The trio of B.I.T.E. armored assault vehicles crashed through the fortified gates of Numby Castle like steel avalanches on wheels. Fat sparks shot from severed electronic connections like miniature runaway comets. The guards at the gatehouse did their best to stop the intruders, but it was no use. Their weapons were too small a caliber to even be an annoyance to the massive behemoths with their thick armor plating. Three black helicopters swooped in from the north and the west, and their huge spotlights lit up the grounds at an intensity close enough to high noon as to make no difference. Men and women alike galloped in all directions. Some technicians, some castle-staff. Here and there, some of Numby’s security staff had taken the hint that there obviously were no further paychecks here and it was time to go.
The lead assault vehicle rumbled to a stop some five hundred feet from the immense double doors leading into the castle, and an amplified voice boomed from the speakers on top of the vehicle.
“This is Colonel Thompson of the British Intelligence Tactical Elite! In the name of Her Majesty The Queen, I am empowered to use any and all means at my disposal to secure this castle and arrest all within! You have thirty seconds to surrender!”
An enthusiastic storm of machine gun fire from the castle was his answer. Numby still had some loyal men who were willing to keep earning their pay. Thompson’s reply was equally quick and to the point.
A pair of rockets zoomed from the assault vehicle’s main cannons and blew apart the double doors, sending thick pieces of flaming wood and metal yowling in all directions. Ribbons of flames engulfed the front of the castle and broken, charred bodies flung to and fro. The lead assault vehicle rumbled inside the castle, right into the main entrance hall, rolling over blackened, smoking rubble. The side door slid open and B.I.T.E. commandos poured out, silent and deadly, loaded with weaponry. Machine guns chattered as they covered the first team, which drew a defensive perimeter around the assault vehicle and began securing the area.
Some fifty of Numby’s men were putting up a fight, crouched in doorways leading to other parts of the castle, covering the rest of their force, retreating up the giant, curving marble staircase slick with blood. Thompson leaped out of the vehicle, closely followed by Gregory Tipp, who looked much different now. Garbed in a skintight black jumpsuit made of a Kevlar IV/Ferosium micro-mesh weave, he looked nothing like the deskbound paper pusher he normally appeared to be. He aimed his grenade launcher and fired at the staircase. The explosion was not enough to destroy the marble, but it was enough to clear a sizeable path, sending ruined, bloody bodies somersaulting through the air, their screams echoing in the vast hall.
“We’ve got to get further inside the castle and find Dillon, if he’s still alive!” Tipp shouted. Thompson stopped firing long enough to toss a fierce grin over his shoulder.
“I’d bet my pension that he’s somewhere raising a considerable amount of hell himself. Give me and the lads here half a mo’ to teach these buggers who’s in charge here and we’ll go look for him together.”
When the first explosions rocked the castle, Dillon skidded to a stop and Kris almost fell on her face in surprise at how quickly he’d halted. The floor under their feet vibrated as if suddenly turned to rubber. “My God, what now?” Kris moaned.
“It’s B.I.T.E.” Dillon was grinning with respectful admiration. “I gotta give Tipp his props…when he’s on your ass; you truly have somebody on your ass.” Dillon turned to Kris. “Looks like this is where you get off, sweetheart. Stay here and wait for Tipp. He’ll take care of you from here on out.”
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“After Chew Mi. I owe her for throwing me in that glorified fish tank, and I’ve got to get that ring back.”
“Oh, let her have the damned ring! What good can it do anybody now? Everybody’s dead!”
“She’s not dead and neither am I. And Odin’s still out there somewhere. I owe him a big beat down as well for siccing his dogs on me, and the one way to get to him is to get that ring.” Dillon cupped her chin in a gloved hand and kissed her swiftly. “Stay here and wait for Tipp. You’ll be okay.” Dillon ran down the hall about five feet then stopped and turned. He flashed her that Cheshire Cat grin she’d come to know well.
“You were a pain in the ass at times, but you’re okay, Kris Quinlan.” He ran down a corner and was gone.
Dillon kicked open the door to the rooftop hangar, a pair of Browning automatics in his gloved fists. He figured that if Chew Mi were going to try to get away, flying out would be the best way, so he’d headed straight up here. He didn’t like the thought of shooting a girl as young as she was, but he also had a deep aversion to being killed himself. The rooftop hangar was an enclosed area with a roof that could be folded back to permit takeoffs and landings by the various aircraft kept at the castle. A couple of helicopters, an autogiro, a couple of one and two-man jumpsticks. Dillon moved soundlessly through the hangar, his eyes darkened to smoldering, molten gold, his face a neutral mask of calm detachment.
He heard the hum of a firing system being activated three seconds before bullets started tearing into the wall next to him. Dillon ran, firing both his weapons, slugs humming and screaming around him as he dived, rolled, and came to rest next to a yellow and red forklift.
“Dillon. Oh, Dil-lon . . . come out and play-ay…”
“I really don’t want to have to kill you, Chew Mi, so don’t make me. Throw down your weapon, come out, and I’ll let you off with an ass-whooping, okay?”
Dillon peered over the forklift and saw Chew Mi floating slowly toward his position, riding an Olishanky air cycle. It floated on a field of magnetic-repellent energy that made the underside of the vehicle glow neon blue. She sat astride it as if it were a proud warhorse. Gleaming silver and red, normally it served as a pleasure device of the idle rich. An airborne jet-ski that had been converted by Chew Mi into a flying weapon. A 30mm electric cannon was mounted on the front and it still smoked from her initial salvo.
Chew Mi’s painfully young face contorted in a snarl of psychotic rage. “Let’s see who’ll give who the ass-whooping!”
“Ain’t nothing between us but air and opportunity!” Dillon leapt to his feet. He ran backwards almost as fast as he ran forward, firing both his guns. Bullets spanged off the armored windshield and sides of the air cycle with painful whines, but to no effect. Chew Mi laughed. “You think you’re so fucking smart don’t you? I’ll show you!”
Dillon stopped his backwards run and back-flipped straight up about six feet onto a stack of metal storage containers. He dropped his empty guns and reached under his jacket for his .44 Desert Eagle Magnum. Chew Mi cut loose with the 30mm cannon, cutting the container he stood on into metal shavings that collapsed under the withering fire. Dillon disappeared as he tumbled backwards. The containers toppled and crashed the screeching sounds of metal banging against metal harsh and loud. A cloud of yellowish dust obscured her vision.
“Hah! Not so tough now, are you?” Chew Mi twisted the throttle, gently nudging the air cycle forward… but not too much… she’d underestimated this man once before and she’d not do that again.
A .44 Magnum slug cut through her hat, ripping it from her head, barely missing her skull. A cluster of hair strands fell in her face and she blew them away as she turned the Olishanky to the right. The 30mm cannon yelped as it cut loose with its lethal spray, a veritable high-pressure hose of lead.
Dillon jinked like an NFL pro running back, zigzagging like mad, snapping off shots as he dashed to the far end of the hangar, belly flopping to slide under a light Reese/Hartin autogiro as Chew Mi pounded bullets into the aircraft’s gas tank. Dillon gained the other side, scrambled to his feet, and continued running as the bullets ignited the fuel. The aircraft seemed to open up like a metal flower to reveal an orange-red explosion within that picked him up and threw him another fifteen feet in the air. Dillon twisted in mid-air, using the thrust of the explosion to propel him higher. It gave him enough room to tumble, twist and land on his feet. He brought his weapon up and snapped off three more shots at the air cycle that was rushing right towards him through the flames rapidly spreading through the hangar.
The bullets shattered the windshield but didn’t hit the grinning Chew Mi, whose hair whipped wildly around her head and shoulders as she gunned the air cycle full throttle. Dillon leapt upwards and landed on the front grille of the speeding air cycle, but it continued on, smashing through one of the huge windows at the end of the hangar and flying into the night sky over Numby Castle.
Chew Mi was headed right towards one of the B.I.T.E. helicopters. She twisted the controls, skewing to the right, barely missing the rear rotors. Dillon slid off the front of the air cycle and he grabbed onto the electric cannon for dear life, looking down at Numby Castle, which all of a sudden seemed very small beneath him.
Chew Mi raised a small fist. The golden ring with the sparkling opal glittered on her index finger and she brought her fist whistling down into Dillon’s face. His lower lip split and fresh blood filled his mouth as volcanic rage filled his soul. He whipped his right leg up and around and his booted heel cracked Chew Mi a good one upside her head, snapping it back.
Chew Mi twisted the directional thrust and the air cycle began to spin, once, twice, three times, with Dillon desperately holding onto the cannon as his body was pulled straight out by the centrifugal force. Using the momentum, he flipped himself into the seat in back of Chew Mi.
Chew Mi twisted around, the side of her head purpling from Dillon’s kick, and snapped at his face like a rabid Doberman. Dillon head-butted her and reached to grab the controls, turning the air cycle back to the castle.
Chew Mi’s hands went for his throat and she started strangling him with real enthusiasm as the air cycle went careering straight back at Castle Numby. Chew Mi laughed, a schoolgirl’s giggle that sounded incredibly macabre.
“I’m bad! I’m bad! You know it!”
The air cycle smashed through one of Numby Castle’s priceless 16th Century stained glass windows, hit the floor, skidding some twenty feet with Dillon and Chew Mi still relentlessly fighting each other, then hit a marble pillar, throwing them off in opposite directions.
Dillon shakily pushed himself to his hands and knees, shaking multicolored glass from his back. His entire body was aching from all the fighting he’d done this night. He had extraordinary reserves of strength and endurance, but even he had his limits, and the strain of the last twenty-four hours was beginning to tell on him. He could feel the black cloak of unconsciousness being pulled over him and he fought to get to his feet. The ring could not fall into Odin’s hands. No matter what. He rose and looked for Chew Mi.
The air cycle lay smoking and hissing where it had crashed into the pillar, but there was no sign of Chew Mi. Maybe she had decided to make a run for it while he was pulling himself together?
“Where’s my ass-whoopin’?”
Dillon whirled but he was too slow. Chew Mi caught him with a solid roundhouse kick. An explosion of pain went off on the left side of his head.
“Big bad-ass Dillon gonna give the little girl an ass-whoopin’, right?” Chew Mi delivered another devastating roundhouse kick to the other side of his head that made him stagger backwards, completely disoriented.
“So long, farewell, auf wiedersein, and goodnight!” Chew Mi gave him a blistering uppercut that lifted him off his feet about a foot. He crashed to the floor on his back, completely laid out cold.
Chew Mi gazed down at him for a disdainful moment, contemplating ending his life. Then she looked at the golden ring on her fist and a smile curled her lips. No. She had a better idea. Dillon’s life would end and she would do it. But later. There was work to be done. Odin’s work. And who better than he to have the services of the one person who had been able to beat Dillon when others such as Frederick Whalen and Alistair Frayne had failed?
And since they were dead, there was only Dillon left to be tortured for ending the life of her beloved lover and father, Aristotle Numby.
Chew Mi turned, her cloak swirling about her like a great dark wing, and she left Dillon where he lay.
The castle had taken nearly fifty minutes to secure, and Thompson received word to join Tipp upstairs in one of the upper chambers. Thompson personally made sure that Lady Thelma Sharpe and Frederick Whalen were firmly in custody. Incredibly, considering the amount of punishment he had taken, The Whale was still alive. In fact, he had put up enough of a fight that he had to be shot with a tranquilizer. They were being taken to a special compound known as ‘The Cloisters’ where they would be questioned.
Even though Lady Thelma’s role in this affair was pretty clear, she was still a powerful woman with many influential friends, a significant number of which had political clout. She would have to be handled carefully.
Thompson found Tipp in a smoke filled room where he was looking down at an unconscious Dillon, being examined by a pair of paramedics. Tipp quietly smoked a cigarette.
“You’ve got him at last, Greg.”
Tipp nodded. “I’ve been talking to some of the prisoners. Seems as if you were right. Before we got here, Dillon had broken free of some kind of holding cell and was working out some frustrations on Numby and his staff. Hell, if we’d waited another hour, the lot might have been pleading for us to rescue them from him.”
Thompson nodded. “We’ve got the Quinlan girl downstairs in one of the choppers, but she’s half out of it. Can’t tell a coherent story. Goddamn, Greg, what is going on here?”
“I don’t know. But we need answers, and we need them fast.”
Thompson eyed his friend warily. “So what do you want to do?”
Tipp seemed to set his shoulders, as if taking on a great weight before answering. “I’m going to send Dillon and the Quinlan girl to Project: 65.”
“That’s a little extreme, don’t you think, Greg? Dillon may not be a friend, but he’s not an enemy either.”
Tipp’s voice was cold as he answered. “I need answers from Dillon, and I’m prepared to use any means necessary to get them out of him. And yes, Al, I’ll even use Project: 65. You see to his transport there, and then forget him. I’ll cover your ass; never fear on that score.”
“I’m not concerned about that, Greg. I’m concerned about the damage you might do to a potential ally.”
“Potential ally or not, I’ll do as I see fit. Because as of right now, Dillon belongs to Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”