Have a little seasonally inspired omake to keep this channel open... :D

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night ;)

"A worthy opponent indeed," Vicky commented wisely, studying the plans pinned to the wall of Taylor's basement, where she and the others were gathered.

"That's what Kenny said, yeah," Taylor agreed, doing likewise. "High mobility, exceptionally good target intelligence, and extremely experienced. Also has significant stealth abilities."

"Hmm…" Emma sipped a coke through a straw while joining the others in looking at the large printouts. "Can we arrange target acquisition and interception in flight?"

"It's been tried. Never works. Kenny suggested that our foe may have inside operatives in the relevant agencies. Or superior ECM abilities."

"Might be both. We know that the organization is noted for technological ability and manufacture," Amy pointed out from where she was making notes, a disassembled energy weapon on the bench in front of her. Everyone looked at her, then exchanged glances, before going back to the plans.

"A good point, definitely," Taylor said thoughtfully. "On the other hand I highly doubt that anyone can fully defeat Kenny's tech level. We just need to work out the optimal deployment approach, the right load out, and a tactical plan."

"Which we've been working on for two days now," Amy grumbled as she put her pen and pad down, then started competently reassembling the weapon, a rifle that could have punched a hole in a main battle tank with little effort. As she was fitting parts together with the ease of practice, she added, "We don't have much longer before we need to commit to something."

"I know," Taylor muttered, walking over to the high resolution aerial map of Brockton Bay and tapping it with one finger. "It's a tricky one."

"Set up a net of stealthed antigrav drones around the city, there, there, and there, then get low-yield missiles emplaced here and here?" Emma suggested, pointing at a few places.

"Too much risk of fallout over populated areas," Vicky replied with a shake of her head. "We need to keep collateral damage down."

"OK, fair enough," the red-head admitted, nodding. "Plasma guns then? We could set up a small battery of infinite repeaters at each of the cardinal points, say ten klicks out from the city limits. Use the drones and the batteries to herd the target into this area here, well away from civilians. No one would care if we blow up part of the Ship's Graveyard, would they?"

"No one has up until now, no," Vicky murmured, leaning closer and raising an eyebrow. "Might work."

"It's too close to the covert PRT sensing station on the coast here, though," Taylor objected. "The one they think is hidden. If we go for that plan, they might notice, get upset, and interfere. Again. Too much hassle."

"Huh. Damn. You're right." Emma sighed. "This would be easier if we set things up further away."

"We don't want to get the Canadians upset with us," Amy said, snapping the smartscope back onto the fully reassembled weapon and putting it into a self-diagnostic mode, then turning to them. "You know what it's like when that happens…"

All four girls shivered a little. No one wanted to face angry Canadians again.

"Kenny says that we should definitely avoid that," Taylor relayed. "He suggested we should probably run a multipronged mission, rather than concentrating on target interception at range."

They fell silent for a while, Amy putting the finished gun to the side, then getting up to join her friends staring at the maps and other data. "Tricky," she said after a while.

"Yep. On the other hand, we're really, really good, and we have Kenny on our side, so…" Taylor grinned for a moment, her friends laughing. "Poor bastard doesn't know what's coming…"

Another ten minutes of silence passed until Emma said, "How about… we go with the long range interception plan, with some modifications, but… it's just a decoy."

They all looked at her in interest. She glanced around, expanding on her idea. "The target will think we tried and failed. We lull them into a false sense of security. And we might get lucky, after all. But even if we don't, we use a little psychology to get them thinking they're in the clear, but we set up local traps in areas we know they're aiming at. They might then think that they're safe and drop their guard a little, at least enough for us to get close to them without notice."

"And then…" Taylor trailed off. Emma grinned darkly, producing a stun pistol from her sleeve and spinning it around on one finger.


"I like that plan," Vicky said gleefully, her sister nodding thoughtfully from next to her.

"It might well work," Amy agreed.

"Kenny thinks it's plausible," Taylor reported. "He suggests we set up some force field generators and high-g field mines around the target zones, and use them to confine the target if we can get them into range."

"What do we use as bait?" Amy asked.

Taylor turned to the table and picked up the plate that was sitting there. She held it out with a smirk. Everyone looked at it, then nodded as one.

"Excellent," Vicky hissed, rubbing her hands together. "This time, we won't fail."

"Let's get to work," Emma said, picking up a pen and starting to make annotations on the map, while the other three began sorting through the armory for the equipment required.

"What the hell is going on?" Emily shouted as she ran into the command room, which was a hive of activity. Radar operators were snapping out bearings and range readings, while several analysts were frantically collating computer reports and throwing the combined results up on the huge screen at the far end of the room. Her second in command was already there, bending over one of the consoles and typing on the keyboard. Renick looked up at her, then turned to glare at the screen.

"High speed incursion into ENE air space at flight level six four zero, speed mach one point six, bearing one six nine," he reported, as she watched the trace elongate with the icon of an unknown craft at the end of it. "No IFF, no flight plan filed, no other data so far. It's extremely maneuverable and very fast, whatever it is."

One of the consoles suddenly emitted a warning tone which made everyone flinch and look. "Anti-aircraft missiles launched from somewhere in the middle of the ship's graveyard!" the operator yelped. "Target lock is our bogey. No ID on the weapon type, acceleration is extreme. Boosting at over… holy shit, over one hundred and fifty G!"

A view from one of the roof mounted high speed tracking cameras came up on a split-screen inset, slewing violently to center itself on a glowing white streak that was ascending like the fist of an angry god. The tracked object on the main display reacted instantly, sharply changing course while it became fuzzy for a moment, the cloud of sparkling radar interference rapidly falling behind even as the bogey accelerated hard.

"Target dropped chaff!" another technician shouted.

"Flares launched!"

They could see a wide series of brilliant yellow-white lights shooting out sideways from something unseen, the white streak zipping through the cloud without pause. It was clearly changing course too.

"Missile ignoring chaff and flares, adjusting to track bogey," someone said. "Target evading… Missile overshoot. Correcting, turning hard… Holy fuck, what the hell is driving that thing? I've never seen anything…" He trailed off as the camera view flashed a strange violet color for a fraction of a second. "Target fired on missile. Possible plasma weaponry. Missile destroyed. Target resuming original course, descending at four hundred meters per second and accelerating to mach two."

"Why can't we hear any sonic boom?" Emily demanded.

"Unknown, Ma'am. Probably Tinker Tech stealth of some form. Standard radar is ineffective, we're using the new terahertz radiation unit."

"Two more missiles launched, same location," the cry went up.

"Anti-aircraft fire! We're reading some form of pulsed energy weapon firing on the bogey from a location near the docks!"

Another camera view popped up showing brilliant blue balls of light whipping from the ground high into the sky at a ferocious rate, while the first camera was tracking white streaks identical to the original one.

"Target evading again. ECM detected, wide band jamming and optical interference of some sort. Looks like high powered lasers in the near UV. At least low megawatt pulses. Speed increased again, now mach two point six. Descending extremely fast, over a thousand meters per second now. Almost straight down, but still running evasive maneuvers. I think it's trying to get into the ground clutter."

"Who the hell is firing at it?" Emily snarled. "Any ID on any of the weapons?"

"Nothing, Director. No match to any known Tinker designs, or military either."

"Fuck me, that was a hell of a thing," someone commented in shock as the tracking screen showed the bogey had pulled off a hypersonic immelmann followed by a flat spin, throwing off the two missiles before shooting them down. "He's damn good whoever he is."

"We're losing him! Nearly in the radar shadow of the city… Damn it, he's gone. Tracking lost at flight level six. Target decelerated to under two hundred kph at nearly fifty g." Everyone stared at the display, then as one turned to look at Piggot, who was glaring at the thing with irritation.

"Contact the Air Force, other PRT areas, and get me an ID on this bastard," she growled. "And find out who was firing missiles over my city!"

A lot of people got to work in a hurry.

"We missed," Taylor said with mild irritation.

"We knew that was likely," Emma put in, not surprised, as they gathered around the equipment. "He's good. Very good. It's still going to plan. An actual intercept was only ever a low priority possibility."

"True." The brunette nodded slowly. "Right. Phase two is a go. Call the others, let them know."

"On it," her friend replied with a sharp salute, before turning away to talk quietly with Amy and Vicky at the second trap site. Taylor busied herself with arming their own defenses, then sat calmly and watched the instrumentation as it tracked the incoming target with methods vastly more advanced than anyone else possessed anywhere on the planet.

"Soon, my old friend, soon," she mumbled, smiling a little at Kenny's comment in her mind. The giant tank was finding this all very interesting and, as he put it, 'An excellent training exercise regardless of success.'

"Shh," Amy hissed almost silently as her sister shifted position a little.

"My leg is going to sleep," Vicky murmured back almost inaudibly.

"No it isn't, your upgrades fixed that," the other girl replied similarly. "You're just twitchy."

"Of course I'm twitchy, the target is nearly here," Vicky grumbled.

"I know, so shut up!" Amy snapped, very quietly indeed, as she lay on her bed holding the small control unit, both of them watching the screen intently. All through the house, not another creature was stirring, for it was two AM and their parents were deeply asleep. And would stay that way thanks to the delta wave inducer Vicky had put under their bed that evening.

"Look's like you're in the best position, guys," Taylor's voice said in their commsets. "Target is aiming for your location first. If you miss, we can try again here."

"Confirmed," Vicky replied subaudibly. "Target range six hundred fifty meters and closing. Going silent."

"Good luck."

A few seconds later, both girls heard the sound they'd been waiting for, looking up at the ceiling, then at each other. Amy held her finger over her lips as they listened intently, Vicky nodding.

More sounds came. They kept watching the tracker display. Then, when she was certain their quarry was too committed to escape, Amy grinned a small evil grin and touched a control.

Several icons changed color.

A yell of rage came from downstairs.

"Got you," she said with satisfaction.

Vicky, lying beside her and almost draped over her to see the screen as well, was vibrating with glee. "Target acquired," the blonde said into the commset with extreme pleasure.

"Fantastic! We're on our way," Taylor replied immediately, the sound of a faint whoop of joy coming through clearly from Emma. "ETA five minutes."

"Got it. Hurry up, the target is kicking up a fuss," Amy reported, watching the screen and prodding controls now and then. "Acoustic dampers are holding but I can't guarantee they'll handle it for much longer."

"Better move in to subdue, then," Taylor remarked. Amy nodded, handing the control unit to her sister, then rolling onto her side and reaching under the bed to pull out her energy rifle. Adjusting it for a heavy stun shot, she met Vicky's eyes, before both girls got up and ghosted out of the room with practiced ease.

Moments later, any conscious observer would have heard a sharp snapping sound, which reoccurred twice more before silence fell.

Consciousness returned with a blurry view of the room, then the captive's eyes snapped open.

"Ah. You're finally awake, I see," he heard. Turning his head, he fixed the four girls with a glare that could have stripped paint from the walls.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, struggling against the massively powerful gravity field pinning him to the floor.

The tallest of the girls, a curly haired brunette, smiled slowly.

"The meaning, my friend, is that we do not like having our letters ignored. And this time you're going to listen…"

The other three, all no more than about thirteen or so, smirked at him.

He glared, struggled some more, then finally subsided with a groan. "You are all very naughty indeed."

"But, and this is the important part, we are also very good at what we do," the taller girl replied with a grin that momentarily made him shiver. "And while you may not like our methods sometimes, we get results."

"Can't deny that," he grumbled, dropping his head to the floor with a thump. "Fine. You win this time. We'll see what happens next year."

"We're looking forward to it," the red-head replied, chuckling a little. "This was fun."

He sighed heavily. "Just get on with your demands, OK? I still have a lot of work to do."

They looked at each other, then the blonde turned back. "I'd like a new combat knife, please. One with a titanium nitride coated blade, quick draw sheath, and a sharpening kit."

Shaking his head, he managed to point to the side. "You kids are a menace. Look in the bag, near the left side."

She did, pulling out the requested item. "Coool," she breathed, extracting the knife from the sheath and examining the edge with a practiced eye. "See? That was simple enough. All you had to do was read the letters. Returning them with 'Not known at this address, honest,' written over them was just rude."

Santa muttered something rather uncomplimentary under his breath, but he didn't really have a lot of choice at this moment.

Next year, though… Next year was going to be different.