In the Vagabond, the flight from Texas to Cairo, Egypt took an hour. By the time they got there, Dragon was still explaining why they were going to Dave.
"So we're going to get information from our butler?"
"No, Dave. Jeeves was our butler. When we lost our base, he went to work for the American ambassador to Egypt as his attache. He knows a lot about what's going on in Africa, and what he doesn't know, I'm betting his boss can find out."
"You know, Dragon, his name isn't really Jeeves."
"Yes, I know, Dave. But I have no idea what his real name is."
The radio crackled. "Vagabond, you have entered Egyptian airspace."
"Roger," Dave said. "This is Wildside-1, requesting clearance to land at Cairo's airport."
There was silence from the radio. Dragon looked up at Dave. "Wildside-1?"
"This is technically a stolen plane, Dragon. And the other one is owned by Xavier. I know we're not popular, but we're still more popular than Xavier Enterprises in most places. Especially given who usually rides their Vagabond."
Dragon looked strangely at Dave. Dave looked back at him and gave him a curious look. Then he had a look of realization and said, "Pilot stuff. I know pilot stuff."
Dragon nodded in understanding. The radio crackled again. "Who is aboard?"
"Captain Dave Hunter and Dragon," Dave said, emphasizing the "Captain."
"Clearance granted," the controller said. "The American ambassador requests you come to the embassy immediately."
Dragon got a worried look, but as Dave swung in for a landing, he said, "Hey, they probably just want to throw us a party. I hope I brought my tux. Can we go back to L.A. for it if I didn't?"
Dave didn't get an answer. He hadn't really been expecting one.
They landed the Vagabond and put it inside a hangar. Dave activated the cloak and security systems.
There was a limo driver waiting for them outside the hangar. She was a young Egyptian woman in her mid-30s. She looked as if she was sweating, and her clothes were slightly ruffled. She waved frantically to Dave and Dragon.
"I'm sorry if I'm late. They called me in downtown traffic a minute ago and told me to bring my limo here because I was the closest to the airport."
"That's fine," Dragon said. "You came here from downtown?"
"I like to drive fast," she said, smiling. She opened the door and let Dragon and Dave into the back.
"I like her," Dave said.
In the fifteen-minute ride to the airport, the three of them spent at least thirteen minutes screaming. Dragon was screaming at the driver to look out for this or that obstacle and slow down, the driver (whose name, it turned out, was Sari) was screaming at Dragon to shut up and let her drive, and Dave was screaming at the top of his lungs out the sun roof.
When they arrived at the embassy, Dragon literally flew out the door and kissed the ground. Dave climbed out the sun roof, took Sari's hand and kissed it. "Thanks for the ride."
Sari looked at Dragon. "I don't know why he's so upset. He's supposed to be invulnerable, isn't he?"
"Dragon's a wimp sometimes," Dave said. "He doesn't even like to fly to Jupiter. Do you?"
Dragon ignored Dave and Sari, seeing that the two of them were about to get into a long conversation. He just walked in to the embassy, past the two armed UNTIL agents at the door. That put him immediately on guard.
When he got in, Jeeves was waiting for him. He looked exactly the same, an older Egyptian man dressed impeccably well. His face was tired, but he looked happy. The entire embassy was crawling with UNTIL agents. Dragon counted ten in the foyer area. Jeeves shook Dragon's hand and looked past him at Dave.
"They're going to be busy for a while. How are you doing, Jeeves?"
"Jeeves. I haven't been called that in a while. Nevertheless, it's good to see you, sir."
"You don't have to call me sir, Jeeves. You don't work for me anymore. I hear your boss wanted to see me?"
Jeeves shifted uncomfortably. "Yes, but...I'm afraid you'll have to leave your sword here. And we'll need to have you pass through the security scanner."
Dragon shrugged and put his sword on a nearby table. An UNTIL agent came over and stood by it. He walked through a large security screen that showed various data to another agent. The agent passed the data pad to Jeeves, and Jeeves nodded.
"Body density match, size match, fingerprints, retina, voice...We can't get much safer. This is Golden Dragon."
The agent nodded and waved Dragon and Jeeves through the checkpoint. They passed through a hallway where all the windows had been covered over with steel. Dragon noticed a Duchess security force field around the entire area.
"What's going on, Jeeves?"
"Dr. Sammons will have to tell you that, I'm afraid. In his office."
They walked into the office after being patted down by two guards wearing UNTIL Dark Horse armor. The doors shut and sealed automatically behind them. Inside the office, all the windows had been covered with steel. There was a solid oak desk near two windows. Behind the desk sat a very nervous looking American man in his sixties. He had a white goatee and mustache and wore a monocle in his right eye.
"Golden Dragon, this is Dr. Martin Sammons, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt."
Dragon shook the ambassador's hand. The ambassador motioned for Dragon and Jeeves to sit in leather chairs next to the desk. He leaned forward and spoke, in a quiet, even voice.
"Mr. Ochiro, you used to be a bodyguard, didn't you?"
Dragon nodded. "It was a long time ago. If you're in some kind of trouble, these UNTIL agents probably have better training."
"But Jeeves personally vouches for you. UNTIL is as susceptible to corruption as anyone else. And I'm taking all possible precautions."
"You obviously believe that someone is after you. Can you give me more information?"
"As you are probably aware, Mr. Ochiro, there has been a movement towards peace in the Middle East. Israel is starting to reconcile with the countries that have warred with it for years. Egypt is one of those countries. America's intervention in the peace process is seen as a major factor. Some of the extremist Muslim groups aren't real fond of us."
"Two weeks ago, I received a threat. I receive threats everyday, it wasn't anything unusual. But it was followed up on. My personal bodyguard, a minor metahuman, was killed getting me out of here. The driver who brought you here got me out and in all likelihood saved my life."
"It became clear that the assassin was a metahuman, so I called UNTIL. But over the course of the past two weeks I have noticed breaks in discipline. Perhaps they are simply a little careless, but I think it likely that the assassin has at least one friend among my guards."
"In two days, I will be appearing with the Israeli ambassador to the United States and the Egyptian ambassador to the United States at a dinner here. It is largely symbolic, but I believe the assassin will strike then."
"And you want me to be your bodyguard?"
The ambassador nodded. Dragon sighed. "Sir, I am here on a mission to find my family. They're in the hands of an enemy that could kill them any day. I wish I had the time to personally protect you, but I don't. However, if I might suggest something else."
It was clear that the ambassador and Jeeves were disappointed, but they listened as Dragon outlined his plan. When he finished, he pulled Jeeves aside.
"Jeeves, I need to ask you something about Zaire. Have you heard about anything magic or weird going on down there?"
"There are rumors of a flesh-eating cult, Dragon. Somewhere in the northern jungles, on the border of Rwanda. Is that where you're going?"
"Probably. I've got a tip that the Dragon Cult is somehow connected to Zaire right now."
"Be careful, Dragon. The war in Rwanda is causing problems for Zaire as well. Do not get involved in any international incidents."
"Hey," Dragon said, "it's me."
Fifteen minutes later, Dragon walked out to find Dave and Sari still talking. Sari handed Dave a slip of paper and got back into her limo. She drove off, her tires squealing as she left. Dave turned back to Dragon.
"That's her phone number, isn't it, Dave?"
"Yeah. What's up, Dragon? We ready to go in?"
"Dave, I've just been in there for about twenty minutes. I've got an assignment for you. Can I trust you to follow my instructions if I'm not here? The ambassador's life depends on it."
Dave smiled and punched Dragon on the shoulder. "Hey," he said, "it's me. Don't worry."
Dragon groaned. He handed Dave his communicator. "Give this to Jeeves and meet me back out here. Be discreet."
Dave took the communicator and slipped it to Jeeves. "The black bird flies at midnight," he whispered to Jeeves, winking slyly at him.
"Nice to see you, too," Jeeves answered. He walked into the ambassador's office with the communicator. Dave shrugged and walked back outside.
"Okay. Now what?"
Dragon picked up Dave and started flying. "Now we initiate phase two. We need to get to the Vagabond."
Once on board, Dragon explained the plan to Dave. Dave was made to understand that his part was to act as bodyguard to the ambassador. After a few stops to pick up necessary components of the plan, Dragon told Dave to drop him over Zaire.
"I've got a tip from Jeeves on where this cult might be," Dragon said. "That sounds like my best lead."
Dragon jumped out of the drop hatch, yelling to Dave, "I'm counting on you!"
There was a sonic boom as the Vagabond disappeared in the distance.
Dragon flew down into the jungles and landed. He checked his backpack, which was full of water and dried food. His sword was slung over the pack, within easy reach. He looked around him at the forest and realized he could be here a while. From out of nowhere, he wondered how the Teacher was doing.
* * * * *
The Teacher was walking the back alleys of Chicago, as he had been for the past few days. He felt a sense of the Dragon Gem somewhere in this city, and after Dragon had disappeared, he started trying to track it down.
He heard the yowling of alley cats a few alleys down and ran that direction. A man was screaming, "It's a mutie!"
When the Teacher rounded the corner, he saw a fat man in a sweat-stained shirt holding a kitchen knife up. On the ground around him were overturned trash cans. Two alley cats stood next to them, their hair raised. Between them was a small reptilian baby, hissing at the man.
The man started to bring his knife down, but it was intercepted by one of the Teacher's scimitars. The Teacher locked eyes with the man.
"Go inside. Right now. Do not come out again for at least an hour."
To emphasize his point, the Teacher pulled his other scimitar and swung it across the opposing wall, cutting a wide slash into the brick.
The man dropped the knife and slammed his door. From inside, the Teacher heard bolts clicking into place. He turned his attention to the baby, bending down to get to her level.
"So, you are the one I was sensing. Your father will be most glad to see you."
* * * * *
Dave got back to the embassy and submitted to the necessary scans. He walked into the ambassador's office.
"All set?" he asked.
"I think so," the ambassador answered. He motioned to Jeeves, and Jeeves nodded at him.
"Okay, well I guess I'll hang around outside," Dave said. He walked out into the main office and sat down in a chair next to an UNTIL agent.
The agent looked up at him and spoke with a French accent. "You are Captain Hunter, from Wildside?"
"Yep, that's me! Hero of millions!"
The agent smiled. "I am Claude Durant. Have you come to assist in our bodyguard duties?"
"Yeah," Dave said. "But don't tell anyone. It's a secret."
Sari walked in to the embassy just then. She plopped down in a chair across from Dave.
"Hello, Dave. You're going to be here for a while, right? Let's grab some coffee."
Dave followed Sari in to the small break room. They were the only two there. Sari poured Dave some coffee and then made herself a cup.
"Where did you learn to drive like that?" Dave asked.
"I grew up stealing cars. You learn to drive fast when the police would just as soon shoot you as catch you."
"How did you wind up here?"
Sari smiled and took a sip of her coffee. "I tried to steal the ambassador's limousine."
Dave burst out laughing, and Sari joined in. They talked for a few more hours in the break room, both of them neglecting the jobs they were supposed to be doing.
* * * * *
Dragon was crashing through the jungle, using his katana as a machete. He stopped when he heard someone else crashing through the trees. He slowly floated up to the top of the trees and hovered inside the foliage.
As he got himself hidden, he saw a young black man, dressed in a black loincloth and covered with small cuts and bruises, break through the foliage below. He stumbled and fell, collapsing and panting on the ground.
Seconds later, a gorilla charged out into the clearing. It was huge, over eight feet tall, and its eyes glowed an eerie green. It growled, an unearthly sound, and raised its clawed hands.
Dragon jumped down and kicked the thing with half his strength. The gorilla grunted but didn't move. It followed through with a wicked slash, hitting Dragon in the chest. Dragon countered with another punch, this time at full strength. The gorilla yowled in pain and went flying back into the foliage.
Dragon waited for the gorilla to come back out, but it didn't. He thought about going after it, but when the young man at his feet tugged desperately on his costume, he knew he couldn't.
Dragon knelt down and pulled a first aid kit from his backpack. He started dressing the young man's wounds. He tried to talk to him, but the man didn't seem to speak English, Japanese, or Spanish, and he passed out within a few moments anyway.
By the time Dragon had the man's wounds dressed, he was sure the gorilla wasn't coming back. But he was still ill at ease when he heard the jungle shifting around him. He looked in the direction of the movement and activated the infrared in his helmet.
Everything in the jungle showed up as a red background, but his visor picked out the cooler forms moving towards him. There were four of them, humanoid and carrying tools. Dragon put his sword away and stood up in front of the young man.
The trees parted and a handsome dark man stepped through. He was carrying a brightly decorated spear and wore a loin cloth and chest plates. His face was painted, and he wore primitive jewelry around his neck. Three strong looking men were standing behind him, carrying spears. Dragon held up his hands and said, "Do any of you speak English?"
"I do," the man in the center said. "You did this to N'Dari?"
Dragon looked at the young man he had just bandaged. "No. A gorilla, huge with glowing green eyes. I'm not making this up, I swear."
"No," the man said, "I know you are not. The gorilla is from the Ten ten tribe, our mortal enemies. The Ten ten use magic and dark forces to combat our simple community."
"Magic? Do you know anything about the Dragon Cult, by chance? A man in dark clothes with a dragon tattoo? A red gem, like the one in your necklace, but much bigger?"
"A large red gem? N'Dari saw one in the jungle in past days. But when he went back to recover it, something had taken it. We believe it is in the jungle somewhere. N'Dari was looking for it when he was attacked, no doubt."
"The Dragon Gem," Dragon breathed. "It has to be."
The lead man gestured to his tribesmen and they picked up N'Dari, carrying him back the way they came. The man turned to Dragon.
"I am Kentaro. Will you come back with us to our village? Perhaps we can be of service to one another."
"Sure. I'm Golden Dragon."
"Of course you are."