May 23, 2010 Atlanta, Ga

It was a humid summer day. Atlanta was shrouded in haze, as always, and those entering the city on the interstate could barely distinguish the skyscrapers from the sky.

Ray's Kawasaki Ninja cruised forward, weaving in between traffic. He kept his eyes peeled for police cars, but kept up his crazy maneuvers. Pulling off onto an exit, Ray noticed a police car pass by under the overpass, likely looking for him after a frightened motorist called 911. Ray smiled, and rode into Buckhead, Atlanta's richer district.

There were many sports cars parked on the streets, and a lot more police. They figured protecting the rich, rather than patrolling the crime-ridden streets south, was a better use of their time.

Ray slowed, turning onto a residential street, shifting down into first as he did so. Ray squeezed the clutch and shifted up half a click, coasting in neutral to a stop in front of a large mansion. A skinny, blond girl awaited him. She was finally wearing jeans, as whenever they rode together, she always wore miniskirts or shorts. Which not only looked revealing when she had to put her legs on the passenger's pegs, but gave no protection. Her long hair bounced up and down as she stepped off the curb towards Ray. Her clothes were clean and pressed, and all designer brand. Ray had only met her parents once, but he knew they didn't like him, probably because of the motorcycle.

Ray untied a helmet off the side of his motorcycle, and threw it to her.

"Samantha," Ray flipped up his visor.

"Hey, Ray," Samantha said in a sing song voice. She took Ray's helmet off, and they shared a brief kiss.

"I've been really busy, I'm sorry I haven't been around," Ray smiled.

"Me too," Samantha blushed, and tied the helmet on, flipping down the visor. Ray put his helmet on, and shifted into gear, turning around towards the city, the sun getting closer to the horizon.

Ray rode to Piedmont Park. He parked and tied the helmets down to the side of the bike. He took Samantha and they lay down in the grass, to watch the sunset. Even though he was happy to be with Samantha, he had a lot on his mind.

A dragon has just landed in his front yard, he was almost shot by Georgia's finest, he smooth talked his way out of getting arrested and being discovered, his boss wasn't happy with how little hours he's been working, Sorrel had eaten almost all his food, along with trashing his house, and then he was still wondering if this "Ben Greenbloom" guy was ever going to respond to him.

"I'm just glad you actually showed up this time," Samantha said.

"I know," Ray nodded. "I'm glad I did, too."

"So when you mentioned you were busy with," Samantha sat up. "Stuff, what kind of stuff do you mean?"

"Um," Ray stammered. "Work, you know. The usual. Bob's had a lot of bikes he's needed me to fix lately."

"I thought you told me your boss was about to go bankrupt?"

"Oh," Ray stuttered. "I-uh," Ray said as he checked his phone, noting the time.

"Damn!" Ray thought. Firedrake and Sorrel are probably up by now, and he just keeps leaving without telling them. He needed to be there for them.

Ray stood up, putting on his motorcycle gloves and zipping up his jacket.

"What?" Samantha stood up. "Where are you going?"

"I gotta go," Ray kicked his bike off his kickstand and put his helmet on.

Samantha stood there, with her hands on her hips.

"You always do this, Ray!" She pouted.

"I'm sorry, I'll call you. We'll hang out again soon, I promise!" Ray shouted as he rode away.

Ray reflected on what had happened the entire way home. "Samantha should get over it, she always does," Ray thought.

Ray pulled into his driveway, removing his helmet after he parked. He caught Firedrake and Sorrel just as they were waking up in his garage. He walked in to greet them, and sat down on a box.

"Welcome back," Firedrake yawned. "Where have you been?"

"Oh, nowhere," Ray smiled.

"What's that smell?" Sorrel sniffed, coming closer and sniffing his jacket.

Ray could smell it now, it was perfume, which probably rubbed off on him from Samantha.

"And what's that on your face?" Sorrel giggled.

"What?" Ray checked his face in one of the mirrors on his motorcycle. There were lipstick stains, in the shape of lips, on one side of his face. Self consciously, he wiped it off on his sleeve.

"It's nothing, really," Ray turned red.

"I uh, I have some homework I have to do. Call me if you need something, heheh," and awkwardly shuffled inside his house.

"What was that all about?" Firedrake asked.

"Ray's got a girlfriend, can't you tell?" She laughed.

"Hey, I can hear you!" Ray said through his upstairs window, looking down at the garage.

"So, when are we going to meet her?" Sorrel teased.

"Sorrel!" Firedrake scolded her.

Ray rolled his eyes and shut the window, laughing.

Somewhere outside Hong Kong, China

"Hey, you there?" Reeves waved a hand in front of his face. Ray had been waiting on Reeves in his office for what seemed like ages, and finally he showed up.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, I had to pull some information together for you, and then the General called me, going on and on about how he needed more troops in Afghanistan."

Ray stopped day dreaming about the past, sitting up and straightening his shirt.

"Whatever. You gonna give me a gun now?" Ray said, frustrated.

"I'm not just going to give you a gun, young man," Reeves opened a black case at the bottom of his desk. He withdrew a Glock 18, and screwed a silencer on the end.

"I'm letting you borrow mine," Reeves tossed it to Ray, who caught it with his quick reflexes.

"Don't you have people specially trained to do what you're having me do?" Ray asked.

"Yeah, but we can't replace them," Reeves said.

"Oh, right."

"And, we're breaking a lot of international laws on espionage and whatnot. If you were found out to be working for me, it could surely start a war."

"Just make sure these files aren't placed anywhere else, if there's even one copy left, there's always a chance someone might find it."

"I'm doing the best I can. I've looked into it, and I had all files on the server where our files are deleted cleared, all you need to do is destroy the evidence."

"Yeah, let me go find one guy in an entire city, kill him, set his house on fire, and then leave without being discovered. I think I have a decent chance of pulling it off," Ray said bitterly.

"I know we're sending you out there with insufficient training, no military experience, and you haven't even been to basic combat training, but I believe you have a good chance of pulling this off, based on last time."

Reeves opened a cabinet, giving Ray some gear and civillian clothing to change into. Plain blue jeans, a plain black jacket, white sneakers. Nothing that would make him stand out. Underneath the jacket, there was a shoulder holster, expertly concealing the Glock 18, but allowing quick access to it if needed.

"Here," Reeves handed two metal rods and a lighter to Ray, and then he realized what they were.

"Pipe bombs?" Ray exclaimed. "Isn't this dangerous, just to be holding?"

"Oh don't be such a baby," Reeves replied. "They won't go off unless you light the end, or hit them too hard. Just two of these should be enough to burn the entire place down."

Ray uneasily slid them into side compartments of his jacket.

"One more thing," Reeves handed Ray a photograph and a cell phone. The photograph was of a young Chinese man, with a caption of "Wei Long."

"This is the hacker. The cell phone has his address preprogrammed into it's GPS, but it may not be a good idea to try to break into his apartment. Wait until he leaves, but I'm leaving this up to you. For all we know, he could have uploaded this to the internet by now."

"I'll do my best," Ray said, picking up his train ticket off Reeves' desk. They were already in China, Ray only had a short train ride to downtown Hong Kong before he could commence the operation.

Ray was about to leave Reeves' office, when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Listen, I'm doing everything I can to help them, too. If you run into any trouble while doing this, give me a call and I'll see what I can do. But keep in mind, there's no back up. For all anyone knows, you're a Russian terrorist."

Ray nodded, and then left for his train.

"And call me when you've finished!" Reeves called after him.

After the train ride, he had made into the heart Hong Kong, one of China's busiest port cities. It was larger, and noisier, than any city Ray had ever been in before. There were skyscrapers, many more than Atlanta had, and signs with strange symbols Ray had never seen before. Ray followed the GPS, trying his best to blend in, to the apartment complex Wei Long lived.

His GPS indicated he was there, and he leaned up against a building, as throngs of Chinese people moved on the street, chattering and hollering in their native language.

Ray was going to take everything slow, blending in the best he could, it would be difficult considering he was probably one of the only few white people in the city.

Ray studied the photograph of Wei, memorizing it clearly and then scanning the street. What was he going to do, wait around for this guy to come out of his house? What if he wasn't even home? Was this even the right place?

Ray's mind raced, but he stayed there, leaning up against the building across from the apartment complex. After an hour, it began getting dark. And then, the moment he'd been waiting for.

A gaunt, skinny looking man, walked out of the apartment complex, carrying a messenger bag.

Ray looked at the photo, and then at the man. It was Wei Long, alright. He crossed the street, and blended in with more crowds of people, breaking off whenever Long changed directions. Long seemed paranoid, and often looked over his shoulder, but Ray blended into the public, and avoided detection. Then finally, he got his moment. Long had begun walking down an empty street, and there was an alley way between several buildings he could run through to catch him.

Ray broke away from the group walking he was blending in with, and dashed down the alley way, turned a corner, and began to wait. Long was walking steadfastly towards him. After he got close enough, Ray grabbed him, and threw him into the alley way, unholstering his Glock all in one swift movement.

Frightened, the man started gasping for breath, chattering incoherently in Chinese.

"Wei Long," Ray said.

The man continued to speak Chinese and shook his head. Ray pulled out the photograph, and showed it to Long.

"You're my target, don't think you could fool me that easy. If you value your life, you'll speak to me in English."

"O-okay, please," Long stuttered in a strong, Chinese accent. "What do you want from me?"

Ray took the man's bag, which contained several CD's and a laptop. He broke each of the CD's in half, throwing them into a dumpster, and then took the laptop.

"Wait, what are you doing?" Long said.

Ray smashed the laptop on the ground, the glass shattering. He cocked the Glock 18, and then unleashed a barrage of 9mm rounds, the silencer reducing each shot to a small click. The hard drive was definitely destroyed, so Ray tossed the laptop into the dumpster.

"I'm sorry," Ray held the handgun up to Long's head. "But you know too much."

"No, please!" Long pleaded for his life.

Ray was about to pull the trigger. "Wait!" Long panted.

"I know who you are!"

"Then who am I?" Ray replied.

"That Russian kid, who went missing last year. I saw you in the photographs, next to those, those," Long struggled for a word. "Dragons."

"Then you know why I'm doing this," Ray answered.

"Please, don't do this," Long put his hands over his face, and began to sob.

"I won't tell anybody!"

Ray thought for a moment, and started to get anxious. What if someone started walking on the street in front of the alley? He needed to finish this soon.

"Give me the keys to your apartment," Ray ordered. Immediately, Long complied.

"Here, take them," Long exhaled.

"Now get out of here. Leave this city, change your name, never come back here again. And if I ever hear that this information goes public, I will track you down, and I will kill you. Do you understand?" Ray asked firmly.

"Y-yes, yes, I do. Thank you!" Long exited the alleyway, running away quickly.

"I just made a huge mistake," Ray sighed, and headed back to Long's apartment. Ray turned the key in the lock and entered. There was a computer station set up, with several monitors, but with the discs that were in Long's bag, it was likely he had copies of the files, but Ray didn't have time to look for all them. Since he had the chance, he might as well see what kind of files Reeves was trying to keep from being discovered.

Ray sat down at the computer, Long had left it logged in. Though everything was in Chinese, Ray managed to find the files Long had hacked, since they were some of the only documents in english, and therefore easy to find amongst all the Chinese symbols. As he scrolled through the documents, there were reports about unlawful spending of taxpayer money, failed assassination attempts, and civilian casualties from air strikes in the United States most recent war campaign.

Then, he found files that actually meant something to him. They were satellite photographs, containing labels and coordinates of latitude and longitude. Some of the photos were of the dragons, almost all were during the day. Ray recognized himself in some of the photos, one was even detailed enough to make out his face. After doing some more investigation, Ray found that this computer was still connected to the United States Armed Forces Secure Network, using a hacked username and password. What caught his eye was that the Username was "." Ray logged into the network through a console, and then searched his own name.

Username: Alexander Reeves
Password: ********
Connecting to United_States_Armed_Forces_Secure_Network
Connection Established
Logging in as Alexander Reeves
Login Accepted
Search: Ray Sokolov
Opening RaySokolovPF

United States Central Intelligence Agency

Personal File 132.18

Name: Sokolov, Raymond
Aliases: Соколов, Реймонд
Date of Birth: 09/22/1993 (17) [Minor]
Nationality: Russian
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Citizenship: United States of America
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 180lbs
Tattoos/scars/birthmarks: None
Hair color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Ethnicity: Caucasian
Nationality: Russian
Religious affiliation: N/a
Languages Spoken: Russian, English
Current Location: N/a
Military Experience: Classified
Status: Civilian Runaway/Fugitive
SSN: ***-**-****
Last seen: Atlanta, Ga 6/2/2010 buying canned food, survival gear, and .223 ammunition from Walmart and Roe's Arms and Supply Co. Highway 29 Atlanta, Ga

Current Infractions: Runaway [1], Underage use of Tobacco Products [11], Verbally Threatening an Officer of the Law [2], Driving Under Influence of Alcohol [1], Treason Against the Russian Federation [2] Resisting Arrest [2], Speeding [3], Possession of illegal Firearms [2], Underage use of Alcohol [2], Forging Signature of Parental Guardian on Legal Document [17], Grand Theft [1], Illegal Immigration [5], Murder in the First Degree of Foreign Armed Forces [2], Falsifying Information [3], Withholding information from the Government [2], Assaultive Battery on an Officer of the Law [1]
Total infractions: 57 counts

In 1997, it is believed that Sokolov was smuggled out of Russia by the Russian Mafia with his parents, Vlad and Nataliya Sokolov, after Vlad Sokolov fled charges of murder in the second degree.

Ray Sokolov is believed to be armed with a 9mm FMK handgun, a .223 Semi automatic high powered rifle, or an AK-103 assault rifle believed to belong to one of the Russian Soldiers he murdered outside of the Kalashiknov Base on the Bering Sea in east Russia, a month after believed to have run away from his home in the Metro Atlanta area. He is considered highly dangerous and is believed to be hiding in his hometown, Moscow, or East Russia.

Reward for information leading to Arrest: $250,000.00 US Dollars

Ref. 134.12: At Lattitude 34.1035' N, 78.3841' E on 09/04/2010 at approximately 21:04 hours, cell phone carrier AT&T notified the Missing Person's Foundation that Ray Sokolov had attempted to check his voice mail from his cellphone. A passing satellite made this possible, and coordinates were given responsibility to US Defense attorney Alexander Reeves, and Nasa Satellite Crew Bravo for investigation. The investigation was completed on 11/14/10 but remains classified. Reeves noted that Sokolov appeared to be living amongst strange creatures, some described as "humans with fur, walking upright," and creatures he could only describe as being "dragons." Investigation is classified. A security clearance is required to to view the investigation data and all attempts to access them are logged, see Ref. 139.21

Ray had seen enough now. He withdrew the two pipe bombs from his pockets, flicking the lighter in his other hand. Hopefully, he could pull this off without blowing himself up. Ray lit both fuses at the same time, tossing one towards the back of the apartment, and then another at the computer desk. Frantically, he burst out of the door, and a massive fireball erupted from behind him, setting the apartment ablaze. The explosion was massive, the sound shattering several windows. The second pipe bomb detonated after the first explosion, sending a pillar of fire out a side window.

As Ray ran from the building, panting and gasping for breath, passersby on the street looked at him suspiciously, after looking at the fire that was so seeping out of the window of Wei Long's apartment and he had just burst out of the complex. Ray could see several people with cell phones clasped up against their ears.

They were calling the police. Ray hadn't planned for this, it was supposed to be a stealthy entrance, and stealthy exit. Ray had expected he would get more distance before the fuses ran out, but Reeves must not have planned this too well.

It was useless now to try to blend in or remain in a low profile, Ray dashed from the scene, making his way through another alley way. He exited the alley way to a parking lot, where a few spaces away from him a man was strapping a helmet onto his head. Ray glanced at the bike, it was a silver Suzuki GSXR, already cranked up and ready to run with the key in the ignition. He didn't hesitate.

Ray unholstered his still silenced Glock 18, aiming at the man about to get on the Suzuki.

Ray ran up to him and yanked the helmet off his head, aiming the weapon at him the entire time. The biker shrieked in Chinese, cursing in his native language as he ran away. Bystanders looked on curiously, again dialing police, but they were already approaching the scene. There were distant sirens, responding to the fire at Wei Long's apartment, and the armed caucasian male who ran from the scene and bike jacked a motorcyclist.

Ray quickly strapped the helmet onto his head. It was a little bit small, but it would do. He quickly mounted the bike, shifting slowly at first to get used to its clutch, and then gave the bike more gas, speeding away from the scene. It had been a long time since Ray had ridden a motorcycle, but he still remembered how. His hands and feet never forgot how to shift a gear, do a wheelie, or burnout. As he ran a red light, a police car with its siren on was already speeding towards where Ray was coming from, and made a U-Turn around to follow him.

As he dodged traffic, Ray turned onto a sidewalk, shocked pedestrians scrambled out of his way, with the police car still in suit.

Suddenly, Ray heard a loud pop behind him. In the mirror, the police officer chasing him had rolled down his window, and started firing at him with a handgun.

"I guess there's no need for a silencer now," Ray thought, and managed to unscrew the silencer, which decreased the range and accuracy of an already close ranged and inaccurate weapon.

Several police cars converged on him, but Ray used the traffic to his advantage. A police car got too close to him, and the passenger was aiming his weapon at Ray's rear tire. Ray unholstered the Glock 18, turning around and spraying a cloud of bullets at the car, a rapid series of pops echoed off the buildings around him. Ray didn't know if he'd hit either of them, but the police car turned to avoid the fire, and struck an oncoming vehicle.

The situation was beginning to seem hopeless, everywhere he looked there were cars with flashing lights, motorcycle officers, and the thrumming of a helicopter was only getting louder and louder.

If a helicopter was involved, it would be next to impossible to escape. A motorcycle cop began approaching on his rear, and fired at him.

A bullet pinged off the side of the bike, leading a deep bullet hole. Ray turned around and returned fire, causing the officer to wipe out. In his rear view mirror, Ray could see the officer get up, limping off the street clasping his bloody jacket, making a mental note that his Glock 18 was almost out of ammo, and it wouldn't be easy to reload on a motorcycle while everyone is out to get him.

Ray was too busy watching behind him, and dodging traffic, he wasn't paying attention to the roadblock that had formed ahead of him. Ray spotted a break in between police cars that he may be able to fit through, and powered through it, throwing the officers off. About a second after clearing the roadblock, Ray heard a metallic bang, and felt extreme pain in his lower torso.

He growled in pain, losing control of the bike and crashing to the pavement. Road rash covered his arms and legs. After hitting the pavement at such speed, he felt his left arm crack under pressure, and screamed in pain. He could barely use his fingers, and laid motionless on the pavement. He was shot in the torso, and broke his arm. Ray could barely move. He struggled to his feet, when he saw Hong Kong's finest approaching him from the road block he'd just cleared. Barely keeping his balance, he stared down the barrels of so many weapons. Now that he was injured, there was nothing else he could do.

From a side street, a black sedan with tinted windows pulled out in front of Ray and screeched to a halt. An MP5A1 submachine gun protruded from the driver's side window, crackling gunfire at all the officers surround Ray. Bodies dropped to the ground, leaving only Ray standing.

The windows were all tinted, and where Ray was facing he couldn't see who was inside. The driver rolled down the passenger side window, it was Reeves.

"Reeves?" Ray cried.

"Get in!" Reeves cried. Ray limped over to the sedan, Reeves opening the door for him.

"I thought you might need some back up," Reeves said, as he spun the car around and drove away, speeding off before anyone else could see what happened. Ray clutched his broken arm, blood gushed from his bullet wound.

"Where did you learn to shoot like that?" Ray said through clenched teeth.

"I was in special forces," Reeves explained. "Back when they used to let you keep your weapons after you ended active duty," He gestured to the MP5, and to the Glock 18 in Ray's shoulder holster.

Ray laid back in the seat, dripping blood everywhere. Reeves pulled over after he made sure no one was following them, applied first aid to Ray, and injected him with a fast acting pain killer.

"Now, let's get you to a doctor," Reeves put the car back in gear and headed to a poorer district, parking in front of a run down building.

The doctor's office Ray was stitched up in was dirtier than a truck stop bathroom. Ray's arm was splinted, and he was given strong pain killers until he could receive better care.

Reeves said something in Chinese to the doctor that treated Ray, and handed him a wad of American 100 dollar bills.

Reeves escorted Ray back to the US embassy. Ray couldn't go to any real hospital in the area, it would be too suspicious after the shoot out and chase with police. For now, he had to endure the pain and discomfort of second rate treatment, until Reeves could find a way to get him out of the country.

"I'm assuming you were successful," Reeves took a drag of a cigarette. They were sitting back in the same office Reeves had given Ray his equipment.

"I destroyed the evidence. The entire apartment went up in flames."

"And Wei Long?" Reeves asked. Ray paused.

"I took care of him." He wasn't going to tell Reeves he had spared his life, even though deep down he was starting to wish he had really "taken care of him."

"Marvelous," Reeves answered. "Then we've got nothing to worry about now. Even if he'd uploaded those files on the internet, as long as you destroyed everything he had on it, there's no way for anyone to confirm it's credibility. Easy to cover up," he took a sip of his coffee.

Ray said nothing, staring straight ahead.

"Why so glum, chum?" Reeves teased.

"I broke my arm and I got shot in the stomach."

"You'd be dead or rotting in a Chinese jail if I hadn't have showed up, too," Reeves outed his cigarette in an ash tray on his desk.

"This is the part where you say, Thanks Reeves, I was wrong about you. Thank you ever so much for saving my life!"

"Yeah, yeah, fine," Ray muttered.

"See? Remember, I told you I have a heart. It's stone cold and filled with a black, gooey substance, but still a heart."

Ray convulsed in pain, and popped another pain killer in his mouth.

"Go easy on those, unless you want to end up like another rock star O'Ding on pain meds," Reeves warned. "I'll have you treated properly once I find a way to get you out of the country. And rest assured, I've already secured a ride for you to go back to the Rim of Heaven. And this time, no parachuting. It's not like you could anyway in the condition you're in."

"Great," Ray smiled. "I ended up hanging from a tree sixty feet above the ground last time, if one of the dragons hadn't have seen me land I may have just plummeted to my death."

"Oh, we wouldn't want that to happen," Reeves said.

"Now, I knew that you were motivated only by keeping your friends secret, but I've pulled some strings and I've got you some connections. There's a monastery nearby to the Rim of Heaven. If you ever want to leave the Rim of Heaven, need supplies, or anything at all, all you need to do is ask," Reeves handed Ray a solar powered radio handset. "And you shall receive. I was also able to clear your runaway status, and you have a special status few people can achieve, Mr. Sokolov."

"What's that?" Ray asked.

"You're above the law. If you are arrested in any country, no matter what the crime, you will be sent to the nearest US embassy. Your file states you have special CIA status now, Ray, and they will have orders to immediately drop all charges and assist you in any way they can."

"Great," Ray coughed, reading the dosage instructions on the bottle of his painmeds.

"And as if you cared, that $10 million dollars is still in the bank account we set up for you," Reeves handed Ray a sheet of paper, containing a bank account number and a balance of $10,000,000.00 US dollars.

"I thought I told the president to donate it to charity," Ray laughed.

"He's a busy guy, we just never really got around to it. I guess if you ever decide to assimilate into society again, maybe you can do it in style."

Reeves cell phone vibrated, and he picked up.

"Hello?" Reeves licked his lips. "Ah, yes. As soon as possible. Right now? Excellent, I'll send him on his way."

Reeves ended the call. "That was a pilot I know, he's going to be landing on the helipad on top of our building soon to take you home. You will be taken back to the base in Pakistan we landed at after we left the Rim of Heaven, and a helicopter will drop you back off. You'll receive better care once you get there, too."

Ray put the silenced Glock 18 on Reeves' desk, a long with the shoulder holster. He was about to leave, when Reeves stopped him, holding out his hand. Ray locked eyes with Reeves, reflecting on everything he'd been through. Reeves was a slimy, dirty politician, but deep down, he had a heart, and was the reason Ray was standing here now and protected the Rim of Heaven.

They shook hands, any hostility between the two gone now.

"If you ever come back, I live in Los Angeles. Maybe I'll buy you a steak some time."

Ray, who was actually kind of touched at the offer, smiled.

"I'd like that. Feel free to come visit us any time."

"Good bye, Mr. Sokolov," Reeves said.

"Dasvidania," Ray replied in Russian, and walked out to the hallway, an armed guard escorting him to the roof. He returned to the Rim of Heaven, and his wounds were healed by dragon fire yet again. Their valley continued to remain hidden, although Ray had urges to go visit the United States again. He could return to a quiet life, living with his dragon and brownie friends. He had even spoken to Ben soon after returning, and he was to visit soon.

Wei Long had better keep his mouth shut.