Going Home II: Promises to Keep by Maureen S. O'Brien (email@example.com) [Airwolf doesn't belong to me. Spoilers for "Horn of Plenty". I haven't seen an Airwolf episode since 1991, so my dialogue, quotes, and information may be inaccurate to the show. I hope not, though.] ------------------------------------------------------------ But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep. -- Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" String flew above the streets. He'd heard the locals still called it Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh City. As he followed Horn's directions, he kept thinking. Not of the old days here, strangely enough, but about Le Van. Half Pint had lived here. It was a part of his life that neither he or St. John would ever share. St. John hadn't been there to be his father. And if things went wrong now, St. John might never be. He might not be there either. That sobered String. He had never really worried about dying, till Half Pint came along. ------------------------------------------------------------ One of the first things he'd done was to change his will to include the boy and arrange for guardians. It was like a chain of command -- first Dom, then Caitlin, then Michael. But Cait (she seemed to get paranoid when Half Pint was involved) had pointed out that if they were targeted, Michael probably would be, too. So, after numerous phone calls to friends who politely turned down even the remote chance of raising Half Pint, String had found himself on the phone with Caitlin's mother, of all people. Telling Mrs. O'Shannessy that they weren't planning on doing anything dangerous, or at least more dangerous than usual for stunt pilots. Assuring her that he hadn't any premonitions of death or suicidal impulses. Getting cross-examined on his theory of childrearing, diet, resume, future goals, and morals. And then, just when he'd gotten fed up and said, "I assume you decline," she'd said, "But of course I'll do it! That was never a question!" She then started to grill him anew. When he finally could hang up, he had started eyeing the wall. Looking for a good place to bang his head into it. Cait's hand came down on his shoulder. "Hey," she said softly. "Mom wasn't too rough on you, was she?" He turned his head and looked into her sympathetic eyes. "Does she always ask so many questions?" Cait sighed. "Only when she thinks she needs the answers." She grimaced. "Welcome to my family. Curiosity that just doesn't quit." That almost brought a smile to his face. "So that's where you get it from." "Yeah." The admission was a little rueful, a little proud. "But...why?" Cait shrugged. "Well, I've told Mom a lot about you. But there's a lot I can't tell her, and she probably can tell there's gaps. Guess it made her, well, curious." "Do I really want to put Half Pint through this?" "She adores kids. And my brothers didn't have too tough a time with her, so Le's probably safe.” She grinned. “But she'll probably want to call you every once in a while from now on, and she'll definitely try to get you and Le Van down for a visit." String winced. "Maybe I should ask Michael for tips on resisting interrogation." ------------------------------------------------------------ String came back to the present. Mrs. O'Shannessy hadn't been as bad as he'd been afraid she'd be. Cait had taken them down for a visit, and Le Van had hit it off with her immediately. She quickly became the next best thing to a grandmother. And although String suspected she had figured out more about Santini Air's extracurricular activities than she should have, outwardly she had reined in her curiosity considerably. And when Cait had called to see if Le could come down to Texas to visit, Mrs. O'Shannessy had flown up to Van Nuys instead. She was back at the cabin with Half Pint even now. He didn't feel nervous about her being there. Somewhere along the line (and courtesy of Cait), the O'Shannessys had turned into family. It was nice to have them. Now, if they could only get Half Pint his father back. Dom saw a certain look settle on Hawke's face. He cleared his throat. "We'll get him back, String." "I don't trust Horn. He could use that brainwashing potion on St. John." They were silent for a moment, remembering together how he had shot Dom and flown the Lady to Horn's fortress. Caitlin, hidden in one of the Lady's weapons bays, had grieved, waited till dark, and come to rescue them both. She'd followed Horn's daughter to String had come at her with death in his eyes, and Cait had forced herself to throw him into walls while praying for his safety. Caitlin, too, was remembering. She thought of how, in the end, she had injected the untested antidote and watched him collapse. Breath stopped. Heart stopped. In desperation, she had performed CPR and watched it fail. And then, as she sagged across his body, she had felt life return to him -- as well as his grief and despair. He had remembered shooting Dom, trying to kill her. And Cait had held him, and told him Dom was all right. She had watched the openness drain out of his face, not knowing whether to be happy or sad as he put back on the mask of the man she knew. Then she had helped him steal back Dom and Airwolf. But Cait had also put dibs on Horn's daughter. She's mine, Cait thought with a fury that had only grown colder with time. Bad enough that her father used the mind control drug to make Hawke betray his friends and his beliefs. But how dare she use it to make String into her private little boy toy? What made it even worse was that the twisted woman had actually seemed to care for Hawke, maybe even love him. She just saw nothing wrong in taking Hawke against his will, as long as she got him. And that made Cait rage even more. Cait brought herself back to reality and sighed. "It'd be no fun to take your brother home all tied up, but we could do it. And some real doctor could give him the antidote, so he wouldn't almost die on us." String could almost hear her add, 'Like you almost did on me.' "Better to die than live like that," he told her gently. "And I didn't die. More to the point, I didn't manage to kill you. Good thing you're better at martial arts than I am." "Yeah." She did not sound comforted. As instructed, String landed the Lady in the courtyard of the safe house. It was really more of a mansion. It must have been built while the French were occupying Vietnam; it looked like it had come from the kind of movie that has Impressionist painters as characters. They would come out of the night, laughing and singing, drunk, bringing along the absinthe and some redheaded woman they'd met, serenading the rich people trying to sleep, before they turned and went home to their garrets. It was a shame Horn was here instead. He'd sent them a welcoming committee. Heavily armed, of course, and wearing the same little uniforms his mercenaries had worn before. Maybe Horn had a thing for uniforms. Dom was not impressed. "Lookit. The Banana Republican Army." Horn also had a helicopter on a helipad on the roof. But no guards up there. Presumably he didn't want the locals to notice the party he was throwing. Well, that's two of us. Horn had clearly planned his operation carefully, since he'd been able to catch the Firm napping in their own safe house. Somehow, they'd have to find a way to throw a monkeywrench into the works. ------------------------------------------------------------ Archangel muttered angrily to Marella. "Waiting for us! At the safe house! You know what that means." "We were sold out," Marella answered coolly. "And wouldn't I like to know by whom." "Well. The office politics *have* been getting a little nasty lately...." "I hate to interrupt," interrupted St. John, "but who is this guy Horn? I gather he knows String." Archangel shrugged and turned to him. "John Bradforn Horn is rich. Very rich. He wanted his own sovereign Caribbean island, and he decided that Airwolf could get him one. So he kidnapped and brainwashed String, got us to trade Airwolf for String, and had String shoot Dom at the trade site. But Caitlin had gone along, too. She saw what happened, hid in a missile compartment, and snuck out to give String the antidote when they got to Horn's little fortress." Archangel made a face. "If Hawke hadn't gotten himself into deadly danger, I probably still wouldn't know they'd taught her to fly Airwolf...." ------------------------------------------------------------ Cait stiffened beside String. He followed her gaze. Angela Horn was waiting to greet them. Now Hawke couldn't help thinking of the past. But he wouldn't think of Angela. He'd think of how he'd escaped. ------------------------------------------------------------ He was shivering. Someone warm was holding him. There were drops of water on his face. Warm drops. Salty. He struggled out of the darkness and opened his eyes. Caitlin's face swam into his vision, and memory fell on him. "I tried to kill you," he realized with horror. "I killed Dom!" But she did not turn from him. She held him tighter. "It's all right!" she told him, the words tumbling from her. "It was a trick! Dom's alive. He's here. I saw him." She stared into his eyes as if willing him to believe. Incredible relief shot through him. He felt his face stretching into an impossible grin. "He's alive?" "Yes," she smiled back. Dom was alive. And so was Cait. And so was he. They'd beat the odds again. He looked into her eyes and found her looking back. Something flowed between them, the same thing that flowed through every part of his body touching hers. Her face was tipped toward his, and her lips were close. It would take so little to draw her down... The way Angela did. He snapped back to the present, pulled away, and started to stand up. "Let's go get Dom," he said hoarsely. He strode out of his room -- a cell Horn hadn't had to lock -- and Cait followed. She had looked hurt for a moment, and String's conscience bothered him. He hadn't really thanked her yet for rescuing him and giving him the antidote, had he? And then, out of sheer relief, he'd damn near jumped her bones. Lucky he'd stopped in time. Cait was a sweet kid and a damn good pilot. She had a hard enough time proving herself to people outside Santini Air. She didn't need to get the impression that one of her friends only liked her for her body. His jaw clenched. God, he'd almost been as bad as Angela. He tried to think only of the mission, and harness all his feelings to that. But when Cait came up too close behind him at a corner, he flinched. He turned around and saw the sympathy and horror in her eyes. She knew. He went hot with shame. She knew, and she was being careful not to touch him now, because that what you did with someone who'd been raped. They got Dom out. He kept his mind on what Horn had made him do to his friends, because it was easier than thinking of what Angela had made him do to himself. They got to Airwolf, and he growled, "Let's go get Horn." But Cait looked back at him for a moment, her eyes feral. "Angela's mine." String looked at her questioningly. Was that Cait? Good- natured, easy-going Caitlin O'Shannessy, who felt sorry for guys who'd tried to kill her? But when Airwolf swooped in on Horn's car, Horn and his daughter Angela were gone. When they got back home, the Firm's doctors -- male doctors, luckily -- had checked him out. They had pronounced that he'd survived the antidote, as everyone already knew, and let him go. Cait and Dom both tried to talk to him. But how could he talk to someone who knew him? Cait left the phone book on his desk with a page marker at the rape counseling hotlines. But there was no point trying to call, was there? Who would believe him? The whole brainwashing story was too fantastic. And besides, Angela hadn't even done anything kinky. She just had made him fall in love with her against his will. But he couldn't feel clean, no matter how long he showered. Then Michael came to him, and offered a shrink who worked for the Firm. "He's cleared. You can tell him everything." "Cait put you up to this, didn't she?" String asked, angry. "No. Why would you think she did?" Michael's eyes narrowed. Cait came around the corner just then, and Michael turned on her. "What the hell happened out there that you two didn't put in the report?" Cait was obviously torn. But when String looked at her, she just sighed. "It's not my story to tell, Michael. And it didn't affect the mission." "It obviously affected something, dammit!" Dom hurried around the corner. "Michael, he won't tell me either. You're just wasting your breath. He'll talk when he's good and ready, and not one minute before." Dom got Michael to leave String alone, but Caitlin stayed behind a moment. "Hawke, I know you don't want to talk to us. And I can't say as I blame you. But talk to somebody, even if it's just Tet. Otherwise, you're gonna tear yourself apart. And you deserve better than that." She turned to leave. "Cait?" She whirled. "Yes?" "Thanks for coming after me." Her smile shone brighter than the sun. "Anytime." He had talked to the shrink, finally. But it had been a long time before he'd felt normal again. ------------------------------------------------------------ "Anyway," Michael summed up, "Horn's tried again since and failed to get Airwolf. But each time he's managed to get away." "So, basically, he's gone to the trouble of capturing all these people, just so he can get a helicopter?" "And a pilot." "Hasn't he heard of the want ads?" ------------------------------------------------------------ Hawke greeted Horn with a stare. "There are easier ways to get a helicopter, you know." "Ah, but few as satisfying." Horn smiled genially. "You know the routine," he said in a bored voice. "It was a trap from the beginning, Mr. Hawke, and you couldn't resist my bait. Now your brother is my prisoner, along with the rest of you. I could kill you all." Horn gestured toward his Uzi-toting employees. "But that would be too easy. So instead, I'm giving you your life, along with that of _one_ of your friends." Hawke stared at him. "Why? I didn't think you got your jollies like this." "I don't. I just want you destroyed. This seems like a good way to accomplish that goal. A little guilt, a little self- hatred, and you'll do all the work for me." "Let me live, and I'll send you to Hell!" "Perhaps. But first, I will watch you watch your friends die. All but one, that is. Choose, Mr. Hawke. Who lives and who dies?" Cait's eyes blazed. There was a very good chance she was going to die here. But somehow, all her anger turned on what Horn was doing to Hawke. Hawke let his shoulders slump, even though his face stayed impassive. But behind the facade, his mind was racing. There was no way he would play Horn's game. Horn's goons were outnumbered; the POWs were willing to fight.A few people would die, but not all. Besides, he doubted Horn was telling the whole truth. He'd want to save someone to brainwash into flying the Lady for him. So at least one of the guns was probably loaded with tranks instead of real bullets. But most of them weren't. And whoever Horn wanted to save, he doubted it was Stringfellow Hawke. Fine. He just didn't want to get killed without getting anything done. One person alone was easy to shoot down. The more attackers, the harder. That would give the POWs time to catch on and start turning on the guards. He needed help, then. But how could he give the others the high sign without being seen by Horn and the guards? "Let me say goodbye to my friends," Hawke said resignedly. "But of course." Horn watched Hawke carefully. He shook hands with Archangel. He gave Santini a manly sort of hug. Dom somehow kept a grin off his face. All the brooding stares and melodrama, just to tell us to be ready. String felt Angela's proprietary stare, and bristled. Dammit, you don't own me! Then he got an idea. Horn watched as Hawke came to O'Shannessy. He stared into her eyes for a long moment. Then he took her in his arms and kissed her. Horn didn't even have to turn his head. He just grabbed for his daughter's arm before she could reach for her gun. "Now, now. I said he could say goodbye." Somehow, String remembered not to actually kiss Cait. He hoped she could hear him whispering just above her lips. "When I give the signal, take out Angela. Then anyone else in reach." Cait felt frustrated. Hawke was so close. His breath was warm on her parted lips. And pretending to kiss Hawke and talking to him at the same time was not easy. Thank God for acting classes. "Okay," she finally managed, and Hawke pulled away, with one final touch on her back for encouragement. "How touching." Horn smiled. He was going to enjoy having O'Shannessy as his pilot. Because, of course, a man didn't say goodbye to someone if they were going to leave _with_ him. Hawke straightened to face Horn. "All right, then. Give me St. John. Now." ------------------------------------------------------------ Even as Horn was raising an arm to summon St. John out of the prisoners, all hell broke loose. String headed for Horn, slapping guards' guns aside and then smashing guards into the ground. Caitlin headed for Angela, practically flipping guards through the air. Hawke could be so thoughtful. Behind her, Archangel was demonstrating the many uses of a swordcane, while Dom punched out some young punk and grabbed his Uzi. The POWs began to fight, and more guards fell. Most of the guards were too shocked to shoot, Marella was pleased to note as she shot one with his own gun. They were too used to shooting the helpless, not those who fought back. St. John was having the time of his life. Good thing he'd done all those exercises in his cell. Horn realized what was happening and didn't stick around. It was so hard to find good help these days. Oh, well. Better luck next time. But Hawke saw him go, and charged after him. Angela saw him leave, and so did Cait. "Your daddy's not gonna save you this time," said Cait. "Why not surrender?" Angela's lips curled up. "Come and get me." Cait smiled back and moved in. "Okay." Cait reached for Angela's arm. Before she could catch it, Angela gave her a punishing kick. Cait stepped back for a moment. Thinking about what this woman'd done to Hawke wasn't gonna help.She couldn't push away her anger, so she let it grow cold. So Daddy'd paid for martial arts classes? Well, that could be dealt with. Cait stayed on the defense, avoiding or turning aside as many blows as she could. Cait grew calmer, making Angela angrier and angrier. "Hawke isn't yours. He's mine," Angela declared. "Mine. He slept in my bed every night, and he didn't sleep much. He brushed my hair every morning. He wrote me songs. He loved me!" She leapt forward and punched. Cait didn't stick around. "You made him think so," she said, feeling sick. "Yeah, I bet mind control did wonders for your love life." Angela attacked again. It was more fury than martial arts, but fury gave her speed. Cait tasted blood and started to feel like a punching bag. "I-want-him!" Angela yelled in time to her blows. "I-NEED- HIM!" "But does he need you?" Angela began to attack like the wrath of God. But then she looked up. The prisoners were winning. Her father was gone. Maybe she should go, too. She stepped back, grabbed a passing minion and threw him into Cait's path. Then Angela was gone. Cait cussed, grabbed up one of the ubiquitous Uzis, and ran after her. I could really use some coffee about now, Cait thought as she ran. My arms ache. I've got a fat lip. All I got for breakfast was some kind of MRE, and I couldn't even think about lunch. Plus I had to get up way too early this morning. She grimaced. Next time I go on a mission, I want the kind where you get to wear evening gowns. She kept running. Her stride was shorter than Angela's, but that came in handy for turning corners in the house. She was catching up. She was going to catch her! Angela dodged through a door and locked it behind her. That would slow the little bitch down. Now to rejoin her father. Angela smiled as she heard her pursuer try the door and then start firing at the lock. Too bad she was just leaving the room through another door. St. John went to bash the next guard. There wasn't one. He looked around and saw Marella. He waved. "Hey, we won!" She smiled with satisfaction. "Horn planned everything. But he underestimated all of us." Her eyes flicked past him. "There's someone who wants to talk to you." He turned. "Uncle Dom?" He found himself engulfed in a bearhug. "St. John! How the hell are ya, kid?" "Fine, if you don't strangle me!" St. John joked. "God, it's good to see you! How have you been? How's Santini Air?" "Fine and fine. I guess Archangel's filled you in on our little side business, huh?" "Yeah...when do I get to see this beast, anyway?" "She's no beast! She's a lady! And right now, if you want. String and Cait -- you met her? -- and a bunch of your people are searching the house for Horn and his daughter. So we really should make sure the Lady's secure." "No more than our duty," intoned St. John. He grinned. ------------------------------------------------------------ Angela slipped through the hallways. She could hear more than a few people searching the house, but she didn't worry. She'd be long gone before they came to this part of the place. She was almost there. Yes, just around this corner.... Her father stood waiting for her up on the roof by the helicopter, holding Stringfellow Hawke at gunpoint. Father smiled. "There you are. Come along, my dear. Mr. Hawke will be escorting us, in the event we run across one of his friends." "And then you'll let me go?" Hawke snorted. "I'm not that stupid." "Then I suppose I'll kill you now," answered Father. He raised his Uzi. Angela gasped. "No!" Father raised an eyebrow. Angela blushed but continued. "We've still got plenty of the mind-control drug. Wouldn't it be better, safer, to use it on Hawke now? Then we'll have the pilot you wanted, and we'll have salvaged something from all this." She didn't see Hawke swallow hard. But Horn did. "You have a point," her father mused. "And I suppose I could count this as one of your birthday presents." Hawke's jaw set a little more, and Horn laughed inside. This would also destroy Hawke. Enough with games. "I'll get the drug from the chopper. Then it's time we were going." Angela smiled at String. Gently, lovingly, with infinite sweetness. Hawke's face lost all expression. He knew Angela loved him. He remembered. And he intended to die before he went back under the drug. He turned to rush Horn's gun. And then Cait came through the door, Uzi in hand, and String dropped to the ground and out of the way. "Freeze!" she commanded. Angela froze and dropped her gun. But Horn was in the chopper and out of range across the roof. With a last glance at his daughter, he lifted off the pad and left her to her fate. And then, from the courtyard below, they heard Airwolf howl. She rose into the night sky on a whirlwind of her own making. She was a predator who fused power, speed, and grace. And her pilots loved her. Caitlin smiled and waved, but she kept her gun and her attention fixed on Angela. Y'all get Horn, she thought. We'll take care of his daughter. Hawke slit his eyes against the wind the rotors whipped up, and just watched the helicopter go. He rarely got to see her from this perspective. So Dom went back to the Lady, String mused. Wonder who's with him? Michael, probably. Wonder if Horn'll be smart enough to surrender? String shrugged and tied Angela up. ------------------------------------------------------------ St. John couldn't stop smiling. Nobody was looking at him, and if they had been, they couldn't have seen his mouth under the big black helmet he was wearing. So he just grinned incredulously. He'd started the day in a prison cell in Laos, the same way he'd started too many other days. Now, besides everything else that had happened, he was spending the evening flying shotgun over Saigon. In a helicopter with so many bells and whistles she wasn't supposed to exist. With Uncle Dom for pilot, and himself as 'engineer'. His grin got a little wider. He'd been praying for years, getting no answer except for survival and the support of his fellow POWs. And now, all his prayers were being answered with one big Yes. Uncle Dom was fine. His brother too; he looked like hell, but he wouldn't tell him that. And the redhead who'd let him out of his cell was String's girlfriend, it would seem. Good going, little bro.... And Marella. He wanted to get to know her better, and on the whole he thought she felt the same. Now that it looked like they'd survive, they might be able to do something about that. Yep. No question about it. This was the day that the Lord had made, and it was easy to rejoice and be glad in it. Uncle Dom had spent the first three minutes deactivating some little boobytraps they'd left for Horn. Then he'd let St. John in and started showing off all her bells and whistles. Just about then, Horn had taken off in his little helicopter. Uncle Dom had followed -- and now St. John would have to use what he'd been shown. St. John grimaced at the engineering instrumentation. It was a damn good thing he'd spent the last fifteen years doing a lot of memory work. As far as he was concerned, a computer was supposed to look like a wall; it was not supposed to be part of a helo. Radar was not supposed to fit into one, either. But at least he thought he could remember which buttons to push, when Dom told him to. ------------------------------------------------------------ String he heard an Uzi's safety click off. He turned around. Who'd come to shoot them now? But it was Cait he'd heard. And she had her Uzi pointed at Angela, who was still tied up. "Well, your father's going to pay for what he's done," Cait was telling Angela conversationally. "Now it's your turn. Any last words?" "Cait, what are you doing?" She turned to him, and he saw that feral gleam again. "I told you last time. Angela's mine." He would have understood it if Cait had gone into a grand fit of rage. He could have blamed it on her Irish temper and her red hair. But Cait was standing there, calmly proposing to blow someone away. She wouldn't even turn to look at him; she just kept her Uzi trained on Angela Horn. "Think about it, Hawke. Look at the things she's done and the things she helped her father to do. If I just get rid of her now, she'll never pose a danger to anyone else." "Dammit, Cait!" he objected. "Think about this morning! You don't really want to kill anyone." Cait's strange composure wavered, but only for a moment. "For her, I'll make an exception." "What the hell's with you? This isn't the Caitlin O'Shannessy I know." "Then you just don't know her very well," she said slowly, her voice as level as her Uzi. "Two years, and you think I'm just some sweet innocent kid who likes to fly. Well, that's not why I'm here. You think you're the only one who gets mad as hell when the bad guys hurt your friends. That's not true, either." String was relieved to hear her Texas accent gradually getting thicker and her voice sounding madder by the minute. Anything but that icy calm! "So let's get this straight, Hawke. Dom is family to me. Le Van is family. You're family. And anyone who even *thinks* about hurting y'all is going to have to deal with me! Starting with Miss Angela Horn. It's time for her to pay for what she did to Dom and you." String's eyes widened. That was the wildness he'd seen in her eye. The lioness defending her cubs, the falcon her mate. But Cait was starting to come back to herself. Maybe this was going to come out all right. "But she will pay," he assured Cait, while stepping a little closer to her side, and the Uzi. "Michael's taking her back to the States. She'll stand trial, and then they'll put her away for a long, long time." Cait grimaced. "That just ain't enough." String stepped a little closer, until he could put his hand on her shoulder. "Why?" Cait laid the Uzi down and finally turned to him. Her voice was weary. "Because the first time we met, you saved me from bein' raped. And I didn't save you." "God, Caitlin." He took her in his arms and just held her. She hugged him back, almost with desperation. God, God. Were all his friends as messed up as he was? Then she whispered into his ear. "Hawke, the name of the game is Good Cop/Bad Cop, not Talk Caitlin Down." He stiffened and pulled back a little to look at her. Sure enough, Cait's eyes were dancing. He felt like the world's biggest idiot. She hugged him again, as if to apologize. He looked down at her again and had to hide a smile. Maybe being an idiot wasn't all bad. They broke apart and turned back to Angela. String picked up the Uzi, carefully pretending to be wary of Cait. He walked over and trained the gun on Angela, but he muttered, "This is for your protection." Cait went back into scenery-chewing mode. Thank God for acting classes. "What did you say, Hawke?" she demanded. "I said she shouldn't move." "Good. Good. But I still say she's more trouble than she's worth. Her daddy musta thought so, too. After all, he up and left her first chance he got." Angela was livid. "He only left because he had no choice. He'll come back for me." "I don't see why. You're useless to him now." "That's where you're wrong." Angela pulled herself up on her dignity. "I'm the one who got him his contacts in the Firm. I'm the one who keeps the details of his secret businesses. I'm invaluable to my father." String mentally rolled his eyes. Angela must have been an only child. She obviously had no idea how to handle someone asking bratty questions. "That's what you say," Cait scoffed. "I don't believe it." "Now, Cait," String cut in gently, "I'm sure Angela thinks she's important to her father. Whether her father thinks so...." Angela gaped at him. "I am! I can prove it!" And, you know, she could. ------------------------------------------------------------ Few citizens of Ho Chi Minh City were still awake. But after a helicopter clattered over their heads, that wasn't true for long. Most assumed it was just something going on with the military. But those few who went outside, or were already outside despite the curfew, saw a strange sight: a silent black helicopter chasing a noisy white one. The white one tried to evade, sliding close to buildings and the like, but it was to no avail. The black one followed it like a tiger. But if few saw the chase, everyone knew its ending. The white helicopter neared the airport and ceased to bob and slide through the air, running flat out with all its speed. But this did no good, either, for the black helicopter sped up effortlessly and flew right beside it. And then the black helicopter made a strange noise, and the white one exploded in a ball of fire. Luckily, this happened over a remote part of the airfield, so that no one was hurt. Except whoever was on the white helicopter. The Vietnamese military was not happy. They knew it wasn't one of theirs, and they went looking for the black helicopter. But they found only that the black one had vanished into the night as silently as a ghost. Not a good thing to have to report. --------------------------------------------------------- Archangel, String, Cait and most of the ex-POWs were waiting for Dom and St. John when they got back. The first words out of Dom's mouth were, "He got away again!" "Out of a chopper in flight?" Michael sounded skeptical. "I got right up beside the chopper and nobody was inside. The thing was on autopilot. Which was why it started flying so straight instead of jinking around...so I had to destroy the thing before it collided with some plane there at the airport." "He must have jumped out when he came close to one of those buildings," Michael said glumly. "We may never catch him." Cait shook her head. "He's like a bad penny. He'll turn up again. And sooner or later, that luck of his is gonna run out." She brightened. "And at least we have Angela. She was pretty eager to prove that she knew all about about her daddy's finances." "That's the real way to hurt him," said Marella. "Horn doesn't have a heart, but he does have a wallet." String looked at his watch. "Hey, don't you have a plane to catch?" Dom checked his in turn. "Mama mia! If you hurry, you could just make it!" Michael looked amused. "It's the Firm's plane; I think they'll hold it for us. Besides, there are VIPs coming on board." St. John looked interested. "Oh, yeah? Anybody I know? String grinned at his brother. "I bet you know one of them. Just look in the mirror."