Dragon finally got into bed with Kim at about 2 a.m. California time. According to the sub, it was 5:00 a.m. and Dragon had been on board for four hours. Kim rolled over and mumbled, "Check on Mary."
Dragon got up and checked his baby girl. She was sleeping peacefully in her crib. He got back into bed and went to sleep.
About eight hours later, Dragon finally woke up. Kim and Mary were gone, and there was a note that said, "Gone to get breakfast. Meet us down there."
Unfortunately for Dragon, the note was in the hands of the Teacher. The Teacher bowed and took out his swords. "We have neglected your lessons for long enough, Champion. We will practice your swordsmanship and meditation for two hours."
Dragon unsheathed his katana and mentally thanked Argent for liking to sleep late. They had agreed not to begin until 1 p.m. "Just call me Dragon, please?" he said.
The Teacher swung his two scimitars into a twisting motion, until they were circular blur around his body. "I cannot," he answered, "it would not be proper."
He struck out with his left arm and caught Dragon with the scimitar, cutting him a little. Dragon remembered the technique and countered the right arm strike with his katana, sounding a clang which echoed off the walls.
"Can you call me anything but 'champion' or 'master'? It makes me nervous." Dragon followed through by swinging his katana at wrist level, trying to knock one of the scimitars loose. He missed cleanly as the Teacher stepped away slightly.
"I can call you 'Golden Dragon' if that will make you more comfortable," the Teacher responded, swinging his leg out and catching Dragon behind the knees. Dragon fell backwards and wound up on his back.
"Yeah, that would make me more comfortable," Dragon answered, bringing his katana up to block the scimitar that swung down at his head. He cheated, using his flight to right himself, and then swung the sword in a brief arc around his head.
The Teacher made him pay for the gesture. He struck him in the wrist, forcing his hand open, and the katana went flying across the room and embedded itself in a wall.
Before Dragon could move, the Teacher put a scimitar to either side of his neck. "Now, can we concentrate on your training, Golden Dragon?"
Dragon edged backward and picked up his sword. He smiled. "Yes. That's much better."
Two hours later, Dragon walked out of his room, physically exhausted. His mind felt sharp and clear, however. He was dressed in an oversized set of UNTIL sweats that Argent had thoughtfully provided to him. He headed right for the mess hall on his level.
When he got there, he found Kim flirting with about four UNTIL agents and playing pool. Mary was the object of attention of three female UNTIL agents, and Dave was the object of attention of six more. Everyone looked up when Dragon entered the room. Dave flipped him a quick salute, Kim blew him a kiss and sank a ball in the corner pocket, and Mary hissed quietly.
Dragon sat down on a table in the corner and looked around. "Excuse me," he said to the nearest agent, "where do you get food around here?"
She looked embarrassed when she answered, "You have to eat during meal hours. You missed it by half an hour."
The agent jumped a little when Dragon looked at her. "But I'll see if I can get you something," she hastily amended.
Five minutes later, Dragon had some kind of Indian dish and a side of English chips. He happily consumed the meal and then joined in a couple games of pool.
Jack walked into the room, looking freshly showered, at 12:30. He kissed most of the women and greeted most of the men with a personal comment and a smile. When he got to Dragon, he grinned.
"You have a good rapport with them," Dragon noted.
"I try to be good to those I work with. You know, Dragon, UNTIL could use someone of your talents. For that matter, we could use Wildside."
Dragon raised a hand. "Sorry, not interested. Another time, but not now. You want to start early? You've missed your lunch."
Argent grabbed the burger and beer that an UNTIL man had just brought in and said, "I always have them cook this for me at this time. I don't eat lunch or dinner, just one meal a day to keep my nanites running."
After Argent finished his burger, he and Dragon went to his quarters. There, Dragon found notes, charts, maps, and pictures, plus a stocked computer dealing with VIPER.
"Near as I can tell," Argent said, "this is all we've got on the L.A. Nest. I can't find anything to go off of yet."
The two of them spent the next few hours looking for a pattern, and they finally found it in some interrogation notes. Argent flipped a pad to Dragon and said, "What do you make of that?"
The note pad read "Project: Mindtap? Artificial mind links. Mutant biology and cybernetics thought to be useful. Ganymede, Argent, Cyberknights, Cy-Force, Accountant, others."
Dragon looked up. "You were attacked. Maybe?"
"On it," Argent yelled back as he was running into the hallway. He came back five minutes later.
"We got something," he said, "seems our friend Ganymede has disappeared recently. Last week, he dropped out of sight. Maybe he's on a case, but it seems to coincidental. Cyberknights, Cy-Force, who can tell, but the brownstone that Executive Sanction operates out of was attacked while they were all gone. Seems VIPER tried to make a play for Stewart's wife."
"His wife? What is it with family hostages? They took this agent's family from him to keep him quiet. But why not just grab the Accountant? He doesn't have any combat powers."
"His teammates do."
"Yeah, but if they have his wife, he's gonna bring them in on it. If they just take him, they might be able to make it look like he took a vacation or something and keep Executive Sanction out of it. Do you have any family?"
Argent's face darkened. "No, my parents are both dead."
"I'm sorry," Dragon said.
Argent shook it off. "Long time ago, friend. Listen, say you are onto something. What do you think you're onto?"
"Well, if they're kidnapping family members, what about Cy-Force and Cyberknights? Or Ganymede? And from there, any family disappearances in the mutant biology or cybernetics world?"
Argent left, explaining that he needed to use the main computer and had to get permission from the Solidarity's commander. Dragon kept flipping through the notes, but he couldn't find anything else. It seemed strange to him that he saw that pattern.
When Argent returned an hour later, Dragon was convinced that he had sent him on a wild goose chase. Argent's face convinced him otherwise.
"We got something. Dr. Shelley Kelsing, mutant biologist, reported a missing persons two weeks ago. Then she canceled it the next day."
"Oh, well. Close, but no cigar, I guess."
"No, Dragon, right on the bloody money. Her husband and daughter haven't been to school or work for the past two weeks. Something is fishy in Los Angeles."
"Where is she?" Dragon asked.
"She's working on a grant project at U.C.L.A. Something to do with computer tech and mutations. All this sounding like more than a coincidence yet?"
"Fantastic! We've got to check this out!"
"Sorry," Argent said, "but you've got to check this out. UNTIL still can't operate in the U.S. without a damn good reason. We're supposed to call in PRIMUS, but I'll give you 48 hours."
"I'll take it," Dragon said, shaking his hand. He ran out of the room and told everyone to get ready to leave. Fifteen minutes later, the Vagabond flew out into the Pacific Ocean and then up into the sky, heading in towards a darkening sky in Los Angeles.