicked grin, as he casually replied, “Oh yea.”

Lee inquired, “Anyway, back to Data. Has he seen his own series and movies?”

Durban answered, “Yes. He has seen and read the entire Star Trek franchise. Or, at least what we could find.”

Lee questioned, “How did he take watching his series?”

Durban dropped his grin, as he said, “He said he found it slightly embarrassing. Like watching videos of oneself as a kid.”

Lee replied, “In some ways that is true.”

Durban smiled, as he said, “Uh huh. But, not anymore. Though, he did squeal like a fanboy should, when he met a version of Sherlock Holmes, in one reality.”

Lee commented, “That is to be expected. Data is a big Sherlock Holmes fan. I mean, look at the way he is dressed, when he came into the casino. Don't get me wrong. He looks great in that outfit. But, he even occasionally dressed that way on the Enterprise. Outside the holodecks.”

Durban agreed, “True.”

Lee thought, 'It is best that I wrap this up, before one of us says something to the other, that we shouldn't.' She said, “Well, it was good talking to you, Durban.”

Durban replied, “You too, Lee.”

Lee then turned back and headed for the front elevator bay, and the penthouse apartment.

Meanwhile, Durban turned back to look at his crew, whom he check on, to make sure they were all having fun, while staying out of trouble.

(_)

That evening, after dark, Revy, Rock, their family and friends heading for their occasional party at the Rats Nest.

Those that attending included, Revy, Rock, Dutch, Benny, and Janet. All of whom were sitting around a table in the center of the room. Of the five adults, Revy and Rock were sitting beside each other, with Rock to Revy's right side.

Also, given Revy was drinking. She was not armed.

Sitting at the large round table, in the left, back corner of the room, in clockwise order, was Sarah, Molly, Rebecca, Yukio, Kristina, and Nodoka.

In the table next to that corner table, by the left windows, was Ranma, Akira, Natsuru, Mikoto, Yurika.

Fortunately, Balalaika and B were able to get off that night, and they sat a table, by the left, front corner, with Aeryn and Violin.

At a table, in the front, sat Shenhua, Lotton, and Sawyer.

At a table, in the back, near the middle, sat Roberta, Eda, Yolanda, and Hernan. With Roberta inviting Hernan to come. So, she could spend some time with him.

The six toddlers that were part of the group, Balalaika's son, Dmitri, B's daughter, Alexandra, Lotton's son Thomas, Shenhua's daughter, Wenqian, Sawyer's daughter, Ivy, and Violin and Aeryn's daughter, Gilina, were being babysat by some trusted members of Hotel Moscow.

The one person in the group that did not come was Barbossa. He stated that at his age, he would prefer to rest in his suite, at the Devil's Hotel, during such a late hour in the evening.

The only other person in the room was Bao, whom was serving them drinks. Given that it was usually a busy night at the Devil's Hotel restaurant, for Melanie, and she could not come to the Rats Nest, to help out her longtime girlfriend, that evening.

Their drinks ranged from bottled of beer, to mixed drinks, to wines, hard liquors, whiskey, tequila, and even vodka. Those that were driving that night, as designated drivers, were each having a bottle of beer.

At the table, in back, where Roberta, Hernan, Eda, and Yolanda were sitting, Hernan's displayed a slightly stiffen body language. Roberta could tell that Hernan was not completely comfortable sitting around so many women.

While he was find in the much bigger, more roomy restaurant of the Devil's Hotel. The Rats Nest bar was more confined. And Hernan, a married man, was deeply aware of this fact.

Roberta said to Hernan, “Relax. You're fine.”

Hernan took a drink from his bottle of beer, as he looked over at Roberta. He then set his bottle of beer down, as he nodded once in her direction, to confirm that he heard her.

Unfortunately, Roberta was not the only one to noticed Hernan's composure. Eda turned to Hernan, as she teased, “I won't be so sure. So, how did you convince your wife to let you visit all us beautiful women, in a bar, of all places?”

Hernan turned to Eda, as he calmly responded, “My wife and I trust each other. We have known each other for two decades. And we have been happily married for over the last decade. She knows nothing is going to happen.”

Eda playfully replied, “Are you so sure?”

Hernan stated, “After spending a few lunches and dinners, with your group. It doesn't take a genius to tell that, besides you, only Yolanda, are single. Even Roberta has Garcia.”

Yolanda had been paying attention to the conversation in front of her. She complimented, “That is very observant of you.”

Hernan looked over at Yolanda, as he said, “Thank you, Yolanda. Though, I admit I am not sure what the dynamic is for the younger women here. I can still see there is something going on with them.”

Eda commented, “We are not actually sure, ourselves.”

Hernan looked at Eda, as he stated, “Anyway, Roberta is my sister. I know too much about you, Eda, for it workout between us.” He turned to Yolanda, as he continued, “And, please don't take this the wrong way, Yolanda. But, I believe the cultural gap is likely too wide between you and I.”

Yolanda commented, “No offense taken.”

Hernan replied, “Thank you.” He turned back to Eda, as he said, “So, as you can see, my wife has very little too worry about.”

Eda conceded, “Point taken.”

(_)

At a nearby table, near the center of the room, where Revy, Rock, Dutch, Benny, and Janet were sitting, Revy inquired, “So, did you hear about those bikers that showed up today?”

Benny said, “Yea. But, none of them have come around the hotel.”

Rock mentioned, “Actually, when I heard about the bikers, I called Chang. He told them to steer clear of us, the hotel, and this bar. And they seem to have listened.”

Dutch complimented, “It was wise of him to do so.”

Janet stated, “Yea. It avoids trouble for all of us.”

Rock agreed, “True. And it looks like we don't have anything to worry from them.”

Revy shrugged, as she said, “Oh well.” She then turned to Rock, as she put her right arm over Rock's left shoulder. She continued, “We can have fun, in other ways, tonight.”

Rock looked over at Revy, as she gave her lover a warm smile. She said, “I look forward to it, Revy.”

Revy returned Rock's smile, as she replied, “That's the spirit.”

(_)

At that moment, elsewhere, five adults then found themselves in outside, in front of some windows, on the front, right side of a bar.

Those five adults were Pedro Del Soto, Matthew McCormick, Fabiola Iglesias, Matt Bluestone, Leigharch. They had just teleport to a bar, in the multiverse, to get a drink.

The windows were to the right side of the group, with the group standing on the right side of the front of the building, facing the door in the middle of said building.

And all five members of the group looked tired, from the long day they just had.

Pedro put away his reality device, as he said, with tiredness in his tone voice, “Guys, let's get a drink, and figure out what to do next.”

Fabiola suggested, “Finding a place to rest afterward, would be nice.”

Matthew replied, “Both sound like great ideas.”

Fabiola said, “Since I am not driving, I can have some hard liquor.”

Matt commented, “Of course. That is because we don't have a car.”

Leigharch suggested, “We could always borrow one. I promise I won't wreck it.”

Matt groaned, “Just don't.”

Leigharch replied, “Okay. I won't.”

Matt said, “I could really use a beer.”

Fabiola commented, “All of us, could.”

Pedro said, “Okay. Let's head inside.”

As the five members of the groups walked towards the door, Matt requested, “Leigharch, hang back a second.”

Leigharch looked over at Matt, as he said, “Sure.”

Meanwhile, Pedro, Fabiola, and Matthew took the lead, with Matthew opening the door, for Fabiola and then Pedro. Matthew then closed the door behind them.

Matt and Leigharch continued walking behind them, but as a much slower pace.

Matt looked at Leigharch, as he asked, “I have a question. From my understanding, you have dealt with violently insane women on a regular basis, without being harmed?”

Leigharch answered, “Yes.”

Matt asked, “How did you do it?”

Leigharch cracked a grin, as he stated, “Simple. I respect them. And I used a firm voice with them, only within reason. It also helps when they know I am as batshit crazy as they are. Actually, more so. I have been committed to the looney bin before. They cannot make that claim.”

Matt let out a laugh. He thought, 'I wonder.' He inquired, “What is your definition of, insanity?”

Leigharch answered, “I take Einstein's approach to the meaning of insanity. He applied his statement to experiments, but I believe that his statement can also be applied to life, in general. That being that if someone does the same thing over and over again, yet that person is expecting different results, then that person is insane.'

Matt thought, with worry, 'I find it terrifying that is the most lucid comment I have heard all year. From a committed lunatic, no less.” He hesitantly said, “I can see where you are coming from.”

Leigharch suggested, “Good. Now, let's head inside before our friends miss us.”

Matt agreed, “That would be a good idea.”

Both men then started walking towards the front entrance to the bar. When they made it to the door, they Matt opened the door, and Leigharch was the first to walk inside. Matt then followed, while closing the door behind them.

Leigharch and Matt stood behind Pedro, Fabiola and Matthew, at the front of the entrance, with the three of adults having their backs turned to them. The two men overhead Pedro stated, “You have got to be kidding me.”

Pedro's group were back in the Rats Nest, with the both those inside, sitting down, and those whom just entered, looking at each other.

Matthew commented, with disbelief, “Talk about coming full circle. We are back in the
Rats Nest...” He turned to Pedro, as he stated, “You do know that I am going to be asking Fabiola to do the reality jumps, from now on. Because you just cannot seem to get these teleports exactly right.”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he replied, “I admit it. I messed up. And I don't blame you for having that opinion. We will have to talk about it, later. In private, if we make it that far.”

Matthew said, “I am with you on that.”

Pedro and Matthew then looked back out among the crowd in front of them.

Across the room, from the entrance, Balalaika sat in her chair, as she focused on looking at Pedro, Matthew, and Fabiola. She cracked a grin, as she said, “Well, isn't this a surprise.”

Beside Balalaika, B commented, “Yes. Chang was right. They returned on their own.”

Balalaika thought, 'I think I will call Chang about them, later. Just to let him know he was right. I do believe that credit belongs, where credit is due.'

At the front of the room, Pedro saw Hernan in the back of the bar, sharing a table with Roberta. He thought, 'What is Hernan doing here? And why is he sharing a table with Roberta, Eda, and Yolanda? I got a distinct feeling that I don't want to know the answer. But, I am going find out anyway,'

At a table, near in the center of the room, Revy casually said, “Hi guys. We were wondering where you went off too?”

Roberta spoke up, “Fabiola, what have you been up to?”

Fabiola turned to Roberta, as she replied, “Actually, a lot.” She then noticed the black bearded man sitting next to Roberta. She asked, “Roberta, who is that man with you?”

Roberta grinned, as she said, “I will tell you in a minute.”

At the table near the entrance, Shenhua's jaw dropped at seeing the blond man in green clothing.

Shenhua quickly composed herself, as she asked, with disbelief, and hope, in her tone of voice, “Leigharch, is that you?”

Leigharch waved his right hand, while smiling towards Shenhua. He happily said, “Hi Shenhua. Long time, no see.”

Shenhua collected herself, as she responded, “That is an understatement.”

Leigharch complimented, “I am glad to see you are in good health.”

Shenhua replied, “I am glad you look fine, as well.”

Meanwhile, Revy used her right hand, to pointed at Matt, as she said, “I know all of them. But, who are you?” She then dropped her right hand back to her lap.

Matt didn't even bat an eyelash, as he turned to Revy. He flatly replied, “I'm the new guy.”

Revy giggled a little from Matt's reply. She then said, “When I look at you, you have that, seen it all, look.”

Matt smirked, as he responded, “That is because I have. And running with this group has just been a wonderful vacation.”

Revy inquired, “What is your name?”

Matt answered, “I would rather not say. I have found that such answers seem to attract the wrong type of attention.”

Revy responded, “Okay. What do you do?”

Matt inquired, “Have you seen the MIB movies?”

Revy answered, “Yea.”

Matt answered, “Think that. Only with less pay. Worse hours. And less respect.”

Revy let out a laugh. She stated, “I like you, already. You can come in.”

Suddenly, Pedro group heard a familiar voice, from behind them, say, “Actually, they will be coming with me.”

Those sitting down saw who it was, as Akira commented, “Oh hell.”

Violin said, “We don't see that every day.”

Aeryn agreed, “No. We don't.”

The five adult group, by the front entrance, turned around to see the door open, with the black power armored man standing only five feet from them.

Matthew complained, “Not him again.”

The black powersuited man commented, in his modulated, electronic tone of voice, “Yes. Me again.”

The black armored man ordered, “Surrender now, Mexican and Lawyer.”

Matthew thought, with annoyance, 'One time before when he once caught up to us. He asked for our names. And Pedro and I answered, that we were the Mexican and the Lawyer, as a joke. And he has not stopped calling us that, since then.'

Several of those inside the bar immediately put two and two together. Including Revy.

Revy questioned, in surprised, “You two were the men from Caracas.”

Pedro and Matthew turned back to looked at Revy, as they admitted, almost in unison, “Yes.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he commented, “And that was such a wonderful night.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he agreed, “Yep. So much fun. You really did teach them to be badasses.”

Pedro said, “I know.”

Matt flatly requested, “Guys. Can you reminisce, later. After we deal with the situation at hand.”

Pedro looked over at Matt, as he replied, “Okay.”

Matthew and Pedro then turned to look at each other, as Matthew said, “Well, time to pay the piper. You know the deal. You kick the ass, I do the paper work.”

Pedro inquired, “How? He is in powerarmor, and all I got in my Sistema.”

Matthew responded, “Listen, I am getting the shorter in the stick here. I got to explain what is going on to these hyper-violent women. This cannot be any worse than that time we crashed that Wookiee wedding. They were not happy. But, damn that cake was good.”

Pedro agreed, “Yea. The cake was good. It almost made the whole party crashing worth it.”

Revy complain, “What are you two talking about?”

Fabiola turned to Revy, as she answered, “It involved an incident in the Star Wars reality. I will tell you, later.”

Revy thought, 'That must be some story.'

Matthew turned to Revy, as he requested, “Please, give us a minute, Rev.”

Revy stated, “Don't call me Rev. It is Revy.”

The powerarmored man turned his helmet towards Revy, as he inquired, “Revy? Oh my god, it is you girls. And a few I don't recognize. Or, worry that I do?”

Rock asked, “Who are you?”

Black armored man pulled up his faceplate to reveal himself. He questioned, “Recognize me know?”

Revy, Rock, Dutch, Benny, said, almost in unison, “Abrego?!”

While, Abrego face was a very unhealthy pale shade of what. He was still recognizable.

Abrego said, in his normal voice, “Yes. It is I. And is that bastard Chang here? Or, is it bitch, now?”

Revy answered, “It depends on Chang's mood. Though, Chang is here.”

Abrego lowered back his mask, as he said, in his voice modulated tone, “Good. After I am finish with you all, I am going to kill Chang for stripping me of my organization, robbing my men of their manhood, and trapping me inside this suit!”

Roberta dared, “I would like to see you attempt that.”

Abrego laughed. He then stated, “This powerarmor is completely surrounded with an armor tight forcefield. Try your worst, bitches. You will wear yourselves out, and then I will kill you all.”

Violin stood up, as she flatly said, “I think not.”

Abrego turned to look at Violin, as he asked, “Who are you?”

Violin walked over to Abrego, with Pedro's group parting out of the way, to let her pass. As she came to a stop right in front of Abrego, she said, “I am Violin Cephon Shinmyou Crichton. I am the reincarnation of John Crichton. My mother is Birdy Tsutomu Cephon Shinmyou. Do any of those names mean anything to you?”

Abrego realized, as he thought, 'Gomez did mention a Birdy... Oh crap.' He asked, with worry evident, in his modulated voice, “It is too late to back out now?”

Violin lips curled into a wicked grin, as she replied, “Oh yes. Most certainly, yes.” Then, with her super-strength, she used her right first to punch Abrego in the chest, sending him back into the street. Which had rarely had cars and other vehicles drive by, at that time of night.

Violin then used her super-speed, to catch up to Abrego, whom landed in the middle of the street. She then continued throwing Abrego around, as she beat on him, with a mixture of speed and strength that was about frightening and impressive.

Eda stated, “Let's go check this fight out.”

Everyone whom was sitting down, had gotten out of their seats, and headed for the front entrance.

Matthew noticed Hernan and Roberta looking at them, as he suggested, “Pedro, Fabiola, I think we should stay inside for a minute.”

Both Pedro and Fabiola noticed Hernan and Roberta looking at them, as well, as they were slowing approaching them, with the group.

Pedro replied, “Yes. I agree.”

Fabiola said, “Yes. It will be good catch up with what is going on.”

As the women passed by Pedro's group, to the outside, a few of the women stayed inside, with Pedro, Matthew and Fabiola, along with one man.

Matt and Leigharch turned to Pedro. Matt said, “I am going to go check out the fight.”

Leigharch commented, “So, am I.”

Pedro looked over at the two men, as he said, “Have fun.” He then looked back over at Roberta, and Hernan.

Matt and Leigharch then turned, and heading outside, as well.

Meanwhile, the only once left inside, besides Pedro, Matthew, and Fabiola, was Bao, Roberta, and Hernan.

By then, Bao was standing, in the back of the room, on the outer side of the counter.

As Bao watched the other five adults, she thought, 'I think it might be best if I stay in here for the moment. To keep things from becoming violent, and destructive to my bar. Again.'

Meanwhile, the others inside the room, looked at each other.

Pedro inquired, “Hi Hernan. What are you doing here?”

Hernan turned to Pedro. He answered, “Hi Pedro. Long story short, as insane at it sound, I am Roberta's male counterpart for this reality.”

Fabiola commented, “Really?” She turned to Roberta, with Roberta looking back at her.

Roberta said, “Yes. It is true. And there is more.”

Pedro thought about for a few seconds. He then shrugged, as he said, “That makes so much sense.” He then realized, as he thought, 'Hold on. Maria kind of looks like...' He began, “And Maria...”

Hernan thought, in amusement, 'Just as Rock predicted. Pedro figured it out.' He responded, “Yes. My wife is the female counterpart to Garcia.”

Pedro thought, 'I pity any fool that messes with their family, again.'

Fabiola asked, “And you're married to Garcia's counterpart?”

Hernan turned Fabiola, as he said, “You must be Fabiola. It is nice to meet you. And yes. I am happily married to her.”

Roberta commented, “Maria is a wonderful woman. I have met their family. And they also have three well behaved kids.”

Fabiola replied, “Cool. Does Garcia know?”

Roberta stated, “Actually, all of us visited Garcia for a few days, last Saturday. Local time.” She continued, in a sad tone of voice, “We could not find you. So, we had to do it without you.”

Fabiola thought, 'That reminds me. I need to call Annie, later tonight. And let her know we are back.' She responded, “It is alright. I understand. So, how did your visit go?”

Roberta happily stated, “Wonderfully. Much like Hernan and I. Garcia and Maria consider each other brother and sister. Also, the children were well behaved during their time at the Lovelace household.”

Fabiola said, “That is great to hear. And I do look forward to meeting Maria, and the children.”

Hernan commented, “Give the lateness of the hour. You are going to have to wait, until at least tomorrow, before you can see my wife and children.”

Fabiola replied, “That will be fine.”

Matthew stated, “As fun as this is. Pedro and I probably need to get out of here, before your friends come back.” He turned Pedro, as he continued, “Though, I am not suggesting a reality jump. It is clear that is not working.”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he said, “I wasn't planning too. But, you are right. We need to get out of here.” He thought, 'And I know a perfect place to hide.”

Bao stated, “Head out the back door, guys. And you will be fine.”

Pedro turned to Bao, as he replied, “Thanks, Bao.”

Bao said, “You're welcome.” She thought, 'It doesn't hurt to help my friends, out of a jam, especially, when one of them is the local police chief.'

Pedro looked at Hernan and Roberta, as he commented, “I am glad all of you found each other. I am glad your family is doing fine. And as much as I would like to stay and talk. We need to get out of here.”

Hernan said, “I appreciate it, Pedro.”

Roberta stated, “No problem, Pedro.”

Pedro turned to Fabiola, as he requested, “And Fabiola. Let Matt and Leigharch know we had to leave, but we are not reality jumping, without them.”

Fabiola replied, “I will.”

Hernan thought, 'Matt and Leigharch. I guess they are to the two men with these three. And given Shenhua spoke to the blond. It is a good guess that Leigharch is the blond man. And he is the same Leigharch from Black Lagoon. Though, I don't know who Matt is. Still, it is nice to put a name to each of their faces.'

'And on the matter of Pedro and Matthew. I don't think I will try to convince Pedro and Matthew to not leave. It is clear that them staying, would cause major problems for them. And from Roberta and Melanie have told me, concerning those two. I can see why.'

Pedro said, “Thank you. See you later, then.”

Matthew commented, “Yea. Goodbye.”

Both men then walked passed the others, as they headed for the door to the storage room, on the back, right corner of the bar room, which would lead to the back door to the building.

As soon as Pedro and Matthew were out of sight, Bao turned back to the group. She suggested, “Now, how about we go check on that fight, happening outside.”

Roberta complimented, “Good idea.”

Fabiola commented, “I have nowhere better to be.”

Hernan said, “This fight should be interesting.”

Bao stated, “Then, let's head out there, and watch.”

The four adults then walked out of the front entrance, to join the others, that were watching the one sided fight outside, between Violin and Abrego, with Violin on the winning side of the battle.

A few seconds later, as Hernan, Roberta, Bao, and Fabiola joined the crowd that had gathered right outside the front entrance of the Rats Nest. The three adults them watched with the rest of the crowd, as the fight, or more aptly, the beatdown that was commencing on the empty street in front of them.

Violin showed how skilled a powerful fighter she was. In the way she used both her super-strength and super-speed in turning the black armored, human ping-pong ball, between her fists, feet, and the ground, without seriously harming Abrego. This both kept Abrego from reacting, and also slowly broke down his powerarmor.

Eda asked, “I wonder if Abrego is still alive?”

Aeryn answered, “He is. Violin has not interest in killing him. You can tell this by the fact his armor is still in one piece. Violin is hitting him around just enough to keep him off balance, while wearing down the armor. Though, at the same time, Violin is preventing serious harm to the person inside the armor.”

Eda inquired, “It sounds like this is not the first time she has done this? It is?”

Aeryn replied, “No. It isn't.”

Benny commented, “Either way, Abrego is going to feel this in the morning.” She thought, 'There is also no point in creating a betting pool. The end of this fight is a foregone conclusion.'

Aeryn agreed, “That is very likely.”

Akira commented, “This is like watching Thor kick Ironman's ass.”

Natsuru replied, “I know. And Violin is moving so fast, and with such power behind her strikes, that Abrego cannot react.”

Balalaika looked towards Aeryn, as she said, “I did not realize your spouse was so strong.”

Aeryn turned to Balalaika, as she responded, “Given Violin's peaceful personality, people tend to forget that she is a half-alien super-soldier. Given my Sebacean background, I can only imagine how powerful our daughter will be. If our son was any indication, being just half human and half Sebacean, she will definitely be a handful, as she grows older.”

Balalaika replied, “I bet.”

Aeryn joked, “Also, I no longer have to worry about accidentally breaking her in bed, like I did when she was John.”

Balalaika laughed for a few seconds.

Nearby, B overheard the two women, as she thought, 'And I have no doubt that those two are rougher in bed than Balalaika and myself.'

Suddenly, Violin threw Abrego onto his back, on the paved road. She then stood six feet from him, as she just quietly looked him.”

Everyone in the crowd turned to look at scene, on the empty street, play out.

Janet asked, “Why did you stop hitting him?”

Violin kept looking, at Abrego, whom was still laying on the ground, as she answered, “Because. It's over.”

A few seconds later, everyone watched as Abrego's armor, from the top of his helmet to the tip of his boots, started to crack.

The cracks quickly grew for a couple of seconds, until the armor literally shattered, and fell apart, to the ground, revealing a very surprised Abrego. With him only his boxer shorts.

While Abrego looked at Violin, he had a surprised expression on his face. Though, he did not say a word to anyone.

Janet complimented, “Not bad.”

Violin continued to looking at Abrego, as she replied, “Thank you.”

Rock requested, “Guys. Let me talk to him.”

Balalaika stated, “Go ahead. I have nothing to say to that fool.”

Dutch said, “Do what you got to do, Rock. You will likely get answers out of him, the quickest.” She mentally added, 'And least messy.'

Rock walked over to stand beside Violin, to Violin's left side, as both she and Violin looked down at Abrego, whom was laying on his back

Rock saw that Abrego looking up at her and Violin. She also noticed that like Abrego's face, the rest of his body was very pale. Also, he had several bruises start to show all of his body. And though, he otherwise unharmed, he was in no shape to move, left alone stand under his own power.

Rock thought, 'That paleness over his entire body, only confirms what he hinted at. That he is very unhealthy. As such, I need to wrap this up quickly.'

Rock stated, “I have questions for you.”

Abrego replied, in a defeated on tone of voice, “Go ahead. It is not like it matters anymore. By the way, who are you?”

Rock replied, “You know me. I am Rock.”

Abrego responded, “The only Rock I know of is a man....” Rock saw realization dawn in his eyes, as Abrego continued, “Oh. Chang got you, as well?”

Rock said, “Correct. So, what do you mean, when you said, you were trapped in your suit?”

Abrego coyly replied, “It is a long story.”

Rock suppressed a chuckle, as she thought, 'It more ways than you likely realize. Still, we need answers.' She pointed, “It is not like you have anywhere to go.”

Abrego spat out, “Perhaps. But, I am dead, either way.”

Rock inquired, “What do you mean?”

Abrego answered, “Your friend here trashed my suit. There is a reasons it partly resembles an Ironman suit. Because it was partly based on those suits. And my suit also functioned as my life support system.”

Rock questioned, “How long do you have?”

Abrego replied, “I am not sure. But, not long.”

Rock stated, “Then, start from the beginning. There might be something you know that will allow us to save your life.”

Abrego inquired, “You would still try to save me after I threatened your life?”

Rock answered, “I am in a relationship with Revy, whom has threatened my life more times than everyone else combined.”

Nearby, Revy thought, 'I will let her comment slide. Because, I use to be that bad. But, not any more.'

Abrego commented, “We always thought you were crazy for being involved with her.”

Rock said, “I won't argue that point with you. Now, tell us where you have been, all this time?”

Abrego stated, “Well, it started back in Roanapur. Soon after the heads of the families, including myself, agreed to put Chang in charge. So, we could profit from his little multiversal ventures. I see now that was a big mistake.”

Rock thought, 'Yes. They say hindsight is twenty-twenty.'

Abrego continued, “Anyway, one night, Chang invited over the enforcers and the bosses of the families. Save for Hotel Moscow. To a party. And Chang must have spiked the drinks, because I passed out. Along with, I am guessing, everyone else Chang invited. The next thing I know, I am inside a vat of green goo, with a mask on my face. Plugs and wires connected to me. While stark naked.'

Rock thought, 'This is what happened to Revy, Shenhua, and Sawyer, to get them into the vats.'

Abrego went onto say, “The only reason I came to was the sedatives they used on the others did not work on me. This was due to when I was younger, I use to abuse tranquilizers. And due to that, I have built a high tolerance to sedatives.”

“I pulled off everything that was on me, except the mask. Until I was able to get the hatch at the top of the vat I was in, off. Then, I removed the mask, and got off. I soon made it to the ground, and I realized I was in a large, dimly lit, warehouse, with several other vats.”

Rock thought, 'Actually, that was one of the vat levels in Chang's tower.'

Abrego stated, “Then, I saw who was in the other vats and I realized what Chang was doing to my men, and others. And I what he was planning to do to me. Soon after, I heard some guards coming, and not intention of being caught. So, I quickly ducked into a nearby empty room.”

“In the room, there was some sort of portal system. Considering the metal circle looked like a Star Gate, it did not take a genius to figure out that it was a way out for me. And I saw the control, were near the gate.”

“Fortunately, after fiddling with the controls, for about a minute, I was able to get the machine to work, and I jumped in, before anyone found me.”

“Suddenly, found myself in Japan. In the middle of the day. In another reality. Though, in a similar time period. There, I was soon found by someone that would eventually become my benefactor. After explaining myself to him, he offered to both help me, and to give me a job. Of which, I gladly accepted his offer.”

“Then, I started getting sick. Fortunately, he provided me with this powersuit, which your friend just destroyed, that kept me alive. Sort of like the black suite Vader wore, to survive. Only, it is not breathing that is my problem. But, immunity problems. And that suit kept me alive, and stopped my body from dying. Now, it is gone, and I am a dead man.”

Rock thought, 'He was just like I was. Which means we can save his life. Though, he is going to have to become a woman to do it.”

Rock said, “I believe we can save your life. But, first tell us who you work for?”

Abrego responded, “No. As much as I would love to tell you. That is the one answer that I can trade for. Though, I am more than willing to give you the name, in exchange for my life. So, there is no need for threats against me. Now, you say you can save me?”

Rock thought, while mild annoyance, 'I forgot what fools some of those in Roanapur gangsters came be.'

Rock answered, with a hint of annoyance in her tone of voice, “Yes. But, first give us the name of your employer?”

Abrego calmly stated, “After you save me. I will answer your question. We both know this is the only leverage I have. And it is a simple trade. My life for this knowledge.”

Rock responded, “Fine, Abrego. We will do it that way. And your negotiation skills have gotten better over the years.”

Abrego commented, “Thank you. And you of all people know what a person is capable of when they are cornered and desperate.”

Rock mentioned, “You are correct about that. Still, we are going to have to see Chang, to save your life.”

Abrego replied, “That figures.”

Rock said, “Not to worry. He has learned his lesson.”

Abrego stated, “If anyone else had told me that. I won't believe them. You, on the other hand, try to be honest. So, I will trust you. And I won't fight going to him.”

Rock replied, “Thank you.” She thought, 'He probably realizes what is going to be done to him, to save his life. But, I won't stay it outright. Because, I don't want him to have second thoughts on resisting me. Now, to get some help.'

Rock turned to the group in front of the Rats Nest, as she asked, “Could someone help me take Abrego to Chang?” She mentally reflected, 'I don't want to use the GTO, considering that is how Dutch, Benny, Janet, and Revy, are going to get back to the hotel.'

Eda commented, “Normally, I would decline. But, he clearly has information we need. And him dying will not give us that information. So, we can take my car.” She thought, 'Though, River and Annie could pull that information from his mind. But, both of them have made it very clear, that unless it is an immediate life or death situation. They will not do that.'

Yolanda said, “I will go with you, too.”

Revy said, “I might as well, also go.”

Rock looked over at them, as she said, “Thanks.” She turned back to Violin, as she requested, “Violin. Care to help us get Abrego into Eda's car?”

Violin turned to Rock, as she replied, “Sure.” She then looked back over at Abrego, as she approached him. She then scoped up the larger man in her arms. And, with little effort, she turned, as she started walking towards the Rats Nest parking, on the left side of the building.

Abrego did not fight Violin, nor did he say a word.

(_)

A few minutes later, Abrego was back of Eda's four door car, while Eda, Rock, Yolanda, and Revy, were inside as well. Which was parked, in the Rats Nest parking lot, to the left of the bar.

Meanwhile, after helping Abrego into the car, Violin had walked back over to join her wife in the group that was looking at them, from the front of the Rats Nest.

Inside Eda's car, Eda was in the left driver's seat. to her right, in the front passenger seat, sat Rock. And in the backseat, behind Rock, was Revy. To Revy's left was Abrego. And to Abrego's left was Yolanda, whom was behind Eda.

Yolanda warned, “Do not try anything, Abrego?”

Abrego turned to Yolanda, as he commented, “I won't dream of it. By the way, who are you?”

Yolanda replied, “Yolanda.”

Abrego asked, in surprised, “From the Rip Off Church?”

Yolanda said, “The very same.”

Abrego complimented, “Damn. You look great.”

Yolanda calmly replied, “Thank you.”

On the other side of Abrego, Revy could not help but giggle a little at Abrego's response to Yolanda's restored youth, and right eye.

By then, Eda had used her key to start her car, and she rolled slowly rolled her vehicle out of the parking lot, and onto the road.

Meanwhile, Rock, had pulled out her cellphone, as she dialed the number to Chang's cellphone. To contact Chang, about was had happened, and what was going on.

(_)

As the group, by the front of the Rats Nest, watched Eda's car speed away, down the road, Matt looked around, including the windows, into the bar, to see that Pedro and Matthew were gone.

Matt turned towards the group, as he asked, “Where are Pedro and Matthew?”

Fabiola turned to Matt, as she answered, “They had to leave. But, they did not reality jump.”

Molly said, “It figures those two would disappear, while we are distracted.”

Leigharch inquired, “Why would they run from you? I never did get the straight story on that, from them.”

Shenhua said, “We had questions for them. Though, we also have questions for you, Leigharch?”

Leigharch turned to Shenhua, as he replied, “Sure, Shenhua. I will tell you everything that has happened to me, sense we last spoke. And you can tell me what has happened to you. But, not tonight. It has been a long day for us.”

Shenhua shrugged, as she replied, “Okay.”

Dutch stated, “And I doubt they are stupid enough to head back to Pedro's home, the police stations, nor the casino, tonight.”

Benny agreed, “You are likely right, Dutch.”

Balalaika said, “They will turn up again, later.”

Janet responded, “Yea. They will turn up. I am sure that if they stay, Pedro will at least check in on the police, at the police station. Considering, he cares greatly about his subordinates.”

Balalaika complimented, “That is a good point, Janet.”

Janet replied, “Thank you.”

Matt inquired, “Okay. With Pedro and Matthew gone. What are Leigharch and I suppose to do? Pedro was the one with the money and transportation.”

Leigharch looked over at Matt, as he said, “Thanks, for including me in your question.”

Matt turned to Leigharch, as he replied, “No problem.”

Matt and Leigharch then turned to the crowd of women.

Fabiola stated, “Simple. We will just take you two back to the Devil's Hotel, with us. I already share a room there, with Roberta. And we will get a room for each other you.”

Roberta commented, “Yes. I am more than happy to pay for the rooms of two of Fabiola's friends.”

Matt looked over at Roberta, as he thought, 'I never thought I would say this to Roberta, though...' He responded, “Thank you. Though, why is the hotel called the Devil's Hotel?”

Roberta said, “Not to worry. It is a good hotel.”

Matt replied, “Okay.” He thought, 'It is best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.'

Fabiola turned to Roberta, as she admitted, “Still, we need a ride.”

Roberta stated, “I brought my car here. So, that should not be a problem.”

Fabiola replied, “Good. And thank you.”

Roberta responded, “No problem. Also, I already told Hernan and his family this. I went back home, and talked with Garcia, earlier today. And he said that he will be able to come visit us in a day, or two. Our time.”

Fabiola said, “Cool. I look forward to seeing him.”

Roberta replied, “He feels the same way about you.”

Dutch commented, “Well, with that said. It might be a good idea to call it a night.”

Balalaika replied, “I agree.”

Roberta said, “So do I.”

Balalaika commented, “Well, tonight was more entertaining, than most of our nights here. We will have to do this again, sometime.”

Roberta stated, “I looked forward having this fun, again, as well.”

B turned to Lotton, Shenhua, Sawyer, Violin, and Aeryn, as she offered, “I will call ahead. So, your children will be ready to be picked up, from the Maria Zeleska, when you get there, in a few minutes.”

Violin said, “That will be fine.”

Lotton replied, “Thank you.”

Shenhua requested, “And please thank them for watching over our children.”

B said, “I will.”

Leigharch noticed this, as he thought, 'So, Shenhua is a mother. And she has children. I will ask her about that matter, later. It is too late, tonight, to discuss such topics. And I am way too tired to do so.'

Meanwhile, Hernan looked over at Roberta, as he stated, “I need to take my car, and go home. It is late enough, as is. And I need to get back home to my wife and children, before it gets any later.”

Roberta turned to Hernan, as she replied, “I understand. And we will talk, tomorrow.”

Then, all of them headed for their vehicles. Except for Bao.

As Bao walked back inside her bar, to clean up, and start to close the bar for the night, she happily thought, 'At least my bar was not damaged this time.'

(_)

Fifteen minutes later, Eda drove her car into the parking lot of the Daiyu Palace Casino.

As Eda drove her car under the large awning, in front of the casino, in the backseat of her car, Abrego was feeling worse, as he stated, “I can feel myself starting to fade.”

Rock turned to her left, as she looked between the front seats, to the backseat. She said, “Don't worry. We are about to get you some help.”

Rock then sat back in her seat, as they came to a stop, she saw, on the curb.

Rock saw, to their right, on the sidewalk, Chang, Simon, some personnel is medic scrubs, and a gurney were waiting for them. Chang was about twenty feet from Simon, and the other personnel there. And Chang was dress in his usual, professional clothing.

Rock also noticed some valets nearby, though the women were avoiding Chang, and the medical team.

Rock thought, 'I am glad I called ahead.'

Rock then felt as Eda put her car in park.

Rock stated, “Eda, stay with the car. Revy, Yolanda, please help Abrego out, and onto the gurney. I am going to go talk to Chang.” She then opened her door, and got out of the car.

As Rock walked towards Chang, Eda turned of the ignition of her vehicle. She then got out of her car. Though, she just stood by the open, driver's side door, as she watched what was going on, from across the roof of her car.

Revy opened her door, and got out, as well. She then started to gently pull Abrego out, as on the inside the car, on the opposite side of Abrego, Yolanda was helping to gently push Abrego out of the car.

Fortunately, Abrego was still awake enough to help himself out of the vehicle.

As this went on, Rock came to a stop, in front of Chang.

Chang looked at Rock, as he said, “Hi Rock. You seem to bring me the most interesting of people.”

Rock thought, 'It is too late at night for these sorts of games.' She calmly replied, “I am glad you agreed to help Abrego.”

Chang responded, “Of course. I always wondered what happened to him. Now, we know. For the most part.”

Rock asked, “Can you save him?”

Chang said, “Well, since you told me he came out of the vat process early, like you did. The solution is simple enough. He has to undergo the vat process. Fortunately, we have vats on hand to help Abrego. I just hope he likes becoming a woman. Though, the brainwashing will help with that part.”

Rock responded, “Yes. Abrego will just have to adjust, like the rest of us did. And when she gets out of the vat, we will be able to find out who she was working for.”

Chang stated, “True. And we need to know who gave him that reality traveling technology, and the powerarmor. Also, we need to know if he is connect to the Xanatos family.”

Rock thought, 'I am glad you told me about that, on the phone.' She commented, “I agree. Though, I am just not sure we can afford to wait a month, for those answers, for the vat process to be complete.”

Chang said, “We don't have to. It will only take a few days for us. I will have Abrego taken to another reality, where I have a place at. There, we will do the vat treatment over a month. Until it is complete. And then, we will bring her back here, a few days later for us. After which, we will get our answers.”

Rock thought, with mild amusement, 'Time dilation for the win.' She stated, “That is nice to hear. I guess we can wait that long. Also, Abrego did mention that he used to abuse tranquilizers. And that is how he was able to wake up, in the first place, during the vat process.”

Chang said, “I will inform, Simon, and the others, that will over see the vat process, to keep a more detailed eye on Abrego. To make sure he stays under, during the vat process, until he is a she. Also, I ask that you let me handle this.”

Rock inquired, “Okay. Though, I would like to know what you plan to do with Abrego, after this?”

Chang stated, “Even if I don't get any useful answers, I already plan to add a little bit to Abrego's brainwashing, to make her more sociable and loyal to me. So, I can hire her for a job at the casino. Something simple. So, I can keep an eye on her. And prevent her from getting into trouble.”

Rock commented, “If this was anyone else, I would object to such brainwashing. But, for Abrego, it is the best solution, from a lot of bad options.”

Chang said, “I know. I am not exactly crazy about doing this myself.” He thought, 'I will make sure to talk to River, Lee, Annie, Mal, Zoe, Spike, and a few others, concerning this matter. I am sure they will be fine with the matter. Or, at very least, not negatively react to the news. As long as I explain what is going on. And I don't abuse the situation.'

Rock and Chang then turned to look over at the medical team. They saw that Revy and Yolanda standing to the side, of the medical team, with Abrego laying on his back, on the gurney. Though, Abrego was clearly unconscious.

They also saw Simon was using a stethoscope to check Abrego's vitals.

Chang asked, “How is he?”

Simon looked up at Chang, as he took off the stethoscope. He answered, “His vitals are weak. But, he is not in any immediate danger. Though, we need to put him in one of those vats, soon. To continue the process that, from what I am told, was interrupted.”

Chang said, “No time like the present. Start getting him prepped, to send him over to where our vats are.”

Simon did not replied, as he turned to his medical team. He stated, “You heard the man. Let's gets him to the infirmary. So, we can get him ready.”

Chang and Rock then watched as Simon and his medical team wheeled Abrego into the casino, though the front entrance.

When the medical team was out of sight, Chang turned back to Rock, as he commented, “By the way, thanks for informing me that Pedro, Matthew, Leigharch, Matt, and Fabiola, were back in town.”

Rock looked over at Chang, as she inquired, “No problem. Though, you won't happen to know who Matt, the redheaded man with them is?”

Chang answered, “He is Matt Bluestone, from the Gargoyles reality.”

Rock recognized the name. She said, “Oh. No wonder he didn't want to tell us who he was. Cops don't really go over well with us.” She thought, 'And from his reactions towards us. I get the feeling he knows who we are. Which is not surprising, given whom he had been spending some time with.'

Chang commented, “Yea. He has good reason to keep his mouth shut on who he is. Considering our friends don't care much for cops.”

Chang thought, except for me, and a few others. Anyway, I better say good night. So, we can got to our homes, and get some sleep. I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a long day.'

Chang continued, 'Anyway, have a good night, Rock.”

Rock replied, “I will. And have a good night, yourself.”

Chang then turned, and calmly walked back inside the casino.

Rock turned back to Revy, Yolanda, and Eda. All three of whom were looking at her. Rock said, “Come on. Let's head back to the hotel.”

Rock, Yolanda, and Revy, walked back over to Eda's car. Then, all four of the women got back into the car, where they had been sitting before. With then shutting the doors behind them.

Eda in the driver's seat. Rock in the front passenger's seat. Revy sitting behind Rock. And Yolanda sitting behind Eda.

As Eda started her car back up, Revy asked, “So, the redhead is a cop?”

Rock turned to her left, to look between the front seats, and at Revy, as she requested, “Yes. Though, he is one of the nicer ones. So, please go easy on him.”

Revy shrugged, as she said, “Sure. He made me laugh. So, I will leave him be.”

Rock replied, “Thank you.” She then turned back in front of her, as she leaned back in her seat.

A few seconds later, Eda had her car in drive, as she drove out from under the casino awning, and towards a nearby street, as the four women headed back to the Devil's Hotel, to drop off Rock and Revy. Then, Eda would drive Yolanda, and herself, back to their apartment.

(_)

A few minutes later, across town, those that had left the Rats Nests, and directly heading for the Devil's Hotel, finally made it to the hotel parking lot.

It would still be a little while before Eda, Rock, Revy, and Yolanda, would make it to the hotel.

A couple of minutes later, those that had returned to the Rats Nest starting filing into the nearly empty front lobby, except for the two clerks at the check in desk.

Most of those that came in, either headed for their suites, or for the hotel restaurant, to have on last drink, before calling it a night.

Roberta and Fabiola then walked into the front lobby, with Matt and Leigharch following right behind them.

As the two men entered the front lobby, the music coming from the lobby speakers changed.

Roberta, Fabiola, Matt, and Leigharch came to a stop, as they noticed the change in music.

Roberta commented, “What an odd selection to make for those two.”

Fabiola said, “Those two can be very odd. Though, we are not ones to talk.”

Roberta conceded, “True.”

Matt overheard the two women in front of him, as he asked, “What do you mean? And what is the name of that song? It is on the tip of my tongue.”

Leigharch stated, “It is eighties rock song, Mickey, by Toni Basil. And I loved the eighties.” He thought, 'Since I now have access to reality travel. I can visit an Earth, during the nineteen eighties, some time.'

Matt looked at Leigharch, as he commented, “Of course. Considering the number of eighties pop-culture references you like to give out.”

Leigharch just looked over at Matt. He smiled, as he teased, “You're just jeolious that I get to tell all the cool, funny jokes.”

Matt commented, “I don't get even half the jokes you tell.”

Leigharch's smile widened, ever so slightly, as he said, “Exactly.”

Instead of Matt responding to Leigharch, Matt turned to looked at the backs of Roberta and Fabiola, as he inquired, “Now, that question is answered. What do you mean that this song is connected to us? Should we be worried?”

Roberta and Fabiola turned around to face Matt and Leigharch, as Roberta answered, “No.”

Fabiola stated, “Though, this is not a normal hotel. This place is not dangerous. But, this place does have a few oddities. Such as, sometimes the music will change in this lobby here, when a person first enters the lobby. And the song, or music piece is changes to, can mean something for the person. Either their past, present, or future.”

Fabiola thought, 'Also, that reminds me. Given Leigharch and Violin's love of american pop-culture. I need to introduce the two to each other. That way, they can talk to each other about such subjects, without driving the rest of us crazy.'

Roberta mentioned, “One person we know of, we found out when that person entered this lobby for the first time, and the lobby speakers started playing the Eagles, Hotel California.” She thought, 'I am glad that Melanie one day let that little piece of information drop about Lee. That was a nice topic of discussion.'

Fabiola mentally reflected, 'I know who she is talking about.' She mentioned, “And that person eventually got stuck in a twenty year time loop, repeating the same day, over and over again.”

Matt replied, with concern in his voice, “That is bad.”

Fabiola said, “Not really. The person made the most of it. That person took the opportunity to learn a lot during the time loop.” She thought, 'I will get Lee credit. That was very intelligent of her. Though, also...' Fabiola continued, “And that person did not age a day during the loops.

Matt questioned, “Who was this person?”

Roberta answered, “Her name is, Lee.”

Matt looked over at Roberta, as he commented, “I have heard Lee's name dropped a Lee times, by Fabiola here. Along, with Pedro and Matthew.” He thought, 'And I met Lee, once. She didn't seem like much to me. Of course, these two women in front of me, don't seem like much. Though, I know for a fact that each one could singlehandedly stop an entire, modern military platoon by themselves. So, I know appearances can be deceiving.'

Roberta stated, “Take our word for it. Lee is nothing but trouble.”

Matt said, “I will take your word on that. Still, should I be worried about the song that is playing for us? I have no interest in getting stuck in a timeloop.”

Roberta replied, “I doubt that will happen to you.”

Leigharch commented, in a casual tone of voice, “Relax, Matt. Mickey is a fun song. But, otherwise harmless.”

Matt turned to Leigharch, as he replied, “Alright.”

Both men then turned back to Roberta and Fabiola.

Roberta said, “Stay here. I will go get you both rooms.”

Matt said, “We appreciate everything you have done for us.”

Leigharch replied, “Yes. We do.”

Roberta nodded once towards them. She then turned, and walked up to the front desk.

Fabiola looked over at Roberta. She then turned back to face Matt and Leigharch. She requested, “Look guys. I need to make a phone call, and talk to someone, in private.”

Matt said, “Go ahead.”

Leigharch commented, “We will be here, if you want to talk.”

Fabiola replied, “Thank you.”

Fabiola then walked over to the right side of the lobby, away from everyone. She then used her left hand to pull out her encrypted cellphone, from an interior jacket pocket.

While Fabiola dialed a number on her cellphone, she thought, 'I am glad I kept this turned off during my time with Pedro and the others. Because it is still fully charged, and I can use it.'

When Fabiola was finished dialing the number, she held the phone to her left ear.

The phone began to ring as she held it up to her right ear, by her right hand.

After a couple of more rings, the other end picked up. A familiar female voice said, “Hello.”

Fabiola said, “Hi Annie.”

On the other end of the line, Annie happily responded, “Hello Fabiola. How was your hunt?”

Fabiola answered, “Good. If you haven't heard. We are all back in town. With a few extra people with us.”

Annie asked, “Is Matthew and Pedro with you?”

Fabiola stated, “No. Pedro and Matthew are not with us. Long story short, our group teleported in, right beside the Rats Nest, and we walk right into one of Revy's little parties, with nearly everyone there.”

Annie started laughing a little, as she inquired, “Really?”

Fabiola said, “Yes. And while everyone was distracted by something, I will tell you about later. Though, while we most of them were distracted, Matthew and Pedro gave them the slip.”

By then, Annie had composed herself, as she stopped laughing. On the other end of the line, as she calmly stated, “It makes complete sense for them to do that.”

Fabiola replied, “I agree.”

Annie asked, “So, how are they?”

Fabiola answered, “The last time I saw them, they were both fine. And they said they were not going to reality jump.”

Annie responded, “Okay. I am sure they will show up, later. Thanks for finding them, and bringing them back. You can tell me all about details, tomorrow, when you feel like it.”

Fabiola stated, “Sure. No problem.”

Annie said, in a kind, caring tone of voice, “Sleep well.”

Fabiola replied, “You too.” She then hung her up cellphone, and she pocketed back in the interior jacket pocket it was previously in.

Next, Fabiola turned and walked back to join up with Matt and Leigharch. With the three of them patiently waiting for Roberta to return with some room assignments, and room keys, for Matt and Leigharch.

A few minutes later, Roberta had returned from the front desk, to the group, with hotel keys, and room assignments. With a separate room for Matt and Leigharch. Then, Roberta, Fabiola, Matt, and Leigharch said good night to each other. With them agreeing to meet at seven in the morning, to have some of the breakfast, together, at the buffet, in the hotel restaurant. With their meals paid for by Roberta.

(_)

An hour later, Pedro lead Matthew into a two story building, on the eastern, sea side harbor, in De La Plata Podrido.

Pedro used a key, he had on a keyring, to unlock the door, on the first story. He then opened the door, and walked inside.

Matthew followed behind Pedro.

As Pedro made his way inside, he soon turned on a small lamp light, that was on a small table, by a wall, further into the room.

Meanwhile, Matthew shut and locked the door behind him.

Pedro then turned to look at his friend, as he stated, “This is one of my safehouses in town. I didn't teleport us directly to this place, because the others would have tracked us here.”

Matthew inquired, “Okay. So, how safe is this place?”

Pedro said, “We are good for the night. There are a couple of beds, and a bathroom on the second floor. Still, we are near where the cargo ship, the Maria Zeleska, Hotel Moscow HQ, is moored. Though, not too near.”

Matthew commented, “And no one would guess that we would hide so close to such a group.”

Pedro replied, “Exactly. I even used this place to stake out the Maria Zeleska, from time to time. And none of Hotel Moscow ever caught on.”

Matthew inquired, in a sober tone of voice, “Interesting... So, what are we going to do tomorrow?”

Pedro responded, in an equally sober tone of voice, “In all honesty. I am not really sure how we are going to handle this. It is true. Running did not solve our problems.”

Matthew said, “Yea. Learn something everyday. Still, it was worth a try.”

Pedro stated, “I agree. Still, as the situation is right now. We are not leaving this reality. Especially, not without Matt and Leigharch.” He thought, 'Fabiola has her own reality device, and she is with her friends.”

Matthew agreed, “Yes. They would be pissed with us. And we would lose what little respect the girls have for us.”

Pedro replied, “Exactly.”

Matthew commented, “Still, you know what that means.”

Pedro stated, “Yes. It means we have to solve our problems here.”

Matthew said, “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

Pedro responded, “Yea. Well, we are just going to have to bite the bullet on this one. Still, while we figure out what to do next, we can get some sleep. And I need to check on my boys, at the police station, and see what had happened while we are gone. We will wake up, get cleaned up, get some breakfast, and head over there in the morning. From there, we will figure out what to do.”

Matthew said, “I guess we are going to have to finally talk to Chang?”

Pedro stated, “Yes. I believe that cannot be helped. But, I feel we might get more out of this, than we expect.”

Matthew responded, “I hope you are right. So, what about Matt and Leigharch? We kind of leave them in a lurch, back at the Rats Nest. Not that we had any real real choice in the matter. If we had stayed, the girls would have captured us. And while I am sure that Fabiola will be fine. I am not sure about those two.”

Pedro said, “I would not worry. Fabiola is with them. And she will inform them we are not leaving this reality, without them. Chances are, Fabiola and Roberta will take those two back with them, to the Devil's Hotel. And get them each a room.”

Matthew commented, “I hope you are right.”

Pedro replied, “So am I.”

Matthew asked, “I know we agreed not too. But, now that I think about. I have to ask, again. Are we going to tell Chang and the others about Gomez's operation?”

Pedro answered, “No. We are not, unless we have too. All informing Chang and the others would do, is stir up trouble for everyone involved. Including us. Now, let us head up stairs and get some sleep. It has been long day. And we got a long day ahead of us. So, we had best get some sleep, while we still can.”

Matthew agreed, “Good idea. By the way, should we leave the lamp light on.”

Pedro stated, “Yes. It is a small risk. And after we have come all this way. I don't want to just end up accidentally breaking my neck, by tripping on some stairs.”

Matthew commented, “Good point”

Pedro said, ““Now, let's go get some sleep.”

Pedro and Matthew left the lamp light in the room, on, to see, as they headed up stairs to get some sleep.

(_)

Half an hour later, across town, in the Devil's Hotel, in his suite, Barbossa was sitting in a chair, at the table in the bedroom part of his suite. He was dressed in only his shirt, boxers, and pants.

The only light in the room was from the small, incandescent yellow lamp light on the nightstand by his bed.

The curtains curtains were closed, with nothing else on, leaving Barbossa to his thoughts.

While Barbossa sat at the table, he solemnly thought, 'I did not exactly lie to the others. I took a nap for a few hours. And set my clock to wake me up ten minutes ago. So, I did come up here to rest. Like I said I would.' He continued his thoughts, with a bit of bitterness, 'Now, to meet one of the agent of the devil I have chosen to serve. So, we can move forward with the next parts of all our plans.'

A few seconds later, he saw a large woman, teleport into his room, across the table from her.

The woman had her back turned to him, while she had her right hand in her right side pants pocket. Though, as the woman turned around to face the old pirate, she pulled her right hand out her of her pocket.

Barbossa then saw that the woman was Furlow, whom was wearing her black pants suit, and black dress shoes.

As Furlow looked at what Barbossa was wearing, she joked, “Aren't we dressing casual this evening.”

Barbossa groaned, “Don't start Furlow. I have been up all day. It is late for me. And I am an old man.”

Furlow replied, “Fair enough.”

Barbossa commented, “At least you are on time.”

Furlow stated, “Of course. I would not be very good at this job, if I wasn't punctual. So, is the room clean?”

Barbossa said, “Aye. I check this suite out for bugs, earlier this evening. I also checked that none of the individuals of interest in the hotel are staying anywhere near me. Not beside this room. Not above this room. Not below this room.”

Furlow responded, “Good. Now, let's get down to business. Is everything set?”

Barbossa stated, “Aye. This afternoon, Ahsoka called me, and confirmed that the targets arrived at the casino. As planned. She even saw them, herself, for a few minutes. As she discreetly moved around the casino, today. Also, I saw a couple of them pass by the beach here, this morning, as well. So, all the pieces are in place. And all that is left is for Gomez to give the order to light the fuse to this powder keg.”

Furlow said, “That is good. The attack will likely take place, sometime tomorrow. And our boss would prefer you to warn Ahsoka of the coming attack.”

Barbossa stated, “I will call her in the morning. With her force abilities. She will see the attack coming long before I will. She already knows that what is going to happen. Just not when. And to prevent eavesdropping. I will call her, and simply state that everything is set for today.”

Furlow responded, “That will be fine. The attack isn't likely going to happen, until late morning, at the earliest. So, if someone did overheard your phone call to her, they will not know what your commented means, until it is too late.”

Barbossa replied, in a tired tone of voice, “My thoughts, as well.”

Furlow used her left hand to pull out something from her left, side pants pocket. She then walked over and set the item on the table, by Barbossa. She said, “Both Gomez and I want you to have this.”

Barbossa used his right hand to pick up the item, and look at it. It was a small device that was shaped like a lighter. There was a small knob on the center of one of the flat sides of the item.

Furlow stated, “While the kid you run with is nice. Gomez considers you to be one of his best field agents. And he doesn't want anything to happen to you. If the programing on the attackers malfunction, you get caught early, or if you cannot escape, turn the knob on this item. It only turns one way. Clockwise. Turn it one full turn, to where it will stop. That will send out a signal we need to go across realities, to come get you. We will home in on your location, and send someone to pick you.”

Barbossa looked up at Furlow, as he put the device in his right pants pocket. He responded, “I appreciate that. Still, why doesn't he just give me another reality device?”

Furlow stated, “Reality devices don't grow on trees. And we try account for those we use, by controlling the number of them out on the field. These little signal devices act as a stopgap for any such issues.”

Barbossa conceded, “Fair enough. And as long as Gomez upholds his end of our bargain, I will be happy.”

Furlow said, “Don't worry. When you return, your ship is about ready to set sail.”

Barbossa replied, “Good.”

Furlow then noticed a sadness in Barbossa's eyes. She asked, “You are not having second thoughts? Are you?”

Barbossa answered, “No. I am not getting soft. Though, at my age, I have learned to weigh all the ramifications for my actions.”

Furlow said, in a comforting tone of voice, “We all do, sweetie. But, there are just some things we have to do.”

Barbossa responded, “You are correct about that. Still, I am concerned about the attack. There are some people here, I do care for. At least a little bit.”

Furlow stated, “I understand. And listen. Gomez is not a coldblood psychopath. Nor, is he a bloodthirsty sociopath. He, and those he employees. Us included. Operate by our own codes of conduct. And he has a base set of rules of engagement, for operations like this.”

Furlow thought, 'That is why he does not have self-destruct devices in his boomers. That and it is too easy for the enemy to figure out how to use the self-destruct devices at an inopportune moment.'

Furlow continued, “He only wants to take out the primary targets. There will be other casualties. But, that cannot be prevented. Still, there are some targeting parameters to the attackers' programing.”

“The attackers are not programmed to attack you, or the kid, Ahsoka. Or any kids, for that matter. Well, at least those twelve years, or younger. Still, as long as someone is not out on the street, during the attack. They should be fine.”

Barbossa inquired, “That is good to hear. Those sound like fair mission parameters.”

Furlow said, “Yes. And with luck, this attack with go off with hitch.”

Barbossa replied, “I hope you are right.”

Furlow stated, “Yes. So am I. Anyway, you and the kid have your orders. Yours are to leave when the attackers show up. While her orders to take care of an individual here. I am sure you both will live up to your duties. Because, that is all any of us have left in this life.”

Barbossa replied, “Aye.” He then looked down at the table, as he soberly thought, 'And I hope Ahsoka, Shenhua, and Shenhua's family make it out of this okay. I may have made a deal with a devil, or two, in my life. But, that does not mean that I don't have a heart... Even if I don't listen to my heart, most of the time.'

Furlow noticed Barbossa's mood had slightly darkened. She cracked a grin, as she responded, in a slightly more chipper tone of voice, “Ah, relax, you old pirate. And get some sleep. You have already done the hard part for your mission. Now, all you have to do is make your escape, at the proper time. In a discreet manner. Once you have done that, you will have no serious worries, because you will be set for life. Anyway, see you back at base. And have have a good night.”

Barbossa looked back up at Furlow's face, as he calmly said, in a tired tone of voice, “You, as well, Furlow.”

Furlow maintained her smile, as she took a few steps back, into a small open area in the room. She then came to a stop, and used her right hand to reach into her right side pants pocket, where her reality device was located.

A few seconds later, Barbossa watched Furlow instantly disappeared, as she jumped to another reality.

With Furlow gone, Barbossa then got up from his chair. While he headed to his bathroom, he grumbled, “I am getting to old for this.”

A couple of minutes later, Barbossa was back in his bed, with the lamp light, off. With him going back to sleep, for the night.

To be continued.



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