"Hold it!" a voice called from behind. Michael slowly turned around and put up his hands. Mouko did the same, though he chose to let his arms fall at his sides. The man holding the gun motioned for the two of them to spread out.

"I don't want you two near each other." he stated. "Just relax and follow my orders and you're gonna be alright."

"Your firearm?" Mouko whispered just loud enough for Michael to hear.

The other shook his head. "I used up all my rounds with Hunter." he said.

"Quiet!" their captor demanded. "No kibitzing. Just hold nice and still for the next five minutes." He pulled a small device out of his coat and pressed it.

"Then this is going to be very interesting." Mouko observed. "I assume you've never met Blood."

"Not personaly, no."

"What'd I just say!" the man holding the gun shouted. "No talkin' back and forth between you!"

"Blood will make sure our deaths are long and paiful." Mouko informed.

"In my experience that can be a good thing." Michael gave a wry smile. "The longer an opponet keeps you alive, the more chances you have to turn the tables."

"Make no mistakes, Blood doesn't. That chance might never arrive."

"You got that right." the third man lowered his voice for the first time. "You suckers are gonna be hurtin' for a good while."

The air whipped around them fiercely as four air cars landed hard, surrounding the three men. One of them was stretched while the others afforded only two person capacity. A man from each car stepped out, each brandishing a fully automatic weapon, while a tall man in an old style suit emerged from the largest one. After briefly surveying the two, he strode over to the man holding the gun.

"I got 'em Mr. Leigh." he said half-nervously.

"Good." Keln said lightly. "And what of Hunter?"

The other man shrugged. "I don't know, I think they killed him."

Keln smiled to himself slightly. "Of course they did. Here," he handed a wad of cleanly folded bills to the gunman. "It's a retainer," he said, "If you hear anything contact me immediately."

"Sure thing Mr. Leigh." the man smiled. "If there's anything else I can do, just let me know."

"Well as a matter of fact there is." Keln turned. "Room 416 at St. Claire Community. There's a man there recovering from a gunshot wound, make sure he doesn't."

"You bastard!" Michael breathed, Keln merely wiped his upper lip.

"Oh, and take this." he ordered, extending a small package. "You hit it against the wall, set it down under his bed and leave within 10 minutes."

"Right away sir." the man bowed slightly and took the small bomb. Michael moved after him but Mouko, along with the three guns pointed in his direction, convinced him otherwise.

"You can't help your friend if you're dead." Mouko advised.

"He's certainly right." Keln pulled a revolver out of his suit. "And trust me, you would be quite dead. Now, in to the car?" he suggested.

They complied, both being cuffed before entering. Keln followed, still holding his gun. One of the small cars took off first, followed by Keln's streched mobile. The other two took flanking positions as the group headed across the city.

"Well, we've got some time to talk." Keln smiled. "My name is Keln Leigh, I'm Mr. Blood's personal assistant. I advise you to be somewhat respectful in his presence."

"Now what gave you any ideas to the contrary?" Michael asked flatly.

"Oh you have a reputation Mr. Arkin." Keln chukled. "And you leave fingerprints." he pointed to the burnt out warehouse where the confrontation with Hunter had taken place. It appeared the fire had spread too quikly for the authorities and at least one building had to be semi-demolished to halt the conflagration.

"Just do as I say." he sighed. "He may be uncharacteristicly merciful with you. But not with you of course." Keln turned to Mouko. "I imagine quite a surprise is in store for you." A phone call interrupted, which Keln dutifully answered.

"Yes?" he asked. Then after nodding a few times, "Right away sir." Michael looked briefly at Mouko, who chose to show no emotion.

"Driver." Keln punched an intercom switch after he had hung up. "Change of plan. Take us to the Bergsen Ice Plant. Inform the other cars." He turned the switch off not even waiting for an answer. "It looks like Mr. Blood has something else in mind."

The convoy sped over the city, soon reaching it's fringes. In the distance could be seen a large processing center, well lit and mostly devoid of human activity. A high concrete structure, roughly circular, supported several buildings. A ship quickly took off, filling the night with it's loud noise. The cars set down roughly and Keln soon motioned for his hostages to exit in front of him. A man from each car was ready for them, each pointing a gun at a head. No sooner did a loud whine fill the air, followed by a deep and penetrating rumble.

"Ice freighters." Keln told them. "If it's what I think, Mr. Blood has decided not to be merciful after all." The guards pushed them towards a very large metal building. The interior was dark, while all manner of machinary hung from the ceiling, including a rather large sized crane. The structure had opened at both ends, allowing one frieghter to exit while another took it's place.

"It's mostly automated at this time of night." Blood called out. "Maybe a technician or two, but they can be persuaded to avoid certain areas of the plant." The other freighter had taken position under the crane. The machine wasted no time in loading the emense hold. The guards escorted them close to Blood. Half of his face was silhouetted. His dark hair swept down in front of the other half, making him look somewhat like a horror flick's depiction of the Devil.

"They export a lot of ice." he continued. "Of course it never goes through customs, there's too much of a demand. Even if it happens, that contingency is allowed for. You've been in space quite a bit, yes?" he asked Michael.

"About as much as anyone I guess." was his answer.

"It's really incredible out there." he stared away. "Very beautiful, but very dangerous. Something like an ocean. You have to fear it, though you may not even be afraid of it. Why did you come here Mr. Arkin?"

"Oh you know," Michael shrugged, "A vacation..."

"Cute." he studied Michael's rough look. "It seems you've had quite a wild ride, wouldn't you say?"

"Well it ain't Port Diablo, but I think this town's startin' to grow on me."

"As I've seen. A firefight, a fire...you've made yourself right at home. What would your superiors say?"

"I'm sure they wouldn't say anything." Michael said after a quiet pause.

"Right." he laughed a little. "Plausible deniability. You could've just kept a low profile you know. We probably wouldn't have caught an agent such as yourself. Then again, Keln is very good at his job." he turned to Mouko. "And you. You're supposed to be 'honorable' and 'loyal' but look at you. Allied with an ISDA agent? That's not your style."

"I've turned my back on no one." Mouko answered quietly. "My contract with the previous Don has expired, subsequently terminating my employment and any obligations to his organization."

"Your contract was not with the Don!" Blood yelled. "It was with the organization! With me."

"Had the rightful heir took over, that would be true." Mouko corrected. "But the throne was usurped and therefore the organization I was loyal to ceased to exist."

"I derserve to be where I'm at." Blood insisted. "Just as you deserve to be where you are, or will be." he walked over to the freighter. "You know what happens to a body trapped in an airlock when a ship leaves a planet? Say that airlock weren't fully closed, maybe with a six inch gap. Know what happens then?" Neither answered causing him to smile slightly. "Mr. Arkin, our experienced spacer? Well, it'll be a wilder ride than you've had thus far on Europa, I promise you that. Put them in!" he commanded.

The men moved in, two to each captive. They were led up a flight of metal stairs and on to the freighter deck where the crane was busy performing it's assigned task. The guards brought them to the hold doors and dropped them in. The hold was mostly full, except for an area large enough for one ice block. The crane moved to fill the last hole but was stopped suddenly. It retreated back to it's waiting position and shut down.

"You're not dying that easy." Blood called from the top. "Leave the doors cracked open!" he shouted to one of his men. "But make sure they close by the time they leave the atmosphere."

The doors were closed as commanded, leaving only a six inch crack. Blood could be heard, telling his trusted assistant to make sure the execution went as planned and to report once it was complete. The rest became inaudible as the freighter's engines sprang to life, deafening it's only two occupants.

"We've gotta find a way outta here." Michael fumbled for something, anything that could prove helpful. Mouko seemed at peace and ready for what awaited them.

"There is no way out." he said. "Only that small space and we will be exiting through it soon enough."

"And it's gonna hurt like hell." Michael told him. Not long after his words, the doors opened, revealing Keln's smiling face above them.

"You would've been a lot thinner, that's for sure." he said. Michael looked quickly at Mouko, who offered nothing but a half-hearted shrug. Keln motioned for two of his men to hoist them out. Upon doing so, their cuffs were removed, though the guns still remained.

"Feeling humane?" Michael asked.

"No." Keln answered. "Just loyal. You are free to go." he pointed at Mouko. "But you leave Europa at once and never return. Keep a low profile." Mouko walked backwards slowly, as if expecting a bullet in his back. When he was satisfied that Keln's offer was genuine, he moved quickly and quietly out the large hanger doors.

"As for you, you don't die...yet. My superiors have something else in mind for you."

"Dammit all." Michael said quietly. "Your Consortium Intel."

Keln proudly nodded. "It's a living."




Outside, the last air car pilot leaned against his vehicle and lit up a cigarette. Why Keln had ordered the other two cars to escort Blood he had no idea, but the sound of a footstep broke his thoughts. He looked around, finding nothing but darkness. Blood would have to hear about this. No one, not even in the last 'administration' had trusted Keln. He took one last drag on the rapidly decreasing butt. Damn. Why did it feel like someone was sneaking up on him?




"So you're a good guy?" Michael asked skepticaly.

"Good, bad; I'm the guy with the gun." Keln answered. He ushered Michael outside into the now-familiar streched air car. It took of quickly, jarring it's passengers.

"What'll Blood say about all of this?" Michael asked.

Keln shrugged. "He'll never know. And even if he finds out, Europa would be better off without him." He breifly looked out the window and then shouted angirly up at the pilot. "What the hell are you doing? This is the wrong way!"

The pilot smiled and pressed a button on his dashboard. They were instantly seperated from him by a bullet proof slab of metal.

"Dammit!" Keln swore. "What the hell is going on?"

"You were good Mr. Leigh." Blood's voice carried over the speakers. "But you slipped. Eight years of working for the company and you slipped. You never should have retained the services of my men." he laughed slightly. "You see, you might have offered them money or threatened them, but they'll always obey me. I'm the boss after all." Keln slammed his fist into the side of the car. Michael smiled.

"Now who didn't see that coming?"

"Just shut up." he commanded.

"How appropriate." he observed. "The betrayer has been betrayed."

"This isn't over." Keln returned. He took a quarter-sized object out of his jacket and placed it in his mouth. Michael raised an eyebrow but thought it better not to comment. The car landed once again, this time on top of Blood's estate. The door opened, revealing three armed guards.

"Drop it." one of them commanded. Keln did as he was told and stepped out of the car. Michael followed, taking as fast a look at their surroundings as possible. They were on top of a tall building. It stood out like an island, being allowed more room then any of the others. Europa's inpromtu sun, a fusion lamp, had just started to rise. A blue shawdow rested on everything around them, adding an almost magical glow to the city. The lowest depths, however, were still as black as night. Mouko watched from his pilot's seat. To give away his presence so soon could be disasterous. He'd have to wait for the right moment.

"In to the elevator." the same guard ordered. The compact lift took them directly to Blood's office, where a receptionist was waiting to show them in. Blood was in front of his window, wearing a black suit. His hair was pulled back into a pony tail and two more men were on either side of his desk. He ordered the others out.

"You know I never trusted you Keln." Blood said. "You were always too...damn...good. Training like that doesn't come from anywhere but military." Keln remained silent in the face of his employer's rebuke. "At least you kept Arkin alive. I suppose we'll have to track down Mouko ourselves."

"You'll never find him." Michael added. "He's better then you." Keln caught on and moved his hand slowly up to his pocket watch.

"Better than me?" Blood was poised to loose his calm exterior.

"For one," Michael counted off on his fingers, "He hasn't backstabbed everyone who helped him to get where he is..."

"You underestimate him and besides disposing of one's enemies has to be done." Blood defended.

"Yes, I'd imagine a man like you would have few enemies."

"A good man has few enemies. A ruthless man has none." Blood corrected.

"Except that Mouko has earned what he is." Michael smiled mischeviously.

"And I haven't?" Blood slammed his desk. "I deserve this as much as any man! More so! The rest of them were old and dying. This organization was dying. I'd be damned if I was gonna die with it. Shoot 'em now." he waved his hands in the air. "Nothing's too good for them anymore."

Gun fire errupted on the roof, soon followed by a few screams. Keln took advantage of the distraction, spitting out the object he'd been concealing in his mouth. Blood saw the small disk land near the side of the room and dashed under his desk. Keln pushed Michael down under himself and pressed a button on the top of his watch. The explosion killed one man and knocked the other off his feet. Michael jumped up immediatly and ran for the dead guard's gun. All of the windows had shattered, leaving broken glass throughout the room. Blood's desk had survived the impact, however and Blood quickly pulled himself out from behind, holding a gun at Michael.

"Who first? The traitor?" he pointed at Keln's motionless form. "Or the government pawn..." His words were cut short, however, by the sound of the elevator. Mouko stepped out, blood on his neck and face. His left arm had been shot, several times. Blood fired two bullets, one of which missed. The other hit Mouko in his left shoulder. He stopped, almost falling back but his face scrunched up and he pressed on. Blood drew back in amazement, firing another shot that hit on the right side of his chest.

Michael moved to rush on Blood but Mouko was quick enough to get between him and land an elbow in his chest. Michael fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of him, as if he'd been struck by a hammer. Blood raised his gun again but Mouko charged him, landing his good shoulder into the other man's stomach. The two flew backwards out the large window, Blood screaming madly and Mouko with no trace of emotion. Michael hobbled over in time to see Blood fall into the depths below. Mouko was barely hanging on. Michael reached over to him but his hand was ignored.

"It's always easier to just fall," Mouko quoted, "than to try to climb." He let go effortlessly, plunging to the city floor. Time stopped and for an instant Mouko seemed to float, suspended in mid air. Michael watched until the shadows obscured the assassin's falling shape. Keln groaned behind him. He had shielded Michael from the worst of the blast and was now too weak to stand on his own. Michael helped him up and into half of a chair.

"She was right about you." He said through gritted teeth.

"Easy." Michael told him. "You're in bad shape."

"Maria." he coughed. "She said you were a good man. A little rambunctious, but a good man. You got a good heart."

"What? When did you see her?" he had to hold back from grabbing Keln's coat and shaking him.

"We're sorta old friends." he smiled. "She called me about a month ago...said you'd be this way. She wants you to stop worryin' about her so much and focus."

"I can't." his restraint gave way and he grabbed Keln's collar. "Where is she?"

"She's safe. Just do your job." Keln's eyes closed. "Prevent the war. It's more important." he managed before slipping back into unconciousness.

Michael stood for several moments, sirens blarring in the distance but coming closer. His hands still clutched Keln, trying somehow to get more information from him. He stared into the rising 'sun', looking for some sort of answer, any answer. But the only thing he found was himself looking back, shouting to leave and find a quiet place to hide. He had to obey. If he was caught, worse things would happen on this moon than he'd ever experienced and the ISDA...the entire Alliance would be at risk. He ran to the elevator and rode it to the top floor. The streched air car was waiting and it took him only seconds to hotwire it and speed off before the police arrived.




"I don't know how you do it Mike." Lesko finished. "What else happened? What about Jay?"

"He got lucky." Michael sighed. "Keln had given that fool a dummy bomb. Some nurse found him smacking it against a wall and called the cops. Last I heard, he'd been tied to Blood's organization and is serving out quite a lengthy term. Jay was doin' alright when I stopped in. He made me promise to return soon though..." he held his head in his hands.

"How fitting. You sure that the Consortium is completely unaware that you were involved?"

"As far as I know. Keln seemed like he was loyal to someone more important than the Consortium."

"Let's hope so." he put a hand to his face. "Why don't you take a nap, a drink and for God's sake take a shower and then the week? I'll call you if it's important."

Michael made to leave but stopped short of the door. "That's reminds me." he said to Lesko. "What about my briefing on the computer problems here at headquarters?"

Sarah jumped up with a start. "I think I have...um...some...letters to type...up." She rushed passed Michael, nearly knocking him over.

Lesko laughed. "Give it time, she'll warm up to you. So will your parnter."

"What?" he almost yelled.

"Would you get going? You smell horrible." Lesko waved him off.

Michael held a puzzled expression and shook his head. "That is not funny. You had better not." he warned.

But Lesko refused to comment further, choosing rather to smile and look out at the many things happening on Lake August. Michael left and found himself walking to the Agency's central garden. It was unusually deserted and he didn't have to try too hard to find a quiet place to relax and stare at the picture Jay had given him.




...I DON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER







To: Police Chief Simons

Dear Sir,

Though an investigation is sure to continue on well into the coming year (not by us of course), our initial analysis of the last week's events is concluded. It is certain that the the criminal boss known as 'Blood' is dead. His body, what's left of it, was found outside his own building. It's surmised that he fell from the window of his office after the explosion of a small grenade. A CI agent was at the scene (he'd been under cover) but was unable to fill us in on all the details, seeing as the explosion had knocked him clean out.

One of the guards, the other had been killed, reports that another man was present and that he had been identified as an ISDA agent. On this matter too, the Intel officer has proved to be of no help. He strictly denies any involvment by the ISDA and attributes all of this to an assassin that Blood had unsuccessfuly tried to terminate. Again this report is unsubstantiated, seeing as no one matching his description was ever found, dead or otherwise.

It is of interest that a small repulsor-shute was discovered ten feet from the mafioso's body. My tech experts tell me it's not of a design that could adequately support a large man nor even an anverage size one. This allows only for the possibility of someone either small in size or of average size with a very lean build. However, Consortium Intelligence has officialy taken over the investigation and I suspect we'll never know all of what really happened six days ago.

Sincerely,

Detective Jon Hoskins