"Ugghh," came a dazed moan echoing throughout the cool dark tunnel, the scent of water merging with the musky, earthy perfume that traveled into the wind pipes of those trapped in this hollowed out layer underground.

"Dad?" came J's worried tones.

"Jake?" came the Agent's light inquisition.. Sitting up placed a hand atop his left temple, "Owh.. What happened?"

Modo smiled and helped the older Agent to a seated position," We were hit by an Air Raid-"

"Air raid?" Jay commented as he forced himself to his feet, much to his son's worry. Feeling a pang of dizziness began to fall backwards only to have his right hand, prop itself up on something sturdy..and..furry? "Woa!" jumped the agent as he jumped back. The character before him..looked like a rodent..but not like any mouse he'd ever seen. By her curvy frame, the creature was female, and only when she spoke did he focus his vision upon her eyes.

"We have to move," came the girl's order, " Big Brother's almost at the landing spot."

"Landing spot?" Jay heaved himself so that he stood straight and adjusted his collar. "And you are?"

"Kalikia, one of Ray's friends," eyes turned towards the forked tunnel before them," We have to hurry, if I'm not mistaken your friends are at the other side of this tunnel," she stated as she headed off towards the tunnel on the right.

Dark hued optics soon adjusted to the dim light cast by the luminous moss growing atop the tunnel ceiling, "How did we get here?" Jay prompted in unison with his son's, "How are you sure it's that one?"

Kali just sighed, "The air, it's got a lighter, dustier scent which means a way out."

Modo prompted Jay with a response of his own, " We'd fallen into an underground river, thanks to Kalikia we were able to find a safe way out of the river and into these tunnels."

Silence soon took over the cluster of characters as they'd continued their trek towards the outside world. It wasn't long after the short cross of words that the red skyline soon came into view. And just as the female reassured, Throttle and Rimfire were soon in sight. "How did you know?" came Agent J's surprised comment.

"Let's just say a little birdy told me," came the amused reply.

"Uncle Modo!" RimFire greeted with a wide smile.

"What happened?" the gray fellow quizzed upon catching sight of the makeshift bandage.

"No time to explain, the jet has already landed," Throttle pointed out as he peered from behind a ridge.

Kali's narrowed gaze soon caught a bright glint in the sky and nodded as the craft headed in the opposite direction.

0 0 0

Sorrowful eyes looked down at the joystick, her beloved jet was set to self-destruct within five minutes of her departure.. "This is Phoenix-1 over," she called through the receiver.

"Phoenix-2 here," came the male's response.

"Take care of them for me Blake," came the girl's order before opening a channel with the rest of her crew, "It's been an honor flying with all of you.." Hearing the chorus of protests broke in, " This isn't a good bye..neither is it the end..just the beginning of something totally new. We are Phoenixes..we rise from the ashes remember that. Blake, I leave them all in your able hands," she instructed. "All of you have suffered so much hardships because of my mistakes and my stubbornness.. so tonight I'm gonna wash the slate clean. I'm really sorry..for everything." There was a break in her words as she looked at the internal clock and synced it with her wrist band. "Set to four minutes," she reported." I've rigged my jet to blow should my plan fail..the Pacer is useless if its host is dead," she explained.

"Captain.." came Blake's stern lyrics breaking the hubbub of outraged tones, "It's been an honor.." he then addressed his fellows as steady as he could, though it was obvious he was fighting back tears, " We have a job to do, evacuate all survivors to Waypoint-1" It was then a younger female voice broke in, " Gun Salute!" and with the approval of Blake each of the six carriers fired a missile into the night's sky.

With the thundering echoes catching the man's attention, Kaito sighed deeply. Eyes focusing on the ship that now started to descend onto the landing platform turned to the girl who'd walked up towards him.

Taking note of the one passenger Raith drew a deep frown, "You said we'd both be leaving.."

"Change in plans love," came the dark remark, only to have his brows arched high as Ray pulled her weapon against him.

"You promised if I got you to your ship you'd free me of my curse," she spat, "I did everything you asked for."

A disappointed look washed over Kaito's features, " Not everything.." his eyes turned to his older brother who was still bound and dumped to the side. "I still don't have your heart."

Cursing under her breath spat, "There is no heart left to claim remember?" eyes narrowed down to a point forming a crease between her forehead. " You ruined it..all of it..you took everything away from me..you took away my humanity..you took away..my heart..turned me into a freakin weapon..all for what?"

"You won his heart did you not?" came Kaito's solemn tones."

Ray felt her heart skip a beat as a wave of doubt washed over.. she really hated this.. all of it. The idea of Throttle ever taunting her mind, did she win him over because of what had happened? Would he still have been with Carbine if..she.. Shaking it off cursed under her breath. She'd made it clear to Throttle that they could never be, and thus cleared her conscience. "You're sick.." she spat.

" I did this all for you.." Kaito drew a deranged grin, " You said I had potential..I just wanted you to see it.. Throwing your life away for the good of a planet that doesn't even know you exist..what kind of a life is that?" he countered. "No, I wanted to be great.. I wanted to be known.."

Ray felt a lump form in her throat, "You were great.. you were known.. Still are."

"But not acknowledged.." came Kaito's regretful tune.

Taking a deep breath felt guilt tug in her gut, " The acknowledgment you sought..had always been there.." her words drew quiet. "I don't know what kind of acknowledgment you were seeking, but you were top-notch in my book."

The man who stood before her softened his maniacal expression, "So this is what we ended up resorting to.." Chuckling darkly, "You're really bad at goodbyes aren't you.." Lowering his tones continued, "Even if I wanted to, the only way I could save this place is by taking your life..and we both know I can't do that."

Eyes widened at his words..her heart felt as heavy as a ton of bricks. Dropping her gaze drew a frown..the only reason she'd left him was because she joined the M.I.B. "I was selfish.." she sighed deeply catching the young man's attention.

" Yes you were.." came the harsher rising tones, " You still are." Even if his eyes drew in an angry accent, the glaze within revealed he was on the brink of tears.

Heaving deeply, Ray closed her eyes for the longest while, "You know what you must do..and if you don't..I'll find someone else who will.."

"I can't take you're life Rei.." drawing in a heavy heave added, " Sounds like you already have.."

"You were a good boy Kaito..what I'd give to see that light once again." Ray's voice soon rose with a steady hint of anger.

"We all have to grow up don't we?" winking with a sinister glint, turned to board his vessel only to pause as a laser beam was sent ricocheting as it struck the hatch.

"Ray!" came the familiar tones of her fellows. Surprised, Agent Ray whipped round wide eyed firing a few rounds to keep the group at bay. "Stand back!"

Kaito chuckled as he secured the hatch and started to ascend into the sky.

"Modo!" Throttle hollered.

"On it!" chimed in the gray Martian.

"No you don't!" Ray fired a round, at her quarry's robotic arm causing it to stall.

"Woa!" Modo jumped back in surprise before turning to find Kali opening fire at the human girl. "Wait-what are you doing?"

Kali spat, "Ray's not one of us remember?"

"But I thought you said-" RimFire interrupted only to dock as one of Ray's stray shots whipped past his head.

Jay frowned at the sight, what was this madness? Eyes zooming in on Ray, still didn't understand why she stood up for the jerk. "Ray!" he called out rushing towards the girl.

Finally out of ammunition dropped the small hand gun and took up her De-Atomizer. Catching Jay's movement, docked under Jay's punch at the last moment, spinning as she swept her leg causing the man to fall onto his face. And as the older Agent took hold of the weapon tried to force it out of the girl's grasp. Once Ray was overpowered he managed to shove her to the side. "This is crazy!" Jay cursed under his breath.

"You're crazy!" the girl spat as she looked up from the ground, "You have less than ten minutes to escape and you waste it here!?"

"Wasting ten min-" scowling as he spied the girl grab a small plastic membrane out of her pocket and pop it in her mouth. "What the hell are you doing?" He quickly grabbed the girl by the arm only to find that she'd bit into the sachet, spilling its dark red contents. Within mere seconds the girl's eyes flexed into catlike slits forcing him to release his grip catching Ray uttering under her breath.. "A life for a life.. my debt's finally repaid.."

"What debt?" came Jay's confused inquiry.

"He spared their lives, he was going to finish them off at Limburger Tower, but he didn't.." came Ray's broken words as she dropped to her knees in pain.

"He what? OOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFF" the older agent soon went flying across the sandy terra as the girl shoved him to the side, forcing him to crash into the speeding RimFire, sending both males sprawling and skidding across the rough surface.

0 0 0

"We have to stop him," cried out Ralph the moment he was freed from bondage.

"Easy there," came Modo's reply, only to find RimFire rushing out into the distance. "RimFire no!" he yelled as he sped off after his irrational nephew, only to find both the youth and Agent Jay sprawled at his feet.

"Throttle no!" called out J as he took after the armed adult. "Don't do it!"

As Throttle rushed to the scene took note of the girl who'd shot one last round at the hovering craft, whose engines went up in flames. "Ray!" he called out as the girl pointed her firearm in his direction. The girl was too close to the crashing craft, but for reasons unknown to him she dared not budge. She just continued firing at him.

"Ray!" Jake called out as he rushed passed Modo, as he shoved the tall figure fiercely. Life flashing across his very eyes, felt tears sting the corners of his dark hued optics.. He knew what he had to do..the very words of his godfather Agent Kay echoed deep in his mental library. "When the time comes..I trust you to do the right thing.." Taking up his De-Atomizer, stopped running and took aim.

"Ray!" Throttle caught the movement at the corner of his eyes and turned to find the young Agent J take aim and turned to face the girl who seemed but yards away. It was then May's words echoed in his mind, " A mirror reflection..would save Ray's life." Remembering the three silver bullets loaded them into his firearm and looked forward. The dragon inked onto the girl's frame seemed to be decorated with highlighted scales in three areas..remembering how May prodded his own injuries finally understood what she meant. "A mirror reflection.." taking a deep breath fired the three silver projectiles in the exact same areas he'd been struck and as the girl's body dropped the delayed echo of thunder soon followed. Throttle lept and closed the distance taking the girl in his arms cushioning her landing. A split second later a glimmer of light sped right passed his head striking the ground a few yards hither.

"Throttle!" yelled the panic stricken Martians as they rushed towards their companion's side.

Ignoring the echoes, Throttle propped himself up to find the girl dressed in a crimson glaze. Quickly checking for a pulse found none, and started to panic. "Ray..no..please.."

Jay soon took to the golden-tan character's side and took note of the wounds and frowned. "This just might work."