TITLE: Tricky Relations

AUTHOR: Kevin Schultz

AUTHOR'S EMAIL: davros72@earthlink.net

FEEDBACK: Yes, please

PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: I'm fine with it, just let me know where it'll be, that's all I ask.

CATEGORY: Adventure, Crossover

RATING/WARNINGS: PG, for some suggestive situations

MAIN CHARACTERS: Rebecca, Jules, Phileas, Passepartout, Brisco County, Jr., Lord Bowler

DISCLAIMER: SAJV and characters copyright Talisman/Promark/etc. Brisco County and other characters copyright Carlton Cuse Prod. No infringement is intended.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've stretched the timeframe somewhat here. Brisco County is actually set a short time after our familiar SAJV time period. But they were just so close, and it seemed like a natural crossover, that I've just basically ignored that problem. Also, the Japanese Ambassador mentioned here was an actual Ambassador to the U.S., and was in fact in San Francisco in 1860. Again, more time-bending. I hope you don't mind, and hope that you just enjoy the story in the spirit in which it was intended... a fun adventure.

THANK YOU: To the incredible beta powers of Moonhart.


The images crowded in on one another, crashing faster and faster.

Rebecca Fogg... her bright, sunny face clouded by anger... Her features twisted by pain... Her body running, searching for cover in the moonlit clearing... The trees blowing in the breeze around her, almost pushing her on... Rebecca's body slamming into the ground as a bullet thudded into her back... Blood spreading across her back... Her breathing slowing, becoming ragged... Rebecca Fogg... Dead.

Phileas awoke from his nightmare with a start. He sat bolt upright, looking about him frantically. As the sweat clung to his bedclothes, he quickly noted the familiar surroundings of his cabin aboard his airship Aurora. The realization of this calmed him somewhat, yet the pain conveyed by his vision lingered. He reached for his bedside table and shakily poured himself a glass of water. Feeling the cool liquid slide down his parched throat, Phileas allowed himself to relax slightly.

It was simply a nightmare, Phileas told himself, that was all. Not a vision of what might have been, not a premonition of what may still come to pass. Just a very, very bad dream.

Setting down his glass, he leaned back and eased his head down on his pillow. He shut his eyes, replaying in his mind's eye the events of the past few days...

...It had begun with a missive from Sir Jonathan Chatsworth. It seemed that Rebecca's superior at the British Secret Service had become concerned. Rebecca's assignment had her scheduled to arrive at her destination in the United States a week ago. She had failed to arrive at her final stop, as had the stagecoach she had been traveling in. Chatsworth's contacts in San Francisco had uncovered no information. In desperation, he had turned to the only option he had left... Phileas Fogg.

Phileas had arrived at Secret Service Headquarters in an irritated mood. He was still bothered by the fact that Sir Jonathan seemed to think Phileas was at his beck and call. However, his concern for his dear cousin had allowed him to behave almost civilly, mostly, during his visit with Chatsworth.

Sir Jonathan begged Phileas to hunt for Rebecca. He had been rather unwilling at first to divulge the specifics of the mission Rebecca had been undertaking prior to her disappearance. Phileas' anger and his obvious desire to glean all the information that might help in the search eventually convinced Sir Jonathan to let him in on the mission.

Rebecca had been sent to San Francisco with important documents from Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The documents in question included a secret treaty with the Empire of Japan, proclaiming a truce that was beneficial to both countries, both militarily and economically. Although to most observers, the two nations were currently on friendly terms, but in reality a number of mysterious incidents had recently twisted the relations into something a bit more strained. Rebecca had been deputized to act as an official Royal Ambassador, and was to sign the treaty along with the Japanese Ambassador when they met.

Now, however, it seemed that something had gone terribly wrong. The Japanese Ambassador was at the moment being very understanding, but was not willing to be patient forever. Speed was of the essence before the relations between the two nations broke down completely and hostilities commenced.

As Sir Jonathan Chatsworth had so nicely put it, "You must find Rebecca Fogg, or the peace of the entire civilized world may be in jeopardy."

So, no pressure there, thank goodness, thought Phileas.

Pulling his bedcovers up over his chest, Phileas turned onto his side, urging himself back to sleep, in order to make the journey across America pass that much quicker.

After a time, he slept, this time with no more nightmares. The wild countryside of America slipped past below, as the Aurora flew on to her destination.


Passepartout eased the Aurora down onto a nice, wide green lawn next to an imposing, official-looking building. They had safely arrived at San Francisco in California. Passepartout locked down the controls and turned to see Phileas Fogg and Jules Verne already opening the door and disembarking. "Master! Waiting for me!" Passepartout called out as he hurried after his friends. "I am flying fastest ever the Aurora has flying, now he is running even faster!" Passepartout said with a touch of exasperation in his voice.

As he stepped down from the airship onto the pleasant green grass, Passepartout noted the approach of two men from the nearby building. His master and Master Jules had already reached the newcomers, and were shaking hands.

"Welcome, Mister Fogg," one of the two new men said enthusiastically. He was of average height, with fair, thinning blonde hair. A pair of round spectacles lent him an air of studiousness, as did his neat clothing. "I'm Socrates Poole, and I will be your liaison with the United States Government during your time here. And it is very nice to meet you, too, Mister Verne."

"We are here to find my cousin," Fogg said curtly, dispensing with any semblance of preamble. "I trust you are ready to brief us and let us get on with our mission?"

Passepartout cringed slightly at his master's usual dismissal of politeness and protocol. On occasion, his master could be rather brusque, especially if someone he cared for was in danger. That was most certainly the case here, Passepartout thought.

"Of course," Mr. Poole said, frowning slightly. He turned to his companion. "Davis, would you please fetch our two associates and have them meet us in my office at once?"

Mr. Davis nodded and hurried off.

"'Associates'?" Fogg asked.

As he led Fogg, Verne, and Passepartout towards the building, Mr. Poole explained, "Some... friends of mine that have proven their worth in the past. I'm sure they'll be able to assist you in any way that they can."

"We shall see," Fogg replied doubtfully as the small group approached the building. He turned to his valet. "Passepartout, please make sure the Aurora will be ready to leave at a moment's notice."

"Yes, Master," Passepartout said as he bowed and took his leave of the men. As he headed back towards the airship, he said quietly to himself, "She will not be liking this go, go, go. She need resting too!" Shaking his head sympathetically, he hurried inside the Aurora and began his preparations.


Phileas sat next to Jules in a comfortable, plush velvet chair. He glanced around Mr. Poole's office, noting the books, the furniture, the desk. Quite an impressive and very neatly arranged office, Phileas thought to himself. It rather reminded him of Chatsworth's office back in London. Except that this office's resident appeared a much more friendly and agreeable man.

"As you know, Mr. Fogg," Poole was saying, "your cousin has failed to arrive in time for her meeting with the Japanese Ambassador, Lord Shimmi Fusajiro Masaoki."

Phileas frowned slightly. "Rebecca never 'fails' at anything. Somehow she has been prevented from completing her assignment just yet by someone."

Smiling amiably, Poole replied, "The information I received from your government did indicate that Miss Fogg was indeed a highly respected agent. I have no doubt that you are correct."

Verne cleared his throat slightly, saying, "This is all very well to praise Rebecca's endeavors, but it does nothing to help us actually find her."

"Ah," Poole said, turning to Jules. "Well, as a matter of fact, I do have something in mind to accomplish that very thing. As soon as my... friends arrive, we can get under way."

Narrowing his eyes, Phileas pursed his lips. He did not like the sound of this. "Friends?" he asked impatiently. "Is this how the American government proceeds to find missing persons? With 'friends'?"

Poole shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Well... they're not exactly official agents. But they have been extremely helpful in the past."

"They are not even agents?" Phileas said exasperatedly. "I am liking this less and less."

"Might I remind you, Mr. Fogg," Poole replied quickly, his voice rising a bit in agitation, "that you yourself are not an official agent of Her Majesty's government. So I will not have you downplaying the usefulness of my friends because of their official or unofficial governmental affiliation!"

Blinking back his shock, Phileas paused. "Touche," he said quietly, even slightly approvingly. This Poole was stronger than he appeared.

Poole was about to reply when the door to his office crashed open.

Two tall men barged their way into the room, leaving a helplessly shrugging Davis behind in the antechamber. The first man through the door struck Phileas as quite the ruffian. He was dressed in the manner of what American men liked to describe as a 'cowboy'. His tan trousers and jacket were rather worn and beaten, indicating that this person had seen his fair share of excitement. His blue shirt was also dirty and rugged-looking, and the hat he had jammed on top of his dark hair matched his trousers and jacket. His ruggedly handsome face wore what appeared to be a day or two's worth of stubble. A reddish scarf hanging loosely around his neck completed the man's gear.

The person who came into the office next was perhaps even more imposing that his friend. This big man was of African descent, his dark skin highlighted by a trim beard and curly hair hanging down the back of his head from beneath a neat bowler hat. His dark clothes were just as rumpled and worn-looking as his companion's.

The two newcomers stopped short as they saw Phileas and Verne sitting in Poole's chairs. The first man looked at Poole and said, "What's this all about, Soc? Who are these two dandies?"

Frowning at the man's rather rude remarks, Phileas stood up and elegantly placed his hands on his hips. "I say, have you Americans never heard of knocking before entering a room?"

"Only if I wanna get myself shot, pal," the cowboy replied. He looked back at Poole. "Well, Soc?"

Poole cleared his throat, appearing somewhat embarrassed by his associate's manner. "This is Mr. Phileas Fogg from London, England... And Mr. Jules Verne from Paris, France."

The man nodded, clearly unimpressed. "I see... foreigners."

"And I have the dubious 'honor' of addressing...?" Phileas prompted rather haughtily.

"The name's Brisco County, Jr.," the man replied just as irritatedly. "This is my friend Lord Bowler."

The dark-skinned man nodded at both Phileas and Verne in turn.

"A 'Lord'?" Phileas said disbelievingly. "How on Earth did you come by that--"

"What the heck is going on, Soc?" Brisco said hurriedly, interrupting Phileas. "Why did you send for us?"

Poole gestured for everyone to take a seat. Phileas sat down again, and Brisco and Bowler sat in another set of chairs along the wall of Poole's office. Poole then attempted to smooth relations by explaining things calmly and rationally.

"Mr. Fogg here is the cousin of a British agent who was here in America on assignment for Her Majesty Queen Victoria," Poole continued. "This agent has disappeared en route to San Francisco, and her stagecoach has not arrived, eith--"

"Hold on, Soc," Brisco interrupted, his eyes alight with curiosity. "'Her'?"

"Yes, Brisco. Mr. Fogg's cousin, Rebecca Fogg, is an agent of the British Secret Service. Suffice to say that her mission is of the utmost importance and is also very top secret."

"Hmmmm," Brisco mused.

"Brisco..." Bowler scolded threateningly.


"Don't go gettin' any ideas, Brisco. We're here to help, and we are NOT here to fall for some lady. Again!"

"Don't worry, Bowler," Brisco said, smiling deviously. "I know what I'm doing."

"Yeah, right," Bowler replied dubiously, rolling his eyes and shaking his head sadly.

"If we could possibly get back to the matter at hand, gentlemen?" Poole cut in.

"Apparently the term 'gentlemen' is used quite loosely in this part of the country," Phileas muttered.

"What was that?" Brisco said, bristling.

"Nothing," Phileas said swiftly. "You were saying, Mr. Poole?"

Brisco leaned back in his chair. Phileas, meanwhile, ignored the narrowed eyes sending daggers in his direction.

"Having failed to show up here in San Francisco, in order to fulfill her mission to contact Ambassador Masaoki," Poole continued, "and knowing that her last check-in was nine days ago, we must start the search as soon as possible."

Verne, his concern clearly evident in the tone of his voice, spoke up. "Do we have any idea of where to start looking?"

"All we really have to go on is the stage's planned route," Poole replied. He turned and pointed at a large map of San Francisco and its vicinity, and pointed at a bright red line marking out a route. "I would assume she would be somewhere along the trail between her last check-in point there, and her final destination, here. Apart from that, I am open to suggestions."

"Did you not think to send out a search party before now?" Phileas asked.

"Of course we did, Mr. Fogg," Poole answered. "But they found nothing. We assume that if she was attacked, whoever did it removed all evidence of the incident."

"And that might include Rebecca herself," Verne said quietly.

Brisco stood up quickly. "I've got an idea."

"Oh, wonderful," Phileas muttered. "Pray, enlighten us."

Ignoring Phileas, Brisco continued. "Boss Dawson has got his fingers in all sorts of pies around here. I think we should drop by his casino and see what he knows."

"Casino?" Phileas remarked, his ears perking up.

"Yeah," Brisco replied, turning to Phileas. "Boss Dawson is the owner and proprietor of the Golden Trail Casino here in town. He's sort of in charge of a bunch of outlaws, too. Not too much trouble, really, more of an irritant. But he's got all sorts of contacts all over this area."

"I see," Phileas said. "In that case, I suggest that I visit this Boss Dawson, while you, Mr. County, and your friend Mr. Bowler--"

"That's *Lord* Bowler, thank you very much," Bowler interrupted proudly.

"Now, hold on a minute," Brisco cut in. "You don't have any clue what you're up against with Boss Dawson. I know what we'd be dealing with. I'm going with you, Fogg."

"And I'll head out along the stage's path and see if I can track down Miss Fogg," Bowler added. He smiled. "I've got skills."

Phileas merely raised an eyebrow.

"I'll go with Lord Bowler," Verne said as Bowler studied the map behind Poole's desk.

"No, Verne," Phileas said, shaking his head. "It'll be too dangerous for you." Cutting of Verne's protests, he continued, saying, "Instead, I want you and Passepartout to use the Aurora and search this area from the air." He looked Verne squarely in the eyes and said firmly, "I am counting on you, Verne."

Verne pursed his lips and nodded, showing he understood the need for caution. "If they could take out Rebecca, there's no telling what might happen to me," he said with a shrug. "I'll go with Passepartout."

"Thank you, Verne," Phileas said.

Poole looked at each of the men before him in turn. "I trust I do not need to impress upon you the urgency of this matter. The Japanese Ambassador will not wait forever. Any suggestion of a slight upon the part of the Queen, and this will all fall apart very quickly."

Once everyone was standing, Brisco turned to Bowler and nodded to him. "Good luck," he said to his friend.

"You, too," Bowler replied, nodding in return. He turned and quickly left the room.

Brisco turned to Phileas. "Well, pal, we'd better get going if we wanna find your cousin."

"Indeed," Phileas replied, looking over at Verne. "Good luck to you, Verne," he said, smiling faintly, concern for Rebecca still clearly etched on his face.

Verne smiled back, letting Phileas know he understood. "We'll do our best, Fogg, trust me. And take care of yourself."

Phileas, pretending to be affronted, replied, "Why, Verne. You know I am always exceedingly careful."

Verne just shook his head as he left Poole's office.

Brisco turned to Phileas and eyed him closely. "Are you any good at cards, Fogg?"


Night had fallen by the time Lord Bowler had begun his search. Granted, nighttime was not the best part of the day to hunt for a missing person, but the sooner this Rebecca Fogg was found, the better. Socrates had been rather insistent upon the speed with which he should accomplish his mission. With that in mind, he headed off on horseback, determined to find the woman. He intended to backtrack along the planned route of her stagecoach, and work his way backwards along the trail.

Riding slowly along the path, Bowler scanned along the ground, his eyes sharp for any sort of clue or sign. Fortunately, the shining full moon was unobscured by clouds, so he had ample illumination to assist him.

After a short time, now having reached a point somewhat distant from San Francisco, Bowler's horse neighed slightly and scratched at the ground. The area was thickly forested, with only the main trail running through it providing any relief from the dense tree coverage all around. Bowler reined the horse to a halt, alert for any sign of danger. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he dismounted and motioned for the stallion to stay put while he moved further along the path on foot. Crouching, he moved about, scanning the ground intently in an efficient pattern.

Just as Bowler was about to give up searching the immediate vicinity, he paused, and double-checked a patch of hard soil. It looked odd to him, even with a quick look. Upon closer inspection, the dirt was stained a deep brownish-red. Bowler touched the small area of discoloration, lifting his reddened fingers to his nose. Sniffing, he frowned with concerned satisfaction. It was blood. Not fresh, perhaps a week old. From about the same time as Rebecca Fogg's disappearance.

He stood up, hurrying cautiously over to his horse, alert for any concealed villains spying on him. Jumping quickly into his saddle, he patted the horse's neck. "I think we're on to something, old girl," he said. His eyes locked on the ground, he gently spurred his steed forward, keeping his focus on the old trail of blood that led deeper into the thick forest.


The doors to the Golden Trail Casino banged open, and two tall figures shoved their way inside into the crush of patrons. Phileas Fogg and Brisco County, Jr. made their way towards a bar near the right side of the room. Brisco called for a whisky, watching placidly as Phileas asked politely for a brandy. The bartender grumpily fixed their drinks and shoved them at the two newcomers. He coughed significantly, looking at them.

"Pay up," Brisco said out of the side of his mouth.

"What?" Phileas said, affronted.

"You heard me, pay the man," Brisco hissed back.

"And how is it that you have concluded that I must be the one to hand over the money? You were the one who said we should come to this establishment. Besides, this is your town."

"It's not a town, English boy, it's a city," Brisco replied, bristling.

"Whatever it is, it has not grown on me."

"Will you just pay the man?" Brisco was now seriously irritated at this annoying, smug, British person.

"I don't have any American currency," Phileas admitted coolly, smiling happily at Brisco as he took a drink.

Brisco slowly turned to stare down Phileas, who met his gaze easily, eyebrows raised with amusement. Brisco grunted something under his breath, dug into his pocket, and slammed some bills onto the surface of the bar.

"Thanks," the barman said gruffly, shaking his head as he walked away to assist another customer.

"There," Phileas said, his smile growing. "Was that so hard?"

"You wanna know something hard? My fist is gonna show you the meaning of hard if you don't start behaving."

"Behaving?" Phileas hissed. "How dare you! I--"

"There he goes!" Brisco said, thumping his right hand against Phileas' chest and pointing with his other had to the far side of the casino. Past numerous tables of various gambling games, Brisco and Phileas watched as a suavely dressed, middle-aged, tubby bald man smiled and ambled his way past a number of patrons. Boss Dawson was clearly enjoying being the center of attention. Shaking hands with customers and employees, Dawson smiled kindly, laughing loudly at a number of jests. After a few moments, he ducked through a sturdy-looking wooden door with two huge men standing guard outside.

"After him!" Brisco said, grabbing Phileas and tugging him along as he headed towards the door through which Boss Dawson had just disappeared. Phileas irritatedly brushed Brisco's hand off of his arm and followed the cowboy as he crossed the floor.

Pushing their way through a throng of lively customers, the two men eventually reached the door. They were stopped, however, by the two big guards, who placed their hands on their pistols as Brisco and Phileas approached.

"Where do you think you're going?" the guard on the right intoned.

"We need to speak with Boss Dawson," Phileas said quickly. "It's vitally important."

"Joe, what does 'vitally' mean?" the big man said, turning to the guard on the left.

"It means 'really', Mike," the other guard replied, shaking his head disappointedly.

"Oh," Mike said. He turned back to Phileas. "So it's really important, then, is it, Mister?"

"That is correct," Phileas replied, nodding intently. "Might we have a word with him?"

"I doubt it," Joe said, chuckling slightly. "Who are you, anyway?"

"Two guys who are gonna kick your ass if you don't let us inside," Brisco said, placing his hand on his own pistol.

Joe eyed Brisco and Phileas, noting Brisco's pistol. He sighed wearily. "Wait here, I'll go ask him." He turned to Mike. "Hold them here. I'll go check with the Boss." Mike nodded, smiling. Joe grabbed the door handle, paused, and turned back to the two strangers. "Who should I say is calling?"

Brisco rolled his eyes as he watched Phileas straighten his jacket, shoot his cuffs, and tug at his waistcoat. "Phileas Fogg of London, England, and--"

"And Brisco County, Jr.," Brisco said quickly, not trusting Phileas to get his name correct.

"Right," Joe said, hurrying through the door, which swung shut behind him.

Mike stared at Brisco and Phileas, as they stared back at the huge, tall guard. Mike smiled at them, and said amiably, "Do you guys like playing cards?"

"What?" Phileas said, perplexed.

"Yeah, sure we do," Brisco said, smiling happily at Mike. He looked at Phileas and gave him a "Humor him" look. Phileas nodded his understanding.

"Ah," Phileas continued. "Yes. Yes, we do in fact enjoy playing cards. Tell me, have you ever played whist?"

Brisco frowned, looking over at Phileas. "What the hell is whist? Haven't you ever heard of poker?"

Glancing disdainfully at his American companion, Phileas tutted. "Ah, yes, poker. One of the more simple card games known to man."

"Hey, who are you calling simple, pal?" Brisco said, narrowing his eyes.

"I do not think you--" began Phileas.

Mike coughed once. Loudly. Phileas and Brisco were startled enough that they stopped arguing immediately. They looked up at Mike, who said calmly, "I don't like when people fight. Please stop it."

Brisco and Phileas looked at each other, both of them now fighting back a grin.

"Sorry, Mike, won't happen again," Brisco said, folding his arms.

"I do apologize, Mike," said Phileas.

The three of them waited in silence for another minute or so, until Joe returned through the doorway, closing it behind him.

"Right," Joe said, "Boss says you can talk to him, for ten minutes--"

"Excellent," Phileas smiled, marching toward the door. He pulled up short as Joe poked a fist into his chest.

"You can see him *after* you beat the house at cards," Joe finished.

Curious yet suspicious, Brisco asked, "What are we playing?"

Joe glanced at him, his fist still in Phileas' chest. "Blackjack."

Brisco and Phileas looked at each other, exchanging sly smiles.


Tying his horse to a nearby tree, Bowler gazed across the clearing he had arrived at. A small expanse of level grass spread out in front of a small stable. Beside to the stable sat the burnt-out remains of a simple one-story farmhouse. Bowler crouched, keeping low to the ground as he approached, his eyes scoping the area.

The trail of dried blood drops led him here. It was the first building of any type that he had seen along the trail, so he assumed that if Rebecca was still alive, this might be a good place to look.

Glancing over at the charred remnants of the house, Bowler quickly dismissed it as a hiding place. The building was nearly completely destroyed. Its walls had been obliterated. Planks and bits of timber lay burnt and scattered across the floor, and in its current condition, no one could conceal themselves for very long.

Turning back to the stable, Bowler placed his hand on his pistol, ready for anything that might happen. He cast his eyes along the outskirts of the clearing, and, seeing nothing suspicious, he primed himself venture inside. One closed wooden door and a pair of dark windows faced him. As he crept up to the door, Bowler steeled himself. Drawing his pistol, he pressed gently upon the door, swinging it slowly open. Taking a deep breath, Bowler inched his way inside, leaving the door open to let the moonlight beam inside. He peered into the blackness and saw nothing at first. His eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, in time for him to see a dark blur rush at him, and jump on top of him. As his pistol went flying, he gasped as a strong pair of thighs clamped themselves around his neck and squeezed. Struggling for breath, Bowler's vision blurred as he clawed at his attacker's legs, fumbling to free himself from the deadly grip...


Brisco and Phileas sat at a card table across from a skinny, weaselly-looking man with thinning hair and small, round spectacles perched on his beak-like nose. The dealer, Jonas, casually threw down the cards onto the table between them as he began the first round of blackjack. Mike, the big guard, hovered over Jonas' shoulder, watching the game intently, smiling happily to himself. Mike did indeed enjoy card games, Phileas thought to himself.

Jonas spoke as he dealt. "Da Boss told me what's what. He said you two were ta play blackjack, and try to beat da house. Neither of you two can lose to the house, otherwise da deal is off."

"How many times do we have to beat you?" Brisco asked.

"An even dozen rounds, said da Boss," Jonas smiled evilly.

Rolling his eyes, Phileas groused, "Oh, good Lord. Twelve rounds? Is he quite insane?"

Brisco hushed Phileas quickly. "We're good."

Phileas frowned grumpily at Brisco as he acquiesced and looked at his cards. "What if it is a push?" he asked.

"Da boss is feeling generous," Jonas replied. "If it's a push, it's not a loss. But it ain't a win, needer. You gets to try again."

"Wonderful," Phileas said, smirking.

"How kind of him," agreed Brisco with the same enthusiasm.

Phileas looked at the table, eyeing the face-up cards. Brisco was showing a Seven of Hearts, while Jonas had the Five of Diamonds. Phileas himself was showing the Nine of Hearts. Peering at his other card, Phileas saw that he had the King of Spades. He decided to play the odds this time, and held.

Brisco glanced again at his concealed card, then looked up at the dealer, stone-faced. "Hit me," He barked gruffly. Jonas flipped over the next card, tossing it down in front of Brisco. The Three of Diamonds. "Stay."

Jonas turned over his card, revealing the Jack of Clubs. "Dealer has fifteen. Dealer takes card." He threw down a card for himself. It was the Queen of Clubs. "Dealer busts. Da two gentlemen win da first round. Congrats, fellas."

Phileas frowned while Brisco merely smirked. It was going to be a long game, Phileas thought morosely to himself as Jonas collected the cards and dealt the next round.


Bowler struggled for breath between the strong thighs of his attacker. His vision was fuzzy and black, and he could barely make out that there was someone above him, throttling him. Gathering up all his strength, and taking a gamble, he managed to wheeze out three words. "Phileas... sent... me!"

Suddenly, gloriously, the pressure was off. Bowler was released, and he thumped down onto the floor of the stable. His hands reached instinctively for his throat as he gasped huge deep breaths. His vision returned quickly, and he rolled over onto his back, only to find himself face to face with the barrel of a very nasty-looking pistol.

"What did you say?" a strong, feminine voice growled at him. "Do not make me use this!"

Bowler looked past the pistol and was surprised to find a very angry, and very beautiful woman standing menacingly over him. She was wearing an enticingly form-hugging black outfit, made out of leather and other clinging materials. There were a few tears and gashes in the suit, mainly in the upper arms. A thick swirl of fire-bright red hair haloed a strong, noble face, with shining blue-grey eyes, an elegant nose, and full, sensuous lips. Bowler had rarely seen such a beautiful creature, and he had encountered many women in his lifetime. But, he admitted to himself, this one was a precious rarity, a jewel of incredible lustre.

"I said 'Phileas sent me'," Bowler answered, rubbing his sore neck. "Phileas Fogg. And I'm guessing from your pretty English accent that you are Rebecca Fogg."

The woman narrowed her eyes suspiciously, keeping the gun trained between his eyes. "How do I know you're telling the truth? How do I know you're from Phileas Fogg? How do I know you're not in league with the ruffians who attacked me in the first place?"

Bowler considered that for a moment. Good question, he thought to himself. He really should have determined some way of providing evidence that he had been sent by her cousin before he struck out on his own. Next time, he thought. I'll do better next time. "I don't have any proof, ma'am," he said. "You're just gonna have to trust me on this."

"You will understand that at the moment I am in no mood to proceed simply on trust, after the week I have had."

Bowler chuckled a deep, throaty laugh, his soreness all but gone now. "Yeah, I guess so." He smiled, an idea forming in his head. "How 'bout this? Phileas Fogg is a stuck-up, pretentious British twit who seems to always be in a bad mood. And who seems to really care about you a lot, ma'am."

Rebecca smirked, lowering the pistol. "I'd say that's one of the more accurate descriptions of Phileas that I've heard in quite a while." She holstered her gun in one of the many pouches and holsters arrayed along the belts encircling her waist. She held out a hand to help Bowler get to his feet. "And you can dispense with the 'ma'am's right this minute. Just call me Rebecca."

Bowler pulled himself up to his not-inconsiderable height and gazed down at Rebecca. Again he was taken by her power, her sheer beauty, and her gorgeous red hair. "That suits me fine, Rebecca," he said, chuckling slightly. "I'm Lord Bowler."

She smiled politely at him, giving him the once-over as he dusted himself off. "Lord?" she inquired, intrigued.

"Yeah," Bowler replied. "Aw, I ain't no English fop, neither, so don't go accusin' me of that!"

"Don't worry," Rebecca said quickly, hiding a smile. "Is it an actual, official title?"

Bowler paused, looking rather discomfited. Uh-oh, he thought. "Uh, yeah, something like that." He went to fetch his own gun from the floor, and felt Rebecca's eyes on his back as he walked. Returning to her quickly, he noticed a sly smile working its way onto her face.

"What?" Bowler said, suspicious.

"Oh, nothing. So, Phileas sent you all the way out here to find me, did he? And where might he be? Too preoccupied to come look for me himself, I suppose..."

"He went to the Golden Trail Casino," Bowler explained.

Rebecca quirked an irritated eyebrow, clearly looking not amused at all. "Did he?" she hissed through clenched teeth.

"Hey, it's actually OK. He went there to get some information to help find you."

"Ah," Rebecca remarked quietly, pursing her lips.

"Yeah, he and Brisco went to the Casino while this other guy, what was his name? Julie?"

"Jules? Jules Verne?"

"Yeah! That's the guy! Anyway, he went flying off in this zeppelin thing to scout out the area. Guess he didn't find you either, huh?"

"Apparently not. And who is this Brisco person you mentioned is joining Phileas in his casino adventure?"

Bowler smiled a wide, happy grin. "Brisco County, Jr. My faithful companion. Well, most of the time. Well, sometimes we don't exactly see eye to eye, but he's OK, really. He's a bounty hunter like me."

"Sounds like an intriguing fellow," Rebecca remarked.

Bowler looked around the stable. "Why are you stuck inside this old stable, anyway? Why didn't you try to head for San Francisco?"

Rebecca's eyes suddenly widened. "Damn!" she hissed, shoving Bowler away from the nearby doorway and further inside the stable. She slammed the door shut and dashed after him.

"What?" Bowler asked. "What's the big deal?"

Rebecca scurried over to a closed and shuttered window along the main wall of the stable, opposite from the empty horse stalls. She motioned for Bowler to join her as she pulled out her pistol once more. She checked the barrel as she explained. "I have been trying to evade the villains who tried to kill me back at the stagecoach. I think I eluded them so far, since I've not seen or heard anyone outside this stable. That is, until you came along."

Suddenly a crack of a pistol shot rang out, and the door Rebecca had slammed shut thumped with the impact of a bullet.

"Uh-oh," Bowler said, his face falling into a frown.

"Indeed," agreed Rebecca. "I think you have unwittingly led them straight here."

Bowler grinned sheepishly at Rebecca. "Sorry!"


It was the twelfth and final round. Amazingly, both Brisco and Phileas had managed to defeat the dealer each and every single time during the previous eleven rounds. It was down to this: one more to go, one more victory, and they were in. The dealer slipped the cards to the players.

As Brisco peered at his cards, he noticed he was showing the Eight of Spades, and face-down was the Queen of Diamonds. A solid eighteen. Not exactly solid gold, he thought, but he felt fairly confident of his chances, especially after the luck he'd had this evening. He glanced over at Phileas. His face-up card was the Four of Diamonds. He could not see Phileas' other card. Looking next at the dealer's hand, Brisco noted that Jonas was showing the Jack of Clubs. Not good, thought Brisco. He could be holding a natural Blackjack hand, or more likely, possibly another face card, thereby beating his eighteen with a twenty. But with the cards he was holding, Brisco knew that his chances were better if he held, and did not take another card.

Jonas looked at Phileas. "Sir?"

Phileas glanced casually at his face-down card, his eyes narrowing, betraying nothing. "Hold," he declared quietly.

Brisco's eyes widened. What the hell was this guy playing at? he thought. The best he could hope to have was a fifteen, if Phileas held an Ace. This was ridiculous! He waggled his eyebrows at Phileas, hoping the fool would get the message and ask for another card. Phileas merely smiled thinly at Brisco as Jonas turned to him.

Brisco looked at his cards again, then looked up at Jonas. Somewhat less confident that he had been just a few moments before, Brisco grimaced. "Hold," he said evenly.

Jonas nodded, then flipped over his face-down card. It was the Six of Spades. Sixteen. Brisco knew that the dealer must assume that he had at least eighteen, and would pretty much have to hit.

"Dealer shows sixteen," Jonas intoned calmly. "Dealer hits." He flipped over the next card in the deck. The Ten of Hearts dropped down onto the table.

Brisco laughed triumphantly. "A-ha!" he said boisterously. "Dealer busts. You lose, Jonas." He turned over his card, revealing his eighteen. Looking over at Phileas, he said, "Phileas, what the hell were you thinking?"

Phileas merely smiled smugly, flipping his card over. It was the Seven of Hearts.

"An eleven?" Brisco said, incredulous. "All you had was an eleven? And you didn't hit?"

"I was confident the dealer would lose," Phileas explained patiently. "With your likely eighteen, he had no choice but to hit."

"But he could have had Blackjack, for all you knew!" Brisco protested.

"I have an affinity to certain risky propositions."

Brisco gave up, shaking his head. "Damn English bluffing his way through life," he groused as he stood up from the table. Facing Jonas, Brisco said, "I believe we have an appointment to see your boss, now."

Jonas frowned, and threw the remaining cards onto the table, the rectangles scattering. "Follow me," Jonas grumped.

Phileas lifted himself elegantly from his chair and followed the pair towards the back room.


Bowler popped his head up and peered through the window to survey the scene outside. Beyond the clearing in front of the stable, tall, sturdy trees ringed the grassy field, leading to the dense forest. He couldn't detect any men out there at the moment, but he knew it was only a matter of time. As he ducked back down, a puff of smoke indicated a shot being fired. The thud of the bullet into the wall outside confirmed it.

His back to the inside wall, Bowler reloaded his revolver and grinned over at Rebecca. "So, you're from England, huh?"

Peeking over the lower lip of another window nearby, Rebecca fired a shot in the direction of the trees, and quickly ducked down. "That is correct," she replied briskly.

"Always wanted to go there," Bowler said with a wistful smile. He jumped up suddenly and fired six rounds out the window above him, throwing himself down to the floor once his pistol was empty. He was rewarded with the encouraging sound of a strangled scream from the trees.

"Might I enquire as to how you acquired the title of 'Lord'?" Rebecca smiled as she slipped her bullets inside her gun as more shots from outside thwocked into the side of the stable.

Bowler laughed his deep, throaty chuckle. "Aw, now you don't want me to tell you that story, do you? It's too boring. Besides, I'd rather hear how you came by that very... interesting outfit."

"Ah," Rebecca responded with a twinkle in her eye. "Well," she continued as she fired at the men outside, "I designed it myself, as a matter of fact."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." Rebecca smiled as she used the unfamiliar slang term.

After reloading his pistol and loosing off another round at the men outside, Bowler continued. "I have to tell you, Rebecca... It looks wonderful." He gazed at her appreciatively, causing the woman to blush. She grinned cheekily at him.

"Thank you very--" Rebecca broke off as a shot ripped past her head, slicing through her ponytail. Throwing herself to the ground at Bowler's booted feet, Rebecca reached up to touch her hair.

Bowler put out a hand protectively over Rebecca's prone form as he peered over the windowsill, assessing the situation. "Stay down," he said gruffly. His eyes scanned the ring of trees carefully. A number of shots cracked towards him, thudding harmlessly into the outside wall. Bowler was surprised to note that all of the shots, betrayed by puffs of smoke from within the forest, emanated from one particular spot. He glanced down at Rebecca, who lifted her pretty blue eyes up to meet his. "I think there's only one guy left," Bowler said. "I think."

A crazed yelling started up from outside, and Bowler tore his eyes away from Rebecca to look back at the forest. A lone, dark-clad figure was running madly out of the edge of the trees, across the clearing, heading for the stable.

"I think he realizes that, too," Bowler added as he lifted his gun and resolutely took careful aim at the onrushing attacker. As the running man spun his arms crazily about, still shouting at the top of his lungs and firing his pistol wildly, Bowler squeezed of a single shot. The scream cut off with a strangled gurgle, and the man slammed backwards onto the ground. Searching the trees for any further surprises, Bowler kept his pistol steady. When no further shots could be heard, he lowered his gun and holstered it. Standing up from his crouch, he extended a hand to Rebecca, who, with a slightly embarrassed smile, took it and clambered to her feet.

Dusting herself down, Rebecca looked out the window. "Well done," she said approvingly as she saw the slain figure on the grass outside.

"Aw, shoot," Bowler said, smiling to cover his embarassment, "it weren't nothing."

Rebecca kept her pistol ready as she carefully moved to the door of the stable. Bowler watched as she paused before opening it, listening carefully for anything out of the ordinary. As she went outside, Bowler followed, his eyes glued on the curves of Rebecca's fine derriere. A wicked grin on his face, Bowler joined his new friend as she stood over the dead body of their crazed attacker.

"Asian," Rebecca said, her frown evident even in the tone of her voice.

Bowler looked at the corpse, nodding in agreement.

"Looks Japanese," she continued. "Clearly something is going on here. These were no ordinary bandits."

"This have something to do with that treaty of yours?" Bowler asked as he recalled the background of Rebecca's mission.

Nodding, Rebecca looked up, surveying their surroundings. Noting the horse standing nearby, she turned to Bowler, saying, "I think it's about time we left. Don't you?"

"Yeah," Bowler agreed. He walked over to his horse, patting its head as he moved to mount it. Settling into the saddle, he held a hand out for Rebecca to grasp. She pulled herself up and settled in behind him, wriggling into a comfortable position. As she wrapped her hands around Bowler's chest, he grinned devilishly. The press of Rebecca's breasts against his back widened his grin even further as he urged his horse forward.


Boss Dawson reclined in his elegant, leather-covered chair as he surveyed the pair who stood before him. He smiled thinly as he raised his glass of brandy to his lips.

Phileas glanced quickly over at Brisco, who frowned and took a step towards the man. "Look, pal, enough of these games," Brisco growled. "Tell us where the girl is."

"What girl?" Dawson said mockingly.

Advancing towards the repulsive, fat casino owner, Phileas balled his fists. "What 'girl'? You know perfectly well what 'girl', you simpering simian. Tell us what has happened to Rebecca Fogg, or I swear you will cower in fear every single time you hear an English accent until your dying day!"

Dawson's two guards, Joe and Mike, swept up behind Phileas and grasped him none-too-gently, each one taking an arm. Phileas looked at each of the imposing men in turn, and relaxed his fists. "There is no need to get physical, gentlemen, I assure you," he said calmly. The guards glanced at their boss and released Phileas at the fat man's nod.

"Well?" Brisco prompted gruffly.

Dawson set his drink down on his cluttered desk and gestured for the two visitors to sit. Brisco and Phileas, however, merely folded their arms. Clearing his throat slightly, and still somewhat irritated at the intruders before him, Boss Dawson began to speak.

"Rebecca Fogg is, to the best of my knowledge, alive and well. Her whereabouts, however, are still a mystery. My sources tell me that her stagecoach was attacked en route to San Francisco. She managed to escape her attackers and fled. The perpetrators of this heinous crime continue to search the area, but after all this time they have still not discovered the woman."

"Who attacked her?" Phileas asked.

"Good question," Dawson answered. "My informants have led me to believe that the attackers appeared to be of Asian origin."

Phileas flicked his eyes towards Brisco and muttered, "The treaty."

Nodding, Brisco turned back to Dawson. "Go on."

"Well," Dawson continued. "I'm afraid there's not much more to tell. The only other thing I might pass along that could perhaps be of interest to you is this... My men have recently seen an unusually high number of Asian gentlemen in and around a formerly deserted mansion north of town. They were in the company of one other man, a Caucasian, to be specific." And slowly, he turned a sardonic eye upon Brisco.

Setting his jaw angrily, Brisco growled quietly, "Don't tell me. Bly."

Dawson's eyes lit up as he smiled. "I see you are acquainted with the gentleman."

"'Acquainted' ain't the word I'd use," Brisco said. "Neither is 'gentleman'."

His curiosity having gotten the better of him, Phileas cleared his throat, causing the other men's heads to turn his way. "Pardon me for asking, but who is this 'Bly' fellow?"

Gesturing for Brisco to tell the tale, Dawson leaned back in his chair and listened.

"John Bly is one of the most evil, treacherous, and just plain dirty guys ever to roam this world," Brisco explained to Phileas. Gripping the arms of the chair angrily, he continued. "He's done a lot of bad things -- not the least of which was murdering my father."

A twinge of sympathy struck Phileas as he watched Brisco relate his story. "I am very sorry," he said softly.

"Bly never was. He taunted me about it every chance he could get. We've fought against him a couple of times in the past. But somehow, even though we seem to kill him, he keeps coming back."

Noting the angry, pained look on Brisco's face, Phileas paused respectfully to allow Brisco to gather himself.

Brisco cleared his throat and looked over at Dawson. "A mansion north of San Francisco, you say?"

Nodding, Dawson answered, "Indeed. However..." He cast his eyes downward.

"Yes?" asked Phileas suspiciously.

Looking up at his two guests, a guilty expression etched upon his face, Dawson continued. "Well, I'm afraid I cannot let you leave without partaking in another game of cards."

Brisco and Phileas glanced swiftly at each other, before flicking their eyes back onto Dawson.

"Ah, the hell with this!" Brisco grumbled exasperatedly as he kicked out a booted foot and forcefully shoved Dawson's desk towards the wall, trapping the portly boss between desk and wall.

Fumbling impotently, Dawson struggled to shift the desk, but to no avail. He was unable find any purchase in order to move it even an inch. The heavy wooden desk effectively trapped the man and prevented him from doing anything to prevent his guests' departure.

However, Dawson's men, Joe and Mike, were in a better position to put up a fight. Joe, the more nimble of the pair, jumped at Phileas, and he and the Englishman began a quick dance of combat, which ended swiftly as Phileas jabbed a vicious elbow into his attacker's nose. Falling down from the impact and clutching at his furiously bleeding nose, Joe was knocked out of the fight.

The towering Mike had rushed at Brisco, who pounded his fists into Mike's chest. Brisco's hands thumped harmlessly against the big fellow's massive chest, causing Mike to chuckle. Brisco looked up as Mike flexed a massive palm, preparing to grasp Brisco's head and crush it.

As Mike lowered his hand towards his prey's head, suddenly another smaller hand stuck itself between Mike and Brisco, grasping the big man's hand and yanking it hard to Mike's right. The surprise of the attack on Mike prevented the guard from preparing any sort of defense, causing his arm to fly outwards, the shoulder popping out of its socket from the force of the pull. Mike fell down hard onto his rear end, clutching his dangling arm and sobbing sadly and loudly. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the big man whimpered hoarsely through his tears.

Phileas looked down at Mike, shaking his head. "I'd find another line of work, my large friend," he said softly.

Dawson, meanwhile, was spluttering in rage. "Guards!" he shouted. "Guards! Get in here!"

The double doors flew open as more men rushed inside in response to their boss' call. As they entered, Brisco and Phileas quickly dashed out, slamming the door shut behind them.

Brisco and Phileas ran as fast as they could through the casino, shoving their way through the oblivious patrons, and finally reaching the cool, crisp night air outside. Pausing only briefly to catch their breath, the pair were soon on their way once more, hopping onto their horses and galloping quickly out of sight of the casino and the guards who had hurried outside only to scratch their heads in confusion and defeat.


Bowler expertly guided his horse through the forest and on towards San Francisco. Rebecca Fogg still had her arms wrapped around his torso. The feel of her taut, strong body against his back kept the silly grin on Bowler's face as they galloped along, her breasts bouncing rhythmically with the horse's hooves. As Bowler looked around alertly, searching for any sign of attack, his smile was revealed to his riding companion.

"What on Earth are you grinning about, Bowler?" Rebecca asked.

Quickly wiping the smile away, Bowler struggled for a plausible response. "Oh, that. Well, uh... I like my horse." He rolled his eyes immediately, realizing the stupidity of his reply.

Rebecca snorted. "I wasn't aware you liked your horse in quite that way."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"I've seen that particular brand of smile before, I'll have you know," Rebecca said, smirking. "It wasn't affection for a horse then, and I am quite sure that it isn't for a horse now."

Bowler sighed heavily. "You are way too smart, Rebecca."

"I get that a lot."

Bowler chuckled a deep, throaty laugh. "Well, if you really wanna know..."

"Oh, I do," Rebecca said teasingly.

Sighing even deeper, Bowler continued. "I, uh... I kinda like you," he said quietly and quickly.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" Rebecca said, the smile clearly evident in her voice even though Bowler could not see her face.

"I think you're a nice lady," said Bowler, feeling incredibly embarrassed.

There was a quiet pause, during which Rebecca pursed her lips, her face slightly flushed. "Do you indeed?" she said quietly.

"Yeah," Bolwer said, his hackles rising now in defense of his confession. "Wanna make something of it?"

At this, Rebecca laughed heartily. "No, no, that's quite all right, thank you," she chuckled. But ever so slightly, she snuggled up just that little bit closer to Bowler as they rode on.


Brisco reined in his trusty steed, Comet, bringing them to a halt as he and Phileas arrived at their rendezvous point, Socrates' headquarters. Dismounting quickly, the pair rushed towards the newly arrived Aurora as it came in to land.

The door to the airship burst open, disgorging Jules and Passepartout, who tumbled hurriedly forward to meet Phileas and Brisco.

Passepartout was the first to catch his breath. "Master! We not see Rebecca anywhere!" he panted. Bending over, his hands on his knees, he took in a huge gulp of air before continuing.

Jules, however, beat him to it, as he was not quite as breathless. "It's true, Fogg," the young Frenchman confirmed. "There's no sign of her. I'm sorry." His crestfallen face told Phileas all he needed to know.

"Boy," Brisco mused quietly, "this Rebecca must be quite the woman to get you guys all worried up like this."

"She is," Phileas murmured. "She is indeed." The faraway look in his eyes quickly dissipated, replaced instead with fiery determination. "Verne, Passepartout. Did you see any large manor houses to the north of the city? Anything unusual, that might appear suspicious or deserted?"

Passepartout, scratched his head, then lifted a finger as if to speak. Then, shaking his head, he went back to thinking and scratching.

With a snap of his fingers, Jules burst out, "Yes! There was a large, dark mansion that we flew over. I only noticed it because it looked strange, very dark. No lights at all. And well away from the main roads from what we could tell."

Phileas nodded triumphantly. "That is where she will be!" he hissed. "We have to assume she has been captured by her attackers and taken to their lair. Passepartout, prepare the ship to disembark at once." Having given his orders, Phileas began marching towards his airship.

"Miss Rebecca!" Passepartout cried out.

Continuing his walk to the Aurora, Phileas called back to his valet, "Yes, Passepartout, we are on our way to rescue Rebecca, now if you would kindly--"

"Fogg!" Jules said happily. "She's here! With Lord Bowler!"

Phileas swung about, pivoting neatly on one foot, eyes wide with hope. Sure enough, trotting into view along the road, was Rebecca and Bowler on the bounty hunter's horse.

Brisco turned to watch their approach. As he caught sight of Rebecca, he whistled softly. "Holy..." Hurriedly, he moved to intercept the horse, catching its reins and guiding it to a halt. "Bowler, you haven't introduced us," Brisco said meaningfully.

"We just got here, Brisco," Bowler groused. His frown quickly turned into a winning smile as he glanced back at his riding companion. "Rebecca Fogg, may I introduce my sidekick, Brisco County, Jr."

"Sidekick?" Brisco said warningly. "Bowler, I--"

"Brisco, may I introduce Miss Rebecca Fogg, Special Agent in Her Majesty's Secret Service." With the introductions complete, Bowler slipped down easily off his horse, then gallantly extended a hand to Rebecca.

Accepting the proffered hand gracefully, Rebecca dismounted and stood next to Bowler. A bit too close to Bowler for Brisco's comfort.

"Where did you find her, Bowler?" Brisco asked his friend.

"I found Rebecca over at the old abandoned Sunnybrook Farm," Bowler explained.

"I am glad you are safe," Phileas said as he approached and drew Rebecca aside. "I was w-- Well, I was concerned about the mission."

A knowing look crossed Rebecca's face as she smiled sardonically. "Of course you were," she teased. She greeted Jules and Passepartout as they also expressed their relief at her safety. "I am flattered by your concern, gentlemen," she said kindly. "However, I do have a mission to complete."

"Quite right, of course, Rebecca," Phileas said. "The treaty."

"Which is now, presumably, in the hands of whoever attacked me."

"Bly," Brisco grumbled moodily.

"Pardon?" Rebecca asked.

Brisco quickly brought Rebecca, along with Jules and Passepartout, up to speed on their adventure in the casino. Rebecca then informed the group of her escape from her attackers and her eventual rescue by Bowler.

"Time we were off," Rebecca said as their stories concluded.

"The mansion?" Brisco asked her.

Nodding, Rebecca started for the Aurora. "It is imperative that we stop this Bly fellow and get that treaty back before he does something inexcusably evil."

The men followed Rebecca aboard the airship.


Brisco looked around himself in wonder as he entered the handsomely decorated interior of Phileas' airship. He whistled softly as he took in the gleaming controls, finely crafted wooden panels, elegant furniture, and the like. He glanced slyly at Bowler, who entered just behind him.

"No kidding, Brisco," Bowler muttered quietly. "This sure beats the heck out of Professor Wickwire's lead zeppelin."

"You said it, Bowler," Brisco agreed. "This is something. This could even be the com--"

"I know, I know," interrupted Bowler. "'The coming thing'. You always say that, Brisco, you're always talking about 'the coming thing'. I'm beginning to doubt there ever will be a 'coming thing'."

"Pardon me," Rebecca said politely, as she swept past them to stand near the steering globe.

Brisco turned from Rebecca and looked at Bowler. His friend seemed to have a rather silly grin on his face as he watched the elegant Victorian lady stand tall and proud next to the controls of the airship.

"Man," Bowler breathed. "I'd love for *her* to be 'the c--"

"Don't even say it!" Brisco hissed, as he thumped Bowler in the chest.

Chuckling softly, Bowler kept glancing subtly back at Rebecca ever few seconds. He and Brisco stood to the side as they watched the Aurora's regular crew go about their preparations for liftoff.

Once they were airborne, a meeting was convened to determine their next course of action. The five men and one woman gathered around the main cabin's table and discussed their options.

"I say we go storming in and take him out," Brisco offered, his mood laced with vengeance.

"Hmmm," mused Phileas. "Perhaps there is an alternative to a head-on attack."

His brow creasing in concern, Brisco glanced at his friend Bowler, silently urging him to help out. "What for?" Brisco protested, turning back to Phileas. "We know he did it, we know where he is. Why can't we--"

"We *think* we know who did it," Phileas explained patiently, holding his irritation in check. "We *think* we know where he is. Remember, all we have to go on is the word of a nefarious casino operator. I prefer a more cautious approach."

Jules quietly voiced his own opinion. "Maybe we can do both," he mused.

Heads turned to face the young man, who looked up at his friends. "Some of us can charge in, cause a distraction, while another group infiltrates the place in a more silent manner. Two heads are better than one, after all."

"Yeah," Brisco smirked, "and Frenchy here looks like a real man-of-action. Gimme a break. And anyway, you call that a French accent? Sounds more Californian to me..."

"Listen," Rebecca interjected diplomatically. "I think it might be better if all this animosity were directed at the men responsible for the attack upon Her Majesty's mission. Don't you?" With that, she turned and looked each man in the eye, her steely gaze of determination silencing them all.

"Good," she went on. "We shall follow Jules' plan. Phileas, you and Brisco will approach the mansion from the front, through the main doors. Meanwhile, Bowler, Jules and myself will drop down onto the roof, and work our way inside. Agreed?" Before anyone could reply, she charged on. "Good. Now then. Passepartout?"

Passepartout smiled at Rebecca. "Yes, Miss Rebecca?"

"I will need you to fly the Aurora as stealthily as you possibly can in order for this to work. Understood?"

Nodding, Passepartout grinned. "I am understanding, Miss Rebecca. The bad men will not hear our whistling uproar."

Brisco frowned at Passepartout. "Huh?"

"I believe he means 'our whispering approach'," Phileas explained casually. "Excellent, Passepartout, thank you."

Passepartout clicked his heels and moved off to resume his place at the controls.


A short time later, the Aurora was gliding softly over the treetops. The night sky was still dark, the moon on occasion obscured by the recently developed clouds. A dark, unlit mansion was visible some distance ahead. Passepartout brought the Aurora to a gentle hover above a small clearing. Without a word, Brisco and Phileas stepped calmly onto the platform which Passepartout duly lowered to the ground. Once the two men had leapt deftly off the platform, Passepartout started the winch to reel it back in. Hurriedly, he moved to resume his position at the airship's controls.

Rebecca watched as the two small forms of her cousin Phileas and her new friend Brisco scurried off through the trees in the direction of the mansion. She looked over at Jules, who nodded calmly. As she walked softly over to stand next to Bowler at the main window, she felt a small tightening within her stomach. Nerves at the upcoming action? Doubtful, she thought to herself, she had been in much more dangerous situations than this one before. Curious. Something else, then. No. No, it couldn't be... could it? A smile began to creep onto her face.

Bowler gently cleared his throat. "Uh, did you make that outfit yourself?" he asked quietly.

Distracted by her thoughts, it took a moment for it to register with Rebecca that Bowler had spoken to her. "Hmm? Oh, sorry. Well, as I indicated the last time you asked that question, I did indeed design this particular ensemble." Her eyes brightened as she noticed Bowler stiffen slightly at her playful teasing.

"Oh, yeah, I guess I did ask you that already," Bowler managed to say. "I like it."

Rebecca slid her eyes in the direction of the tall, dark man beside her, a knowing smile on her face. "Thank you," she said. Turning back to face out the window, Rebecca tensed as she saw the mansion looming ever closer. Without thinking, she touched Bowler's arm intimately and pointed at the building before them. "There it is," she declared excitedly.

The pair turned to face one another. Rebecca noticed her hand grasping Bowler's muscular bicep, and she looked up into his face. The smile she saw plastered on it ignited a spark inside her, and she grinned a silly grin. She released him and looked away, turning to find Jules at the nearby table.

"Time we were off, I think," Rebecca said briskly to Jules as she hurried towards the landing platform. "Passepartout, look for a spot on the roof that would most likely be near a point of access to the interior."

"Yes, Miss Rebecca," Passepartout replied dutifully, as he scanned the rooftop of the approaching mansion.

Bowler joined Rebecca on the platform as they waited for the Passepartout to find the ideal location. Jules sauntered over, a knowing look on his face as he smiled at Rebecca. Frowning back, Rebecca turned away from Jules and watched Passepartout. Her back turned, she missed seeing Jules shake his head and roll his eyes.

"A-ha!" Passepartout suddenly exclaimed. "I am thinking place is spotted!"

"Excellent, Passepartout," Rebecca snapped perfunctorily. "Lock off the controls and let us down."

As the trio braced themselves for descent, Rebecca moved almost imperceptibly closer to Bowler. Passepartout cranked the winch, and Rebecca, Bowler, and Jules rode the platform down to the flat stone roof of the mansion. They touched down with a quiet "thunk", and the three adventurers stepped off. Rebecca looked up and signalled for Passepartout to retract the platform. As the wooden square ascended into the sky and the Aurora chuffed off and away from the mansion, Rebecca turned to her companions and spoke quietly.

"Now," she whispered. "Passepartout will be keeping a close watch. Hopefully we will not need to send up a call for help. However, if it does become necessary, I do have a signal flare."

"Ma'am," Bowler whispered back, "you can light my flare any time you want." He grinned, his white teeth almost glowing in the dark night.

"Oh, please," Jules muttered even as he chuckled to himself.

"Let's go," Rebecca hissed, pretending to ignore Bowler's remark as she moved off to locate an entrance into the mansion.


Brisco and Phileas raced through the forest, arriving at the main doors soon after the Aurora had deposited the others onto the roof. Phileas watched moodily as his beloved airship drifted off.

"C'mon, buddy," Brisco whispered harshly, bringing Phileas out of his reverie.

Nodding silently at his companion, Phileas checked his pistol and approached the doors. He reached out slowly, not quite knowing what to expect. A welcoming committee, perhaps? More likely a trap, from what Brisco had told them of this Bly fellow. Touching the wood of the door, Phileas breathed a tiny bit easier when nothing untoward happened. He grasped the handle and slowly inched the door open. Darkness loomed inside the entrance. Bracing himself for anything, Phileas crept inside, followed closely by Brisco.

As they entered the foyer, stealthily stepping into blackness, the two men looked around the area, alert for any dangers. Shortly, Brisco tapped Phileas on the shoulder and indicated a faint light at the top of a nearby staircase. The pair quietly ascended the steps, pistols ready. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, they paused and listened for any sign of life.

Surprisingly, they heard something.

A faint, melodic tinkling sound whispered to them from down the hallway before them. The light source they had spotted earlier was also located down the very same corridor. Carefully, the two men moved forward and tracked the sound and the light to a large, closed set of double doors. Nodding silently to each other, Brisco and Phileas both reared back, then kicked solidly forward. Two boots bashed open the two doors, and the men rushed inside, pistols held in front of them as they both frantically scanned the room.

A large, nearly empty chamber greeted them as they skittered to a halt. A simple glass chandelier hung from the ceiling, and on the far side of the room, opposite from the doors, sat a grand piano beneath a large window. Seated at the keys, fingers dancing delicately, tapping out a dire, minor-key melody, his back to the intruders, was John Bly.

At the sound of the forced entry, Bly turned his head slightly, revealing his sinister profile to the newcomers. Dark, slicked-back hair crowned a thin, cruel face, a beak of a nose adding just the right amount of sneer to the man's visage.

"Welcome, gentlemen," Bly drawled in his dry, Southern accent. "I thought you'd never get here."

"What's going on, Bly?" Brisco demanded. "What are you up to this time?"

"My, my," Bly sneered. "What a trite question. Mr. Fogg, do you think I should answer such a ridiculously cliched phrase?"

Phileas stepped forward, pistol held firmly out in front of him, trained upon Bly. "Yes, I do," he hissed. "If you wish to remain alive."

Bly tutted, shaking his head as he turned back to concentrate on his piano playing. "More silly demands. I expected better of you both."

"Oh, for crying out l--" began Brisco.

"Enough!" Bly barked. "Guards!"

A dozen heavily armed men, all appearing to be of Oriental descent, rushed inside the room from the hallway, quickly surrounding Brisco and Phileas.

"I'd put down your guns, if I were you," Bly recommended. "How about a little Bach?" He boldly struck up a new tune.

As Phileas and Brisco threw down their pistols angrily, Bly went on. "You asked what I was up to this time, Mr. County. I shall answer you. And it's really quite simple. Revenge. Pure, unadulterated revenge. I mean to drive a wedge between the nations of Japan and Great Britain."

"For what possible reason would you want to do that?" asked Phileas.

"I was getting to that, if you'd let me continue. Thank you. As I was saying, my purpose is vengeance. When I first started out in the business that is my livelihood, crime, I had the brilliant idea of entering the market of the Orient. Having met with some small success in the local Californian region, I wanted to expand. I had such grand schemes. I attempted to infiltrate the distant country of Japan, across the Pacific Ocean, but I was rebuffed. Barely had I set foot upon shore, when I was rudely rounded up by the local authorities. It seems they had been informed of my colorful past, and wanted no part of me. They sent me back on the first ship across the sea. I have since learned that it was, in fact, an agent of the British Secret Service who had contacted the Japanese authorities."

"Rebecca?" Phileas asked, frowning. "When did this happen?"

"No, no, no," Bly said, shaking his head. "Not your dear, beautiful cousin Rebecca Fogg. Another agent. I don't even remember his name. It doesn't really matter who it was. It was a limey who done it, matey." Bly chuckled at his pathetic attempt at a British accent.

"So now it's 'Screw you, Japan and Britain'?" said Brisco, clearly unimpressed. "Gee. How dastardly." He yawned.

Bly shot up out of his seat, his fingers pulled from the keyboard as he spun about and advanced upon Brisco. "I mean to pit these two nations against one another in a war the likes of this world has never seen. By using my Japanese henchmen here to provoke the British, you can see how the seeds are already being planted. And as an added bonus, it seems the bane of my existence, Brisco County, Jr. himself, is now mixed up in things. So much the better." He sneered as he stopped in front of Brisco. "This is gonna be almost as much fun as killing your dear old daddy," he taunted.

Brisco balled his fists, readying a punch. Before he could throw it, his arm was gripped by the firm hand of Phileas. "I would advise against it at this juncture," Phileas warned calmly.

"Good thinkin'," Bly smiled as he leaned down and picked up Brisco's pistol. Cocking it, he pointed the barrel between Brisco's eyes. "Time for the final goodbye."

"Now who's using cliches?" Phileas said coolly.

"Will you shut--" Bly began as he prepared to pull the trigger.

A gunshot rang out. Bly grabbed his right hand with his left as the gun clattered across the room, a bullet lodged in the side of its barrel. Seething with rage, he shouted, "Kill them!" as he kicked out at Brisco's legs.

Brisco was already on the move, backing quickly away from Bly as the guards looked around themselves in confusion, not knowing where the bullet had come from.

Phileas had an idea where the shot might have originated, and he looked closely at the window above the piano. A small, neat, round hole in one of the panes was suddenly obliterated as something smashed through the window.

Rebecca Fogg landed feet-first on top of the grand piano, smiling and brandishing her still-smoking pistol. "Couldn't find a way in from the roof, Phileas," she said breezily. "Mind if we use the window?"

"By all means!" Phileas shouted as he lunged towards the floor to retrieve his pistol. Snatching it up, he began firing at the ridiculously confused guards, who were just now starting to fire their guns in Rebecca's direction.

Meanwhile, Bowler and Jules had also jumped inside through the window. Bowler took out a couple of guards as he stood shoulder to shoulder with Rebecca on top of the piano. Jules jumped nimbly down onto the floor, his own pistol flashing as he proved his worthiness.

Guards fell to the floor, and more guards fell to the floor. Soon there were no more guards to fall to the floor. There was only one man. John Bly, crouching angrily in a corner, too far from the doors to have any hope of escape.

Rebecca strode calmly over to the cowering man, and, one hand on her hip, the other pointing her pistol at Bly, she smiled thinly. "I believe you have something that does not belong to you."

"What?" Bly frowned.

"The treaty papers," Rebecca said menacingly.

"Oh, those. Sorry, I don't have them anymore." A smile played about Bly's lips.

Suspicious, Rebecca raised an eyebrow. "Who does?"

"No one," Bly said, chuckling. "They've been destroyed. Burnt to ashes."

Rebecca stared at Bly, not moving a muscle. Then, suddenly, she spun on her heel and strode back to her friends. "No matter," she said calmly.

"What?" Bly asked, his mouth turning into a frown once more.

Rebecca twirled back to face Bly as she stood next to Bowler. "The treaty papers were a mere formality. I have been made a Royal Proxy for Her Majesty Queen Victoria, with ambassadorial rank and powers. I can take the place of those papers myself."

"Then, what the hell did we have to charge in here for?" Brisco asked exasperatedly.

"Well, we couldn't just let Bly continue his evil ways, now could we?" Rebecca said as she smiled sweetly at Brisco.

"Uh, no, but still that doesn't--"

"How about payback, then?" Rebecca asked.

"Works for me," answered Brisco.

"Besides, you finally get to capture your nemesis, once and for all, don't you?" Rebecca said.

"No, you don't!" Bly roared as he produced a small, single-shot gun from within his jacket, levelling it at Rebecca. "The treaty dies here tonight!" He squeezed the trigger.

Suddenly, Rebecca was shoved to the ground. The bullet thudded into the massive back of Lord Bowler, who crumpled to the floor from the impact, falling roughly on top of Rebecca.

"Damn it!" Bly shouted. "If I can't destroy Britain, I'll have to destroy Japan!" He raced from the room, steaming with fury.

"Rebecca!" Phileas cried out.

"Bowler!" Brisco shouted.

"Oh, no!" Jules wailed.

Brisco crouched down and looked closely at the wound in Bowler's back. It appeared to have entered well to the right of the spine, so there was little risk of paralysis.

"Are you all right, Bowler?" Brisco asked his fallen friend.

"Never better," came the muffled reply.

"Bowler," Rebecca said, struggling for breath. "Your pistol is digging into my--" She broke off and gasped. "Oh, my..."

"Come on, buddy," Brisco said, as he shifted his quietly chuckling friend off of Rebecca.

Phileas knelt beside his cousin, running his hand gently over her hair. "Are you all right, Rebecca?" he asked softly.

Her eyes still wide, Rebecca managed to reply, "I believe so." With Phileas' help, she sat up.

"We gotta get you to a doctor," Brisco said to Bowler. "There isn't much blood, but having a bullet lodged in your back just ain't good for you."

"You're telling me," Bowler said as he coughed slightly. "Bly--" He coughed a bit more violently.

"Don't worry about Bly," Brisco said. "It's you I--"

"Aw, shut up, Brisco," Bowler wheezed. "I know you have to go after him. It's your mission. I want you to go."


"No! No buts, just get going. You've got to stop him before he does any more harm."

"Are you sure?" Brisco asked.

Bowler smiled as he glanced up at his friend from his awkward position on his stomach. "Go."

"I'll stay with him," Rebecca said as she looked down at her savior. "He'll be all right." She shifted and moved to hold Bowler as he lay face-down.

"I will now," Bowler said, smiling broadly.

"That's it, now I know you're OK," Brisco said irritatedly. "Come on, Phileas, let's get after Bly before I get sick from listening to these two lovebirds."

Phileas cocked his head to the side, narrowing his eyes. "'Lovebirds'?" he asked, puzzled.

Jules slapped Phileas on the back. "I'll explain later, Fogg," he said chuckling. "I'll look after these two. You go save the Ambassador."

Still somewhat confused, Phileas nodded, straightening up and looking at Brisco. "Very well."

"Come on!" Brisco shouted as he raced from the room, Phileas close on his heels.

Jules glanced down at Bowler and Rebecca, pursing his lips. "On second thought, maybe I'd better go signal for Passepartout. I will be back." He hurried out of the room, stepping over the dead bodies of guards. His departure went unnoticed by the pair of still-breathing friends lying on the floor.


As the two men hurried down the main staircase, Brisco asked Phileas, "So why don't we just go after him in your balloon."

Reaching the ground floor and rushing outside, Phileas shouted back, "I will have you know it is not a balloon. It is a dirigible. And the short answer to your question is that it would take too long to signal Passepartout and have him pick us up. Besides, your friend Bowler needs to be taken to hospital as quickly as possible, and the Aurora is the best option for him."

"Man," Brisco groused, "I'd hate to hear one of your long answers."

Brisco and Phileas scanned their surroundings. Soon, Brisco spotted the tell-tale clouds of dust kicked up by a departing stagecoach. It was heading down the main avenue which led away from the mansion. "There he goes!" Brisco yelled, pointing.

"Indeed," Phileas agreed as he looked around. Spotting something nearby, he headed back towards the mansion. Rounding a corner, he led Brisco to a nearby stable which held nearly a dozen sturdy horses. "Transports for our recently-departed sentries."

"You mean horses for the bad guys we killed back there?" Brisco asked as he grinned and jumped onto the back of a powerful steed. "Got it. Yah!" At his barked command, the horse reared back and leapt forward, galloping away from the stable and after the rapidly fleeing stagecoach.

Phileas swung himself elegantly up onto another horse, and firmly guided it out from the stable. Once clear of the building, he brought the horse up to full speed. Within a few moments, he had caught up with Brisco. Side by side, the two men charged after Bly in his stage.

The moon was dipping down towards the horizon as Bly's stagecoach rushed towards the city of San Francisco. Brisco and Phileas urged their horses ever faster, slowly gaining ground on Bly. Eventually, after a final, desperate burst of speed, Brisco reached the side of the stage. Summoning all his strength, he leapt from his horse and grabbed for the guardrails lining the roof of the stage's carriage. The closed doors with their curtained windows concealed his view of the interior. As his hands grasped the steel rails, Brisco swung himself backwards, ramming his feet into the door. It cracked slightly from the impact, but did not shatter.

Phileas, meanwhile, had also caught up. He approached the carriage from the side opposite Brisco, urging his horse to sidle up alongside the right-hand side. With a surge of pent-up anger, he jumped from his steed and landed on the driver's seat, colliding with the hooded man holding the reins. The collision caused the driver to yank back on the reins suddenly, which in turn, made the train of horses rear back. The abrupt move of the horses caused the carriage to shift alarmingly, sending Phileas forward. Catching himself just in time before flying to the ground amongst the horses' hooves, Phileas shoved himself back into the seat, throwing a furious punch into the driver's face. The hood flew back to reveal not John Bly, but rather a young, pale man with short, white hair and dark red lips.

"Bloody hell!" the driver cried out. "That hurt!"

"Indeed," agreed Phileas as he threw another fist into the driver's face. "This will most likely cause some pain as well."

"Ow!" The driver covered his face with his hands, dropping the reins. "Stop that!" The driver punched back at Phileas, connecting solidly against Phileas' jaw, drawing a tiny bit of blood to trickle from the side of his mouth. The sight of Phileas' blood caused the driver's eyes to widen. Suddenly, a strange transformation swept over the pale man's face. His forehead became ridged with bumps, his eyes became yellow, and his bared lips revealed a pair of glistening fangs. "Pretty boy's gonna learn to behave himself like a proper gentleman," the driver growled. He leapt towards Phileas, grasping the shocked Englishman by the shoulders and pushing his mouth towards Phileas' neck.

Suddenly the driver cried out in pain, clutching at his back. A large knife was buried up to its hilt in the driver's back, and the now furious pale man struggled and twisted around in a vain attempt to remove the blade. "Sod this!" he yelled angrily. Distracted, the driver failed to keep his eyes on Phileas, who, seeing his chance, kicked out roughly with his legs. His feet landing squarely in the driver's chest, Phileas pushed himself forward with all his might and kicked the driver off the stagecoach.

"Bloody hell!" Phileas heard the man shouting as the knife buried itself deeper as the driver rolled on the ground. More angry grumbling ensued from the driver as the carriage moved away from him. Phileas was about to turn his attention back to the runaway horses, when a phrase growled by the receding driver caused Phileas to whip his head around. But the man could no longer be seen, the carriage having charged resolutely onwards. Turning back around, Phileas dismissed the matter, knowing that he could not possibly have heard the driver utter the words, "Sodding time travel..."

Brisco, after having whipped his knife at the driver to save Phileas, had finally managed to break open the locked carriage door. He jumped inside to find...


The carriage was empty. No John Bly. Not even any hired assassins.

"What the..." Phileas began, his voice trailing off helplessly. "Damn it," he grumbled. He leaned out and looked up at Phileas in the driver's seat. "Hey, can we stop this thing?"

Phileas leaned forward over the front edge of the driver's area, and spotted the reins dangling from the last pair of horses, trailing along the ground. He stretched himself forward, reaching out and grasping desperately for the loose reins. After a back-breaking stretch, Phileas clutched them triumphantly in his right hand and hauled himself back onto the seat. He quickly pulled back, coaxing the train of horses down to a trot, and then finally to a halt.

Phileas descended from the seat and stood next to Brisco, who had also just exited the carriage.

"Now what?" Brisco said, the strain in his voice betraying his frustration at the situation. "Bly's gotten away. Again."

"Well, at least this stagecoach will be doing no one any harm," Phileas explained patiently. "And if Bly is indeed still pursuing this mission of vengeance of his, we can still protect the Japanese Ambassador."

"How?" Brisco asked. "We have no idea where Bly is now, or what he might be planning."

"Ah, yes," Phileas said as he placed his hands on his hips. "But he doesn't have a dirigible, does he?" He nodded behind Brisco.

Turning around, Brisco smiled faintly. "Not that I know of," he agreed.

Phileas began strolling in the direction of the approaching Aurora, spotting the landing platform as it was lowered down to them. As he and Brisco stepped aboard and were lifted into the air, Phileas called up to the dirigible, "The Japanese Embassy, if you would be so kind, Passepartout!"


Bright sunlight dappled the exterior of a nondescript warehouse on the shore of the Pacific. A creeping figure hurried inside through a squeaking side door facing the sea, pulling it shut behind him. He peered into the murky gloom of the warehouse's interior.

"My Lord?" John Bly hissed nervously. "Are you here?"

A hissing, wheezing sound emerged from a door leading away from the main room. A shadowy figure could just barely be made out in the gloom, faintly lit by a dim light from behind. "I am indeed," the figure growled. "And I see that you have failed me."

"My Lord," Bly grovelled, falling to his knees. "It was not my fault. They were too strong, they were--"

"They were better than you!" roared the shadow. "Get out of my sight! Death is too good for you. Peddle your insignificant criminality elsewhere. *I* am Lord here."

Bly scrambled to his feet and hurried back to the door leading outside, leading to his freedom from this decrepit madman. He rushed out the door and fled into the city.


Rebecca Fogg, beautifully elegant in a deep blue dress, shook hands firmly with the handsome, grey-haired man standing next to her in front of an ornate wooden desk. Ambassador Masaoki smiled at Rebecca as they shook. "It is an honor to enter into this agreement with Her Majesty Queen Victoria," the Ambassador said proudly. "The Emperor looks forward to future harmonious relationships between our two nations. And I look forward to further visits from Her Majesty's representative."

"Ah," Rebecca said, smiling demurely as she released the Ambassador's hand gently. "I'm afraid Her Majesty's representative is needed elsewhere and will shortly be replaced by a more permanent one. However, I do accept your compliment. Perhaps we might meet under unofficial circumstances one day?"

The Ambassador smiled back as he guided her to the door and led her out of his office and into the hallway, where several people were waiting for them. Looking at the pair expectantly were Brisco, Bowler, Phileas, Jules, Passepartout, and Socrates. Rebecca and Ambassador Masaoki outlined the basic arrangements of the treaty and its general effects. It appeared to be beneficial to both parties, which was the goal of Rebecca's original mission.

Having taken her official leave of the Ambassador, Rebecca departed from the embassy, her entourage in tow. As the group walked through the streets of San Francisco on their way back to Socrates' headquarters and the Aurora, they kept silent. It was a content but wary silence.

Once they reached their destination, Socrates excused himself and hurried to his office to take care of various papers and procedures relating to the new treaty. The United States was, of course, very interested in any developments involving its allies. Passepartout bowed and took his leave as well, hurrying to the Aurora to ready it for departure.

Jules stepped up to Brisco and held out his hand. "It was a pleasure to meet you, sir," he said amiably.

Brisco took the proffered hand and shook it. "Likewise. And don't call me 'sir', kid, it makes me feel old."

Chuckling, Jules replied good-naturedly, "Don't call me 'kid', it makes me feel... American."

Brisco nodded. "You're all right. See you around."

Jules shook hands with Bowler next. "Thank you for your help. And for saving Rebecca."

"Awww," Bowler said, embarrassed. He shrugged, being careful not to shift the bandages around his torso. "Wasn't nothin'. Just doing what I do best."

"Being an idiot?" Brisco teased.

"Being a hero," Bowler retorted.

"Is there a difference?" Jules asked.

"Get outta here," Bowler laughed as Jules made his way towards the Aurora.

Phileas cleared his throat and shook hands with Brisco. "I cannot thank you enough for your assistance," he said stiffly. "So I shall not try. But I will say this. If you find yourself in Britain, and find yourself in any trouble, do not hesitate to contact me."

Nodding, Brisco replied, "Thanks, I'll do that."

Phileas moved on to Bowler, again shaking hands. "And you, my good sir. Thank you for all of your courageous efforts. You have saved my cousin's life, and that means a great deal to me."

"Trust me," Bowler said with a huge grin, "it was my pleasure."

"I had a feeling it might be," Phileas said, narrowing his eyes slightly. "Take care." He moved off slightly to give Rebecca space, and waited for her cousin to say her goodbyes.

Rebecca stepped towards Brisco and held out her hand. Taking it in his gloved hand, Brisco kissed its back gently. "Thank you, Mr. County, for everything. I hear you acquitted yourself quite well."

Blushing slightly, Brisco muttered, "Thanks. It was, uh, nice to meet you, ma'am."

Rebecca looked over at Bowler, who smiled warmly back at her. "And Lord Bowler," she said, grinning.


Moving towards him, Rebecca enveloped Bowler in an embrace, hugging him close, careful not to put too much strain on his wounded back. As she rested her head briefly on his shoulder, she said softly in his ear, "Thank you. For everything you did for me. You are a brave, wonderful man." She shifted herself and looked up into Bowler's eyes. Leaning towards him, she pressed her lips against his, kissing him long and hard. A moment later, they pulled apart, and Rebecca moved away, towards her waiting cousin.

"I'll be waiting for you here, if..." Bowler began.

Turning back to look at Bowler, Rebecca said softly, "Perhaps one day." She turned around and walked to the Aurora with Phileas by her side.

As they watched the impressive airship ascend and move away, Brisco turned to Bowler. "What a crock," he said cynically. "You won't be waiting for her. You'll be after the next pretty face that walks by."

Bowler sighed, looking at his friend. "Yeah, probably. But she doesn't have to know that, does she?" He cracked a grin.

Brisco slapped Bowler companionably on the back as the two men walked off. "C'mon, buddy," he said. "I'll buy you a drink."

The two friends turned a corner, and Bowler bumped into someone who was moving in quite a hurry. "Whoa!" Bowler said. "Pardon me, ma'am." He looked down at the woman, gazing at her pretty white face ringed by raven-black curls. "Hello," he said softly. "And who might you be?"

The woman tilted her head and smiled, her lips curling slightly. "Adriana Locke," she answered. "Delighted to meet you..."