Dragon was up and ready to move not in a couple days, but in about four hours. He complained to Kentaro about an intense headache, and within minutes, Kentaro had assembled a party of ten warriors to accompany them.
"Focus on that," Kentaro said. "I think it will help us find the gem."
As they walked into the jungle, following Dragon's instincts, Dragon said, "How do you know so much about magic?"
"When I was at Harvard, I had a run-in with a magical group. It was fortunate for me and my tribe, given what has happened with the Ten-ten."
Dragon nodded. The pain was still there, but it was lessening as they walked.
It was hours before the headache started to really fade. Hours of wandering through the hot, humid jungle. Dragon enjoyed the scenery, but he wanted to find the gem and get out of here and back to a nice, air-conditioned embassy.
Suddenly, Dragon's headache disappeared. He felt a compulsion to look into the bushes and when he pulled them aside, saw only dirt. Kentaro rushed to his side.
"What was it?"
Dragon didn't look up at him, he just began scooping dirt aside with his hands. "What is it, you mean."
Dragon dug, his huge hands scooping out mounds of dirt and pushing it to the side. He kept digging until, when he was almost reaching his entire arm into the hole, his hand hit something solid. He grabbed for it and pulled, feeling something like a rock in his hands.
From within the hole, he pulled out a package of black cloth. He pulled the cloth aside to reveal the Dragon Gem. But the gem was faded, not the bright red it had been when Dragon last saw it. When last he had seen it, it had been returned to the Dragon Cult for recharging, but it had still glowed with an inner light, as if it were alive. Now, it looked like a dark red stone. To Dragon, the gem felt and looked dead.
A buzzing sound started. It sounded like a dozen or so angry wasps. Dragon looked around, but saw nothing. The buzzing increased, sounding like a hundred, and then a thousand, and then more until the buzzing became deafening. Kentaro and his tribesman were standing with their spears at ready, looking all around.
Ten warriors, garbed in hooded black robes that brushed the jungle floor, appeared surrounding the warriors. On each chest there was an upside down pentagram emblazoned in red. Each of them was holding what looked like a silenced pistol.
Before anyone could do anything, the warriors fired their pistols. Only two of the tribesmen and Kentaro dodged the deadly bullets. The others fell and died immediately, the pistols' heavy caliber blowing out their chests.
The two remaining tribesmen launched themselves at the warriors, slashing at the nearest one. When the spears struck the robes, there was a flash of blue sparks and the spears didn't even seem to penetrate. Kentaro swung his spear back, but the warrior he was aiming at dodged the blow. Dragon flew up and took a swing at one of them, knocking the robed warrior back into the jungle. In response, the two warriors next to Dragon pulled curved daggers from their robes and stabbed at Dragon. Both of them fortunately missed, but Dragon recognized the weapons from the Elementals' Affair.
"DEMON. Kentaro, this is bad!"
Kentaro couldn't respond, as he had been knocked unconscious by a lucky shot from one of the warriors. He didn't seem badly wounded, but he was out of it. The other two members of Kentaro's tribe were down and about to be stabbed.
"Surrender and give us the gem, Dragon!" one of them yelled.
The warrior who had spoken gestured, and the other warriors fell upon the downed tribesmen and slashed them to pieces. Another picked up Kentaro and held a knife to his throat. Dragon felt the cold weight of the de-powered gem against his hand and glanced at the nine uninjured DEMON warriors armed with magic weapons. He dropped the gem and raised his arms.
* * * * *
Dave activated the Vagabond's main communicator circuit. "Ambassador, do you read me, this is Dave?"
The ambassador's voice came back over the plane's internal speakers. "I'm here, Dave. What happened?"
"UNTIL thinks that Jeeves, Sari and I tried to kill you. We don't know who really did it, but watch out for Durant, I don't trust that guy. We're going to try and grab a suspect."
The communications cut off and Sari said, "Where are we going to get a suspect?"
"Did you get a look at that driver?" Dave responded. "That was an UNTIL agent from the embassy. We've got to snatch him and find out who's behind all this."
Sari looked into the viewscreen that reflected the exterior surroundings. She saw a spacescape. "Dave, where are we going?"
"Oh," he said. "So that's why the communications cut off. We must have left the atmosphere. Vagabond, turn us around and take us back to Egypt."
They were back in Egypt in a few minutes. Dave put them into hover mode above the embassy. He leaned back in his chair and activated the sensors, programming them to scan for the UNTIL agent's face and notify him when there was a match outside the embassy.
"We don't have that much time, do we?" Sari asked.
Dave opened up a mini-fridge underneath the control panels and pulled out a beer. He handed one to Sari and said, "Trust me. This will work."
Two hours later, the Vagabond beeped and the computer voice said, "Face match indicated. Subject leaving building alone and entering limousine."
"Track limo, follow, do not engage in combat."
The Vagabond shifted into flight and started to follow the limousine through the streets of Cairo. It hugged the corners and flew between the buildings, tilting various ways so that it would fit. Sari smiled at Dave. "Did you program this?"
"Nope. She's my baby. She learned how to fly just from watching me."
After half an hour of driving through various streets, the car stopped at a desolate section of town, torn down and restricted after a recent supervillain attack. The driver got out, looked around nervously, and then walked up to one of the few standing buildings.
"This guy would have lost any pursuers on ground," Dave said. "Something's about to happen."
Dave and Sari beamed down and snuck over to the limo. After making sure that it was empty, they walked cautiously from there to the building door. Dave leaned down and started to peek in the keyhole, but his vision was blocked by Sari's lockpick. She inserted it, twisted, and the lock clicked gently.
"On three?" she mouthed, cocking her Glock.
Dave nodded and pulled out his own pistol. Sari slid up against the door and pushed it open with her shoulder quickly but silently and aimed her gun inside. The first floor was abandoned, but from the upstairs, there was shouting in Arabic.
Dave followed her in, but he couldn't understand the language. Sari did, and she charged up the stairs. Dave was right behind her.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Sari didn't stop, she just fired at the lock with her silenced pistol and then kicked it open. Dave dove through the door and rolled, getting his bearings as he prepared to take his first shot.
Inside the room there were six gunmen, armed with uzis and dressed in surplus military clothes and turbans. The UNTIL driver was on his way down the other stairway, and he panicked when he saw Sari and Dave. In the center of the room, tied to a chair, was Jeeves. One of the gunmen was taking careful aim at his head.
Dave reacted, firing his pistol at the gunmen and dropping him with a bullet in the forehead. Sari fired again, hitting another gunmen and dropping him.
The other four turned and fired at the doorway. Sari ducked back outside, and Dave rolled across the floor and out of the way. He kept his momentum and charged after the UNTIL agent.
"Sari, can you handle these four? I've got to catch our lead!"
Sari yelled back for him to go and popped her head back inside, firing another shot and killing another gunmen. To his credit, Jeeves didn't even flinch, he just sat there with his eyes closed, murmuring a prayer.
Dave was at the top of the stairway and he saw the UNTIL agent at the door below. He jumped, flying over all the stairs and landing on the agent. They fell in a tumble, and Dave's gun shook loose. The agent rolled on top and landed two quick punches to Dave's face. Dave brought his knee into the agent's groin and then used the distraction to roll again, putting the agent on the bottom. He punched twice to the stomach before the agent could recover.
The agent reached over and grabbed Dave's gun. He pulled it up and pointed it at Dave's face. A bit of rock, shaken loose from the ceiling by the activity, fell and hit the agent's hand, knocking the gun away again. Dave punched again, hitting the man in the face.
The agent managed to squirm free and stand up. He opened the door and was about to bolt when a red dot appeared on his forehead.
"Move and I'll kill you," Sari said, aiming her Glock from the top of the stairs.
The agent's shoulders slumped and he raised his arms. Dave picked up his gun and put it to the man's temples. "Now, we're going to have a chat."
Dave dragged the man upstairs and sat him down in the chair while Sari attended to Jeeves and made sure he was all right.
"What was the plan?" Dave asked.
The agent snorted. "Not a chance, punk. I know your reputation. You won't kill me when I'm helpless."
Dave grinned. "You're right."
A few minutes later, after the proper arrangements were made, the agent was screaming at the top of his lungs. People in the Cairo marketplace looked up to see a man in his underwear, apparently wearing rope around his entire body, tied to nothing and flying very fast through the streets.
Dave activated the external comm. "Ready to talk yet, or should we go faster? Hey, you know what I just remembered? We're spaceworthy!"
To emphasize the point, he turned the Vagabond's nose up into the sky and the hapless agent tied to the wing saw blue sky above him.
"No! I'll tell you! Just stop!"
They stopped the plane and de-cloaked at Cairo airport. Dave got out of the plane and walked onto the wing. He made a disgusted face at the man and stared at his boxers.
"If you had to go, why didn't you say so before we left?"
Dave bent down and leaned in close. "Now, who were those guys, who ordered you to kill Jeeves, and who's behind all this?"
The agent was almost sobbing. "They were parts of an organization that wants to kill the ambassador. I went there to tell them that they could kill their prisoner, since he was of no use to us anymore."
"On whose orders?" Dave prompted.
"Durant," the agent said. "He's the assassin."
After turning the agent over to airport security, they headed for the embassy. Dave tried to activate radio contact, but for some reason the ambassador's comm wouldn't come in.
They got to the embassy and beamed in to the ambassador's chambers, ready to warn him. They appeared right next to him. He was standing, facing the doorway. Standing inside the doorway was Claude Durant, holding a silenced pistol. He squeezed the trigger twice.
* * * * *
Dragon's arms were tied with rope and he was led by the DEMON warriors to their camp. They held their magic daggers to his and Kentaro's throat to keep them both in line. After an hour's march, they began to notice foul smoke wafting through the jungle. Dragon crinkled his nose at the smell.
"What the hell is for dinner?" he cracked. The DEMON warriors didn't even respond, they just kept going.
The smell was disorienting to Dragon, and he decided to stop breathing. Somehow, the smoke still affected him, and he lost track of time. Eventually, the dark smoke was all around them, and Dragon couldn't even see the trees. Then they emerged from the smoke and saw the fire that was creating it. It was in the center of a makeshift camp, and burned a bright green.
At the edge of the fire, away from where the smoke was blowing, there were eleven tents made of hide and sticks. The forest surrounded the camp on all sides, except for directly behind it, where the mountain range began. About midway up the closest mountain there was a cave.
Most of the warriors stopped in the camp, going to their tents. Only two went with Kentaro and Dragon up the mountain. When they were halfway to the cave, Dragon decided to risk an escape. Disregarding the dagger at his own throat, he reached to the warrior who was with Kentaro and pulled his dagger away. To his surprise, the DEMON warrior guarding him did not try and cut his throat. Rather, he removed the dagger.
Kentaro picked up the other's dagger and began running up the mountain. Dragon followed. He tried to lift off, but when he tried,he felt somewhat dizzy. Instead, he just kept running.
Kentaro was a faster runner, and he was nearly to the cave when he turned around and faced Dragon. He waved his arms in an intricate pattern and spoke in unintelligible language. Dragon stumbled as a flash of pain hit him. He tried again to lift off, but was too dizzy to do it. Kentaro gestured and spoke again, and Dragon felt another blast of pain before he fell unconscious.
When Dragon woke up, he was lying on the rocky floor of the cave. Light was given off by a torch set in the wall. He first noticed that his arms and legs were encased in some kind of rock. When he tried to move, he found that he couldn't even lift his arms.
"Don't bother," came Kentaro's voice, but harsher and colder than Dragon had heard it before. "Those are magical bonds, loaned to us by an old friend of yours."
"Mind telling me which one?" Dragon quipped. "I'd like to take him off my Christmas card list."
Kentaro spoke the name with reverence. "Tyrannon."
"Try again! He's oath-bound not to invade this dimension!"
"Gifts are not an invasion, Golden Dragon." This response came from a softer, older voice. Dragon looked over and saw an old man, bound in rock very similar to the ones holding him. The old man appeared to be in his late sixties, with long thinning white hair. He was dressed in torn white robes and had dragon tattoos running up and down his arms.
"A Great Snake," Dragon said.
"Indeed," Kentaro responded. "We captured him shortly after he entered Zaire, but he managed to hide the Dragon Gem from us. So we manipulated you into getting it."
Dragon laughed. "But it's useless! You saw that when I picked it up! Its powers have long since faded!"
"True enough," Kentaro said. "But you have some of its power within you. Come midnight, we will drain that power and then turn your powerless form over to Tyrannon."
Kentaro turned and walked out of the cave. Dragon looked over at the Great Snake. "Can they do that?"
The Great Snake nodded his head. "Yes. With the proper mystical knowledge, the power can be transferred into the gem."
"Then we've got to get out of here!"
"I have tried. Escape is impossible. I accept that DEMON now controls my fate."