Chapter 50

Lift Me Up

Wade entered the Dojo for morning training to see a sight that would seem strange to anyone else. The rest of the Team was already there and had been for awhile. Like him, the guys were dressed in shorts and tank tops while the girls were wearing shorts and sports bras and all were barefoot.

Sousuke and Kim worked his butt off, but at thirteen, working his developing body and musculature as hard as they did would actually be bad for him. So his physical training was usually an hour shorter than the rest. The sight before him was both a Team building exercise and physical training tool. They were doing tabletops. Laying face down in a square, each had their feet between the shoulder blades of one another doing push-ups in cadence. If someone failed keep pace and went too fast or too slow, the formation crashed. Kaname was calling the cadence and the others kept the count.

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYONE"

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYFTWO"

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYTHREE"

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYFOUR"

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYFIVE"

Wade thought to himself, 'Oh No! Muscle failure day?! I hate Muscle failure day. Warm butter has more structural rigidity when we get done.'

While they were all breathing deeply and had a sheen, none of them looked anywhere ready to quit. Sousuke and Kim were already in great shape before the two couples had met, but Ron and Kaname had really toned up as well. Everybody was starting to sport 'six-packs'.

Since they weren't trying for bodybuilder bulk, any weight training was aimed toward endurance. Lots and lots of reps with medium weights. Forcing the muscles to work long past the point that anybody else would have collapsed to the ground in a quivering heap. Six to ten mile runs to build heart lung capacity gave them the ability to be on the move for hours if need be. Training sucked!

Wade was dreading the week between Christmas and New Years. They were going to get to spend five great and glorious days waaaaay up in the mountains doing cold weather survival training. Each of them were going to either train (Kaname and Wade) or refresh (Kim, Ron and Sousuke) the skills needed to survive if, Maker forbid, something stranded them in the cold for whatever reason. They had been doing the classroom portion with a GJ Agent. He was a former Air Force NCO and had been a Master Instructor at 'Cool School', the Arctic Survival School at Elision Air Force Base, North Pole, Alaska. The man had been dropped in the 'For Real' middle of nowhere, thirty miles from the nearest house, let alone a town, in temperatures below minus 40 to survive for days.

The first three days would be as a Team. The last two would be solo. Both he and Ron had already tried cheating, but had gotten caught. Wade was going to slip in a few bits of tech; micro laser to start a fire, a dozen more MRE's, even a ultra efficient sleeping bag to huddle in. Ron had been a bit more straight forward, arguing with the instructor.

"Uhh, why can't I use a mag stick? We're supposed to be in a crashed aircraft, right?"

With a voice that sounded like he gargled with gravel, the man said, "Yes."

"There's magnesium all over the air-frame, and jet fuel too. Why can't we use that?"

The instructor just looked at him and said, "Do you have any idea how many times I've heard all this. I could just tell ya' it's a fucken order, however I'll explain it, just fer you. And I'll give you the same reason I gave the rest of those jokers that came through my class, from every Service Branch in the U.S Military.

"What if the reason you're out of the plane is you had to bail out? You're here, but the plane could be five miles in any direction, even on the other side of a mountain, in white-out conditions. You don't know how to do it right, you're screwed.

"You might be a part of Team Possible, and risking your life is one thing. Playing with it is something else, Boy." Kim was about to take offense at the term 'Boy', but the man was on the high side of fifty and had a demeanor that said if need be, he could crush rock in his bare hands, and might even succeed. She guessed he'd earned the right to a crusty, ol' man.

Then he grinned, "And I'll tell ya' something else. When and IF you complete My class, you'll have bragging rights over 'bout ninety nine percent of civilians and ninety percent of anybody in the Military. The civvies's went camping, maybe hunting. Most of the Troopies went on Training Exercises in Platoon sized groups or larger.

"You? You'll be able to honestly say you can survive from the Alpine to the Arctic, alone, for as long as you need to, in temperatures so cold when you pee, it freezes BEFORE it hits the ground, with little more than the clothes on your back and a knife. You might not even need the knife.

"Now," He pointed to a small pile of material; a springy stick, some 550 cord, two flat pieces of wood, both with a dimple carved in them, a sturdy stick and a bit of moss. "take that crap, make a bow and start me a fire."

Then he looked at the rest of them, say, "Oh, I know all about the SF motto, 'you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying and if ya' get caught you weren't trying hard enough.' Trust me, you can't try that hard, 'cause I've seen it all. So just as a warning. Before you get on the plane to jump, you're all doing a layout with your gear. Just so I can make sure none of ya' are cheatin'."

Wade shuddered thinking about the upcoming training in a couple of weeks.

"One, Two, Three...TWENTYNINE"

"Get, Ready, And...Halt"

They rolled off of each other and stood. Spotting Wade, Kaname grinned evilly and said, "You're just in time. Next, Pyramids, form one to twenty and back."

Wade groaned


"I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but we can't do as you ask." The colonel stood before his Sovereign. He wasn't quaking in his boots, but he was uncomfortable. It's not every day you have to tell a sitting Queen that not only was she in error, but she couldn't get what she wanted. Lord Mallory had already heard about this and told the man, "You're going to have to explain this to Her Majesty yourself. I wish you luck, she's very determined."

The Queen said, "We know you would not be here without good cause. Explain."

"Queen Victoria, Your Majesty. She's the one who set the conditions of the original warrant creating the VC. There are several clauses to the warrant. It's number Five that is at issue. Quote: 'Fifthly. It is ordained that the Cross shall only be awarded to those officers and men who have served Us in the presence of the enemy, and shall have then performed some signal act of valour or devotion to their country.'

"Other than not being under Commonwealth command, there is little question about the actions of Miss Possible and Misters Stoppable and Sagara, on any of the events listed. Also in the last action involving Misters Stoppable and Sagara, there is no question. That action was taken at the behest of and under the control of Lord Mallory. They definitely qualify.

"On the other hand, Mr. Loads actions, while critical to the success of the operations and possibly emotionally scarring, were not directly in the presence of the enemy. Your Majesty, the Crown, you, are the sole, final arbiter of issuance of the VC. If you wish to do so, you may change the warrant to allow Mr. Load to receive the award.

"However, Respectfully, I feel to do so would be to cheapen the actions of all those who have earned the VC before. Every Single One of the men who have done so, were directly under fire from the enemy."

The Heir interrupted, "Mother, if I may?" Receiving a nod, he looked at the Colonel, "Wade Load was attacked by Diablos, directly. One of them smashed his workroom and laboratory. He formulated Team Possible's response while he was under direct threat from one of the machines. He could have fled. Instead, stood his ground. I'm not sure I would want to take one one of those things without a platoon a Challenger II's. All he had was the equipment within his room. Afterwards, while most would be cowering under their beds, he stayed at his post, was able to restore some of his equipment and provided critical support to Miss Possible and Mr. Stoppable, enabling them to defeat a madman, moments before his was able to conquer the world.

"I believe, and Mother agrees, that his actions, on that day at least, have earned him the VC."

The Colonel said , "I was unaware of this, Your Highness. I can agree to that one. Any circumstances pertaining to the other two actions?"

Silence reigned. The Queen broke the silence. "We wish to recognize this young man, for his actions in saving the Realm from the Lowardians and at the camp. What do you suggest?"

"I recommend the George Medal, Your Majesty. It's one step down, and ones actions do not have to be in the face of the enemy."

Sigh, "Very well." Then she smiled, "Lord Mallory, how go our plans to ambush these young people?"

"His Highness' son is throwing a New Years Eve party. We are going to invite all of them to it. The Possible's, the Stoppable's, the Load's and the Chidori's will receive an invitation to your gala as well. I believed you would like the families of these young people to be there for them at this time." He went somber for a moment, "Shame about Mister Sagara."

"Oh?"

"He has no living relatives to stand with him, Your Majesty."

"We see." Everyone in the room became a bit nervous. She had that look on her face.


Several hours later, she was giving an audience to the ambassador to one of her nations allies. The ambassador agreed with her request. "I must consult with Tokyo. However, pending their approval, I would be most honored to stand in the stead of this young mans family."

"Thank You. That is all We could ask for."


"That, right there! He was gonna kill that man in cold blood!"

Someone had recorded the fight between Fukashima and Fiske and between Fiske and Ron. This civic minded person decided that since Ron was a split-second from killing Monkey Fist and had only been stopped by Kim intervening, then maybe the DA might want to have a look at the video.

The Assistant DA decided bypass the District Attorney and took it to the the Judge for the Grand Jury directly.

"Mr. Pemberton, I know the answer to this, but I'm gonna ask anyway. Have you ever served in the Military?"

"No."

"Well I have. I served on the Judge Advocate Generals staff for the 10th Mountain Division. Let me explain a few things to you. First, Ron Stoppable is not Enlisted in the Military. But he's a Combat Soldier. One I would have been proud to have beside me in the 10th Mountain. Second. Did you know that it's allowed for a Soldier to double tap a wounded enemy on the Battlefield?"

"What?! That's barbaric!"

"No, it's not. It's common sense. But you can only do it when you're on the assault. Your charging across an area on the attack, bullets flying around you. While your still under fire, you come across a wounded enemy. You don't have time to take him prisoner unless he is actively surrendering, weapons tossed to the side, with his hands behind his head. If he still has his weapons in hand... you shoot him. Wounded or not and continue on with the assault. Because first, you can't take the time to ask for or take his surrender. Standing still in the middle of a Battlefield is a really dumb way to wind up dead. Second, you can't leave an armed man, wounded or not, behind you. That's an even dumber way to get killed."

Mr. Pemberton was slack jawed at this explanation of Battlefield Ethics as the Judge continued. "Now you can take this to the Grand Jury if you want. I have don't the authority to stop you. However, it'll be heard in my courtroom. And before the jury deliberates whether or not the evidence warrants bringing charges against Stoppable, I'm gonna explain to them exactly what I just told you. I will ask the Grand Jury to consider whether or not Fiske was willing to surrender.

"I will also point out to them that Fiske is charged with assaulting Mr. Stoppable while he was walking between classes and apparently, he openly threatened the young man's family, his girlfriend, Miss Possible and her family as well. And I will also tell them, Fiske is charged with assaulting and trying to kill another young man trying to defend the Stoppables.

"I will tell them that Fiske wound up in the situation he's in by allegedly threatening to kill a toddler, two teenage boys, two young adults and and their parents and actively tried to kill two men in the attempt." The Judge held his hand up in a strange symbol. Thumb and forefinger curled together and the other three extended. The Close Range Engagement one-handed signal for the number nine.

"That's nine counts of conspiracy to commit and two cases of premeditated attempted murder. One of the men he is charged with assaulting is currently in the CCU. And his prognosis is very grim. It's 80/20 against for his recovery. If he dies than one of the charges changes to First Degree Premeditated Murder.

"And I have no doubt they'll find there's no evidence for a case once they have all the information."

The Judge might have served in the JAG office of the 10th Mountain, but he'd obviously been trained in Close Quarters Combat. And by now, he was fuming. The man in his office was one of the people associated with the now defunct 'Friends of Lowardia' and had tried to bring charges against Stoppable before. He didn't know what these peoples problem with Stoppable and Team Possible was, but he was going to do what he could to bring it to a halt.

The Judge stood and placed his knuckles on the desk, leaning forward. "Now it's just me and you in here. If you try to bring this case, not only will the Defense get a message to try and stack the jury's deck with veterans, I will personally have the BAR Ethics committee start an investigation into just why you seem to have such a mad-on against Stoppable personally and Team Possible in general.

"I will also talk to the BAR if you try to bring another petty bullshit case against any member of Team Possible again, explaining that I believe your trying to do so as a political move for your own aggrandizement.

"Now get the hell out of my office."


She was startled awake by the twitching beside her to find him in a dead sweat, eyes flickering behind closed eyelids. He wasn't tossing and turning or thrashing, just flinching and twitching his head and hands, but as keyed up as she was watching for the signs of the trauma his mind went through in North Africa, it was enough.

She knew generally what happened. Between Ron and Sagara on the ground and Wade pulling air support, of the more than 200 plus fighters in the camp about 80 had been captured and close to 30 had been too wounded and injured to run away. 15 to 20 were unaccounted for and had apparently escaped. The rest were... casualties.

'That's just a euphemism.', she thought to herself. Her innate honesty forced her tell it like it was. They were dead! She wasn't in Wade league, but between her and Kaname they'd cracked the reports and overhead images. A hundred bodies or more had littered the former terrorist training base. One of the reports had said it was hard to get a solid read on enemy casualties because some cases, the remains had been practically vaporized by the overhead ordinance. In others they were in multiple pieces. Either hacked apart or literally blown to pieces by grenades.

None of that mattered now. All that mattered was her man was in pain.

She shifted to a position to block and defend because the last time she woke him up, she had been laying down and even her reflexes were almost not fast enough. "Ronnie? Ronnie, wake up."


Flash

Over the Kimmunicator, Wade was saying, "Alright guys. In the TAC Bag there's new glasses for both of you. They're based off the Wiley X's supplied to the military with a few tweaks of my own. The bands will keep them in place through almost any of the bouncing and flying around you might pull. Put 'em on and I'll activate 'em." Once the ground team had the glasses in place and comfortable, Wade continued.

"The lenses are a rock solid poly-carbonate that can just about withstand small-arms fire, so you can forget about just about any shrapnel and flying dust. The frames are carrying the micro-electronics and micro-lasers for displaying various info on the inside of the lenses. Night vision and infrared to start with. In the upper right, you'll see a small map that has a compass rose and, within 300 meters can display the location of friendlies wearing the IFF tags inside the helmets. Outside 300 meters it shows azimuth, elevation and distance.

"With the drones overhead, I can cross-load terrain data, so you'll have a good idea of what the area looks like."


Looking at the tablet and pointing, Ron said, "I'll let you jump here, north of the camp. I'll drop to the west, over here. Wade, you can handle the autopilot?"

Flash

"We must be careful any roving patrols. Load-san, what's the status of the drones?"

"As promised, 4 of them. Each with 4 Hellfires and a GBU 39 SDB Focused Lethality Munition 250 lb HE bomb. Just paint the target with laser designator on the picatinny rail on the M-4's or under the pistol, call for fire and let me get a lock on it. Once I got a lock, get under cover and make sure you're a long ways back, I'll do the rest."

Flash

He was drifting to earth, aiming for a point west of the edge of the camp. He spotted a large tent, sides up to let the breeze trough with several blobs glowing in the infrared. Fuck 'em! He switched the toggels to one hand to keep control of the chute and pulled his pistol, flipped the laser and called over the comms, "Wade, target!"

The reply was almost instant, "Locked. Ready to launch on command."

After sliding the pistol back into the holster, he released his assault pack to dangle just below him and flared for a landing. With zero forward motion and 5 feet above the ground he released the harness and dropped silently to the ground in one of the few times he didn't get hung in a tree, on a pole, the goal post's on the football field or drug across the ground by the chute. Kneeling on the sand, he pulled the Lotus Blade and called to the rest of the team.

Start

Five Finger Death Punch

"Lift Me Up"
(feat. Rob Halford)

/watch?v=X-2yuGgp_U8

"Stoppable, In Position."

"Sagara, Set. Targets designated. Load-san?"

"Ready here. Targets loaded and locked in. All drones turning in now."

"Stoppable-san?"

"Do it."

From four different points in the sky, a trail of fire. They ended in explosions that shattered the night. Then a voice thundered from the sky in Modern Standard Arabic.

"WORSHIPPERS OF SHAYTAN, RETREBUTION IS AT HAND! RUN OR BE COMMENDED TO JAHANNAM"

It ain't no mystery
I'm all I have left
I'm pushing back and running you over

I've been thrown down run around
Beaten 'til I hit the ground
Telling you right now that it's over

Like a fire of pure hydrogen, the Lotus Blade was alight and without a thought from Ron, had taken the shape of a classic Persian Scimitar. Even the Saya had transformed to hold the Blade. Overhead the voice continued to thunder it's warning.

"RUN BEFORE MALAK al-MAUT. RUUUUUUUN"

From 4 points, again, a trail of fire. This time the explosions were simply an intermezzo to the voice in the sky.

There's no room for mistakes
All the parts are in place
Say what you will but say it to my face

Better back the fuck up
Better shut the fuck up
I'll do what I want and I'll never give up

Ron took off running and launched himself into the air, MMP trailing the same blue fire as the Blade behind him. Flipping in a somersault, he landed with a boom that the shocked night guard could feel from 10 meters. Ron charged the guardpost and hit it like a tornado.

I won't be broken
I won't be tortured
I won't be beaten down

I have the answer
I take the pressure
I turn it all around

Swinging left, Ron caught the shelter with the sword and tossed it into the night. He came left with the Saya and caught the guard and folded him around the scabbard flipping him to the right. He twirled the Blade and hacked at the 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun, in seconds turning it into so much high grade scrap steel.

Everything had happened so fast the second guard had only just started to stand. Ron didn't give him the chance. He hammered a side kick so hard and fast it cracked the man's sternum.

Lift me up above this
The flames and the ashes
Lift me up and help me to fly away

Lift me up above this
The broken the empty
Lift me up and help me to fly away
Lift me up

Sliding the Blade into the Saya, he pulled a M67 grenade, showed it to the man on the ground, pulled the pin and flipped it over his shoulder into the pile of stored ammo in the guard point. Ron pulled the Blade again and took off toward a building trying to find the cell where the prisoner was. If the injured man behind him was fast enough, he could scramble over the revetment before it exploded. Ron really didn't care.

He could hear the pop pop pop of Sagara's M4 and a grenade explode off to his left. Behind him the grenade exploded with the sandbag revetment channeling most of the blast upward and sympathetically cooking off some of the ammo in the position in a chain reaction.

I'm gonna change history
Enlighten the world
Teach them how to see through my eyes

I'm gonna lash back check that
Fatal as a heart attack
Stomp out all the ugliest lies

Ron spotted a group men in his two o'clock about 150 meters away, with one or two tossing orders, trying to get a perimeter. A crimson-red dot rapidly pulsed on the map just above his right eye and over the headset he heard, "All units, Cover, Incoming! Danger Close! 10 seconds." He flipped to his left and dropped behind an open topped vehicle. "3, 2, 1 Impact!"

Just over 150 meters away a thunderous BOOOOOOOM! The GBU 39 SDB Focused Lethality Munition was designed to greatly reduce collateral damage in an urban enviroment. But landing in the middle of the group like it did turned them into a disjointed mass of body parts and a fine mist.

"Urrrrrlpp, gulp. Clear."

You can't convince me to change
We ain't on the same page
I've had my fill now there's nothing but rage

Best get out of my way
'Cause there's nothing to say
Is that all that you got?
Because I ain't got all day

The two of them quartered the area. Every time Ron came across any crew served weapons, he paused long enough to turn it into scrap. He spotted Sagara tossing a grenade into a defense point and then flitting between the buildings. They kept moving in a pavane that swirled and twisted, never pausing any longer then it took to deal with a problem.

I won't be broken
I won't be tortured
I won't be beaten down

I have the answer
I take the pressure
I turn it all around

Kicking in doors and shattering windows not bothering to call for a surrender. No prisoner? Grenade! He and Sagara were practically festooned with them.

Here's the Gravy!

Fire from a pair of individuals peppered the area around him and Ron flipped away in a hand-spring that even Kim would have been proud of. He landed, eyes snapping to the threat.

Target Locked!

"Amed!", Ron screamed. "Time for you to die." The eyes of one of the men went wide.

Ron launched into a somersault, landed and darted to the side. Flipping, he impacted a wall and rebounded right at the men trying to get a bead on this superball on steroids, the Blade dancing in a Marzuka before him.

Lift me up above this
The flames and the ashes
Lift me up and help me to fly away

Lift me up above this
The broken the empty
Lift me up and help me to fly away
Lift me up

To the complete shock of both the terrorists and Ron himself, bullets were actually impacting the Scimitar Blade, clanging, sparking and ricocheting away. Ron slashed down and hacked of the front 10 or so inches of the AK one of the men was carrying, then kicking him away. Then, in a move that was total muscle memory, he spun and removed the head of the other man.

Here's the Potatoes!

I won't be broken
I won't be tortured
I won't be beaten down

I have the answer
I take the pressure
I turn it all around

Before he could advance on the man on the ground, he heard Wade.

"RON, RPG 7, 7 o'clock!"

His eyes snapped to the his left and spotted the danger and shocking the man on the ground even more than the swatting of bullets out of the air with a sword of all thing, Ron charged the RPG gunner. And to top all this, when the man fired the RPG, Ron dodged OVER the rocket. WHAT?

Wade directed him toward Sagara close to the center of the camp. Before Ron ducked behind the corner of another building, he left two corpses, one hacked RPG 7 launcher and one thoroughly terrified now former terrorist holding a hacked apart AK. The man had decided on the spot that maybe he should become an Imam, one of the moderate ones. Very moderate.

Lift me up above this
The flames and the ashes
Lift me up and help me to fly away

Lift me up above this
The broken the empty
Lift me up and help me to fly away

He saw Sagara standing near a low stone wall that could keep could, maybe, keep goats penned. Maybe. The building had a set of bars instead of a door. On the wall, in plain sight of the bars, was an elaborate sword.

Sagara picked it up and Ron said, "You know, they're not gonna need that anymore."

"No Stoppable-san, they're not."

Sagara hammered the sword against the stone wall as hard as he could, half a dozen pieces of Damascus steel flying through the air.

They approached the bars. Flashing a light through they saw a man against the far wall. Inside the glasses they had a photo of the prisoner.

And finally the Meat!

"We're gonna get you out of here, Dude!"

Lift me up to fly away
Lift me up to fly away
Lift me up

Game, Set and Match!


Critical Care Unit
Middleton General Hospital

What looked like a floating blue hologram of a very old man looked on a figure in the bed. The young man in the bed had a tube down his throat and numerous tubes and wires coming from under the sheets and blankets. The old man closed his eyes and faded from view.

A moment later he reappeared within a mindscape. It was a representation of an area in the mountains just outside Yamanouchi. The young man, wearing white hakima and dogi was sitting in seizia beside a stream facing the lowering sun to the west.

Seeing the old man, he bowed his head and said, "Sensei."

Sensei bowed to the young man.

"I am not going to live, am I?"

"That is yet to be seen. The physicians watching over you are very skillful."

"You have always tried to state the positive, Sensei. I know my injuries though and I was able to hear the doctors."

"A 20 percent chance is not zero, young one."

The young man grimly smiled, "1 in 5? Those are lower than the odds for the kamikaze of 1944"

"Actually their odds were more like 1 in 20."

"As you say."

"You have my most humble thanks, young one. Your defense of the Han was outstanding."

"I only did what I had to do, Sensei."

The old man paused gathering his thoughts. "I have had your name replaced on the rolls of Yamanouchi. Also your actions have earned you the forgiveness of many of the instructors and students. When you recover, you are welcome to return."

He looked at Sensei, "Besides yourself, who had the most talent at foresight?"

"You."

"From the instant I saw Fiske, I knew I would not survive. I told you I could hear to doctors talking about my prognosis. Left kidney destroyed, complete renal failure, both small and large intestines perforated, massive infection spreading from the wounds, spleen, stomach and liver damage. That is why I am wearing the white."

"I have never known you to give up."

"Who said anything about giving up, Sensei. The shinigami will not find me an easy opponent. But I know what I know. What do you foresee?"

"There is a chance."

"But not a good one, neh?"

Sigh, "Over the years, I have lost too many students. No."

He turned to face the old man, placed his knuckles on the ground, bowed his head and said, "Sensei, may I humbly ask a favor?"

"Of course."

"When it is finished, I wish to be returned to Yamanouchi."

"Yamanouchi agents are already in route. One way or another, you will come home. If it is necessary and if it is your wish, your marker will be placed here."

"Arigato."


Imperial Palace
Tokyo Japan

The Heir Apparent was on the phone talking to the Japanese Ambassador to Great Britain. He listened to the voice of the man as he explained the request of the British Monarch.

"The young man was a part of the team that destroyed the terrorist training camp in North Africa. He is one of His Imperial Majesties subjects that was orphaned many years ago. He has no other family. Her Majesty has asked if I, as a representative of Japan, would stand in the stead of the young mans family when he is awarded their highest honor. I have emailed you the particulars of his service."

His Imperial Highness had opened and was reading the email while answering the call.

"As you can see, this is not the first time he has displayed this level of courage."

"Tokyo, two years ago? He's the one that stopped that huge machine from destroying the city?"

"Hai, Lord Mallory gave me his complete service record. Dozens of times he has been instrumental either directly or as a key player in the saving of many lives. At times, numbering in the millions."

The Prince was shocked as he continued reading, "Kami-sama, a nuclear bomb?"

"Hai. Chances are that it would not have been used against Japan, but you never know what those lunatics in the Middle East might do. If it had been used in Korea, either North or South, it could have been indirectly blamed upon us or drawn us into a conflict that we would not have wanted anything to do with."

The Prince thought for a moment and said, he smiled and said, "I will talk to my Father. I had accepted an invitation to the gala at the White House in Washington. Plans change. I will accept the invitation from Her Majesty instead. Please tell Her Majesty that there will be a Japanese representative at the ceremony."

"Your Highness!"

"My father has stated that as Emperor, he has a duty to care for the country has if it were his own child. That would mean the the Sons and Daughters of Japan are as his own children. I believe this, in a way, would make me and this young man, brothers. Or at least uncle and nephew."


A man was climbing the path leading to Yamanouchi. He appeared to be in his mid 30's, was tall, dark haired and of Caucasian descent. He was wearing dark slacks and high necked sweater, covered by a long duster style coat. In his hand was a bokken. Behind him was a trail of battered ninjas. He ducked behind the waterfall to the bridge leading to the school, walked across and approached the gates.

Standing there with his hands inside his sleeves was Sensei, smiling as he said, "I gather the infirmary will be overflowing tonight?"

As Sensei gestured towards the main building, the man smiled and walked beside Sensei. With a slight Scots accent said, "It's your fault. Your the one that sent them out there."

"The best way to improve is to train against someone better than yourself."

"Aye, there is that. They're lucky I wasn't using live steel." Reaching the steps to the building, he bowed and said, "You called and asked me to come. I am here, Ishido."

The old man bowed and said, "I thank you for your prompt response."

"As much as I owe Yamanouchi, it was the least I can do."

"Any debt you may feel towards Yamanouchi, was repaid many, many years ago, my old friend." He bowed again, "I know it has been many years, but may I offer you my condolences on your loss. I understand Tess-san was a very beautiful woman."

The man flinched with remembered pain, "Aye, she was."

Seeing the flinch, Sensei, said, "Forgive me, for reminding you of your loss."

"If we don't remember them, they disappear."

They were approaching a table and Sensei offered the man a place. Once seated he asked, "What can I do for you, Sensei?"

As he poured the tea, he said, "I have a student I need tested. I need him tested to his absolute utmost. I fear any lesser swordsman would be maimed or killed testing him." Sensei set the down the pot leaving his own cup empty.

Taking the pot, the man poured for Sensei, smiled and said, "But ya have no worries about meself?"

"No, I do worry. He is the Mystical Monkey Master and he carries the Lotus Blade."

"Aye? Is he... one of us."

"No, I don't believe so. But, it is my belief and hope that even you would be hard pressed against him. But he must be tested. You are one of the best swordsmen I have ever seen and even heard of. And you are someone that I can trust. Completely, implicitly."

"Well, I suppose I can test your swordsman, as long as he doesn't try ta take me head."

"Thank you, Duncan-san."


Bonnie had never seen anyone as driven as Junior had become. Possible wasn't this bad, even at her worst. Gone was the egotistical, self absorbed, frivolous, lackadaisical wanna-be pop star. And all it had taken was the murder of his father.

With Stoppables permission, Junior had transformed the basement into a weight and workout room. Free weights littered a whole quarter of the space, a heavy bag and a speed bag hung in another corner. Fully half of the basement now had padded walls and floor.

Junior spent at least six hours a day training. From 5 AM til 8 AM Junior used the weights or did isometrics. After a shower and eating, he was burning up the phone and the high speed internet connection keeping his finger on the pulse of Senior Industries.

Around 3 in the afternoon, three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they would drive to either Possible's place or their shoot-house. In the shoot-house, he had Alejandro and that Soldier teach him how to handle firearms. Anything and everything the Sergeant had. Junior would go through hundreds of rounds for the hand guns and thousands for the automatics.

In the Dojo, Possible or that freaky ninja would train him with the Bo, tonfa and quarterstaff.

Afternoon training for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday was the part Bonnie hated. He would spar with de la Luna til he dropped. She was horrified when Junior handed the man his gloves. They would protect Alejandro's hands, but they were weighted with lead shot. Junior had also given his retainer a full set of protective gear, including a chest plate, shin guards and head set.

Junior would wear a pair of very heavy padded gloves to protect Alejandro. On the other hand the only concession Junior made to protect himself was a mouth guard. Junior ordered the man to hold nothing back. And after the first time Alejandro tried to ease up, it looked like Junior was trying to kill him.

Now Junior looked like a walking bruise. And he still wouldn't quit.

He even starting wearing ten pounds of weights on his wrists and twenty on his ankles when he was dealing with Poppi's, now his business interests. If he had been buff before, now he was starting to look like a Terminator.

After 6 PM, he would quickly shower and eat, then he was on the computer reading things like Tactical Operations manuals or trying to crack the code to the flash drive Poppi had given him.

She really wanted to go to bed, but she was watching as he hung upside down doing inverted crunches, sweat dripping to the floor with his laptop sitting propped on a chair beside him. Bonnie had no idea how he had set the screen to read upside down. He would crunch up, hold for a moment, ease down, glare at the screen for a second and repeat over and over.

Every once in a while he would try an access code. He only had a single clue to work from. He knew it had something to do with what Poppi said to him, 'Look to your mother's eye's'. But he had no idea what the elder Senior meant.

Up, Down, Glare, Up, Down, Glare, Up, Down, Glare.

Junior crunched up and suddenly paused. He let himself drop and hung there for a moment staring at the screen. He quietly said, "I'm an idiot."

"Junior?"

Still looking at the screen, he said, "Mother was a Basque. Years ago, Father told me that Mother had eyes that were so dark, they were 'gauerdian gisa beltz' or 'Black as midnight.' 'Gauerdian begiak', he called them. Midnight eyes. I had forgotten that."

Reaching up he grabbed the bar he hung from and pulled his legs from the bar and dropped to the floor and touched a series of keys, flipping the image upright and tapped a code into the password box.

Suddenly there was a series of file folders available to choose from.


"Ron, wake up!"

"Time to die! Ahhh..Huh...Wha?"

As soon as he stopped thrashing, she grabbed him in a fierce hug and said, "It's OK, Ronnie. I'm here."

He held her like a drowning man holding a spar in the middle of the ocean. In a cracking voice, he said, "Dammit. God, I hate this. I'm sorry, KP."

"It's OK, Ron. It's just a nightmare. I'm here. It's not a problem."


Christmas Eve dawned clear, but very cold. They gathered in the kitchen where a subdued Ron was taking orders. Kaname had offered to make breakfast, but he insisted. Kim had quietly told the rest, except for Wade, that he'd has a hard night.

Wade was a bit down as well, but he insisted that he was doing OK. When the girls had pressed him about it, he said that, yes, he had a few issues, but with the help of a GJ counselor, he was working them out. Quietly, yet very seriously, he said. "It was a job that had to be done. Those bastards were nothing but 'air thieves', stealing oxygen from the rest of the world."

Working in the kitchen, Ron gradually became more upbeat as he whipped up breakfast for the rest of his teammates. Traditional miso and grilled fish for the Japanese members and Denver omelets for the rest. They had finished eating, when Wade's PDA signaled. Dr. Director was on the line and had a few things she needed to talk to the Team about and wanted know if it was a bad time to come up. When she got there, she had them gather in Wade's lab. With a cup of Ron's coffee in hand, she let them know why she was there.

"OK, first. Ron, I need some information."

"What do ya need to know Dr.B?"

"Last night, at oh325 Ichiro Fukushima passed away. I need to know who to contact for his next-of-kin."

"Oh man! Damn, that Monkey Fist. I didn't like the Fukushima, but the guy didn't deserve that."

"Monkey Fist will be charged with First Degree Murder for his death. And it'll be an open and shut case. The state has all the evidence they need to get a conviction. Along with the attempted murder charges against him he'll never see the outside of prison unless he's being transferred from one facility to another. And with the injuries you gave him there's little chance of him escaping either."

Ron winced at the mention of results of his battle with the mutated criminal. Seeing his expression she said, "That leads me to the second thing I need to talk about."

Betty formally said, "Specialist Stoppable, the preliminary findings by the Internal Affairs examination is that you were completely justified in your actions in the capture of Montgomery Fiske. Had GJ or the local police been forced to become involved then most likely, Fiske would have been killed and probably a few officers as well. Someone captured a video of both yours and Fukushima's fight with Fiske. The lead investigator reported that pending a final review, under the circumstances, even the strike Possible stopped would have been legit. You were in a fight not only for your own life, but the lives of your family. Very few people would have a problem with your actions.

"Unless they have a ax to grind that is." Seeing the confusion on their faces, she waved it off and continued. "Don't worry about it. It's just that the Asst. DA was going to try to have you charged with attempted murder by the Grand Jury. When the Asst. DA took what he had to the judge presiding over Grand Jury, the judge read him the riot act. Like I said, don't worry about it. The Middleton Chief of Police told me that at first he was a bit upset by your request to keep the police back and let you and Possible handle it. But after seeing the video, he's a lot more comfortable with the request and wanted me to pass his thanks for looking out for his officers." She paused for a moment to let what she said sink in.

Then Betty grinned, "And now, last lastly, how's your formal wear?". The apparent non-sequeter left the Team puzzled. "You people and your families, yours included Specialist Chidori, have been invited to a New Years Eve party. Formal gowns and tuxedos are required."