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Message no. 1
From: Paul J. Adam ShadowTK@********
Subject: Corruption On High #2
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 00:28:23 +0100
*****PRIVATE: RAdm J Kowalski, SOCOM
>>>>>[We met up with Minnie. By now, as you might imagine, we were
getting a little wary, and both she and we were taking serious

+++++begin video
The cafe is small, quiet, private. A good place to meet.

Lynch and Lilith are their usual selves. Minnie Descabiere, though,
looks... older than when they had last met: less self-assured, almost
nervous. "I'm glad you could make it."

"Not a problem." Lilith replies. "What happened?"

"They were going after the jawbone. We got there. Too late to save the
old man who had it, in time to intercept it and take it." Minnie shakes
her head.

"And the strike team?"

"They'll be okay, we left them-"

"Bad move." Lynch shakes his head. "They see you?"

"Yes. They did." Minnie looks at the Marine, at his wife. "What should I
have done?"

"Kill them or bring them in. Still, too late to whine now. So, McNally
_was_ after the jawbone." Lynch nods. "Damn. _Another_ bad General."

"You think Ernang's involved?" Lilith asks.

"No way could McNally pull all that himself. You'd need a SOCOM flag
officer's direct word to have the 160th loan two aircraft like that. Oh,
yeah, the FRAG learned from that, Ernang just added an air wing to his
unit. Drones and helos. 'Reduces their reliance on outside support and
speeds their reactions in difficult scenarios', he says." Lynch shakes
his head in disgust. "Probably pissed off because the Night Hawks
wouldn't just salute and do what he said. I'll see if I can talk to

"You think you can manage that?" Lilith asks.

"Hey, they know me pretty well down at Campbell. I think I can get them
to talk. Especially if Ernang's prettyboys or McNally pissed them off.
Very individualistic fliers, the 160th." Lynch grins. "Done some good
work with them."

"The question is..." Minnie pauses, as if gathering her courage, "It
might not be wise to let these people keep the skull."

"You want it stolen?"

"I think it needs an inside job." Minnie nods. "Those troops... you
might call them prettyboys, but they're more than a match for most
shadow muscle. I just don't have enough talent available to go head-on
at them. But you..."

"I hate to say this, Dona Minnie, but what's in it for us?" Lilith asks.
"We're risking our careers, which are entertaining but not vital. We're
also risking our _lives_, which carry a much higher premium. You're
obviously convinced of the importance of this affair, well, convince us.
We don't work blind."

Minnie glances around, making sure they're not being overheard. The
small cafe is nearly full... of Descabiere muscle. "There's more to the

"Of course." Lilith replies, slightly sardonic.

"The darkness can be stopped. The failed solder, his lover and his claws
will be there, as will the toad and the puzzle. And the man that cannot
die, with his wives. The sword, the blade and the halfman will all
fight, and one will die to save the others. But at the end, all will
fall, save the Scholar, who will face the darkness on his own.

"And the Red Lady shall return and again to see the dancer fight the
leopard. And neither shall win, for the grave shall be the only victor
if the darkness is to be stopped." Minnie finishes reciting.

Lynch sighs. "I don't like the sound of that. Not one little bit."

"Why not?" Minnie asks.

Lilith smirks. "Watch." Before Minnie Descabiere's eyes, the incredibly
beautiful, auburn-haired woman seems to flow and change, bone and muscle
flowing beneath her skin and her long, dark-red hair almost _retracting_
as dappled, spotted fur blossoms to cover her flesh.

Not a full transformation, not to her complete animal form, but enough
to startle. Lilith looks like the Egyptian cat-goddess Bast, a striking
hybrid of leopard and human. Her huge dark blue eyes remain unchanged,
as does her expression of amusement. "Am I not... _shtunning_?" she
says, through jaws and teeth ill-adapted to human speech.

"So the stories are true. You _are_ a leopard shapeshifter." Minnie

"Pantera pardus arabica/homo sapiens sapiens/mutabilis. Genetic-type
shapeshifter." Lynch confirms. "Not your usual variety. That's her
truest form. What's _he_ staring at?"

"That'll be Holden. One of my more reliable employees. Don't mind him."

"The weretiger?" Lilith asks, returning to her fully human form. "Works
with a British Army dropout, Julian Clarke-Jervoise?"

"You _know_ them?"

"Know _of_ them." Lynch nods. "We have friends in Britain. You might
pass on that they shouldn't go home just yet, but nobody from Merry Ol'
is going to come looking."

"I'll let them know." Minnie nods. "Anyway, that... is one reason I
wasn't fully forthcoming at first. I'd heard the stories... and I used
to dance." She blushes slightly.

"Nothing wrong with that. I've done far worse." Lilith says, and sounds
like she means it. "Any advance on where the Skull _is_?"

"Remote. North of Lake Huron." Minnie says. "That's where the trace
leads, according to my magicians."

Lynch glances at Lilith, data flickering to and fro on their private
radio link.

J> Do we believe her?
L> She's been right so far.
J> We're talking treason here.
L> By us or by Ernang?
J> The loser gets hanged.
L> Was it not always thus?
J> We had backup and support before. Now it's just us.
L> I thought you preferred it like that?
J> I did. When I was young and stupid.
L> Do we wade in or walk away? Not many other options.
J> We have to go in. I just don't like it.
L> Me neither.

"We'll check it out." Lynch nods at last.

Minnie almost collapses with relief.
+++++end video

We did.]<<<<<
-- Lynch <00:24:26/07-28-61>

Further Reading

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