All usual disclaimers apply; I don't own the rights, I don't get money and this is for entertainment only. Please excuse any errors; they are entirely mine.

This is my answer to story Challenge #1 by Judith. To read the challenge, go to my Homepage and click on 'Elisa and Friends' and then click on 'Story Challenges' I am NOT going to follow the challenge 100 percent, I gotta be me.

This story is for (in no particular order) wuemsel, Cheride, Kreek and Eli. Thank you so much for the 'Hug felt 'Round the World' for it truly was, feel hugged right back ladies!

Fire Storm
By Starsky's Strut

The man rolled his eyes as he listened to the piped-in music on the overhead pa system. It was an instrumental version of a great rock and roll songand it was bordering on blaspheme to do that to such a great song. His very own theme song, he glared at himself in the mirror as he listened to the song being butchered on the tinny sounding public address system. How could they do that and get away with it?

The man shook his head and forced the anger away, he then looked in the mirror and smiled as he adjusted his shirt. The shirt was a little too small. He looked himself in his reflected eye and shrugged. It would do. He carefully combed his hair, checked his teeth and his gun. Everything was in order. He looked at his watch, then nodded to himself, turned on his heel and left the men's room. It was time to go.

XXXX

"Call it" The silver coin flipped into the air.

"Heads"

The coin fell to the floor.

The brunet detective sighed, "Too bad. Darn, I lost. You win Hutch, you lucky dog," A big grin flashed across his face as he reached down to retrieve his coin.

The blond shook his head as he leaned down to pick up his small satchel. He then leaned a little further over and snatched the coin off the floor just before his friend reached it. He looked at the coin and glanced at his friend. The curly head popped up and dark blue eyes connected with light blue eyes. And that's when he knew. Hutch raised the coin up and over his head to keep it away from his partner.

"That's mine! Gimme that-" Starsky hopped up and down trying to grab the blond's hand and retrieve his coin.

Hutch raised his hand a little higher over his head, using his two inches of extra height to keep the coin away from his friend. He flipped the coin over "Two heads" He slid a how-could-you look at the brunet.

"Heh, heh… umm…" Starsky ran a nervous hand through his curls and broke off eye contact.

"This is a first…you at a loss for words. I wish I had a camera to record this moment" The blond shook his head "Why the coin Starsk? If you didn't want to go, why didn't you just say so?" He tried to keep the hurt expression off of his face. "I know you don't like to fly, you could have just said so…"

"It didn't seem fair" The brunet looked away for a moment, then met up with the light blue eyes again.

"Oh, and using a trick coin is fair?" Hutch arched an eyebrow up.

"Well, if you hadn't taken it-" Starsky started to complain.

Hutch cut him off "- I wouldn't have known any better. It's still at trick" disappointment tinged the blond's voice.

"Okay, I'll go" The brunet sighed and dropped his head, there were worse things then flying. Like burning to death. Or being eaten alive by some animal. Or eating broccoli.

"Oh no, you wanted it your way. You got your way. I hope you're happy now" the blond turned on his heel, pocketed the coin, picked up his satchel and headed out to the tarmac to board the small four-seat plane.

XXXX

Starsky watched as the blond walked out the side door to meet with the FBI agent that was also going on that flight. He continued to watch as the agent, that he and Hutch had met earlier, shook Hutch's hand and they boarded the small plane with yet another man. Was that guy the real witness? Or was he the decoy?

Starsky mentally went over the mission once more. The witness, Mallard, was to testify before a grand jury about what he knew of the inner workings of the Manahan crime syndicate. The crime boss, 'Merciless' Mark Manahan wanted Drake 'Duck Boy' Mallard dead before he could testify.

Manahan was paying a hit man or more likely, several, to see that Mallard didn't make it to the courthouse alive. He wanted Drake to be a dead duck by his court date. Starsky snickered to himself about the pun, then sobered.

The plan to get Mallard to the courthouse alive was simple, yet complex. Three of Bay City's finest were to be partnered with three FBI agents. All three pairs and their witnesses had met at this airport before heading out to Bay City. They had each split up and each pair would be traveling by three different modes of transportation and all would be dressed as civilians.

Each of the pairs was to take their witness to the Bay City courthouse. Two of the pairs would be escorting a decoy. One pair would have the real witness. None of the three teams would know who had the real Mallard. This was due to the reconstructive surgery that Mallard undergone to protect his identity.

Every one of the six people in this operation had been thoroughly checked out. Facts and identifications had been checked and re-checked. There was little room for error. It was as good as it could get. Starsky watched as the small four-seat plane taxied down the runway and lifted off. It was then that he realized that he hadn't said goodbye to Hutch.

XXXX

Hutch made himself as comfortable as he could in the cramped confines of the plane. Starsky was going to regret this. He was going to have to drive several hundred miles to get back to Bay City by car. It would only be a little short trip of about an hour or so by plane and then the drive to the courthouse. It was going to take Starsky hours to get back.

The bad guys would have one hell of a time trying to figure out which one of the three teams had the real Mallard. There was no chance of anything happening to them once they were in the air. He only had to worry about the take off and then his only worries would be the landing at the airport and the drive to the courthouse. Those were the times when they would be most vulnerable to attack.

Hutch fastened his seat belt and leaned back in his seat. Soon the plane would be in the air, and then he could relax until they landed. He looked around the small plane and nodded at the FBI agent Hank Ruth and watched the passenger fasten his seatbelt. Was this guy the real Mallard? The man gave him a nervous grin and looked away, out the window.

Hutch shrugged and looked out his window, watching for anything out of the ordinary. His eyes swept the surroundings, checking and rechecking the area. He could hear the engines speed up and felt the plane move. He could hear the pilot request permission to take off, though it was difficult to hear with the sound of the plane's engine droning ever louder. He felt the g-force as the plane hurtled forward, pressing him into the seat and seconds later, they were airborne.

He smiled to himself. His part in this job would be done long before Starsky even got halfway done with his. Once this 'package' was delivered, he was going to take his new girlfriend, Cheryl Cox out in Starsky's car. It would serve him right. Starsk would come home to find his much beloved striped tomato gone. That would be payback enough for that stupid coin trick.

Hutch didn't understand why Cheryl liked the Torino, but she did, and since his friend was going to be driving an unmarked squad for hours on end… what harm could it do? A little payback for that dirty little trick he had tried to pull. Besides, it was tough to impress ladies with the beat up LTD. Although, it did give him an insight into the personalities of the women he dated. Cheryl was into flashy things. She was shallow and was good for dating material only.

Gillian, on the other hand, had loved the LTD. He remembered what she had said about his car… something about it not being the outside that mattered, but the heart and the inner workings and how much you loved it was all that really counted. He swallowed hard. God, how he missed her.

Hutch shook himself out of his reverie; he had a job to do. It felt so strange to be on assignment without Starsky by his side. But, it was temporary and it would be over in a few short hours. The witness would be taken to the courthouse and their job would be done for today. He put his head on the cushion and closed his eyes. He needed to rest up for his date later today.

XXXX

Starsky climbed into the unmarked squad car with his… yuck… FBI agent and the witness, the real one or the fake one, it didn't matter to him. He would see that the man arrived safely at the courthouse. The last team would be taking a train to the Bay City Terminal and proceed the rest of the way to the courthouse by cab.

He had quickly re-checked the car over for bombs and anything else that might have been done to it… the brake lines were fine, the gas tank was full. He checked the area one more time and waved the agent and their witness/passenger over to him. They all got in and Starsky pulled away from the curb. They had a long drive ahead of them.

He would feel much more comfortable if Hutch were here. Hutch. He had some apologizing to do the next time he saw his partner. It had been a childish trick to pull, but he had been momentarily overcome with fear. Not fear of flying. He wasn't afraid of that. Nope. It was the possibility of falling out of the sky that scared him. Still, it wasn't a very good reason to trick Hutch.

He'd have to come up with something good to say to Hutch in way of an apology. This long drive would give him plenty of time to think of just the right thing to say.

XXXX

The sound of the small plane's engine changed, bringing Hutch out of his light doze. He looked about sleepily "What's going on?" he yawned and shook the grogginess out of his head.

The FBI agent, Hank Ruth answered him "Engine trouble… Can't you land this thing!" He hollered the second part at the pilot.

"What do you think I'm doing? Make yourselves useful and look for a clearing, I don't think we're gonna make it to an airport" The pilot looked franticly about as he called out his trouble and general location over the radio.

Hutch looked out of the window and saw trees: a huge forest was below them. The small plane's engine cut out for a second and cut back in, only to repeat the process. His heart made a break for it and headed directly for his throat. He tried swallowing it back into position as he and the others searched for a place to land.

The agent hollered "There! At three o'clock!" he stabbed at the window with a finger, pointing at the spot.

"I see it! Buckle up boys! This is gonna get bumpy! I'm gonna have to do a 'slip' to land in that postage stamp of a clearing… make sure your seat belts are fastened and put your heads between your knees, put your hands over your heads and lock 'em!" The pilot grunted with exertion as he fought the controls.

Hutch followed the directions and he tightened his interlaced fingers behind his head. "Is there anything else we can do?" he yelled over the noise and he heard the engine cough. That couldn't be good.

"PRAY!" The pilot barked.

The three passengers went silent and the only sounds were of the pilot making his frantic SOS calls and the whine of the engine.

Hutch could feel the sweat form under his arms and on his forehead. 'Looks like you were right Starsky; maybe you had a good reason to be afraid. I shoulda never have been angry with you. I know how scared you are of heights. If I make it outta here… correction, when I make it… I'll find a way to make it up to you buddy, count on it' his thoughts were interrupted by the pilot.

"This is it! We're going in! Brace! Brace! Brace!" The pilot shouted.

At that moment, the engine cut out once more and without the engine, Hutch could hear the FBI agent muttering prayers and the witness softly sniffling. He could also hear the pilot alternately cursing at, and begging with, the small plane.

"Come on! Come on baby, you can do it, you piece of crap! COME ON! Just a little more… baby…" the pilot grunted loudly as he fought for control. "SHIT! Too soon! Dammit!"

Hutch heard the sound of branches hitting the fuselage; he could also feel the vibrations of the minor impacts that the tree branches made on the fuselage under his feet. Not good! He felt one last hard bump and then he felt nothing at all.

XXXX

Starsky rolled down his window. Someone in the car had a bad case of gas and it wasn't him. Maybe he should have been on that plane. Then again, he could open the window to let the smell out of the car. Would he have been able to do that in a plane? Not on a large plane, he knew that much. Perhaps on a small plane he could have.

'God, I am sooo bored! One of those two has bad gas, the Fed is asleep and the witness won't talk to me. Maybe he's really the one…' Starsky checked the man out in the rearview mirror. 'Could you be Mallard?' The witness made eye contact with him in the rearview mirror and was the first to break the contact off.

Starsky looked back at the road ahead of him and then checked his watch. Good God! Has it only been forty-five minutes? This trip was gonna take forever. Hutch would be done with his trip hours before he would be done with his. The sound of more body gas being released from one of his two passengers made him cringe. Hutch was so lucky; he didn't have this to contend with.

'I really wish I could trade places with ya Hutch, I really do… anything would be better than this' He heard the sound of more bodly gasreleased 'Hutch… you are sooo lucky!'

TBC

Author note: A 'slip' is when a pilot drops altitude rapidly and deliberately. I was in a two-seat plane when this was done. My pilot did it so he could make the runway, as he didn't want to have to come around again for a second try. I kinda wish he had. I left my stomach up there and I would like it back.