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The Big Boom


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29th October, 21:00 on the dot...


The man was dressed in unremarkable black casual clothes but even someone with casual military knowledge would know he was equipped well. Guns, explosives, night vision goggles and all sorts of equipment lay to either side of him. 


He was operating out of a van, unmarked, with a license plate that, if one was to hazard a guess, was probably ripped off or falsified. The guy was a professional. 


He was atop a rooftop, using binoculars to scan a building in the distance. 


"Hmmm" he murmured to himself, and stood up, satisfied. With military precision, he packed away his guns, explosives and gadgets into a plain duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. 


For all his planning, he could not have planned for the unexpected. 


Three youths approached him as he slung his bag into the van. Thee youths from the Fens. They were tough, they were tough, and they wore the colours and clothes of a local gang. 


A glint, and a knife came out. 

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Havoc pressed himself to the brickwork, watching the scene unfold. He had spotted the man in black, catching a glimpse of his human shape in the darkness as he was making his way from rooftop to rooftop on his usual Tuesday night patrol route. The man bore no identifying marks; nothing to say if he was on the side of the angels or just another problem.


So now, Havoc was watching him from an alleyway at street level as he loaded up his gear into an unmarked van. He seemed to be alone…


Wait. Scratch that. He had been alone. There were three young punks, members of a particularly foul group of street-flotsam calling themselves the Shanks, appeared from the alcove of a nearby storefront. Nasty bunch, the Shanks. They were stab-happy, and Havoc had tussled with them before.


The man in black hadn’t reacted. Didn’t seem to have noticed the trio coming up on him with violence in mind. Havoc made a decision; he could learn about this fella from the way he handled these no-account thugs. And if he didn’t spot them in time to act? Well… Havoc was here to intervene.


One way or the other, this guy was gonna make himself known to Havoc before the night was out.

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The scene played out as Havoc had called it. The Shanks barely grunted as they shuffled up to the man in black, and the knives whistled in the dark. 


The man in black was fast. Military trained. Havoc recognised the fighting - it was no particular style, just the effective, efficient style of martial art of the American armed forces. Designed to be learned fast and without any flashy moves or grace, just brutal and deadly. 


He brushed away the knife and kicked the man in the groin - hard. He was a big man, and very strong. The Shank passed out from the pain. The other two briefly paused in concern, but the man in black had no mercy. He practically ripped out the arm of one of them, and took his legs out with a crunching kick to the knee. The other turned and ran, but not before the man in black kicked hard, slamming him to the floor with a boot to the back. 


As the Shank with a broken leg moaned away, the man in black picked up a fallen knife and briefly examined it. 


"Sorry boys, I ain't in the business of killing American's, but today ain't a normal day, and I can't afford any screw ups. It just ain't your lucky night..." he said, slowly, before advancing on the fallen men, knife in hand...

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The man knew his business, Havoc had to give him that.


He disarmed and put down his three assailants without breaking a sweat. Any other time, Havoc would have been impressed. The guy had just done the city a favour, in his eyes. But no; things looked to be taking a sinister turn. The guy was clearly military, but these weren’t enemy soldiers: even if they were backstabbing scumbags, they weren’t going to die in the street like dogs. They were being taken in. He sighed quietly to himself, and stepped out into the street.


“That’s enough, son.†he called. “Step away.â€


He approached, directly towards the man in black and the prostrate Shanks.


“They ain’t in a state to be hurtin’ anybody. You defended yourself, fair’s fair. Ain’t gonna watch ya murder these boys, though. Stand down, soldier.â€


He watched the man, testing him, and how he would react to a costume appearing on the scene…

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The Man in black dropped the knife as he saw Havoc approach. 


"Whatever you say, man. Whatever you say" he said, walking back to his Van. He walked without undue speed or slowness, and when he got there, he reached for his bag. 


"I'm truly sorry. I don't want any trouble tonight. But there are bigger things afoot tonight. I got soldiers to protect. I got a nation to protect. And nobody ain't listening. I don't give a bean about those scum on the floor, but you, that's another matter. So, I'm gonna have to be gentle on you and hope that you don't talk once you get to know what tonight was all about..."


He pulled a submachine gun out of the Van, and in one deft motion, clocked it...

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"Sorry, my friend. Just be grateful these are only rubber rounds. That's a small mercy I wouldn't give to these scum" he said, indicating the Chanks lying on the floor. 


"As it is, I just hope you don't go blabbing to the cops. I'm on a mission as it is, and I can't afford loose ends. I'm taking a risk. So if you talk, I'll be back..." he said, steely voiced but with a trace of sympathy. 


"Welcome to the war, my friend..." he finished, before a pale red light appeared on the chest of Havoc and the man in black unleashed a muffled clip of bullets into the hero. 


As he had promised, they were only rubber bullets, but they stung like hell.

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The sound of the muffled gunshots spat into the silence of the evening. Phut phut phut. Caught completely unprepared, Havoc was caught in the hail of bullets thrown from the mans weapon, blasted onto his back in the middle of the street. His lungs emptied themselves of air in one convulsive gasp, and he realised he owed a lot thanks to the armoured padding of his bodysuit.


Havoc flopped on the tarmac like a grounded fish, trying to catch his breath. His veins burned with the chemicals surging through his bloodstream, and his heartbeat was thundering in his ears. The rubber rounds had hurt like hell, but he was no stranger to pain. He growled to himself, trying to draw breath, desperate to gather himself and stop the man in black from making his escape.


Something was happening tonight, something he didn't understand. It didn't sound good, and this guy was willing to kill for his plan to succeed.


He had to be stopped!

Edited by Sticklefront
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The man stopped, paused briefly and then threw his gun back in the van. 


"Damn! what are you wearing under there? Kevlar? You are one damn tough son of a bitch..." he grumbled, before looking around. This was the Fens, which was no stranger to the sound of gunfire, but still...


"Just my damn luck to run into some Shanks and some do-gooder tough guy out to save the world, tonight of all nights" he complained. "Can't risk the gunfire, even with the silencer. But Boomstick knows a few tricks to send you to sleep..." he added, marching up to Havoc and putting his arms around him. 


Havoc caught a whiff of gunpowder on him, as the man started to grapple him, trying to get a lock on his neck and induce unconsciousness. 

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Havoc gathered himself, pain flaring in his chest from the impact of his opponent's rounds. He braced himself as the man bore down on him... wait... what did he say? Boomstick? That's name was familiar. No matter. Deal with the threat. Come on! Concentrate!

With a grunt of effort, he caught Boomstick's wrists as they darted for his neck. Twisting them down and away, he got an arm free... and plunged the phased blade attached to his forearm into Boomstick's solar plexus. The blade would have killed him outright, had it been set to a solid-state, but as it was the weapon had been dialled down far enough to let it pierce through his body without causing any physical harm. Instead, the energies of the weapon scrambled his nervous system, causing him to seize and collapse in a heap at Havoc's feet. Silence fell once again, broken only by the moans of the injured Shanks and Havoc's heavy breathing. He kicked the prone body at his feet, leaving the blade still within Boomstick's chest to maintain his immobilization.


"Now, we're gonna have a talk, son." he growled. "You're gonna tell me all about this 'mission' you're so keen on, an' exactly what in the hell you think yer doin' in my town tonight. I'mma take this blade out now; don't you move none, or it's goin' straight back in. I might make it a bit more tangible too, if I don't like what ya got to say. You understand?"


He slipped the blade out from Boomstick, standing over him poised for trouble.


"Now, boy. Talk."

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"What the hell was that?" groaned Boomstick, choking in pain. 


"And don't give me that Son, nonsense. I'm too old for that" he groaned. He looked up at Havoc and held out his hand. 


"If I'm not mistaken, you are Havoc. Well, that could be the worst break I got, or, could just be it's the best break of the night. All depends if you listen to me. And if you are ready to fight another war..." he said, getting up slowly. He held up his hands to indicate surrender. 


"Look, if you are Havoc, well, I'm unarmed, and you aren't some punk like those Skanks. You got me" he confessed. 


"My name is Boomstick. YOu might have heard of me, don't matter if you have or you haven't. Half of what they say about me is a lie, the other half ain't exactly true. I was in Afghanistan, and I left. I got eyes and ears in half the military organisations in the world, and I come well equipped..." he said, nodding at his Van. 


"Now, I don't work for the government, I don't work for the law. All I care about now is protecting the soldiers and their families, and this country, and fighting back at the terrorists, like OVERTHROW, without the law and politics getting in the way. I'm a terrorist, to the terrorists...."


"It's not being a vigilante. I'm not in it to kill. I'm in it to send a message back" he said firmly. There was no grimness in his voice, just the weariness of a solider who had seen to much. 


"And I got wind of a terrorist attack today. Guess where. This is golden. At a war veterans fundraiser. The lowest of the low, huh? OVERTHROW got their hands on some Afghan terrorists and bent them to their own cause. Smash the 'States...." he shook his head, and then his fist. 


"You gonna stand for that?" he asked Havoc. 


"So, you can turn me in, or you can  help me. I gotta warn you, I ain't got no proof of this. Its all come from illicit sources. That's how I work. But me, I can work with that, and nine times out of ten, my sources are right. So I can work where the cops and the intelligence services can't..."

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Havoc narrowed his eyes as Boomstick laid his story out on the line. He'd heard of a "Boomstick" character; most serving soldiers had heard one or two stories when jawing in the barracks. Some of the stories were pure heroism. Others... grim. If this was him... and if he was telling the truth... then there was a real danger here. But was he for real? Could he be trusted? Under the circumstances, Havoc knew he had to make a call.


"I'll give you a chance." he said, warily. "I'm comin' with you to this "terrorist attack", an' if it's goin' the way you say it's goin' then you'll need any help you can get." Havoc left it at that; he wasn't about to TELL this guy that he was suspicious, after all. In all honesty, though, Havoc felt the familiar itch between his shoulderblades that told him that there was something to this story; despite his misgivings, he was tempted to believe Boomstick's words. He deactivated his energy blades with a flourish.


"Lead the way. Let's do this."

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Boomstick gave a pained grin. 


"I knew I could count on you. A soldier never deserts his country, heh? Lets step into my Van. I got word of a terrorist cell that is going to hit...."


(At the) The Hotel Jefferson


"Is proud to host the annual war veterans fund raising Halloween Ball!" said the MC, a short slightly squat comedian by the name of Mike Masters, well known to have done several tours around the wall providing entertainment for the troops at times of war. He wasn't the most talented comic of all time, but he wasn't bad, either - and his work for the armed service always mad him a popular figure with them. 


And the cause was popular too, several dozen of societies richest, its movers and shakers, all keen to do their part and look patriotic - some of them, perhaps even the majority - even were genuinely patriotic and moved to the cause. It was a popular one, looking after wounded Vets, providing medical and psychological rehabilitation to those wounded in action. Mixing with them were various people from the charities that helped them, and many key veterans themselves, some wounded, some healthy, all keen to speak out about giving proper help and care to those that had given so much. 


This year, to add another dimension to the event, the Programme had included aid workers from Afghanistan, and even some Afghan's who had been wounded in action, such as those caught in  friendly fire or those translators who had risked their lives helping the Armed forces. The military servicemen and women overseas were keen to have their voice heard too - perhaps not as popular a cause, but one they felt needed to be heard. It was perhaps a little more fractious and radical, but it was there in the pot anyway. 

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Amir didn't mind these sorts of events, even there was a slyness on the local Imam's part to get the billionaire to add this to his already.  Though, Amir liked the man, Mohammed al-Mustapha, quite a bit and didn't mind getting wrangled into an event like this at the last moment.  It annoyed Ana, but there was precious little that didn't annoy Ana.
It wasn't hard for him to get info on the guests, especially with as much money as he was giving to the cause.  So he did his standard research on the guests and notables, so that he wouldn't be at a loss when talking to people there.  Fortunately he had the added bonus of speaking Farsi, so he could have a more relaxed conversation with the Afghanis that were in attendance, even if it wasn't completely close to Pashto.
He wore a tailored suit with a Prince of Wales pattern in grays, with hints of blue and brown.  With a paler blue turtle neck underneath the jacket.  He was sharply dressed, as usual with as much of a fashion hound as he was.  He chatted with the movers and shakes here, coming across as affable as he could, while trying to meld into the background, which should be easy given he wasn't a speaker at thsi event.  Of course, given the amount of contracts with the Armed Services that Summit, it's subidiaries, as well as Amir's own private ventures had was staggering, so his support here was unsurprisingly.  Though al-Mustapha will know this, and know that Amir's presence tended to ramp up additional monetary support.
The Arab American billionaire applauded at the MC's announcement, and he idly listed to the chatter of the couple he sat next to.  Hamptons this, Ivy League that, innocuously ignorant statement, breeding, yachts.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  The Chesterfields, he had connected with them before, they were old money, nice in that sort of distant, well meaning rich person way.  He was pretty sure that the Imam sat him here out of some sense of amusement.  Judging by the smirk of Mohammed flashed him that was precisely the plan.
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Amir was guided away by Mohammed mid some rather bland conversation with the Chesterfields about Yachting. Mohammed was polite and demure, and somehow had a knack at social ju-jitsu. 


"Amir, come here, I have some people I would like you to meet..."


They were an interesting threesome. 


Private Will Timbers was your average grunt with a big heart. He had been unlucky, caught a bullet in the back, and too close to the spine, left in a wheelchair. He now campaigned for better after care for those soldiers wounded in action, and in an even more heroic spirit, for better care for the Afghan's who aided the Americans in the war and needed asylum or medical care themselves. He was a hero, and pretty much nobody had a bad word to say about him. 


Accompanying him were two Afghan's. Kabir, a local part time polititan, part time imam, who had been flown over, and Saeeda, a translator for the armed services, who had caught an improvised explosive device full on and left her blinded - a typical case the American War Vet society was championing this year - and it must be said with considerable success, despite some degree of uphill struggle. 


Kabir spoke passable English, whilst Saeeda's was much better. 


TImbers gave Amir a hearty salute and shook Amir's hand. "Thanks for coming, Sir. Mean's a lot someone like you coming. Beats our regular fund raisers, y'know? Not that I would say a bad word about them, but this year we want to do something a bit special for the Afghan's who helped us and worked with us side by side. We don't want to forget them. People like you, well, they help break down the prejudice, if you know what I mean?" he said, full of enthusiasm. 

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Meanwhile, outside the Jefferson Hotel...


Boomstick had planned well. Very well. 


Havoc and he had set up a vantage point above the hotel, on a rooftop of a high rise that was undergoing maintenance. The Van was parked nearby and Havoc had been pressed ganged into hauling some equipment up. Binoculars, weapons, grenades of all types, remote triggers, the works. 


And most impressively, a zip-line cable shooter for them to travel to the roof of the Excelsior. 


"Well Havoc, I know you have your own weapons" said Boomstick, indicating the cyborgs arms "But I'm more conventional. Feel free to borrow if you want" he said, strapping his submachine gun around his chest. 


"I got word from Afghan. See, the Vets here are doing a good deed, but they have been duped. One of the Afghan's they invited over has been brainwashed by OVERTHROW. Turned coat, so to speak. A perfect mole. Now they are inside, they are gonna blow the place...." his face grew to a steely frown. 


"Can you imagine..." he shook his head. 


"So today, we are going to dismantle that overthrow cell. Explosively. Teach them a lesson. We get over there, locate the OVERTHROW agent, and boomstick their operation" he said, blunty. 


He took up the zipline firing line, aimed, and...





"Ladies first, soldier" he said, his first trace of humour, handing Havoc the first piece of rope to swing down onto the roof of the Excelsior. 

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Amir flashed the Imam a small smile as he was led away from the family  He didn't dislike the Chesterfields, he just had very little in common with them.  In fact he walked away with Mohammed still wondering if he even had a lot.  Not having the best experience at sea recently.  He followed along, and smiled, graciously, at the three people in turn greeting each, and making an effort in Farsi with the two Afghani, and giving the soldier a strong handshake.


It was moments like these that Amir wasn't behaving in the nominal persona that got the most media coverage.  Which was often, to be frank, a little less than flattering.  He didn't salute, because he always felt awkward doing it, reminding him of his silver spoon.  "Pleasure is all mine Private.  And if my presence means some over rich people fork over money for a good cause, I am always happy to show up."  Flashing that winning smile of his to the Timbers.

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Private Timbers was genuine, as far as Asad could tell, all good heart. Kabir was smoother, and edge of restraint on him. As well there should be, he had to balance one of the most difficult political jobs in the world. 


Saeeda, on the other hand. She had an edge of bitterness. She tried to disguise it, but she had none of the subtleties of Kabir, even when she was steered by him. She had lost her eyesight because she worked with the Americans. And that was a struggle for anyone. She tried to smile, but it was wan. She tried to be upbeat, but she was clearly sour. 


"Every day I wake up dreaming of the light and the fire, and facing darkness in the day" she said, the words like broken wheels on a broken cart. 


"For what good I did...I cannot say I wish I hadn't taken the job" she said, a steel smile on her face, painted on. Behind her sunglasses, one had difficulty reading her face. It wasn't a pretty sound, though. 


Kabir tried to smooth things over. "You see the damage, the lives ruined, Asad..." he shrugged. "It's the face of these problems we have to expose..." he shrugged. 


"Not easy to show..." he said, almost apologetically, and guided Saeed away. She used a stick herself, but did not object to his gentle guidance. 


Timbers whistled. 


"Yeah. Not easy, but those translators, they saved us out there. We can't leave them behind..."

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Meanwhile...on the Roof of the Jefferson Hotel...


Swinging on the Zipline had been exhilerating at least. Now Boomstick and Havoc were on the top of the Hotel. 


Boomstick pointed to a ventilation duct.


"Easy does it soldier. Here's the deal. I don't know which of those Afghan' has been brainwashed. Which puts us in a bit of a tricky position..." he said, bringing out some plastic explosives. 


"I got the place wired last week, got key places primed and ready to blow. When it comes to detonation, I'm an expert. Pre planning is the key. Now, I can't go and blow the hold building, just exits, entrances, the garage, certain rooms. The problem is, how to isolate our enemy and keep them isolated...I'm not taking down any War Vets..."


The man seemed to be ignoring any idea of burden of proof, but on the other hand, he had clearly had this all prepared. 


"Now, we need to sneak in, and start monitoring the place, you got me? How's you black op's experience?" he asked, giving a wink, as he slid down the Ventalation shaft. 

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"Oh, of course,"   Amir was at a loss for words, he didn't have a response for bitterness like that.  


He knew, and accepted he couldn't change the world, but...  His little corner of it?  "Pardon me."  Flashing a small, apologetic smile, and he stepped away, pulling his phone out.  "Ana?  Listen, I don't have time to argue with you.  Take this down, Saeeda, the woman at the event here, get the state department on the line and get her a visa, and see if there any active eye replacement or transplants or any sort of trial we can get her in.  We'll talk about my medical interests tomorrow, but we are expanding them.  And call the VA and the senators and reps, I feel a conference call coming on."  He wasn't hiding what he was doing, even if he took a few steps away.  He was agitated,  Enough that when he returned back to the Imam and Private Timbers, he had frost on his free hand that had balled into a fist earlier, as he put his phone away.


"I so apologize for that, it was terribly rude."

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If Private Timbers looked put out, he sure didn't show it. "No problems, man. Look, I hope I didn't press you to hard with Saeeda. It's not easy to...see..." he said, pained at the accidental pun and looking around to check he had not been heard by the woman, who was indeed nowhere to be seen.


"I know that. I dig it. People want to see a nice parade of homecoming soldiers, all fit and well and hugging their loved ones. They can even dig seeing a guy like me, all rehabilitation and smiles, proud to have served his country. But when it gets to the ugly side, well, its time to look away..."


He paused slightly, giving a look to Amir that was not exactly hard. No, not hard, more a brutal but empathic honesty. 


"Truth is, when I found out I had my spinal. I cursed God, cursed America, and cursed my life. And I didn't stop cursing for a long time. I still do curse every now an again. When I wake up in the morning, and for a moment, just for a moment, I don't remember I will never feel or move my legs again. And I ain't even getting to the messy parts of rehabilitation. People think its all about the sweat and the heroic battle, yeah? Huh, if only they new about the messy stuff..." he shook his head. 


"Same with Saeeda. People want optimism. Not some woman's life ripped away. Not some woman bitter at having being blinded by a damn explosive. People don't want to look. But they damn well should!" for once, Timbers was angery. Not at Amir, but..just angry. 


"Look, forgive me man, this rehab, this readjustment, it never really ends. It's just like life, you know? And right now, I just want to do a little good for the world" he said, shrugging his shoulders. 


"And Saeed much appreciates it. I am sorry if her manner was a little...sharp" said Kabir, joining them and trying his best to apply diplomatic balm. 

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Meanwhile....Directly Above...


Havoc and Boomstick were crawling through a ventilation shaft that was a devil to squeeze through, and made not any easier by the luggage they gently pushed along with them, full of weapons, triggers, and explosives. 


Boomstick put his finger to his mouth and pointed down. He spoke to Havoc in a very soft voice, barely a whisper. The hubub of the general noise of the meeting would mask their conversation to all but the sharpest ears. 


"Thats our man!" he said, pointing directly at Kabir.


"I'll bet on it. I don't know for sure, but he's the profile. Diplomatic status, no allegiances, smooth customer. Did my research, too, a devout muslim, fanatical even. Of course, he toned it down publicly now he has got all political. Just the kind of guy OVERTHROW would get their hands on..."


He pulled out a trigger device. 


"As soon as he is alone, it's time for payback...he ain't gonna attack our men on our soil..." he said, eyes blazing. 

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"I relate as best I can, but I will be honest, Private Timbers, I am a lucky man, and I am aware that my... goodwill can only stretch so far.  Fortunately, my bank account is a lot bigger as is my contact list, and they can accomplish more than my empathy can."  He smiled a little conspiratorially.  Amir understood, he knew why Mohammed had him come to the event.  Greater good, he recognized his philanthropy was far more beneficial than any heroing he did.


He shrugged a little, "Frankly that is not the worst I have ever been reacted to.  So I certainly am not upset over her justified anger."

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Havoc watched his erstwhile companion as he spoke, and while he shared the urge to protect the veterans below, he couldn't bring himself to be okay with the kind of justice that Boomstick had in mind. He'd seen the fire in Boomstick's eyes too many times before; on the faces of his taskmasters, his targets, even his comrades in the field. It had only ever led to evil acts.


"No." he whispered, placing a warning hand on Boomstick's calf, ahead of him in the duct. "Nothing lethal. Especially not on that flimsy premise. We take 'em in, you hear? If it comes to that..." he nodded at the firearm strapped to Boomstick's waist. "... then you shoot to wound. You get me?"


He didn't wait for an answer. He turned away, looking out through the grille to where Kabir stood talking in a small group with a handful of very different figures. He took a second to listen, to watch, to try and see anything that would give Boomstick's accusation any weight... but only a second, before turning back to his companion.


"Come on. Move."

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Boomstick glared at Havoc with a mixture of irritation and frustration. 


"Do you think these terrorists, OVERTHROW, would shoot to wound?" he sneered, then bit his lip to crunch silence into his mouth. 


"We need to get that guy, Kabir. Snatch him, interrogate him. Do you think you can do that?" he asked, exercising all the restraint he could. 


"Find out what he has planned for this show. Explosives, gas, biological agent..if we know what we are facing, we know what we can do..." he explained, fingering his remote trigger. He certainly had an itchy finger, but for now, it wasn't pulling the trigger. 




Kabir bowed  gracefully at Amir. 


"Your presence and support here is much appreciated, Amir. I am sure that, despite passions running high at times, your goodwill is noticed and appreciated by all present. But if you excuse me, perhaps I should calm the flames that have been stroked with Saeeda..." he said, looking about for the woman who had, it seemed, disappeared. 


Amir, and the two soldiers above him (even from the reduced angle of the ventillation grill) could make out Kabir moving towards the outskirts of the reception, and to the elevators, where he pressed "up". 

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