Several months ago, I came across a discussion thread on an Airwolf forum started by someone looking for fan input for a script being written for a proposed Airwolf movie. That post sparked a long and sometimes acrimonious discussion of what the forum members did – and didn't – want to see in an updated version of Airwolf.

My personal opinion, for what it's worth, is that any movie made now would probably be almost unrecognizable as Airwolf, and would therefore be something I wasn't terribly interested in watching. However, it did get me thinking about what I would like to see, and I finally decided that, in a fantasy world – if I couldn't have Loch Ness's "Scent of Blood" stories – an expanded, improved version of the episode Blackjack (starring the original cast, as they looked in 1986) was it.

So I started to write one (bearing in mind that plenty of other writers of Airwolf fan fiction have already done the same thing, so if I'm violating copyright here, I'm in good company!) which gave me a chance to attempt to "fix" not only Blackjack but Half Pint and the ending of Birds of Paradise, at least in my own mind. I couldn't fix all the problems and inconsistencies I'd have liked to – in fact, I may have created a few new ones. But I had a lot of fun trying.

Just remember – no one dies. No one ever dies. (At least not if they're one of my favourite characters.)

Standard disclaimers: Airwolf belongs to someone else, probably Belisarius Productions and/or Universal. I've borrowed dialogue, characters, and some situations from the episode "Blackjack".

Storm Season

Rain.

It never seemed to stop raining. Hot, steamy, torrential rain when you could hardly see your hand in front of your face, and the mosquitoes practically ate you alive. Cool, damp rain, that made you shiver, and malarial sweats were the only way to keep warm.

He was sick to the bone of water falling from the sky. It seemed to have been raining since the beginning of time. Realistically, he knew that this must be the end of the summer monsoon, that the weather would soon change; but it seemed now that the rain had been falling for as long as he'd been a prisoner.

That had been a very, very long time.

Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Army, Khmer Rouge, any local warlord with a use for enforced labour or a dislike of Americans; he seemed to have been a pawn in everyone's keeping at one time or another, for so long he could hardly remember what normal life was like, shunting around southeast Asia. Once, years ago, he'd managed to break free, and for a brief time there'd been a glimmer of hope that he might be able to get away from the hell of existence in a prison camp, get home. The glimmer had been extinguished within a matter of weeks.

Occasionally his captors had used his skills as a helicopter pilot for short junkets. Usually it was on some business connected with the drug trade. He really didn't give a damn why he was flying; in some ways it was worse being up in the air at the controls of a chopper than shut in amidst the stench and squalor of the camps. So near, and yet so far.

He always thought of crashing the aircraft. Taking his hands off the controls and letting it fly straight into the ground, or into the side of a mountain. But somehow he'd never had the courage. It had nothing to do with fear of the gun that was usually jammed up against his head; he actually found that rather laughable. Did they really think that a man who'd been through what he had wouldn't take the easy option of a quick and relatively painless death, rather than land safely and live to take more of it?

No, it wasn't the fear of dying that stopped him. He wasn't exactly sure what it was. Something about another kind of fear – of missing the opportunity that might come again some day. To get out. To get a message out. Because if he missed that, people back home would never, ever know what had happened to him. If he'd been the one safely back home, the knowledge that he'd had to abandon his brother in the jungle, surrounded by the enemy, no way of knowing what had happened to him – well, maybe there were worse things than a prison camp.

Hell, who was he fooling? Maybe the idea that his brother was sitting back in the U.S., probably married with a kid or two, still flying helicopters like a demented angel, still wondering what had happened to his big brother – maybe that was all just castle in the air stuff. Maybe the kid didn't give a damn any more, had written him off years ago. Maybe the kid had never made it out of of Vietnam himself.

He tried never to let his thoughts travel into those channels. He had to believe that his brother had survived the war and was still out there, still looking for him, still trying to get him home. And lately, there had been just a hint that that was all true.

A year ago, he thought, just before the summer monsoon started (or had it been the year before that?) he had wound up as the prisoner of a man by the name of Bouchard. Ironically, he'd thought at first that Bouchard was going to save him. Bouchard had gotten him out of another prison camp in the midst of a failed rescue attempt, when everything was being blown to hell and St. John, sick from some kind of fever, hadn't had the strength to follow the other prisoners to safety. Even though it seemed Bouchard had saved his life, St. John had found the man repulsive, with his thick lips and stone-cold eyes. It wasn't long before he found himself in yet another prison.

Bouchard was a renegade of some kind. His men called him Colonel. Impossible to know whether that title was real or if he'd just claimed it because he liked the sound of it. St. John's name seemed to mean something to this colonel. After a while, it became obvious that he had a specific use in mind for his prisoner, and it wasn't for his flying skills. The Colonel knew his kid brother, and was planning on somehow using him to lure his brother here.

That was the one thing that would make St. John Hawke fly right into the side of the nearest mountain. Never mind that he didn't understand what Bouchard wanted with his brother, or what this mysterious craft was that Bouchard called Airwolf, that apparently String was flying.

The knowledge that Bouchard was contemplating using him as bait for a trap to snare his brother gave impetus to a few more escape attempts. All of them failed. Now he was down to his last chance. If this didn't work, he would have to try to find some way to kill himself. Better that than have String dragged into this.

"Guards," muttered Ackroyd, sitting next to him.

St. John managed to scrape up enough of the mouldy straw from the floor of the cage to cover the almost-finished bamboo tube he'd been scraping at with a stone.

The guards entered the cage and began to drag some of the occupants out. Throwing their weight around, as usual – did they really think that any of the prisoners had enough strength left, of body or will, to cause any problems?

Burke was there. St. John particularly disliked Burke. He was a nasty, vicious piece of work. The fact that he was a fellow American somehow made it even worse.

Ming Ho, a little Asian guy from God knew where, about whom St. John knew nothing more than his name, was slumped on his other side. He didn't move fast enough for Burke, and the American dealt him a brutal kick in the ribs, sending him back to the ground with a cry of pain. Then he drew his pistol and aimed it at the Asian man.

To hell with it, thought St. John. He scrambled to his feet and aimed a punch at Burke.

The cage was suddenly surrounded with shouting guards, all with their rifles pointed straight at St. John. Burke had lost his footing in the straw but now staggered to his feet, coming up with his gun trained on St. John as well, hammer cocked and just a finger-twitch away from pulling the trigger.

"Soldier . . . " said a voice from behind St. John. Bouchard.

He shook his head and then jerked it toward the cage door. Burke drew a couple of deep breaths and ran a hand across the scarlet blotch blooming on his cheek, then gestured with his gun for the remaining men to head out.

Silently, St. John helped Ming Ho up and supported him outside and into the rain.

"Still playing the hero, Hawke?" Bouchard asked pleasantly.

St. John said nothing. As he and Ming Ho limped on, he was aware of Bouchard and Burke falling in behind them. "Any movement from the other side?"

"Negative, sir."

"Let's raise the stakes."

Now what the hell did that mean?

Whatever they were talking about, St. John had a feeling he was going to find out soon. And he knew that he wasn't going to like it.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Rain was falling in Los Angeles, as well, in what was becoming a stretch of wet, gloomy days, unseasonal and depressing for a southern California autumn. Stringfellow Hawke was glad to be heading toward the dry desert northeast of the city, even if he did have a few reservations about what he was supposed to be doing once he got there.

"Wind drift autocompensator?" he said to the red-haired woman in the right-hand seat of the red, white and blue Santini Air Jetranger.

Caitlin O'Shannessy sighed. She and Hawke had been over the specs and manual for the slightly improbable-sounding device at least three times already, but Hawke remained sceptical. It didn't help that the designer from the small company manufacturing the thing had backed out of the demonstration flight at the last minute, confessing to a complete terror of flying.

"It's hard-wired into the RPM governor," she said patiently. "It allows for hands-off hovering in really erratic wind conditions. Great for air-sea rescue."

Hawke shrugged and finally produced the beginnings of a smile. "Well, if it works, I'm impressed."

"I just hope the world market shares that opinion." Caitlin quite liked the hapless designer. True, he was a bit of a geek, awkward and gangling kind of like an overgrown puppydog, but considering her last disastrous romances, geeky was just fine. "Let's see how she handles in high-speed maneuvers."

Hawke smirked. To anyone used to flying a machine like Airwolf, the words "high-speed maneuvers" and "JetRanger" didn't even belong in the same sentence. Nevertheless, in spite of his reservations (part of which was pure sham - Caitlin's feelings were always completely transparent, and he knew perfectly well she was interested in the designer) he was looking forward to seeing how well the gizmo functioned.

The helicopter spiralled down toward the desert.

Two hours later, they were landing back in Van Nuys in a cold drizzle.

"How 'bout some coffee?" asked Hawke, as the rotors circled lazily to a standstill and Caitlin began unclipping the autocompensator unit.

"Sure. I'll be with you in a minute."

Hawke jogged through the increasing rain into the Santini Air hangar. He put the coffee on, then thumbed through the pile of mail that had been left on the desk in the office. Bill, bill, junk, bill…something addressed to Dom from one of the movie studios, hopefully a check…and a heavy brown envelope addressed to him, care of Santini Air. No return address, an illegible postmark. He shrugged and tossed it back on the pile as he heard the coffee start to bubble.

Caitlin arrived, brushing droplets of water from her jacket. She poured coffee for both of them, leaving Hawke's black, adding cream and a generous spoonful of sugar to her own. They leaned against the desk side by side, listening to the rain drumming on the roof and the occasional hiss of car tires on the wet tarmac outside the open door.

"Awfully quiet here without Dom," Caitlin commented.

"Yup." The owner of Santini Air had taken a few days off, travelling down to San Remo Island, the place where he'd been born and had lived his formative years, where he'd been married and fathered a daughter who had died two years ago this month. After everything that had transpired at the time of Sally Anne's death, the place had few fond memories for Dominic Santini. But he had begun to make annual pilgrimages to her grave to mark the unhappy anniversary. Hawke had offered to accompany him but had been turned down. He suspected that Dom preferred to keep the life that he'd had on the island as separate as possible from the one he had spent most of his adult life living in California.

Finishing her coffee, Caitlin leaned back and thumbed through the stack of mail in her turn. "Wonder what's in here?" she commented, looking at the envelope from the studio. "Hope it's a check. Or a job offer."

"Yeah."

"What's this?" she said next, coming to the envelope with Hawke's name on it. He shrugged.

"Hey, you better open it. Could be some long-lost relative died and left you a fortune."

"Right."

"Or maybe it's from a dating agency, to say they've found you the girl of your dreams."

He gave her a pained look. She grinned and thumped her empty coffee cup down on the desk. "Guess I'd better get started on a report for Bill about his autocompensator. That three o'clock lesson that cancelled didn't rebook, did they? Should we try and get some of the monthly maintenance done on the JetRanger this afternoon?"

"Go ahead, no, and sure."

Caitlin began to rummage on the desktop for the forms they'd been given, then sat down and began to write busily. She heard Hawke slitting open an envelope.

After a moment, something about his silence made her look up.

Hawke was still sitting on the edge of the desk, holding a slip of paper in one hand and something small and shiny in the other. He was completely, unnaturally still. His face might have been carved in granite.

"String?" she asked uncertainly. "What is it?"

At first she wasn't sure if he'd even heard her. Then his hand closed on the small object, and he said in a low, rough voice, "St. John."

"What?" She got up and came around the desk to face him. "What do you mean, St. John? Is it a letter from him?" She felt idiotic saying that. Hawke was just about as likely to get a letter from the tooth fairy as from his long-lost, long-missed older brother.

Hawke handed her the piece of paper.

"'This belongs to your brother,'" she read. The handwriting was shaky, almost illegible. There was a signature, but it was impossible to read. She turned the paper over. Nothing more, just those cryptic five words. "What belongs to your brother?"

Hawke held out his other hand and opened it so she could see that it held a man's gold ring with some kind of crest. The ring was badly scratched, the lettering on the crest almost obliterated. She looked at it in disbelief, then at Hawke, who was staring straight out the open hangar door. She didn't know what he was seeing, but she was quite sure it wasn't what was right in front of him. "Is this – his?"

Hawke cleared his throat. "Could be. It's a Van Nuys High School ring. St. John had one just like it."

"But you don't really think – "

He didn't answer. He just kept staring at the rain.

Out of nowhere, Caitlin felt a hot fury surging up. "Damn it, String – "

That got his attention. His eyes swivelled towards her, startled and ready to be defensive. But her anger wasn't directed at him. She rushed on, "Someone's playing a joke on you. A real mean, nasty joke. They ought to be shot. Somebody knows you're vulnerable, and they've got a sick, sick sense of humour, and they're trying to wind you up."

Hawke cleared his throat again. It kept trying to close up on him. "You think that's all this is?"

"What else could it be? Something of St. John's, just falling out of the blue after all these years? Why didn't whoever sent it say anything else in this note? Or at least sign it with a name you could read?"

He didn't answer that either. He didn't know. He looked at the ring again, turning it over and over in his fingers.

Caitlin didn't know what to say. She looked at the envelope that had held the ring and note, wondering if there was any point in taking it to the post office to see if they could decipher the postmark. Or maybe they could take the ring to that psychic String and Dom had worked with when Archangel and his Fortune Teller device had gone missing last year, and ask if she could get any vibes from it, or whatever it was that psychics did when they searched for missing people. Then she looked at Hawke again, and decided it was probably better not to say anything at all right now. She put a hand on his shoulder, but he seemed completely unaware of her existence. She walked over to the hangar entrance and stood staring out, wondering if maybe she should just invent an excuse to take off and let Hawke brood without spectators. He probably would rather be left to himself, except she felt badly about leaving him alone when he was hurting so much.

There was the sound of rapid movement behind her and she spun around to find him striding swiftly towards the cabinet where Dom kept all his flight charts. Her eyes widened as he began to ransack it, tossing chart after chart aside until he finally found the one he was looking for. He swept the litter of papers aside to spread it out on the desk.

"There," he said, stabbing hard at a point on the chart.

Caitlin stared, wondering if he'd suddenly come completely unhinged. "There, what?"

He held up the ring. "Look at this." He wouldn't let it out of his grasp, as if it was some kind of holy grail, but she bent and stared at it again as hard as she could. It still looked like nothing more than a battered high school ring to her. "What am I supposed to be looking at?"

"Inside," he said briefly, tilting the ring so the inside of the band caught the light from the overhead fluorescents. Caitlin could just make out a series of scratches, so tiny they were almost invisible without a jeweller's loupe. "What are they? It looks kind of like numbers."

"They are numbers. Coordinates." He turned back to the chart. "Here. He's here."

Caitlin stared from him to the desktop and back again. "Burma? String, what would your brother be doing in Burma?"

"When I find him, I'll ask him."

"String…" She grabbed his arms, as if to physically stop him from rushing right out the door and off to the other side of the world. "Don't do something stupid, okay?"

"Who said anything about doing something stupid?" He looked at her coldly, and began to fold the chart again with crisp, deliberate movements. He dropped it on the desk. "Come on. Let's get started on the Jet Ranger."

Caitlin looked worriedly at his back. "At least not until Dom gets back," she sighed.

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Going to Knightsbridge rarely improved Stringfellow Hawke's mood. This time was no exception.

"What the hell is this?" he demanded truculently, standing in what had been – unbelievably, past tense, it appeared – the anteroom to Archangel's office. In times past, he would likely have found Marella sitting there, like a comely dragon barring access to her boss except for the select few she deemed worthy of admission. Lately it was more likely to be Marlene, Carol, Samantha - a rota of attractive white-clad women who were all equally as polite as Marella, and just as quietly effective.

Now they had all been replaced by a man in a gray suit. Dark gray. And the colour scheme had changed. Hardly a trace of white anywhere. Not that that was a bad thing in itself. But it seemed to be a harbinger of more fundamental changes. And the man in the dark gray suit was denying all knowledge of Archangel, or Michael Coldsmith Briggs, and obviously saw Hawke as nothing more than a disturbance which needed to be evicted from his little kingdom.

The door to Archangel's office opened, and a man walked out who Hawke had never seen in his life before. Black with a trim moustache, a little taller than Hawke, he looked as if he probably smiled easily, but wasn't smiling now. "I'll take over from here," he told the assistant.

"Who are you?" said Hawke bluntly. "And where's Archangel?"

"You must be Stringfellow Hawke," said the black man, not cordially. "I've been wanting to talk to you. But not today. Make an appointment." He started to walk past, apparently figuring that that concluded the conversation.

Hawke grabbed his shoulder. "You're not going anywhere till I talk to Archangel."

There was more muscle under the expensively tailored suit than he'd expected. "All you're seeing is me. And you're not gonna see much of that if I don't feel some space between us quick."

"I want some answers, and I want 'em now. Where is Archangel?"

"I can't hear a word you're saying," the other man said coolly.

Hawke shoved him against one freshly-painted wall. Two security types came rushing in and grabbed him by the arms. Hawke glared, ready, in his more than usually belligerent mood, to take them all on.

The black man straightened his tie. "All right, fellas, take it easy. He's my problem. Come with me," he said to Hawke, leading the way back into Archangel's office. The security men cautiously released Hawke and he slowly followed the black man.

Once inside what had been Archangel's inner sanctum, he stared around in astonishment. This room, like the one out front, had been repainted. All the white was gone, the big desk, Archangel's white leather chair. Even the paintings on the walls had been changed. He felt almost as disoriented as if he'd gotten to the airfield and found Santini Air vanished.

The black man sat down behind the different desk, and Hawke slouched into another chair. "Listen, Hawke, Archangel has been stationed somewhere in the Far East. I've taken over your file. Jason Locke." He didn't offer to shake hands.

"Real nice of you to tell me about it," said Hawke. "And what do you mean, Far East?"

Locke shrugged. "Archangel should have told you about all the changes here. And Far East means just that."

"That's a big area."

"That's all I can tell you."

Hawke snorted.

"There something I can do for you? I assume you came here for a reason."

Hawke wanted to get up and leave. Obviously intimidation wasn't going to work with Locke to get him the information he wanted, and right at the moment he knew he wasn't thinking clearly enough to come up with any other tactics.

"Does this have anything to do with Airwolf?"

Hawke fingered the ring in his jacket pocket. Oh, what the hell.

"It has something to do with my brother," he said grudgingly, and pulled out the ring, showing it to Locke on the palm of his extended hand. When the other man leaned forward to pick it up, he instinctively pulled the hand away, closing it tight. "This is my brother's ring. Someone mailed it to me, with a note saying it belonged to St. John. It showed up yesterday. Someone's scratched numbers inside. Looks like coordinates. Somewhere in – " His fingers curled into quote marks. " – the Far East."

"Your brother's ring?" repeated Locke, in obvious disbelief. "What makes you think that?"

"I recognize it. He got it in his final year at Van Nuys."

"You recognize it." Locke rolled his eyes. "Come on, Hawke, I've heard better deductive reasoning from a kindergarten kid. You can't prove it's your brother's ring. After – what is it now? Sixteen years? Seventeen? – even if he's still alive, he's not gonna have a single thing left to his name, let alone gold jewellery. Besides, between this, and the ring he supposedly gave his supposed wife in Vietnam, and that bracelet Eric Maasse and his happy band of brainwashers gave you a couple of years ago when they tricked you into handing over Airwolf to them, it seems St John's a whole travelling Cartier's store."

Hawke stiffened, both at Locke's sarcastic manner and the fact that the man had obviously made himself very well acquainted in a short time with that file.

"It's probably just somebody playing a prank on you," Locke concluded.

"Could be," said Hawke. "But I'm gonna take Airwolf and find out."

"Take a reality pill, Hawke. Why would somebody send you this and not tell you anything else – like, where they got it from, and what happened to St. John? And who sent it, anyway? They give a name, or tell you how to contact them? And how can you prove this belonged to your brother - it got a serial number, or something?"

Hawke shook his head.

"Look, Hawke, I really am sorry about what happened with your brother. But this adds up to squat, and you know it." He sighed. "You know, this isn't my idea of a good time either. But according to orders, you're my pain in the butt and I'm yours. So you'd better sit tight. I'll access the files on St. John and see if there's anything Archangel missed. In the meantime, be patient."

Hawke leaned over the desk and into his face. He spoke through gritted teeth. "I have been."

"Then you're gonna have to be patient a while longer."

"Forget it, Locke. As soon as Airwolf is ready, we're heading for Burma."

"Burma? For God's sake, you can't just go flying into someplace like that thinking St. John'll be waiting at those coordinates of yours and you just have to scoop him up and slip out again! You'd need a whole team, you'd need backup, supplies…not to mention the fact that Airwolf hasn't been refueled or had her armament restocked since your last mission."

"The Firm isn't the only source of fuel and ammunition."

"You're really serious about this, aren't you?" said Locke, almost in wonderment.

Hawke didn't bother replying. He'd had enough of Archangel's successor for one day. He got up and headed for the door.

Locke got to his feet as well. "I forbid you to use Airwolf for unsanctioned personal business."

Hawke would have laughed if he hadn't been so worked up. He swung back to face Locke. "Listen, you pompous son of a bitch, St. John is Airwolf's business. That was the deal I had with Archangel."

"I'm gonna tell you one more time, Archangel's gone. That deal is null and void. You want to be charged with treason, Mr. Hawke?"

"Been tried before." As much as he'd tried to keep out of Firm politics, he had a shrewd idea of what Archangel had shielded him from when he'd first made the decision to keep control of Airwolf after bringing her back from Libya.

"And the only reason it didn't work was because you had Archangel to protect you," said Locke, as if he'd read his mind.

Hawke stopped. Without turning around, he said, as calmly as he could, "Look, Locke, the other part of the deal was that I'd hand Airwolf back to the Firm when I found out what happened to my brother. The sooner I find him, the sooner you can have your helicopter back. So don't get in my way." He pulled the door open and just managed not to slam it behind him.

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Alone in his office, Locke had the feeling that a hurricane had just blown out of the room.

He leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. That had been an interesting – conversation. Since taking over Archangel's position, he'd made it his business to know as much as possible about Stringfellow Hawke, reading and re-reading the computer files and paper documents. He was an incredible man, who'd only gotten away with the incredibly ballsy feat of stealing a billion-dollar piece of government equipment because Archangel had decided to turn a blind eye (in this case, literally) to Hawke's sheer blazing temerity, provided that every so often Hawke used Airwolf to do a job or two for him.

To Locke's mind, Archangel had been far too lenient with the man. There had been any number of times that he could have easily regained control of the helicopter. True, Hawke was a brilliant pilot, and a daring and lucky agent. But he didn't merit the kid-glove treatment he'd gotten from Archangel. The Deputy Director should have really put some effort into finding Airwolf and pulled the rug out from under Stringfellow Hawke. The fact that he hadn't was the main reason why he was currently warming a chair over seven thousand miles away.

Jason Locke didn't intend to repeat that mistake. Not that he was worried about being sent in disgrace to a Far Eastern purgatory of a job. He had ambitions other than climbing the ladder at the Firm. And he had two men who were going to help him achieve those ambitions. One was in California. The other was in Burma.

The door opened again. The man who strode in buoyantly was about Hawke's age, but that was the extent of any similarity. Locke's new visitor was blond, with a ready smile and cherubically innocent face that suggested complete trustworthiness and a penchant for helping little old ladies across the road.

Looks could be so deceiving.

"Major Rivers," said Locke, without lowering his gaze from the ceiling, "before coming into my office, would a polite knock be too much to ask for?"

"I suppose not. I just figured you'd want to know that I found it."

"Found what?"

"Airwolf."

That got Locke's attention.

"Where is it?"

Rivers had no intention of letting his moment of glory be hurried.

"Well, I had a hundred possibilities from multispectral sweeps – but the key was high resolution photographs and a bit of keen logic."

"Uh huh."

"You see, they've been in and out of their lair so often that I figured their prop wash must have formed a distinct pattern in the landscape. I compared recent satellite photos with the ones that Bogard took a couple of years ago - and here it is. Well, almost."

"Almost?"

"I've narrowed it down to three possibilities. It's got to be one of them." He produced a topographical map of California, which he opened with a flourish on Locke's desk. "Here, in the so-called Valley of the Gods. Here, in the Crystal Sands desert. Or here, about a hundred miles to the southwest."

Locke peered at the map. "So, in other words, you haven't found it."

"O ye of little faith. By this time tomorrow, she'll be in our hands."

"She'd better be. You've already spent nearly two months on this. Rivers, do you believe in coincidence?"

"Of course. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, and all that."

"I don't." Locke laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back, staring once more at the ceiling. "Not in this business. But I had a visitor just before you showed up. Stringfellow Hawke."

Rivers winced. "That must not have been a fun meeting."

"Not particularly, no. But the odd thing was that Mr. Hawke had just received something in the mail today. Almost like a sign from heaven, telling him not only that his precious brother is still alive, but where he is."

Rivers looked relieved. "So the tape finally got to him!"

"No. No, it wasn't the goddamned tape." Locke dropped his hands and straightened, glaring at the other man. "I still don't know what happened to that. Bouchard said it got sent out. It should have been delivered weeks ago."

"So if it wasn't the tape, what was it?"

"His brother's high school ring," grated Locke.

"His what?" Rivers stared, then started to laugh. "You've got to be kidding me."

"It's no joke for Hawke, you can believe that. Fool seems to be sure that the ring belonged to his brother. Not only that, but somebody's conveniently scratched a set of coordinates on the inside of the band. He figures that's where St. John is."

"X marks the spot, huh?"

"Whether it does or doesn't, Hawke is hellbent on taking Airwolf to Burma, as soon as he can get her fueled and ready. So you better get your ass out in that desert as soon as you possibly can, Rivers, or that chicken will fly the coop right under our noses."

"What does it matter? I thought you wanted him to go to Burma all along. Bouchard knows Hawke hasn't gotten the tape yet, right? So maybe he decided to to try a Plan B." He grinned. "Just like you did."

"If the ring is Bouchard's idea, I like my Plan B a whole lot better than his. No, if we can get our hands on Airwolf right here in California, that's way better than letting Hawke go all the way to Burma. There's way too many things that can go wrong with that plan. The man's not playin' with a full deck when it comes to his brother, but otherwise he's a damn fine pilot and he thinks fast on his feet. Bouchard thinks he can take him out, but I'd just as soon not bet on it. You said this time tomorrow?"

"Sure. I'll fly out to the desert as soon as it's light, check out these sites, and scoop her up."

"You better be right, Major."

Rivers grinned, snapped a mock salute, and left. Alone again, Locke tapped thoughtfully on his desk with a pencil.

Maybe he should arrange for a Plan C, just in case.