Chapter 19:

Winter hunt

11 Kingdoms

Report: Winter Hunt

Accessing Personal Logs: Fawn Midin

I clamp down on my fresh wound in my arm and push myself up in the snowbank but it's already too late, as the first of the hunters has made their way well within the range to strike my back with a strong blow of his mace. I go flying forward several feet tumbling in the snow in leaving dashes of red across the pure white ground. I begin to scream but my face takes a mouthful of the snow before a sound makes its way out of my lungs. As my escape is a useless effort I shove my hand deep in the snow and call forth a trail of Ice spikes to launch up striking at the hunters. The blast strikes three solidly but leaves me open for a second strike from the brute with the mace. He makes his swing hit me in the side of my ribs, and I hear a solid crack as it makes contact. Unlike before I can release a cry out in pain from the blow as I fall back to the side from the force of the blow. "Looks like we been had boys, no way this weakling is the princess. But let's have fun with her anyway." I watch as the gang gathers closer with grins on most of their faces. Only the ones that took my ice attack see otherwise. I try to do a glance for Jilland but fail to spot him, perhaps he got further down the road or maybe he even abandoned me leaving me to face these thugs alone. As the one with the mace draws in closer he reaches up to swing down when a blast hits him. Dead on in the face. I turn to look and see Jilland standing about 10 yards away with a strange robotic bird that is glowing a faint light.

"Run Fawn, I can't hold them off for long." He shouts just as a second blast hits the mace wielder that has been using me like a drum set. I stumble through the snow but only make it two steps closer when I receive a new hole, courteous of a gun wielder in the gang. This time I find my left shoulder gets flung forward as the sudden thrust of the bullet hits me.

Again I find myself on the ground. I take a quick action to reach in my cloak's pockets and pull out the magus staff and with it, I hear the footsteps of the gang stop.

"No doubt about it guys that's the staff Fawn carries. I would recognize that item anywhere." Before he can say any more I swing the staff around and the snow it through up freezes in place forming a wall of ice. I take advantage of the delay in their movement to make my actions in casting my spell for flight.

“Jilland, do you have a way to boost your speed or travel quickly?” I ask as the magical wings sprout about my back.

“I have a recall scroll, it goes back to the last town I visited.” He responds holding the roll of paper.

“Then use it. I will do what I can to lose these guys. If it comes to the worse thing I will have to drop the disguise and I would rather you not be around should other people through things my way as well." I take a flap of my newly formed wings and pull myself barely out of the snowdrift. Jilland nods. "I will find you at our first planned stopping point by dawn if I can." I watch as he unravels the scroll and a white light engulfs his body before it vanishes completely. Taking the queue as a signal I flap furiously with my wings and try to gain a distance that the gang will be unable to pursue me with. A massive explosion lets out and grazes my side as I look on at one of the gang members who has taken to throwing dynamite towards me. My ears ring from the blow and I find it hard to fly straight at first but this proves a benefit as a bullet flies by from the gun wielder.

Gathering what senses I can, I take towards a nearby collection of pine trees. The gang follows in two forms, the melee players which consist of five players soon followed by the ranged fighters which make up the other two members of the gang. Two! Wait I could have sworn I saw eight in the Lighthouse and surely with their experience my first fireball wouldn't drop a player. So where is the last one? My question is quickly answered as a figure dive bombs me from above spearing me. Another mage with the flight spell, I look with what little I can give and see the difference in wings. Magical wings glow a faint light and appear translucent in their form, but these were solid. No this is no mage, this is a player from the silver kingdom, a sheriph player. Sheriph is the only natural race with the ability to fly. From my time watching the silver kingdom's princess Kylie, in the meetings before the beta I was quite aware of their skill with their wings, and how they are better than my own. Then with good standing, they have a clear advantage in the game, with the ability to strike targets at unsuspecting angles. With this guy in the air, my hopes of escape are lost till I can find a way to deal with him, and losing them on the ground is far less a simple task.

The pain from where the spear struck my side is growing. I have to send my focus on avoiding a second strike from the winged pursuer. I drop down to the tree line hoping for a chance to trip him up dodging the tops of the pines. But he lands on them and then uses them to leap off of gaining speed. I get distracted briefly in my focus on avoiding him as treetop brushes against the wound from the spear and I cry out in pain dropping below the tops and into the pine thick. I switch my view on the path before me trying to avoid any further run-in with the forest rooftop. All the while, the winged man's laughter pushing me to move quicker. But inexperience with the wings and the nagging pain of my wounds cause my head to be very difficult to focus. This is causing my face to grow red from bruises from the constant lashes of branches that fall in my path. I somehow, however, can dodge not one but two attacks, the first from the winged man tossing a javelin at me from above, while the second comes from the gunner below. Reminding me that I don't have one person after me I have eight. With all of them having the advantage of having a group link to talk with each other. In the moment of good luck, I decided to take an action of my own and take a sudden halt in my movement forward by flipping around in midair. Grasping the ebony staff I cast a minor healing spell in a futile attempt to close up the wounds on my side and in my shoulder. This is leaving the one in my arm and the broken ribs for more serious healing potions I have stored away in the cloak.

My change in direction succeeded in throwing off the gang members on the ground but the one in the air was able to turn around and return to his effort on reopening the earlier wound he made with his spear. Only this time I have the advantage of being far enough to cast a spell in his direction before he can reach me. I focus my power on the ebony staff and suddenly a massive gust of wind flies past me building stronger and stronger. I watch as the wind circles around into a small whirlwind around the winged man. The wind pushes him back and down into the dense area of the forest granting me time to fly off a good enough distance where I can attack him at a better advantage point.

Seeing a final opening I take aim and launch a collection of lightning blasts towards the man now returning to the clear skyline from his dark descent. I fire in a large spread with my prayers to hit him with at least one. Sure enough, he gets hit not just once but twice. The first blow to his right-wing singeing it enough that even at the good 200 yards distance I can tell he won’t likely stay in the air for long. Then I see the second blast hit him in his chest and he plummets to the ground snapping limbs down along the way. I gasp for a breath of air as I wait a moment to see if my dogged pursuer is to return but he remains below. Bringing with it a tiny fragment of peace that I at least had brought down one of the players. The nagging feeling however reminding me I only have bought myself some time till the player revives and restores himself to full strength before he makes his way back to help out his friends. I start to fly off in a new direction this time away from the town and lighthouse, making my way to a distant mountain. I place the staff away and in its place grab a potion and quickly drink it down. I nearly make it past the wood line when a gunshot rings out and hits me dead on in the chest. But not just anywhere, no the bullet hits the chameleon pin and my disguise blinks in and out. Looks like my hope to lose the others was a useless one as they have followed my actions and continue to attack me from their disadvantaged point. A point that is further proven futile to me as my move to recover is quickly meet with a small red stick flickering just long enough for me to start a scream before the explosion launches me crashing back down to earth. The last thing I remember before the fall is the sudden ringing and red blurred vision before, the crushing cold strikes me and the world goes black.

When I finally wake, I have to wonder what happened did these men truly kill me, am I in some form of afterlife or did this sick game revive me to face the agony of dying again and again. I look and see the seven gang members overlook me as they are picking at my armor and backpack with their weapons. "I can't believe this bitch gave us that much of a fight." I listen to the conversation as my hearing is returning wondering why on earth they haven't tried to kill me. They can't claim my items until I am dead. Hell, the quest won't be complete till they kill me. I don't know if they can see me or not but a tear escapes my eye and runs down my face and I feel the salt sting at my wounds telling me that I am very much alive. Though not in the slightest bit willing to get up and walk let alone deal with the seven thugs before me. "Hell, I doubt it's her. We should just kill her and find out if the staff is on her." One of the thugs raises his hand bringing the barrel of the gun within my view as it begins to clear up.

"Why waste her, she won't go anywhere fast. We just keep her weak like this counteracting the natural healing and she will be perfect for us to sell off in an auction." Another speaks up who through his actions is standing as the brains of the group. "Even if she isn't Fawn, a girl like this to be sold into slavery will fetch a high price." So they plan to sell me off, this just got worse. The game has a detailed system of rules that allow the darker world to enter our own. A weakened player can be sold into slavery and be locked into devices to keep them weak till ether they find a way out, or give up and start a new character abandoning the shame and humiliation of having a powerful character owned by another. The idea isn't a pleasant one for me, but my wounds won't let me move about much. I start to look around at the gang members and catch a brief glimpse of red hair dropping from the crown of my head. At least the pin is still active despite the hit it took earlier. I look about and see the two above me aren't solidly focused on me so much as they are the leader of the group. The others seem to be standing around looking away most likely keeping an eye out. I dig my hand at the snow and it packs together into a snowball and an idea rolls about in my head. I may be weak and my magic may be strained by the disguise but I am not out of tools that I have to my advantage. I close my eyes and take in a deep breath of air. Focusing my power on the snow and drawing an image of something to come to my aid. Something I know that will challenge the group of gang members. I then hear it. A faint heartbeat below the snow as the ground begins to rumble. I open my eyes and see the snow had stopped. Well, it hadn't stopped falling it just has not moved any further down. The players also have stopped in their motions. Digging in I prop myself up and instantly feel a sharp pain, looking down I see my leg was broken in a bad position likely from the fall. But I have a limited time so I drag my bad leg and make my way out of the gathering of the gang and deep in the woods where I can watch. Watch as the eye of the beast I fought in the Coliseum. The creature at the launch of the beta is unleashed on the gang of warriors just as the snow once again begins its descent. The gang has little time to react. The boss is the only one to notice I had crawled away from them but my obvious trail shows him to where I went. But not before the t-rex worm head of the Cavo Jack, bursts out rising from the ground swallowing the first of the players’ whole. I drink down another potion as I try to reset my leg and watch the panic ensue.

As my wounds heal the pain begins to fade, unlike the battle with the pirate. It must be a difference in the infected creatures versus normal wounds about how the healing of the game affects me. I watch as the leg reforms to its normal look and a quick test of placing my weight on it shows its back to normal. While I am not back to my full health I have no choice. Staying around any longer places me in threat to the Cavo Jack. I start to walk away from the rumbles of earth and screams only to find the familiar end of the spear from the sheriph gang member who has returned. "Your damn lucky girl aren't you, too bad my buddy's plans for you are about to change. I don't know what you did or how you survived this much but it's clear only one character has the stuff to fight like that. And I am through playing around. Now if you have a way to call off the monster then do it. Or else you will be breathing through a new hole in your neck." The warrior pressed the spear against my neck drawing a bead of blood down on the razor-sharp spearhead.

I turn to see only the boss of the group and another with dynamite remain, fighting the Cavo which looks to barely be touched in damage. “In a minute the Cavo will defeat them both then head our way. If you don’t want an experience hit from a second death so close to your last then I suggest your worries become directed more about your hide." I reach out my hand and point it at the group of players as magic builds up in my palm.

“Cast that spell and your dead, princess or not I really could care less." The winged man pulls his spear back ready to strike me only to have his spear drop as a sword comes crashing down on his arms. I stand there looking up at the dark man from the town.

"Tul, you came to rescue me." I stand dumbfounded at the dark man. "Get to the ground quickly!" I warn him as I launch a fireball straight at the player carrying the dynamite causing a massive explosion blowing the two players and the Cavo away.

“What was that?” The winged man screamed. “What did you do?”

“A bit of advice, the game is built on understanding reactions of certain things such as your friend's dynamite meeting my fireball would equal a large-scale boom even without it leaving his inventory. It's called the suicide plan of the game. Now keep this in mind if I so much as hear you spreading rumors of who you guys found, then I will see to it that you relive that destruction each time you revive. Now leave me alone!" I can't help but fear that I have just played into the script of the evil Fawn that they used as the premise of the quest. Tul looks confused yet carries a great smile at my safety. Then suddenly I see dragging along behind him is Jilland carrying a collection of items in his arms. I crack my smile as I drop to the ground in the snow from the exhaustion of the past events. As the stinging cold hits on my remaining wounds slowly still bleeding out into the perfect white canvas of snow, I watch as the now bloody armed winged man looks at me and then at Jilland and Tul before walking away saying nothing as he goes. I turn my gaze to Jilland and squint at him. “I thought you didn’t like him, so why did you bring him along?”

“Well, Quinn you were in danger and I thought having a melee fighter team up with us would be helpful.” I watch as Jilland winks at me to hint that what he just said was the truth for as far as Tul understands at this time.

"You two are really into the game. You look like you're tired from fighting these guys all this time." Tul stands a little confused at how this battle truly came out. Proving if he knew what I was discussing with the winged player beforehand. Then he was a far better actor than Jilland or I because neither of us felt anything beyond sincerity in his words.

“Jilland, do you have any healing potions on you? I only have one more, yet it’s too powerful to waste on these wounds I have now.” I look as he shuffles about his bags for one but Tul offers one before Jilland can. Thank you again I guess.

“It is no problem for a pretty girl like you. I just wish I met you before your boyfriend here.” Tul states while glancing at Jilland.

"Oh uh, we aren't like that." I begin but find Jilland interrupting me.

"What she means Tul, is that we are a bit more than girlfriend and boyfriend.” I Groan at the idea of another pretend engagement and wish I was able to send him a private message complaining to him for what he was about to say. “We’re siblings isn’t that right sister.” I jump a bit at the change having thought Jilland looked at me as his girlfriend or wife.

“Um yeah that’s right I’m his little sister, I moved to the USA, some time ago to pursue my college degree. Big bro is always watching over me and this game is the perfect way for us to spend time together.” I feel strange finally having a sibling in my life let alone a brother who is old enough to be my father. I watch as a smile gleams itself out of the dark features of Tul’s face. He reaches out and hugs Jilland lifting him off the ground.

“So she is not your girlfriend and you two want me to journey with you.” Jilland slides a bit from the tight squeeze of Tul, as Tul speaks proudly to find out I am available for him to hit on. Guess Jilland didn't want to try to compete for my affection against a figure that stands more like a prime example of a renaissance statue than a mere character.

"We have a mission Tul," I state trying to calm him down before he comes to squeeze me, which I figure would help show me the full extent of my wounds. "I have to get to Arguo and Ruire. I need to speak with people in both kingdoms." I look and see Jilland even a bit surprised at my mission goals. I guess I must have skipped my plan before when I told him about what happened on the ship. I look up at the fading light of the day. "Look maybe it would be best for us to find a place to get some rest and discuss things. Bro, you have to sign off soon anyway right." I state fully understanding that Jilland's schedule has him having to leave for his work not too much longer after the night hits today. Also, it gets me a good excuse to find a place to rest my wounds and magic, maybe even look for supplies to repair the chameleon pin’s damage.

“We can go back to town the inn should be good.” I think about Tul’s words and shake my head recalling that the gang I just faced most likely is hanging around and may take the advantage to seek revenge on me there. I sigh as it won’t be pleasant but it looks like my best option will be camping out in the woods.

"No, I think if we can find a spot near here to camp it will be fine." I see Jilland pull out a map of the world and press about on it in weird ways.

"You're in luck, Quinn. There is a cabin not too far from here. Don't know what is in it but we could set up for the night there." I watch as Tul laughs at our stringent role-play of the game with the two of us want to rest at night.

I agree and the three of us head with Jilland leading the way. I still limp a bit maybe out of habit. But my role-playing is good enough that after a few minutes of my falling behind the two of them that Tul comes back and carries me in his arms. The cabin wasn't as a good idea as Jilland soon discovered. It’s a ruin inhabited with a ghost that walks around constantly blabbing on about some lost treasure. I am sure it’s the basis of some long and grueling story arc. But unlike Jilland and Tul, I can ignore it easily as it doesn’t see me as an active player. I make my way to a covered bedroom. While my companions walk with me to the door of the room, Jilland stops Tul from entering.

“This will be Quinn’s room for the night. You and I can take another room.” He points to the room with the ghost. I smile back at the two men.

“Thanks for helping us out Tul. I am glad you will help us out, and look forward to our next adventure together.” I watch as he smiles back and Jilland walks him away down the hall of the building. Suddenly he stops and turns his head.

“It is always a pleasure to help a beautiful lady. Goodnight my lovely amber pearl, I will see you tomorrow.” I can’t help but blush at the man’s words a bit. I wait till Jilland has Tul out of view before I close the door to the room and start digging away at my cloak's hidden pockets for a meal. My stomach growls at the concept of one and I can't remember if I even ate yesterday, let alone before Jilland and I left the ship earlier today.

At last, I am alone. I have time to eat something as well as do one other thing I have waited all day to do. I cry. I have had little time to reflect on the info Jilland gave me at the lighthouse. Just before my battle with the gang made it hard for me to focus on my life outside this world I am trapped in. At the lives of the two people I knew very well and of the life, I thought I knew so greatly in Rick. I take a bite of some chicken amazed at the magic properties keeping it warm and as fresh as the day it was served me originally.

Not so much as a letter has arrived either from the team back at the tower. Their silence causes me greater worry. Was there more to the news that Jilland didn't tell me, or that the police left covered up? I didn't even know if Rick was captured alive or dead. I knock off a long-built layer of dust from the bedding before placing my backpack down for a pillow and pulling out my bedroll on top for warmth. I met a new friend today and I lost at least two people along the way in my life. If I even still have one outside the game after all this is over and done. I stare at the dark grey and rotting wooden walls of the room as I think further on the issue letting my little memories of the two victims seep into my soul. Trying to find reason in all of this, in my short time over the past months of development I have come to see Rick as a man who worked hard to keep a roof over his families head. A man, who was proud to wear the gift of stickers that his daughter lovingly placed on his body and Nuro-link. A man who was in tears as much as I was during the great disaster and agreed for weeks to go home early enough to see his daughter to bed and read her a story. This was not the man who would kill such a small and innocent child. He cared too much for her. He wanted to protect his family. He wanted to protect his daughter.

I close my eyes. His daughter, in this world I am his daughter. His daughter, instinct strikes me and I jump from my vertical position digging out a lamp from my possessions and lighting it before I reach for the two letters from Gavin and Melissa. A mission, Rick went on a mission, to confront her. The hacker did this. The hacker warped Rick in some way giving him orders to kill his daughter and any that stood in the way. His daughter in the real world wasn't the daughter of his that the hacker meant though. How could they, the info on Rick's daughter wasn't public knowledge, nor did any of the staff of our team share about our personal lives outside the tower? So his target wasn't his real-world daughter. No, the hacker meant for Rick to hunt for his other daughter. For Rick to kill me! I am the target. The hacker wants me to suffer and will corrupt my friends and companions to get to me. A familiar pain hits my stomach as the wheezing begins. I brought this on to Rick and his family. Lily and Karen, are dead now because of me. No one who knows me is safe. Not Melissa, Gavin, Moses, Riex, Jilland, or even now Tul. Each person that fights at my side is a target of the hacker's plans to destroy me. I try to calm my breath but take an instant action to gather up my things and pack them away. Jilland, and Tul, may be safe yet. They haven't been with me long and I haven't dropped the disguise to warn. I pause and think back to my recent fight. No, I had dropped the disguise. It was only a brief second but it was still more than enough that should they be watching then surely a new threat is headed my way, to harm those close to me. I am not safe to be around. Once I gather my things I switch out my storage cloak for the shadow cloak. It had been three days so the cloak has had more than enough time to charge for me to use it now. Draping the hood over my head I head out of the room quietly.

I watch as Tul is doing some of the tasks of the quests that the ghost has him performing. I stand to wait for a perfect moment when Tul runs out of the cabin to complete another task of the spirit. It's not too long of a wait till the dark man runs out into the night air and I follow quickly out the door but quickly make my way away. Once I find myself deep in the woods I turn and again head for the mountain range I saw during my earlier flight of the night. The snow begins to fall heavily and I pray it is enough to cover my tracks before my friends discover I left them. Though too dark and blinded by snow I turn to face the direction of the cabin looking back at having to abandon my new friends like my old ones. But it's best for everybody I leave them and continue the search for the hacker alone. So that no one is hurt again I tell myself. I walk on stumbling along the way as my legs have grown stiff from the journey and the wounds they suffered. By dawn, I am already making my way up the second mountain and know that I have lost the chances of my friends ever finding me. Looking for a hidden alcove I drop my equipment. Pulling out my bedroll and curling in to rest before I continue my journey hoping the light of the day will help chase away the nightmares of the lives my own has cost my friends.

File Source End.

Accessing Linked File

Onyx Tower Floor 47 Meeting room Camera’s

The room stands silent as team forty-seven along with Alex and Agent Estaban sit. No one daring to speak up till Estban’s DAS chirps and he looks at the screen.

"Looks like the company is finally going to make a statement, they are going to send out a press release in about twenty minutes." Estaban sucks some air in between his teeth overlooking the room.

“What difference does it make, they are just going to take the mess and pin it on Rick. We just revealed to the world that the hacker was able to harm people in the game. Then Rick goes nuts and ruins it all.” Moses sighs as he pounds his fist into the table.

"It wasn't him it was the hackers doing! You guys shouldn't blame Rick for this mess." States, Alex.

“Bull.” Shouts Melissa. It’s enough to send the room’s attention to be directed to her. "Rick did it, Alex! The hacker did not puppet him like all of us controlling our characters. He did it. He made each cut, each slice on that family of his. We can't make excuses and ignore the clear answers. I was there when they took Rick in. He admitted it to me. He killed them. He said he was compelled to kill his daughter, to kill Fawn. It sounded like the hacker confused his memories. Sort of the same way Fawn was when Rick found her after the accident.” Alex looks at Melissa who is shaking and starts to reach for the bottle of alcohol on the table but he quickly grabs it and throws it with all his force at the wall. The glass wall and bottle both shatter with great force.

“Damn it all, don’t you dare chase your fears away with that girl? The team needs you now! You are supposed to be the rock for this group the voice of reason. And here you are a worthless drunk. You all are doing just what the hacker wants. They want us to turn away and numb ourselves to the pain that they cause. They want us to blame each other and the company. They want us to destroy ourselves.”

“So what, we have no clue on who this hacker is. The two times anyone faced the hacker one ended up fighting for her life as her mind is trapped in the game and the other had their brain fried. If this is what happens to all those that confront her then it’s pointless to face her at all in the game. She is as she claims a god. And you can’t fight god, you can only submit.” Melissa shouts back as tears well up in her eyes.

“Then we find a way to fight them. Be it in the game or by knocking on every damn door of this world till we find the son of a bitch. But giving in then we might as well kiss Jamie goodbye. She is still alive in there somehow, everyone here believes that. But the moment we give up and turn our backs on her no matter how often she runs from us is the moment she will die. Now, do you want to save your friend or sit here drinking your years away?" Gone is Alex's calm nature and is now replaced with a sense of fury and resolve that Gavin and Moses both recall Rick having himself.

The group sits in silence as Melissa continues to shake and weep when a knock comes from the open doorway and they all look to see Gail Jeirade standing in overlooking the group, she walks in plopping a stack of papers on the table.

"There this is the response, you all get an early look at this before my team releases it." Gail looks at the cracked wall and shattered bottle of booze and sighs. "I will overlook this for now I guess." She returns to focus on the papers as the group except for Melissa who is still wallowing in her depression gathers copies. "Despite what some of you believe. We intend to come forward on the issue of the hacker. As well as the actions central has taken since to keep players from facing another incident like Sydney. We also are going to report that the actions of Mr. Mathers were a travesty, but current investigations show that his recent contact with the plague virus and the hacker known as Dark Mistress may be connected as to why. We will be supplying him with a legal team to help with his upcoming trial. As for Ms. Eve's issue, I am afraid our research team feels that the body of Ms. Eve will not be likely to restore her to normal. We have two teams working on solutions and backup plans for her should we be able to restore her. But for now, we are suggesting sending her body to Cryogenics to stay in a usable condition for her when a plan is devised. Till then the investigation team is to find the hacker to bring them in for a new charge our legal team put together." The news of the new term gets the group to look up from their papers except for Agent Estaban, who sits there laughing.

"Cybernetic Kidnapping, wow, so I take it from this being put in the report that means the company acknowledges Jamie is alive." Agent Estaban, flops the paperwork down back to the center to meet a handful of remainders.

"Congratulations boys and girls we have been the first to discover life off our world as far as our legal team is willing to go to court on it. The only problem it's a life from our world in a video game designed to kill its players regularly. Now I am making it a priority for you all to get Fawn out of this alive. She is company property in a way after all. Now go out there and find her and keep her safe understand." The group nods as the strength of the Gail Storm seems to be a relatively friendly gust. "Oh two other things, this mess can only be handled in our US towers and any that are willing to lend a friendly aid to us. I cannot guarantee rival towers may not still be willing to try to destroy Fawn should she meet them.” Gail glances at the wall again. “Finally on a personal note, Melissa I am putting you on a mandatory AA meeting. I know you and Ms. Eve are close friends and I don’t know about her but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to see my friend killing herself in booze and sorrow. Find some better way to deal with your pain. That’s an order and if you ignore this one you will find I have ways to make your time with us a long and painful one understand.” Melissa nods not improving her gloomy face from its upset look as Gail walks out of the room and towards the elevator.

"We succeeded in saving her for now!" Moses says with a smile trying to cheer Melissa up.

"And the company has given this case a solid leg to stand on." Agent Estaban says as he gets up from his chair straightening his suit. "I will head back to my team. Alex, perhaps it would be a good idea if you helped out these guys for a week then we should discuss where to go from here, and who should help us out upstairs.”

“Sounds like a plan. I will get in touch when things calm down around here a bit." Alex stands up and walks over to Melissa as Estaban leaves. "Things are looking bleak guys, I can't lie. But we need to be strong for each other. We know the cost of this battle, in more ways these days. So I won't hold it against any of you if you want to quit and leave but you have to know what you're running from. So anyone who wants to leave the group for their safety, stand up and walk out.” The group watches as the only one to pull their chair is Melissa, as she looks down upon them with her still gloomy look on her face.

“Nothing would have stopped him from doing the right thing.” The group looks puzzled as Melissa laughs and wipes tears from her eyes. “Something I shared with Jamie, after the earthquake about my husband. And now I am being called to do the same only this time the life at risk is Jamie’s.” The room is quiet and no one moves for a good while. Until Melissa stands up from the chair and starts to walk out. She stops as she passes the chair where Jamie usually sat. “He once told me there are times in all our lives when we are tested to do the right things. I take great courage to follow through in what is asked of us at that time.” She pulls out the chair where Jamie sat. Then she sits down, as a smile reaches across the rest of the group at the table. "We will bring Jamie home or die trying because it's the right thing to do."

Report end

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