Running full sprint down the crowded city streets, Aloysius Knight, the infamous Black Knight, knew he wasn't going to escape this situation with his hide intact. It had seemed like such a simple job, swoop in and grab a corrupt police official from his home and escort him back to Mexico City to face charges. He should have realised that no job was ever that simple. He'd come up against IG88, and they'd pulled a really dirty trick on him. They'd gone and murdered the family of the official Knight had to arrest and then planted evidence that he'd committed the 12 murders.
So here he was, running like hell in an attempt to outrun the long arm of the law. He was fairly sure that if he was caught, he'd never get a fair trial and wouldn't likely see the light of day for many, many years to come. Glancing back over his shoulder to check for pursuers, he tapped his radio, hoping that Rufus hadn't gone too far. His only chance was the Raven, anything less and he was going to prison.
'Rufus, where are you? I need a fast evac.'
"I've got trouble of my own Boss. Apparently the Mexicans don't like me using the local airfield." Rufus replied, the sounds of a gunfight in the background.
'Shit.' Knight hissed, spotting the police coming into the street ahead of his position. 'Get to the Raven and get out of here. Larkham and his boys pulled a fast one; they murdered the family of the official we were supposed to grab and pinned the bloodbath on my head.'
"Where are you? I can be over the city in five minutes." Rufus asked, the gunfire fading out.
'In five minutes, the police are going to have me cornered. Get out of Mexico and hole up somewhere until the dust settles. I'll be okay.' Knight instructed, ducking down a narrow alley and hoping he didn't run out of luck. 'Reach out to Shane; he'll be able to help you.'
Ducking as gunfire erupted behind him, Aloysius knew he couldn't keep running forever but he had to make sure Rufus got away safely. He could hear his friend in his earpiece, muttering about the pre-flight and preparing for launch.
'Rufus, you have to get out of here. I'm only making this hard for the local police so you've got time to clear out. Now go, I'll be fine.' he ordered, knowing that Rufus wouldn't handle prison life well. It'd be too close to the torment of the Army for him.
"I can't just abandon you, Boss. You're my best friend." Rufus replied, sounding so vulnerable and scared right now. "There has to be a way."
'Not this time, buddy. We both knew this day would come, no Bounty Hunter can be lucky all the time. We had a good run, been years since anyone came close to catching me out like this.' Aloysius sighed, back-pedalling fast when another group of local law enforcement came towards him.
"I'll come back for you, as soon as it's safer." Rufus promised, a crackle on the line indicating the switch from collar mic to his flight helmet. "I swear, I won't let them keep you for long."
'I believe you buddy. I'll be okay, I'm a survivor.' Aloysius nodded, wishing he felt as confident as he sounded. 'Get in touch with Scarecrow, he'll have some ideas.'
"I will. Take care Boss, I will find you." Rufus replied, regret colouring his voice. "Whatever happens, I will get you out of this mess."
'I know you will. You've never let me down before. I'll write if I can, I promise.' Aloysius uttered, racing into a plaza and skidding to a stop. 'Be safe buddy, I'll be waiting for you.'
Raising his hands, Aloysius sunk to his knees as dozens of local officers crowded around him, pistols pointed at his head as two of them wrestled him to the ground and cuffed him firmly. Rolling slightly, Aloysius looked up at the sky and smiled faintly as the familiar shape of the Black Raven raced over the city and disappeared from view. At least Rufus was safe, Aloysius could handle anything but he had to know Rufus was safe before he could really focus on his own survival. Dragged to his feet, he was stripped of his extensive hunt kit but at least these officials let him keep his glasses. Everything else was bagged up in big, strong paper bags as evidence. Knowing IG88 as he did, Aloysius was damn sure that every weapon he had would match the wounds on the bodies of the murdered family. That was just the underhanded tactic Larkham would use against him.
Listening to the rapid fire conversation all around him, Aloysius picked out a few words he knew but his Mexican was rusty, he didn't have a chance of following the discussion. All he could do was stand there, completely surrounded and hope that they didn't decide to just execute him on the spot. His luck held, he was grabbed and thrown into one of the police cars around the plaza. Peering out the window, he saw the last of his gear being loaded into another car. Now, all he could do was focus on survival and wait for Rufus to come swooping in for a rescue.
Back on American soil and hopefully safer, Rufus shut down the Raven and climbed down, reaching up to rest one hand on the warm armour that was usually enough to keep them out of trouble. But this time, strong armour and superior firepower was useless, it had boiled down to one man on the ground and their luck had run out. Sinking down to sit under the pinging armour of his fighter, Rufus hung his head as he thought about where to turn next. It was supposed to be one last easy job before they took some time off for a well earned break so they didn't have any big contingency plans in place if things went wrong.
Thinking about his options, Rufus pulled out his phone and flashed out a quick text to Mother, enquiring if she was available for a mission of a darker nature. Her reply came back a few minutes later, they were on stand down for a couple of weeks and so could help with his unidentified mission. Giving her a location, Rufus promised to explain everything once she got the team gathered at the warehouse converted to a hanger for the Raven and a rough home for them. Mother got back to him with a guarantee to have the team assembled, ready for action and at his location in 5 hours. Rufus would have liked them to be there sooner but he'd make it work.
Uncurling from his spot under the Raven, Rufus headed for the basic apartment on a mezzanine structure at the south end of the warehouse. Up the ladder and across the steel walkway, he disappeared into the simple accommodations, trying desperately not to think about the empty gap by his side where Aloysius usually stayed. It felt so strange to be alone and completely out of contact. During any other separation, there was always a faint buzz on their radio link, a reminder that the other was there. Now the earpiece Rufus wore was completely silent, the reassuring buzz killed when the police confiscated Aloysius' radio. But Rufus swore he would keep wearing his earpiece, just in case someone reactivated the link. It was a long shot but he had to hope.
Setting his helmet on the shelf by the door and returning his G-36 and Beretta to the weapons racks, Rufus ran down the zip of his flight suit and peeled the sweaty cloth down, tying the sleeves around his waist as he headed for the kitchen. Forcing his eyes away from the few photos on the fridge, he grabbed a beer and headed for the couch, body on autopilot. He was going through his usual post battle wind down, half expecting to hear the shower start any second.
'Knock it off you fool, he's not here.' Rufus growled, shaking his head to clear away the thoughts of Aloysius winding down after another job. 'You left him behind, under orders but you still abandoned him.'
Emotions spiralling out of control, Rufus chugged down half his beer and tried to switch off but their final conversation kept playing through his mind. Aloysius was counting on him for a rescue but Rufus didn't know how to get the job done. He didn't even know where Aloysius was, much less how to get him out without both of them getting hurt or worse. Screaming in frustration, Rufus let fly with the bottle in his hand, watching it smash against the wall of his self-imposed prison. He couldn't do this without Aloysius, they were a team and Aloysius had always been the brains of the operation. He knew what tactics would work and what would fail. Rufus didn't have that sort of a background, he knew how to fly and fly well but when it came to ground operations, he didn't know how to pull off a successful mission without someone else calling the shots.
Needing something, anything else to think about right now, Rufus abandoned the mezzanine apartment and slid back down to ground level, turning a sharp right and striding into the workshop under the apartment. Grabbing one of the service manuals from the bench by the back wall and rolling out one of his toolboxes, he shucked his flight suit completely and climbed up onto the broad back of the only girl in his life. He'd noticed a few things that weren't quite right, minor things really but now seemed like a good time to fix them properly.
Opening up the access panels he'd need, he spread out his tools on the lovingly maintained skin of his bird and checked the manual, wanting to be sure of what he was doing. Snugging down his mining torch, he clicked it on and squirmed into the access panel. It wasn't always easy for him to keep the fighter well maintained, the Russians hadn't built these access panels with someone of his stature in mind. Yet when something had to be fixed, Rufus wouldn't let anyone else near his girl, he found his own way and got the job done to his standards.
Finding the spare key right where Rufus said it would be, Mother unlocked the side door into the warehouse and put it back where it belonged before following Shane and Buck inside. Closing the door firmly and making sure it was locked, they looked around the warehouse/hanger, trying to spot the burly pilot. He'd promised to be here but now that they had arrived, he was nowhere to be seen.
'Rufus! Where are you?' Mother called, her voice ringing in the rafters. They all spun to look at a sharp banging sound echoing out from the Raven.
Approaching the fighter, Shane was first to spot the source of the noise. Head and chest buried inside an access panel under the Raven, all that could be seen of Rufus was his twisting hips and kicking legs as he tried to get deeper inside the fighter. Dodging his flailing left, Shane caught Rufus' swinging right leg and anchored it firmly, not trying to lead, just supporting Rufus until he finished what he was doing. Pushing against Shane, Rufus slipped deeper into the panel, tinkering with something deep in the guts of the Russian war bird.
After a few minutes of squirming and muffled cursing, Rufus started wriggling back out of his cramped spot, pushing Shane out of the way with a sharp kick. Twisting and squeezing back out, Rufus dropped from the access panel, catching his full weight on his arms before he hit the stained concrete.
'Whoa, I would never have guessed you'd fit in there Rufus.' Mother remarked, looking from the access panel to Rufus and back.
'You'd be surprised at some of the tiny panels I can squeeze into on the Raven.' Rufus shrugged, picking up a rag and wiping his hands. 'But she's my girl, don't trust anyone else to go playing around with her.'
'So, where's Knight?' Book asked, looking around again.
'That's what I needed your help with.' Rufus sighed, ducking out from under the fighter. 'Come on, we can talk about it upstairs.'
'What's with this place?' Shane asked, noting the parts and tools scattered all around the lower area.
'It's one of the boltholes we've got scattered around the place. It ain't glamorous or particularly luxurious but its home when there's time. It's more of a repair bay than a home but the apartment is comfortable enough.' Rufus explained, heading back up to the mezzanine apartment.
It was easier to cope with the empty space beside him now that the Marines were around. They weren't the closest of friends but Rufus had no one else to turn to in this situation. He could only hope that they would agree to help Aloysius in payback for all the times he'd been there to help them. Grabbing a round of beers from the kitchen, Rufus returned and dropped into his usual armchair, keeping his eyes on the floor.
'What's going on Rufus?' Shane asked, sipping his beer and trying to relax. 'Where's Aloysius?'
'Our last job went to hell, it was supposed to be easy. But IG88 got involved and things went south. They murdered the family of the man we were supposed to be catching and pinned the massacre on Captain Knight. He kept the police busy so I could make my escape. The last thing I heard from Aloysius was the local police driving him to the ground and arresting him.' Rufus sighed, slowly lifting his gaze. 'I don't know where he is, all I can say for sure is he's locked up in a Mexican prison.'
The silence was deafening, the Marines staring at him in disbelief and shock. Of all the situations they'd imagined Rufus calling them to help with, this was so far beyond their thoughts as to be almost impossible. Aloysius had always come through as a survivor, escaping capture by the skin of his teeth unless it served a purpose. But going off what Rufus had told them, this capture served no purpose what so ever. It wasn't even a logical distraction for Rufus to escape, local police enforcement wouldn't have a hope against the Black Raven.
'And you called us to help get him out?' Buck asked, waiting for Shane to make the call on the mission.
'I didn't know where else to turn to. It's not like we've got a heap of friends to pick from when times get tough.' Rufus shrugged, chugging down his beer.
'You realise you've put us in a bit of a situation?' Shane sighed, caught between loyalty to friends and loyalty to the Corps. 'As serving Marines, we can't be involved with a prison break, even if it is on Mexican soil.'
'So what am I supposed to do? There's no way I can do this on my own.' Rufus groaned, slumping back and staring at the ceiling. 'What the fuck do I do now?'
'We can't be seen near the actual prison break but we can find his location and create a plan of attack.' Shane offered, hoping that his little sidestep wouldn't get his unit into too much trouble.
'Thank you. I might have once been an officer but I don't know a thing about ground combat.' Rufus nodded, so glad to have the support of their friends.
'I'm not surprised. Back when I was a pilot, ground missions had no interest for me either. I had to learn after Bosnia.' Shane agreed, reaching for his phone. 'I'll be right back, I think I know who can help us locate Aloysius.'