Ducking Responsibility

Chapter Ten

Tracker gasped. He needed air. He needed to clear his mind, but all he could think about was revenge. If the Wiz was into something that's one thing, but killing his fiancé was another. He was enraged. He would find who ever was responsible and make them pay. Even as he raged, one thought went through his mind, 'Where was the Duck when all this was going on?'

"Pappa," Red called to her uncle. "We'll find the people responsible. We'll find them," she promised, but Gypsy didn't seem to notice.

They drove on through the city, each lost in their own thoughts. Tracker noticed Red keeping an eye on not only him but on the traffic behind them.

"We're being followed," Gypsy informed her tensely.

"I know," she answered. "They've been on us since O'Donnel's."

"And you haven't lost them yet?" He chided half heartedly.

"Well, I was thinking that they probably know more about what's going on than we do," she began. "And maybe if we asked real nice, they'd tell us."

"This is not a game child," Gypsy hissed.

"I never thought it was," Red stated softly.

"Czy tak?" he asked in a sarcastic tone.

"Yes, that is so," She answered just as sarcastically.

"Just loose them," Gypsy urged.

"Hold on," she warned as she floored the accelerator and ran the light.

Tracker braced himself as they roared through two more lights and whipped around a corner onto a side street.

"Okay, everybody down," Red ordered as she shut off the lights.

Tracker held his breath as he watched the traffic through the side mirror.

"What kind of car?" he asked in a whisper.

"Ford, Antares I think," Red answered.

"Yes, it was an Antares," Gypsy confirmed.

Tracker held his breath as the Antares passed through the light. Even as he released his breath, he saw the car back up to the intersection again and turn down the street.

"They're on us," he swore, as Red floored the accelerator.

"How the Hell?" Red swore as the Antares closed in on them.

Beside her Gypsy closed his eyes, this was too much like France. He shook his head, at least in France, they had the Duck to back them up.

*** *** ***

Gypsy looked up at Yala and smiled self-consciously. He watched as she drew the courage she needed to face the road block ahead. There would be no way of knowing if Duck had been able to infiltrate their systems until the French Conglomerate tried to use them. If Duck hadn't their escape would end very abruptly.

He held his breath, realizing how much depended on the talents of a Jacker he had never met. All he knew was that the Duck had never let them down. He prayed the Duck remained reliable, and that he wasn't the source of the leak.

*** *** ***

"Damn it!" Red swore as the Antares picked up their trail again. "They have to be tracking us," she added. "But how?"

Gypsy ran his hands through his hair as he thought. They couldn't have known about Red, and even if they had managed to plant a tracking device on the car, she would have detected it the minute she attached herself to the car. That meant that the device was either on him or the man in the back seat.

Tracker watched as the car followed them through the next couple of lights,

"I think you're right," he stated as he turned around.

He was startled as he found himself staring down the muzzle of a .45.

"If I'm wrong, I'll apologize," Gypsy stated as he held the gun unwaveringly. "Now who are you and what were you doing at O’Donnel’s"

Tracker stared at the gun for a moment, and then focused on the man holding it. Taking a deep breath he forced himself to not react.

"My name is Tracker," he began evenly. "I work with Silly Wizard, Daniel Anderson. A week ago two members of our team were assassinated. Wiz took his investigation outside the base, we were being stonewalled there. He figured if he went off on his own, he’d be able to get some personal contacts involved in the investigation. He promised to contact me in three days... He never did...’

Even as Gypsy weighed his words, Tracker's mind reeled. He hadn't considered the possibility of not being trusted. As Gypsy studied him, his niece spoke up.

"Gypsy, he's telling you the truth," she stated quietly. "He's a Navy SEAL."

Gypsy looked at his niece in surprise. Red never called him by his military handle. "What are you saying Katya?"

"Daniel asked me to watch out for you while he tracked down a few leads. He said if anything happened to get in contact with our friend here."

"Leads on what?" Tracker asked as Gypsy lowered the gun.

"Yala and Pappa were on . . . assignment," she explained diplomatically. "Some one set them up. Daniel went to investigate. I think it may have been related to your team’s losses as well."

Red drew a sharp breath as the tailing car pulled back out behind them and fired another salvo of bullets.

"But what about the car?" Gypsy asked nodding behind them.

"Find the tracking device, I don't know," Red exclaimed. "I'm busy."

Red concentrated on the road as Tracker rolled down the window and leaned out the car.

"No Tell-tales," he announced as he sat back in the seat.

"Have you run a systems check?" Gypsy asked.

"Just started a Level-Two," Red answered distractedly. "Should have the results shortly."

Tracker caught himself as she spun around another corner with the Antares dogging them all the way.

"Hit the deck," he yelled as the passenger opened fire.

"Swinia!" Red yelled as the rear windshield shattered behind her.

"Are you alright," Gypsy called to Tracker as he brushed the safety glass off his jacket.

"I'm pissed!" he answered.


"I'll be fine," she yelled angrily.

"Great, you're both pissed," he sighed to himself.

"Got it!" Red exclaimed as the diagnostic results were displayed on the screen. As she scanned the readout, the passenger in the Antares let off another barrage of gunfire.

"Shit!" she fumed. "That's it."

Red swerved again to avoid another barrage from the car behind them. As she evened out the turn, she hit the radio buttons.

"What are you doing?" Gypsy bellowed.

Before he could answer another panel appeared on the dash.

"Take over!" she ordered tossing him another control jack.

As Gypsy hooked himself into the car's control unit, Red transferred her control unit to the car's defenses.

"Go," Gypsy ordered as soon as he was ready.

Tracker watched the exchange from the safety of the rear floor. Gypsy smiling that impish smile of his spun the car around heading towards the other car.

"Crazy son-of-a.." Red swore as the car's weaponry came on-line.

"Don't talk about your grandmother like that," Gypsy rebuked as he accelerated.

"Power's up, on my mark," Red stated ignoring Gypsy's comments and concentrating on the vehicle bearing down on them.

"Dammit Red, just fire already!"

Seemingly unphased by Gypsy's yelling, Red counted down from three. On the count after one, Gypsy swerved as she fired a salvo of impact explosives. Tracker covered his head as the explosion rocked their car and shrapnel flew through the broken window.

"Close your eyes!" Gypsy shouted to no-one in particular as he floored the accelerator.

They drove on for another few minutes in silence until Gypsy finally slowed to a more normal pace.

"Is everyone alright?" He asked nonchalantly.

"I think so," Red answered. "Tracker?"

"Give me a minute," he groaned.

Gypsy looked at Red for a minute and smiled. Red shook her head and resumed the driving controls.

"What about the tracking device?" Gypsy asked.

"Check your pocket!" Red declared.

Gypsy reached into his jacked pocket and pulled out a small disk about the size of a quarter.

"Hmf," He snorted as he inspected it then threw it out the window. "Military issue no less."

"Where to now," Red asked, sounding very blasé about the whole incident.

"The Farm?" Gypsy suggested.

"Tracker," Red started. "We can take you somewhere relatively safe."

Tracker thought about the offer and nodded.

"It might be good to get out of the city for a while," he agreed.

Red nodded and looked at him through the mirror, "It's out of the way alright."

Tracker looked at her a minute than nodded. "Wake me up when we get there."

"Now girl, you have some serious explaining to do," Gypsy demanded.

"Where do I begin?" she asked with a sigh.

"How about how you know about our friend in back, or perhaps, the enhancements to this car. I do not believe that impact explosives are a standard option on this vehicle."

"They are where I've been pappa," Red answered softly. "They are where I've been."

Red shook her head as the miles passed. There was so much that she had to explain, but now was not the time.

"I've done some counter-intel work for a while now, feeding information to Wiz mostly," she began. "I know some people who can help with our... situation."

"Our situation?" Gypsy asked in an exasperated tone of voice. "Our situation is we don't know who we can trust."

"You can always trust me," Red answered softly.

"That I know," he stated gently, "its the rest of the world I'm worried about."

"You can trust Tracker, and you can always trust the Duck."

"If we can find him."

"I know how to contact the Duck." Red stated as she drove. "After I drop you two off at the farm, I figure on heading back in to the city."

"Its not safe, not now."

"I know. But I can't risk them tracing us back to the farm."

"I let Yala out of my sight, I..."

"Pappa," Red interrupted. "I am not Yala, and if I can keep my hide in one piece at O’Donnel’s...."

"Child, these people are playing for keeps."

"Gypsy, I know. They've killed two very good friends of mine, but we have to know who were up against. And in order to find out, I've gotta go back and make contact."

Gypsy shook his head. "Maybe you understand, but I can't risk losing you."

"You have to," Red answered softly. "There's no other way. You're a good field op, Tracker's good in the matrix. But they know both of you. I'm an unknown."

"If you've worked counter-intel, they'll know you." Tracker added quietly from the back seat.

"Only my reputation, and that's a chance we're going to have to take," Red countered. "You both have to admit, its the safest thing to do."

"The safest thing is to lie-low." Gypsy stated.

"No, that's my uncle talking...Gypsy, if we're going to find out what happened to Yala and Daniel we can't afford to lie-low."

"Katya," he pleaded. "After your mother died I swore I'd protect you."

"Gypsy, you raised me. You've been more of a father then mine ever was, you've more than protected me...but right now we've got a much bigger problem. This is bigger than family. We have to find out what it is now, and I'm your best bet."

"How can you be sure they don't know you," Tracker asked softly.

"I've been running the console, they've never seen me," she answered. "All they have is my code name."

"Red?" He asked then added, "I admit there are a lot of Red's out there, but..."

"Red's just a nick-name," she countered. "It comes with the hair."

"What about your commander?" Tracker added.

"My commander has never seen me."

"Katya, I beg you, let me handle this."

"Sir," Tracker interrupted gently. "She's right and you know it. We're both too well known."

"But if you're running a console, why not from the farm," Gypsy stated. "There at least I can watch your back."

"Pappa, I'm good, but I'll be damned if I'm going to run the risk of leading them to the farm."

Tracker nodded in respect as Gypsy sighed and looked out the window. It was beginning to look like another sleepless night.

*** *** ***

It was well after midnight when they reached their destination. As Gypsy strode towards the house, Red began her check on the car.

Tracker looked up and the night sky and gasped. He had been in the city too long. Here, with no city-glow he could see the stars in the crisp night sky. He watched as Red joined Gypsy on the porch of the farm house.

He shook his head as he heard their raised voices. In the short time that he had known them he realized that Gypsy was a bulldog when it came to people 'under his protection.' This tenacity was a combination of a blessing and a curse, and he knew it. Red on the other hand...

He thought about the drive, and realized that Red had very carefully kept Gypsy in check by playing to his protective side. He also realized that her driving steadily improved as the situation warranted. She also seemed to know a lot more about what was going on then her uncle realized.

*** *** ***

Red shook her head in frustration as Gypsy tried to convince her to stay. "I'm going back tonight," she announced.

"Let me come with you" he pleaded, slipping into polish.

Red shook her head, she defiantly did not want him with her where she was going. "Nie. Prosze poczedac az wroce," she answered shaking her head.

"I don't want to wait," he answered.

"Tough," she answered heading towards the car.

"Proxze uwazac," he called after her.

"I'm always careful," she protested, then added, "Powodzenia!"

*** *** ***

Tracker watched as Red strode toward the car and walked over to join her. He watched as she strapped herself into the front seat and adjusted the controls, then he squatted down next to the open window.

"Look, I know you aren't half as devil-may care as Gypsy would have me believe," Tracker began.

"There's a lot we need to talk about." Red agreed," but we just don't have the time."

"Wizard was going to tell me everything when he got back." Tracker reminded her bitterly.

"If anything happens to me, you'll know everything I've been able to piece together."

"Dead-man switch on your account?"

"Yeah... Four ways to trigger it too." Red answered in a cool tone.

"Four? I only know of Three."

"Failure to report, Flat-line, Maintenance check and an account wipe."

"The first one's standard enough, but the others require access to the net's maintenance routines."

"I know," Red answered softly. "I added the wipe-trigger after Silly Wizard disappeared.

"You've got OP rights?" Tracker asked in disbelief.

"No, a friend with Designer rights," she corrected

"Des..." Tracker echoed then stared at her for a minute. "The Duck?" he asked.

Red looked at him and nodded. “I’m going to hook up with him and give him the low down on what’s going on. I should be able to move freely, but...”

Tracker studied her for a moment. According to ‘Wiz, Duck was a woman, yet Red sat there claiming to know ‘him.’ He smiled at her as he kept his suspicions to himself.

"You’re a possible hook they can use on your uncle,” he reminded her.

"Yeah, I have to watch out for that... but it’s the only option we’ve got right now."

"Be careful," he urged. "The may pick you up to use against him."

She nodded. “My luck that’s the real threat. Watch him for me," she requested softly.

"You got it," Tracker promised. "You watch out too."

"Believe me, I have every intention..."

"Yeah, but you know what they say about intentions..."

Red pursed her lips and nodded. "Now stand clear."

*** *** ***

Gypsy watched as Red headed back to the city and shook his head. He couldn't help but worry about her but she was right, they needed supplies and information.

Tracker looked at him questioningly.

"She's all the family I have left," he stated softly.

"Is there anything we can do in the mean-time?"

"No. She told me to wait till she got back.

"Is that what Powodzenia means?"

"Hu? Nie, no . . . she just wished me good luck."

Gypsy stood a while, staring into the night then turned, "Come you must be tired, and we both need out sleep."

Tracker stood for a minute as the man turned and entered the house then followed. Somehow he knew neither of them would be getting much sleep for a while.

Copyright 1998 - 1999 M.T. Decker

Chapter Eleven
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