Hey everyone! Finally back with the fifth episode of the series!

And a big thanx once again to all those people who keep mailing me! Love all my fans! You keep me going!

And a note here, my college re opens this week so the last two episodes are going to be a bit slow in coming. Please be patient, I will finish the story as promised.

And yeah, since a lot of people have been asking, and since I don't mind indulging in some shameless self publicity, there's another story I've written; it's called `Black and White' and is in the science fiction / fantasy section. (Last submission Aug 2006).

Ok, now with all that out of the way, onwards with the story!



Episode 5

The rest was cut off as Christian heard a whirring sound and was shocked to see the grand entry door sliding shut. He made a mad dash for it and dived forward to try and make it in the last second through the narrow opening left as the door steadily closed in.

He failed.

His head rammed against the door as he felt the solidity of it and collapsed on the floor. He groggily stood up as he pushed against the monolithic gate. It was no use. And he was sure it would not budge even if a force ten times greater than his was applied.

Suddenly Christian heard another whirring noise as the iron bar gate collapsed and fell behind him.

Christian watched in horror. He was trapped between the double gates. `This can not be happening', he thought to himself.

"Vanessa? Vanessa? What's going on? Are you there?" he talked in a frenzied tone into the headset, but received no reply.

Christian looked around at the small two foot wide enclosure he was trapped in. And he had no way out. Was this the end for him? And where was Vanessa? What had gone wrong in their plan?

He kicked against the door screaming and shouting, all to no avail. He was powerless; he had been caught.

In his helpless state he fell back against the iron bars and slumped down to the ground, a million thoughts running through his head.

`There go the plans for my vacation now.' He thought as suddenly he chuckled in the cramped confinement. He sighed as the tension left his body, realizing there was nothing he could do; he was doomed.

A clicking noise from the first door jerked him up with a start. Had the authorities gotten here so soon?

His mouth fell open when he saw who it was. Standing ahead of him in black leather pants and a biker jacket was Duke, with a smug expression on his face.

"Yo! How you been?"

"Ba, Badgerking?" Christian finally stammered, finding his mouth suddenly dry. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"Nice to meet you too." Duke stated wryly as the fallen man struggled to get up. "Now get your lame ass up and running, we have to leave."

Christian still stared at the new person on the scene. He stood up in a dazed manner.

"And close your mouth."

At that Christian snapped back to reality as his dropped jaw returned back to its normal state. There was no time to figure out how Duke was on the scene and how he got there. There was danger lurking around and they had to make an escape.

He stepped up and started sprinting after Duke who had already taken of towards the E-deck.

"Where's Vanessa?" he hissed once he sided up to Duke.

"You mean Natasha?" Duke gasped between breaths. "Don't worry about her; she's already out of here. It's us who are going to be in deep shit now."

Footsteps resounded along the ship's passageways as both the runners stopped short. Christian immediately ducked low and peered around the corner. A group of armed guards were racing along it, but much to his relief they turned left into the corridor before theirs and raced towards the museum that housed Mr. Checkov's personal collection.

"How the hell did the dock guards get here so fast?"

"The whole thing was rigged." Duke stated in a chastising manner. "You're lucky I got here on time."

"C'mon!" Duke gestured sprinting ahead of Christian when the footsteps faded away. "We have to get outside!"

Christian raced after Duke. There were too many thoughts inside his head but he had to stay focused. There would be time for questions later. He followed as Duke led him through a maze of corridors and staircases, obviously aware of the way that led out. It took a few seconds of following him around for Christian to understand that Duke had studied the plans of the ship and knew his way around; perhaps even better than he did.

The pair paced along as silently and stealthily as they could. A general commotion on board the ship made it all too obvious that the alarm had been sounded and security personnel were swarming all around.

A minute later, jumping from a deck onto the wooden wharf; a difficult hurdle for Duke from a height of around 6-7 meters, and an easy hop for Christian, the two were on solid ground again.

"Follow me," Duke stated with gritted teeth, the soles of his feet hurting after the fall. His lower jaw had slammed against the roof of his mouth as he had hit the ground and his teeth were clanging as well.

Christian's eyes widened as he was led to an area behind metallic crates and saw the metallic blue BMW parked in the shadows, hardly suitably concealed He opened his mouth to question Duke as they paced towards the parked bike but was cut off by a high pitched whistle from above the deck.

They had been spotted.

"Get on," Duke stated angrily as he put on his helmet.

Christian shrugged as he made towards the pillion rider's seat and straddled the crotch-rocket.

Above on deck a tumult was being raised as armed personnel made their way towards the ship railings and peered over, some standing exactly where Duke and Christian had jumped out from, but no one jumped overboard as they had. They were rushing towards the lower decks.

The spotlight beacon was now shining down onto the dock area and scanned it for fugitives as whistles continued to blast in the air all around.

But they were soon drowned out by the sounds of a gun, as bullets ricocheted against the steel containers in the small confined area.

`We're fucked', Christian thought to himself, `They're opening fire without warning; this should definitely not be such a highly sensitized front!' Christian's thoughts were swamped out as Duke's bike started with a warm purring which developed into a heavy droning in a couple of seconds.

"Here, you'll need these to stay stable." Duke stated, handing a couple of white earphones with a small digital MP3 player to his pillion rider. Christian took the offered mini speakers with confusion written all over his face. He put them next to his ear wondering what they were for, and why they were so important in such a critical situation.

He made a face and immediately pulled the earphones apart as he heard the blaring thumps and electrical distortions of the metallic music playing on them.

"Put them on!" Duke hissed as he wrenched the handle and re-adjusted the handlebar to a greater height in his forward leaning position that would enable the back rider to hold on more tightly. They skidded as the sports cruiser pulled out from the shadows and Duke shifted gears as the GT series bike roared to life.

Without thinking, Christian put the tiny devices on as Duke accelerated at a break-neck pace to the parked area in front of the Nebressa.

Duke raced alongside the parked ship as bullets paced past them, hitting the steel canisters and the wooden crates that lay alongside. A few guards quickly made their way inside jeeps to give chase.

Christian watched in horror to suddenly find two hummers packed with security personnel raced after them. Little did he know that his fear of getting caught would soon be replaced by a new fear.

His stomach did somersaults as Duke zipped right and then left as he skidded across at a maddening pace; forging new paths amidst the dockyard dumps. The hummers were now following in a parallel lane, their profiles too large to maneuver inside the narrow path Duke had steered his bike in. He held onto the metallic back flap, all the while Duke's selection of music throbbing in his ears, blocking all outside sound and somehow seeming fit for the situation.

Duke sped towards the entrance of the dockyard. He knew once they were out of the private port area and onto civilian area, their predators would no longer recklessly shower bullets upon them. And then he saw the huge metallic gate of the entrance slowly sliding in as a few men waved for the bike to stop.

Duke knew he would have to make it.

There was no other option.

"What the..?" Christian shouted as he realized what Duke was going to attempt, but his voice was sunk in the commotion, the roaring engine, the bullets being fired towards them and the loud music blaring into his ears.

The bike zoomed alarmingly, covering the few dozen between them as the gate slid inwards, and Duke rode towards the narrow gap on growing smaller each instant.

They made it, the metallic door missing them by a hair's breadth.

Christian sat stunned behind. He had nearly been chopped in half by the massive metallic gate and the driver in front of him was to blame. He was also the one to blame for getting him out of a very sticky situation.

"What, why are we slowing?" Christian asked loudly, not able to hear his own voice as the music continued to overpower his own voice.

And then he saw the narrow path ahead; a narrow road that branched off into the expressway. The same path was blocked by a monstrous jeep with its headlights blinding them as they approached.

Behind them the metallic gate of the dock entrance was slowly reopening as the hummers revved their engines.

"Hold onto me!" Duke yelled loud enough for Christian to hear over the piercing cacophony in his ears, which had turned from meaningless thumps to screeching electrical distortions.

Christian realized what Duke was attempting as he leaned forward and tightly clutched the driver around the waist. He hardly knew if he would survive this one.

Duke clutched the handlebars hard as the bike roared and picked up speed at an astonishing rate. And drove directly towards the parked monstrous truck ahead of them.

Christian watched the on board computer display rapidly changing speeds on the flat screen display. He closed his eyes at the last moment, the moment when Duke suddenly arched the bike towards the left and made for a wooden plank conveniently placed as an upwards incline, pointing more or less towards the general direction of the expressway.

The bike climbed the platform and zoomed off the end, soaring through the air, the occupants of the security personnel in the parked truck watching in awe as the bike peaked at an altitude of about 10 feet of the ground before resuming its parabolic trajectory back to Earth.

A heavy clunk was heard as the Motorrad para-lever and shock absorber system took in the impact and the bike skidded before Duke regained control and veered sideways, tires screeching, just avoiding the trash cans on the sides.

Christian opened his eyes to realize they were back on track and on the expressway. His heart was thumping louder than the music that boomed in his ears.

He turned sideways to notice that the monster truck parked behind was frantically backing up as the hummer vehicles waited impatiently for it to get out of the way so they could go after the fugitives.

"It's not over yet!" Duke yelled to his companion as he zoomed off on the expressway. "Hold on tighter!"

Christian could hardly hear the instructions being doled out but he hardly needed to be informed. He clutched the leather jacket around Duke's waist as tightly as he could, holding on for dear life. The metallic bluish black rocket roared along the expressway with its two riders, its diver performing a series of tilts and turns to overtake the speeding cars.

Christian turned behind only to find the hummers back on their tracks. His head was reeling under the effect of the music, the speed and the wind blowing in his face. His jaw hurt from the impact of the fall they had taken after the bike had zoomed off into empty space. He had no clue as to whether they would ever evade their captors. He held on to Duke and inched in closer knowing he had to leave everything in his hands now.

Duke suddenly started cutting towards the right. Scott closed his eyes once again as the bike reached speeds not meant for road traffic. He hardly had the stomach to digest what Duke would try next.

With a sharp skid, Duke braked as the rear braking systems exerted themselves to turn by a complete 180 degrees at the intersection, the bike tilting at a perilous 30 degrees off the ground as Christian's knees scraped the surface. And the next instant the bike was on the road again.

Only, they were on the wrong side.

Christian's heart jumped into his mouth as Duke tilted left and right at dangerous angles to maneuver against the reverse traffic. They were riding amidst cars speeding at more than a hundred miles an hour, which were all heading in the opposite direction! Tilting too close for comfort towards one side and then suddenly lurching the bike in the opposite direction and tilting the other way, barely missing speeding cars by millimeters each time Car's veered left and right, blowing their horns and some skidded as their drivers cursed and tires screeched to a halt. Christian thought it would never end, and they would never get out of the expressway alive.

He felt he was going to throw up. He could barely make out the blurry shape of vehicles zooming by as Duke zig-zagged between them. And then he turned sharply after one to take them onto a by-lane.

Around a half minute later, having hardly recovered from the harrowing experience, Christian turned back once more to check up on their captors. There was no one in sight. No one was chasing them anymore.

They had escaped.

And toxicity was still thumping in Christian's ears.

Ahead of him, adrenaline and epinephrine coursed its way through Duke's veins, as he relished the spirit of adrenaline he always sought.




"But darlings, how long are you gonna keep me here? I'm getting bored you know!"

The helpless bodyguard tried to put on his best poker face, but their new guest was not an easy one to handle.

Damien banged his fists against the wooden door that kept him locked inside. The massive bodyguards parked outside grunted in disapproval but there was not much they could do, unless one of the two barged in and gagged and tied the melodramatic man. And they were under instruction from Ms. Zelderman to not mistreat their `guest' in any manner.

"You know Carl or whatever your name is," Damien stated, his voice muffled from the other side of the door, "For a person built like a brick house, you sure don't know how to pitch!"

The guard named Carl shifted uncomfortably at the obvious reference to the encounter he'd had with Damien as his companion eyed him curiously.

"I mean, back in the bar last Wednesday, you looked all butch and massive and all and you took of your clothes and had this teeny-weenie dick," Damien continued in a sing-song manner from the other side of the door. "And then we go back to your apartment and you stuck your ass in the air and waited for me to do the honors!"

The guard outside turned beet red while his companion's face lost its frown as he coughed to stifle a chuckle.

"I mean, jeez honey, I brought you over to do the plugging, and instead I had to do all the dirty work while you laid back and enjoyed!"

Damien heard sounds of feet shuffling from the other end but nothing else happened. He sighed as he cursed Duke; `A fine mess he and his boyfriend have gotten me into!'

He opened his mouth again, not one to stop the never ending provocations. "So tell me, why doesn't this boss of yours, Ms Zelderman, why doesn't she have some reconstructive surgery on her face or something? She scares the shit out of me!"

Damien backed away a little from the door when he heard the latches click from the other side. Maybe he had nettled them enough to finally open the door.

The door swung open as Randy's smiling face appeared.

"Doing Okay hon?"

"Fabulous!" Damien retorted and then ran his fingers over his own cheeks as he stated, "By the way, forgot to mention it before; nice scar!"

Randy's face lost a bit of its color as he scowled. "Yeah, you want one?" Randy immediately pulled out a pocket knife and flicked it open in front of Damien's face. It was the same knife he had failed to threaten Christian with earlier, the same knife that Christian had used to slice his own face.

Damien however was unfazed. "What? That Christian dude messes up Zelderman's sex-toy and he comes running to her for revenge? Can't handle one guy on your own can you honey? Brawling like a baby in front of your mama and now keeping ME hostage to try and lure Duke's boyfriend?"

"Shut the fuck up!" Randy spat out at Damien's face. "Or I'll show you how I handle things."

Damien stepped back as he let out his breath. He was enjoying every moment of the ridiculing the porn star, and it was hardly difficult to mess up his mind.

"So what you doing hanging around here anyways? Bareback videos threw you out because of the new pattern on your face?"

Randy's face turned livid as he stepped forward. For a moment he looked like he was going to reach out and grab Damien's collar. Then he spat on the ground and left in a huff, slamming the door as he left.

Damien stepped to the shut door and yelled at the top of his voice, "You know honey, some guys find scars hot! I'm sure you can find some blokes to get off on them!"

Damien heard footsteps stomping along the corridor before the finally faded.


Christian coughed and pulled back as he realized he still had his arms around Duke's waist. They had lost their chasing party quite some time back and he was just recovering from the giddiness that had nauseated his mind, owing to the traumatic daredevil stunts that Duke had performed on the BMW, with him on the backseat. The spinning feeling in his head was yet to fade away and he still had the urge to get Duke to stop the bike, lean over a railing and puke his guts out.

And Duke's selection of music still reverberated in his ears. The whole experience had shaken him to the core, which was a funny thing in itself for Christian always thought himself to be unshakeable.

"You know, we're going the wrong way," he stated leaning towards Duke.

"Yeah," Duke mumbled sliding the visor of his helmet up. "I was waiting for you to come out of shock to give me directions."

Christian scowled at that before he chose to ignore the comment as he asked Duke to turn off at the intersection and provided him with the directions to where he and Vanessa had been staying in Mali.

Twenty minutes later, guided by Christian, Duke drove to the outskirts of Mali, leading them away from the shore and towards the hilly areas that barricaded the southern entrance to the port town. Traffic decreased to a few stray cars as the roadways turned from broad 8 lane expressways to 2 lane cement paths. The two did not speak, except for Christian giving the odd direction here and there.

With the powerful headlights beaming, they sailed across the darkness of the night, the moonlight casting a pale glow on the forested areas along the slopes as no sound was heard, other than the 152 bhp engine purring as they ascended the acclivity of the hills.

The verdant southern foothills of Mali impelled their tranquility to try and calm the animosity between the two.

"There it is!" Christian suddenly burst out as Duke looked up ahead to make out the shape of a wooden cabin that lay embedded in a canopy of trees, highlighted by the waning moon. The cabin was raised on wooden stilts and Duke wondered briefly if the area ever flooded for the cabin to be raised so high.

A couple of minutes later they reached a stony tract that led to the cabin; bumping across which Duke killed the engine as they reached their destination.

Vanessa was waiting on the front porch, her red hair glowing eerily in the dark, her arms folder below her breasts, her face impassive. She stood up as soon as she heard the engine droning in the distance.

She waited for the two riders to dismount as Christian finally caught a glimpse of her and shrugged gesturing towards Duke as he smiled.

Duke pulled off the helmet from his head, his back to the man he had just helped escape; standing motionless for a few seconds as if contemplating what to do next.

Christian suddenly burst out cheekily, "Jesus BadgerKing, that was one hell of a ride!"

Quick as lightning, Duke spun around and slapped him hard across the face. Vanessa's jaw dropped. Christian recoiled as the right side of his face stung and he immediately lifted his hand to his cheek.

"Why did you come back?"

One question; one question asked by the hapless hacker; one question that took Christian a few moments to absorb and understand.

Christian bit his lower lip hard as he looked at the pained expression on his assailant's face, as those seeking eyes that glowed pleadingly in the dark ripped a scar across his heart.

"Why did you come back?" Duke asked once again, softly this time, his voice trembling as his body shivered, "Why did you come back that night to the bar to save me?"

The emotions that washed through Christian rendered him speechless. He lowered his head to stare at the ground, unable to look into Duke's eyes. Duke's eyes that did not despise him for cheating him, eyes that showed no hatred for leaving him in the lurch, eyes that did not question him for confusing him and then leaving him all alone, but eyes that pleaded to know why he had returned after stabbing him in the back.

And Christian had no answer.

The blood rushed to his cheeks as they turned an angry red, and then to a deep scarlet, barely visible in the soft moonlight, but he could hardly feel the pain on his cheek in comparison to the ache he felt in his heart.

And in those moments Christian's life ran in front of his eyes as snippets and flashes; an incomplete childhood, the feeling of being a champion and then that being snatched away, the feeling of helplessness and of going astray; and they all led right to this single moment, as the hurt man in front of him pleaded silently with his eyes; a young man who shook his very foundations. And in those flashes Christian's determination grew strong as he resolved to treat this young man differently; a reaction that arose from the deepest recesses of his heart.

He lifted his face and tried to smile. "Is this going to be like last time? I mean I remember what happened after you hit me the last time."

Christian faked a chuckle as he inched slowly towards Duke and extended his hand towards the tense shoulder. Duke resisted, still shaking and then finally let loose, his shoulders slumping as he did. Christian took that as a sign and stepped forward as he embraced the hurting man; the young man who had caused him many sleepless nights.

Vanessa watched silently as the two embraced in the soft moonlight, Duke's leather jacket gleaming as his head lay buried in Christian's left shoulder. The taller man stroked his hair softly, muttering how sorry he was into the shorter man's ears.




"Ok, so what exactly happened back there on the Nebressa?" Christian questioned as he settled onto a sofa opposite Duke as Vanessa pulled up a chair. The three sat around the unlit fireplace as dawn broke and a faint pink glow in the atmosphere signaled them of the rising sun.

"Well, everything was going along perfectly," Vanessa started, "A little too perfectly and we separated on E-deck and I easily managed to penetrate their security systems and we looked like we were going to be just fine. There were no security guards around or anything"

"Uh-huh," Christian nodded as she continued.

"Till I spotted him," Vanessa gestured towards Duke, "on the surveillance systems and my blood froze. My eyes nearly popped out of my head then he entered the control room and it was all just a big haze. He did convince me to get out though, ensuring that he would get you out. He told me how to exit the ship without getting caught."

"Ok." Christian nodded as both turned towards Duke to hear his side of the story.

Duke swallowed before he began. "I found out your whereabouts from Zelderman and knew the job you were trying to pull off."

A dozen warning chimes went off in both Christian's and Vanessa's head, but they let him continue for the time being.

"So I came over to Mali and hacked into the private dock area servers; only to find that something was really really wrong. Everything had been set up. The entire dock area was rigged. You both had been set up. I mean all the security patterns had been changed and everyone's schedules were on high alert after midnight. Their patrol patterns had conspicuously been changed to clash with the Nebressa; but what really set the alarm bells off, was me finding that the firewalls around the servers had been recently de-activated; even the surveillance equipment was rigged."

The two nodded as they thought over how the job had seemed surprisingly easy till the pivotal moment. They should have guessed earlier.

"So then I overwrote the security schedules, re-deployed their security systems and around mid night set up a false alarm to go off in the vicinity and that's why the attention was shifted and the guards were delayed; otherwise you would both be cooked geese by now."

The two absorbed the news, unable to argue. Duke was right. A trap had been laid out and they had walked into it blindfolded. If it would not have been for Duke, they would have been behind bars by now.

Duke sneered as he put on Christian's deep tone of speaking, "Apparently, we'd not perfected every routine."

Vanessa smiled as Christian chose to ignore the last comment, so Duke continued

"And you don't need to worry about the cameras and tapes and all, I took care of all that long before."

"So what's going to happen with the Stevenson deal?" Vanessa suddenly turned towards Christian and asked who shook his head sadly to imply he had no idea.

"Who's Stevenson now?" Duke questioned, a little irritated that his limelight was suddenly snatched away from him. The two had hardly thanked him for all his efforts.

"He's the big-guy who set up the job. That painting we were trying to steal was to be delivered to him today."

"So you two gonna be in shit for that now?"

"Neck-deep shit." Vanessa stated.

"We'll be happy to live after he finishes with us."

"And Zelderman?" Duke asked.

"She had very little to do with this deal, mainly she presides over the dealings in the pirate terrain area."

Duke nodded, not really wanting to know what that meant.

"Though you said you managed to get to us through her," Christian interjected. "How did you do that?"

"Oh, it's due to my uncanny abilities of persuasion." Duke stated matter-of-factly, waving a hand dismissively in the air.

Christian suddenly put on a suggestive tone, "So you wanna show me some of those mysterious persuasive powers in private?"

Duke raised his eye-brows at the abrupt change in mood, but he wasn't one to back down. "Sure, where do you wanna see them?"

"In the shower nutcase! You stink!" Christian bellowed as Duke's face fell. "I mean, jeez, I was practically clinging on to you the entire time on the bike and boy, could I smell your sweat and god knows what else even through that leather jacket. You simply reek of perspiration man!"

"Well, I didn't find a place to shower yesterday," Duke admitted sheepishly. "And it was hot riding under the sun in all these clothes, maybe I do smell a bit funny."

"A bit?" Christian snorted. "We could use you as a skunk-cover if we got caught back then. I'm sure no security would have approached us if they took one whiff of the air around you!"

"So are you coming?" Duke stated suddenly rising from the sofa.


"To the shower; to behold my powers of persuasion!"

Christian's face broke into an evil grin as he rose to his feet. "Only if I get to shampoo you!"

"Ooh, my personal slave!" Duke shot back as they both burst out laughing, Duke realizing that in all the time he had spent with Christian, this was the first light moment that they had shared. They made their way towards the bunk rooms, Vanessa a little irritated at all the overflowing testosterone around.

Duke was in the tub a few minutes later, the clear water cascading around his body as he sat towards the edge. He had been a little hesitant when he entered the bathroom along with Christian; but after Christian used the conventional `What you ashamed of? There's nothing I've not seen before' line, Duke stripped down to his birthday suit and stepped into the water.

He sat with legs folder in the middle of the bathtub, his back towards Christian as the taller man changed from his black tight suit and pulled up his sleeves as he knelt down at the edge of the bathtub.

"You're not going to join me?" Duke asked, hoping he would.

"Nah!" Christian stated chidingly. "We're gonna get you all cleaned out first."

Duke relaxed in the midst of the warm water which began its therapeutic effect almost instantly as Christian poured a mug of water over his head and started soaping his back. Duke let out a long breath as his overwrought muscles relaxed.

"So you always this dirty?"

Duke replied not missing a beat, "More so since you left me, Chris."

Christian's eye-brows immediately shot up in surprise. "So you do know my name then."

"Yes, Mr. Christian Steele. You were born on December 16th, 1983. Raised by a single mother, an accomplished gymnast and a brilliant academician and considered a complete genius till you tested positive for tetrahydrogestrinone in 1999 and were banned from all sport activities. Your mom died shortly after and you disappeared only to re-appear much later as Scott; one who seduces broke hackers and steals for a living."

Christian fell silent as the vanilla description of his life unfolded from Duke's mouth. Duke felt the hands soaping his back fall slack and immediately felt guilty for being insensitive. Clearly, Christian's past was not a merry topic for discussion.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."

"No, its fine." Christian cut him off. "And completely true; so can't say anything about that."

The air around them fell silent again as Christian resumed soaping Duke's arms, upper back and neck, Duke sighing in response. Finally the clothed man broke the silence.

"Back when I was sixteen, I really did feel like I could own the world. Mom's health was improving, our financial condition was turning stable, I loved the mat and the bars, and I was good at them, and I had met what I thought was the love of my life, his name was Martin, though everyone called him Marty."

Duke listened silently as Christian spoke with no feeling in his voice.

"Then came the final annual athletic meet, the one before high school ended, and the world was waiting to see me perform. My fiercest competitors knew of my prowess in the acrobatic field and I was touted to slice through all the competition from the other colleges, but it seemed some were too envious of my abilities."

Christian leaned forward as he glided the soap along the front and back of Duke's arms, massaging them ever so slightly.

"To cut a long story short, I failed the doping test just before my stint at the athletic meet, the board charged me with the use of anabolic steroids and I was to never participate professionally. When an athlete's career is killed like that, it almost ends his life. And the entire deal was due to a case of jealousy. My arch rival, a Dominic Paige, got me drunk in the name of camaraderie a couple of days before the big event and injected me with the drug, or so I have surmised"

Duke swallowed as he heard the aloof voice carrying on with the story.

"But it didn't end there. Marty turned against me, told the rest of the guys that I'd forced myself onto him. I got gay bashed badly once and was hospitalized. Mom slipped down a flight of stairs and joined me in the hospital too, I couldn't give my high school exams and couldn't clear the rest of the semester. Mom died shortly after due to a heart attack."

Duke gulped silently. His life hadn't been pretty either, but it was nothing like the one he was hearing of.

"I literally came onto the streets and hustled for a few weeks until I got into some bad shit. Stevenson pulled me out of all that, he knew of my talents. He caught hold of me and send me off to train in martial arts and combat. That's where I met Vanessa and we've been together for more than five years now."

The area was plunged into silence once again, save the minimal sound of water swishing against the tub edges as Christian guided the soap bar towards the front of Duke's neck. Finally Christian spoke again.

"So anyway, where did you learn to drive your bike like that? The air-force?"

"Nah." Duke stated softly, acknowledging the fact that Christian wanted to lighten the mood.

"You saved me back there with your crazy driving; I guess that makes us even."

"Even?" Duke questioned, his head turning sideways.

"Yeah, I saved you once and you returned the favor."

Duke did not reply, feeling empty that this was the conclusion, that the man he had been mad on in every possible way, wanted to reach.

Christian leaned in closer as he started soaping the front of Duke's torso, rubbing along the chest contours and his abs as his stubble brushed along the back of the latter's neck.

"So where do we go from here?"

Duke kept silent. Christian closed in as he whispered in Duke's ears, tickling him with his stubble.

"I mean, here we are, you an unemployed programmer and me an unsuccessful professional thief who's in a fine mess by now, so where do we go from here? You want to run away and get married and have six or seven kids?"

"I don't know." Duke stated as he turned around slowly, the water swishing as he did and looked into Scott's brown eyes. He sighed at the beautiful face in front of him, the one that had caused him so much anguish. And he lifted his hand as he stroked his cheek before he closed in and their lips met.

They kissed gently, gliding their tongues against each others, relishing each moment as the first rays of the sun streamed in through the small wooden windows. Christian clasped the back of Duke's head, sliding his fingers up and down the velvety curls as he closed his eyes and savored the taste of his lover. Finally they drew apart, but only for a moment to catch their breaths, and their lips returned with the same tenderness; no hurry as their passions peaked ever so slowly.

"So you wanna take this into the bedroom?" Christian gasped as Duke bit his lower lip and gently tugged at it.

"You still owe me a shampoo," Duke muttered between mouthfuls.

Christian giggled as he stretched an arm beneath the water, under Duke's legs, and the other arm below his upper back as he stood up slowly, lifting up Duke's naked and highly aroused from the water that ran between them, dripping onto the floor, never breaking the kiss once.

He walked them into the adjoining room Duke giggling into the kisses as they collapsed together on the bed.


A polished black van made its way upslope as it ascended the hilly terrain. Dawn had broken in some time back and now the birds were cooing and chirping as the sun shone a brilliant red along the horizon, rising ever so steadily. The engine of the van droned against the emptiness of the scenic beauty that the southern foothills were.

There were 5 men in the van in total, all dressed in an identical manner. With black woolen suits and their pristine shirts, they screamed money, or at least class. Two of them had shades on which were of course black as well. And all of them had pinstriped black and white ties on.

As they made their journey upslope, a wooden cabin on stilts, a lone sign of civilization came into view as the driver, one of the black suited men grimaced; they had almost reached their destination.


Vanessa sat in front of the empty fireplace. Her face bore an expression of irritation mixed with a tinge of helplessness, and a little bit of anger as well.


She stood up from the sofa and looked around, wondering what she should do. She had a good mind to interrupt the boys' session, and maybe even mess it up real good. She thought for a moment what it would be like intrude the room where the two were obviously having a good time. At last she shook her head deciding against it and slumped back into the sofa again.


She was angrier now. Christian having a fling once back in the town of Salvia was ok, but this was developing into something serious.


And she did not approve of it at all.


It was in the middle of her thinking stupor that she heard the sounds. The sound of a car door sliding shut, a noise accentuated in the midst of the idyllic sounds that surrounded the atmosphere in the hills, and she rushed outside to see what it was.


Her blood froze when she peered out of the window. A black van was parked below on the stone pavement and five men made their way out of it as they scurried towards the long winding staircase that led up to the cabin.








Duke couldn't keep himself from giggling as the grainy stubble tickled his pubes. Naked as a buck, he lay back on the bed highly aroused with his legs spread apart as Christian crouched over and finally swallowed his dick, after teasing him for what seemed like an eternity; and Duke continued sniggering, flailing his head about on the bed as Christian tried to go all the way to his pubes.

Finally Christian broke contact and sided up next to his face, his body weight pinning Duke firmly underneath. "Why are you giggling?"

"Don't know." Duke replied between giggles as Christian leaned in and bit an ear lobe.

Duke squealed as gasped and finally burst out into fits of laughter. Christian pulled apart once again and stared at him with a cross look on his face.


And a few seconds later, he joined in the infectious laughter, both men cracking up over something only shared between them as tears accumulated in the corners of their eyes, Christian tickling Duke asking him to beg for mercy, making him laugh and cry at the same time.

Suddenly Christian smashed his mouth over Duke's, kissing him ferociously as Duke's giggles were captured by his mouth, till they ceased and finally faded. Duke felt the hot tongue invading his mouth as he tugged at the shirt Christian was still wearing. Christian struggled, sliding it off breaking the kiss for all of one second as Duke ran his hands hungrily over the muscular torso, ultimately holding him by the sides as he flipped them over, their teeth clashing before Duke balanced himself with his knees on either side of the man below him.

He sat up, staring at the body beneath him; the sinewy sun kissed skin stretched over the beautiful frame of hard muscles and sharp definitions, the perfect ups and downs and the round brown nipples, just the color of his eyes and hair, and the beautiful face, with a tiny dimple on the left cheek that Duke had never noticed before. Duke realized that the man was more beautiful than anyone he'd ever seen, resetting his scales of comparison to a new high, the heavy muscular arms leading up to prominent shoulder blades, and a face that could stop anyone dead in their tracks.

Christian was drop dead gorgeous; Duke knew that; beautiful but lethal at the same time.

He slowly stretched out both his hand towards the round nipples as Christian stared deep into his eyes and moaned as they were tweaked.

The very next instant a door flung open.

"We have company; we have to get out immediately."

It was Vanessa. She turned around and latched the door.

Christian immediately shoved Duke aside as he stood up from the bed bare-chested.

"What?! whos' here?"

"No time." Vanessa stated as she picked up Duke's leather clothes from near the bathroom floor and threw them at his face, screaming for him to put them on immediately.

Duke stared at the two open mouthed as Christian hurriedly put on a t-shirt, yelling at him to get dressed or run get ready or run naked into the woods with them.

Finally he caught hold of the gravity of the situation when a loud crash was heard as the front door was kicked in, followed by the sounds of multiple footsteps.

"Through the back verandah." Christian stated firmly as Duke kicked about to get into his tight leather pants, sans underwear. He grabbed his jacket and made a mad dash for the side door that led to the verandah, Christian and Vanessa hissing at him to hurry.

"Me first."

Christian immediately leaned over the wooden railing that creaked under his weight and swinging down the wrong side of the verandah, threw himself off, catching onto the horizontal bits of scaffolding, the one the cabin was raised on, as he fell earthwards. He swung over once more and landed on the ground in a crouching position.

"Okay, now you go BadgerKing, Vanessa help him." Christian shouted from below, immediately standing up. Behind, Duke could hear the door to the room being kicked and thrashed against as the intruders tried to break it in.

Duke's looked down as his eyes nearly popped out of his head. They were at least 12 - 15 meters above ground. There was no way he would manage to get down there like that. And there was no way he was throwing himself of that wooden railing.

"C'mon! Hurry!" Vanessa urged shoving, nearly pushing him off the railing.

Duke looked down at Christian shouting. "I'm here BadgerKing, trust me!"

He closed his eyes swallowing hard and reopened them as the door behind gave in with a deafening bang.

He jumped to the wrong side of the railing as Vanessa grabbed his hands, holding onto him and trying to lower him as much as possible by leaning over the railing herself. And then she let go.

Duke found himself sailing through the air and then the impact came rapidly and unexpectedly as his feet hit the ground and he collapsed in a heap.

Christian was all over him in an instant as Duke recouped from his momentary blackout.

"You all right?" Christian asked repeatedly slapping Duke. "You hit your head against the stilts on the way!"

"Trust me, I'm here BadgerKing!" Duke stated groggily, imitating what he had been told a few instants ago. "Ha!"

Christian smiled as he raised Duke upon a shoulder. "Up then!"

A loud crack broke through the air as Christian looked up in dismay. Hulky men in black suits were peering down the verandah as they drew guns out from their suit breast pockets. And Vanessa was swinging mid way between the ground and the verandah, her clothing snagged onto a wooden shaft that had snapped as she had jumped as the back side of her jacket ripped and fastened on.

And she was struggling, trying to break free.

The men on the verandah chose not to undertake the precarious jump and retreated back into the room, running as they made for the main entrance. Christian realized that they had just bought some time and he would have to do something to unhook Vanessa from the seemingly flimsy wooden block that had caught onto her.

Vanessa dangled in the air as the wooden pole swung her around in a pendulum's trajectory, kicking and screaming, trying to reach her hands to her back where the pole had clasped on. She just couldn't reach it. Then she looked down to find Christian aiming his gun towards her. `Is he mad?' she thought to herself.

Loud bangs were heard one after the other as Christian fired the gun into the air, carefully aiming above Vanessa's head at the oppugning shaft.

He missed each time.

It was an impossible shot.

He cursed as he looked towards the maze of wooden shafts, horizontal and vertical that raised the cabin. He would have to climb them and free her by hand. Did they have the time?

And then a deafening crack sounded from his side as the pole snapped and Vanessa tumbled towards the ground.

Christian looked towards his companion still reclining against him; with a gun in his hand, aiming towards where Vanessa had been. He had hit the shaft in one clean shot.

"That's why I tell you not to use the Beretta." Duke stated, his voice still slurring as he pointed with his chin to the gun in Christian's hand. "You'll never get accuracy."

Vanessa stood up groaning, rubbing the arm which she had landed on. Footsteps thudding on wood made it apparent that the men who were after them were descending the stair case.


Duke could barely grasp what was going on around him. He knew he was stumbling between twigs and leaves as Christian kept yelling at him to keep a good pace, and he knew he was slowing everyone down. His legs were wobbling, and one ankle had probably twisted for the pain from it was unbearable, but the worst affected area was the back of his head, the one that had bumped the wooden scaffolding during his fall, and that hurt like a bitch.

In the midst of the rustling leaves and snapping twigs, and Christian's voice aiming to keep him steady, he reached a hand and touched the back of his head. It was a bit sticky, and his fingers came back tainted red. And it was beginning to get clear that the people after them were close by, the commotion around made it all too evident.

Suddenly he lost his footing as he tripped over a root, crashing Christian into the ground along with him. The latter immediately scrambled to his feet and propped up Duke to an upright position against a tree, deciding running was of no use; he would have to take their captors head on.

And not a moment too soon for two men burst into sight as Christian flung his frame at them. He knew at the back of his mind that if the men intended to shoot, they would have done so long ago, but instead they chose to pursue, so they would not readily use their guns. But he also knew they were far from ordinary civilians.

Fists and Kicks flew in the air as Christian took on both formally dressed men together, kicking a gun out of one's hand and dodging and blocking blows one after the other. The resulting fracas snapped branches all around and dirt and leaves rose to cover the air, the three men entangling each other in a series of combat moves.

The dust settled to Christian's heavy breathing and coughing. One of their captors lay on the ground, his eyes shut, obviously unconscious while the other, a large hulk of a man, was trying to raise himself against a tree bark, breathing heavily, staring at Christian with a precarious look on his face as he panted hard to catch his breath, his suit and shirt soiled by the dust.

Suddenly the expression on the man's face turned into that of a slight smile as Christian realized something was wrong. Leaves rustled behind him as he whirled around, unsuccessful in his attempt to dodge the blow that landed smack against the back of his head. It was another one of the suits, with a large wooden branch in his hand.

Christian fell to the ground moaning in pain as the two men walked over to him, one's frame standing tall above him and the other hobbling to his side.

"That should settle him," a voice broke out into the air.

"Yeah, too bad the boss wants him alive," the other one answered.

"Where's the other one?"

The question was left unanswered as another gun shot cracked the air. The man dropped the wooden mace as he clutched his hand in pain, blood oozing from it. A bullet had gone through his palm.

The other man looked towards the source of the gunfire. It was Duke, panting heavily, leaning with his back on a tree.

"Why you...?" The man who hadn't been shot shouted as he charged towards Duke.

Duke, who held up his gun once more; Duke who aimed for the man's heart; Duke who could not pull the trigger at the last moment for the realization suddenly hit him. How could he take another man's life?

And he braced himself for the blow he was about to receive as he closed his eyes. A few confused sounds later he reopened them to find himself untouched by the bulky guy. And Christian was once again up and panting heavily as the dust settled. That was the last thing Duke saw before his vision turned hazy and he fell to the dirt and leaves on the ground.




He could feel the world spinning around, even with his eyes closed. He knew he was awake now, but couldn't get his eyes to open; the eye-lids seemed too heavy.

Finally Duke opened them slightly.

"Wakey wakey sleepyhead." It was Christian sitting on the ground, his back resting against the bark of a tree.

Duke looked around in a haze, his head hurt as he craned his neck to absorb the surroundings. They were still in the woods, his frame resting against a pillow stacked against the bark of a tree. The sun was high in the sky and filtered through the thick foliage of the trees in cylindrical beams of white and yellow light.

Christian started talking, explaining to him about how they had managed to escape, and how he'd gone back to the cabin later and fetched a first aid kit and even a pillow and how they were in `big time' danger.

Duke absorbed the news in parts, not really being able to understand much, muttering what a day it had been, filled with high speed chases, jumps, gangsters, paintings and security guards.

"They took Vanessa."

Duke jolted up with that, a little more conscious now.

"How? What happened?"

Christian launched in another description of how they had managed to flee and Vanessa had been separated and now she was nowhere to be found, leading to the assumption that she had abducted by the men. Duke heard it in bits and pieces as he raised his hand behind to feel the source of pain, the backside of his head throbbed when he felt the cloth bandages and dressing that Christian must have used on him.

"So you brag on and on about the gun and actually fail to use it for what it's intended to be used?"

Duke heard the mocking tone in his companion's voice and played over the words in his head, trying to understand what they meant as he realized his right foot hurt like hell too, he probably twisted his ankle in the fall.


"When it came to actually shoot a person you couldn't do it could you? And you act all macho with that gun of yours."

Duke hardly felt like answering. He knew what was being said was true.

"You twisted your ankle," Christian stated, swiftly changing the topic and confirming Duke's suspicion.

"Well we know it was Stevenson's men who were after us, he must be after my ass now, so I have to go after his."

Duke thought back to an earlier conversation, his mind straining as he did.

"Isn't that the big-man who inducted you into this whole stealing thing?"

Christian chuckled an affirmative response and proceeded to narrate to Duke of the love-hate relationship he had with Stevenson, the man who had gotten him out of the streets and the man who's claws he had escaped later only to work separately with little to do with Stevenson directly, but it was all probably coming full circle now.

"And I have news for you too buddy; Zelderman has a friend of yours, some Damien fellow."

"What?" Duke's eyes opened wide as his consciousness stepped back into reality. "What? Why? How did you...?"

"I don't know why but I thin you messed up with her earlier, she's taken your friend captive and is probably waiting for you to pop around."

Duke swallowed, suddenly gathering conviction as he tried to stand up but failed, Christian scooting over to him to support him.

"Relax buddy. Your buddy's all the way in Salvia, and I guess you're probably not going to leave him in the lurch but there's no point hurting yourself like that."

Duke collapsed onto the ground, a myriad of notions running across his mind, suddenly blaming Christian for all of it. It had all started when he came into his life, and now he had gotten Damien involved in the mess too.

Christian ensured Damien was secure against the tree before he got up again, picking up a slender twig and squatting before Duke. He drew a triangle on the ground before Duke, running the twig through the mud, two vertices of the triangle close to each other and a third far apart. Duke stared curiously at the diagram.

"This is Mali," Christian stated, pointing to the far away vertex and circling around it with a large radius. "And this is the pirate bay area; Stevenson's zone of control so to speak, all his shady dealings are done here, though he actually resides here." Christian pointed towards one of the vertices that was sticking close to the other one.

"That's Midbane, and this is Salvia, your home sweet home, where Zelderman presides, though her `jurisdiction' is here." Christian drew a wide semicircular region around the last vertex as he pointed to it, the lines in the dirt highlighting `her' area. "That's the pirate terrain area."

Duke snorted at the last bit. "Who named these so called areas? Jack Sparrow?"

Christian ignored him once more, Duke getting used to the fact that his jokes would never ever be picked up by the man.

"So now we both have to head back South, me towards Midbane to entertain Stevenson, and you towards Salvia to meet Zelderman, personally, I would rather meet Stevenson than Zelderman."

Duke kept quiet. The master planner was at work again.

"Of course we're gonna go together all the way, but we'll separate at the outskirts of Midbane and then we'll go our separate routes."

Christian looked up at Duke's inexpressive face.

"So you ready for what's about to come amigo?"

Duke wondered if he was.

"Oh and by the way, they blew up your Bike before they left, and I'm guessing your laptop went along with it."