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  1. #1
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    Knight of the Pretender (crossover)

    Author: Phoenixnz
    Title: Knight of the Pretender
    Fandoms: Pretender, Knight Rider (some hints of Smallville)
    Pairing: Michael Knight/Jane (the Pretender)
    Characters: Michael Knight, Jane, KITT, Sarah Graiman, Zoe, Billy, Jarod
    Rating: PG13 to Adult
    Disclaimer: I don't own the characters - but if I did, Knight Rider would still be on screen if I had any say in it. Jane and any other original characters are mine though.

    Summary: Jarod assigns Jane to protect a federal witness after a friend asks for the Foundation's help when they suspect there is a mole in a combined ATF and DEA case. Along comes the Knight Foundation for Law and Government and KITT. Michael and Jane are about to clash.

    (Here is the link to the awesome cover done by ctbn60: http://www.kryptonsite.com/forums/pi...pictureid=6067


    One:




    “You’re the only person I can trust right now, Jarod.”

    Jarod looked at the red-haired woman on the screen. He’d known Jenna McGann for about ten years, ever since he’d helped reunite her with her daughter and put a dangerous man away. Jenna was still with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. She was in a more senior position now, although she often said she hated ‘pencil pushing’. But she had one very important role in that position. Ensuring witnesses were protected.

    Now Jenna had concerns about one particular witness. A combined operation with the DEA, they had one witness who had come forward to testify against Sonny Ortega, a man known to be involved with a major drug cartel, and who had been suspected of selling firearms to terrorist organisations from the Middle East with suspected chapters in the US. But Jenna believed there was someone either in the Drug Enforcement Agency or in the ATF who was selling out witnesses. The case was due to be heard in the courts in a week.

    “Do you have any idea who your mole is?” Jarod asked.

    Jenna shook her head. “I was hoping you might be able to use your expertise to flush him, or her, out.”

    “I’m more of an administrator now,” he said regretfully.

    “Oh?” Jenna cocked an eyebrow at him.

    “My wife put her foot down.”

    Jenna laughed. “Parker got out the whip huh?” Jarod didn’t like the implication that he was hen-pecked, but he had promised Parker he would not travel so much and he had pretty much done his quota for the year.

    “Something like that,” he grinned wryly. “But I can call in Jane. She’s just completed a job in Chicago.”

    “Is she any good?”

    “Jane? In some ways better than me. Although in some ways not. I warn you, she can be a bit, er, aloof?”

    “Thanks for the warning. Think she’ll do it?”

    “Yeah. She’ll do it. For all her pretence at being detached, she enjoys it. I’ll send her a message and tell her to come see you.”

    “Thanks Jarod. I really appreciate it.”

    “What are friends for?”

    Jenna smiled. If it hadn’t been for Jarod, she never would have seen her daughter again.

    “How is your daughter?” he asked, moving on to more trivial subjects.

    “Cassie’s great. Although she’s still bringing her laundry home for Mom to do.”

    Jenna rolled her eyes at that. Her daughter was in college now, staying in a dorm. Jarod thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t have to face that for another ten years. The twins were almost eight now and already made Jarod feel old.

    The two of them began swapping war stories while Jarod sent off an email to his sister to pay Jenna a visit. One good thing about being a former Pretender, he thought. He was a great multi-tasker.

    ***


    Sarah Graiman didn’t often get out in the field. She was far too busy trying to keep the Foundation For Law and Government in the black. But an old friend of her father’s had asked her to meet him and she couldn’t say no. Especially when he was a DEA agent. How her father had known someone in the DEA she didn’t know.

    Phil Cameron had asked her to meet him at a cafe in a town not far from central operations and she drove at a sedate pace. He’d told her not to attract too much attention, and in these small towns, it was so easy to get caught by local sheriffs wanting to fill their traffic violation quota.

    Sarah managed to find the cafe without any trouble. She had no problem identifying Phil. There were only two others in the cafe, and they were a couple. Sarah looked at him and he nodded.

    “Hello Sarah,” he said. “You look a lot like your mother.”

    “Thank you.” Sarah put her bag down on the cushioned seat as she slid into the booth. A waitress approached the table and she ordered a coffee.

    “Forgive me, Mr Cameron, but my father never mentioned you.”

    The older man smiled gently and put down his coffee cup. “Please, call me Phil. And I’m not surprised your father never mentioned me. The kind of work I do, the kind of work he did, it was probably better that way.”

    He watched as the waitress brought Sarah’s coffee and then looked at her, as if prompting her to order something else.

    “Try the apple pie,” Phil suggested. “It’s delicious.”

    Sarah noticed an empty plate on the table beside him and figured he’d sampled the pie himself. She decided to take him up on the suggestion and ordered a slice. Phil grinned at the waitress, who said nothing, just taking the empty plate and walking away.

    “Ignore Maureen,” he said. “She has a bad temper at times but she’s a real sweetheart.”

    “So, you obviously come here a lot,” Sarah said.

    Phil sipped his coffee. “Mmm-hmm. Anyway, where were we?”

    “You were going to tell me how you knew my father?”

    “Actually, I’ll do better than that. How much do you know about FLAG?”

    “That it was established by Wilton Knight before he died and eventually run by Devon Miles.”

    “Ah, Devon. Yes, good old Devon. A bit of a stick-in-the-mud at times, but then he had such a huge responsibility. He was charged with the care of Knight Industries as well as ensuring the mission statement was adhered to. I’m afraid Michael wasn’t always as willing to go along with Devon. Anyway, I met your father through Michael and the Knight Industries Two Thousand. Such a genius, your father. Of course, KITT wasn’t your father’s first attempt at creating a vehicle with artificial intelligence. There was the Knight Automated Roving Robot – actually the prototype for KITT and unfortunately, that one went a little haywire.”

    “I know all this,” Sarah interjected.

    Maureen returned with the slice of pie and looked at Phil. “You going to order something else?” she said sourly. Phil smiled serenely. “More of your delicious coffee Maureen. There ‘s a girl.”

    Maureen looked like she’d swallowed a lemon as she grimaced at him.

    “Anyway, obviously you know that your father developed KITT to assist Michael Knight in his work.”

    “Championing the cause of the innocent ... I know it,” Sarah said, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. It sounded so clichéd, so corny. Michael Knight had literally been the ‘white knight’ of old. Her friend, Mike Traceur, who was now going by his father’s assumed name of Knight, had taken up the same job.

    “Well, when I met your old man, I was a brash, young federal agent out to prove myself. Michael Knight showed me just how naive I was. Got into a real scuffle.”

    Sarah hadn’t heard this story, and she had heard a lot of war tales from her father. Phil’s eyes became sort of glazed as he delved into his memory.

    “Oh yeah, there I was, looking to bust a guy for the smuggling of cocaine – the drug of choice in those days, none of this meth crap. And Michael was trying to get the guy for the death of a little kid. FLAG was trying to prove that the guy was selling the stuff to kids on the street – and it wasn’t pure, it was just complete crap. Michael and I turned up at the same time, and we fight over who gets him. While we’re fighting the guy gets away and goes on to hurt another innocent kid. So Michael’s real pissed by this time. We both realise we’re after the same thing, so we work out a plan. With Devon, and your Dad, we come up with a plan to bring the guy down.” He sighed, reminiscing. “That was actually my first collar.”

    “So, the DEA and FLAG were working together back then?”

    “Oh, hell no. The agency didn’t take kindly to vigilante organisations, and well, while they applauded FLAG’s motives, they weren’t at all happy about the case. But they worked out some kind of agreement to disagree, took the collar and FLAG was never mentioned.”

    “Where was I when this happened?”

    “Oh, you were just a twinkle in your Daddy’s eye honey-bun. Or maybe you were a bun in the oven, then. Not sure exactly.” He shifted in his seat. He had obviously put on a few pounds since his days as a young agent and looked uncomfortable. “Memory’s not quite what it used to be. Anyway, your Dad and I got to be friends. Always had a thing for gadgets and KITT fascinated me.”

    “Really?” Sarah said, realising she hadn’t touched her pie, so intrigued by this older man. She began to eat, realising he had been absolutely correct about the pie. It was delicious. She could see why he’d put on weight, if he spent a lot of time at this cafe.

    “So why did you call me?” she asked.

    “I heard your old man died a couple of years ago. Real sorry about that. And we have a bit of a problem. Think we may need some outside help on this one.” He fidgeted again and leaned forward. “Thing is honeybun, I’m more of a pencil pusher than a field agent these days.” He grinned wryly. “Wouldn’t know it by the look of me, would you?” he winked at her. She was forced to laugh.

    Phil dug into the pocket of his windbreaker and took out a disk, slipping it to her. “Everything’s on there,” he said. “Keep this confidential. Don’t want the bosses to know I’ve sought outside help. Not yet anyway. Not until I’m proved right.”

    Sarah nodded. They continued to chat for a little while longer about her father and about his work.

    When Sarah returned to the SSC, Mike was just coming back from a workout. He was wet from the shower, his tank top clinging to his wet skin, showing his well-defined muscles. Sarah once more saw the military tattoo on his arm. She wasn’t big on tattoos, but on Mike it looked, well, hot just didn’t quite cover it.

    They’d grown up together. When Charles Graiman had decided to move his family away from the foundation’s home in Nevada, Michael Knight had agreed to send Jenny Traceur and their young son along with them. It had been for the boy’s protection, Charles had finally told his daughter. Michael Knight, or Michael Long as he’d been once known, had a lot of enemies, and the last thing he needed was for his enemies to discover that he had a family. He was terrified his enemies would hurt the only family he had left.

    Jenny Traceur hadn’t talked about her son’s father the entire time he’d been growing up. Charles had said it was out of choice. Out of that protectiveness. But when Mike had become a young man, her refusal to discuss the subject had torn the mother and son apart. Mike had gone off to join the army rangers, leaving his mother alone.

    Sarah didn’t know much about the senior Knight’s relationship with Jenny. All she knew was that her friend and now colleague had been the result of a brief love affair.

    She had once looked up Michael Knight and his history, in an attempt to understand him. Michael Long had been a police officer, working undercover as a bodyguard for a company when he had been shot by the woman he was supposed to be protecting. The bullet had hit his face – the only thing protecting him had been a metal plate fused to his skull – the result of a shrapnel wound when he had served in Vietnam. The woman, Tania, had been a high-tech thief, planning on stealing computer parts and technology and selling it to the highest bidder.

    Michael had been found by Wilton Knight and brought back from the dead, as well as given a new face. Another body had been buried in place of Michael Long, who was now Michael Knight. He was offered a chance to help Knight Industries by becoming the face of the new crimefighting and justice organisation. With KITT, he had gone after Tania, who, realising his true identity, had tried again to shoot him, this time through the bulletproof window of the car, a Pontiac Transam. The bullet had rebounded and Tania had paid the price.

    Several months later, Michael had encountered the woman he’d been engaged to before he’d been left for dead in the Nevada desert. Stephanie, or Stevie as she was called, Mason had been working for a lawyer when she discovered he was involved in some illegal activities. Her boss had tried to frame her for one of his crimes and Michael had begged Devon Miles to step in to protect her. Which had been timely because the criminal organisation her boss had been answering to had sent people after her. Stevie was taken into protective custody and put into the witness protection programme, leaving Michael heartbroken again. Thinking he would never see Stevie again, he had tried to move on with Jenny. When they’d discovered she was pregnant, it had been a mutual decision for Jenny to take the baby somewhere safe. Charles had offered to help Jenny find a place near to his own family.

    Michael senior’s fears had proved to be prophetic. Nearly four years after his ‘rebirth’ as Michael Knight, he and Stevie had married, with Michael choosing to leave the foundation. But just as they were married, his love had been gunned down. Michael had returned to his job, vowing never to let himself be that vulnerable again. He had visited his son a few times since his birth, but after that day, it was almost as if Michael junior didn’t exist. Jenny had been heartbroken for her son, of course, but understood her former lover’s decision.

    When Mike’s mother had died, Mike had chosen to take up the same work as his father, as the pilot for the Knight Industries Three Thousand, a more advanced model of the Knight Industries Two Thousand, which was still in the possession of Mike’s father.

    Father and son were still estranged. Aside from his brief appearance at Jenny’s funeral, Michael senior had little to do with his son. Sarah wasn’t sure if that was Mike’s decision or his father’s.

    “Hello, Earth to Sarah!”

    Sarah looked at Mike.

    “Where were you?” he asked.

    “Miles away. What’s up?”

    “I was asking where you were coming from.”

    “Oh, I had a meeting with an old friend of Dad’s. I just need to look up something. I’ll tell you about it later.”

    Mike shook his head and shrugged. “Hey, whatever.”

    Sarah called a staff meeting as soon as she reviewed the information. She had Zoe place it on screen.

    “This is Terence Hilton.”

    “As in Paris?” Mike smirked. Both Zoe and Sarah glared at him, while Billy sent him an answering smirk.

    “No relation,” Sarah answered smartly. “Mr Hilton is a witness in a combined agency operation to take down Sonny Ortega. Ortega is a known drug smuggler. He’s worked with a number of cartels, one especially out of Cartagena, Colombia. Both the ATF and the DEA were interested in Ortega for a number of operations. The ATF suspect Ortega has been supplying weapons to local chapters of Middle Eastern terrorist groups. Hilton is due to testify in one week against Ortega.”

    “What’s he to Ortega?” Mike asked.

    “Hilton witnessed the murder of an ATF agent who was working undercover. The agent was killed during a phony arms deal. Ortega did the shooting.”

    Mike looked at Sarah.

    “You said this was a combined operation?”

    “ATF had a bead on Ortega for months. Turned out, so did the DEA. There’s still an undercover DEA agent in there.”

    “So what’s the problem with the witness?” Mike asked. “And why are we getting involved?”

    “My source believes there’s a mole. He’s not sure if it’s in the ATF or in the DEA. But he wants us to protect the witness. Take him somewhere safe until he can testify before the Grand Jury next week.”

    “We’re not bodyguards,” Mike argued.

    “I’m aware of that,” Sarah told him dryly. “But my contact requested us personally.”

    “Why us? What’s the connection?”

    “He knew Dad,” Sarah said simply. “Mike, please, just do this.”

    Mike nodded. “I’ll take KITT,” he said. Sarah nodded. The information was already being downloaded to KITT’s system.

  2. #2
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    Jane pulled into the driveway of the split level house. While she didn’t mind taking on another job so soon, she was due for a break. But Jarod had said time was of the essence here. Terence Hilton was due to testify before a Grand Jury next week, and he needed to be protected while she went on a mole hunt.

    As she got out of the car, she spotted something odd. A broken window on the first floor. Glass was lying in the garden, which was bare of plants. Obviously the man wasn’t much of a gardener, she thought. Taking her gun out of the holster she had installed under the seat of her Ford Mustang, she slid the safety off and held it at the ready.

    She mounted the porch steps quietly, holding the gun at an angle, the barrel pointed at the floor. Slowly, she stepped up to the door. It was already open, left ajar. Glancing behind her into the street, she saw it was quiet. Jane frowned, not liking this at all. Her every instinct was on full alert. She pushed the door open wider, pointing the gun into the gap, looking quickly into the foyer, then turning around and pushing the door all the way open with her foot, letting it crash to the wall as she took in the scene on the other side. Nothing. Not even a presence.

    Still remaining cautious, Jane stepped inside, keeping her back to the wall, her eyes taking in everything. Nothing seemed out of place except the smashed window. She slowly made her way over to it, noticing as she did so that some shards of glass had fallen to the floor. But there was nothing to indicate what had smashed the window. Continuing to move slowly and carefully, she checked the entire downstairs area before ascending the stairs to the bedrooms, checking both rooms.

    In the master bedroom, she looked in the closet, eyes examining everything, then around the room. The bed wasn’t made, the linen pushed back carelessly. Jane’s expression was neutral but her brain was ticking over.

    ***


    As Mike turned into the little cul-de-sac, he saw another Ford Mustang in the driveway of the house where Hilton was living.

    “Michael, it appears we are not alone.” KITT’s voice was toneless as usual. One of these days, Mike was going to try to get Sarah to inject some personality into KITT. It was obvious he wasn’t making any headway. It couldn’t be his jokes, could it, he wondered briefly.

    “What gave it away?” Mike said with a touch of sarcasm. “KITT, get me the registration on the car.”

    “Already on it Michael,” KITT said, without a hint of pride. “The vehicle in question belongs to a Jane Smith. Date of birth, August 22, 1980.” He brought up a picture, obviously taken for the driver’s licence. Mike was used to lousy photos on licences, but even with a neutral expression, this woman was gorgeous! No, better than that. She was beautiful! And Mike had known a lot of beautiful women. Dark hair, dark eyes, skin as pale as milk. Damn, he thought.

    “Occupation?” he asked KITT.

    “Not stated,” KITT answered.

    “What about where she’s from?”

    “My information isn’t complete, Michael.”

    Mike frowned. What kind of person would only give such basic information about themselves? Someone with something to hide, obviously, he thought. He took out his gun. Better safe than sorry, he thought.

    He pulled in beside the other Mustang and got out of the car. “Where is she now?”

    “She’s upstairs. She is armed, Michael.”

    “Keep your scanners peeled. Warn me if there’s any trouble.”

    “Of course Michael.”

    ***


    Jane heard the car before she saw it. She glanced out the window and saw the black Ford Mustang pull up in the driveway. She allowed herself a brief snicker before she headed for the stairs. Take the offensive, she thought. She moved quietly down the stairs, gun at the ready. He was waiting for her, his own gun pointed at her. Pity, she thought. He was cute.

    “Well, looks like we’ve got a stand-off,” she smirked.

    “Guess we do. Who are you?”

    “That’s a question I’d like to ask you.”

    “Where’s Hilton?”

    “That’s another question I’d like to ask you.”

    The man looked puzzled.

    “Huh?”
    ***


    Mike stared at the woman. She was clearly telling the truth. She didn’t know where Hilton was any more than he did. He started to ask her what she was doing there when KITT alerted him.

    “Michael, there is another vehicle approaching. There are two occupants and ...” Suddenly the pitch changed to one more urgent. “Michael, they are aiming a weapon at the house.” Mike had mere seconds to react. He dropped his gun and grabbed Jane, forcing her down on the floor, yelling “Get down” as bullets ripped through the first floor of the house. Glass smashed, wooden panels were broken as they lay on the floor. Mike felt a sharp pain in his shoulder but ignored it, covering the woman with his body.

    ***


    Jane lay still under him, conscious of the fact that he had just thrown himself on top of her to save her life. She couldn’t help but look at his muscled body, feel the strength in his arms. She felt a small frisson of desire. It took several moments before she became aware that the shooting had stopped. The man was still lying on top of her. Jane began to move, then she saw a dark stain on his shirt. Blood.

    “You’re bleeding,” she said.

    He looked down at her, frowning. “What?”

    “You’re bleeding,” she repeated. “Come on. We need to get out of here. I’m sure one of the neighbours has called the cops by now.”

    She pushed him up enough so she could manoeuvre out from under him, picking up the guns where they’d fallen to the floor and helped him up, pulling him out the door. When she got to the driveway she stopped short.

    “S*it!” she said.

    Her companion ran into her and looked. She turned and stared at him, then back at the cars. His car was untouched, while hers was a mass of bullet holes.

    “Jarod is so going to kill me,” she muttered. “Second car I’ve totalled in the last two months.”

    She turned back to the man, who had his hand on his left shoulder, trying to stop the bleeding.

    “Let’s go,” she said. “I take it you’ve got a kit in the car?”

    He frowned at her. “What?”

    Clearly he wasn’t operating on all six cylinders, she thought. “First aid kit?”

    “Oh, yeah.”

    “Good.” She grabbed his free hand and pulled him to his car, opening the passenger door. “I’ll drive,” she said. “You’re in no shape.”

    “Er ...,” he began. She stared at him.

    “Problem?”

    He shook his head. Jane studied him for a moment. Clearly there was something odd about the car. Never mind the fact that while hers had been shot to pieces, his didn’t have a scratch on it. There was no way, given the trajectories of the bullets that shot up the house, that the car would have been missed. She watched him get in the passenger seat and she got in the other side, starting the car and backing down the driveway. She sped off out of the cul-de-sac, just as the police turned in.

    “Won’t the cops come looking for you?” her companion asked.

    “Doesn’t matter. I carry minimal identification in the car and they won’t be able to tell much from the registration.”

    “You mean like name, rank and serial number?” he asked.

    ***


    Mike could have kicked himself with that little slip of the tongue when she gave him an odd look. He watched her drive, hoping KITT didn’t give anything away. Obviously KITT had assessed the situation and seen that she was no danger, otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed her in the car, let alone driving. Mike was beginning to feel the effects of the bullet wound in his shoulder. He was definitely getting nauseous and dizzy and he fought not to pass out. But he was overcome with a wave of dizziness.

    He realised he must have blacked out when he noticed the car had stopped. ‘Jane’ was opening the passenger door and she was looking at him. He saw she had a first aid kit in her hands.

    “Okay, let’s get that shirt off,” she said.

    Mike didn’t move.

    “Come on,” she said. “This is no time for shyness. I can’t help you if you don’t help me. Now turn around so I can get your shirt off.”

    He did as he was told, fighting another bout of nausea.

    “Feeling sick huh?” she asked. “Yeah, a bullet will do that to you.” She was pulling off his shirt and the movement set off waves of pain in his shoulder, running down his arm. Mike hissed. Jane was gentle though, easing the cotton down his arm.

    “What’s your name?” she asked softly.

    “Hmm?”

    “I can’t just call you hey you,” she said with a smile.

    “Mike.” He gritted his teeth as she pulled out a bottle of alcohol and began swabbing the wound.

    “Through and through,” she said, although he realised she was talking to herself. “Looks clean enough. Don’t think it hit anything vital.” She looked up from her crouched position. “I can patch you up well enough to stop the bleeding, but I need to get you somewhere so I can look at it properly. You want to give me a little more information?”

    “Michael Knight,” he said. “I work for FLAG. Foundation for Law and Government.”

    She was studying him. Mike suddenly felt as if he was being probed. She blinked a couple of times, saying nothing. She took a gauze pad from the kit and pressed it on his wound, taking his right hand and pressing it on his left shoulder.

    “Hold that,” she said. Mike was too dizzy to protest. Jane took out surgical tape and a bandage and taped it over the gauze. Then she did the same with the back. Mike sat back, closing his eyes as she closed the kit, then the door. He heard her drop the kit in the back of the car, then get in the driver’s side.

    “Okay, Michael Knight. Tell me where to go. Or rather, why don’t you just instruct your onboard computer to guide me.”

    Mike refused to answer. But his mind was furiously trying to analyse how the hell she could have known about KITT.

    “Look, you’re just going to have to trust me,” she said. “I could have left you back there to deal with the cops. But I didn’t. So tell me what I need to know.”

    “Michael,” KITT said. “I do not believe you have a choice. I have scanned your vital signs and your blood pressure is very low.”

    “Well, and who might you be?” Jane asked the artificial intelligence. Mike just sat back and let KITT do the talking. He let the waves of pain take him into blackness.

    ***


    Jane glanced at her companion. His skin was clammy and he was extremely pale.

    “Looks like he’s passed out again,” she said. “He may have taken a harder hit than I thought.”

    “I believe your original assessment was correct,” the computer told her. “The bullet passed through the shoulder and did not hit anything vital. But he has lost a lot of blood. He should be taken to a hospital.”

    Jane shook her head. “No need for that,” she said. “I can take care of it as long as I can get him someplace warm and with a little more equipment than the basics. So, computer, do you have a name?”

    “I am the Knight industries Three Thousand,” KITT said. “KITT for short.”

    “KITT, huh? Well, I’m guessing you already know my name. So I won’t bother with the introductions. How about you take me to your headquarters and while we’re at it, put me in touch with the PTBs.”

    “PTBs?” KITT questioned.

    “Powers That Be.”

    KITT complied, connecting her with Sarah.

    “Who are you?” the dark-haired girl asked.

    “I think we can save the explanations until later. Mike has been shot. It’s not serious, but he’s lost a fair bit of blood. I’m on my way in to you. KITT is in control.”

    Sarah cocked an eyebrow at her. “And how do I know I can trust you?” she said.

    “Why don’t you ask KITT?” she countered.

    “Michael has been wounded Sarah,” KITT confirmed. ”He is, as of this moment, unconscious. Ms Smith has been kind enough to apply a field dressing, but he will need further treatment.”

    “Then take him to the hospital.”

    “Negative,” Jane said. “For reasons I will explain to you later. As long as you’ve got some half decent medical equipment, I can treat him onsite.”

    “Are you a doctor?” Sarah asked.

    Jane smirked. “I am now.” Sarah sent her an odd look. “It’s complicated,” Jane added. She glanced out the windscreen and saw they were entering a long tunnel. “Looks like we’re almost there. See you in a few.”

    ***


    As soon as Sarah disconnected, she turned to Zoe and Billy. “Find me everything you can on this woman. Use whatever means necessary.”

    Zoe and Billy set to work while Sarah waited for KITT to return. She looked at the woman as she got out of the driver’s side. She was tall and extremely beautiful with dark brown hair and eyes. Sarah was no slouch in the looks department, but this woman left her for dead. ‘Jane’ was all business though. She went around to the passenger side, taking Mike’s arm and pulling him out of the car. Sarah went forward to help her. Mike was still out. And half naked. But his skin was covered in blood.

    “What the hell happened?” she asked.

    Jane looked at her. “Mike saved my life and took a bullet for his trouble. Help me get him to a bed.” She turned and looked at KITT. “Keep scanning his vitals and let me know the minute there’s any change,” she said. “For better or worse.”

    The woman looked at Sarah, who was beginning to resent the woman’s commanding tone. And she hadn’t even known her for more than a couple of minutes. They got Mike to a bed.

    “I need instruments. A sharp knife, needle, thread. Nylon if you have it. Alcohol. There’s some in the kit. Cotton swabs.” Sarah continued to stand there until the woman looked at her. “Chop chop. He’s already lost a lot of blood, and he’s in shock. You want to make it worse?”

    Sarah got the supplies together and stood watching as the woman began working on Mike. She was starting to wonder if the woman was some kind of doctor. As she was stitching him up, Mike began to come around. Jane looked at Sarah.

    “Hold him. I don’t want him moving.” Sarah nodded and moved to stand beside Mike, her hands on his torso. “No. Hold his arms,” Jane said. Sarah moved again, behind Mike’s head as his eyes fluttered open and he tried to sit up.

    “Stay still,” Sarah said softly.

    “Wha..” Mike said. He suddenly saw that his shoulder was being stitched with precision. Sarah could see that he was still groggy with pain and he wanted to fight against the pulling of his skin but she held him down. After what seemed like hours, time dragging agonisingly slowly, Sarah saw that the woman was finished. She began cleaning around the wound and bandaged it again.

    “Get me the strongest painkillers you have,” Jane told Sarah. She nodded and went to find the pills, handing the bottle to the older woman, who looked at it, then nodded approvingly.

    “Mike,” she said softly. “I want you to take these. They’ll knock you out for a few hours, but it’ll give your shoulder time to start healing, okay?”

    Mike’s expression made it look like he had no choice. He wasn’t the type to sit around and be idle. Sarah watched as he took the two pills handed to him. Within minutes he was asleep, the pain taking effect faster than the medication. Jane glanced up at her. “I’m going to stay and monitor him for a little while.”

    Sarah nodded and returned to the central area where Zoe and Billy had some news for her.

    “Your Jane Smith works for a place called The Onyssius Foundation. They specialise in helping people who can’t help themselves. Her brother runs it.” Billy showed her the computer files, bringing up a photo of Jarod. Zoe spoke.

    “A few years ago there were all these newspaper stories about a guy named Jarod who would show up all across the country uncovering crimes, malpractice, stuff like that. Sometimes he was a doctor, then he was a paramedic, then he was a fireman.”

    “Yeah, but not all the time. One time he was a rodeo clown,” Billy smirked. “He exposed a paedophile as an ice-cream vendor once too.”

    “About a year ago he turned up in a place called Blue Cove, Delaware. “

    “What was there?”

    “A place called The Centre. It was supposed to be a think tank, some kind of research facility.”

    Sarah looked at the newspaper reports about the mysterious explosion at The Centre. Police had ruled it as arson, but no-one was willing to come forward and name names. Some residents did come out claiming some horrific experiments went on at that place and the bombing was just to get rid of some unwanted ghosts.

    “So how does this connect to his sister?”

    “Now, that’s an interesting question, isn’t it?”

    Sarah turned and looked at Jane. The other woman smirked at her.

    “Find what you needed?”

    Sarah looked at her, eyes narrowed. How had she known they were looking up information on her?

    “What’s the Centre?” Sarah asked.

    Jane kept her eyes on the screen. “All in good time,” she said. “Right now, we have bigger problems. Like who would go to so much trouble to hide the fact that a federal witness has disappeared?”

    “From what I saw from KITT, it looked like they’d been taken.”

    Jane shook her head. “Nice try, though. Guess they didn’t count on me getting involved.” Sarah frowned at her. “Okay, number one, the window? Smashed from the inside, not the outside. Two, there were clothes missing from the closet.”

    Again with the frown.

    “Empty hangers,” Jane said.

    “Doesn’t mean anything,” Sarah said.

    “Not by itself, no. But on the bedside table, there was a void. A thin one, about the size of a photo frame.”

    “What?”

    “There was a layer of dust on the table. Our witness was not the best housekeeper. I could tell that from the mountain of dishes in the kitchen sink. Like several days worth.”

    “So you’re saying he left voluntarily,” Billy said.

    “Correct. Which means Jenna was right. There is a mole.”

    “Jenna?”

    “ATF. Yours?”

    “Phil Cameron. DEA.”

    “The question is, who. Bring up the financials of every agent on the case. Both DEA and ATF.”

    “Why the financials?”

    “Playing a hunch,” Jane said. She turned and went to go out. “I’m going to go check on Mike. Call me when you have the files.”

    Billy looked at his two colleagues. “Wow, she’s er ...”

    “A b*tch?” Zoe suggested.

    “I wasn’t going to say it,” Billy muttered.

  3. #3
    Dee (Chlark Kenobi) BabyDee's Avatar
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    You've got me hooked from the first section. I love the development you give each and every one of your stories, and it just pains me that you don't make any money from it!

    Billy looked at his two colleagues. “Wow, she’s er ...”

    “A b*tch?” Zoe suggested.


    “I wasn’t going to say it,” Billy muttered.
    ...and as usual, your witty dialogue is spot on!

    Awesome beginning. So awesome in fact that I can't wait to see how you top it!

    Thanks for sharing, babes.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyDee View Post
    You've got me hooked from the first section. I love the development you give each and every one of your stories, and it just pains me that you don't make any money from it!



    ...and as usual, your witty dialogue is spot on!

    Awesome beginning. So awesome in fact that I can't wait to see how you top it!

    Thanks for sharing, babes.
    That is a huge compliment Dee. And it pains me as well that I don't make any money from it. I hope to one day though.

    As for the dialogue, another professional writer told me I have an ear for dialogue and it is what I excel at. So thank you kindly my dear. And thanks for reading and commenting.

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    Mike figured he was still groggy from the painkillers because this was a real trip. Waking up with a gorgeous woman looking down at him wasn’t something he experienced every day.

    “Heyyy,” he said, drawing out the last part. Okay, he was definitely in la-la land, he thought.

    “How are you feeling?” she asked. It occurred to Mike that this was bedside manner. She wasn’t asking because she was genuinely concerned, but just trying to gauge his condition, as any doctor would. Funny, he didn’t remember being taken to any hospital. Mind you, he’d been pretty out of it. Wait, he thought, as his mind slowly rebooted. This was the woman from the house. Wasn’t she like working for the enemy? No, that didn’t make sense.

    “How is he?” another voice asked. This time, Mike knew who was speaking. Sarah.

    “He’s still pretty groggy. Mind you, the painkillers were fairly strong.”

    “We need him back up to speed,” Sarah said.

    Hey, I’m right here, Mike thought groggily. He hated when people were talking about him, talking over him.

    “I’ll let him up when I think he’s ready. Not when you want him to be.” Mike could see the woman glaring at Sarah and he thought, so there. For someone who was supposed to be the enemy, he kind of liked that she was going into bat for him. He lay still as she checked his pulse and listened to his heart.

    Mike heard what he thought was Zoe talking to the other women.

    “We have the financials.”

    ‘Jane’ spoke. “I’ll be there in a minute.” Mike stayed still as she checked the bandage on his shoulder. Then he saw her glare at Sarah. “Make sure he rests. At least for another hour or so. And if he does get up, immobilise his shoulder. I don’t want him pulling the stitches.”

    Mike wanted to laugh, because clearly Jane didn’t know Sarah didn’t like to be told what to do. He should know, he’d tried often enough.

    After an hour, Mike felt the painkillers beginning to wear off and his shoulder was throbbing. There was no way he was going to be able to sleep after this. He got up, careful not to move his wounded shoulder. Hell, he’d been hurt plenty of times before – this wasn’t the first time he’d been shot, so he knew it wouldn’t hurt getting up and about. It was just a shoulder.

    Of course, he realised he’d been just a little complacent. It was surprising just how much the shoulder came into play in movement because his muscles practically screamed with the pain in every move he made. Mike managed to wrestle on a t-shirt he’d dug up in his quarters and went out to command central.

    Jane was working quietly on a separate monitor, while Zoe and Billy were going through some other information on the overhead screen. Mike pulled up a chair and sat down next to Jane. Well, it was either that or fall down.

    “How’s the shoulder?” she asked, without looking at him.

    “How do you think?”

    “Dumb question,” she answered.

    “What are you doing?”

    “Mole hunting. Your friends are looking through any communications to see what they can dig up. These are the financials.”

    Mike lost track as she flipped through each screen. His eyes blurred at the speed she was going. Was she some kind of speed reader? he wondered.

    “This’ll take hours,” Mike complained, aware that they had limited time, especially if their witness had been taken.

    “It already has taken hours,” she commented. “If I’m guessing correctly, Hilton is safe for at least the next twelve.”

    “What gives you that impression?”

    Jane looked briefly at him, her expression cool. “Because it’s our rogue agent who’s with him.”

    “Jane seems to think he left willingly, not under duress,” Sarah said behind Mike. Mike looked at his childhood friend.

    “What?”

    “Catch him up, Sarah,” Jane ordered. Sarah glowered, but said nothing.

    “You know,” Mike said in Jane’s ear. “Sarah’s kind of like my boss. She doesn’t like being ordered around. And you’re not making things any easier.”

    Jane regarded him with that same cool stare. “Sue me. I’m here to hunt down a mole, not play office politics with your girlfriend.”

    “First, huh? Sarah isn’t my girlfriend. And second, who died and made you boss around here? You don’t even work here. I don’t even know who you are.” He glared at her. “And by the way? You’re kind of a b*tch.”

    “Like that’s something I’ve never heard before,” she said sarcastically. “Just for the record, I wouldn’t have had to save you from bleeding to death if you’d just stayed out of my business.”

    “Right. And if I hadn’t come along, you’d have ended up full of bullet holes from that Uzi they were firing at the house.”

    Mike was aware that Sarah, Zoe and Billy were regarding them with interest, but he ignored them. For such a beautiful woman, Jane was kind of odd. But he was extremely attracted to her. Okay, she seemed to be a little older than him, and that attitude? Really didn’t wash with him. Not that he wasn’t grateful that she’d tended to him, and stitched up his shoulder. But he had saved her life. If he hadn’t been at that house when the gunman had hit it, she would have been dead.

    Jane muttered something under her breath and went back to the computer, going through the financial records. Mike sighed and stood up, ignoring the wave of pain in his shoulder and going to Sarah.

    “So what’s up with the ice queen?” he asked.

    “I wish I knew,” Sarah shrugged. “I don’t think it’s anything personal. She’s been like that since she got here.”

    “Who is she?”

    Sarah told him about The Onyssius Foundation and her brother, Jarod. About the man’s ability to be a chameleon and be anything he wanted. Sarah surmised that Jane had the same abilities, which was why she was able to fix Mike’s shoulder. It was hard to believe that less than three hours ago, Mike had been in danger of bleeding to death from a bullet wound.

    “Can we trust her?” Mike asked.

    Sarah shrugged. “She patched you up pretty good. What do you think?”

    Zoe interrupted them.

    “I think I got something,” she said.

    Mike watched as Jane got up to look closer at the screen above them. He and Sarah joined Zoe.

    “An email from a blind IP address,” Zoe said. She pulled up the message.

    ‘Deadline is two weeks. Must have package before then. Payment in full on delivery.’

    ***


    Jane read the email. It was dated a week earlier. It seemed innocuous enough. Anyone reading it would think it had something to do with a purchase order.

    “Whose email is this?” she asked.

    “DEA agent named Wilson,” Zoe said.

    “See what you can dig up about the sender.” She went back to the computer she’d been working on and pulled up Wilson’s financial statement. On his credit card statement, she saw a transaction for a company called Sun Holdings. It was the name that concerned her. As well as the total of the transaction itself. There was nothing to say what the purchase was.

    “Billy, look up Sun Holdings. Get me company records.”

    Billy quickly typed a few commands on his keyboard and pulled up the records for the company.

    “They have a number of business interests in the US.”

    “Where’s the parent company from?”

    “Give me a sec.”

    Jane got up and stood behind Billy. Mike joined her. “Found something?”

    “Maybe,” she said. She read the information as Billy found it. “Shit. It looks like Wilson’s our mole.”

    Mike read the screen. “Parent company based in Cartagena, Colombia. Looks like.”

    “I guess Wilson figured no-one would look too deep into his financial records.”

    Jane turned, picking up her gun and slipping it into the waistband of her jeans, then looked at Mike.

    “Coming?” She knew there was no way she’d be able to stop him. This was as much his case as hers.

    ***


    Mike sat in the passenger seat, fidgeting uncomfortably. He was so used to being in control, and he didn’t like someone else being the pilot. But Jane was a good driver, even if she did drive a little too far over the speed limit and KITT seemed to trust her. Mike knew there was no way he could drive with his shoulder the way it was. He watched as she drove silently for a few minutes, then turned in his seat and looked at her.

    “So why are you?” he asked.

    “What?”

    “A bi*ch.”

    Jane glanced at him, her face going curiously blank. Mike waited.

    “What did Sarah tell you about the Centre?”

    “Nothing much. Just that it was some kind of research facility.”

    “Yeah, and we were the lab rats,” Jane said.

    Mike frowned at her. There wasn’t a trace of emotional inflection in her voice, but he got the impression she was bitter about it.

    “What do you mean, lab rats?”

    “My brother, Jarod. He was taken from his parents when he was four years old. The Centre found out he was a genius, with the ability to recall everything he read and put it into practice.”

    “Photographic memory?”

    “More like eidetic memory.”

    “So what happened?”

    “They trained Jarod to put himself into the minds of others caught in certain situations.”

    “Like how?”

    Jane glanced at him, then back at the road, taking her hand off the steering wheel to gesture.

    “How do I explain this? Um, let’s say you’re one of the astronauts on the doomed Apollo mission. So the Centre creates a simulated environment based on the information they’ve obtained about the mission and they want you to figure out a way to get back. Jarod did.”

    “So?”

    “Imagine having to do that right from the age of four, when you should be out enjoying your childhood, skinning your knees, climbing trees, playing with other kids. Imagine being locked up in a room, told when to eat, when to sleep, introduced to concepts no child has any business being introduced to.”

    “Is that what they did to you?”

    “Yes, and more. Unlike Jarod, I wasn’t born in a familial environment. I was literally a test tube baby. They took the embryo my parents had had frozen and had it placed in a surrogate mother. When I was born, I wasn’t given a name. Just a number. It was the batch number they gave when they were processing the embryos. I was the only one that took.”

    Mike was stunned. He couldn’t imagine anything so horrible, or demoralising. Yet Jane didn’t seem to show any emotion about it. He asked her about that.

    “Right from a young age I was taught that emotions get in the way of your work. That I was not allowed to feel anything for myself. The only feelings I was allowed to have were the people I was pretending to be. That’s what they called me. A Pretender.”

    “How many others were there, like you?”

    “I don’t know. Jarod and I were the best, though. I guess it’s because we were siblings. Jarod didn’t know about me until a year ago. By then, the Centre was broke and in the hands of a man who used me as his own instrument of revenge on someone else. Someone who helped me realise what I was missing.” She glanced at Mike again and there was a hint of a smile on her face, as well as pain. Mike thought whoever this person was, he meant a lot to her. “He saved my soul,” she said.

    Mike let out a huge sigh. Now that he knew what motivated her, he could understand how she could be so aloof, so dispassionate. Not having been raised by loving parents, she didn’t know much about human relationships, other than what the Centre had allowed her to learn. He was glad the Centre was gone, otherwise, he would have done his level best to destroy the place himself.

    “Hey,” she said, looking at him. “It’s okay, you know. I mean, there’s no point getting angry about what they did to me. Sure, I’ll never be any better than I am now. I know that. But it’s not like it’s a bad thing. If I choose not to feel anything, I mean. At least I can’t get hurt.”

    “Are you telepathic or something?” Mike asked, curious as to how she could so easily read him.

    She shook her head. “No. I was just trained to get into people’s heads. I learn by body language, facial expressions, that sort of thing.”

    “I didn’t ...”

    “Your knuckles are white,” she said. Mike glanced down. He’d curled his hand into a fist so tight that his knuckles were indeed turning white. He hadn’t realised he had been that angry.

    Curiously, KITT had been silent the entire time. Mike wondered what his opinion of this would be. As he figured, the artificial intelligence couldn’t resist putting his two cents worth in.

    “Speaking from the non-human side, I believe it would be a mistake to completely cut yourself off from human emotions,” KITT said to Jane.

    “Who says I’m completely cut off? I laugh, I cry, I rage. If I get pissed off at someone, they know about it. I can still feel sexual attraction. But most of the time, I don’t see the point in getting emotional over things I can’t control. And I don’t make decisions based on emotions – I make them based on logic.”

    The rest of the conversation had to wait as she pulled in to the house Wilson rented.

    “KITT, scan the area,” Mike said. KITT complied as Jane pulled her gun out, glancing at Mike, then at the house, trying to gauge the situation for herself.

    “Michael, there appears to be a body in the upstairs hallway.”

    Mike looked at Jane and they both got out of the car quickly. Jane put a hand out to ensure Mike didn’t go in without taking some precautions. He followed her in, taking his own gun out and they slowly traversed the downstairs area. KITT’s scans showed no-one else in the house and they made their way upstairs.

    The body was face down in the hallway. Blood had congealed beneath the man’s chest. Jane took a pair of latex gloves out of her pocket and slipped them on, going to examine the body. She knelt down, lifting the man’s head and looking at the face. She looked up at Mike.

    “Wilson.”

    “F*ck!”

    Jane gave him a withering look, then asked him to get KITT to scan for the liver temperature. When he told her what it was, Jane sighed.

    “Probably been dead a good three hours,” she said. KITT concurred.

    “What does that mean for your hunch?” Mike asked, crouching beside her.

    “That either Wilson’s not the mole or he had a change of heart.” She frowned. “Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

    ***


    Jane had spent the good part of an hour at the crime scene, before they called in the police. She had needed time to examine the facts. When they returned to the SSC, she spent another hour on computer. Mike watched as she worked, seeing her get more and more worked up as the answer eluded her.

    “We’re running out of time,” he said. “If we don’t get Hilton back ...”

    “I know, Michael,” she snapped. He grinned to himself. Nice to know the ice queen could feel something after all.

    “Hear that?” he said, smirking. “That would be anger you’re feeling.”

    “Shut up!” She got up from the computer and walked over to the big screen. “KITT, run the simulation again.” Mike watched as KITT’s mock-up of Wilson’s murder played on the screen.

    “What good is this going to do?” he asked. “You’ve gone over this.”

    Even the others were looking at her and sighing. They watched as she began talking to herself.

    “No forced entry, so he obviously knew the killer. Question is, was it Hilton, or was it one of Ortega’s people? Or maybe it was neither.”

    “You know, it’s never a good idea to talk to yourself,” Mike said, noting as he did so that the others stayed silent.

    Jane glared at him. “Do you ever stop talking?”

    “Not if I can help it,” he smirked.

    “Well some people could do without the extra stimulus so they can concentrate.”

    “And some people need to back off and let others help.”

    Jane turned and looked properly at him, mouth open, as if she was going to say something cutting. Then to his surprise, she walked up to him, grabbed him by the front of his shirt and kissed him thoroughly. Then let him go. Mike was speechless.

    “Now,” Jane smirked, “if I’d known that was all it took to get you to shut up, I would have done that an hour ago.”

    Mike growled softly, glaring at her with a narrowed gaze. He heard soft laughter coming from the corner and he looked at Sarah, who was trying, unsuccessfully, to hide a smirk. Huffing, he turned and walked out of command centre.

  6. #6
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    ***

    Sarah sighed. She had just received some disturbing news. News that she wasn’t looking forward to sharing.

    She still wasn’t sure of the woman who called herself a Pretender. Jane was an odd woman. Yet something about Mike seemed to stir her up. Clearly she put up walls. Sarah was no psychologist, but it was so obvious. So what was it about Mike that seemed to break down those walls?

    Sarah continued walking along the corridor from her office to command central. Mike was hovering near Jane, not talking. Most likely sulking, Sarah decided with a grin.

    As she entered, the four present looked up at her. Jane could see from her face something was wrong.

    “What is it?”

    “Hilton is dead,” she said. “Police fished his body out of the river an hour ago. He was shot in the head.”

    Jane seemed to be struggling with her emotions. She glanced at Mike, then sighed.

    “I knew something was missing from that crime scene. Let me guess, he was killed the same time as Wilson.”

    “Coroner’s report confirms it,” Sarah told her. She watched as Jane got up from the computer and began walking away. Mike stopped her, but she shook him off.

    “I need to be alone for a little while,” she said.

    Sarah watched her go, pursing her lips. She didn’t like this new dynamic in the command centre. Jane had come in and just about taken over everything, as if she was the boss.

    ***

    When Jane didn’t return for an hour, Mike decided to go looking for her. The others were busy trying to make sense of what had happened and were doing the usual detective work. Sarah had already taken Mike off active duty for twenty-four hours until his shoulder began to heal, but he still couldn’t sit around and do nothing. Jane could be a *****, but she worked hard at what she did. He hadn’t spent the last three hours watching her without learning that. She had a unique focus and he supposed that had everything to do with her being a Pretender.

    When he found her, she was standing on the balcony of the big house they used as a base, overlooking the gardens. There was a glass of wine beside her. The light was just beginning to fade from the day.

    “You know, alcohol isn’t exactly the best way to clear your mind,” he said.

    “What are you, an expert now?” she said without looking around at him.

    “I’m just saying,” he said, hands up in a mock surrender gesture.

    He watched as she took another sip of the wine and stood beside her. He looked at her, trying to force her to look at him.

    “How long are you going to keep this up?” he asked.

    “Keep what up?”

    “Pretending that it doesn’t bother you. I bet you never failed at anything before.”

    “I’ve failed lots of times,” she said.

    Mike heard the words, but he also heard the pain in her voice. As if failure was something her people, the Centre, had never allowed.

    “What the **** did those people do to you?” he said.

    “Doesn’t matter.”

    He touched her arm and she flinched visibly.

    “It does to me,” he said softly. “Look at you. You don’t like being touched unless it’s you doing the touching. Unless you initiate it.”

    “Don’t try and read me. You won’t get it.”

    “Try me,” he said.

    Finally she turned and looked at him. He saw her eyes dart from side to side and he wondered if she was fighting her emotions. He decided now wasn’t a good time for a faint heart.

    Mike had been with a lot of women. But none of them had been as ****ed up as she was. Or as fascinating. She had, after all, saved him from bleeding to death. But she had serious issues, and he wasn’t sure if he could handle that.

    Oh **** it, he thought. He wanted her. He had felt that attraction, that pull toward her from the moment he had seen her. Forget that she was what she was. She was a gorgeous woman, and she appeared to want him as badly. Mike pressed closer to her. When she didn’t resist, he reached out, taking her arm just above the elbow and closed the gap. Still not meeting any resistance, he kissed her, his lips on hers, gently prising her lips apart. She whimpered as he pulled away slightly, chasing his lips with her own.
    Mindful of his wounded shoulder, Mike gently pulled her closer, feeling her arms go around him.

    Her taste was addictive. Not too sweet, not savoury, but full of something indescribable, yet oh so good. As he continued to kiss her, he could feel her opening up to him like a flower to the sun. And all her barriers seemed to come down.

    “Michael,” she whispered, and he decided he liked the way she said his name, her voice as soft as silk, as smooth as honey. He wanted more. He wanted to make her moan, and whimper and beg for release. He was hard. He’d been hard for her since the first time she’d kissed him. And he wanted her to feel the same desire. Forget this pretence at not feeling anything. He knew her heart. And it wanted him.

    Michael was so caught up in his own need, he failed to notice that she was trying to pull away. Until she became more forceful.

    “Michael, stop. We can’t do this,” she said, pushing them apart.

    Puzzled, he stared at her.

    “What?” Then he frowned. Was she turning him down? He reached for her again but she dodged him. He tried to pull her back, but then she smiled and took his hand.

    “Not here,” she said, indicating the open space behind the balcony. He understood, taking her lead and going back inside the big house, showing her the way upstairs to his quarters.

    Once in his bedroom, she pushed him up against the wall, kissing him hard. Not to be outdone, Mike pulled her top up, his hands on her hips, caressing the smooth skin at her waist. She moaned then, arching into him, eager for more of his touch. Mike let her explore him with her mouth, licking the coarse stubble on his jaw while her hands ran lightly over his cotton-covered chest. He moaned at the contact and she covered his mouth with hers, cutting off the moan. Her roaming hands found their way to his neck, her fingers combing through his dark blonde hair. God, she was so sexy, he thought. She knew just what kind of touch aroused a man.

    He tried to push, to turn them around so her back was against the wall, but she forcefully pushed back so his head hit the plaster board. She attacked him with her mouth again, giving no quarter, her tongue practically down his throat. But Mike wasn’t about to let her take complete control. He pushed again, ignoring the pinching in his shoulder, walking her backwards to the bed. This time, she gave in, letting him have his way.

    Jane fell on the bed with a gasp and Mike joined her, half on and half off the mattress as he kissed her back with fervour. As her hands found the edge of his t-shirt, he moaned at the brief contact of her skin against his. He let her go for a moment, pulling his shirt over his head with his good hand. He went back to kissing her, unable to get enough of her scent, her taste, her soft lips.

    His knee was in-between her thighs and Jane was gasping as his jean clad thigh rubbed against her sex. She was pulling him closer, rubbing herself against him, almost a dry hump. He knew she was wet. As wet as he was hard. And he knew if he didn’t do something soon, both of them would explode with need.

    Mike pulled at her top, and Jane helped him lift it up over her head. Like an expert, he flicked the hooks on her bra, releasing her breasts, sliding the straps down her arms as he kissed her. One hand covered one silky soft mound, his thumb stroking her nipple into a hard peak. She groaned gently as he took the dark pink peak in-between thumb and forefinger and pinched. Her body bucked, her back arched and he could see she was tumbling into the abyss of desire, unable to hold back her moans and cries. What he wouldn’t give to hear her cry out his name, to make her feel the same way he was feeling.

    Jane was a giver as well as a taker and he moaned as she stroked and caressed his chest, her hands moving expertly over his torso, leaving burning imprints on his skin. The need became more animalistic as she slowly but surely slid her hands down to the waistband of his jeans, moving to undo his zip.

    Meanwhile, her mouth had moved on from laying kisses along his jaw to exploring the area her hands had just left. He cried out, bucking as her teeth gently nipped him, then her tongue licked the same area, as if her tongue could dissolve those little marks she had left on his skin.

    “Oh, jesus,” he muttered, still not wanting to be outdone by this beautiful woman. Mike liked a woman who took control, but he liked to be in control even more. Even as she was sliding his jeans down, her hands taking every opportunity to caress and stroke him, from his ass to his thighs, he was using his own hands to draw moans from her.

    Jane turned, gently pushing so he was now under her on the bed. Mike lay back as she quickly removed her own jeans, straddling his thighs as she continued to work her way slowly down his body with just her mouth. He drew in a breath when she blew hot air over his groin, then pressed her mouth lightly over his sex, still trapped in boxers which were now uncomfortably tight. Mike groaned.

    ***

    Jane grinned at Mike’s response as she slowly freed his erection from its tight prison. His cock bobbed free, the shaft thick and long, the head almost purple with the blood that had gathered there. She licked her lips at the beads of pre-cum sitting there, moistening the tip, but she waited for a signal from him. It wasn’t long before he gave it, thrusting his hips up in unspoken demand. Jane didn’t keep him waiting, licking slowly from the bottom of his shaft to the top in one stroke. He gasped as she curled her tongue around the head, licking his juices, tonguing the slit as her fingers pulled the foreskin down.

    “Please,” he muttered, thrusting his hips up again. Jane took the head into her mouth, slowly but surely swallowing, taking all of him in. Her tongue slid smoothly against his shaft as she sucked and he gave an inarticulate moan. Before he could climax, she let him go, her mouth coming off him with a soft plop. He protested at that, but Jane had other plans.

    She moved up his body, straddling his hips, and he looked at her, his eyes questioning. With what could only be an evil smirk, Jane reached down to cup her own sex and began stroking her clit. Mike growled, grabbing her hips and pulling her up so she was almost sitting astride his head. Controlling her movements, he lifted his head and sucked her clit into his mouth. Jane threw her head back, lost in the sensations as he alternately licked and sucked, feeling her own climax building as he finally thrust his tongue inside her.

    She shuddered, moaning, and knowing she would come too soon if he kept this up, she pushed off him.
    Mike glared at her in protest. She looked back at him, raising an eyebrow at him.

    “Night stand,” he muttered. She reached over and looked in the drawer, taking out the loose foil packet and opening it with her teeth. Mike took the condom from her and sat up, putting it on quickly. Once he was done, Jane straddled him again, pushing him back down on the bed as she moved herself into position. Mike’s hands on her hips guided her and she sat just above him, his tip at her entrance. Jane glanced at him, then slammed herself down on him.

    “****!” he cried, obviously not expecting that. But Jane was beyond caring as she felt him fill her. She pulled herself up again, just enough so his tip was the only part inside her, then slammed down again. Mike reached up to try and control the momentum but she wouldn’t let him. She pulled him up, kissing him hard on the mouth. As her nearing climax shook her body, Jane clung to him, crying out.

    “Michael,” she cried as he began to match her thrusts with his own. Her muscles clenched around him, milking him and he groaned loudly. She was unable to hold back her own cries as the tide washed over her. Faster and faster it built, pushing her to the edge until she screamed and went over, taking him with her. Spent, she collapsed against him, panting. Mike kissed her gently, pushing her hair out of her face. She closed her eyes and settled, her head on his chest as he pulled the cover over their nakedness.

    When Jane awoke later, he was still asleep. Grinning, she touched her finger to his lip, brushing it along the fullness. He jerked away in his sleep, then came awake. His brown eyes looked down at her.

    “Hey,” he said softly.

    “Hey yourself.”

    She felt a rumble start and at first wasn’t sure what it was, until Mike’s stomach growled. She started to laugh.

    “Oh my god, was that you?” she said. He grinned.

    “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”

    “Starving,” she grinned back, giving him a look that meant ‘not just for food’.

    They got up and dressed, knowing exactly what the rest of the team would say if they went into the kitchen naked, or only half-dressed. And Jane guessed the last thing Mike wanted was to be teased by his co-workers.

    In the kitchen, Jane watched as Mike found eggs, milk, cheese, tomatoes, peppers and onions, putting them all together to make omelets. Then he served them at the small table. Jane tasted hers.

    “Wow, this is amazing,” she said.

    “Don’t sound so surprised.”

    “Actually, I’m not. They taught you pretty well in the Army Rangers, didn’t they?”

    “How do you know I was in the Rangers?” he asked.

    Jane indicated his tattoo with her fork. “Plus, the whole name, rank and serial number remark.”

    Mike grinned. “Yeah, dead giveaway.” He chewed thoughtfully. “So, when you were at this place, the Centre, what was it like?”

    She shrugged. “Like a prison. No windows – I was never allowed outside. If I needed exercise, they had equipment set up. So I didn’t know about anything like what it felt like to have the sun on your face, or how cold it could get when it snowed. They didn’t teach me about anything like Christmas, and I didn’t celebrate my birthday until I left.”

    “Sounds harsh.”

    “Yeah, but when you don’t know what you’re missing, you just accept it as your life, you know?”

    “So, how did you get out?”

    “A couple of years ago, the Centre sold off all its assets.” She emphasised the last word by holding her fingers up in air quotation marks. “That included me. I was brought to Delaware and made to work for the new owner. He sent me to kidnap someone and then watch as he tortured him for information.”

    “Did that bother you?”

    “It wouldn’t have, except for Clark.”

    “Clark?”

    She looked at him. “The guy I kidnapped. He tried to talk to me, to get through to me. He was the one who gave me my name.”

    Mike frowned, puzzled. “What do you mean, he gave you your name?”

    “Well, like I said, I was just a number to the Centre. Sydney used to tell me it’s what they did in Nazi Germany. It’s a form of dehumanization.”

    “Sydney?”

    Jane rolled her eyes and snickered. “Sorry. He’s sort of my therapist. When I first left the Centre, my brother arranged for some pretty intensive therapy for me. Sydney was his teacher in the Centre.”

    “Oh, I get it. So, back to Clark. Is he the one you were talking about? The one you said saved your soul?”

    She nodded, finishing her omelette. “That’s him. He’s as close to a friend as I will ever have.”

    ***

    Mike watched as her face clouded. He knew something had happened between her and Clark, but he wasn’t sure how to broach the subject.

    “Did you and he ...?” He trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid, knowing she would understand.

    Jane smiled gently. “No. It wasn’t like that between us.”

    “So what happened? Did he hurt you?”

    “No. I hurt him. I betrayed him.”

    “How?”

    Jane took a deep breath and looked at him, then launched into the story.

    “The man I worked for, his name was Lex Luthor. You might have heard of him. He was obsessed with Clark, for a lot of reasons. But nearly three years ago he was badly injured. He saw Clark as the solution to his problems.”

    “Was he? Was Clark?”

    Jane shook her head. “The point was, Luthor believed it. Even when Jarod rescued Clark the first time, I knew Luthor wasn’t going to give up. He had secret funds stashed away and he was using all his resources to research a way to use Clark for that reason. So I decided to set up a trap for Luthor.”

    “And Clark was the bait,” Mike sighed.

    She snickered softly. “You know, you’d make a pretty good Pretender yourself,” she said. Mike didn’t answer that. She went on. “Clark was the bait and Luthor fell for it. I managed to stop him for good, so he’ll never bother Clark again.” She looked almost smug. “I found a way to wipe his memory, so he doesn’t remember Clark.”

    Mike hissed. “That sounds kind of harsh.”

    “It was either that or let Luthor have that obsession. Clark would never be free.”

    “Did you try to explain that to him? I mean, not that I’m condoning what you did, because, you know, it was pretty bad, but maybe if you’d explained your reasons to him ...”

    “I did,” she said. “And we’ve sorted it out, I guess.” Mike got the sense there was more to the story.

    “Tell me,” he said softly.

    “There was someone else. Someone I ... loved. I betrayed him and now he hates me.” She shook her head and sighed. “Forget it. It’s over. Done. He doesn’t want anything to do with me and it’s better off that way.”

    Mike put a hand on hers. “But it obviously hurts you.”

    Jane got up and grabbed their plates, rinsing them in the sink and putting them in the dishwasher.

    “I made a choice based on logic. I didn’t let my emotions rule my head.” Mike got up to stand behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders. He spoke gently.

    “That’s what the Centre taught you. It doesn’t make it the right choice. Look, I don’t know you very well, but like I said before, you’re kind of a *****. I know what you said. About what the Centre did to you, but that just alienates everyone around you.”

    Jane pulled away from him and turned to look at him.

    “Look, Mike, you don’t get it, okay? I’ve tried opening up. I really have. I mean, there was this guy Dean. And we got on pretty well.”

    Which Mike took to mean she’d had sex with the guy.

    “Having sex with a guy is no way to open up to them. I get what you say about being a Pretender, but sleeping with someone just because you can is just another way of trying to hide from who you really are. Sooner or later, you have to stop pretending, stop trying to be something you’re not.”

    “You don’t get the Centre, though, do you? Didn’t you hear anything of what I said?”

    “About them forcing you not to feel? Sure, what they did to you was pretty bad, but you’re the one in control now. You can choose what you do, or how you feel. No one can make that choice for you. You can’t put walls up and expect people to like you.”

    “I don’t do this to make people like me,” Jane returned.

    “Fine. How about trust, then? Because let me tell you something, Sarah sure as hell doesn’t trust you, and I can’t say I blame her.”

    Jane huffed. “And what about you?” Mike looked away. “What? You can **** me, but you can’t trust me?”

    “This isn’t just about me,” he told her. “And as for ****ing you, yeah, well, I never could resist a beautiful woman.”

    But Jane knew she had the measure of him when she smiled slyly at him.

    “Unlike Sarah?”

    “What does she have to do with this?”

    “You think I don’t see it? You think I’m not aware that you’re ****ing me just to make her jealous!”

    “This has nothing to do with my relationship with Sarah, which, by the way, is none of your business. And who says I’m trying to make her jealous?” he said defensively. “We work together. Which isn’t conducive to a personal relationship. And we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about you and your pathological need to prove that you’re better than everyone else.”

    “That is not true,” Jane began hotly, but even as she said it, she knew he was right.

    “And it’s not me you’re wanting to prove it to, is it?” Mike said. “It’s that guy. The one you said hates you.”

    “Oliver Queen has nothing to do with this.”

    “He has everything to do with this. You think you failed with him, so you’re trying to prove you don’t need him. But the truth is, you do need him. So much that it hurts. And that’s why you spend all your time pushing people away. You’re afraid of needing someone again the way you needed him.”

    “Thank you for that analysis Dr Freud!” she remarked caustically.

    “I’m just calling it like I see it,” he said.

    Jane huffed again and turned away from him. But Mike wasn’t about to let her pull away. He moved to stand behind her again, offering support.

    Jane sighed. “Okay, maybe you made some good points.” She leaned against him, rubbing her back against his chest. Mike sighed softly. Maybe she was right about his feelings for Sarah, but he wasn’t going to admit it.

    He pulled her back to the table, making her sit while he went to the fridge. “Beer or wine?” he asked.

    “Beer’s fine.”

    Mike smirked. “My kind of woman.” He took two bottles of beer out and opened them, handing her one bottle.

    “Cheers,” she said, clinking her bottle with his and downing a good third of the beer. Mike watched in amazement until she stopped and looked at him. “What?”

    He grinned and shook his head, then gulped a third of his own.

    “So, tell me more about the Centre.”

    “What do you want to know?”

    “Well, what did they do that...”

    “****ed me up so bad?” She grinned as he blanched. “You mean, apart from depriving me of a normal childhood? Making me do things no child should ever do?”

    “Er, yeah.”

    Mike watched as she took a few deep breaths, then swallowed more of her beer.

    “I’ll do better than that,” she said slowly. “I’ll show you.”

    Mike frowned. What was she going to show him? He really began to be concerned when she got up and walked around the table to him, sliding smoothly down onto his lap and then pulled her top off so she was completely naked from the waist up. He hesitated, not sure how to respond, until she turned around, showing her back to him. Mike could see dozens of tiny white lines where her skin had not been able to tan. Dozens of tiny scars. He gently ran a finger along the line of one of them – one which seemed to traverse the entire width of her back.

    “What the ****?” he said softly. “What did they do to you?”

    “You’ve heard of positive reinforcement, right?” she said, turning her head to look at him. He nodded.

    “Well, I guess you could call it negative reinforcement. For every wrong move, for every emotional response that wasn’t allowed, I got the strap. They didn’t go so far as to use the whip, but it still hurt like hell. When I was a kid, I used to cry and scream, until I learned that that just made them do it harder. I learned to keep my mouth shut.” He felt her shudder and he put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. “Even when Jarod took me out of that place, it was a long time before I could do anything without fear of being hit, or worse.”

    Mike didn’t know what to say. She had been abused. There was no other word for it. He wanted to find these people and rip their heads off. How dare they treat another human being like this? He understood everything now.

    Gently, he pressed his lips to one of her scars below her shoulders and she trembled and sighed. He touched the white with the tip of his tongue and she moaned, pressing against him. Mike continued to kiss his way down the horrible scars until she leaned back, forcing his head up, and claiming his mouth with hers. Neither one of them heard Sarah come in.

    “You know,” Sarah said. “People generally cover themselves up in public areas.”

    Mike looked up, withdrawing from Jane, who didn’t look the least embarrassed. He bit back a laugh as she smirked at Sarah.

    “I’ll remember that,” she said, “next time I’m in public. Right now, Mike and I were just comparing battle scars.”

    “With your mouths?” Sarah said sarcastically. Mike looked at the two women. Geez, jealous much? he thought. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the pair of them started wrestling for him. Hmm, mud wrestling. Now that would be a good show. He felt an elbow in his ribs and saw Jane grinning at him. How the hell did she know what he was thinking? Jane grabbed his hand and got up, pulling him up, smirking at Sarah as they walked past her and back up the stairs to his room.

    Once they were alone again, she stripped and sat on the bed, waiting for him to do the same. Her eyes were dark with lust as she watched him take off his pants, then pulled him down to her.

    Hours of lovemaking later, Mike watched as she slept. Her face screwed up as she entered the dream state and he wondered what was upsetting her. If he had to guess, it would be about the Centre. Damn that place, he thought. She never had a hope of being normal while she had that place on her mind.

  7. #7
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    When Jane woke, she saw him looking down at her.

    “Lot of dreams,” he said.

    “Mmm,” she answered, curling in closer to him. He put his arm around her.

    “You know, I’ve been lying here thinking about the case.”

    “Must be a new experience for you,” she said smartly. He dug a finger into her ribs and she squirmed.

    “Very funny,” he said. “Sounds like something KITT would say.”

    “Stop it,” she said as he kept jabbing her.

    “Then be nice,” he told her, getting one more dig in.

    “I’ll be good,” she said, squirming away from him. “Just don’t keep tickling me. Tell me what you were thinking.”

    “If Wilson was the mole, why would Ortega’s people want him dead?”

    “That’s a good question,” Jane said.

    “So maybe we need to look at this from a fresh angle. Get another perspective.”

    Jane thought for a minute. “You know, that is a good idea. And I know just where to start.” She got out of bed and began pulling on her clothes.

    “Jane, it’s three o’clock in the morning.”

    “No time like the present. Come on lazybones.” She left him to crawl out of bed and put on his clothes while she made her way downstairs to the SSC.

    “KITT, you awake?” she said, going to the computers and checking something on the files.

    “I’m a computer,” KITT said, his tone a little offended. “I don’t sleep.”

    Mike slid down the pole and she cocked an eyebrow at him. Really, he was just a big kid at heart.

    “Something wrong with the stairs?” she asked. He just grinned at her.

    “Where are we going?” he asked, as she finished what she was doing and went to the car.

    “To the original crime scene. KITT, do you have the police files and the witness statements, including Hilton’s.”

    “Yes, of course.”

    “Good,” Jane said, getting in the passenger side. She looked at Mike. “Well come on, Knight. You waiting for an engraved invitation?”

    Mike muttered something under his breath and she grinned at him. She continued to grin as he got in the car and started it up.

    ***

    Mike stood in the dark alley, wondering what the hell they were doing there. He watched as Jane looked around the scene, helped only by some lighting effects from KITT.

    “What are you doing?” he asked. She looked up at him briefly, then shushed him. Mike shook his head, really not liking being told what to do.

    Jane stood in the middle of the alley, eyes closed. Mike guessed she was doing one of those Pretender things. He waited, not wanting her to shush him again. Then she stopped, returning to his side. She put her hands on his shoulders and looked at him.

    “Okay, we’re going to do a little simulation. You’re Hilton. I’m going to be the shooter.” She glanced at KITT. “Can you give me a hologram of the victim?” KITT affirmed.

    Mike understood where this was going. He recalled the witness reports of the shooting and got in place where Hilton had said he was standing when it all went down. Jane got in place as the ‘shooter’, who was supposedly Ortega in a deal that had gone bad.

    They played out the scene as Hilton described it. The dead agent confronting Ortega, and the killer shooting.

    Jane then took another tack.

    “KITT, give me the police crime scene report and let’s do a simulation based on what their CSIs suggest happened.”

    This time, Mike was playing the shooter and Jane was the victim, with no-one else present. By the time they were done, Mike realised exactly where this was going. The two simulations didn’t match up at all. In fact, they were so out of left field that it was impossible that they were about the same crime.

    Mike looked at Jane. “Hilton was lying,” he said. “He didn’t see anything.”

    Jane cocked an eyebrow at him. “I was right. You would make a good Pretender.”

    “No thanks,” Mike grinned. “I’ll leave that to the geniuses like you.”

    “Genius isn’t always measured by IQ,” she told him. Mike almost believed her, but he’d always known he wasn’t that smart. Smart enough to get into Army Rangers maybe. But not academically smart. Her lips tightened a little and he knew what she was thinking. He guessed she saw things from a different angle, but that was okay.

    They returned, dejected, to the SSC. Mike glanced over at Jane, but she was lost in thought.

    “Michael, Sarah is calling.”

    “Thanks KITT. Sarah?”

    “Where are you guys? You’re supposed to be off active duty Mike.”

    “Jane wanted to try something.”

    “Well, my contact in the DEA says the ****’s hit the fan. Big time. How far away are you?”

    “Sarah we will be in the SSC within twenty minutes,” KITT told her. “Jane, you have an urgent email.”

    Jane blinked at the computer. “You accessed my email?”

    “It is my job.”

    “No, it isn’t KITT. Who’s the email from?”

    “Jarod.”

    “S*it! Okay, patch me through to him.”

    Mike watched as the image of a man in his fifties came up on the windscreen projection.

    “Jane, what the hell is going on? First I hear that your car has been shot to pieces and then you lost the witness.”

    “Yeah, Jarod, I’m sorry about the car. But it wasn’t my fault.” Jarod sighed and rolled his eyes in exasperation.

    “When is it ever?”

    “Hey, I didn’t ask those guys to shoot up the f*cking place. Or my car.”

    “Watch your language sis. The kids are about.”

    “What’s your point?”

    “This is the second car you’ve totalled in two months, Jane. That’s two!”

    “I didn’t know I was going to get shot!”

    Mike grinned as the two siblings began to argue back and forth. It sounded almost like him and Sarah when they had been a lot younger. Growing up together, they had been almost like siblings. At least until he’d begun to see Sarah as less of a sister and more of a girlfriend.

    Jane sighed as she ended the conversation. They were just coming up to the tunnel under the SSC. Mike smirked at her.

    “You know what they say,” he said.

    “No, what do they say?” she asked wearily.

    “You can pick your friends but you sure can’t pick your family.”

    Jane looked at him askance for a moment, frowning. Then she threw back her head and laughed.

    “Oh my god, that is so true!”

    Mike chuckled, driving along the tunnel and through the main doors to stop the car on the circular platform. Sarah was waiting for them, a scowl on her pretty face.

    Jane glanced at Michael, raising an eyebrow.

    “Just what the hell was so urgent you two had to go out in the middle of the night?” Sarah growled.

    “In a minute, Sarah,” Mike told her, following Jane into the command centre.

    Zoe was busy exchanging words with what looked like the DEA.

    “Look, I don’t know what to tell you,” Zoe was saying. “You’re just gonna have to ...”

    She looked around, seeing Mike come in. Billy looked up at them and shook his head slightly.

    “Knight? What the hell are you people doing there? You just lost us our witness!”

    “No we didn’t,” Jane said. “Because there was no witness. Hilton was never there.”

    “Who the f*ck are you?” the agent asked.

    “I’m independent. Jane Smith. I was called in by the ATF.”

    “Yeah? Well, tell me who, so I can kick their ass. This is our investigation.”

    “It’s a joint investigation between the two agencies,” Jane pointed out snidely. “And her name is Jenna McGann.”

    The agent looked stunned. “The deputy director?” He looked alarmed.

    “Still want to kick her ass?” Mike asked with a grin at Jane.

    “Uh no,” Agent Phil Cameron said, clearly unsettled. “I’ll need some time to discuss this with my colleagues.”

    “You do that,” Jane told him.

    Mike watched as the screen went dark and Jane sank down on one of the chairs.

    “You okay?” he asked, crouching down beside her.

    “No,” she said. “There’s something screwy about all this and I can’t put my finger on what it is.”

    “Wanna talk about it?”

    Jane bit her lip. “No. Talking’s useless at this point. Do you guys have a gym or workout room?”

    “Down the hall,” Mike said. “I’ll show you.”

    Jane followed him along the corridor to the main room. There was a huge open space with fitness equipment including two treadmills, a cross-trainer, free weights and barbells spread around the edges. A CD-player was set up on brackets on the far wall. Jane looked through the stack of music CDs and selected one. Mike saw it was classical music. Hardly work out music.

    “Ah, you gonna work out in those?” he asked, nodding his head at her jeans and top.

    Jane frowned. “Yeah, you’re right. I need something loose.”

    “You can borrow something of mine,” Sarah told her with a little frown at Mike. “In my locker. We look to be around the same size.”

    “Thanks.” The brunette frowned. “Uh, you know, I could really use some fresh clothes as well. My stuff kinda got shot up in my car yesterday.”

    “I’ll find you something,” Sarah promised as Jane turned to go to the lockers.

    “I appreciate that, Sarah,” Jane said with a smile. “Listen, just give me an hour or so. A little bit of training really will help me think.”

    Sarah glanced at Mike and nodded toward the door. Mike hesitated, clearly wanting to stay with Jane. The other woman looked at him.

    “Relax Mike,” she said. “I’m just going to work out. Promise.”

    Sarah was relieved when Mike followed her out. She went into the kitchen and poured out some coffee.

    “How’s your shoulder?” she asked, conscious that Mike had been shot the day before.

    “It’s fine,” Mike said, flexing it.

    “So what’s going on, Mike? What’s this thing with you and her?”

    “It’s none of your business, Sarah,” he said, clearly immediately on the defensive.

    “None of my business?” Sarah stared at him, incredulous.

    They had grown up together, dated as teenagers and Sarah had loved him. But then Mike had joined the Army Rangers and disappeared from her life and she had never been able to figure out what had happened to this great relationship she thought she’d had.

    “Leave it alone, Sarah.”

    “No, Mike. My god, you met this woman less than twenty-four hours ago and you’ve already slept with her!”

    “So?”

    “Damn it, you barely know this woman!”

    “I know enough. God, Sarah, it’s not like I’m gonna marry her!”

    “Then what the hell are you doing with her?”

    “Look, last night it was not about sex. I mean, yeah, it was sex, but ...” Mike shook his head. “It was more than that. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it was me or some other guy.”

    Sarah frowned at him. “Are you saying she was using you?”

    “No ... more like, we were using each other. Look, I know you don’t like her. But if you just talk to her you might understand why she is the way she is. Okay? Just talk to her.”

    ***

    Jane breathed deep and even, working slowly through the motions of Tai Chi as Jarod had taught her. She had learned a few other martial arts since then, and Oliver had taught her a little bit of yoga, but Tai Chi always took her back to the basics and helped centre her.

    The music played softly in the background, helping to give her a little rhythm as she continued with the movements. She had just begun to work up a sweat when the door opened and Sarah came in. Jane looked at the other woman.

    “Tai Chi?” Sarah asked.

    “Or a variation of it,” she said, taking the towel Sarah handed her. “Has it been an hour already?”

    “Time flies, huh?” Sarah remarked. “Does that really help?”

    “The Tai Chi? Yeah, it balances you. You learn to control your breathing and that helps you clear your mind.”

    “Is that something they taught you? The people who trained you to be ... what you are?”

    Jane sipped from the bottle of water Sarah handed her.

    “Nice try, Sarah, but you can save the fishing expedition. No. They didn’t teach me Tai Chi in The Centre. My brother taught me that.”

    Sarah frowned. “Mike told me. What happened to you. I mean, he didn’t go into details, but he told me about the scars.”

    Jane shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s no big, Sarah. I had months of therapy over that.”

    “But you seem so ...”

    “Cold? Distant? I guess according to your frame of reference I’ve got less personality than KITT.”

    “Sorry,” Sarah answered.

    “Nah, it’s cool. I mean, yeah, I seem to be able to turn off the emotions when I want. But Syd’s always telling me not to bottle things up. He’s also always saying that I don’t have to be such a b*tch all the time either.”

    “Sydney?”

    “My therapist. Well, sort of. He was Jarod’s teacher in the Centre before Jarod escaped. When Jarod established the foundation, he asked Syd if he’d be the consulting psychiatrist.”

    “Oh.” Sarah hesitated. “You sound like you really care about them.”

    Jane had noticed her tone taking on a certain softness when talking about Sydney. And Jarod.

    “Yeah, Sydney spent a lot of time with me after I got out of The Centre. You could say he saved my sanity. I mean, if it wasn’t for him I would have been locked up in some institution.”

    “Really?” Sarah leaned forward, looking extremely interested in that little tidbit of information.

    “Well, yeah. I mean, I guess you could say The Centre is like an institution. I mean, for twenty-nine years I was told what to do, when to eat and I had a job to do. You know, it’s like someone who has been incarcerated in a prison for so long that when they finally get out, they don’t know what to do with themselves. So they commit another crime to go back inside.”

    “But you didn’t?”

    Jane shook her head. “I guess if I hadn’t responded to Sydney’s therapy, they might have reconsidered it. Now that I think about it, I realise how tough it was for my family, you know?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, imagine being around someone who doesn’t like to be touched, who is essentially uncommunicative and unresponsive to outside stimuli. Someone who, for all intents and purposes, isn’t human. And then put them in a familial environment.”

    “They’d be worried you might react negatively,” Sarah nodded.

    “Exactly.”

    “I’m sorry,” Sarah told her. “I misjudged you.”

    “No, you didn’t. I have been a b*tch. And I don’t blame you for seeing me as a threat. I mean, I did sleep with the man you’re in love with.”

    Sarah almost choked. Her eyes widened as she stared back at Jane.

    “What? No, I’m ... I’m not in love with him.”

    “Sarah, you can lie to me all you like. You can even lie to Michael. But you can’t lie to yourself. You love him.”

    “But he’s not in love with me,” Sarah told her.

    “Don’t be too sure of that,” Jane said.

    She got up, picking up the clothes Sarah had brought in for her.

    “I’m going to hit the shower, grab something to eat, and get back to work.”

    ***

    Sarah left her to it, going back out to the command centre. Mike sent her a questioning look but she shook her head. She wasn’t prepared to discuss it with Mike or anyone else.

    “So, what exactly were you two doing at three o’clock in the morning?” she asked Mike.

    “A simulation. Jane wanted to try to figure out what had happened.”

    “And how did you happen to come to the conclusion there was no witness?”

    Mike explained about the two simulations and the way the stories didn’t match up.

    “So now what?” Zoe asked.

    “That’s a good question,” Jane said behind Sarah. She held a protein bar in her hand. “And I think the first place to start looking is Ortega.” She looked at Zoe and Billy. “Can you two please bring up all information you have on Ortega? And don’t forget to cross check old FLAG records too.”

    “Why FLAG?” Sarah asked, not failing to notice Jane had spoken softer and had even said ‘please’.

    “I wish I could say it’s a hunch, but right now I’m just covering all my bases.” She reached for the documents she’d printed out the day before of the financial records.

    Sarah watched as Jane went to sit on one of the couches at the back of the command centre and began to read. Mike looked at her, then back at Jane, and went to sit with the Pretender. The two began talking quietly. Sarah figured this was private conversation which she was better off staying out of.

  8. #8
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    It was several hours later when Jane found a possible connection. The others had seemed to tiptoe around her quietly, but Jane had been so absorbed in her work she had barely noticed. Even when Mike had tried to get her to eat something. She had always been that way.

    She recalled sitting in Oliver’s apartment one day, working on the computer. She’d been at it for about twelve hours. And Oliver had been sulking because she had paid him no attention. He always did like being the centre of attention, she thought with a grin.

    When she’d finally stopped working, Oliver had ignored her, pretending to read some company reports.

    “Oh, so this is payback is it?” she said. “I neglect you for a couple of hours and now you’re ignoring me?” She leaned closer to him and he turned away, shuffling the papers.


    “Ollie,” she said plaintively. He still refused to speak to her. She sighed. “Geez, sulk much?” she said softly.


    His brown eyes slid in her direction and she grinned, shifting closer to him.


    “I’m still mad at you,” he said.


    She pouted. “Aww, poor Ollie. Feeling so neglected because I spent a couple of hours working.”


    “Twelve, Jane. You were working twelve hours. Since three o’clock this morning.”


    “I couldn’t sleep,” she said unapologetically.


    “You could have woken me up,” he said. “I can think of plenty of things we could have been doing.” His eyes raked over her body and she felt herself feeling a warmth rush through her.


    “Get your mind out of the gutter,” she retorted.


    “I’m not the one thinking dirty thoughts,” he said, laughing.


    She growled at him. “Okay, you’ve had your fun at my expense. Now tell me what was so important that you kept interrupting me.”


    “I just wanted you to take a break. No one can be that focused.”


    “Obviously you haven’t spent enough time around Jarod,” she said with a chuckle. She pushed his papers aside and settled with her head in his lap, playing with his fingers. He grinned down at her thinking she could be a pushy broad when she wanted to be.


    “I know what you’re thinking,” she said.


    “Really?”


    “Mm-hmm, you’re wondering what I’m playing at.” She pulled his hand down to her chest and he began fingering her nipple. She moaned softly, closing her eyes.


    “You’re a tease, Jane,” he said.


    “Ahh, you love it,” she murmured.


    He lowered his head and kissed her, inserting his tongue and winding it around hers, tasting her. She sighed softly as he gently caressed her.


    “Jane?”

    She blinked and looked up at Mike, who was grinning down at her, holding a cup of coffee.

    “Where were you?” he asked.

    She didn’t answer. She liked Mike. A lot. If things had been different ... if he hadn’t been in love with someone else, there might have been a future for them. But things weren’t different.

    She took the coffee and sipped it.

    “So, turn up anything interesting?” he asked.

    “Yes, as a matter of fact,” she said. “How would you feel about a field trip?”

    “Depends. Will it be dangerous?”

    Jane looked at him and he grinned. “Danger’s my middle name,” he grinned.

    “Actually, your middle name is Arthur,” Sarah said snarkily. Jane smirked at her. “So where are you planning on going for this field trip?” Sarah asked.

    “I was thinking of ... California. I mean, I could use some new gear and there’s a little side trip we need to make.”

    Mike looked at her curiously, but he clearly had learned enough about her by now to know that she didn’t give away much.

    ***

    Mike didn’t ask questions as he drove out of the SSC. Jane had told KITT to plot the fastest course to their destination, but hadn’t said anything much beyond that. She was too busy looking through the information Billy and Zoe had downloaded for her, touching her finger to the screen above KITT’s dashboard.

    “You seem very quiet, Michael,” KITT said.

    Jane seemed so absorbed in what she was reading that it looked as if she hadn’t heard KITT’s query.

    “Just thinking, KITT.”

    “We should be in California in about five hours.”

    Which meant it was going to be dark by the time they got to where they were going. Mike sighed. If Jane was going to be this quiet, it was going to make for a very dull journey.

    Fortunately, Jane sat back after a while and looked at him.

    “What was it like? Not knowing your father?”

    Mike frowned. What did his father have to do with anything? Mike had nothing to do with him. Michael senior had disappeared again after Jenny Traceur’s funeral and as far as Mike was concerned he was better off without him.

    “Why do you want to know?”

    Jane shrugged. “I dunno. I just ... I mean, I didn’t know about my parents until last year. You know, with the Centre and everything. And it was hard for them, you know? I mean, they had Jarod, and JJ, and Emily, and then I come along and it’s like they don’t know how to deal with it.”

    “Why are you telling me this?”

    “My mom died. Heart attack. About a month ago. I was in England, at a forensics conference with a friend. I even missed the funeral.”

    “I’m sorry,” he said. And he meant it. Jane might act aloof, but he could sense her pain at losing a mother she’d barely known.

    “It was really tough for them. Jarod was kidnapped when he was four years old, but my parents ... they never stopped searching for him. Even when Kyle was taken a year or so later. They spent years trying to solve the mysteries of the Centre, even when Catherine, their one ally, was killed.”

    “I don’t understand. Why would the Centre do that? Why would they take your brother? And you?”

    “Aside from our intelligence? I really don’t know. I think that’s one of the things that died with the Centre.”

    “My father chose to send me and my mom away. Mom told me she thought he did it to protect us.”

    “Didn’t he want a family?” Jane asked.

    “I dunno. I guess he just thought he had too many enemies. That we would never be safe.”

    “Well, as my nephew would say, that kind of sucks, Mike.”

    “Yeah.” He sighed and lapsed into silence, staring out into the darkness. Part of him wondered why Jane was asking about his father, but he decided against it.

    Jane suggested picking up some takeout before they went to her LA apartment. She’d decided they could spend the night there and head out to their next destination in the morning. Mike followed her into the building, leaving KITT parked out on the street.

    “Keep your scanners peeled, KITT,” he said, chuckling at his little joke. He was sure if KITT had eyes, he’d be rolling them right now.

    They ate quietly at the little table in Jane’s kitchen. The apartment was fairly small. Jane had told him she had a room at her brother’s house as well, but since she’d been working full-time for the Onyssius Foundation she’d had her own place.

    “It’s nice,” was all Mike would say.

    It wasn’t great, but he supposed compared to what Jane had been used to inside the Centre, the apartment was almost a palace.

    Mike was about to suggest they head for bed when there was a quiet knock at the door. Jane frowned at him, but went to answer it. Mike finished clearing up, barely listening to the deep voice of the man at the door.

    “Oh no!” Jane cried.

    Concerned, Mike immediately went to the door. Jane looked extremely upset. He looked up at the tall man, remembering him from Jane’s conversation in the car that morning.

    “You must be Mike,” Jarod said.

    Mike put his arm around Jane and she leaned into his embrace.

    “Yeah, that’s me. What’s wrong?”

    “Our father is in the hospital,” Jarod told him.

    “I’m sorry,” Mike said. Jesus, no wonder Jane was so upset. She’d just been talking earlier about her mother and how little time they’d had together. And now her father ...

    “I’m staying,” Jane said, her voice muffled. “Mike can finish this.”

    “Jane, I know you want to stay around for Dad,” Jarod said gently, “but this case is important. Besides, Dad won’t even know you’re there. He’s in a coma.”

    “I don’t care,” she said. “I wasn’t there when Mom died ...”

    Jarod sighed softly. “I know. Jane, I wish I knew what to do. It’s like he lost the will to live after Mom died.” He shook his head. “It’s unfair. They spent all those years apart from each other because of the Centre and now it’s like the Centre’s hurt them all over again.”

    “Is that really what you think?” Mike asked.

    “Sydney and I have a theory that the stress of what the Centre did to all of us finally caught up with our mom. And now our father ...” His voice caught on a sob.

    Mike got the impression that the man was dying. There was no mistaking the grief on Jane’s brother’s face.

    “Look,” Mike said gently. “I know how important this case is, but I’m sure we can take a day or so.”

    After all, they’d already lost their supposed witness, so that meant Ortega’s trial couldn’t go ahead.
    Jarod looked at him long and hard, then nodded.

    “You’re right. Jane, we’ll be at the hospital tomorrow morning. The doctors say they’ll call us if there’s any change. All right?”

    Jane nodded. The older man left after giving his sister a little squeeze.

    Mike gently propelled her toward the bathroom.

    “Go on,” he said. “Go take a shower. I’ll finish cleaning up here and give Sarah a call to update her, okay?”

    Jane nodded. “Thank you Mike.”

    He smirked. “Didn’t think you knew how to say ‘thank you’.”

    She sent him a wan smile in return, then walked to the bathroom.

    Mike went back downstairs and called the SSC. Sarah appeared on the screen.

    “Mike? What is it?”

    “Uh, looks like we might be in LA for another day or so.”

    Sarah frowned. “Mike, you know how important this case is.”

    “I know, but Jane just got some bad news. It’s her dad.”

    Sarah gasped. “What happened?”

    “I don’t know. Her brother came over to the apartment and told her their father’s in the hospital but he didn’t say any more than that. She needs someone to be there for her right now.”

    His friend nodded. “Yes, you’re right. Look, Billy and Zoe will keep working things from our end. They’re cross-checking all the financial records of each agent involved in the case.”

    Mike raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like a lot of work.”

    Sarah shrugged. “Yeah, but I agree with Jane. There’s something screwy with this.”

    Mike bit his lip. “Listen, I better go.”

    “Tell Jane I’m sorry to hear about her dad.”

    “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

    Back in the apartment, he checked in the bedroom. Jane was lying in the bed, facing the wall. But from her stiff posture, he could tell she was still awake.

    “Jane? I can sleep on the couch if you want me to.”

    Jane rolled over and looked at him, shaking her head.

    “I don’t want to be alone.”

    Mike nodded and took off his shoes. “I’m just gonna go grab a shower and be right back,” he said.

    He spent as little time in the shower as he felt he could get away with and walked into the bedroom with only a towel around his waist. Jane had pulled the bedclothes back. Mike got in, conscious of his nakedness. He needn’t have worried. Jane was also naked.

    She kissed his chest.

    “Please Mike,” she whispered.

    He didn’t think sex was a good idea, but Jane obviously didn’t see it that way. And his dick didn’t agree either. He rolled over on top of her, kissing her, ignoring the weakness in his shoulder. Jane clung to him, moaning softly. Mike began kissing his way down her body, taking each nipple in his mouth and rolling around it with his tongue until each stood up in hard points.

    Jane’s fingers clutched the short, damp ends of his hair, guiding him to where she wanted him. Mike loved a woman who knew what she wanted in bed.

    He could feel her pushing him further down. With a grin, he let his mouth hover over her sex, his breath shifting the narrow line of coarse hair. Jane growled at his teasing, reaching again for him, but he batted her hand out of the way. Sure, he didn’t mind a woman taking control, but only at certain moments. Some things he liked to take his time with.

    The tiny bud which sat above her entrance seemed to be reddening. Mike leaned forward just a little and licked lightly. Jane gasped, shifting in the bed. Pushing her thighs apart and leaning on his stronger arm, Mike made himself more comfortable. He slowly began to lick around her sex, taking in her juices, smirking in satisfaction as Jane began to beg for more.

    Well, he thought, if she could still be that coherent, then clearly he needed to tease her a lot more. He got closer, burying his head between her thighs and began sucking on the nub of skin.

    “Oh!” Jane gasped again.

    He thrust his tongue inside her. But despite the way he was eating her out, it clearly wasn’t enough. Mike sat up, earning a look of reproach from Jane. He grabbed a condom from the top of the side table. Clearly Jane had made the decision earlier and, well, who was he to complain, he thought. Raising her legs to his shoulders, Mike quickly opened the packet and slid the rubber sheath onto his hard cock. Then he plunged inside her, hitting her wet walls hard and fast.

    Jane writhed and moaned and got generally louder the more her pleasure increased. And Mike had a fleeting memory of the last night he and Sarah had made love. Before he had joined the army and before she had gone to Stanford. Sarah had been just as loud, if not louder than Jane.

    But that was long over. Sarah didn’t need him anymore, except as KITT’s pilot.

    When he finally collapsed beside her, Jane rolled over and looked at him. For a moment, he thought she was going to say something about his momentary hesitation, but she said nothing. She lay with her head on his chest, closing her eyes and falling into a deep sleep.

  9. #9
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    Jane was surprised when she woke to find it was already after five. She didn’t usually sleep that much, given her chronic insomnia. She supposed the sex might have had something to do with it. Not to mention the fact that they’d been up at three the morning before.

    She rolled over and looked at Mike. He was on his back, snoring lightly. Jane smirked. Oliver had always denied he snored, but she’d caught him at it a few times. Not that it was bad. She’d thought it was cute.

    Damn it, she thought, her expression sobering. Why are you thinking about him when you’ve got a gorgeous guy in your bed? A gorgeous guy who was in love with someone else and was only using her for the same reason she was using him. To forget, her rational brain told her.

    As much as she tried to deny it, Oliver Queen was still constantly in her thoughts. She had loved him from the first moment she’d seen him, even if she had been in no state to recognise the attraction for what it was.

    As Jane pulled on a shirt and jeans, she thought back to that moment in the Centre, when everything had changed.

    She’d been watching Clark in the monitor in a separate part of the sim lab, struggling against these new feelings. While Lex had told her to ‘pretend’ to feel for Clark, she really had. Watching Lex enjoying Clark’s torture had invoked too many memories of the tortured man she had been forced to pretend to be when she had been a child. The memory of the beating she had received when she had gone too deep into the pretend and ‘felt’ him was all too clear in her mind.


    Jane had heard Lyle and Lex talking about her and knew the man who had been brought in, Jarod, was her brother. She had thought she felt no emotional connection, but even as she’d continued with her work, as ordered by Lyle, she’d looked up at the man who was her brother and something had felt different. Afraid that Luthor would punish her for it, Jane had been hesitant to reach out, even though her brother was trying to do the same for her.


    “You really going to just sit there and let Luthor do this,” Jarod said.


    Jane kept her eyes on the monitor, trying to focus on what was happening in the cage outside. Clark had collapsed, his ears bleeding from the pressure in his brain. She was torn. Wanting to help the young man and do what she was told. The fear won out.


    “He’s my master,” she told Jarod, careful to keep her tone neutral so she could hide the turmoil inside.


    “You don’t have to listen to him, Jane,” Jarod said. “You are not a puppet.”


    Jarod had been doing something on the computer, and she knew it was nothing to do with what Luthor had required him to do. He was scheming something. She could sense it. Her orders were to ensure Luthor had what he needed. So why wasn’t she stopping Jarod from carrying out what was obviously a plan?


    She looked up at him, just as he pressed enter.


    “You don’t understand,” she said softly, trying to convey her difficulty in her eyes.


    His gaze was full of understanding. He had seen what she had been trying to tell him.


    “I do understand,” he answered. “More than you know. I was once where you are. Abused. Exploited.”


    He continued to speak quietly, but Jane was torn. And she was afraid. She knew Luthor might be back at any second and there was just no possible way to stop this. She was too afraid of the consequences if she did not do what she was told.


    “You have to help me stop this,” he told her.


    “She’s not doing anything of the sort,” Luthor said behind her. Only years of training prevented her from reacting to his sudden appearance. She hated the way his tone was full of ownership. She now understood what Clark had meant by slavery. She was Luthor’s slave. And there was nothing she could do about it.


    But she had learned long ago that things could change in a second. And moments later, things did change. Alarms blared and she realised Jarod’s plan was about to come to fruition.


    As she’d gone with Luthor out to see what was going on, she had caught sight of a tall man in green leather. He’d glanced at her and she’d felt something akin to an electric shock. She hadn’t seen his face, except for the half that wasn’t covered by dark glasses, but she was already struck by the powerfully built man.


    Hours later, when Jarod had announced he was blowing the building, Jane had gone with Green Arrow on the plane back to Smallville. When Oliver Queen had removed his glasses and hood, showing spiky blonde hair and beautiful brown eyes, Jane had again been struck by his attractiveness. In spite of the training which had made her obey without question and suppress all her emotions, she hadn’t been able to help sneaking a glance at the blonde man then.


    Nor had she been able to help it in the two days she’d watched over Clark in his bedroom. She had gone to the bathroom and bumped into him in the narrow hallway. He’d looked at her and for a moment she could have sworn she’d seen an answering attraction in his eyes.


    And now that was over. Oliver wanted nothing more to do with her and she couldn’t really blame him. But in the months since she’d left Metropolis, Oliver had done nothing but party and flirt with dozens of women. If he had wanted to hurt her, he had succeeded.

    Sighing, Jane switched on the computer in the small alcove of her lounge. It wasn’t quite state-of-the-art, but she was never home, so she had decided she needed far more in the laptop she took with her when she went away on jobs. Of course, that had been lost when her car had been shot to pieces. Perhaps when this was over she could study more of the nanotechnology they used to instantly repair KITT. Worth a shot, she thought.

    As she accessed her instant video messaging, it pinged. Turning on the webcam, she looked at the blonde on the screen.

    “Hi,” Chloe grinned.

    “Chloe!”

    After everything that had happened that February, Jane had wondered if Clark and his friends would ever forgive what she had done. But after she’d had a long talk with Clark a few weeks ago, Chloe had emailed her and they’d since been corresponding on a fairly frequent basis.

    “How are you doing?” Chloe asked. “I thought you were on a job?”

    “I was. We’re actually in LA right now.”

    “We?”

    “Uh, me and Michael Knight.”

    “Details.”

    “Nothing to tell.”

    “Cute?”

    “Very.”

    “So either you’re lying about ‘nothing to tell’ or there’s some other stuff going on.”

    “Okay, okay, so there might have been some, um, action. But we were meant to go and see someone and now ...”

    Chloe frowned, sensing her friend’s mood.

    “What’s happened?”

    “Jarod came over last night. Our dad’s in the hospital.”

    “I’m so sorry,” Chloe said sympathetically. “Is there anything I can do?”

    “Knowing you care is enough,” Jane said. “So, um, when I finish this job, I thought I might stop by. Take you and Lo out to lunch.”

    “Yeah. Lo’s, um, a little under the weather right now.”

    Jane frowned. “Under the weather?” She’d heard the expression but had never really understood it. “You mean she’s sick?”

    “Yeah, pretty much every morning,” Chloe grinned.

    Jane was puzzled for a moment, then realised exactly what Chloe was getting at.

    “Oh my god, really? She and Clark must be so happy!”

    “Well, I have to say it was a total surprise. She wasn’t expecting to, uh, be expecting so soon, but you know those two. Getting in lots of practice.”

    Jane remembered. Clark and Lois had practically been joined at the hip once they’d got engaged. Not that she was begrudging them. They were deeply in love. She bit her lip, desperate to ask how Ollie was doing but not wanting to set herself up for more hurt.

    Mike came out of the bedroom, frowning at her. His hair was sticking up and his face was still shadowed by sleepiness. Jane smirked. Damn he was cute.

    “Listen, Chlo, I gotta go. We’re going to stop by the hospital and see my dad.”

    Chloe nodded. “Well, tell Jarod and Parker I say hi.”

    “I’ll ask Parker about some remedies for morning sickness,” Jane nodded. “I’ll see you guys soon.”

    “Okay. Take care of yourself Jane.”

    “You too.”

    Mike was looking at her as he poured himself a glass of OJ.

    “Morning sickness? Not pregnant are you?” he cracked.

    Jane rolled her eyes. “Cute! Not funny, but cute. No, it’s a friend of mine. She and her husband have only been married a couple of months.”

    Mike nodded, finishing the juice. They avoided talking about the sex as they prepared and ate breakfast. It was shortly before eight when Jarod phoned to say he and Parker were going to the hospital. Jane looked at Mike.

    “You don’t have to come with me,” she said.

    “Jane, I know what it’s like to lose a parent. I’m going with you.”

    She looked at him. He probably understood more than she even understood herself. She’d never faced death before. Not like this. The fact she’d been in England when Margaret had passed away had meant she had some distance from it. This time was different.

    She hadn’t mistaken the grief in Jarod’s eyes. Major Charles was dying and there was nothing anyone could do. And she didn’t know how to deal with that.

    At the hospital, she hugged her sister-in-law. Parker was quiet through the introductions of Mike to the rest of the family. The only one who couldn’t be there was JJ, who was busy with a case in Australia. The Onyssius Foundation was very much a family operation.

    Sydney hugged her, his gentle fatherly gaze sweeping over her with questions in his eyes. Jane nodded, knowing what he was asking. She was fine. Not great, but she wasn’t trying to hide her emotions. Not now.

    Broots had volunteered to keep the twins busy. Kyle and Catherine were only eight and understood little about death and Jarod had thought it would be better for both of them to stay at home under his friend’s supervision rather than try to deal with what was happening with their grandfather.

    Emily was next. She had only just managed to get the red-eye in from Chicago. Jane had stayed with her sister and her family while she had been on a job in the city and they had spent quite a bit of time together. Emily was the only one of the family who wasn’t directly working for the foundation, although she did offer assistance from time to time.

    “Hey sis,” Emily said quietly. “How are you doing?”

    “Okay, I guess,” Jane confessed. “Well, no, not really, but I’m trying.”

    “You don’t have to hide how you feel,” Emily told her, showing the same ability as Jarod for seeing deep into a person’s heart. “It’s okay to be sad. I mean, I know you didn’t get much time to get to know Dad, but I know he loved you.”

    “I love him too,” Jane said, trying not to think about her sister’s use of past tense. It was something they all knew but didn’t want to acknowledge.

    Mike stood in the background, watching, clearly realising the family needed this time.

    “Mr Kearney?”

    Jane remembered that Jarod only used the ‘Smith’ pseudonym when the foundation needed publicity for an event. Or when they worked in the field. He had often wondered whether his first name had been his real name, and neither Charles nor Margaret would say.

    “Doctor. How is our father?”

    “I’m sorry to tell you that he won’t be with us much longer.”

    “What happened?” Jane asked quietly.

    “An aneurysm, as far as we can determine. We had hoped he might recover if we put him in a coma, but I’m afraid ... I think it’s best if you all say your goodbyes now.”

    Mike watched as the family filed in quietly. He stood outside with the psychiatrist, knowing Jane needed privacy. He could see the pain in her eyes. For a woman who seemed to be exceedingly skilled in the ability to hide her emotions, he was glad to see that she was not doing that now.

    “Jane tells me you lost your mother a couple of years ago,” Sydney said quietly.

    “Yes sir.”

    “Sydney.”

    “Mike.”

    The older man nodded. “Do you not know your father?” he inquired.

    “I’ve met him, but I don’t have anything to do with him.”

    “Why not? If this experience is teaching you anything, it’s that life is precious. And I think you should take every opportunity you have to reconcile with your father.”

    “Why? If he wanted anything to do with me, then he could make an effort.”

    “Is it not a two-way street? Jane may only have known her parents a short time, but I know they appreciated every moment they had with her. In spite of the difficulties she had.”

    “What do you mean?”’

    “Has Jane told you of her past?”

    “Yes. Although I still don’t get a lot of it.”

    “Of course, you wouldn’t. The amount of abuse Jane suffered in the Centre is difficult for anyone to grasp. Even me. And I spent most of my working life within those walls. Her brother was much more fortunate in that his abuse was almost never physical. Just emotional. And I did my best to ensure that was kept to a minimum. I never robbed Jarod of his humanity.”

    “They didn’t, uh ...” Mike began, wondering if Jane had been sexually abused.

    “No.” Sydney shook his head. Mike was relieved.

    “But still, they made her into ...”

    Mike was beginning to understand more about Jane the more he talked with Sydney. Thanks to what had been done to her in the Centre, because of the way they’d kept her isolated from any social interaction, Jane was little better than KITT. But she was learning. She’d reached out to him when she’d needed someone. While much of it had been sexual, it wasn’t just about the sex with her. Jane needed an emotional connection.

    It wasn’t so much that it was about him, although she was clearly attracted to him. It could have been any guy. Except for the fact that he seemed to have the closest physical resemblance to her ex-boyfriend, Oliver Queen.

    “Can I ask you something?” Mike asked the psychiatrist.

    “You’re wondering if she chose you because of her ex-lover?”

    Mike snorted. The man clearly knew too much about human relationships.

    “Well, yeah.”

    “Yes, you do have a certain physical presence which I think reminds her of Oliver. Jane fell hard for him, although in many respects I don’t think she was ready for a relationship with anyone.”

    “What do I do?” Mike asked.

    “Jane needs to understand that an emotional connection has nothing to do with a physical one. She is slowly learning that anyway, through the friends she made in Metropolis.”

    “She was talking this morning with someone. I think her name is Chloe?”

    Sydney nodded. “I believe once Jane let young Chloe in, and this has nothing to do with Chloe knowing her past, then it opened the way to a close friendship.”

    Mike now understood why Jane needed him. She needed a friend, not a lover. While the sex was great, he needed to make her understand that as well. She needed to let down those walls she had around her.

  10. #10
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    Jane came out, tears running down her face, and Mike knew what had happened. He hesitated, wondering if he should go to her, then Sydney smiled encouragingly at him. Mike went to her, putting his arms around her and let her cry on his shoulder.

    “I’m here,” he said.

    Jarod came out of the room next, the grief etched on his face. He patted his sister on the back and looked gratefully at Mike.

    “Thanks for being here,” he said quietly.

    Mike nodded. The two men exchanged knowing glances, connected through their own personal tragedies.

    It was a long while before Jane let go, but Mike didn’t mind.

    When they finally returned to KITT, the computer spoke quietly to Jane.

    “Jane, allow me to offer my condolences on the death of your father.”

    Jane nodded, sniffling a little.

    “Thank you, KITT.”

    Mike looked at her. “If you want to stay with your family, I’ll understand.”

    “We need to finish this case,” Jane said. “And I need something to focus on. Please understand. I’m not trying to hide my emotions. I just don’t want to leave this unfinished. Okay?”

    “Okay. But I’m here if you want to talk. About anything.”

    “Thank you, Mike. I know we’ve only known each other a couple of days but you’re a good friend.”

    He looked down as he started the car.

    “You know I can’t be more than that,” he said.

    “I know. Mike, I ... Look, what happened last night, and the night before, I ... I guess I just needed to be close to someone. Can you understand that?”

    “You know you can be close to someone without it leading to sex, right? Besides, it’s not me you want. It’s Oliver. You’re still in love with him, Jane.”

    “I know,” she sighed. “But he wants nothing to do with me.”

    “Is there no chance of getting back together with him?”

    “After what I did?”

    “Jane, you did the best you could. I mean, okay, you didn’t exactly consider the consequences for your relationship when you did what you did, but maybe you can make him understand why you did what you did.”

    “It doesn’t matter. He’s moved on. I should too. Even if it’s not with you.”

    “I’m flattered,” he said. And he was.

    “But there’s no future in it. I know.” Jane looked out the other window for a little while, then she heaved a sigh.

    “Mike, there’s something I need to tell you. And please don’t be mad when I ...”

    Why did he get the impression that this didn’t sound good?

    “What is it?” he asked.

    “The man we’re going to see. It’s your father.”

    Mike stared at her. “What? How could you ...”

    “Mike, I’m sorry. I know how you feel about your dad, but please hear me out. He was involved in this twenty-five years ago. He took down Ortega then. I just get the feeling that this has something to do with him. Just talk to him. Okay? Please? I think this is the only way to resolve this.”

    “I don’t get it. How can you think my father might be involved in this?”

    “Can you please just trust me on this? Besides, after what happened to my dad, I think it’s time you buried the hatchet with him. He’s your father, Mike. And maybe he did send you and your mom away, but have you ever actually heard him out or talked with him about it?”

    No, he hadn’t, he agreed silently.

    ***

    The property was small by normal standards. But it had a gorgeous view of Alpine Lake. The lake itself was in Marin County, San Francisco, about two hours south of LA.

    Mike could see a small dock and a fishing boat just below the house, which was painted white with green trim. There was a large garage at the back of the property, and what appeared to be a classic 1983 Pontiac Transam parked in front. Someone was bending over the hood. Mike assumed they were working on the engine.

    Suddenly KITT squawked.

    “Michael, I am sensing the presence of another computer.”

    S*it! Mike had forgotten what Sarah’s father had once told him of the original KITT.

    “Uh, KITT, that would be your, um predecessor.”

    Clearly the other ‘KITT’ had alerted the person working on the engine, because they straightened up. Mike could see a woman in her mid to late fifties staring at them as they eased slowly down the driveway. She frowned at them, then went into the house.

    Mike stopped KITT just in front of the Transam and they got out. Jane looked at him, then at the two cars.

    “Play nice, KITT,” she said.

    “Don’t tell me that,” a voice suddenly squawked from the Transam. Mike detected what was possibly a New York or a Boston accent. “Tell that to junior!”

    “I was talking to ‘junior’,” Jane said.

    A tall man came out of the house with the woman. He peered at the two of them.

    “Mike?” he said, looking stunned to see his son.

    Jane glanced at Mike, then stepped forward.

    “Mr Knight? My name is Jane Smith. We came here because we needed to talk to you about a case we’re working on.”

    “We’re no longer part of the foundation, Ms Smith,” Michael Knight said, looking warily at Jane. “If that’s your real name.”

    Mike sighed. This was one of the reasons he hadn’t wanted to see his father.

    “You don’t have to insult her,” he told his father. “Jane only had the best of intentions in coming to see you.”

    He looked pointedly at the woman. His father glanced from her and back to Mike.

    “This is Bonnie,” he said. “My wife.”

    Jane’s eyes widened. “You’re Bonnie Barstow?”

    Bonnie frowned. “You know about me?”

    “Well, your name is listed as one of the former trust members of the foundation. Along with Mr Knight and Devon Miles. Your bio also said you were the original KITT’s mechanic.”

    “I was.” Bonnie smiled. “Still am, really. KITT’s showing his age, but I give him lots of TLC. Why don’t you two come inside and I can make some coffee.”

    Mike and Jane followed her in the house. Jane paused on the doorstep. Mike grinned. He could hear the two KITTs going head to head.

    “Oh so it’s mine is bigger than yours,” KITT senior was saying.

    “Mine is bigger than yours,” junior commented.

    Jane snorted. “Sounds like sibling rivalry.”

    “I wouldn’t technically call it sibling rivalry,” Bonnie answered, grinning. “More like father and son.”

    Both cars squawked in indignation at the comparison.

    “Please. That is no offspring of mine,” KITT senior retorted.

    “Oh blow it out your exhaust pipe, grandpa,” KITT junior shot back.

    Michael looked at his son, raising an eyebrow.

    “What have you been teaching him?” he asked.

    Mike looked at his father innocently. “Me? He didn’t get that from me.”

    Michael snorted in disbelief.

    “And what did you teach your KITT?” Jane asked, looking at him pointedly.

    Bonnie was quick to intervene. “Michael!”

    “What?” he asked.

    “Don’t try and play that with me,” she told him. “You know perfectly well KITT wouldn’t say half the things he does if you hadn’t taught him.”

    Michael looked sheepish. “Yes dear,” he said.

    Jane sat down at the kitchen table at Bonnie’s invitation.

    “How long have you two been together?”

    “Well,” Bonnie said, pouring coffee, “of course we’ve known each other since I began working for FLAG back in ’83 but we didn’t really get together until long after Michael’s first wife was killed.”

    “Stephanie?”

    Mike sent Jane a look, wondering how she’d managed to dig up all that information. Even he didn’t know everything about his father’s past.

    “Yes, her name was Stephanie. It was another year or so after that.”

    “So, uh, do I have any, uh, brothers or sisters that I should know about?” Mike asked.

    Michael looked shamefaced. “Uh, yeah, you do have a sister. Stevie. She’s in college.”

    Clearly she’d been named for Michael’s first wife.

    “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”

    “Well, frankly, Mike, the day we met at your mother’s funeral, you didn’t seem like you wanted to know. I’m rather surprised actually to see you.”

    “Like I said, that was Jane’s doing.”

    Michael looked at Jane, clearly curious.

    “I’m afraid I’ve lost touch with a lot of people from Knight Industries. Are you with the foundation?”

    “No. I work for the Onyssius Foundation.”

    Bonnie frowned as she placed the coffee mugs on the table.

    “That outfit in LA?” She looked at her husband. “They do something along similar lines to what Wilton Knight was trying to do.”

    “My brother runs it. It’s sort of a family thing.”

    “And how did you get involved in all of this?”

    “Well, a friend of my brother’s is deputy director of the ATF. She asked if we would be able to investigate a case and possibly protect a federal witness. Only it turned out the witness was no witness.”

    “Where is he now? This witness?”

    “Dead,” Mike told his father.

    “And what does this have to do with me?” Michael asked.

    “Because over twenty years ago you helped capture a man named Sonny Ortega.”

    Michael frowned. “That was a long time ago, Jane.”

    “I know. And the thing is, even after you helped the police capture him, he was released on appeal, four years after he was convicted. He’s spent the last twenty years evading any indictment. Until now. And I want to know why. What do you remember about the case?”

    “Well, I do remember that back then he was just another drug dealer. The first time I tried to collar him, there was a DEA agent who got in the way. Ortega got away that time, only for another kid to be killed. Ortega was selling coke laced with ... can you remember, Bonnie?”

    Bonnie shook her head. “I guess it would be in the case files.”

    “According to the DEA report, FLAG was never mentioned,” Jane said.

    Mike listened, intrigued by this story. It sounded exactly as Sarah had described Phil Cameron’s first meeting with Michael and KITT. According to Cameron, that was how he’d got to know Devon and Dr Charles Graiman.

    “The agent also said the two of you had some sort of altercation when you both tried to arrest Ortega.”

    Michael was nodding. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s how he tells it.”

    “You think differently?” Mike asked his father.

    “Well, I could never prove it, but I did wonder if the agent was really there to arrest him. The two of them looked pretty cosy when I arrived.”

    Mike looked at Jane. He was starting to understand her thought processes.

    “You’re thinking he’s the mole, aren’t you?” he said.

    Jane nodded. She showed him the files she’d been looking through.

    “He’s hidden it pretty well, but then, I know what I’m looking for. For someone in a government job, on government pay, Phil Cameron lives pretty well. He has a five million dollar house, plus a cabin in Aspen. Where did he get all this money?”

    “So why would he go to all this trouble to fake a witness report?” Mike asked, looking from his father to Jane. “Unless they suspected him of being the mole. So he ...”

    Michael nodded. “He brings in someone to pretend to be a witness only to have them killed later on.”
    “Then he pins the blame on another agent, making sure he also gets killed in the process.”

    “But why involve the foundation?”

    “Because he has to make it look good,” Michael answered. “He gets the foundation to run an investigation because they’re neutral. They technically don’t exist so they’re not affiliated with any government agency.”

    Jane shook her head. “Noo ... I mean, that looks great in theory but there’s one big problem with it.”

    “What’s that?” Mike asked.

    “Who were they trying to kill back at that house? I don’t think they knew I’d got involved.”

    Mike looked at her in alarm.

    “Are you suggesting they were trying to kill me?”

    “Sure. They knew you couldn’t be hurt if you were in KITT, but once you were inside the house it was a different story.”

    Michael frowned as he looked at Jane. “What’s this?”

    Jane quickly related to the older man what had happened and how Mike had been shot saving her life. Michael turned and looked at his son.

    “My god, Mike. Why didn’t you ...?”

    “What was I supposed to do, Dad? Call you up and say, hey, how’s things? Oh by the way, I nearly got myself killed? We’ve barely spoken since Mom died.”

    Michael’s expression became pained.

    “You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I thought it would be better if I kept my distance.”

    “Why? Did it never occur to you that I might like to get to know you?”

    “He’s right, Michael,” Bonnie interjected. She’d been listening quietly all this time.

    “Bonnie ...”

    “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ve been telling you for years to get in touch with Mike, but you were always too stubborn.”

    “Damn it, Bonnie, you know why.”

    “Yet you go and have another child,” Jane said. “If you were only keeping away to protect Mike, how protected is your daughter?”

    “It was Jenny’s choice!” Michael answered. “After Stevie died. Jenny told me that Mike was better off not knowing I was his father. At least until he was old enough to make that decision for himself.”

    “Don’t blame this on her,” Mike exploded. “She’s dead. She’s not here to defend herself, is she?”

    Bonnie’s lips tightened. Michael looked at his wife and shrugged. She got up and went to a cupboard beneath the kitchen counter.

    “I think this might answer everything,” she said, taking out a yellowed piece of paper. “We had a feeling you might come looking for the truth one day.”

    She unfolded the paper. Mike realised it was a letter.

    Dear Michael


    While I understand your desire to see Mike, I really don’t think it’s in his best interests. Your work with the foundation has made you a lot of enemies and it worries me that they may one day come looking for us.


    Call me an over-protective mother. But I would rather keep our son safe. When he’s old enough, I will tell him the truth, but in the meantime I just think this is for the best.


    Jenny


    Folded inside the paper was a faded Polaroid photograph of him when he was about four years old.

    “Your mom thought she was doing what was best for you,” Michael told his son.

    “Well, she was wrong,” Jane said quietly. “It didn’t matter how many enemies you had. I’d have given anything to have been able to grow up with a mother and father.”

    Michael looked at her, frowning.

    “I don’t understand.”

    “I didn’t grow up like normal kids. I didn’t even know I had parents until just over a year ago. Look, it’s a long story, but the truth is, I know now what I missed out on and it hurts even more that I will never have the same chance that Mike has now.”

    The older couple both looked at her.

    “Jane’s father passed away this morning,” Mike said, putting a comforting hand on hers. She smiled at him gratefully.

    “I’m so sorry,” Bonnie said.

    “At least I still have my brothers. And my sister. Don’t you see? Mike just needs a chance to get to know the family he never knew he had. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past or what bad decisions you made. Nothing is worth the price you’re paying. Mike’s a great guy. And from what I can tell, he’s a lot like you. This has nothing to do with the foundation, or your enemies. This has to do with family. Don’t turn away from this now.”

    “She’s right, Michael,” Bonnie said gently. “You both deserve a chance to get to know each other.”
    Mike had listened to this and while he had initially been reluctant to agree with it, he knew where Jane’s impassioned plea had come from. She had lost both her parents, and while she had her siblings and their children, nothing could make up for the years she had been denied knowing them.

    Growing up, Mike had often wondered who his father was, and why his mother had always refused to talk about him. He supposed she had been afraid he would resent her for the decisions she had made. She had only been trying to protect him, but he still thought he deserved the chance to get to know the man who had fathered him. It was one of the last things they’d argued about before he’d joined the Army Rangers. It was one of the reasons for their estrangement.

    ***

    “But this isn’t solving the case,” Bonnie reminded them gently. “Jane, why do you think they were trying to kill Mike?”

    “I think on the one hand they were trying to discredit FLAG. On the other, I think our mole knew it was only a matter of time before Mike and Sarah discovered the truth.”

    “So, he has Mike killed, the witness disappears, or is murdered ...” Michael looked thoughtful. “This is about me. That’s why you came here, isn’t it? You think he’s after me.”

    Jane nodded. “I think you came very close to finding out the truth years ago and our friend has been biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike at you again. When Ortega was released, you were already long gone.”

    “I still don’t understand why,” Mike said. “It just seems like such an elaborate set-up.”

    “Mike, think about it,” Jane said. “He needs FLAG to cover his ass. If he produces a so-called witness, and that witness is killed, it’s blamed on FLAG, the agency he asked to provide protection. Throwing suspicion away from him.”

    “Except he didn’t count on you and your foundation getting involved,” Bonnie replied.

    “No. Remember the way Phil looked when we told him who had called me in?” Jane pointed out to Mike.

    “Yeah. He went white as a ghost.”

    Suddenly two computer-generated voices could be heard calling from outside.

    “Michael, there are two vehicles coming up the hill. There are three men in each.”

    “They are all armed,” the second KITT interjected.

    “I was just going to say that,” the older KITT responded.

    Jane stared at the older couple. S*it, she thought. Someone at the SSC must have told Cameron. She thought quickly.

    “Is KITT ... your KITT I mean, still protected by the molecular bonded shell?”

    Both men looked at her in surprise. She guessed they hadn’t realised she’d read that much about FLAG. Bonnie shook her head. Without a word, she grabbed Michael’s hand and they raced out to KITT. Jane did the same with Mike.

    “Go! Go, go, go!” she yelled.

    Mike quickly started up the car. The Transam took off at speed, wheels spinning.

    “KITT, get us out of here!” Mike yelled.

    “The two vehicles are blocking the drive,” KITT responded.

    “Then you know what to do,” Mike answered. He turned to Jane. “Hang on.”

    “What?”

    She watched as the Transam appeared to vault over the two larger vehicles and land safely over the other side. She pressed herself back against her seat, hanging on to the door handle, as KITT followed suit.

    “Turbo boost,” Mike told her.

    “Give me some warning next time,” Jane answered.

    “The vehicles have turned around and are pursuing.”

    Mike was pressing something on the dash. An image of Michael came up on the screen.

    “Dad, they’re still on our tail. Can you outrun them?”

    Michael nodded. “KITT, super pursuit mode.”

    “Michael are you certain? You have not used that in years.”

    “Don’t worry, KITT,” Bonnie said. “I’ve maintained your systems for years. I know what you’re capable of. Go, Michael. Remember, you don’t have the shell anymore.”

    “Yeah, Bonnie, don’t worry. Can you two keep up?”

    “Well, I am the Knight Industries Three Thousand,” KITT commented.

    “That does not make you superior to me, junior.”

    “Well, your kind of technology went out with the dinosaurs, Grandpa.”

    “Enough,” Jane growled. “Michael, what are you planning?”

    “We need to stop these guys,” Michael answered.

    KITT one spoke up. “The two vehicles are splitting off.”

    “See what you can do to stop the first one,” Mike told his father. “We’ll get rid of the other one.”

    “Mike, don’t do anything stupid,” his father warned.

    Jane watched as the Transam quickly changed shape. Then it took off a high speed. The first SUV took off after it.

    “KITT, attack mode.”

    “Yes Michael.”

    The men in the second SUV began shooting at the car, but to no avail. The bullets bounced off the metal.

    “You have to do better than that,” Mike chuckled.

    Jane held on as the car negotiated the winding road away from the lake house.

    “Michael, Sarah is calling.”

    “On screen KITT.”

    Sarah’s expression was full of concern.

    “What’s going on?” she asked.

    “We’re being pursued by three men in an SUV,” Jane explained. “Mike’s father is being pursued by a second SUV.”

    “How? I didn’t tell anyone where you were going.”

    “Uh,” Billy said, raising his hand. “I did. Agent Cameron called a while ago and I told him where you were headed.”

    That clinched it, Jane thought.

    “Cameron’s our mole,” she said. “Look, we can’t elaborate right now, but we have to get rid of these guys.”

    “Michael, there is a dangerous bend coming up. And a small passenger vehicle is approaching from the other side.”

    The road was too narrow for two vehicles. There was no way to evade without being caught by the three in the SUV. Jane thought quickly.

    “We can’t turbo boost,” she said. “Not with the way this road is. And you don’t want to take the chance of startling the other driver.”

    “Well, if you have a suggestion, I’m all ears,” Mike said.

    Jane tapped her finger on the door handle. She glanced behind her. They’d managed to get ahead of the pursuers, but not by much.

    “Do you have any weapons?” she asked.

    “Yeah.” Michael pulled out a panel and showed her a gun hidden inside. “What are you planning?”

    “Slow down,” she said, glancing above. The road had been cut out of a cliff face. There was enough of a slope that she could get above. And it might give them a little bit of an advantage.

    “What the hell are you doing?” Mike asked as she opened the door.

    “Improvising,” she said, jumping out and heading for the clifftop. Mike kept driving, squeezing himself into a small rest area to enable the oncoming car to pass. Jane peered behind her, readying the gun, then aimed. She only had once chance at this, she thought. It was a good thing Oliver had taught her some archery.

    The SUV passed the smaller car, the driver clearly looking for Mike. Jane squeezed the trigger, hearing a bang as the bullet hit the front tyre. The SUV fishtailed slightly, then skidded to a halt. Running back down the slope, Jane moved quickly as the driver got out to inspect the damage, leaping on him.

    Mike had stopped the car and had run back, jumping on the second man. Since they had the element of surprise, the third shooter had no chance to make a move. Between them, Mike and Jane managed to knock them all out.

    “What now?” Mike asked.

    Jane made a quick assessment.

    “We tie them up, take them back to the lakehouse.”

    “Why there?”

    “Because it’s the only place I can think of to interrogate them.”

    “What exactly do you mean by interrogate?” Mike asked with a groan.

    “You’ll find out.”

    Twenty minutes later saw them in the garage/workshop. Mike had called his father, who had also managed to stop their pursuers. They had returned shortly after. Jane just looked at them. She could see Michael and Bonnie paying close attention to the jumper cables and the battery she’d found from the equipment in the garage.

    “What is she doing?” Michael asked his son.

    “Beats the hell out of me.”

    Jane looked at them, then down at the unconscious men.

    “Mike, do me a favour and bring one of them to this chair,” she said, indicating a wooden chair. She’d found a large metal pail and had filled it with water. Then she’d filled a small bucket with water.

    Mike hauled one of the men over to the chair, clearly wondering if she had suddenly gone crazy.

    “You’re not actually thinking of ...” Bonnie asked. “You’ll kill him.”

    Jane ignored the protests. She tied the man to the chair, then tipped the bucket over him. The shock of the cold water was enough to bring him back to consciousness.

    “Wakey, wakey,” she said.

    The man stared at her in shock, water dripping down over his shirt.

    “What are you doing?” he asked, struggling against his bonds.

    Jane held up a jumper cable. She had inserted a wet sponge in between the clamps.

    “You know, my brother Kyle once said the anticipation of pain is often greater than the pain itself. Do you think that’s true?”

    “You’re crazy, lady,” the man said. He looked at Mike. “You just gonna stand there?”

    KITT was calling out a warning, giving her the odds of success.

    “Yeah, Kyle, I don’t think he was always right. He died, you know? They killed him. But he tried to do the right thing in the end. Me, well, not so much. See, I once watched a man being tortured, almost to death.”

    “You’re f*cking insane!” the man spat.

    “Nope, not even close. You know what they say. One man’s insanity is another man’s genius.”

    “What the hell do you want from me?” the man said. “I don’t know who sent us. We were hired through a network.”

    “What network?” she asked, threatening him once again with the cable.

    As Mike watched in amazement, the man spilled his guts, giving Jane everything. Orders were sent via text through a network that was bounced around from one server to the next. It would be almost impossible to trace. Without KITT that was.

    Even his father was amazed at Jane’s ingenuity. She hadn’t even had to shock the man once. Of course that would have been more difficult, Mike realised, when he saw that the leads weren’t even connected. Anticipation of pain indeed, he thought.

    Jane contacted Jenna who sent in agents to take care of the men. Once they were gone, Jane grinned at the three others.

    Michael chuckled. “Well, I have to say that was an incredible bluff you just pulled off,” he said. “Did your brother really say that?”

    Jane nodded. “I never actually met Kyle. He died long before my family found me.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    She shook her head. “It’s okay. You can’t miss what you never knew.”

    “So what now?”

    “Once KITT can provide us with the actual source for the hit, we go after Cameron.”

    “Got anything in mind?” Mike asked.

    “Oh yeah. We use his own little network against him,” she grinned.

    In the end, they decided the best move would be to have an anonymous message sent to Cameron. Worded carefully, it was meant to suggest that the message itself had come from Ortega, demanding a meeting.

    Two days later, Cameron showed up at the meeting place. He was not expecting to see both Knight men waiting for him.

    “What is this?” he asked.

    “I think this is what you call check,” Jane told him.

    “You sent men to kill me,” Mike accused.

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    “Really?” Michael said. “Word is that Sonny Ortega sent a message asking for a meeting with his DEA mole at this very time in this place. What a surprise to find you showing up instead.”

    “I thought you’d retired, Knight,” Phil said.

    “I have. But I wanted the pleasure of seeing the look on your face when you learned that we have proof. Not only have you been profiting off Ortega for years, but you set up the phony witness and one of your own people. And all this because you had some score to settle with me from twenty-five years ago.”

    “You and FLAG made a fool out of me,” the agent spat. “I had everything all nice and neat and you come along and expose Ortega. You came very close to exposing me.”

    “Hark, do I hear violins playing?” Jane said sarcastically.

    “Everything would have been fine if you had just stayed out of it,” Phil told her viciously. “That stupid b*tch at the ATF. That agency went to the dogs after they let women into the top jobs.”

    “You’re a real piece of work, Phil,” Mike said. “You used your connection to FLAG, you used Sarah, and you used me. You know something, it was a real bonus for us when Jane came along. She had the smarts to figure out you were playing us.”

    Cameron snorted. “This isn’t over,” he said.

    “Oh yes it is,” Jenna McGann said, stepping out of the shadows. “There’s enough proof on you to put you away for the rest of your natural life. As for Ortega, well, thanks to Jane, and FLAG, we can not only put him away, but we’ve also now got leads on a number of cartels he’s been supplying.”

    Cameron was led away, protesting loudly. The redhead turned and looked at Jane.

    “Tell your brother I owe him one,” she said.

    Jane nodded. “I will.”

    Jenna nodded her thanks to Mike and Sarah, who had been standing watching from a distance.

    Mike looked at Jane.

    “So now what?” he asked.

    “Back to LA. My dad’s funeral is tomorrow, so I’ll be flying home. Then, well, I figure I’ve earned a little break.” She sent him a questioning look. “What about you?”

    “Well, my father’s going to spend a couple of days in the SSC. Bonnie wants to get to know the new KITT. See what advances Dr Graiman made. So, I guess it’s a good opportunity for us to, well, get to know each other a little I guess.”

    Jane nodded. “Good idea. Just ... give him a break. Trust me, this is probably just as tough on him as it is on you.”

    Mike understood. Jane was speaking from experience.

    “And what about you and Sarah?” she asked.

    Mike shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. We work well together and I guess that’s the best we can hope for.”

    “Mike, you care about her. She cares about you. I really think you should at least give it a try.”

    “Water under the bridge,” he said.

    “Only if you let it.” Jane hugged him, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. Mike grinned.

    “All right. I’ll tell you what. You email me or whatever and tell me you’re giving your ex another shot and I’ll do the same with Sarah. Deal?”

    Jane laughed. “Mayybe!”

    She turned and began walking away, hailing a cab. Mike shook his head and sighed. Whoever this guy Oliver Queen was, he was one hell of a dumbass for letting her go. He turned and looked at Sarah with a contemplative expression.

    Sarah saw him watching her and moved to his side.

    “Everything okay?” she asked.

    “Yeah. It’s cool.”

    Sarah smiled and shook him. “Then let’s go home. Back to the SSC I mean.”

    “Yeah. All right.”

    THE END

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