: I do not own Level 9, or it's characters, with the exception of
Teigra, Steve, Max, and Loon. I hope the plot is original and
interesting enough that you read to the end. Otherwise I will be
may still change some things, so tell me if you think I missed
something, or if this downright sucks. I appreciate the input. No, I
End of the Stick
Travis opened his eyes slowly. The world around him was hazy, but he
could make out small details. Like that Jack Wiley was standing next
to him. "Where am I?" Travis tried to sit up, and found
that his hands were cuffed behind his back.
found you unconscious in the middle of the road, Travis." Annie
Price said coldly. "Any idea how you got there?"
furrowed his eyebrows. "Naw, it's a blank."
you remember anything from
last night?" Wiley asked less harshly than Price.
he had to think about that. "I was with Jargon, and I bailed on
him to chase...something." he realized what he was saying, and
tried to cover it up. Chasing Marvin Bates was the only thing he
could remember just then, but Price and the others did not need to
was three o'clock in the afternoon, Trav." Wilbert Thibideaux
replied in his soft voice.
do you remember after that?" Price demanded. Travis squirmed,
trying to crack his shoulder blades. "Well?"
nothin' after that. Can you take these off, please?"
folded her arms across her chest. "You're under arrest, Travis,
they stay on."
arrest? For what? Being unconscious in the middle of the road?
That's highly unfair. It's not like I was drunk. Someone musta
you actually remember someone clobbering you?" Wiley questioned
- no," Travis shook his head slowly, his frustration showing on
weren't drunk, Travis, but your bloodstream was just crawling with
illicit substances." Price relished the fact that he was going
to get thrown back in jail.
he demanded. "That's not possible! I didn't - I wouldn't do
that! It violates my parole!" he was struggling harder against
the hand cuffs.
put his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Calm down, Trav.
Just try to remember."
can't remember! It's gone! Big blank! Please, you have to believe
me!" Price was already outside the holding cell. "Oh, no.
No! Don't do this, Price!" Wiley remained at Travis' side,
and he turned his pleading gaze on him. "Jack - "
Price cut in sternly. "Coming?"
figure this out." Wiley told Travis reassuringly.
watched the three of them disappear down the hall.
are you thinking, Annie?" Tibbs asked her, as they made their
way out to the car.
replied, "I think he's lying."
is not lying, Annie.
He's scared out of his wits." Wiley interjected. "You've
gotta be able to see that. Prison is the last place on Earth that
boy wants to return to."
watched Annie's expression, but it did not change. "He's hiding
something, and if he doesn't want to share, then playtime's over."
she replied evenly.
you think you're being a little harsh?" Tibbs put in. "Travis
isn't the bad guy, here."
stopped and turned on him. Before she said anything, she reminded
herself that neither Tibbs nor Wiley had heard about the previous
night's homicide. Not yet wanting to touch on the subject with them,
she covered with, "The boy used to work for CrayZhorse, Tibbs.
Travis is helping him out with something, he must be. That
makes him the 'bad guy'."
no arguing with you." Wiley rolled his eyes. "I am woman,
hear me hiss and growl and order people around."
start with me, Wiley."
forbid." he muttered.
feel really bad, Sosh." Jargon leaned back in his chair in front
of the computer. "Like this is my fault."
not your fault, Jargon." she tried to console her best friend.
"We'll figure this out."
shouldn't have let Travis go off alone."
didn't know that - " she paused, searching for the right word,
happen to him."
looked over at Sosh. "That's the thing, isn't it? Maybe he did
go out and get stoned."
shook her head. "Travis valued his freedom too much to screw
himself over like that."
you sure? I mean, he hasn't exactly been acting like himself
don't know him well enough to make that call, Jargon."
fine. You're right."
course I am." she grinned. "So, where should we start
looking for stuff to help him?"
about surveillance cameras in the area we last heard from him?"
Hooten suggested, jogging up the stairs to their niche.
good." Sosh agreed. "Just give me a grid."
Paulson placed the two drinks beside the two young men according to
their orders. Not that they had placed orders; they were regular
attendees at this particular nightclub. The pair, Max Owens and
Jarvis "Loon" Perry were laughing about a recent
occurrence, but Teigra had not yet picked up the details.
had, however, turned on the tape recorder securely fastened under the
gulped down his beverage, then turned glassy eyes on the young woman
across the counter. "So, Tig, whatcha doin' later?"
with you, Max. Nothing
too bad. I feel like celebratin'." he grinned at Loon.
started laughing again.
managed between outbursts, "Too bad Roller ain't here, eh Tig?"
stopped scrubbing the shot glass in her hand, and looked up at him
curiously. Roller was the universal nickname for Roland Travis among
the Great Uprising, a terrorist group under CrayZhorse that she still
belonged to. Travis was also her ex-boyfriend - though she had never
convinced herself that it was over between them. After he had been
arrested for the transference of two million dollars into his
personal account, Travis had stressed that she not mope around
waiting for him to be released. His sentence, afterall, had been ten
years in prison. Teigra had nodded, unable to form coherent thoughts
as they took him away, but she still believed that they would get
not anytime soon. . .
hearing Loon mention his name like that, she was worried. "What
did you guys do?" she asked innocently, knowing that they were
drunk and would tell her anything, especially Loon. He had a
reputation for that sort of thing, and she had had personal
experience in the past. No, Loon was not one to trust with a secret.
you see, Tig, we sorta just framed him." Max replied
and Loon burst into hysterics.
tellin' ya, Tig," Max jumped in, "He didn't even see it
comin'. I just whammed him in the back of the head, and he was out
you blow it out, that is." Loon clarified.
up, Loon." Max snapped, slapping his counterpart in the
anyway, then we drag 'im back to HQ, hooked him up to this thingy
him with the Horse."
Teigra asked. "What did he want with Travis?"
date." Loon cackled.
joined in the laughter. When he got control again, he replied, "Are
you kidding? He's the one with all the Level Nine know-how. And the
Horse wants to get that thorn out of his side, Tig. Permanently."
laughed harder. "He was a pretty doped up thorn when we left
him in the street."
laughed at this, too. "That he was."
tried not to look concerned, as she placed another set of drinks on
took the phone from the guard as he sat down. It had been nearly
twelve hours since his arrest, and he was restless. Jargon was
waiting on the other side of the glass shield. He looked nervous, as
he said, "Hey, Trav,"
They sat staring at each other in silence. "Look, you only get
ten minutes." Travis reminded him.
um, look, I'm sorry I let you get yourself into this."
went with full-on sarcasm. "I'm sorry too, Buddy. Maybe you
can tell me what the hell I got myself into, hmm?"
sighed heavily. "Me 'n Sosh are workin' on figurin' out what
happened the other night."
luck. Apparently, I was out getting high."
of us know that's not true. Someone's setting you up, and we're
going to figure out who."
doesn't. She's been out to get me from the start." he muttered.
A young woman walked by behind Jargon, and something flickered in
his mind. He stood up, trying to see farther down the hall, but he
could not. A guard came over and forced him to sit down.
is it, Trav?"
thought I recognized someone."
stood up, and looked down the hall. There were so many people down
there that he would never be able to pinpoint one person. "I
can look at the video surveillance when I get back. Just gimme a
no, it was nothing." he shook his head. "So, Pinky, what
have you and the Brain come up with so far?"
Jargon sputtered for a moment. "Nothing yet."
looked disappointed. "Oh."
we'll find something. Soon." Jargon hoped he sounded
reassuring. Travis nodded, feeling like a leaf in Autumn, waiting to
be blown off its branch. "Anything you can tell me would be
helpful. Price won't hear any of it - not from me or Sosh - I
considered telling Jargon about Marvin Bates, but he decided that he
could not trust him with that information yet. "I think..."
he absently rubbed the place on his inner elbow where he had located
the tiny needle prick. "I think they gave me some form of
tranquilizer, something with dalmane in it, 'cause I've got hives on
my arm around where the needle went in, and I'm allergic to that
did the hives just start showing up since you've been in here?
Because they could be from anything - "
- I guess I can't be sure, seeing as I was unconscious for several
hours, but I did notice them earlier when Price, Tibbs and Wiley were
you're just having a reaction to her."
right," Travis chuckled.
guard returned, and said gruffly, "Time's up."
thanks for coming by, Jargon. I'll see ya."
be like that, Travis. Things'll work out."
right." he muttered on his way back to his cell.
dropped a folder on the desk in front of Sosh. "These are the
pictures of the body." she paced, as she always did when giving
ran her finger along the edge of the folder, not wanting to look
inside. "Body? What body?"
Bates, a former employee of our dear friend CrayZhorse. I want to
know everything about him." Price leaned over the side of the
desk, her expression deadly serious. "And you can't tell Jargon
any of it."
was taken aback by this last statement. "Why not?"
straightened up again. "Because, Sosh, he'd tell Travis, and we
don't want that."
don't? Why not? Why can't - "
to me, Sosh. This is a side assignment, you have to keep it to
yourself, that's all there is to it. No one but us knows about
is it so important to you?"
you are on this, that's all there is to it. Get to work."
picked up the folder reluctantly, then left the room. Price
scratched her forehead absently, wondering how long the girl could
keep a secret.
sat down at her computer, holding the folder uncertainly. She was
not sure she wanted to see pictures of a recently murdered victim.
She gathered her nerve, and flipped it open, squeezing her eyes shut.
she opened one eye at a time, until she was wincing down at a
quickly closed the folder again. Biting her nails nervously, she
flicked on the monitor, and went to her favourite search engine. She
typed in 'Marvin Bates', then waited as the electronic sifter worked
its digital magic.
of the corner of her eye, she noticed movement. She quickly switched
off the monitor, so that the newcomer would not see what she was up
newcomer was Jargon. "Hey, Sosh."
He sat at his computer, then sat there with his head in his hands.
"How is he?"
Is he okay?"
shrugged. "He's a little more bitter than usual, but he seems
he tell you anything helpful?"
really. Just that he has hives on his arm, and he thinks it's from
being given dalmane."
don't believe him?"
hives aren't something you can see through a glass shield, y'know?"
I get it. Well, we should find out what sorts of things have dalmane
in them and then what combinations of those things can knock a person
out for a few hours."
what I was thinking," Jargon agreed, "But Travis worked for
CrayZhorse for a pretty long while, right?"
shrugged uncertainly. She really had no idea how long Travis had
worked for the notorious hacker. For all she knew, he'd gotten
caught on his first day, though she doubted that.
it just seems to me that someone like CrayZhorse would not
do something so stupid and obvious as give Travis something he's
allergic to. He'd know about it, wouldn't he?"
he didn't. Maybe CrayZhorse
was hoping the reaction to the drugs afterward would kill
or maybe there's something else going on, like CrayZhorse wants
us to find him, or whoever did this. I mean, the other thing is that
it may not have even had anything to do with him. Travis could have
millions of enemies just from working for CrayZhorse that he doesn't
even know about."
leaned back in her chair. "This just keeps getting more and
sat in front of a computer, as she did everyday and when she was not
working at the nightclub. Roland Travis' criminal record was on her
screen, her green eyes locked with his angry brown ones.
at it ain't gonna make it go away." Steve Kasper, Teigra's
African American friend and co-worker stated from behind her. "He's
a bank robber me Dear, plain and simple."
he's not," she sighed, swiveling her chair around to face Steve.
"But I can't prove it."
gotta jis let it slide, Sweetie. Bein' all hung up o'er it ain't
helpin' no one."
you, oh Intelligent One. I had forgotten that nothing gets done by
staring at it."
then s'a good thing I reminded you. So, what's on the sched t'day?"
don't have a sched for today. Not yet."
have I got the assignment for you."
God. This can't be good."
Seriously, though, CrayZhorse wants into the water softener salt
shipping orders for Clenzer, Inc."
dunno, I'm jis the messenger."
softener salt," Teigra shook her head. "What will he come
up with next?"
moved her chair over beside him. "Ummm...an encryption?"
can see that. Why won't it let me in?"
you need to crack it first?" He fixed her with an 'I know that'
look. "Want me to try?"
tapped away at the keyboard. "What am I cracking, if I may be
not sure. An old file on Travis, anyway."
it's encrypted because...?" she let her voice trail off
tell ya when I see what's in it."
scattered letters on the screen gradually shifted, and lined up,
revealing a readable document.
you, Sosh, you're my hero."
is that all?" she pouted.
funny. Now let's see..." Jargon skimmed the text for anything
useful. He scrolled down the page, nothing yet catching his eye.
wait. Who's that?" Sosh pointed to the picture onscreen. It
was of Travis, and a young woman about his age holding his hand.
haven't a clue." Jargon shrugged.
Travis, she could just be some chick he picked up at a club. He's
like that, right?"
I think there's something between them. Really something. I mean,
look at the way he's looking at her." Jargon fixed her with a
raised eyebrow. "What?"
I'm just trying to help Travis, okay? Maybe this girl knows
something." she pointed out the Great Uprising tattoo on her
mark of the CrayZhorse." Jargon nodded.
name's Teigra Paulson." Wiley piped in. The two turned in
surprise upon hearing his voice. "I've been trying to find her
reason you just said: Maybe she knows something."
dunno, you guys. This pic's like four years old." Jargon said,
pointing out the date at the bottom of the page.
you know as well as I do that Travis keeps his company when they're
have a feeling he wouldn't appreciate you saying that, Jack."
Sosh shook her head, suddenly feeling very alone.
he'd give me one of those goofy grins and nod."
he certainly would do that." Jargon agreed.
you two. Can you be serious about this? How can we find this girl?"
a very good question."
groaned, rolling her eyes. "Do I really have to put up with
you? Come on, our teammate is in jail, here. Get serious."
right. Serious. Okay." Wiley looked from Sosh to Jargon and
back again. "Find her." and he left.
fidgeted nervously, waiting for Travis to arrive. She wished there
was another way for them to meet, but considering he was being sent
to prison in three days, there were no other options. The guard
gestured for Travis to sit, but he was too surprised by who he saw.
Wh-what are you doing here?" he demanded, still not sitting
came to help you."
examined her expression, trying to figure out if she was telling the
took a deep breath. "I know what happened to you."
really?" he was still skeptical. Her stoic front did not
waiver. "Did you know that they were going to set me up for
bank robbery, too? Why didn't you help me then?"
she had her back up. "Don't you think that if I'd known about
that I would've given you the heads up?"
don't know, would you?" he returned.
call me that. You don't get to call me that anymore." snapped
glared at him through the glass. "Roland - "
don't get to call me that, either."
stifled a laugh. She knew perfectly well how much he disliked being
called by his first name. "No one does,"
a goin', Teigra."
sighed, gazing into his dark brown eyes. She had gotten lost in
those eyes more times than she could remember. "They hacked
your brain that night."
impossible." he scoffed.
it? Why else can't you remember? CrayZhorse had Max and Loon corner
you in an alley, and they took you back to HQ for splicing."
would he do that? He got me thrown in jail to get rid of me."
Goph. The Horse wants to know about Level Nine, and you were his
best bet. He could get what he wanted, and have the satisfaction of
locking you up all over again."
expect me to believe that?" he scoffed. "That's a waste of
come on, G - " she caught herself before she said it, and his
eyes met hers again, anger in them. "He's been out to get you
for the past three years. And he'll do anything to do it, too."
know this already, Tig. Do you have any real info, or what?"
leaned back in the uncomfortable chair. "I have all the info,
but I can't tell you here. This is too open."
else are you s'posed to - "
cut him off, "How can I get in touch with one of your Level Nine
he mockingly pretended not to know what she was talking about.
Although, he did not consider anyone in Level Nine a 'friend'.
on, this is the only way it'll work out for you. There's nothing you
can do from in here. You need someone on the outside. Surely you
weren't a bitch to all
thank you for that, Tig. I needed a kick in the teeth just then."
guard was coming over to take Travis back to his cell.
don't have time to argue with me, Gopher. Who can I talk to on your
side of the fence?"
looked her straight in the eye, and sensed that she really did want
to help him. "567-2332. Ask for Jargon."
up." the guard announced, resting a hand on Travis' shoulder.
He got up slowly, reluctant to leave, despite his hostile attitude
toward his visitor.
He turned back to her. "Don't give up. We'll straighten this
so everyone keeps telling me."
you know I mean it."
sighed, "I hope someone does."