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Clandestine Club

By: gr8dragon
gr8dragon's Profile


Real Name: Matthew Teets
Age: 42
Sex: m
Location: Littleton CO

Other Passer Name(s):
not specified

Instant Message Id(s):
s_troi<

Writing Style:
Fantasy,Action, Science fiction

Synopsis
Clandestine Club Synopsis

When Tom and Matthew's father is taken while on a mission to pull a dignitary from Haengyong 22 concentration camp in North Korea, the Cia recruits them to get both of them out. To do so they must teach these boys discipline and stealth along with their friends.

   

Clandestine Club
Homecoming

Tom and Matthew Macon hadn’t seen much of their father in the last few months. Robert was a CIA agent and that meant long hours away from home, and sometimes as much as three months. Tom was eleven and soon to turn twelve; Matthew had just turned nine. He wasn’t much of a boy yet tall for his age and just beginning to thin out. He had a shaved down head of dirty blonde hair and steel blue eyes. It was those eyes and the bit of the toddler face he thought he’d left behind that made him hard to refuse. Matthew was a true gamer, but he never played against others at full strength so no one at school had an inkling of just how good he really was. To outsiders he was simply an average kid, into computers, superhero comics and the TV series 24, but to his family he was an adept little Ninja. He started taking Tai Chi Chih classes as soon as he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. He liked it but wanted more physical activity.
Abby had to add yet another martial arts class, togakure ryu ninjutsu. Ninjutsu is as old as many of the other Japanese arts. It had its beginnings with the classes below the samurai. There was a time in feudal Japan in which the samurai would treat their fiefdom villagers with disrespect. As a defense, the people began to form into clans that fought in the shadows. It was said that if they were looked they could not be seen, listened for they could not be heard felt for and not touched. This still is taught in the Bujinkan Ninjutsu methods today. It fit into his schedule okay because he could go after his scout meeting, which ran from five to six PM on Wednesdays. Matt also had a consumer radio control version of the MQ-1 Predator hanging from his bedroom ceiling. He had wanted a Reaper, but it hadn’t been released as an R/C model yet. That was alright because he found out later that the design was basically the same. With everything else in his life it took three weeks to build, but it was worth it to see his friend Scotty’s reaction.

Tom looked like his younger brother, but with light brown hair and hazel eyes like dad. His interests and leanings were also similar except for two. Tom liked anime and first person shooter video games that he wasn’t supposed to play like Unreal Tournament. Tom’s discipline was also a little less sharp than it should be for a boy his age. When he was a year younger than Matthew, Mrs. Macon put him in Tae Kwan Do for more discipline and focus. It had worked to a large degree, but Tom had the occasional bout with daydreaming. The Macon’s were lucky though because it hadn’t affected his grades. This was partly because when he started to daydream, his intelligence took over and he would catch everything the teacher had said. Tom also had a superior eidetic memory.

The two brothers were actually quite similar to each other. His facial features resembled Matthew’s, except that he had light brown hair and hazel eyes just like his dad’s; and his interests and leanings almost mirrored Matthew’s, except for two-anime and first person shooter video games he was too young to be playing. His favorite was Unreal Tournament.

Tom’s discipline was also a little less controlled than it could have been for a boy his age. Tom was just a year younger than Matthew when Mrs. Macon put him in Tae Kwan Do to improve his discipline and focus. It had worked to a large degree, although Tom still had the occasional bout of daydreaming. However, the Macons were lucky because it hadn’t affected his grades; Tom was extremely intelligent and was able to grasp everything his teacher said even when he tuned in and out. Tom had also been gifted with a superior eidetic memory.

Tom snickered, "Nice dance moves there, Bro."

Matt ignored him and continued his moving meditation. He had just finished watching a video by Justin Stone, the originator of this discipline. Stone believed in channeling cosmic energy, Chi, through the body. If chi flows correctly it keeps your body healthy, your mind focused and your spirit balanced with the other two. After two weeks of practicing this way his stances had become stronger.

"I’m not doing martial arts, Tom, “Matthew tried to explain, “I’m doing an exercise for concentration. My martial arts class is tomorrow."

Tom wasn't listening. He really couldn’t hear his brother with the alternative rock was playing so loudly on his headphones that Matthew could hear every word. Despite these conditions he could hear the familiar step pattern of his friend Scotty Tong walking across the rear section of the foyer floor.



He smiled and chided Tommy with, “It might do you some good to study this with your karate anime man.”

Scotty was the most common visitor, coming in the back door once or twice every week and four days during summer vacation. Today was no exception, he lived behind them and came through his own back gate into the yard then across to the patio door. They were both laughing at themselves when Scotty reached the foot of the stairs. Their mother Abby hadn’t seen him come in as she had become glued to her final daily soap opera. The neighborhood they lived in was a relatively safe one and the boys’ friends could wander in or out of both doors. He was of Cantonese stock and very inquisitive. It was often said of him that his smile could get him anywhere and anything he wanted. Tommy was no exception though he didn’t care to admit it.

He was just being a pest and standing in the way when Scotty made it up stairs. Scotty travelled largely unseen by anyone but Matthew. Abby and Shen shared responsibility for taking the boys to practice. They became friends when they first met. Matthew opened the door saying, "Move Tommy."



“You know”, he chided, “I don’t think I will.”

In his mind, Scotty wanted to emit a quiet laugh, but chose the more diplomatic smile option instead. It was better than making the commotion bigger than it had to be. Besides, it was always more fun to watch his friends walk through it without him.

“Man Tong,” Tommy injected, “You’re just too good. How’d you get past mom? She usually hears you.”

“She was distracted,” he told them, “A new report on the TV downstairs.” Scotty carried himself like Short Round in the Macon’s favorite movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, though he was slightly taller than the character. He had made his way to the top of the stairs and was now right on Tommy.

Tommy stepped aside half laughing as Matthew gently shoved him out of the way pulling Scotty into the bedroom door.

"Hey," he exclaimed



"Hi Scotty," Matthew said to Scotty, "You're early. Finished my homework and asked my mom if I could come over a while."

It was Scotty Tong, whose mother shared responsibility for taking the boys to practice. Scotty was one of their best friends.

"Hi Scotty," Matthew said “Finished my homework and asked my mom if I could come over a while. I just got an awesome new game for my xbox that you won't be allowed to play, "Scotty joked.

"It's called Left for Dead and the "Yeah I've heard they even have rabid dogs you can set on people,” said Tommy.

Matt grimaced and finished the last of the Tai Chi Chih practice. "I like Martial Arts a lot better." he told them.

"Who says you can't have both?" asked Scotty. I think they're both cool."

Matthew had just finished his own final class assignments and had turned on his small television. It blared away with no one watching.


Abby was going to the open door and say hello to Scotty when she stopped, frozen in the doorway. The news anchorman was speaking about a map displayed behind him.

"The Korean peoples' Guard Unit #2209 holds more than 50,000 prisoners. Analysis of satellite imagery shows that it is surrounded by guarded fences and covers an area as large as Washington DC. It is filled with political prisoners who are forced to do hard labor."

Matt saw the look on his mother's face and said, "Mom, what's wrong? Are you ok?"

Abby Macon was as good looking outside as she was inside. She cared about everyone in a very genuine fashion. Matthew was a great deal like her. You could see it in his bright eyes and the smiled. If he touched you the energy of it would run through your body leaving you comforted if you needed it and your heart lighter than it had been.

"Isn't dad in that group, mom," Tommy asked.




He had known, or at least suspected his father was in the CIA since he was just younger than Matthew. If the black BMWs with government plates didn't give it away to him than it was the amount of time Robert was spending away or the fact that last year Robert had begun to teach Tommy how to properly handle a Glock pistol. For a while he could tell the truth to his closest friends who always believed him. They even thought it was cool. The only catch was his teachers; those that weren’t agents to begin with, always thought he was lying.

In teachers that looked after him much better that the others had. Whatever his job was it was dangerous and only one organization totally fit the bill; The Central Intelligence Agency. It had been a while since the boys had seen Robert. So when he came through the door, they lit up immediately. He was a tall, important looking fellow with light brown hair and almost intrusive, yet happy hazel colored eyes. They were sad today as he noticed the recast of the previous news report on HY-22.

"So I guess you all have heard," He said.

Everyone nodded. Robert knew Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean. He also knew a few fun fictional languages he used the boys from time to time like Klingon and occasionally Vulcan or Hutt. It was no surprise to them when he asked, “Dui bu qi?” just for a few minutes.


Scotty nodded and excused himself to the kitchen for a few moments where Abby gave him a couple cookies and some milk. He knew what was going on. You could the vibrations were always intense, but in a good way. The energy gave him a reserved form of excitement. He didn’t mind that he had to leave it was a private conversation and it was important. Still, he had a sense that it what they needed to talk about would include him later.

Abby saw Scotty come down the stairs, “Well, there’s someone I didn’t see come in.”

“Sorry,” Scotty apologized, “I just didn’t want to …”

“Interrupt me?” Abby gently asked. Then she added, “You are just way too quiet for an eight year old boy. Make a little noise next time, okay?”










Kang Chol

A small middle-aged man entered the room. His manorisms weren’t Chinese like Scotty’s. As he walked past Abby and Scotty he cordially offered a greeting of, "Annyeong." Abby offered the visitor a smiling hello as well as he made his way up the stairs. The pair just looked at each other and shrugged going back to their conversation. Scotty had heard it before from his neighbors and had been told it meant hello in Korean. He nodded to the curious visitor.

Abby had seen him walk across the nook and responded, “Welcome.”

Scotty saw him as well. He had been on the news few years back. He only remembered the man because his memory was photographic with a more than fair recall. The boy smiled and offered a respectful bow of his head. It was returned as he smiled offering a friendly, “hello.”

"That means hello in Korean," Robert explained.



“Boys, this is my contact and good friend, Kang Chol. He is here to talk to you about the prison camp."

"Excuse me, Dad, but why are you sharing this information with us all of a sudden?" asked Matthew.

"Yeah, Dad, you never wanted us to know what was going on before," piped in Tom.

Robert sat down and so did everyone else. Abby kept Scotty busy with snacks and conversation in the kitchen while the others continued to talk in the bedroom.

"I know it seems strange, guys, but I may need your help on this one. Just bear with me and let my friend explain."

Kang Chol turned his sad eyes toward the window and appeared to stare out at their peaceful yard but he was actually seeing a much different scene.




"When I was a boy, my grandfather made the mistake of complimenting the Japanese democratic system. In Korea, the founder, Kim Il Sung decreed that three generations of a family can be incarcerated for such a crime as dissension. So, all my family including my brothers and sisters, were locked up in the maximum detention prison. There are many children there, including some from other countries. That's where you come in."

Kang turned his head to look into Tommy's eyes. What the boy saw frightened him a bit. He fidgeted nervously as Kang continued, "I was a year younger than you while my brother was exactly your age." Kang shifted his eyes to Matthew.

"Our parents had been advocates of North Korea even though they had been living in Japan. When they eventually returned to North Korea they were given a fine apartment and much respect but after some time, my father had made the mistake of noting aloud how much better the leaders of Japan had run things there."

Kang took a deep breath then continued on. They were starting to feel the importance what this man was telling him. Tom and Matthew listened intently as Kang moved on with his story.

"We were put in with a group of other children assigned to work in the clay pits. One day, the hole caved in and crushed six of the children.

Their parents were not allowed to see them and their bodies were thrown into the lake. One of the dead was my brother. From that day on I waited for a chance to escape."

Robert saw the anxiety in his children's faces and said, "Kang is a very brave man and one of only a handful of prisoners to make a successful escape. More than that, he has gone back twice to help free others."

Robert saw the anxiety in his children's faces and explained, "Kang is a very brave man and one of only a handful of prisoners to make a successful escape from Haengyong 22. More than that, he has gone back twice to help free others."

"Isn't that dangerous," Tommy asked, "you could get caught again and put back in there."

Tommy nodded; the answer was good enough for him. Kang was indeed a brave man, one he could respect for a long time. To Tommy, Kang’s selfless heart made him think he could do almost anything. He hoped that he could be like that. It was hard for a boy of eleven to be that selfless sometimes. There is just too much more cool stuff to do. Well, he thought, maybe this will change me a little.


"So dad," Matt asked, "What is our part in this?"

"We want you on standby,” he answered with great import in his voice, “in case we can't make it out of there.”

“Don’t make it out of there; why wouldn’t you?” Matthew asked in a concerned tone, “You have to come back.”

“That’s why we need you,” Robert explained again, “To help us out if we snag a bit of trouble along the way. Think you can do that?”

It will be a last resort measure, Robert explained, “but we want you to be prepared. It will involve some intensive training."

Just then Abby called out from the kitchen, "Hey guys, anybody up for some cookies and milk?"

Robert stood up and said, "Okay boys, that's enough for now. I'll fill you in later. Let's go have some cookies."



Both boys had a few more questions in them. It was a great deal for eight and twelve year-olds to take in. Matthew was the first to chime in as Robert stopped to take something from his briefcase. Matt tried to look over his dad's shoulder and catch a glimpse of what it was. Then he saw that it was more than just one thing. A pamphlet and some files, six of them each with a name. Three, including Scotty were in his class.

"Dad," he asked, "what are those for?"

"Well," Robert told him," First off, this is for you."

He handed Matt the pamphlet, "Happy birthday next week. The software for the Predator and Raven were only part of it. This part took some time to arrange."

"What about the files, dad," He asked.

Robert realized he'd been caught. She turned slowly to his young son, his mind searching for a way to explain the file folders. His boys were just too sharp witted to keep things from. He put the files down on the floor.



"Some of your teachers at the school are my agents. I am their handler. They knew that the extractions were getting more dangerous, more complicated." Robert knew the next question that would come from his youngest son's lips.

"Which ones," he asked with those piercing eyes. Matt only used them with questions like that. They were always hard to answer, came with the genius kid territory.

This time was the exception for Robert. He sat down on the floor and motioned for Matthew to do the same. Matt did so reluctantly. “I was going to tell you at the table over cookies, this is just as good,” Robert suggested, “your ninpo sensei, math and science teachers and your elementary school teacher.”

“Miss Camden,” he exclaimed in disbelief, “she’s hot. Of course, she does keep the worst kids away from me. Except for that one time when I think she wanted me to show her what I could do. She didn’t even punish me when I kicked Drew Mathison’s hind end.”
“Why did you do that,” Robert asked, concerned.

“He’s the bully,” Matt responded, “He wouldn’t leave my class alone. I wanted to make sure he would.”


“Somehow son,” Robert said, “I don’t think he’ll come near you or anyone of your friends again. You haven’t gotten in any fights since, have you?”

“No,” Matt answered, “It just wouldn’t be worth it now.”

“Mission complete, sort of speak,” Robert suggested.

“Yeah,” Matt smiled.

They shared a silent laugh as they rose from the floor and crossed to the table. For Robert, it was good to see everyone again. He had missed his wife and sons these three long months. There was a joy he always took with him and always came back to. There really was no place like home. The six of them talked some more.

While they were debriefing on more of the mission the doorbell rang. Matt got up to get the door. It was Tommy's friend Anakin; Andrew Anakin Whitswick. All the kids called him 'wick' from time to time. Some thought it was because he ran like his was burning at both ends. The other reason was easier. They were just mispronouncing the final four of his last name. This frustrated him sometimes because that 'w' was a curse. It got pronounced whether it was silent or not.

"Hey Wick," Matt acknowledged, "come to see Tommy?"

"Yes, but what did I tell about the w in my name," Anakin chided.

"I know, Anakin," Matt laughed, "its silent. I could just call you Ani from now on?"

"Please don't call me that; it sounds too much like a girl's name," Anakin whined.

"Alright, come on in, were all at the table with the best cookies in the neighborhood."

Just then they heard Robert calling, "Andrew Anakin Whitswick." This time pronounced right. It was then that Anakin knew why he liked his friends' dad. He always got it right. Of course, being called over to the table by a door-to-door was little weird.

"Your dad really isn't a salesman is he," enquired Anakin.



"Nope," Matt answered, "That was just a lie the teachers wanted to believe, so we perpetuated it. It was like they didn't want to believe the truth."

"Then he is a...,” rolled off Anakin's tongue next.

"Uh-huh," Matt answered again, "be careful though, I think he has a file on you."

In fact, Robert did have a file on Anakin and began to read it aloud as the two boys came to the kitchen table. "Andrew Anakin Whitswick 1001 Bethel avenue. Father: Dr. Allen Whitswick professor of engineering at the University of Virginia specialty Nanotechnology support systems. Mother is a music teacher at Jefferson Middle School. You play drums, and your younger sister the violin. You have never had a grade on your report cards lower than a B minus. You are well on your way to becoming an eagle scout at 13 with fifteen merit badges including wilderness survival, archery and rifle and shotgun. Last year in the youth tourney you shot a fifty-four at Camp Perry and received a class B youth rating. You are also currently enrolled in Junior ROTC with great marks and one commendation this year. Good job,” Robert started.




Anakin didn't know what to say. He was in awe about all Robert knew of him. As they sat down at the table, his tongue ventured a hesitant, "yeah, except for one thing. I am also in Tom's karate class a 3rd degree brown belt."
"Already," Robert asked curiously, "three years is quick."
"Five, actually," Anakin nervously replied.













Yin and Yang

Grace Collier and her twin sister Lacy finished their laps at the pool and stretched out in deck chairs to rest. At eleven years old they were sleek as seals with their jet black hair and muscular forms.

"Do you really think we can make it to the Olympics someday Lacy?"Grace asked still panting from their exercise.

"I don't know about you, but I'll be there." laughed Lacy.

Matt and Tommy came in through the community pool gate and approached the girls. They wanted to talk to them away from their home because Robert wasn't too sure about their parents. What they wanted to discuss couldn't be trusted to cell phones.

They hadn't seen them at first, but then they rarely heard them unless it was wanted. Grace and Lacey turned around when they heard the patter of the boys' four feet across the cement floor. Lacey had a secret liking for Matthew. The way she looked at him when he was taking his math at the middle school made him turn fire engine red. It still did.


Grace and lacey crossed the pool area floor to meet them. "Hey boys what's up?"

"Dad has something he wants to ask of you. Have you seen the news the last couple of days?" Tommy asked them

"Yeah, last night; what part do you mean," Gracie returned

"The rebroadcast on North Korea;" Matthew answered, "especially the part about the camp in the north."

"I think I remember that," Lacey replied with a wink to Matthew that made him blush. Tommy elbowed his brother and the redness seemed to tone down.

"Why don't you two get dressed and we'll go for Ice cream at Cold Stone." Tommy suggested.

The girls nodded in agreement leaving for the locker room. They came out a few moments later in opposite colored dresses. Grace and Lacey looked good in everything they wore, but preferred to respect their bodies by being more athletic than image conscious. They hadn't seen them at first, but then they rarely heard them unless it was wanted.

Grace and Lacey turned around when they heard the patter of the boys' four feet across the cement floor. Lacey had a secret liking for Matthew. The way she looked at him when he was taking his math at the middle school made him turn fire engine red. It still did.

Robert had warned his sons to be cautious about how much they told the girls. He wanted to be the one to fill them in after he had time to do a little more checking on their parents. After ordering their ice cream the four kids sat talking about their mutual interest in anime. Lacey had two goals in her young life, to win a gold medal in the Olympics and to be an anime illustrator. She pulled a worn manga out of her bag and presented it to Matthew.

"Check this out, "she said, sitting close to him and pointing at the drawings."This is what I'm working on .I'm creating my own character."

Matthew knew she was a good artist but he was interested in talking about something else right now.

"Cool.” he said, "Can I borrow this to check out later? Right now I need your help."



Grace licked her dripping Chocolate Surprise and smiled.

"Okay guys, what's important enough for you cheap skates to shell out for treats? Do you need help with a report on current events or something?"

Tommy looked at his brother and said, "First of all, are you still good friends with Membaya? We know you went to their Kwanzaa celebration last year."

"Sure," answered Grace."We entered our "Killer" robot in the science fair together."

"That's what I'm talking about, "exclaimed Matthew."That thing was the bomb."

Tommy frowned at his brother. "Let me talk will yah?" he said

"This is important. “Anyway,” he continued, “Can you get Membaya and come over to our house on Saturday? Say that you are invited to a party if anyone asks."



Grace and Lacey both agreed to be there on Saturday afternoon and then they all went back to talking about the science fair projects.

Matthew was slowly caressing a "That's how I roll" with his spoon. He had an affinity for cinnamon and loved this particular menu item.

"You always come with something good, Matt," Lacey said with a smile in her voice, "Whatcha got planned. It's been hard to decide."

It really was, but he secretly almost had it. HIs tome was just limited and it wasn't exactly homework anyway. The lights in the parlor had gotten a bit brighter and Matthew was now eyeing his watch, checking every fifteen minutes.

"You know," he brought up, "My birthday is next Thursday, but we are having a party for my ninth on Saturday. We have the whole party to discuss things with dad."

Matthew waited for everyone's reaction. He knew Lacey liked him, but he was already talking to Robyn Harrington. From the third grade point of view Robyn liked him first. He had met her the first day of ninjutsu classes. She was a pretty little thing with a great deal of fire.

It was par for the course for a flaming red head with piercing steel blues. Matthew even liked her back and had told her so six months before. What he really like about Robyn is that she was both smart and beautiful. An hour and a half more passed by and Matthew was taking a last look at his watch. It was a Wednesday and his was starting soon. Now he knew why Tom had picked this location to talk. Misses Jepson's home was virtually around the corner on Hampton way. 'I will have to thank him later' Matthew began to think. After calling his mother for Matt, Tommy continued his conversation with grace and Lacey. In addition to their swimming, they practiced the art of sabaki.

"So how are your classes going," Tom asked.

"Good I suppose," Grace offered, "And yours?"

"I'm testing for red belt next month," Tom answered

"That's kind of slow, isn't it," Lacey replied in curiosity.

"I heard you brother is back in Tai Chi chuan again on top of the ninjutsu," Grace added," he must be tired at the end of the week with last days of school and all."

"He sleeps ‘til one o'clock on Saturday," Tom laughed, "other than that, he's testing for his shokyu on his birthday."

"Do you think he'll get it," Lacey enquired.

"Matt's always caught on quite fast in everything, so Yeah, " Tommy exclaimed.
















Kumori Gosai

Robyn Harrington practiced her moves in the mirror in her room. Few people knew that she was related to one of the last living ninjas. She remembered what he said about Ninjutsu.

"It is 'true budo'." he had said.

True martial ways is what he meant .It is a composite of sub arts and much more than that.Karate is known for punching and kicking, Tae Kwon Do for kicks, Judo for throwing and Aikido for restraining and throwing but Ninjutsu has all that and more said the Great Master.

Robyn felt humble in comparison to the Great One but she was determined. Nothing would stop her from becoming the best she could be. Suddenly she was distracted by a call on her cell. It was Matthew Macon.

“Hey Robyn,” he greeted, “it’s Matt; how’s my Kumori Gosai.”


“Stop it,” she bashfully submitted, “I thought only Sensei called me that.”

Kumori Gosai meant 'red shadow' in Japanese. Sensei Denton had given Robyn the moniker one day when she slipped in without him noticing. It became her trade mark slipping in sometimes just after class had started. The amount of time she was late was forgivable, but soon had gone away as her mother rearranged her schedule better.

“Nah, me too,” he said.

“What’s up, Matt? You usually don’t talk to me until class,” Robyn asserted.

Matthew thought about it for a moment. He wanted to ask her if she liked him the same way he liked her, but then thought, no. There was something more important to ask of her.

"I know, but there is something my dad needs to ask of you," Matt told her.

"What is it?"



"I can't tell you over the phone. No telling who is listening. Can I trust your mom?" He answered.

"Yeah," she replied, "she can keep a secret."

"Good," he affirmed, "can you pick me up?"

"Yeah," Robyn told him, "I am at scouts right now, but in a few minutes I will be back at Cold Stone corner."

"Okay we'll be there," she promised.

Matthew sensed that his scout meeting was almost over so he went into the den leader's son's room. His next question for Robyn was a little more private and definitely not to be overheard.

"One more thing before you go." he asked her.

"What?"


Matthew took a breath then finally spat it out, "Do like me they way I like you?" He nervously asked her.

Robyn was glad no one was there to see her blush. Her face turned as red as her hair and she had to catch her breath.

"Robyn, are you still there?" Matt queried.

"Yes I'm here," she almost whispered, "and yes, I do like you. I like you a lot. Now I have to go. See you in a bit." she said abruptly and hung up the phone.

She jumped up and down and let out such a squeal that her mother came to see what was wrong. Ami Healy, a tall Japanese woman with a keen sense of her daughter's energy. This time she couldn't tell what she was feeling. She stopped at the bottom step.

"Robyn, what's wrong," She asked.




Ami was extremely proud of her daughter though she looked nothing like her. Robyn was the spitting image of her Irish dad Ryan. Ami loved the way Robyn appreciated her Japanese heritage and traditions. She could hardly wait to show Robyn the beautiful kimono she had bought for her.

Robyn turned round to face her mom. She was so excited she couldn't contain it. "You know the boy I spar with in class?"

"Yes," Ami answered in question, "you mean little secret agent man, Matthew Macon?"

"Yeah him," Robyn divulged, "he just called. His dad wants to see me?"

"And," Ami enquired, "what else?"

"He likes me," Robyn exclaimed, "wants me to come to his birthday party on Saturday. He also wants us to pick him up on Cold Stone Corner in fifteen minutes."

"We can do that," Ami responded.


"Thanks mum," Robyn responded.

Grace and lacey crossed the pool area floor to meet them. "Hey boys what's up?"

"Dad has something he wants to ask of you. Have you seen the news the last couple of days,” Tommy asked.

“Yeah, last night; what part do you mean," Gracie returned, “Which part?”

“The rebroadcast on North Korea;” Matthew answered, "especially the part about the camp in the north."

"I think I remember that," Lacey replied with a wink to Matthew that made him blush. Tommy elbowed his brother and the redness seemed to tone down.

"Why don't you two get dressed and we'll go for Ice cream at Cold Stone." Tommy suggested.




The girls nodded in agreement leaving for the locker room. They came out a few moments later in opposite colored dresses.

Grace and Lacey looked good in everything they wore, but preferred to respect their bodies by being more athletic than image conscious. She hadn't told Robyn yet which family she belonged to on her side. All she told her is that the family was very well known throughout Japanese history. Both sides of the family were important so she had awaits made O’Brien dresses for her to wear to school.

"Well," Ami urged, "we should get going before we make both of you late."

Robyn smiled and picked up her practice bag from the floor. When they stepped outside things seemed brighter to her even with the sun setting. She seemed to bounce with every step as Ami watched. It lifted her spirits to see her daughter so happy. Robyn had missed Ryan since the day he had left of his deployment to Afghanistan. He'd be back in a couple of months but it was still hard for her.

"So," Ami inquired, "what exactly did Matthew say that caused such a squeal?"

"He said that he liked and asked me if I liked him," Robyn returned.

Soon they came to the place the kids in town called Cold Stone Corner. Robyn saw Matt standing there just as he'd told them. Ami pulled over to let Matthew get in the back with Robyn. Now that they were in such close proximity it was a little embarrassing .Matt broke the ice by saying, "Don't forget about the party on Saturday. It's going to be a blast."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world." answered Robyn." I already know what present I am going to bring you."

She smiled and thought of the book she had for Matt. She was going to give it to him anyway and his birthday just made it more special. It was called "The Book of Five Rings".

Ami heard the conversation and knew what Robyn was talking about. She had already told her mother that she wanted to give the book to Matt.

Ami said, "Matt did you ever hear of Myamoto Musashi?"

"Mother," Robyn cried, "Don't spoil the surprise."

"Sorry dear," Ami apologized."I just wanted to set the stage a little. You know how excited I get over the ancient ones."

Robyn laughed, "That's okay Mom. I understand."

Changing the subject Matt said quietly, “I have something for you too. I want to give it to you after class." He had picked out a chain with a friendship ring on it for her a week ago but had taken this long to build up his courage.

"Also," Matt said, "I have something to show you. Did you get to see report on North Korea last night?"

"I think I did. Is it the one where they showed a picture," Robyn replied. Then she looked down and saw the picture Matthew was handing her.

"Wait a minute," Robyn inquired, "isn't this the picture they showed... She didn't know what to think.

"You still like me or was it fake?"

"No, I still like you a whole lot. My father wants us to help him out. He'll tell you more at the party when he has everyone around." Matthew assured her.


"So the thing about him being a salesman?" Robyn inquired

"Only thing the teachers would believe. We tried the other got sent to principal four times for telling a lie," Matthew told her.

"Sounds like them," Robyn added, "they never believe us kids; think we all make up the same stories."

"You still like me?" Matthew asked in return

"Why wouldn't I," She told him, "the energy between us is just too right."

Robyn took the picture from him. She began to touch it across the image. Her breaths became uneasy and images began to present themselves to her. Images began to fill her mind one at at time each one closer into the camp until they were at ground level showing her a movie. What she finally saw filled her eyes with tears. Robyn saw two boys working in a pit. One fell in with some other children.
The older boy was taken away as they covered up the other children. Matthew reached up to wipe her tears, taking a breath with her. He knew what she saw or at least could feel it through their bond. What she needed now was to get her mind off it for a short while.

"Common," Matt said, "we gotta get to class. Can you do it?"
"I think so," Robyn responded with sniffle as she straightened up.

They shared a short, smiling glance as Ami pulled them up to the door of the dojo to let them out so she could park then come in and watch them together. None of them had noticed the steel blue metallic Lexus sitting at the end of the parking lot. Matthew recognized it as his mother's. It had been at least a year since Robert had been able to watch his son in this new art. Robert Macon opened the car door for his wife and as always marveled at her beauty. She took his arm and they headed for the dojo.

"Rob," she said quietly," Isn't all this a bit too open and dangerous? What if your movements are being monitored?"
"I know they are being monitored. This is a normal thing for a father to be doing. We are just coming to watch our son."
"Rob,I don't mean to question your judgment ,but I am terrified about the children's involvement in all this."
"I know Abby but you just have to trust me on this one. We may have no choice but to rely on them and I want them to be well prepared if that happens."
Abby squeezed his arm and smiled, “I do trust you and I trust our amazing children too."
"Alright then, let's get in there and see how Matthew is progressing."

As Robert and Abby crossed the parking lot they noticed their son coming to the door with a young girl. Robert had transferred the files into his blackberry a couple days ago. She was the one. Playing coy with his dad, Matt held the door they got to the side walk then let it begin to close so they would have time to change.

"He's still my little boy," Abby laughed as Robert caught the door.
"Quick little boy," he jested and they shared a laugh together.

When they finally made it into the dojo the kids were already in warm up exercises. Matt and Robyn seemed to keep good time with one another, every step in opposition to the other in exact rhythm as if they were tuned to each other like two radio receivers. It amazed him. He wondered how long they had been training together.

"How long has Matthew been training with her?" Robert asked his wife.
"Don't know exactly. A year maybe a little more," she responded.
“They have a sort of chemistry between them.” Robert suggested
“A year can do that for two people, even young ones. He taken to her, and the rest of the boys back off. I think they’ve become an item here.” Abby reported.

He watched them as they practiced together. Robyn’s level of anticipation was amazing. In almost every instance it was as if she knew what Matthew was going to do before he did it. Sometimes Matt gained the advantage. Their energies seemed to mesh. Robert had to know how powerful their connection was. He made a note in his Blackberry and put it back in his pocket to watch some more. Matthew had become faster than he had ever been before. His reflexes were near cat-like. His movements flowed like a river in the springtime.

As Robert held his wife close he expressed his amazement, “The combination of arts has done well for him. He has so much grace for a boy.”
“I’ve noticed it too,” Abby responded.

Abby and Robert watched quietly for the rest of the evening. They were pleased with their son’s progress. Every time Matthew looked back he saw them smiling and returned the volley. Sensei looked at his watch and gathered his younger students together.

“You have all done very well today. Don’t forget, next week is the night we do belt tests. I Know you are all looking forward to it so don’t be late, even Red Shadows.”

All the other children including Matthew shared a snicker. Robyn smiled with them. Sensei Takawa then released them to go home with a clap and a bow which they all returned in unison leaving to change and leave with their parents. Before Robyn changed Matthew took her aside to where he had carefully placed his bag reaching in and pulling out the friendship ring and chain he had bought for her.

“Remember,” he asked, “when I told you that I had something for you?”
“Yes,” Robyn responded with a smile, “I do.”
“Close your eyes,” Matthew gently ordered, “and put out your hand.”

Matthew opened the box picking up the ring by its chain. Robyn felt the heavier ring hit the middle of her palm as he carefully placed it there.

“It’s your birthday not mine,” she reacted.
“I know,” he explained, “this is for something different. Open your eyes.”

Robyn opened her eyes looking down on a titanium promise ring on a ten carat gold chain. It had their birth stones on it; a blue star sapphire and an onyx. The rest of the design was exquisite. The gems were encased in Celtic knotting to represent how they were intertwined in their promise.

"Oh Matt," she sighed, "it's beautiful. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Matthew smiled, "Let's go the parents are waiting."

As they crossed the dojo Matthew saw Robert talking to Takawa Sensei. He knew it must be about the rank test the following week so he made nothing of it. The two approached hand in hand with smiles. Robyn separated from Matthew for a moment to put on the chain with the friendship ring he had given her.

As Matthew and Robyn came to the edge of the Dojo They could hear everything.

"So how is Matthew doing," Robert asked.

"He does well," Takawa reported, “He learns very fast. I will say first dan two months. I feel he will pass Shokyu on Thursday next week."

Robert gave his son a quick approving smile. By the end of the summer meant a great deal of practice on Matthew's part. He knew Matthew was up to it. The Tai Chi Chuan would also help.

"Thank you Sensei," Robert replied.

“Honor has been mine to teach him. Matthew is a very good student in many things,” Takawa confided as he pointed out Matthew and Robyn’s new relationship.

Everyone made their way out the door talking of many things. Matthew and Robyn said good-bye to each other as they made their way to separate cars. The weekend still lay ahead with final assignments in class and Birthday parties. Once on the road; Matthew asked his dad, “Will Mr. Chol be staying the weekend?”
“I can certainly ask,” Robert told him, asking, “Why?”

“Tom might need him for his current event assignment,” Matthew suggested.







Current Events

It was the last day of school; both Tom and Matthew were putting final touches on their final assignments. Just one more day and summer vacation would be here again. Matthew really couldn’t wait for Saturday to come. He knew it wasn’t the big 1-0 yet, but it was close enough because his dad was here to celebrate with him.

Kang was already up, as well and enjoying a hearty breakfast of Abby’s famous blueberry muffins, a bowl of fruit salad and two boiled eggs. Tom was just about finished packing for his last day without a lunch because it was only half a day as Abby was picking him up later to attend Matt’s field day.

There wasn't much to do in the other classes that day. Most of them just showed a movie or took a test and released the students for the rest of the period. Others had a film or some fun thing to do like a game of Jeopardy in third period. Matthew's day had sailed away in quite a similar fashion. This was the only day his young mind would actually get to rest a little.

He sat daydreaming in a few of his classes. It was the last day of school and he usually didn't daydream at all; so he didn't get into any trouble not until the high school classes at least. Even then it wasn't a trip to the principal's office, just a firm tap on the shoulder from his math teacher.

"Giving your mind a rest, Mr. Macon," he would say.

"Maybe sir," was the response.

Tommy's report went on without too much of a hitch. Robert had brought him just in time.

"My current event," he began as the two men quietly took their seats in desks near the door, "Is on the camps in North Korea. They have closed them all but one."

He brought he poster he had made the night before with pictures of Hoeryong 22.

"This is PRKG post 2209 next to it is a picture of the one that has been in the news the last couple of days. It is called Hoeryong 22. It is about the size of Washington DC and 500,000 North Korean people are kept there to work in the mines in other places on the land. It is not a work camp, it is a prison for anyone who opposes the will of and refuses to basically worship Kim Jong Il their current leader."

He stopped a moment recompose himself. This had been a difficult assignment for him and Tommy had felt its impact very deeply.

"But I can't begin to tell you what kinds of things go on in that camp. However, for the last few days my family has had a guest who can, Mr. Kang Chol Hwan. He escaped from the camp when he was seventeen. I have invited him to come and tell us his story. Mr. Chol?"

Kang rose from his chair and walked to the front of the room meeting Tommy mid route, "Thank you for inviting me here, my young friend," he whispered, "take comfort, as I have."

Kang finished crossing the room in front of the blackboard.


Tommy went to sit with Robert who whispered to him again, "I am so proud of you. It took great courage to do what you have just done in bringing our guest here. Your grade should be the best you've had this year. Cheer up, son our next stop will be happier."

Tommy smiled again and took a cleansing breath. His part was over and Kang was giving the class a great deal to think about over the summer. The report was brave like its guest speaker. Kang told his story all over again and the questions poured in from every seat and Kang answered them straight until the last when the principal walked in.

"What do you do now," One kid asked

"I work for Cho Sun Newspaper in Seoul South Korea.

"Do you miss your brother," another girl asked.

"Yes, sometimes I miss him very much."

The principal stopped where Tommy was sitting. He gave the boy a stern look and a smile.

"This is your best current event yet," he congratulated Tommy, "why don't you take the rest of the day. You've earned it."

When Kang was finished Tom and Robert rose to meet him. Three of them left, Robert genuinely happy for the presentation.


It had been a good day and there was only Matt's field day left to attend. After that, it was summer and time for fun again and this time there was intrigue afoot.

The first Saturday of summer had come faster than all the others. Maybe it was the will of the hearts of the children. Maybe it was just time for it to come. No one knew, and maybe didn’t care. It was summer, three months of nothing but fun. Tommy was already up and had made his way to the basement for a few rounds with Mr. Roboto. He gave the foosball player a spin and laughed out loud. Dad had set up a robot player for them but it was too good. It won 85% of the time. Tommy had just beaten the thing when Robert came down the basement steps.

"What's so funny?" Robert asked.

"I just kicked Mr. Roboto's butt." laughed Tommy, "This thing is tough Dad."

Robert had set up a camera below a transparent table base to track the ball and a motor to rotate and move the foosball men. He was very proud of his handiwork. It took him the whole last year before he left for North Korea.

"Yeah, "Robert said, "that's the idea; to challenge you boys and make you think more.”

The basement was a combination fun room and work shop .What it really was, as Tommy would soon learn, was a cell for the CIA.

Many covert operations had originated here in this mundane atmosphere. Robert went to the fridge and got a soda motioning Tommy to join him.

Tommy looked around, seeing the place in a whole new light. It was almost like the bat cave. A small format super computer was stuffed underneath the stairs and there were small format tower computers against the wall opposite Mr. Roboto. The basement’s design was clean and complete. No wires or cables hung out, no pipes protruded from the ceiling. Everything was perfect.
"Son, this is where I want to have a meeting with our young guests after the party is over. It is completely sound proof and bug proof. Do you understand?"

"Then," Tommy inquired, "How did you know that I would need Mr. Chol yesterday?"

"Your brother told me you might need him for your report," Robert admitted, "He wanted to help you make your last geography grade one you'd like. I saw that grade today and decided to help with your gift for your brother. Look over your right shoulder. Speaking of which, with you brother’s Saturday sleeping habits don’t you think you should go check on him? Then you need to change yourself.”
Tommy looked at his watch. It was 12:00. Time had passed more quickly than he had thought. With the party being at 1:30 he wondered if Matt had gotten up. It had been a long week wit a lot of training for both of them. Matthew was visibly tire the night before.

He always said he wasn't but Tommy always knew better and collected him for Abby. Saturday’s though, Tom usually just left him alone. Today he couldn’t; can’t have the party’s guest of honor snoozing away in his bed. Tommy shot up the basement stairs then up to Matt’s bedroom. Matt was in the shower when he got there, but the wrong clothes were out. He was probably half asleep when he took them out, Tom thought. He went to the closet and pulled out Matt’s best pair of Dockers and a clean dress shirt.

Just then Matt walked out in his scivies,"hey what are you ding," he exclaimed.

"Just making sure you're ready for the party, bro. It's twelve forty-five now, "Tom reminded him.

"I didn't know," Matt responded.

"That's 'cause you aren't totally awake yet," Tommy proclaimed handing his brother a cherry Dr. Pepper, "This should help a little."

"Thanks," Matt replied opening the can and taking a sip, "Now could you leave do I can get dressed?"

Musashi and Silk

At the Healy house Robyn was scampering around. Matt’s present was missing, or so she thought. Breakfast was almost inhaled as she looked for the Copy of Five Rings she had bought for him. She didn't want to lose it was the most beautiful copy she had ever seen. It wasn't the paper bound version that book stores normally carry, but had an embossed leather binding and his name at the bottom on the front. It had cost her two months allowance. Ami saw the book lying on the mantel over the fireplace where she had placed after Robyn had fallen into the sleep of young love embracing it as if it were the boy it was intended for.

"Hey," Ami asked, "is this what you are looking for?"

Robyn turned around as quickly as she had heard her mother's voice. There it was in Ami's hand-the precious leather bound edition of Musashi's Book of Five Rings glistened in the light coming from the Bay window.

"Thank you mother," She said, "I thought I had lost it."

"No," Ami answered, "I just took it from your arms and placed it here on the mantel for you. It must have wanted to test you today."

Robyn laughed at her mother's suggestion. She sensed that there was something else she wanted to tell her. Then the question came.

"What are you going to wear to the party today?"

"I don't know," Robyn returned, "he's seen everything I have, twice."

Ami went over to the hall closet and began to take something out. Robyn couldn't see what it was.
The anticipation was eating at her mind like sulfuric acid.

"How about this then," Ami asked her.

Ami turned and across her arms she held an exquisite blue kimono with golden dragons in heavy brocade. Robyn gasped at its beauty.
"Mother," she cried, "It’s wonderful."

"It is a family heirloom." said Ami, "It has been handed down from generation to generation. I was saving it to give to you on a special occasion and I think this is just the right time."

"Well then," Ami told her, "why don't you go get cleaned up and I will update this to a dress you'll really love."

Robyn smiled and hugged her mom tight, "thank you."

Robyn literally blazed up the stairs to her bedroom for some clean under clothes and socks. Ami went right to work on the nee dress. When she was done the Kimono style dress was even more exquisite than it had been as a kimono. Satisfied she took it up to her daughter's room where Robyn sat waiting, excited to see what it looked like.

"Close your eyes, my daughter," Ami suggested as she bunched it up to put it on. Robyn put her arms through the sleeves.

The cotton lining felt wonderful against her still young skin. Once it was on Ami made some adjustments and took her to the mirror, her eyes covered. "Now look," she told her as she took her hands away.

Robyn just stood and smiled as she viewed the little princess in the mirror before her. She was genuinely pleased with the way she looked. It was truly the best dress she had. Robyn wondered if Matt would like it.

"Alright," Ami told her daughter handing her the friendship ring, "It is time for us to go."

Robyn out the ring around her neck. It hung right where ot was supposed to, over her heart. Going out the door, she still had her bounce from wednesday. The leather bound copy of Musashi's Book of Five Rings was clenched firmly in her hands. No one else had made it yet, or so Robyn thought. To her surprise it was Matt who opened the door and allwoed them to enter.

"Hi," Robyn exclaimed giving him a hug, "Happy Birthday. Where do I put this?"

"On the table next to the stairs so I can read it tonight," Matt told her, "you look great today."

Robyn giggled a bit then said, "Thank you."

As he came into the kitchen, she saw Scotty dressed in tan Dockers and a black phoenix mandarin collar shirt. She thought it made him look handsome.

“Hi, Scotty you look handsome today.” He told him.
“Thank you, so do you. That dress is really pretty.” Scotty complimented.
“Thanks, my mom made it. Looks like your mom made your shirt, too.” Robyn added.

Scotty got down and took her other hand. Abby just watched them thinking, they grow up so fast anymore. Robert caught her in the thought.

“Thinking about how fast our boys are growing up?” He asked
Abby nodded, “All the time. You’ve missed a great deal in the last year.”
“I would say the last two or three. They haven’t just grown up, they’ve grown inside. Sorry, I missed that.” Robert apologized.

They stood and held one another for awhile then followed some other older kids out with lemonade and more franks to cook and some fish for Kang. This was what Robert had been missing out on, the all around good feelings. He’d gotten caught up in protecting the country. It was an altruistic kind of getting caught up, but he still missed his wife and two boys. One of these days before they go off to college, he would have to retire and just catch up with them over ice cream or burgers or a movie. Unfortunately that would have to wait a while longer. The impending mission was still running through his secret agent mind.

Grace and Lacey ran giggling up to Membaya's front door.They were there to pick her up for the party as requested. Membaya's older sister Shamara, opened the door and greeted them,
"Hi girls, my sister wants you to go up to her room and help her choose something to wear. S he's freaking out trying to decide."

The twins ran up the stairs and knocked on their friend's door. Membaya peeked out and then let them in.
"Oh I'm so glad you came early." she said."I don't really know Matthew very well and I'm not sure what to wear to his party."

Membaya was half Kenyan and half Chinese. She wore her hair very short and her features were dramatically beautiful. Her golden brown skin and unusual eyes captured everyone's attention. The fact that her eyes were two different colors added another facet to her charming visage.

Grace and Lacey laughed at her trepidation.
"Silly goose," Grace said, "You look good in anything. Don't worry we will help you find something cool to wear."

Membaya looked at them and wondered how they could look so much alike and dress so differently. Grace was wearing a dress of super soft Peruvian pima cotton with fancy details like puffy sleeves and a flounce skirt. Lacey on the other hand had chosen to dress Harajuku style, opting for a bit of Cosplay by mirroring one of her favorite anime characters. Somewhat like Sakura from "Naruto" she wore a long magenta top over black leggings with short leather boots.

Membaya suspended her disbelief and stepped back to let them at her closet. She wanted to make a good impression and both girls looked great in their own way. She sat down at her dressing table and began brushing her hair.

"Lacey," she mused, "Do you still have a crush on the birthday boy?"

Lacey stopped rummaging and looked over her shoulder at her friend, "Actually, I'm crazy about him. I think he likes me too. He asked to borrow my Manga to get a better look at it you know."
“You know that doesn’t mean anything, right?” Mems inquired.

Grace held up an indigo blue jumper and went over to check it out against Membaya's coloring. She said," Now Lacey, don't get your hopes up. Matt is just a nice guy and he's too young for you."

“Yeah, and he’s only going to be in fourth grade for most if his school next year.” Mems added.

"He is a lot more mature than the other boys I know," argued Lacey indignantly. She found a white collared blouse and showed it to her sister. They instantly agreed the way they always did when making decisions.

Soon the three girls were ready to go. They stood in front of the mirror for a moment together admiring their handiwork."You look awesome!" exclaimed Grace and Lacey nodded her agreement.
"Now let's get out of here before we wind up late for the party." Membaya laughed as she headed out the door.
Grace taunted her sister just a little more. “Aren’t those boys in the three to five age group? Of course he’s more mature.” She added.
Mems laughed as they reached the head of the stairs. It was just one of those humorous truths that people tell once in a while. Just then the front door slammed shut. Mems’ parents were home. Shamara told them Grace and Lacey were over and were helping Mems with her clothes for the party. Her father stopped her as she barreled down the stairs think herself late.

“Well if it isn’t my beautiful, yet not so punctual daughter. How are you today?” He asked her.
“Late as usual daddy,” Membaya told him.
“Not this time, daughter. Did you look at your invitation? It says you have ten minutes still.” Her father said, “We could escort you lovely girls and the handsome young man coming up our driveway.”
“What boy is that?” Mems asked.

Grace looked outside. It was Anakin out of his JROTC uniform. He looked almost twice good in his regular clothes as in that uniform. His hair had been buzzed for the summer. He rang the doorbell and waited. Mems answered the door to a well-groomed Anakin Whitswick with tan Dockers, a non-branded polo shirt and deck shoes. Anakin looked quite good to her as he laughingly said, “What are you girls waiting for the cows to come home?”

“No,” Mems said, “just a handsome boy to show up with and here he is.”

Anakin blushed slightly. They had never talked to him this way before. It was new to him as he accepted Mems and Grace’s arms. “Sorry sir, these three girls, they’re crazy.” He said.
“Think nothing of it young man. Besides, I think she would rather be seen with you and not her old dad.”
"You guys remembered that the party is semi-form right," Anakin asked them.

"We forgot," they told him.

"Well, that's okay I guess. He's a nice enough kid to let you in anyway. No worries," Anakin smiled.

Matthew had friends on both sides of their block. Some of his Elementary class was on this block. Anakin and the girls had to wait two minutes just to get to the door which was now being opened by Tommy. He told the little ones to around and let his friends in. They all seemed to catch hold of each other and pass on the instructions.

Robert and Tommy had set up tables they had borrowed from the church the day before. Everything was ready, but it wasn't a little boy party even the music was more mature. Robert made sure there was enough for everyone to do.

Robert knew the best way to pull the whole thing off was to use the old ploy of "hiding in plain sight".What better way to get his key operatives together than under the guise of a birthday party?
Abby brought in another batch of goodies from the kitchen and joined her husband in surveying their handiwork.
"Everything is going perfectly." she said.

"Yes," Robert replied. "I want this to be a party to remember
because after tonight their lives will never be the same again."

Abby looked up into his eyes and he saw the shadow of fear that passed over her then.

He put his arm around her and whispered,
"Don't be afraid. It will be the greatest adventure of their young lives."

Just then Tommy yelled,
"Hey Mom, where's the cake?"

Abby laughed and Robert knew she had shaken off the dark mood to enjoy the fun with her boys.
Robert knew the best way to pull the whole thing off was to use the old ploy of "hiding in plain sight". What better way to get his key operatives together than under the guise of a birthday party?
Abby brought in another batch of goodies from the kitchen and joined her husband in surveying their handiwork.
"Everything is going perfectly." she said.

"Yes," Robert replied. "I want this to be a party to remember
because after tonight their lives will never be the same again."

Abby looked up into his eyes and he saw the shadow of fear that passed over her then.

He put his arm around her and whispered, "Don't be afraid. It will be the greatest adventure of their young lives."

Just then Tommy yelled, "Hey Mom, where's the cake?"

Abby laughed and Robert knew she had shaken off the dark mood to enjoy the fun with her boys.

It had been a long time since he had seen that most beautiful of smiles. This day was going to be perfect if she had anything to say about it, and she had a great deal to say about it. Abby went into the house, motioning for Tommy and Scotty to follow. Thirty kids from the three block radius of their immediate neighborhood and some parents as well.

"Alright," Abby called out the door, "Here it is birthday boy, the best part of the party. Abby and set down the cake to the customary cake chant.

Even Robert and Kang were on a happier note today. It did them both good to see a party like this. Kang was honored that his friend would share this family moment with him, but knew that it would soon be time for him to fly back to Seoul. He whispered a quiet, "I must return to my work for a time. Vacation is almost up."

"You haven’t even had your salmon yet," Robert suggested, "It will be a long ride. You should at least have dinner. I just need you for a bit longer. Do you have time to attend the briefing?"

“Yes, my flight does not leave until early tomorrow. I have never had salmon before.” Kang reported.

Kang wandered around to the grill opening it up and putting a slab of salmon on his plate. Robert had used a recipe he found in an Asian cook book Abby had on her shelf. As he passed behind Matt he discretely placed a small gift by his right hand. Matt flashed him a smile of quiet thanks and you didn’t have to all in one. The smiling reporter picked up a fork and knife as one of the children on the end trustingly handed him a napkin.
It was about this time that things began to slip out of control. A cat fight had been simmering, and then erupted between Robyn and Lacy. Robert thought this usually happened with boys. It was the first time he had seen it between girls. They looked as though they were already considering making it a martial affair.

"Girls, stop," Matt called out, "not today and not here!"
The girls looked at each other and realized how ridiculous they were being. They were about to spoil Matt's party and suddenly they felt terrible.
Matt knew he would have to talk to Lacy and tell her about his feelings for Robyn but it would have to wait. Right now he wanted to enjoy the best party he ever had. The balloons, the music and the games combined with great food and great friends, it couldn't be better. Even the parents were having fun playing some kind of Trivia game. Robert excused himself and went down to the basement. There he communicated with a fake laundry truck two blocks over. The surveillance was routine but Robert wanted to make sure he had an "all clear" before the briefing began. Never again would all his operatives be in one place together so he was understandably nervous. Robert opened up the radio signal and encrypted it with the computer terminal next to him.

"American dad to Quahog, does mission briefing have the all clear."

"Roger that American Dad," the voice on the truck answered, "you have the all clear. Repeat American Dad, all clear."

Outside, Abby took photos and a video of all the fun. After everyone finished eating cake, Abby called them together. Time for Matt to open presents everyone."

One of the tables was overflowing with packages of all sizes and shapes.

"Man what a haul!" said Tommy."I'll be glad to take some of this off your hands."

Matt laughed and sat down to open the smallest ones first. The first thing he opened was a set of metric Allen head drivers and miniature drills from his brother.

"Dude! " Matt exclaimed."You knew how much I needed these for my models. Thanks a lot."

He went along opening comics and even a video set of the series 24 while the kids looked on and stuffed their faces with goodies.

The most amazing gift was from his mother and father of course. It was a pair of Vuzix iWear AV310 Widescreen Video Glasses. They were made to transform an ipod into a virtual 52" 16x9 widescreen personal theater .You just put them on like a pair of glasses and voila! You're at the movies.

Everyone wanted to try them out but Robert said it was getting late. "Better open your last gift son. It's getting dark and we have to clean up out here."

The last gift had no tag but Matt knew immediately that it was from Kang. Tearing away the paper he revealed a mobile two way radio. The box said, "Icom IC-F121/221, a powerful, rugged mobile with advanced capabilities for multiple applications." It had an encoder and a decoder.

Matt looked up to see Kang watching him. Suddenly the reality of their future mission hit home. Matt could hardly wait to say goodbye to most of his guests. The briefing was all he could think about, its topic was very important and he wanted to be there.
After that, there was still one more gift on the table. It was a late entry from the site truck agents. They had given it to Robert last minute. It was a copy of ‘Now You're Talking.’

Matt had never heard of it before now, but was thankful. They knew he would need some way to learn how to use his new short wave radio. Everyone was done now and he had small thank you for coming gift for everyone. He had Abby hand them out while he motioned to Lacy to join him inside.

He took her to the kitchen table and sat her down. Just as they took their seats Ribert was coming up from the basement.

"Your mother finished this last night," he said, "a size 12 girls. Letting her down easy aren't you."

Matt didn't know what reaction that would get. All he knew is that itcould go one of two ways. He could get the silent treatment for a few days or general disdain . In his heart, he was hoping for the aforementioned. He took a breath and began.

"Thanks dad," Matt requested, "can you leave it on the chair next to me."

"Sure," Answered Robert, "Anything else?"

"A glass of water for the lady here," Matt suavely replied.

As quickly as the water had come to the table Robert was outside again. He began again.

"Lacy I thought we needed talk about the way you and I felt for each other," he started, "First, I feel I am too young for you and second I've known Robyn longer. Our energies have been connected for about eighteen months now. I don't like you the way you want me to.”
Lacey laughed nervously and quipped, "Hey get over yourself you little shrimp. I've got my eyes on a cool twelve year old that can eat you for breakfast. You're just a good friend like you've always been. I was only pulling Robyn's chain to have some fun."
“I you’re referring to my brother, he really can’t. You see, I check his math every day.” Matt chortled.

Matt knew better but he was glad to let it go at that. He really did value Lacey's friendship. He also knew that it was important to have unity going into the dangerous mission they were about to take on.

Lacy took a drink of the water and then put her hand on his across the table.

"Seriously Matt, it's okay. I understand. Let's forget the whole thing. I've already fixed things up with Robyn.

Matt smiled and sighed in relief. "Thanks for understanding Lacey. I hope we will always stay friends. Anyway, I have something for you."

Matt picked up the garment bag, "I know it's my birthday," He continued, "but felt it might be needed today. It took me three days just to design it; three days of stopping the video just to get it right. Then I added my touches to it. I hope you like it."

He unzipped the bag and handed it to her. It was a dress designed from the one worn by Sakura Haruno, but in blue with dragons flying up the side.
Lacy let out a yelp of excitement. She couldn't believe her eyes. She went over and gave Matt a big hug of gratitude and thanked him profusely.

"You are truly the best friend ever!" she cried as she held the garment up and went off looking for a mirror.

Abby, watching from the other room laughed and said, “Wow! I guess that went well."

Matt turned to her grinning and replied, "Yes, I guess it did. Thanks Mom for helping me pull that off. She's too good a friend to lose and I wanted her to know it."

Just then Robert stuck his head around the corner and called out, "It's time to get our group down to the basement Matthew. Kang has to leave soon and I want him to be there for the briefing."








The Bamboo Brief


Matthew went outside to see how things were going. Everything was almost cleaned up. There was still one more table out. Ayden Crowley and another kid were playing Bakugan at it center. It was getting good and felt like it would end soon and it did. The two boys left. The only others left were the eight and the parents of seven.

"It's time everybody," Matthew called out as he helped Tommy fold the last table and put it away to return to the church later, Everyone in the basement for the briefing. Tommy and I will be right behind you."

Tommy pulled Matt to the side and said, "Hey bro, is it cool with you if I ask Lacey out sometime?
Since you two are just friends I figured you wouldn't mind but I wanted to be sure."

Matt grinned, "No problem, go for it. She's a really cool girl but I don't see why she would go for the likes of you." he joked.

The two brothers went around securing the house as their father had instructed. They locked all the doors and windows and drew the blinds and heavy curtains. They turned on the TV in the living room and left on lights in the kitchen as if they were still entertaining guests. Only a couple of cars remained in the driveway as most had either walked to their house or car pooled. They wanted it to look as normal as possible from the outside. Then they too retreated to the basement leaving closed circuit video cameras monitoring the rooms.
Matt and Tommy put the last table in the bishop's truck and went to the meeting. Robert took a breath and began the briefing as they came down the stairs. He turned the pin-pong table over and placed a much larger copy of the Hoeryang 22 satellite intelligence photo on top.

"Ladies and gentlemen," He began, "this is the Hoeryang 22 detention camp."

He waited for initial reactions before going on Digital globe photos which I will project for you, show the notorious Hoeryang, for the first time outside official circles. You will see acres of barracks, laid out in military style. Around the camp which is the size of Washington DC, is 10-foot-high barbed-wire along with land mines and traps. A battery of anti-aircraft guns aims skyward to prevent invasion by airborne military.

Robert projected the satellite photos onto the white wall and took out a long pointer."Before we go any further let me introduce a good friend of mine. This is Kang Chol. Most of you have already met him. He is an expert on this place because he was once a prisoner there."

Kang stood in front of the group and bowed low. "Thank you Robert. I am so glad to be here. First let me say that I realize many here are of tender years but have been selected for a high level of maturity. Some of this information will be shocking. Any parent who feels their child or children should not be here for this must speak now."

Kang waited for a response and when no one spoke up to leave, he continued.

. There were no objections for they had all heard the basic information. Now they were hearing more for the firsrt time. None of them ever knew that this place was here. Of course, being close to Langley Air Force Base and CIA Training center; for some it wasn't a surprise.

"The camp is also fortified with lights on all sides," Kang began," that are roughly tenty meters apart. There are very few ways oe can get in or out for that matter."

"And you got out of there," exclaimed Membaya.

Robert interrupted for a moment, "Sorry I forgot your file young lady, I found it last night. It seems I didn't get them all."
"So who am I company dad," Membaya asked him

"Hmm," Robert chuckled, "You are Membaya Oduya. You are the youngest daughter of Seleya and Albert Oduya. Your passions are art and robotics. You might want to talk with Anakin's father about college possibilities. Your parents narrowly escaped Africa during the conflict diamond years. They have been her ever since. Your father is a Copoeira master and you have been taught from the age of four. You have one sister and no brothers. Did I miss anything?"
Robert turned back to Kang, "Sorry my friend, please continue."

Kang knew it was vital that these people have as much information about the camp as possible.Using his pointer, he explained what happened in each building.

"This is the detention center," he said. “When a prisoner enters this building,he will be dead or permanently disabled within three months.In this area,they decide who dies and whether to make them a public example or not.

"This is the Kim Il Sung institute, watchdog training and guard training ground."

Pointing to another spot, he said: "This is the garbage pond where the bodies of my friends were dumped."

This is a picture of the coal mine where prisoners work underground.

We aren't sure exactly how many people are in there, but 200,000 is a good guess.

There are a lot of women and children since not just the political offenders are incarcerated but as many as three generations of their families also.

The main reason this camp was built was for experimentation by government scientists on human guinea pigs. Thousands of men, women and children are taken to Hoeryong. There they wait and, just as Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele did at Auschwitz, the North Korean physicians decide who will die and who will go through their experimentation horrors.

Robert saw that Kang was becoming overwhelmed with emotion and stepped in."Thank you Kang." he said, putting a soothing hand on the man's shoulder."Let's take a short break and then we will open the floor for questions. I can see by your faces you have many."

Kang sat down and Robert gave him a glass of water while the group buzzed with conversation about what they had just learned.

"I know this is tough on you." Robert said. "But you are doing a great job."

Kang started to speak when a voice came in on Robert's radio."Quahog to American Dad, come in American Dad."

Robert answered and was told to rerun a bug check on the room. Then Robert turned to Tommy and Matt. Taking a breath and a swallow he nodded, "I need everyone upstairs for a few moments."

"Dad," Tommy asked, "what's wrong?"

"My people outside want us to make a surveillance sweep; it is just routine. Before you go, we need to check everyone but Matthew and Tommy."

They all nodded in agreement. Tommy and Matt checked each other, and then everyone else. After that, they all left the basement for a few minutes as Robert checked the room for devices.
Upstairs, the parents were discussing what they had seen so far. Albert, Membaya's father was skeptical.

"This is all a bit far-fetched for me." he complained."These are little kids, what can they possibly do against such evil? I'm not sure I want my child involved even if it is a noble cause. Getting her killed won't change anything."

Abby spoke up and said, "I understand your concerns but you haven't heard enough yet to make an informed decision. Let's all stay calm and let Robert and Kang tell us the whole plan, okay?"

Everyone agreed to reserve judgment until after the whole briefing. Soon Robert called them back down to the basement with an "All clear".
Once they were all back into the basement, Robert began again.

"They will be safe going in I assure you. I am however hoping we will not have to use them," He added, "If we do first they will have to put as much of the cam asleep as possible."

While upstairs Matthew had gone to get his RC model UAV. He was ready to make a presentation if necessary. There had been nothing but time; time for him to do the research on the actual vehicle since Thursday.

"Ah, good," Robert praised, "I was just that you bring that down to the meeting, son."

"You're welcome dad," Matt replied.

Robert looked around the lot before him, "This ladies and gentlemen that do not know is an MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The actual model is twenty seven feet long with an eight foot wingspan and a payload of four hundred five pounds."

The Predator is an unmanned aircraft system for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Surveillance imagery can be sent to the front line soldier or worldwide in real-time via satellite communication links. Predators have been operational in Bosnia and in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying over 500,000 flight hours. This is the heart of our mission. We are depending on information from these satellite photos to aid us in our covert activities at the camp.

Albert spoke up and asked, "Just who is this person you are trying to save? Can you tell us something about the man and why we should risk young lives to get him out of there?"

Robert realized that Albert was the tough sell in the group before him. Robert also knew from Albert's files that he was simply being thorough, not difficult. He wanted and deserved information.

Robert smiled and sat down on the edge of his desk.

"Good question Al," he answered.

The man is a dignitary of great importance to the free world. I will let Kang tell you more.

With that, Robert turned the meeting back to Kang Chol to answer all their questions.
"The man," Kang started, "is this man." he handed copies of the picture out so that everyone could have a look. "His name is Kwang Jung Bae. He is a scientist that has long and silently spoken against the government until his discovery in 2004. It is he, his wife, children and four grandchildren we are going after."

Kang paused a moment to let it sink in. He wasn't sure it would.

"How are you going to use that plane to get into there," Albert asked pointing at the RC Predator.

It was them that Matthew chimed in with that genius 'I've got a way' smile, "With these, sir."

"And just what are those, young man," Albert beckoned.

"These are EMP payload charges for my Predator I have eight of them, four for each wing."

Robert raised an eyebrow. He was impressed. "You've been expecting this haven't you," he asked the boy.

"Maybe," Matthew suggested.

Kang was also impressed at the boy's ingenuity, "Dad can I have the map again?"

Robert brought the map up again, "here you go, son."

"I am allowing the Air Force to modify my small model Predator to last 24 hours out in the wilds of North Korean air space. Currently my engine will only last one hour so I took a look at the engine design for the original and reduced its dimensions for my craft and added the necessary systems to the design. They just mailed me back saying that they will have everything ready for me by Wednesday. The plan for now is to lay the EMP charges I designed through the center of the camp under cover of night."
"What exactly would an EMP attack accomplish?" asked Robyn

Robert answered her question by saying, "A single EMP attack can seriously degrade or shut down a large part of the electric power grid instantaneously. Effects propagate from one region to another causing the disruption of the electrical power infrastructure .The whole camp would be temporarily incapacitated."

Robyn simply said, "Wow." she was very impressed with her amazing new boyfriend and his genius ideas.
Matthew completed the thought with a hope, "I am also hoping that it will knock out all nervous systems in the camp that could harm us."
After a few more questions, Robert picked up a handful of the children's files and said, "We have here a group of unique and talented young people. We are going to do our best to provide you with state of the art technology and training. When and if your help is needed, you will be well prepared for the assignment."
Then he added, "They will also be well compensated. Training will begin with my youngest and with you Membaya."

Robert then pulled out and envelope full of passes, "These are your passes for the Langley Air Force Base and CIA training center. It gives you limited access to both. Your training begins Wednesday at 10:00 hrs. Don't miss the boat," He said handing them their passes. The other passes were also handed out one by one. "This meeting is adjourned until Wednesday afternoon 16:00 hrs."

When Wednesday 16:00 came the other six were assembled, except for one, Scotty. Two Asian men had come to his door that he didn't recognize. His room was at the top of the stairs and he could see everything until they moved into the kitchen. The men were dressed in suits and spoke a northern dialect of Korean. This wasn't good at all. When they went into the kitchen Scotty changed his position from behind his bedroom door to the first stair step. He could hear everything now.

"Mr. Tong, you will do this or your family will die. Here is the money, think about it. Pay off your house and send your young son to university or die." The man said.

Scotty pulled back by his Parents bedroom door in the corner as the two men left. Liang could feel his son at the top of the stairs. When the men left, he called his son down.

"Son, I know you are there. You can come down now, they are gone." Liang assured him.

Scotty came out, but he didn't look pleased with his father. He came down the stairs he had to be sure. The boy couldn't betray Matt, so he just went along for the ride knowing his friend could get him out of it.

"Who were they?" Scotty asked.

"They were Korean People's Army Intelligence agents." Liang said.

"Why?" Scotty bellowed.

"We didn't want you to know. The house payment is three months past due. They offered us the two things we wanted most a final payment on the house and your university costs." Liang explained.

Scotty couldn't believe it. He just turned and ran out to the person he knew could console him best.
Everybody left buzzing with excitement. Abby saw them out the door and then came back down to the basement .Kang was preparing to head to the airport to catch his flight.

"That went very well my friends."Kang said."I look forward to seeing you again soon."

Robert shook his hand and wished him a good flight and Abby saw him out. When they were alone, Robert said, "What do you think? Have we got a good team or what?"

Matt and Tommy looked at each other and laughed, "Yeah Dad, we have a great team, but what's this about me training with Membaya? I was hoping to be paired with Robyn." said Matthew.

"This isn't the physical side of the training," Robert explained, "for the next six weeks you two are going to learn how to deal with the adult sized Predator UAV. Your training will be provided by the 480th Intelligence and 2nd weapons wing of the air force. You will be back with Robyn soon."
"What am I going to be doing Dad?" asked Tommy."I hope it involves Lacy."

At that moment Abby spoke up and said,

"Excuse me Rob but shouldn't you check in and let the surveillance team know the briefing is over? They are probably waiting to hear from you."

"Thanks Hon, you're right. I'll discuss everything with you in a bit, son."Robert told Tommy.

Abby enlisted the boys' help in cleaning up the basement. "I think your dad has long range plans for you both." she mused. "In fact I think he plans to create a unit that can be on call for future missions beyond this one .You might say he is creating a 'Clandestine Club' of sorts. That's why your training has to be so comprehensive and thorough."
"I think you will be with Lacey," Abby continued, "He just needs to figure out how you fit together. Then again he may go with best fits and change those each mission."

Tommie wasn't sure what that meant; but if they were a match then they would be together and that was enough for him.
The next week was passing quickly for Matthew. Before he knew it Wednesday had arrived. The first full week of summer was lighter, but still rather tiring. Still, he had to get up, there was a lot to do before his first day of UAV training with Membaya.
He had to hurry up and get ready for Tai Chi Chuan and Wah Lum classes with Scotty. Scotty was probably already there in the kitchen eating half of his breakfast. Matthew rose from his bed and make-shift made it up, grabbing fresh under clothes heading into the bathroom to take a shower. The cold water woke him with a start. After a few hours, Matthew was home and back in the bathroom for a quick wash up and change into presentable clothes for the base.
Membaya still found it hard to believe her good fortune. To have been chosen to be involved in a covert mission at her age was amazing. She understood that her robotic studies were what got her the needed attention.
Her father called her into his study just as she finished getting ready to leave for the base.

"Membaya, you know we are very proud of you. I just want you to know that if at any time you wish to withdraw from this project, you only need to tell me."

Membaya smiled and hugged her father.
"Don't worry Dad, I am going to be fine .It is an honor and a privilege to be part of this. Now I have to get my things together. I was asked to bring my journals with me so they can see what I have been working on. I'm so excited."

Albert put his hands on her shoulders. "Do not forget what Capoeira has taught you. Effective malandragem lies in the development of sharp observation skills and ability to anticipate the moves of your opponent. Stay focused my daughter and you will succeed."
"Welcome to Langley Air Force Base. It is the oldest continually active Air Force Base in the world. You are now a part of a tradition dating back to 1916. You are now a part of America's First Team."

Matthew and Membaya looked at each other and smiled. The air seemed to crackle with excitement. Their parents had left and they were on their own at last. Intensive training was about to begin.

When lights out was called, Matthew left for his room. It wasn't much being empty for the summer. He turned his light out and went to bed. Who knew what would happen tomorrow morning.

"Good night mom and dad. I don't want to forget Tommy lord, so tell him good night for me. Help our training will be swift and our rescue target stay well until we come for him. That's all God except let Tom see in this training how good he really is at tactics and strategy. Send them all my love. Thanks." Matthew prayed.
Robert reread the transmission in his hand. It was not good news. Kwang Jung Bae was ill. The conditions in the camp were exacerbating a previous condition and the old man's health was failing fast. He and Kang were going to have to speed up their plans.
To young children like these Langley was huge. Off in the distance was the object of their training- The General Atomics Mq-1 Predator Unmanned aerial Vehicle. It was huge too. The officer continued.

"I am Captain James W Talbot COmmander of the 480th intelligence wing of the US Air Force and this is Lieuteneant Joshua Kates of the 2nd weapons wing."

Kates was six feet tall and so had to kneel to look Matt in the eye. This he did with care.

"I heard that you have a very interesting device to share with me." Kates said with a wry smile.

Matthew pulled out one of his micro-emp devices for Kates to see. Kates looked it over turning it every which way he could.

"And you built this?" He asked.

"Yes, Sir." Matt replied curtly.

"How long did it take you?" Kates inquired further.


"A month I think could have been longer though." Matthew returned.

"Impressive. Do you have a launch platform?"

"Yes, you already have it. It's behind you."

Kates turned to see Matt's Radio Control version UAV waking across the runway on whi they stood with a young specialist sargeant. He turned to receive the little plane.

"Here it is sir, the little man's plane. It's really impressive." The sargent offered.

"How so, Seargent." Kates asked the man.

"It is set up for some kind of quick release weapon."

"Gunny, could it be something like this?"

"Suppose it's possible. What is it?"

He shot a curious look toward Matthew. Kates showed the man the Micro-emp.

"I have never seen anything like this. Usually ones thinks of Gigantic machines for knocking out whole towns."

"How far do you think it could reach?"

"Come on I will introduce you."

"Matthew, this is Specialist Sargeant Wilkenson."

"Sargeant, this is Matthew Macon."

Last Year's second grade third place Matthew Macon?" Wilkenson inquired.

"Yes, the same." Matthew Chimed in.

"A pleasure, young man. I was a judge last year; you were quite remarkable?" Wilkenson praised.

"Thank you?" Matthew graciously replied.

After the introductions were made, they all retreated to a small hanger where the training simulator had been set up. They took Matt first and strapped him in to see if he could pass the test.

"This is the certification test module for both the Reaper and Predator UAV systems. Comfortable, Matthew?" Kates asked him.

"Yes sir." Matthew Answered.

Kates gave a signal and the simulator started the test. It was like being in a real airplane and that was something that Matt had never experience before.

"Now when you're ready to take off just pull back on the stick there and the simulator will make it feel just like a takeoff." Kates instructed stepping aside to give his student room.

He strolled over to the data station where Wilkenson was monitoring the simulation. He watched the takeoff closely; it was actually very good for a first-timer this young. Kates clammed up and watched a little more.

"Aside from the takeoff how is he doing?" Kates asked Wilkenson.

"He's got one hell of a learning curve this one. This kid is doing better than my fifth grade son on his field trip a month ago. His flight has had only the tiniest errors which so far have been corrected almost perfectly." Wilkenson told him.

Just then the call came through. It was Bob checking on his two agent proteges. Kates answered the phone as quickly as it had rung.

"How are they doing major?" Robert asked.

"So far they are doing great. Do we need to step things up?" Kates queried.

"Yes, our extraction subject is very ill and we have to have their training completed in the next week." reported Robert.

"Very well, sir. We'll get them through the flight simulation training by Tuesday and by the next Friday at the latest be complete with the training at least mostly. We can then send them to Taiwan for the rest if you like, to have them closer." Kates offered.

Membaya sat cross-legged on her bed playing Star Wars battlefront on her PSP. She threw it down on the bed in disgust just as Matt peeked around the edge of the open door.

"What's the matter Mems, did Darth zap you again?"he laughed.

"No, it's those rotten hackers. Every time I try to play online they spoil it."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," he said and sat down in a chair across from her.

"What did you think of the flight simulator training today?" he asked.

"That was so cool," she answered excitedly. "I wish my father was here to try it too. You know he built something like that in our garage. It was a replica of a World War 2
plane's controls so it was not so high tech but it was still a lot of fun. He let me help him build it."

"Did my Dad know about that," questioned Matt.

"I think your Dad knows everything."Membaya said with a smile.

"Well no wonder he wanted us to work together."mused Matthew.

"Membaya dropped her head,"I know you would rather have Robyn here with you right now Matt."

Matthew went over, picked up the PSP and sat down beside Membaya."You've got it all wrong Mems,"he said."I want to be here with the best person for the job we have to do.Dad says that's you and I believe him. I think you are awesome."

Membaya looked up and smiled."Thanks, Matt you're a good friend."

Matt laughed and said ,"Hey, can I try your new game? I'll just play against the computer and avoid the hackers."

They spent the rest of the time before lights out taking turns being Luke and Leia.
Thousands of miles away, Robert's contact in the prison camp
smuggled out an encrypted message. The subject was in failing health and had to be removed as quickly as possible. It would be the last message the contact ever sent. As she crawled back to her cell,a guard dog caught her scent and was soon at her throat.

Robert had hoped to hear that the prisoner's health had improved but now they had waited as long as they could. He and Kang must make their move at once.
In the darkness of the early morning, Matt's cell phone rang. He tossed and turned for fir three rings, waking on the fourth. It was his dad calling to see how things are going.

"Hello?" Matthew wearily responded.

"Hey son, is training so far?" Robert inquired.

Matthew sat up, but was still quite sleepy. He wasn't expecting Robert to call so early. It was 5:00 am. Matthew rubbed his eyes a little with the back of his hand.

"It's going great; why are you calling so early, dad?"

"I have already told Tommy, Scotty and your mom. I am calling this early because i have to leave you for a while. Our target isn't too much better than he was. I am going to the border between Russia and North Korea right now." Robert answered.

"Okay, Thank You. I had to be awake anyway." Matthew replied

"Do everything the Lieutenant says; you got me?" Robert gently ordered.

"Yes, dad," Matthew replied again.

"Good. If I am not back in three days; you come and get us." Robert told him.

"I will, I promise." Matt said now awake.

Matthew was awake so he went to take a shower. These were officers quarters so there were two bedrooms and two bathrooms-No waiting. He picked up his groom pack and some new clothes and went in.

By the time he got out it was already 5:45. He was in the middle of a gaping yawn when he heard a knock and female voice at his door. There was a female officer on morning watch today and she had decided to look in. The boy was still bare-chested.

"Hey, it's no worse than being at the pool." he said to himself.
Slipping on his shirt he said, "I'll be ready in a jiffy."

She nodded and went on her rounds. Matt decided to call his brother before he went for chow. He wanted to know how Tommy was taking their father's change of plans.

Tom wasn't happy about the early call but he soon perked up.
"What have you been doing?"Matt asked after they finished discussing their Dad's early departure.

"Dude!" said Tommy, "It has been intense. Lacey is the bomb, I think she is beginning to really like me too."
We are taking a crash course in Korean and spending a lot of time studying together. It's tough but fun."

Matt cut in, "Sorry bro, I have to get going or I will miss chow time. Say Hi to Lacy for me. I'll call you tonight."

Tommy came back with, "That's cool, I think I will be seeing you sooner than we thought anyway."

With that Matt said Goodbye and opened the door to find Membaya waiting to go with him to breakfast.

Back at home Lacey had come over. They where they matched so they watched one another closely, playing video and Collectible card games together. Tommy had been playing splinter cell and rainbo six at his father's suggestion. After a while, Lacey began to sound off on her observations, noticing Tommy's strategies.

"I didn't know you could do that in this game?" She said.

"I just figured it out myself. You want to try?" Tommy asked.

Lacey wasn't sure. She was better with her mainstay games of Naruto and Last Air Bender. Still, she gave it a try.
Abby came to the door to invite them to the kitchen for a slice of pumpkin pie.She led the way and then poured them each a cold glass of milk to go with their snack.

"Are you excited about your Strategy Class tomorrow?"she asked them as they enjoyed the pie.

"I guess so,"Tommy mumbled around a mouthful,"But I'm not even sure what Strategy Class is all about Mom."

"Well from what I understand, Strategy Class trains you to respond correctly to situations as they arise so that you know instantly how to react.The training programs your reflexes to instantly use strategic ways of handling each problem."

"Wow,that sounds cool,"Lacey said,taking a sip of milk,But why us?"

"Abby laughed,"Just think about the games you two play all the time.You are great at strategy and my husband knows that very well.He wants you to tap into your special strengths for this mission."

Tommy put his plate in the sink and said,
"Okay Mom,I think it's time for one of your trademark quotations so lay one on us."

Abby shrugged and replied,

"When you're right ,you're right Little Grasshopper.How about this one from Sun Tzu's,The Art of War:

' So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.'

This Class is going to help you learn about yourself and your enemy."

As they went upstairs, Tommy saw that Matt hadn't removed the book Robin gave him for his birthday from the stairway table. It was the first time he had been curious about it. He picked it up, opening it as he made his way up the stairs with Lacey. It was late so he invited her to stay in Matt's room until the next morning as long as she cleaned up. Lacey had packed the dress Matt has created for her. She couldn't wear it enough.

"This is Matt's room. It's neater than mine or I would switch with you. It's kind of boyish, but has more to offer you. Sides, I don't think he'll mind." Tommy offered.
Lacey was thrilled. She couldn't believe she was staying in Matt's room. She still had a crush on him even though he had made it clear he didn't feel the same.

In his own room, Tommy flopped down on his bed and turned the pages of "The Book of Five Rings" by Myamoto Musashi.

"Yikes," he thought, "This is deep."

He flipped through it until he came to a section on strategy. Knowing his father saw something of the strategist in him, he decided to check it out. Musashi kept using a metaphor that Tommy understood. He said the way of the strategist is similar to how a carpenter uses his tools. A carpenter accumulates tools and learns how to use them .Then he is ready for whatever job arises. In that way a person acquires skills and abilities and learns how to use them to solve problems. Strategy was said to be one of the "Ten abilities and seven arts" that a warrior should have according to the author.

Tommy was getting sleepy and was about to change into his PJ's when his mother knocked on his door.

"Tommy can I talk to you for a minute," she asked.
"Sure mom. What about," Tommy invited scooting over to make room for her.
Abby came in with two cups of hot chocolate and after handing him one,sat down in a chair across from him.She wanted to look him in the eye.

"I don't know how long it will be before you leave and there is something I wanted to tell you before you go."she said.

"Wow Mom,you look serious.What is it?"

"Do you remember me telling you that my father died of a heart attack before you were born?"

"Yes, I always wished I could have known him."

"Well he actually died in the line of duty.He was a spy too.
I didn't know it when I was a child.I guess I was more naive than you boys."

Tommy stood up and set his drink down on the night stand. He didn't know quite what to think now. It his mother was telling him was new to him.

"Why didn't you ever tell us?"he asked.

"I was afraid it would somehow impact your father's safety if you ever mentioned it to anyone. Now it is irrelevant."


"Then why are you telling me now?"

"Because I know what it feels like to be a kid in your position.I was used in my father's work without my knowledge and without being given a choice.It changed me in subtle ways that made me a different person."

"What do you mean by that Mom?I don't understand."

Tommy sat back down cooling his hot chocolate as he sat down on the bed again. He listened more intently now as Abby went on.

"I was encouraged to play games like chess for strategy and discipline.I had to learn bridge for memory.I was questioned often and learned to lie without realizing why.I was given letters to deliver and as I got older I began to understand it all.It was exciting but the price was too high."

"It all sounds great to me,"Tommy commented.

Abby smiled.She put her hot chocolate beside her son's and went to sit on the side of the bed.She patted the spot beside her and he sat back down.

"There is no doubt it had its moments but it cost my father his life and mother and I had to go into hiding.That's how I met your father.He helped relocate us and get us settled in a new life."

"Now I know why you never talk about the past,"Tommy mused.

"I just want you to know that,unlike me,you have a choice."

Tommy leaned over to hug his mother.He could see it had been difficult for her to tell him these things.He wondered if she had shared this with Matthew too.

He said quietly,"Mom,I am really proud to have the chance to do this.It is exciting and very cool . I know you're worried that you will lose someone you love again but it won't happen.We are going to be well prepared and Dad knows what he is doing."

Abby gave a sigh of relief.She had wanted to tell the boys the truth for years.She felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from her heart.She reached in her pocket and drew out a silver chain.

"One more thing and then I will let you get some sleep,"she told him.This was your grandfather's.As the oldest,I want you to have it.I have a special ring for your brother but Father always wore this when he was home."

Tommy took the chain and looked at the silver coin hanging from it.The inscription read: "And you shall know the truth,and the truth will set you free."

"It is the motto in the hall of the CIA headquarters,"she explained."My father truly believed he was a truth seeker.
I want you to be one too."

They drank their hot chocolate then and shared a feeling of closeness greater than they had ever enjoyed. After she left his room, Tom lay awake trying to assimilate his new found insight. He could hardly wait to talk to Matt about it. Tom wanted to do it right away, but looked at the clock and thought nah, he’d be asleep now. I can’t afford to rob the dancing ninja of his beauty sleep. He figured it could wait until the next morning, so Tom tucked under his covers, turned out his lamp and drifted off to sleep with dreams of being a secret agent like his dad and James Bond. An Ian Fleming book lay on his bedside table along with his brother’s copy of the ‘Book of Five Rings.’

Tom did call the next morning as Matt was preparing to go to the physical training for the day. His experience with Abby couldn’t wait to be told. He was impatient as the cell phone rang. Matt was in chow when he came on the line.
“Hey bro, what’s going on over there?” Tommy started.
“I’m just a breakfast now. Why are we whispering?” Matt replied.
“Mom’s not up yet and I didn’t want her to hear me tell you about last night.” Tommy began.
“What about it?” Matt egged on.
“Mom came to me last night. She told me that grand dad was and agent, too. She gave me his old ring and I think she has something for you, too. This is so cool, the rest of us are coming to join you and Mems today. Eat good, because I know how you get.” Tommy ordered.
“I will, see you soon bro. Miss you.” Matt told him.
“Miss you too. See you soon, little bro.” Tommy replied.

They hung up on each other satisfied. Matt had never known this about his grandfather. He would be assimilating the information all day. ‘I guess it just runs in the family, Matt thought as he finished up a breakfast worthy of his brother on a good day. This would be one of those times his maturity would lapse a little. A belch welled up from his small stomach. Mems got a chuckle out of it as the boy’s face turned a light shade of red. Lieutenant Kates looked over.

“The cooks will be happy to know you liked their morning mess, young man.” He said with a smile.
“Sorry for my…” Matt started.
“Jeez, you’re just a kid I think they understand. But apology accepted.” Kates said.

Kates made a call and then they left mess for some exercise time. The rest of the Clandestine Club was already there waiting. Anakin was already on the obstacle course sailing through it as the drill sergeant watched. He leaned over to Matt.

“Now that is one fit young man.” He said.
Matt agreed saying, “I know he could be one of yours in a few years. He’s good with a rifle too and he’s my friend.”
“Good friend to have, you can do as well?” The drill sergeant asked.
“Don’t know for sure, sir. Can I go next and try it out. I’ve just never done anything like this before.” Matt reported.

Matt hoped his learning curve would take hold. He was a little late because Robyn was already out behind Anakin. That’s my girl, he thought as she raced through the nets with ease. The rest of the day was the same way. Everyone was doing well but Scotty who got it after doing it once or twice. It was more new to him than it was to Matt. In no time, Scotty sailed through the course.










Extraction

Kang met Robert at the airport. Richard had decided to come in as a tourist. They shook hands and Kang handed him his ticket to Beijing.

"It is good to see you again old friend. We fly from here to Beijing and from there take a truck to the village of Yanji we will stay there a day then continue to the border where the tracking group from the camp is tracked by satellite."

"Sounds like a plan. Is everything ready in Taiwan, for our crack extraction team?" Robert asked.

"Yes. Their Training goes well I take it." Kang replied

"A yes on that as well. They all have their areas of confidence." Robert indulged.

The other members of the "Clandestine Club" had been seriously training in their own specialties. All the children had been assigned a personal trainer to help them with the physical side of their preparations. Focusing on diet, nutrition and exercise along with mental discipline, the trainers worked one on one to bring out the best in each individual. They were psyched for their mission and anxious to get involved. Everyone finally came home after some rigorous physical and mental training. He and Membaya said their goodbyes to each other as did the others.

"Mems, I had a great time, did you?" she asked him

"I had the best time of my life." Membaya answered.
She reached out and hugged Matt and said , "Goodbye for now."

Matthew was anxious to compare notes with his brother Tom. They had a lot to share. Matt wanted to talk to him about the things Mother had shared concerning her past and much more.

On the other side of the world in the north-eastern corner of North Korea, close to the border of Russia and China events were unfolding in Hoeryong. The scientist, Kwang Jung Bae lay seriously ill in the antiquated infirmary of the concentration camp. His wife, having bribed her way in to see him for a brief moment; whispered only two words in his ear..."Be ready."

Plans were already made for the removal of his wife, children and four grandchildren from the camp. His extraction however, had become a formidable challenge. He realized he would have to feign a recovery as far as he was able. He had to get out from under the medical scrutiny.
Kwang closed his eyes and said a quiet and powerful prayer for strength and vitality to overcome his illness. It had been a long time since he had done this and he hoped his God was listening.

"Father in heaven, give me strength to endure. If it is your will make me well that i might walk away from here, escape this place with my family. Amen." he prayed.

It wasn't long before he felt well enough to feign health. He found new strength and rose to sitting position. They came to check him over. He seemed fine to them and was released into the night air. Patrols had decreased for the night as no one had attempted to escape the camp. Kwang soon found himself in the company of his wife and family.

Hwan Young help her husband to his bed for a bit more rest, kissing him on the forehead.

"I will wake you when they have come for us." She assured him as he drifted off.

Back at the camp in Yunji they Robert, Kang and a few others prepared to leave. They waited until they had full cover of darkness to cross the border with North Korea. After a while, it was dark enough to proceed, they would have to move quickly through the mountains. The two trucks would have to halt their course three miles away in some of the lower, more obscure terrain. It would be a long hike for Kwang Jung Bae if he was still ill and they knew it; but getting any closer to the camp would give them away.
In the northern corner of the camp was a clothing factory where Kwang Jung bae's two sons worked. Outside that factory the men were allowed to gather firewood since they were excellent workers. Electric fencing surrounded the area but it was seldom guarded. This was to be their point of escape. A log would be thrown down on the bottom strand of fencing and each prisoner would cross the fence on that log. Once they were all out, they would proceed to the rendezvous point. Plans were made to leave that night as soon as the moon moved behind the clouds that always passed over the camp. Time would be short, so everything had to be in sync. When Bae Jung made it home, he relayed the information to his mother while his younger brother ate. The boy hadn’t eaten all day and the noodles the next family had hidden away for everyone were a welcome smell. The corn their mother put in made the meal complete. Soon the time came and the team pulled in and was ready.
Robert and Kang left the others with the trucks and set out for the camp on foot.Robert wanted to help get the invalid over the rough terrain to the rendezvous point.He was too anxious to sit there and leave it to chance.He had never tried to extricate so many at one time ,a lot could go wrong.

In the darkness, Hwan Young hustled her grandchildren into the bushes behind the factory. Her husband joined them there to wait as the others prepared their escape route. Their daughters in law stood watch as their sons dragged a heavy log from the firewood over to the electric fence.

Hwan Young whispered, "Husband, will you go first to lead the way?" she wanted to make sure he got to safety as quickly as possible.

"No," he replied hoarsely, "I must be the last to leave so that I am sure everyone is safely out. It is my duty."

He stifled a cough and put his arm around his youngest grandson."My family has suffered enough."



A lone guard with a watchdog on a leash patrolled in front of the factory.His route brought him past every fifteen minutes.
As soon as Hwan Young saw him go by, she signaled to her sons to begin.

Her husband sank to the ground and sat shivering on the damp earth.

"I'm alright," he reassured his wife, "I must rest while I can."

One of the children began to cry.

"Don't be afraid," whispered Grandfather, "We are playing a hiding game. We must be very quiet so we are not found,"

Quickly his sons carried a big log and laid it gently across the lowest strand of fencing. If the power flow was broken, an alarm would go off and alert the entire camp.

One of the young wives was the first to cross. She would be ready to help the children as they came out. Electricity sizzled around the edges of the log. They knew that this might be setting off signals of a malfunction in the guard station even now.

"Hurry, hurry", Hwan Young urged them. She was missing a finger on her left hand, the result of simply dropping an expensive soldering tool. She knew they would all die horrible deaths if they were caught trying to escape.

Suddenly on the other side of the fence, Robert and Kang stepped out of the darkness. The medium sized family was waiting for them by the fence.

They whispered their greetings and began helping the family across the dangerous bridge. The children had no trouble crawling across the log. The adults however, were a different matter.

As the second mother inched across, a dog began to bark nearby.

"Hurry," whispered Kang in Korean, "Someone's coming."

One son traversed the log and the other one went to help his mother and father.

"Go Mother,please," urged the young man and Hwan Young reluctantly left her husband's side.The younger son reached back and helped her crawl under the second strand of fencing.From the other side she watched anxiously as Kwang Jung Bae tried to stand up.He could not.
The older son did his best to lift his father but the young man was emaciated from years of starvation and did not have the strength .

The sound of barking was getting closer and now they could hear angry voices. Robert made a decision. He slithered under the fence and ran to the old man.

"Go!" he commanded the boy as he reached down and lifted the professor in his arms. Across the fence Kang rushed everyone deeper into the woods. The last son crossed over in front of Robert and pulled his father across the log with sparks flying.

Robert threw himself down on the log and started across when a snarling dog rounded the corner of the building .It bounded over to where he lay and sunk its teeth into the calf of his right leg. He tried to fight it off but three guards arrived and pulled him back into the camp.

From the woods, Kang and the family watched as Robert was kicked and punched and then hauled away into the darkness.



"Enough, must leave now!" Kang shouted out in Korean.

He rushed the remainder passed the bushes and into the woods. They all ran as quickly as they could in their condition. Kang looked back. It seemed that they were not being followed for the time being. The news reporter rushed along Kwang draped over his shoulders. The ill scientist looked over his shoulder.

"What of your friend?" He asked in Korean.

"We have plans to return for him. The team is being trained. They will not expect what they see the next time." Kang answered with certainty.

They traveled for the better part of an hour, reaching the trucks Just as the guards were setting out to find them. A few months earlier an older child had escaped the camp. He was never found. As Kang and the family passed by small thicket, they could hear the sound of labored breathing. It was high-pitched and raspy; then a little cough pierced the cold breeze. They weren't far from the trucks so Kang called the two oldest sons over to help their father. He had to find the child quickly as the guard though more than fifteen minutes behind wew catching up with every second he took.

"Little one, " He called out in a whisper, "Do not be afraid. We can take you from here."

Another little cough pierced the air. It was closer now, maybe a few feet. Kang rustled through the bushes to try and make the boy come out. Nothing, then a little head poked up behind the bush and collapsed. He made his way behind the bushes, finding the emaciated youth curled up under a thin blanket. Kang wondered how he could have survived in this terrain an climate. He was truly amazed at this little one's will to live.

"We will make you better soon. Come now." He said picking the youth up and making a dash for the trucks. It was a rough ride for the boy, but he finally felt safe in this man's arms and next to his body.

The duo arrived at the trucks just as the search party reached their previous location. He quickly loaded the boy in the back and helped the others in as well, dashing around to the front seat to ride shotgun and get the trucks on the most direct route back to China.

The agent next to Kang looked over, "What about Bob?!"

"We will return for him. In the meantime let's get these people out of here, now!" Kang Ordered.

"Let's roll!" The Agent called into the walkie-talkie.


The trucks were already out of sight before the search party reached their location. Once Kang was comfortable with their current position he took out the satellite phone and called Abby.


"Miss Abby, your husband has been taken. It is the Clandestine Club's turn now. You must trust that they will return to you safely." Kang instructed.

A short time later, there was a knock at the door. The people at Langley knew that the North Korean Security Forces would be on the boys within days. The whole group had to be moved. A respectable looking young agent was at the door when Abby opened it.

"Ma'am, sorry to interrupt, but we..." He said. Abby stopped him for a second.

"You have to move them all to the base don't you?" She asked, frightened.

She felt like it was happening all over again, only at a larger, deeper cost this time. The young man just stood there looking her in the eyes and nodding in the affirmative. Abby released Kang from the phone and began to call the other parents to tell them it was time. Soon after, the whole group was there chattering away. She took them all down to the basement.

"Kids, it's happened. Your primary handler has been caught and taken within the camp." She bravely told them, tears streaming down her face.

Matt came over and she sat down a moment. He wiped her tears away. As he did, he could feel a mixed energy in them; both pride and fear.

"It's okay mom, We're going to get dad and we are coming back. What we need is one more time together as kids and friends to prepare. Can you help us evade?" He asked.

"Okay, but be careful. The North Korean security could already be out there somewhere looking for all of us." Abby warned.

"We will mom, and like I said we're all coming back." Matthew assured her.

"Okay, here's how you are going to do it." She said smiling at Scotty. The boy knew from her smile what she wanted and it was devious, "Scotty, take everyone through your back yard then to your street, here is twenty dollars for the ice cream, you all can have whatever you want. Don't be too long." She warned again.

Her two sons embraced her tightly. They all did. Abby was now their handler, but she was still a mother and thus still worried about her boys. She caught them at the stairs, looking Tommy in the eye.

"You watch after your brother and don't get caught yourself. That's too much for him to worry about. You have to be the big brother you want to be now."

Then she looked into Matt's eyes taking out the ring on a silver chain.

"Come back with your shield and remember, the truth shall set you free."

Matthew looked it over a moment before gently taking hold of it. He cried for a moment himself.

"Is this...?" he asked.

"Yes, I thought you would want to have grandpa close to you for the mission for advice on what to do next if you need it." Abby explained.

Abby gave her little men a kiss good-bye, handing them two twenties and a five spot. She wanted them to have fun above all else and take great care while doing it.

"Have as much fun as you can; you may not see any for a while." She gently ordered.


The two boys nodded. They understood the danger, but welcomed the fun. It was summer after all, a time for kids to break loose and go wild. Matt put the ring around his neck and kissed his mother good-bye giving her a smile.

"Come back with my shield, but not on it. It’ll never be that if I can help it, mom. We should go get some allowance money and make this day a blast." Matt exclaimed turning to Tommy.

"Yeah, let's go!" Tommy hollered.

They rushed up the stairs together like a couple of bull antelope. Everyone wondered what was up and elected Robin to follow them. She didn't mind, Matt would never hear her anyway, at least until she talked. She made her way up the stairs to Matt's room.

"Isn't that money for college?" Robyn asked him.

"Not today. Senior agent mom gave us clearance for a day on the town as long as we are careful. It's ice cream and movie before the mission day." Matt confided, "They got my dad, and we need to be relaxed so we can think right when we are out there. It requires cool intellect and we all have to get ourselves there and that means releasing all of our childish inhibition for at least four hours." he further explained.

Before they left, Scotty excused himself to make a private call on his cell phone. He was gone a long time and when he returned he looked pale. Matt asked him what was wrong but he said nothing. Everyone was so psyched they didn't pay much attention. They just wanted to get going. Matt went to check on him. His friend didn’t look very happy just now. It was as if someone had jus ripped his soul from him. Matt didn’t know how he could possibly help with this one, but had faith that through action Scotty would tell him how. He just had to wait for it to come.

Insecurity

"Enough, we must leave now!" Kang shouted out in Korean.

He rushed the remainder passed the bushes and into the woods. They all ran as quickly as they could in their condition. Kang looked back. It seemed that they were not being followed for the time being. The news reporter rushed along Kwang draped over his shoulders. The ill scientist looked over his shoulder.

"What of your friend?" He asked in Korean.

"We have plans to return for him. The team is being trained. They will not expect what they see the next time." Kang answered with certainty.

They traveled for the better part of an hour, reaching the trucks Just as the guards were setting out to find them. A few months earlier an older child had escaped the camp. He was never found. As Kang and the family passed by small thicket, they could hear the sound of labored breathing. It was high-pitched and raspy; then a little cough pierced the cold breeze. They weren't far from the trucks so Kang called the two oldest sons over to help their father. He had to find the child quickly as the guard, though more than fifteen minutes behind was catching up with every second he took.

"Little one, " He called out in a whisper, "Do not be afraid. We can take you from here."

Another little cough pierced the air. It was closer now, maybe a few feet. Kang rustled through the bushes to try and make the boy come out. Nothing, then a little head poked up behind the bush and collapsed. He made his way behind the bushes, finding the emaciated youth curled up under a thin blanket. Kang wondered how he could have survived in this terrain an climate. He was truly amazed at this little one's will to live.

"We will make you better soon. Come now." He said picking the youth up and making a dash for the trucks. It was a rough ride for the boy, but he finally felt safe in this man's arms and next to his body.

The duo arrived at the trucks just as the search party reached their previous location. He quickly loaded the boy in the back and helped the others in as well, dashing around to the front seat to ride shotgun and get the trucks on the most direct route back to China.

The agent next to Kang looked over, "What about Bob?!"

"We will return for him. In the meantime let's get these people out of here, now!" Kang Ordered.

"Let's roll!" The Agent called into the walkie-talkie.


The trucks were already out of sight before the search party reached their location. Once Kang was comfortable with their current position he took out the satellite phone and called Abby.


"Miss Abby, your husband has been taken. It is the Clandestine Club's turn now. You must trust that they will return to you safely." Kang instructed.

Betrayal

A short time later, there was a knock at the door. The people at Langley knew that the North Korean Security Forces would be on the boys within days. The whole group had to be moved. A respectable looking young agent was at the door when Abby opened it.

"Ma'am, sorry to interrupt, but we..." He said. Abby stopped him for a second.

"You have to move them all to the base don't you?" She asked, frightened.

She felt like it was happening all over again, only at a larger, deeper cost this time. The young man just stood there looking her in the eyes and nodding in the affirmative. Abby released Kang from the phone and began to call the other parents to tell them it was time. Soon after, the whole group was there chattering away. She took them all down to the basement.

"Kids, it's happened. Your primary handler has been caught and taken within the camp." She bravely told them, tears streaming down her face.

Matt came over and she sat down a moment. He wiped her tears away. As he did, he could feel a mixed energy in them; both pride and fear.

"It's okay mom, We're going to get dad and we are coming back. What we need is one more time together as kids and friends to prepare. Can you help us evade?" He asked.

"Okay, but be careful. The North Korean security could already be out there somewhere looking for all of us." Abby warned.

"We will mom, and like I said we're all coming back." Matthew assured her.

"Okay, here's how you are going to do it." She said smiling at Scotty. The boy knew from her smile what she wanted and it was devious, "Scotty, take everyone through your back yard then to your street, here is twenty dollars for the ice cream, you all can have whatever you want. Don't be too long." She warned again.

Her two sons embraced her tightly. They all did. Abby was now their handler, but she was still a mother and thus still worried about her boys. She caught them at the stairs, looking Tommy in the eye.

"You watch after your brother and don't get caught yourself. That's too much for him to worry about. You have to be the big brother you want to be now."

Then she looked into Matt's eyes taking out the ring on a silver chain.

"Come back with your shield and remember, the truth shall set you free."

Matthew looked it over a moment before gently taking hold of it. He cried for a moment himself.

"Is this...?" he asked.

"Yes, I thought you would want to have grandpa close to you for the mission for advice on what to do next if you need it." Abby explained.

Abby gave her little men a kiss good-bye, handing them two twenties and a five spot. She wanted them to have fun above all else and take great care while doing it.

"Have as much fun as you can; you may not see any for a while." She gently ordered.

The two boys nodded. They understood the danger, but welcomed the fun. It was summer after all, a time for kids to break loose and go wild. Matt put the ring around his neck and kissed his mother good-bye giving her a smile.

"With my shield but not on it. Never that, if I can help it. We should go get some allowance money and make this day a blast." Matt exclaimed turning to Tommy.

"Yeah, let's go!" Tommy hollered.

They rushed up the stairs together like a couple of bull antelope. Everyone wondered what was up and elected Robin to follow them. She didn't mind, Matt would never hear her anyway, at least until she talked. She made her way up the stairs to Matt's room.

"Isn't that money for college?" Robyn asked him.

"Not today. Senior agent mom gave us clearance for a day on the town as long as we are careful. It's ice cream and movie before the mission day." Matt confided, "They got my dad, and we need to be relaxed so we can think right when we are out there. It requires cool intellect and we all have to get ourselves there and that means releasing all of our childish inhibition for at least four hours." he further explained.
After some good natured bantering ,everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream,"suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything.They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said,

"Come on,let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr.Tong was driving them to see Star Trek.They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me,"Matt ventured,"I think you passed the 'Megashow',Mr.Tong."

Tong smiled and said,"I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet.I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied,Matt went back to conversing with his friends.
In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'SuperFlicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside. They stopped for popcorn,candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre.
Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did.Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together.

They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began.People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy.Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later,Mr.Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him.Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow.Once they were behind the curtain,Tong told them that there had been a change of plans.He said Abby wanted them back there immediately .

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them.When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up,"he told them.I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head.This didn't seem right.Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man,"he warned.Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot ,two other men were restraining Mr.Tong.

"You are going on a long trip children,"the driver laughed,
consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club." After some good natured bantering ,everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream,"suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything.They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said,

"Come on,let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr.Tong was driving them to see Star Trek.They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me,"Matt ventured,"I think you passed the 'Megashow',Mr.Tong."

Tong smiled and said,"I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet.I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied,Matt went back to conversing with his friends.
In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'SuperFlicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside. They stopped for popcorn,candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre.
Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did.Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together.

They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began.People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy.Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later,Mr.Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him.Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow.Once they were behind the curtain,Tong told them that there had been a change of plans.He said Abby wanted them back there immediately .

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them.When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up,"he told them.I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head.This didn't seem right.Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man,"he warned.Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot ,two other men were restraining Mr.Tong.

"You are going on a long trip children,"the driver laughed,
consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club." After some good natured bantering ,everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream,"suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything.They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said,

"Come on,let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr.Tong was driving them to see Star Trek.They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me,"Matt ventured,"I think you passed the 'Megashow',Mr.Tong."

Tong smiled and said,"I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet.I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied,Matt went back to conversing with his friends.
In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'SuperFlicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside. They stopped for popcorn,candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre.
Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did.Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together.

They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began.People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy.Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later,Mr.Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him.Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow.Once they were behind the curtain,Tong told them that there had been a change of plans.He said Abby wanted them back there immediately .

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them.When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up,"he told them.I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head.This didn't seem right.Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man,"he warned.Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot ,two other men were restraining Mr.Tong.

"You are going on a long trip children,"the driver laughed,
consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club." After some good natured bantering ,everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream,"suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything.They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said,

"Come on,let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr.Tong was driving them to see Star Trek.They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me,"Matt ventured,"I think you passed the 'Megashow',Mr.Tong."

Tong smiled and said,"I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet.I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied,Matt went back to conversing with his friends.
In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'SuperFlicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside. They stopped for popcorn,candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre.
Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did.Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together.

They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began.People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy.Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later,Mr.Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him.Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow.Once they were behind the curtain,Tong told them that there had been a change of plans.He said Abby wanted them back there immediately .

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them.When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up,"he told them.I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head.This didn't seem right.Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man,"he warned.Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot ,two other men were restraining Mr.Tong.

"You are going on a long trip children,"the driver laughed,
consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club." After some good natured bantering ,everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream,"suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything.They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said,

"Come on,let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr.Tong was driving them to see Star Trek.They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me,"Matt ventured,"I think you passed the 'Megashow',Mr.Tong."

Tong smiled and said,"I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet.I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied,Matt went back to conversing with his friends.
In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'SuperFlicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside. They stopped for popcorn,candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre.
Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did.Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together.

They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began.People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy.Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later,Mr.Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him.Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow. Once they were behind the curtain, Tong told them that there had been a change of plans. He said Abby wanted them back there immediately

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them. When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up." He told them. I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head.This didn't seem right.Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man," he warned. Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot, two other men were restraining Mr. Tong.

"You are all going on a very long trip," he driver laughed, “consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club." After some good natured bantering, everyone decided to go see Star Trek.

"Let's catch the movie first and then go for ice cream," suggested Tommy.
They all agreed and headed out the door in good spirits in spite of everything. They were confident that they could succeed at their mission.

Scotty led them through his back yard and then said, "Come on, let's ask my dad if he will take us all to the movies in the big van."

They went inside and soon Mr. Tong was driving them to see Star Trek. They were talking and didn't notice that Tong was taking them to a different theatre than they usually went to.

"Excuse me, "Matt ventured, "I think you passed the 'Megashow', Mr. Tong."

Tong smiled and said, "I don't think Star Trek is playing there yet. I know it is showing at the one across town."

Satisfied, Matt went back to conversing with his friends. In about fifteen minutes they pulled up outside the 'Super Flicks' and all piled out.

"I'll call you when it's over Dad," Scotty said and they headed inside.

They stopped for popcorn, candy and sodas and made their way into the dark theatre. Scotty wanted to sit way down in front but nobody else did. Finally they had to do that because it was the only place they could find seats together. They whispered and joked until the lights went down and the previews began. People were still coming in and it was still a bit noisy. Matt sat beside Robyn and was trying to get up the nerve to hold her hand when there was a rustling in the curtain under the exit sign.

A moment later, Mr. Tong stuck his head out and motioned for them to come to him. Scotty jumped up quickly and urged the others to follow. Once they were behind the curtain, Tong told them that there had been a change of plans. He said Abby wanted them back there immediately.

They went quietly out the back of the theater to find a strange van waiting for them. When they opened the doors to get in they were confronted by another man in the driver's seat.

"Your mother sent me to pick you up," he told them. I am one of her operatives and I will be briefing you on your next move."

Alarms went off in Matt's head. This didn't seem right. Mother would have come herself or called him on his cell phone.

He started to open the side door when the driver pulled a gun."I wouldn't do that young man," he warned. Have a look outside."

Out in the parking lot, two other men were restraining Mr. Tong.

"You are going on a long trip," the driver laughed, “consider it an unscheduled meeting of the Clandestine Club."



Matt looked his friend in the eye. He didn't seem to want this situation, but he couldn't trust Mr. Tong anymore, he was an enemy agent and they had to get out of there. Just before they left the house Matt had completed his first invention. It was a small format EM pulse emitter. He had placed it in his pocket with with an addition an twenty from his bank along with several ammonia pods from his first aid kit. Slowly, he placed his hand in his pocket pressing the button to activate it. The small device had a delay and if he threw it toward the agents its short range might only effect them and maybe Scotty and Tommy. Matt had to take the risk. Mr. Tong had seen Matt slip his hand in his pocket, but made nothing of it. It all happened in a matter of seconds. As soon as the moment was right, Matt thrust the device out of his pocket and to the front of the vehicle. It went off ten seconds later.

It was as Matt had thought. Only the CGIB agents, Scotty and Tommy were effected. The van began to swerve out of control. Matt cracked one of the ammonia packs in his pocket and woke Tommy first. Tommy didn't know how to drive the thing, but did the best a twelve year old could with his brother at the breaks. They soon came to a stop at the end of the main street. It was then that they tied Scotty and roused him, removing him from the van. Tommy called a Taxi, knowing he had enough money, the others had pitched in as well.

In ten minutes, the cab showed up, but it wasn't an ordinary cab. The driver looked familiar. Matt took Scotty to the rear most seats. Tommy tried to stop him from untying him. Matt just nodded.

"This is my responsibility. I have to know if I can still trust him." Matt said.

The driver turned round, "He's right, Thomas. Scotty is his friend; he must be the one to ask the questions." The agent told him.

"Who are you any way?" Tommy asked.

"I am your dad's partner, Senior Agent Grimes. I tracked you from your home, but from a distance per your mother's instructions." Agent Grimes conveyed.

Senior Agent Michael Grimes was a tall Afro-American with thinning salt and pepper hair and a collected, wise and trustworthy look in his eyes. His temporary partner was the exact opposite with a bald head, and a thick oxford accent. He had the same thing in his eyes as Agent Grimes so they trusted him, too.

"I am Agent John Pickard. "Your father has don't a great job with you. You are all quite resourceful in you own ways." Pickard said with a smile.

Pickard waited a moment, listening to each answer Scotty gave his friend. The boy was sincere, Pickard knew he was a dupe, a little pawn the situation.

"Forgive him Junior agent Macon. His roll was unimportant, he can be trusted." he added.

They finally felt safe. Matt untied Scotty and started to question him. He didn't feel comfortable doing this but it had to be done.


"What's going on man? I thought you were my friend." Matt questioned.

"I am your friend. My dad and I were being forced to do that stuff. I don't want to; I never did." Scotty explained.

"Okay, from the beginning. I want to know how it happened, everything." Matt gently ordered.

Scotty took a breath and began to tell the story,"One night my mom and dad were talking about losing the house. His hours had been cut at work and we weren't making enough. I couldn't see everything, but the doorbell rang. My father opened the door and there were two men. Already I didn't like them. They weren't Chinese,I could tell."

Matt and the others listened intently. They couldn't miss a word. None of them knew what to say, but now they knew the danger of being out by themselves. Scotty was crying bravely, like a boy should; no whimpers. Anakin handed him a handkerchief.

"Go on?" Matt told him.

"My dad took him into his office. I peeked in, but couldn't see everything. All I could here was him arguing with them. They made him take the money; told him that if he didn't he would kill us and then told him what he had to do. I didn't get to hear that because I had to rush upstairs so I wouldn't be seen. My dad's no traitor he's being pressured."

"Agent Grimes, we need to go back to the house for a few, then to the right theater if you don't mind and could you stay close to us?" Matt asked.

"Of course, right away. Be careful when we get back. They are still watching your friend's home." Grimes reported.

Grimes drove the Clandestine Club to the Macon home. Everything was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The only thing that could be heard was the wind and the tires of the van they were in against the ground.

"Where's mom?" Tommy asked the senior agent.

"She has been taken to Langley and given a new Identity. She is Air Force now as are all of your parents." He told them.

This made Tommy more comfortable for a while. It was time to see if the younger boy's was true. Scotty led them through the back yard. Tommy and Anakin in first position behind. As they came through the gate Shi Zi sat was sitting in the back yard. He smiled, glad to see his grandson safe.

"Grandson, the truth shall set you free." He said.

Something clicked inside Scotty. He knew why he was here and what he had to do. It was dangerous, because his mother might be in on it too. The kids entered through the sliding door. Mrs. Tong was waiting for them.


"Back from you movie so soon?" Lin asked her son.

"No, we never made it and now I know why, mother. You and he turn coated. You betrayed me and your country." He said in an obstinate tone.

"We were desperate. They came with a lot of money. They gave us no choice. We couldn't lose you or Shi Zi." Lin tried to explain.

Scotty was livid. His parents disgusted now, and probably would for some time. They had betrayed his best friend and he couldn't bear it much longer. Lo Chen walked in, gun in hand.

"Your father's office, grandson. The truth shall set you free. I will watch her. Take your friends for protection." He suggested.

They all left the kitchen heading for the office. Scotty took the key from his pants pocket and put it in its hole turning it. He was afraid to go in.

"You gotta do it, man." Matt assured him.

Scotty smiled as he opened the door. He had never seen his father's office before. It was somewhere children were not allowed. Scotty felt uneasy as he looked around for the briefcase. He took a breath and stepped in, still nervous. Under normal circumstances he would be grounded for this, but Lo Chen had his back.

"Go on," Matt whispered.

They all entered behind Scotty. Everything was perfectly set to Feng Shui, maybe not too perfectly. His mother had benn best at those things. His father, not so much. Scotty went over behind the desk. Nothing was locked, not even the file cabinet. The key was still in the lock. Scotty pulled the door out. What he saw made him feel like he had betrayed them all. The front most files had all their names on them. Scotty took them out.

"I'm sorry," he whispered apologetically.

"You didn't know man. It's okay." Tommy told him.

Scotty smiled again. He had made good friends and they had forgiven him. Robyn stepped forward kissing him on the cheek.

"It really is alright; you didn't mean it." She assured him.

It was the first kiss he had gotten from a girl. he turned bright red, but it gave him confidence as he sat in his father's chair and Pulled in.

"Ouch!" He yelled.

His foot had hit something, something hard. Scotty backed out. There was a briefcase where his foot had hit. He took it out, it was heavy so Matt helped him put it on the desk.

"It's got a combo!" Matt exclaimed.

Anakin knew what to do. His father always liked to hold his smaller birthday and Christmas gifts in the briefcase until the last minute every year and every year he would crack the lock. Anakin was good with numbers. Just before the school year ended he was placed in stats for the next year. He had sailed through the kid math with a flat bottomed schooner.

"Give it to me." He ordered.

Anakin worked with the numbers on the wheels, turning them as quickly as he could. One by one the numbers clicked into place. Soon the the whole lock clicked and Anakin flipped the locks open. Inside was more than enough money to cover the house.

"We should ask Shi Zi what to do." Scotty suggested, running his hands nervously through his thick, black hair.

They went back to Shi Zi with everything they had found. He looked it over carefully.

"Lo Chen, what have you found?" He asked.

"Shi Zi, we found the money and these. They are files on us. What should we do?" Scotty asked.

"Burn them. They do not need to know of you or what your talents are. Take them to the furnace and the money too and throw it all in right now." He told them with all due urgency.

Scotty nodded in obedience. He took the others to the basement furnace. It took a while, but they got it all in and closed the shield. Scotty felt free, and knew that soon his parents would be free. when they got back upstairs, Scotty noticed his father had come home. Liang saw the look in his son's eyes, a look of distrust and only minimal respect. It is to be expected, he thought, I have betrayed him and his friends. There is much work to do to win it back.

"I am very deeply sorry for what I have done. Have I disgraced you, my son?" Liang asked on his knees.

Scotty couldn't answer; he didn't know how. It was too hard. He loved his father, but could not trust him for a while.

"I love you," He finally said,"but right now I can't trust you. You betrayed me, my friends and your country and those we are trying to save from the cruelty of another." He tearfully chided.

Liang hated what he had done. He reached out for Scotty but he stepped back. The nearest shoulder to cry on was Anakin's. The older boy knelt to receive him. Liang's Lo Chen now cried tears of resentment and sorrow.

"Do you think he will forgive me?" Liang asked all before him.

Matthew stepped forward placing a hand on his shoulder. It will take some time, but he still loves you. He will forgive you eventually. We have to go now, things to do before we save the world from tyrants like Kim Jong-Il.

"Go," Shi Zi said,"see your movie, have your ice cream. My grandson needs it."

Matt and Tommy nodded in understanding. Their young friend needed to console and regroup before the mission or he would be useless. They changed their minds about doing the ice cream afterward. It had to be now. Anakin took Scotty out the door and began the process.

"It's a lot to process man, we'll help you however we can. The rest is up to you. You're going to have to grow up a little more now and be strong, like the creature they call you after; Lo Chen, little Lion. Lions are strong and brave and you have shed enough tears today. Hmm." Anakin said removing him from his shoulder.

It half way worked. Scotty began to stand up straight and look into Anakin's eyes. For a boy he didn't know, Anakin he surmised was a person he could trust. He sniffled a bit, wiped away his tears and filled his lungs with air. Scotty went from a betrayed mess to a just suitable Lo Chen with an attempt at his usual Cheshire smile. Anakin put his arm around him as he got up as the other maid their way out.

"Let's go to the van." He said.

"Yes, let's do." Lacey replied seconding the motion.

"I think we should do the Ice Cream first. There is at least one of us here that could use it right now. What do you say?" Tommy Inquired.

They all agreed. It wouldn't be right not to try and bring Scotty up further. Scotty seemed to be getting better the closer the group got to the van. He was still sniffling when they got there.

"So, a of disappointment I take it?" Grimes asked.

"For Scotty, yeah. He found out his parents had betrayed him and us and the country. We are going to change the order. He needs a good helping of kid's best friend." Matt explained.

"All right then, Ice Cream it is. Buckle up. When we arrive Pickard and I will go in with you, to keep a look out." Grimes said.

"Thanks," Tommy said.

"Before we go thought,"Grimes offered,"someone needs the hug of a father even if it isn't from their own."

Scotty submitted gladly. If it couldn't be his own father's hug for a time, at least it was a hug. Grimes hugged him warmly and tightly, emitting a grunt.

"Alright now, that should be enough. We have a pre-mission mission to attend to. Where to?" Grimes asked.

"Coldstone Corner, and just watch outside for us. Keep the KPAI away." Tommy ordered.

The others nodded in agreement.

The group sat down together in the ice cream parlor and agreed not to talk about the night's events.They all wanted to be kids for a while and think kid's thoughts.They ordered a wide variety of confections and some even shared a bite or two.Matt and Robyn sat near each other and talked about their
sensei Takawa.Robyn was wearing the friendship ring he had given her on the chain around her neck.

Next to them,Tommy had purposely sat by Lacey.He turned the conversation to anime because he knew how much she loved it.Scotty was pulled into a conversation about which RPG was the best and Matt noticed he was smiling.There was a lot of laughing and good natured teasing just like old times.

Outside ,unobserved their watch dogs stood guard.Finally Tommy pushed his chair back and said,

"Well what do you say gang?Are we ready to hit the movies now ?"

Everyone agreed and they left, laughing and jostling each other out the door.It was to be a night they would remember with fondness through the difficult days to follow.Matt and Robyn held hands during the movie .He whispered to her,

"No matter what happens Robyn,you can always depend on me."

"And you on me,"she answered back.

Sitting together in the darkened theater,they all felt a bond such as they had never felt before.Behind and in front of them the agents kept watch on their young charges.Tomorrow they would be off on their great adventure,but tonight they were just a bunch of friends out for fun.
BreakingRobert awoke to total darkness.His body ached all over and he had a splitting headache.He sat up and realized he was on a damp stone floor in some kind of cell.After a few minutes a bright light flashed off and on above him accompanied by the sound of a loud horn.The light and sound were intermittent but unpredictable.He tried closing his eyes and covering his ears but it didn't help.He knew what was going on.It was the first stage in the effort to break him.

It would be followed by semi-starvation and sleep deprivation.Kang had prepared him for this eventuality.
He knew that physical torture was a reality but they would want to keep him whole for propaganda reasons. He recalled a section of the CIA training manual he read when he was young:

"Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress."

From what he knew of this camp, intense pain was still a favorite on the torture agenda here, even though the Korean war had been over for more than fifty years.

After many hours, two guards came to escort Robert to be questioned. He tried to steel himself for what was to come.

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Robert was taken to a bank of showers and given soap, a towel and a change of clothes. A guard watched him as he shaved and combed his hair. After the shower, he felt much better. Then he was handcuffed and led into a room with a desk and two chairs. The man behind the desk was small and dark with beady eyes behind large glasses. He came around the desk after Robert was seated, to stand in front of him.

"I am Commander Kim Young Kuk. I have brought you here to answer some important questions, "he said in English.

"You have committed a very serious crime. Would you like to admit to the charges against you now or will you need to be persuaded?"The little man strutted back and forth in front of his prisoner wielding an ornate cane carved with black and red dragons. He was obviously enjoying his job tremendously.

He barked an order and a guard released Robert from the cuffs."Would you care for some tea?" asked the Commander graciously.

Robert nodded.His throat was burning, it had been a long time since he had anything to eat or drink.Another soldier came in with a tray of tea and some kind of bread.As Robert partook of the offerings,the guard proceeded to snap several pictures.Robert knew they would be used to show the world his humane treatment should the need arise.

As soon as the photos were taken,the Commander swung his cane,smashing the tray full of dishes against the wall.
"Now you will tell me how you managed to commit this great crime against our Dear leader and the Korean people."

Robert remained silent as the ornate cane came down again and again across his legs.Seeing that this would take some time,the Commander grew tired and had Robert returned to his cell.There were many more ways to deal with such obstinance and Kim Young Kuk was a master at all of them.
When the guards through Robert back in one of the in the cell next door handed him a message. Robert nodded in understanding.

"This came through the channels for the American agent." The young man said in Korean.

"Thank you." He said in return.

He read it over. It was short and to the point.

Your shadows are coming. Be ready to take
your freedom back. Two more days, then we get
electric.


Clandestine Club


He let out a silent snicker of hope. His sons were coming and Hoeryong 22 would never be the same again. Robert mustered the rest of his mettle for the next few rounds of questioning. The next morning it got tougher. Kuk wasn't letting up for a second, so Robert either.

"I am going to ask you again. What are you doing here? What is your mission. Who are you?" Kuk asked harshly.

"Mickey Mantle, what you never heard of me. I was on a hike and I ran across this place. I thought it was abandoned so I decided to take a look. I didn't know anyone was here."

A soldier hit him across the face, hard. Robert just took it. He had to by the kids time to get closer in. He was wondering if they had made it to Taiwan yet.

"Again, Who are you?" Kuk questioned again.

"Darth Vader, lord of the empire." Robert replied, still indignant, "Your beloved leader is nothing more than a tyrant and a terrorist of his own people. He deserves to die and he will eventually and be thrust down to hell for his crimes."

Kuk laughed, he was beginning to like Robert. He was tough and truthful. This truth was one he did not want to entertain in front of his men.

"You are wrong. Kim Jong-Il is a great man." Kuk taunted.

"Poor deluded man. The truth will set you free eventually, then you will cry for true independence for your people." Robert told him with an iron stare.

"We shall see." Kuk replied smugly, "Take him away."

As the guards hauled him out he began to sing a hymn he used to sing a great deal.

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah
Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation
Kings shall extol him and nations revere


Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain
Mingling with gods he can plan for his brethren
Death shall not conquer the hero again.

Then he sang the last verse even louder. Many looked up, they were religious prisoners and recognized the song. The man was a Mormon- a Latter-day Saint.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven
Earth must atone for the blood of that man
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice
Millions shall know brother Joseph again.

The guards were moved by the song and didn't throw him in this time. Robert sang hymns all night. Those in the prison with him began to feel hope for the first time in quite a few years. Every day after that was more of the same. Robert knew that eventually Kuk would wear down becoming so frustrated that his focus would leave him and the kids would be successful.

"Robert was taken to a bank of showers and given soap,a towel and a change of clothes.A guard watched him as he shaved and combed his hair.After the shower ,he felt much better.Then he was handcuffed and led into a room with a desk and two chairs.The man behind the desk was small and dark with beady eyes behind large glasses.He came around the desk after Robert was seated ,to stand in front of him. "I am Commander Kim Young Kuk.I have brought you here to answer some important questions ,"he said in English. "You have committed a very serious crime.Would you like to admit to the charges against you now or will you need to be persuaded?"The little man strutted back and forth in front of his prisoner wielding an ornate cane carved with black and red dragons.He was obviously enjoying his job tremendously. He barked an order and a guard released Robert from the cuffs."Would you care for some tea?" asked the Commander graciously. Robert nodded.His throat was burning, it had been a long time since he had anything to eat or drink.Another soldier came in with a tray of tea and some kind of bread.As Robert partook of the offerings, the guard proceeded to snap several pictures. Robert knew they would be used to show the world his humane treatment should the need arise. As soon as the photos were taken the Commander swung his cane, smashing the tray full of dishes against the wall. "Now you will tell me how you managed to commit this great crime against our Dear leader and the Korean people." Robert remained silent as the ornate cane came down again and again across his legs. Seeing that this would take some time, the Commander grew tired and had Robert returned to his cell. There were many more ways to deal with such obstinance and Kim Young Kuk was a master at all of them."

"I am afraid not Kuk. You know the truth about your leader and how many of your people has killed for hi vain ambition. He is a Tyrant and I have committed no crime but to free others from his tyranny. They are free now and you will never find them. My people are on their way to come and get me. Those photographs you are going to publish are lies and you know it. In your real heart, you feel a disgrace. You are only here because you do not want to be seen by the people that despise the man you blindly serve. I know you are better than that Kuk. One more day and darkness will overshadow this camp. One day Kuk, that is all."

Kuk wished desperately that he could have the man shot and shut him up for good. Hearing his own conscience thrown in his face every day was wearing him down. He had once been a young naive officer who truly believed in what he was doing. Now he knew he was just another puppet manipulated by a heinous monster. The horrible experiments and degrading treatment inflicted on fellow countrymen was as bad as Hitler ever contrived. Kuk was a tortured man.

Robert rose from his seat and began to sing another song. It was one of the first hymns he had ever learned. It one of the west's most powerful.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Twas grace that taught
my heart to fear
And grace my fear relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The day I first believed.

He changed the words on the next verse to make his final point get through.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
Twas grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.


Kuk flopped into his chair. The puppet was broken, they all were. Robert walked back to his unlocked cell alone. Before he left the room he asked the photographer for her camera and smashed it, looking her square in the eye.

"Only the truth will set this country free and it will come out. Come with me." Robert ordered.

Robert took the young woman all over the camp, excepting the places he could not go. He asked if she had clearance for the labs on the other side of the camp. She nodded and they went there too. Every picture filled her eyes with more tears. Soon she was handing the camera to Robert who did his duty and took the new roll of film home with him in his pocket. He was finished and returned the camera to her and walked around some more taking good looks at the children. Those adults who knew English asked the stranger to take them out.

"Eight o'clock moon," He told them.

It had only been a couple of days since Robert had gotten caught at Hoeryong. The Clandestine Club was ready to see another country. They were going as a summer class to Taiwan and the Korean peninsula, but staying primarily in Taipei. Grimes and Pickard were with them as they met Kang who welcomed them to his country with open arms.

Matt and Scotty hugged him right away. They were in a latover period in Seoul. This was a first trip for all of them to Asia. Luckily, they could skip the next flight because that next flight would be on an Air Force C-130 from the nearest US airbase. Kang looked at the agents with them.

"I trust the trip was uneventful?" He asked.

"They slept most of the way after dinner." Grimes reported.

"This is good." Kang surmised aloud.

They had slept almost all the way to Seoul, their bodies adjusting to each time zone change. There was a lot yawning though, and hunger pangs. It was 6:00 pm and they hadn't eaten in twelve hours. This was a record for Tommy who usually couldn't go more than six hours.

"I'm hungary," he exclaimed.

Kang laughed and guided everyone away from the gate. The good thing was that they didn't bring much beyond one set of good clothes and for Robyn, and Matt some darker ones fro the mission. Abby and Ami had arranged for them a week before. The Company had also graciously provided them with notebook computers which were sent to Kang the same week mostly for Matt, Lacey , Membaya and Tommy. The two predators were also waiting for them at Hua Lien Airbase. Kang took them outside to two vans. Matt, Robyn and Scotty went with Kang in the head van, the rest in the other.

"I am going to take you to the hotel and let you clean up, then we will go to the night market at Itaewon and get you fed." Kang told them.


When they got to the vans Kang and the two agents loaded them up. Once inside the lead van, Kang directed their attention to the two cases beside them.

"Those cases, pick them up and open them." He ordered.

The laptops inside were amazing, and heavy. They had the newest and best of everything Lenovo had to offer. Even the quad-core processors made themselves known, their speed blinding. They had the things kids would usually find in a heartbeat a couple of good movies and "Star Wars Battle front" and "force unleashed". Membaya and Matt checked their email accounts first. Nothing new, just other kids bored with where they are. Matt finally received the answers he had been waiting for the last couple of weeks from the MIT physics department.

Thank you for your inquiry,

After much experimentation we have come up with a streamlined version of your small scale EMP design for the two Predator craft.

Per your request, we have forwarded them to the US Airforce Base at Langley Virginia. We were quite impressed with the original design and hope you consider coming to learn at our institution when you are ready. It took a great deal of discipline to study the things you did and we have scholarship waiting for a summer camp were are planning for next year in June.

Good luck and God speed.

Marcus J Crowley
Dean of Physics and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

PS: Your EMPs rated at 1/3 of a mile in radius. Impressive!

Matt didn't want to say anything, and so he just smiled. He went through the other emails. Membaya did the same. At the bottom of the short list was the software for the Predator UAV they would be flying in the morning. The two friends looked through all of it. It was awesome to see it again and soon they would use it too.

"I see that these meet with your approval." Kang noted.

"Yes," they answered together.

"Thank you," Matt said, "I am going to make you an honorary uncle. This is so rad."

"I am glad that you approve. However, they did not come from me exclusively. I went to the bank this morning and got these for you and the others." He said handing them each four envelopes.

Matt opened his envelope. Inside was a stack of won and and another of Taiwan Dollars. Matt wasn't sure he could take it.

"I don't know if I can take this. It's too much." He suggested.

"Why not? It is yours." Kang told him.

"What?" Matt asked.

"It is your money. Your father had it set aside for your group with his director's approval." Kang explained.

Matt and Membaya smiled as they looked at one another. They would have this kind of money whenever they needed it. They wondered how much was there. As Matt began to count it, Kang told them how much it was.

"There are 65000 won one thousand six hundred thirty Taiwan dollars." Kang rattled out.

It took Matt a moment to do the exchange math. It sounded like a lot in the other money. He still felt a little guilty.

"That's over a hundred dollars American. How much more do we have?" Matt replied.

"Enough for several long vacations or prolonged missions here, if you wish it." Kang estimated, "I don't know the exact number because I had to burn the receipts."

"That's okay, it's just good to know it's there." Matt replied.

Soon they came to a hotel they knew. It was a Holiday in that would be in keeping with the cover. They would return to it later, when the mission was over. Then they looked in the bottom of their Laptop cases and found a credit card.

"Those are for the hotel only. Nothing else." Kang explained.

They both nodded in understanding. The have received their packages as well, but not the money. Your father's director asked who among was the most frugal and your name came up Matthew. Do not disappoint him.

"I won't." Matt promised.

"Now it is time you all had a shower and some rest and recreation. Let's get your team unloaded." Kang exclaimed.

They all got of the vans. Membaya and Matt handed everyone their money for the three days, warning them not to spend too much of their won. Then he got to Tommy and made sure he understood.

"Tommy, here is your money for the trip. Do you want me to hold it or can you handle it yourself. I know how bad you can be with this much money." Matt suggested.

Tommy pushed his hand back, "You're right, you better hold it. This is one thing I'm not good at,"

Matt put his brother's money away, "I'll give you some for dinner later."

Then he turned to Kang, "How much does something nutritious cost at the market?"

"Shouldn't be more than eighteen hundred won." Kang answered.

"Thanks," Matt replied.

One inside they were divided up into rooms the four boys sleeping in one and the girls in the other. There was also one agent per room. Pickard took the girls to their room as Grimes did with the boys. At least two kids in each room fell back onto the beds. One at a time they all took a shower, coming out dressed and semi ready to go.

The agents had returned to their rooms one at a time to take showers and change clothes. Kang was waiting fro them when they arrived in the lobby.

"Good evening." Kang greeted.

They all nodded and walked out to the vans with Kang. It wasn't a long ride, but just seemed that way with the traffic. Motor scooters hurried by as the rode the streets.
They finally came to the market thirty minutes later. Kang and Grimes looked about, anyone could be a KPA Intelligence agent. They tapped the van doors and the kids emerged.

"Everyone stay together. You have not been here before so it is easy to get lost or abducted. Be very careful." Kang warned.

The kids were excited, it was all so new this style of shopping and eating, They had never done it before. They wandered through slowly for a while staying only a few feet ahead of Kang, Grimes and Pickard. There was so much to see, but so little time for them to do it. Soon they came to a good food stand that sold Korean spring rolls and a very appetizing stir fry with noodles. Matt knew what he wanted almost immediately. He went up to the vendor, but coudn't read the characters.

"What's that?" He asked Kang.

"Daeha gui, good choice Matthew. It is Stir fry vegetables with shrimp." Kang told him, ordering it with fresh shrimp and two spring rolls, "You will like these."



Tommy wound up with shrimp ,rice and a traditional side dish called Kimchi.Everybody laughed at the face he made when he took a bite.Kang smiled and said,

Don't worry Tommy,it's an acquired taste.Tommy looked a little sheepish but he tried another bite.

"Tastes like pickled cabbage he groaned."

The market was bustling now with the late crowd,many of them soldiers from the nearby base.There were forty embassies in Itaewon so a multi cultural sea of faces surged around them.The agents were getting nervous but the kids were loving the hubbub and the feeling of excitement in the air.

Tommy caught up with Matt and pulled him aside.

"Listen bro,"he said,"You know that cool necklace you gave Robyn? Well I saw something I want to get Lacey a few stalls back.Do you think you could give me some of my cash and cover for me for a few minutes?"

Matt thought it was a bad idea but he pressed some money into Tom's hand and said,

"Make it fast Tommy,it's too dangerous here to be separated."

"Will do ,"Tommy shot back and slipped into the crowd and was gone.

Matt doubled back to ask the agents a mundane question about the fish mongers wares just to distract them.

Five minutes later Kang was mentally counting heads when he came up short.He checked again just to be sure and then alerted the other agents.Finding a rather uncrowded spot in the flow of traffic,Kang called them all together.

"Where's Tom?"he queried,"Matthew do you know where your brother went?"

Matt came clean and admitted what happened .He was sure Tommy would catch up any minute.They all turned around and began retracing their steps.The agents spread out and went into a preplanned mode of operation .

Matt knew which vendor Tommy was headed for because he had noticed his interest in the place earlier. He apologized for the ruse and led them back to the jewelry stand. While Kang conversed with the vendor, Matt glanced around for any sign of Tommy. He was hanging his head in dismay and anger at himself for letting this happen, when he spotted something on the ground. Bending down, he picked up a chain with a silver coin on it. It was Tommy's .He must have left it for a sign before he was abducted.


"Excuse me, Ma'am. Was there a boy here a minute ago just a little older than me.?" Matt asked.

"Yes, young one he was here. He bought this. Two men took him, I think KPAI. I hate them." The vendor said to him.

"Thank you," Matt replied as she handed him the pendant and Tommy's change.

She could see the self anger in his little face. "Let me see," She said with a mother's wisdom, "You think it was your fault, don't you?"

Matt nodded. There was only one thing she could offer him. She was about to offer it when the enemy agents came up behind him. Matt knew he had to get out of there. He turned stamping on both of their toes as hard as he had strength for pushing them both by their seats into the vendors stall.
Seeing Grimes clearly through the crowd, Matt ran for him straight away.

"I'm so sorry, guys. This if my fault if I hadn't given him that thousand and distracted you this wouldn't have happened." Matt apologized.

"What wouldn't have happened?" Grimes asked ah knelt to meet his eyes.

"He wanted to get something for Lacey two stalls back and I gave him the money and let him go."

"You thought it might still be okay because it wasn't far. It is a common mistake, especially for a kid." Grimes offered.

"Wrong place right time right?" Matt asked.

"Exactly. By the way, how did you get away from those two so quickly?" He asked rsing with a hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Ever seen the 'Three Ninjas' movies?" Matt asked him.

"Yes, I have seen two of them." Grimes answered with a nod of understanding.

Just then the KPAI agents started running toward them. Grimes drew his Glock from his belt. They stopped cold.

"You don't want this boy or his brother. You will return him by midnight or die. Am I clear?" Grimes said pointing the model 30 at his forehead.

Pickard was just turning to see what all the commotion was. He saw the two enemy agents, Grimes had his Glock trained on his brain. Pickard pulled out his Smith and Wesson M&P 45, as he joined Grimes in protecting Matt. Both KPAI's were staring down barrels and they backed of bursting into a run.

"You heard him, midnight or your dead," Matt called out as the other two chuckled.

Matt wanted his brother back. He would do anything to make it happen and Grimes knew it, but Matt also knew that Tommy could get himself out of it if he slowly analyzed his situation.


A Brother's Duty


Tommy soon found himself in a van blindfolded and heading for somewhere. It was too close by to be away from Seoul, he realized as they pulled in somewhere and stopped. The enemy agents were taking him somewhere, but he couldn't see where. They dragged him up some stairs and into an empty room throwing him into a chair. When the blindfold finally came off he was in front of a desk. Tommy looked around to see what else was there. The room had three huge banks of windows; one on either side of him and the third behind the desk. Tommy watched as the desk chair slowly turned around to reveal its occupant, a man in his late twenties.


"I am just an American student, what do you want with me," Tommy asked with youthful indignation.

"You are more than what you say. My name is Byung Chul." The man in the chair told him.

"Your man made a mistake. We are not the ones, there was another group ahead of us. They are the ones you want." Tommy piped up.

"I think not. You are a child so I will not hurt you." Byung intimated.

"I've heard that before." Tommy barked.

When Matt gave him the thousand won, he had folded in a surprise for any attacker. He had brought along more of the little EMP devices he had made. Only five had been constructed with a detector so Matt could find him. With the money out of his pocket, he could now feel it between his thumb and forefinger. It felt like a car entry fob. Tommy knew because sometimes Abby had allowed him to hold onto hers. He smiled wryly as he inconspicuously pulled it out. Tommy let the man ramble on. It was pathetic to him, pathetic and lame.

"You know your men didn't tie me up. That's a real mistake Mr. Chul." Tommy intimated

"Oh really, and why is that?" Byung asked.

“Because I am a kid with a genius brother who happens to be a more than fair gadget man." Tommy chided.

He pulled out the device and pressed the center button throwing it under Byung's desk. The charge took only half of the room. Luckily, it wasn't his half. As soon as he was sure the agents were knocked out, Tommy left running as quickly as he could. He wanted to get as far away from them as possible.

Back at the night market, Grimes called Tommy in as missing. It was a good move and would assure Tommy assistance if he was able to escape from the KPAI.
Tommy knew he wasn't far from the night market but he wasn't sure which way to go.He climbed to the top of a nearby building and looked around.It was late and very few lights were on where he was.A few miles away however he could see a glow that lit up the night sky.It had to be the market.It stayed open until the wee hours of the morning.

He crouched down and scanned the area below the building.All was quiet.Catlike,he landed on his feet in the alley way. "What I wouldn't give for that Glock Dad taught me how to use right now."

A commotion at the corner drew his attention. He could tell it was KPAI agents looking for him.
Knowing it might be dangerous, he took his shoes off and ran down the alleyway. Tommy knew he was taking chance, but he had to get back to the group. He ran the whole way stopping periodically to make sure there was nobody behind him. After a while, Tommy had come out of the alley and into a street where he sat down and put his shoes back on. He could still hear the voices of the KPAI agents behind him.

Tommy looked around; he could hear other voices too. He felt safe enough to walk toward the other voices. Soon Tommy came to another alley. There were two men there standing beside two SUVs. One of them had what looked like a steel briefcase, the other was backed in and had some small crates. This was an arms deal going down. It looked like he would have the Taurus that he couldn't bring with him. He carefully showed himself, though foolish it might have seemed. The two men saw him and turned around as he dropped from sheer exhaustion.

"Where did you come from." The man asked

He was an American, Tommy could tell from his deep Texas drawl. Tommy began his story.

"My Name is Tommy Macon. I was abducted about an hour ago by KPAI agents. I've been trying to get away ever since." Tommy explained.

"You should be hiding." The arms dealer told him.

"My group of students leaves from Seoul tomorrow for Taipei. I have to get out of here and back to my hotel. I thought if you could let me borrow one of the Glocks there I could use it to defend myself." Tommy further explained.

"Alright, for a fellow American running from communist scum. I could do that I don't think your hand would quite fit it. The tall Texan scoured his crates for a pistol that would fit his hand better than a Glock. He quickly found two revolvers; a Taurus 627 with a laser grip and a Smith and Wesson of the same model number. Let me see your right paw tiger."

Tommy put his grubby right hand out paw up. The Texan put both revolvers in his hand. The Taurus was the best fit. He wrapped Tommy's hand around it.

"There, how's that?" asked the Texan adding, "Winthrop P Alexander, arms dealer extraordinaire at your service young sir," handing him a card.

Tommy took it and stuffed it in his pants pocket. It was something he would have to remember not to forget. Alexander quickly handed him four quick loaders for the revolver. "You don't have to pay me for this. Anyone who has been a prisoner of scum like that is a friend of mine." Winthrop told him. "I'm not sure I trust a twelve year-old kid with this set up, But you're desperate, so I am going to help you properly. Anything else you need?" The man asked.

"Yeah, Incheon market how much farther?" Tommy hurriedly asked.

"Go up this alley for about seven buildings and take a right and get back onto the street. You'll be there in no time. If you need a blockade, tell the police who you are and that you are being followed by North Korean agents. Tell them to get you to whatever hotel you're staying at. This is my good deed for the day." The man told him.

The agents were getting closer, So Tommy got up and started to run as quickly as he could. The arms dealer and his buyer blocked them off to give the boy time to disappear into the shadows. Once he had, the agents were allowed to pass. They had lost their quarry. Tommy zipped his hoodie up over the firearm to hide it. He knew he couldn't stop for a few minutes at least. Soon he could see the light of the Incheon market in the distance and decided to turn right onto the street peering around the corner before moving forward. The street was clear of suits. There were no voices in the distance, he'd lost them.

The Police had been looking for him since Grimes had reported him missing. An officer spotted him.

"Young man!" The officer called out to him.

Tommy stopped and turned around. He was a man if almost fifty with a kind face. Tommy's guard came down some. They reported me missing, he thought. He stood still and did nothing.

"Are you the missing boy?" The officer asked.

"My group reported me missing?" Tommy asked in return.

"Yes, they did." The officer answered.

"Are they still at the market?" Tommy asked again.

"No, they have returned to their hotel." The officer told him, "You look hungry. I will take you to the market first."

Tommy got into the squad car and they went to the market. The Jewelry stall owner recognized him immediately. "Are you okay, little one?" she asked.

"A little out of breath and hungry, but otherwise okay." Tommy answered.

"Your brother picked up your purchase and took the change. Come you must eat, I will take you to my brother." She said.

Before they left she took him from the officer, "I can handle things from here. My brother lives by their hotel." She told him.

Her brother Kim was fast and had Tommy's dinner ready in a flash. it was hot and complete with warm kimchi. Tommy didn't know he would like the Kimchi much but he was hungry and didn't care. He was just finishing up the stir fry when the agents' voices again. It was time to go. Kim wrapped up his Tommy's kimchi and put in the pocket of his hoodie.

"No time for a ride, young one. It would be faster to run, to the Queen Hotel. Follow this street five block than take left for thee first building on right." Kim instructed.

"Thank you both." Tommy said rushing off.

The KPAI Agents were closer than Tommy had thought. He ran down three blocks and skirted an alley, ducking far into the darkness of the shadow. The kimchi was still warm against his belly which still gurgled with hunger. Tommy took it out and unwrapped it. To his surprise, it tasted quite good for more veggies with some shrimp mixed in and rapped in cabbage. He waited until the KPAI was truly out of sight and made his way down the alley his new Glock drawn. The alley took him as far as he wanted to go so eh turned onto the street the thought the hotel might be on and pushed himself to reach the hotel quickly and without being seen. Tommy lowed down as soon as he saw the Queen Hotel. KPAI were all over it. He had two choices, use his art or avoid it if he could. His teacher had always told him to use his Tae Kwan Do only as a last resort. Laid low for a short while, hoping he wouldn't be seen. Tommy had to darken his colors to fade into the shadows and get into the alley behind the hotel. Heart beat hard and fast in his chest in part from the adrenaline coursing through his veins and partly from the running he had had to do since he left the warehouse. He waited a moment, taking off his shoes again and walking to the other alley, peering around the corner to see if he'd been noticed. The alley behind the hotel was dark, only moonlight from above. Tommy crossed the street quickly taking care not to bump anything. When he arrived at the back door, he knocked quietly on it and waited. After a while the door opened and the kitchen assistant recognized the missing boy and pulled him in quickly. Tommy released a sigh of relief, but his trouble still wasn't completely over.
A KPAI agent came around the corner and stood face to face with Tommy. He instantly reacted by using the GTL red laser attached to the Glock.It was high end technology for special forces. Tommy flashed it directly into the man's eyes.The result was gratifying,the agent yelled and stopped dead in his tracks temporarily blinded. Tommy took the opportunity to dash for the hotel elevator, stowing his new friend away and hoping nobody would notice. He was sore all over and just wanted to get to the hotel room and the steam bath. Tommy looked behind to see if the man had followed yet. 'All Clear' he thought as the elevator opened just in time. He made a dash for it, getting there just as it started to close and dived in.

"Glad you could join us, Thomas." A familiar voice said.

Tommy looked up and there was Grimes smiling pretty as a picture he didn't want to take. Tommy snickered.

"Sorry, I'm late. I got held up, they are still chasing me too." He said.

Grimes chuckled for a moment. "You're lucky I was coming down for a bit of dinner. It would have been much harder to get here if I hadn't decided to have a break." He chided.

"I know and I am sorry about earlier. It's just..." Tommy said.

"You have a thing for that Lacey girl. Be careful with that during the mission from now on."

It was then that Grimes noticed the Tracker 627 on Tommy's shoulder.

"You do know that no civilian can own a gun in this country, do you not?"

"Yes, I was desperate. KPAI were chasing me, so I got it from an arms dealer in the middle of a deal. Luckily he was Texan, he gave it to me said it was already paid for." Tommy explained.

"So I am guessing that you want me to make it legal for you to have this then." Grimes suggested.

"If you can, that would be great." Tommy requested.

"I'll get you a New Hampshire and a Virginia and then work on the Korean peninsula and Taiwan." Grimes mused.

"Thanks a bunch, sir. Can you send it to the base we're going to?" Tommy then asked.

"Of course I will, as soon as its legal in three countries."

"Thanks again," Tommy said as the elevator opened on the fourth floor.

"You’re welcome. It should be on the books of the other countries as American government issue. They will see you as a military child and leave you alone." Grimes told him

Tommy got out of the elevator and headed for the room number 453. He couldn't wait to get in the steam bath.


As Tommy came to the door he was greeted by agent Pickard. He knew everyone would be either happy or relieved to see him. They had all been worried.

"Well, I see you found your way back. You look tire you should go have a bath and get some rest. This is in fact a new record, you know. The shortest amount of time a person stayed captured." Pickard extolled.

Tommy just smiled and ran his slightly damaged key card through the lock. When he opened the door two arms reached out from behind and grabbed him. It was Anakin. When he saw who it was he had, he turned Tommy around.

"Wow, I thought you'd be gone a whole lot longer. They said until midnight." Anakin said surprised and happy to see his friend.

"It would probably have been longer than that if I didn't have a brother with a most excellent head on his shoulders." Tommy explained.

Then he went and sat by Matt and hugged him tight. Matt didn't even pull away, he liked it.

"Thanks, little bro. I don't know what else to say other than you probably saved my life." Tommy continued.

"Don't I always. Mom says what she says, but it always turns itself around. I'm just glad you're back. I put out bed clothes for you just in case and fresh underwear." Matt pointed out.

It was good to be back with everyone. The girls had heard the noise nad come running. Pickard saw them come out their door.

"What's up sir?" Lacey asked.

"Oh nothing," Pickard answered with a smile and a wink, "Thomas just returned to us, that's all."

There followed a chaotic half hour while the girls mobbed Tommy,laughing, hugging and questioning him.He was dirty and exhausted but happy to be with his friends.

"Let me get a bath and change and I will tell you the whole story,"Tom said.

Everyone agreed.They put on a movie and the whole Club sat around eating snacks and talking while they waited for Tommy.
Nobody wanted to go to sleep yet .They were stoked on nervous energy from the abduction and safe return of their friend.
Tommy came out a few minutes later wearing PJ's and a thick robe.

He told them about using Matt's devices to get away and about the Texan with the Glock.They were very impressed.
By the time he finished his tale,he couldn't stop yawning.
Seeing his exhaustion,the agents broke up the party.

"Okay girls,time to hit the sack,"Kang told them,"I'll escort you back to your room.Tomorrow's a big day."

After they were gone,Tommy took Matthew aside and said,

"Sorry I got you in trouble Bro,I never thought it would go down like that."

Matt shrugged,"No worries,"he answered,"It all turned out okay."

Then Tommy asked,"Do you have the necklace?I want to give it to Lacey when we have a little time alone.I didn't want to mention it in front of everyone."

Matt went to the dresser and pulled out a drawer.

"As a matter of fact, I have two necklaces, Lacey's and yours. Leaving that clue was quick thinking on your part."
The steam bath felt great, Tommy would have to get one new pair of socks when he got home. Abby would have his head if she saw the condition of those socks, not to mention the Taurus. That was a personal score of sorts or it would be when it cleared all the security protocols to be an CIA weapon. His muscles began to relax and he wiped off the dirt and sweat. That felt good too. After five more minutes he emerged from the steamy bath a fresh young man.
The next morning, after breakfast, Tommy pulled Lacey aside.

"What's up?" she asked, "You look so serious. Is anything wrong?"

Tommy laughed, "No, everything's fine. It's just that I have something for you."

The infamous piece of jewelry was a Hangul necklace. Hangul is the name of the official alphabet script used in both North and South Korea. It was a slip cord with a silver oval. Inside the oval Hangul letters spelled out the word friend .

He unfolded the tissue paper and held it up. A shaft of sunlight sparkled off the silver pendant and reflected in the girl's eyes. Tommy was entranced.

"Beautiful!" she whispered.

"Yes, so beautiful," he said, but he meant the sweet girl standing before him.

She didn't notice but simply reached out to take the exquisite gift from his hand.

"Oh Tommy, does it say Friend? How nice of you," she gushed.
Will you help me put it on? I want to wear it now."

Tommy smiled and helped her fasten it around her neck. When it was on, she gave him a big hug and ran away saying,

"I have to show it to the others and I have to see how it looks in the mirror.Thank you so much,I love it."

Tommy stood there stunned for a second.Wow he thought,it must be a girl thing.Walking back to join his brother and the others he felt like the whole escapade was worth it.Her reaction made it all worth while.


Tommy followed her to the table. He was greeted with smiles from every female there. In fact, he seated himself beside Matt and across from Robyn, who sat on his other side. Lacey stared at him the whole meal. Tommy didn't whether to feel embarrassed or satisfied that he had finally gotten this right after two years of trying. He settled on the second emotion, it seemed better for the situation.
At Langley Air Force base Abby Macon,now Claire Mason,strode back and forth across the debriefing room.In communication with her husband's partner on the other side of the world,she fumed, "What do you mean my son was abducted right out from under your nose?"

Michael Grimes knew Abby well.He realized she was a mother concerned for her sons' safety above all else. There was no fighting that, so he notified her of the good news.

"He was back with us before midnight safe and sound,"Grimes added quickly.He did not mention the Taurus."Everything is a Go for the next stage,"he told her.

Abby would have loved to talk to the boys but she did not want to play favorites .They were alright and they needed to stay focused on their mission. She was satisfied for now that Tommy was safe and somewhat sound. As the handler on this mission, she couldn't afford anymore slip ups, but as Matt and Tom's mother she was glad they were safe.

"Keep me informed,"she said crisply and ended the transmission.

A short while later, A duty agent came into the room and handed her new orders for transfer to Hua Lien Airbase, Taiwan. Abby felt relieved that she would see her boys again.

"Thank you," he said as she took the envelope.

Major Andrews came up just then, "Coming to Hua Lien with us Major?" He asked.

"Yes I am. Are they ready for us?" Abby asked him.

"For the most part, yes." Abby replied,"
"When will the eggs arrive?"

Andrews hurried over to open the door for Abby,"11:00 hrs Taiwan time." Answered Andrews.

"I will be ready to leave within the hour. I need one thing from the house, my son's revolver. Can you get it for me?" Abby requested.

"Certainly." Andrews replied, "I'll go get it now if you wish."

Abby handed Andrews the front door key to the house. She knew she could trust him. From the time she was young she had had an odd sense of those things. It was never just a feeling; it was always absolute knowledge.

"It's in the safe in the basement. I have a feeling Tommy might need it again." Abby told him in confidence.

"Intel says otherwise ma'am. Last night at 21:00 hrs Taiwan zone time a request for legalization of a Taurus 627 was requested of the CIA for Virginia and New Hampshire in your husband's name as a military/government issue weapon for your son. Seems he picked one up from a goodhearted arms dealer. It is still pending, Ma'am." Andrews advised.

"Thank you. Has it been approved yet?" Abby asked.

"Just about, just needs authorization." Andrews reported.

Abby took out a slip of paper and wrote a code on the back. It was the code her father had given her when she was fifteen. She now had the best reason in the world to use it. Her boys had shown great prowess and maturity in the way they handled the abduction. Abby also sensed that Matt must have noticed the agents or at least felt their presence nearby when he let Tommy separate from the group, and no doubt with one of his little devices in hand. That's my little genius, she thought, very clever testing the other side's competence like that.

"Make it so, Major and quickly." She ordered.

"Immediately." Andrews replied as he left her in the hall.

Abby walked out of the building and across to her room into the officer barracks. A new feeling came over her. Her sons had become proficient agents. She took a breath and settled into a new confidence in her sons to bring their father back. Maybe the video games had helped Tommy for this eventuality. He seemed prepared enough, but not as prepared as prepared as she would have liked.


Robert was taken to a four and a half by nine foot isolation cell so that he would not be able to influence the other prisoners.The beatings stopped.In fact everything stopped.Kuk was trying a deprivation mode now.He was still underestimating his American prisoner.

Robert sang his songs and talked aloud to Jehovah so he never felt alone.He walked back and forth in the tiny cell thinking about what his family was doing to prepare for his rescue.He closed his eyes and envisioned Abby's lovely face.Soon they would all be together again.

Despite the setbacks, the mission was going as planned. Abby's C-130 was rolling into Hua lien Airbase as the Clandestine Club landed in Taipei. Both airplanes were aboard her; Abby took the smaller one into her care. She knew Matt would be excited to see his old friend again. He wouldn't mind seeing his new one either. Abby picked up the small crate and her overnight bag, heading for her room in the Barracks. A few hours later, she heard a pleasant noise outside the door; the kids had made it. her door was open as they went buy and she turned to face it just as Tommy went by.

"Promise me you'll never do something that foolish again." she beckoned giving her son a hard embrace.

"Mom?" Tommy asked in amazement.

"I'm here now. Nothing stupid, promise me." Abby scolded as she held his young face and kissed it.

Struggling a bit to make her let go Tommy promised her that it was a one time thing. Abby was glad to see her sons safe again. She grabbed Matt into the circle and hugged him tightly as well.

"Thank you for watching out for Tommy. You did a good job." she praised.

"It was nothing, really." Matt said with a head wag.

"Everyone get settled in. We have just a bit more training ,some lunch and then we get ready to leave again."

Matt peered around the corner of his mother's door, seeing the small wooden crate on a table just inside. Abby noticed him looking in the general direction.

"You want some time with that, son or can it wait a bit?" Abby inquired.

Matt stepped back and nodded, clutching the handle of the laptop bag. He wanted to get to know the new system. That and the fact that this plane was his baby made him more eager to get it out.

"Can I do it now?" Matt asked.

"Yes, go get unpacked and I'll take her out for you." Abby told him.

He ran down the hallway shouting with glee. All of the others except for Tommy followed him. Tommy knew his mother would want to know every detail of his abduction. It was only proper for him to relent.

"SO I guess you want to know what happened in Seoul." Tommy cowed.

"I certainly do young man," she scolded with a smile.

They shared a quick chuckle as they went inside Abby's quarters. They talked ash they helped each other open the crate Matt's plane was in.

"So what was it that made you do something so horrendously stupid? Don't tell me it was you being a kid." Abby chided.

"I wanted to get something for Lacey. It was something a couple stalls back." Tommy explained.

"Ah, then it was young love. I can't be mad then. Just take more care with your timing in the future. Help me get this out for your brother." Abby replied.

The R/C plane was heavier than it had been before. The small computer inside made sure of that. It was beautiful though. Deeper inside the crate were the munitions it would carry, ten Electromagnetic pulse grenades ready to go. Mother and son hugged each other one more time and she let Tommy leave to get another shower in before lunch.

Kang smiled as he watched just delivered footage of Kwang Jung Bae and his family.Recovering at an undisclosed site,the video showed Kwang's grandchildren laughing and playing around their grandparents.

"If only you were here to see this Robert ,my friend,"whispered Kang as Abby walked up behind him.

Abby put her hand on the man's shoulder and said,

"He knows,Kang,he knows."

"The frail agent started at her presence and said,

"Oh Abby,I didn't hear you come in.You must see this."

"Well I guess all my stealth training is working," she laughed.

As Abby sat down to review the video, Kang asked,

"Is Matt checking out his pride and joy?"

"You know it!" she chuckled," He is in his glory right now."

On a relatively unused runway, Matt and Membaya were performing final check flights of the predators. Matt was glad to have his old friend again. One table was set up on one end with the two UAVs plating follow the leader. Membaya opened the laptop with the ARES software on board and began programming a new flight sequence that the major had given her. Andrews had given Matt his course headings too. It was all very complex, but Matt was beginning to get the hang of it. Andrews watched with binoculars. The two dots they were seemed to dance in the clouds. These kids were ready for their mission.

"Bring them in, it's time for chow." he ordered

Membaya gave Matthew a nod and he began his descent coming straight up the runway, stopping a couple feet from where Andrews stood. Membaya was still in the crossing pattern and turned the larger Predator around gently and brought it in.

"Good job, kids. Now let's go get some chow in the officer's mess." Andrews added.

They hadn't even paid attention to the time. When they finally looked, it was 13:30. Training had taken two hours. Matt was satisfied with the time he had gotten to train and was confident everything would go well.

"Do you think we're ready, Major?" He asked Andrews.

"Yes, you flew very well today. You are more ready than you know. Just take extreme care out there and dress warm, alright." Andrews assured him.

"Thank you sir, I will. That's my mom talking isn't it?" Matthew asked.

"Maybe, some. I am a father and we have all been charged with your care. So bundle up when you get to Yanji. Just so you know my fourth grader loved your last science fair project. Says his whole class did." Andrews offerd.

"Tell him I said thanks and his was good too. The judges just like mine and Mems' more. Just the way it goes." Matt added.

"So it is. He got third and was happy with it. Last year he got nothing. Though I wouldn't call honorable mention nothing. It meant he was getting close to a great project." Andrews confided.

"He'll get it next year. Maybe I'll team up with him. Let me know what he plans fro next year. Tell him congratulations for me." Matt offered.

" I will next time I call him. Let's go get some chow before the big boys strip the officer's mess devoid of everything." Andrews replied.

Membaya laughed at the man's observation. It was at least partially true she knew. Tommy and Anakin would sometimes pile their trays high at school. The good major knew how they could be. She liked him and decided to call her own father later.

"Over one third of all deployed Predators have crashed.This has been due to equipment failure, operator errors or weather factors.Some even ran out of fuel,heck of a way to lose a five million dollar piece of equipment,"Major Andrews said wryly.

He shoveled in a mouthful of roast beef and smiled,"That's just one of the reasons we like Matt's version so much."

Abby laughed,"Yes,Not to mention the amazing improvements he made on the thing."

She couldn't pass up the opportunity to brag on her son.
The Clandestine Club was all together for a change and they used the time to ask questions while they enjoyed their lunch.

Grace who was extremely into robotics asked,

"Matthew,exactly how do you see where you are going with your plane or do you rely completely on preprogramming?"

Matt swallowed a chunk of stringy pizza and said,

"It's a combination of things Grace,It has a color video camera,an infrared camera and a synthetic aperture camera.
The color camera on the nose is primary for the controller's use."

"But what if something happens to the cameras,"Anakin wondered.

"Good question," interjected Major Andrews,"This little jewel is set up to be able to complete its mission on its own if that happens."

After satisfying their curiousity about the Predator,the conversation turned to video games and anime.Major Andrews looked at Abby and smiled.They were just kids after all .
"I can't wait for the new season of 5d's. I wish they'd hurry up." Matt piped up.

"We should all go see the new avatar movie." Grace offered.
Scotty,who had been a little quieter lately said,

"I got the new Yu Gi Oh Duelist pack-Yusei.It has Stardust Dragon.I brought it with me if anyone is up for a duel. I brought along an extra deck just in case."

Tommy chimed in with,
"Hey,I'm in.Do we have time after lunch Mom ,or is there something planned ?"

Abby laughed,"I think we can spare another hour out of your schedule.What do you think Major?"

Major Andrews glanced at his watch and nodded.

"No problem,"he agreed."Let's all meet back here in one hour.

Matt had his laptop with him and had been working on something for the better part of the flight over. He liked to keep his mind busy with new stuff. Matt put it on the the desk and opened it up. There were two beds in this barracks room. He was sharing his room with Tommy something he hadn't since he was seven and the room got too small for the two of them. Tommy and the rest came over and began to look on at his project.

"Hey, little bro what's that?" Tommy asked as everyone gathered closer.

"It's something I'm working on for next year's science fair." Matt reported.

"It looks familiar." Lacey injected.

"It should, you watch and read enough anime. It's a portable dueling system based on the the original dueling table Kaiba had in the original series. The only difference is that this one can be used with any game. Just gotta figure out how it uses the wireless satellites in the sky." Matt explained.

"That is so cool, Matt." Lacey told him.

"That's my little bro, the coolest one in town." Tommy said.
"I just wish Dad was here to see it,"sighed Matt.No matter how many things they had to distract them ,they all had the mission foremost in their minds.They were anxious to get on with it knowing that their leader was being held in the worst prison in the world.

Anakin looked at his watch; they had lost ten minutes. "If you guys want to get a couple of rounds in, you'd better start now 'cause you only have fifty minutes."

Matt made some adjustments to the simpler things in his programming for the system and closed up. Scotty went around to the other side of the table handing Tommy the other set of cards.

"Now we get to see how good you really are, video game boy." He said with a smile.

They slid their decks from their boxes, shuffled them and laid them on the table. Scotty went first.

"I place two cards face down and end my turn." Scotty opened.

It was a strange opening. Tommy had seen it before but couldn't remember when. He knew he had to be careful.

"I play speed warrior in attack mode, place one card face down and end my turn." Tommy countered.
"I special summon Cyber Dragon, and play one monster face-down in defense mode." Scotty said.

"I attack the Speed Warrior with Cyber Dragon" Scotty said.

Tommy says "I activate Scrap-Iron Scarecrow to negate Cyber Dragon's attack."

"I play one card face-down, and end my turn" Scotty said.

"I play my own Cyber Dragon and I attack your face-down monster." Tommy said.

Both players are forced to discard their hands and draw five new cards.

Tommy passes his turn.

Scotty smiled, Tommy didn't like it meant something was up, "That's where you are wrong. My face down card isn't a monster, but a trap Iron Resolve. For half of my life pints I can reduce the effect of your attack to zero of my life points and ends my turn but before I use it and I mean quickly I place a new card I jusrt created on the field-Mantis Warroir. I haven't decided what specials he hjas or anything just his attack and defense points. I'll place him on th field with two other cards and use the trap now." He said.

Tommy was amazed, he never though the kid could be this good,"No way! That is so awesome!" Tommy now had to go a different way. He needed a new strategy, more surprises could not be afforded. Still, it was a good strategy and he wondered what else Scotty had up his sleeve. He wanted to see so he just did his best to make it come out.

"I'll play one face down card and end my turn." Tommy said.

Scotty pulled out another monster card, "Good, I play Cyber Warrior in attack mode and use polymerization to fuse him with my Mantis warrior to summon Mantis Warrior Cyber. My Mantis Warrior Cyber attacks your face down card. I then place one card face down on the field, and end my turn." Scotty replied sending the others to the graveyard.

The two boys were now at a very discernabble stalemate. Niether knew what would happen next. Tommy was saved by a knock at the door. It was Abby coming to tell them the mission timing had been moved up.

"Alright everyone, our mission has been moved foreward. We are leaving now. The humans are also changing planes we will be taking C-9Bs into Yanji with the C-130s close behind. So pack it up!" She exclaimed.

Scotty and Tommy shook hands and called it a draw for now, hoping that they could remember where they were when they came back to the game. Matt made a few adjustments to his game system design and packed his laptop away, rushing out the door to meet the C-130. He just couldn't let his pride and joy fly without him. It was like a big boy teddy bear for him. It wasn't for security, he just loved it a might more than most people thought he should.
Abby sat staring out at the passing clouds.She couldn't help thinking about Robert.She turned to Kang and asked,

"What's the latest info on the prisoner's condition?"

Kang never pulled any punches with her and she knew she could trust him to tell her the truth.

"Our man inside says Robert is holding up well. He is kept apprised of our progress and is in good spirits. Everything is going according to plan."

Abby gave a sigh of relief and smiled at her friend.
"Thank you Kang .It won't be long now.
"Matthew is on the other plane. I sense that you are worried. They are all very strong children, his freedom is secure." Kang said in a reassuring tone.

"I know. It just a mother worrying for her children. He must at least be a little hungry. A little nervous, unsure." she divulged.

"This is their first mission. It is to be expected." Kang offered.

Kang looked out the window with her. It hadn't been more than an hour since they left Hua Lien. The Tumen River lay below. Luckily it was spring and everything was beginning to thaw somewhat. The Tumen was in motion. It would still be cold, but not winter cold. The pilot's voice came over the intercom.

"Alright everyone bundle and buckle up we are going to land."

The jackets came out and the seat belts fastened. They were ready for this mission to really start. On the C-130 things weren't much different for Matt. He could feel the cold rushing through him, penetrating his body to the core. He put on his jacket and went further toward the front to buckle up.

"Yah hungry kiddo?" The corporal in the nave seat asked.

"A little, more nervous though." Matt replied.

"Understandable. I hear it's your first mission." The Corporal said.

"Yeah, the very first,” Matt reported.
"Try this then. It should take the edge off." He said unwrapping and energy bar. It was one of the good kind that doesn't taste like cardboard. Matt took it, gobbling it up as quickly as he could, placing the remaining wrapper in his coat pocket as the plane got ready to land. The landing was quite smooth for the airstrip they were on. They had come in low and under the Chinese radar. They had to in order to keep the runway a secret. As mat looked out the window he saw patchy snow and countless trees. He put his thin gloves on and gathered up his things. "We're coming dad," he said into the sharp early spring wind.
Soon everyone was gathered together quietly chattering in anticipation.A kind of nervous energy ran through the group as they waited on the tarmac for their next instructions.All thoughts were on Robert and the mission now.The whine of a distant helicopter brought them all to attention.

"Is that ours?" Robyn queried anxiously.
"Yes it is, sweetie," Grimes replied in a fatherly, yet serious tone.

She didn't know what to say. The black hawk came in low and almost quiet. She had never seen one before. The two UAVs were loaded into a truck which followed thereafter. Matt almost wouldn't allow his plane to be loaded into the truck. He held onto it tightly like a younger boy with a teddy bear.

"Why can't Ptolemy go with me." He inquired sadly finally naming the craft.

They didn't know completely the answer to that question. All they knew was that it had to go on the truck. When it came time for the Clandestine Club to get into the Black Hawk Matt was gone. The truck was all secure, but he was nowhere to be found.

Matt lay quietly sleeping beside the two unmanned craft for the whole trip to the rondesvous point. When they finally opened the door, there was Matt slowly waking up. Abby, Grimes and Kang just shook their heads and smiled at him.

"What?" He asked with a wry laugh.

In his closet sized cell, Robert caught the rat's movement out of the corner of his eye. He stood up and began his regimen of exercise and the rat disappeared into a hole in the wall. Robert pushed himself to keep up his strength and stamina.He wanted to be ready when they came for him.He did not want to have to be carried out of there.

Presently he heard the familiar sound of his secret benefactor.Furtively the old man slipped him a crust of bread
and a bruised apple."Be ready,"the man whispered with a toothless smile.


The helicopter took off as soon as everyone got out and they found themselves facing a beat up RV painted in camouflage colors.The truck was unloaded and hidden under the trees with the RV beside a half frozen stream.

A small Korean man opened the door to the RV and invited them to enter.It was one of Kwang's sons who had returned to help them update their maps of the camp.The group of children was amazed to find an array of flashing lights and state of the art technology before them at the front of the trailer.

A special table was arranged for the planes and Matt and Membaya set up their laptops with anticipation.The others spread out on the couches and around the dining table where a big thermos waited with hot chocolate for them to enjoy.

Abby stood before them and smiled,

"Well ,members of the Clandestine Club, as you can see this is our base camp for the duration of our mission .We will now divide up into our assigned groups in order to coordinate our activities."

"First ,however,we have our esteemed helper who would like to address you,"explained Abby and moved aside.

"Please call me Hyo,"Kwang's son said as he set up a map of the camp in front of the group.With a pointer he showed them exactly where Robert was being held.Just then,Matt caught a glimpse of movement outside and Hyo noticed his concerned look.

"Don't worry ,my young friend,"he assured him,"Those men are standing guard .They are on our side.Hyo went back to updating the map for them.

"This is the building used to house the guard dogs.To the east of it is the cafeteria.Here are the quarters used by prisoners who have been given permission to marry and have children."Hyo went on with the valuable information and when he was done he said,

"My family is alive and free because of the efforts of your leader and his team.I want to be a part of bringing him home safely too. Good luck to you all."

Matt and Membaya went outside to get the planes ready for their mission. Matt opened up the engine compartments and brought the schematics he had for for both engines. The new design could be set into a stealth mode through either a manual or sofware module change. Matt decided both would be best for this mission. After performing the manual adjustments he nodded to Mambaya handing her a new program module. It was a long stealth routine module that took thirty minutes to program into the flight control section of the Aries II software.

After just another moment she turned to him saying, "We're all set Matt."

"Mr. Hyo we need to bribe the guard details on both sides of the river to overlook us. Can you get us an assessment of how difficult they might be?" Matt asked.

Before the man could answer Grimes exited the trailer, saying, "We just have to give them enough to leave their posts for the night. I have agents taking care of that now. Don't worry so much, kiddo."

"Sorry, it's just..."

"You want your father back without hitches in the plan. Understood." Grimes injected.

"Yeah, something like that. I'm A little nervous just now and need everything to go perfectly well tonight."

"Then you both had best get some rest, we launch in four hours and we need you to be wide awake while running these planes." Kwang suggested looking to Grime and Abby who had now joined them dressed in a whit camo jacket.

They all went to another trailer and rested. Matt rose three hours later with a huge yawn and a deep stretch. It was quiet and just about pitch black. He noticed that the ARES laptops had been brought in from the outside mission station. He wanted to have a final look at his engine silence module. Membaya had made some modifications as she typed it in. Matt smiled emitting a quiet thank you to her. Just then Robyn began to rouse. She performed a short stretch and came over to where Matthew was sitting.

"What are you doing, Matt?" she asked.

"Taking a final look at the engine silence module for the Predators. It's just a double check, to make sure nothing goes wrong." Matt explained.

"What does it do?" Robyn enquired.

"Remember the shadow drills Sensei taught us?" Matt asked in return.

"Yes," Robyn answered.

"This the same type of thing for the Predators. I didn't want them to be heard tonight when we drop the EMP charges." Matt Explained.

"Won't your dad get hit by that too?" She inquired intently.

"No. He is in a stainless stell cell. If they have moved him then we'll just wake him with smelling salts." Matt explained further.

"Are we going to go in too?"

"I think we are. Everyone close ing just has to be unconscious first. That will give us the time we need to find dad and any others he wants us to take out." Matt told her.

The other began to wake up in several minute intervals. Matt made some more adjustments to his module and went out to check the planes over one last time with Mems and Robyn in tow. They moved the planes tp the runway and Matt added a few extra Electromagnetic pulse charges to the the full size predator, finally standing up and giving the signal to begin the border pass with the big boy.

Mems started up both laptops allowing Matt's to run until he arrived at his station. Everything was a go. It would take just over two hours to make the crossing passes with the full size UAV.

"Alright, I'm finished," she said giving a thumbs up to Matt who had begun his taxi as the other plane made its landing.

"Got it. ETA to camp 30 minutes. Bringing up engine stealth sequence." He acknowledged.

Soldiers on both sides of the North Korea-China border were now unconscious. They wouldn't be a problem. The Clandestine Club and their handlers would be gone by the time they awoke. It was a window of eight hours they had to save Robert and whomever else he wanted to take.

Walking in the Dark


Robert was on his last evening hymn when heard the commotion outside. He could feel a light tingle coming through the floor. The first one brought him to attention, awakening his brain. He smiled, keep on going son, just a few more and you can come get me. One-one thousand, explosion, two-one thousand, he counted until ten. All the devices were dropped and the isolation cell lock released. Robert stayed inside for just a few more minutes to make sure it was safe to go out.

Back at the mission camp, the first attack wave had been completed. The Clandestine Club suited up for winter night maneuvers. They stood before Abby and Kang ready for inspection. She wished everyone good luck and God speed. With her sons she did more, looking deep into their eyes.

"You two come back with your father, you hear me?" she beckoned.

"Yes, mom. We will come back and dad will be with us." Matt piped up with a smile.

Abby kissed each of them on the cheek for good luck. Matt and Tommy felt the power of it as they tightly embraced her. It was time. The window was growing short as Abby pushed them away.

"We are the truth and dad shall be free tonight. I love you mom. See you in a couple of hours. Clandestine Club let's go!" Tommy shouted to the crew.

They loaded themselves into the drop trucks. It was very dark and very quiet as they passed through the border gates. It was thirty miles from Yanji to the camp. It took an hour to get too their extraction Rondesvous. They could get closer this time and so took the risk of coming within one half mile of the camp. Twenty minutes later, Robert heard whispered chatter outside his cell window.

"Your angels have come," said the man in the next cell.

As soon as the voices became more clear, Robert called out.

"Tommy, is that you?"

"Yeah, dad it's me. You okay?" Tommy asked.

Tommy scampered to his window. Robert looked just fine to him, just a little dirty. He handed Tommy the roll of film.

"I'm fine. We have ten guests coming with us. All of them are without parents. We might betaking one or two in ourselves. They are all in block 10c a little further down. Give them the salts and tell you brother, good work!." Robert ordered.

"Tell him yourself; he's right behind me." Tommy quietly exclaimed.

Matt came up to the window. It was good to see his dad again. He smiled.

"Hi, Dad ready to get out?" Matt asked.

"Yes I am. Come around and get me so I can really see the boy I am very proud of." Robert ordered.

Matt and the others followed their orders. He came around to the front of the building looking around the corner to make sure the plan worked. When he came in the door, there his dad stood with a smile on his face.

"It is good to see you again. How far is the unit away."

"Half a mile dad. The little ones will make it. Come on!" Matt reported as he pulled his dad by the hand.

They ran together to the other huts, finding a few more young children. Robert hated to wake them up, but he knew that they wouldn't have true peace of mind unless he did.

"Alright son, Let's make it quick," Robert said as they rushed quickly into the door.

There were only two children that needed to come from this hut. The little boy was hungry and thus had never gotten to sleep that night. Robert knelt at his side.

"Give me a wake up stick." Robert told his son.

Matt handed him two. In his young mind he was thinking that it would be good not to be the youngest in the family anymore. Were these the children his dad was talking about? How good a big brother would he be? No, he ordered himself, Concentrate on the mission or we will fail.


It took every member of the club to help the little ones escape. They were disoriented and confused. Some had to be carried the distance to the waiting vehicles. Robert was weak but adrenaline gave him the boost he needed to make it.

Piling into the trucks, they radioed for Black Hawks to meet them at base camp. As they trundled across the rough terrain they saw smoke up ahead in the pale moonlight. "Halt!" Robert commanded, "Something's not right. Matt, you and Tommy run a recon, check it out. We'll wait to hear from you. Take the walkie- talkies."
Tommy and Matt spread out and ran towards the base camp.Coming within a few hundred yards of it they could see the devastation.Piles of debris were all that was left of the trailers."Mother,"Matt groaned .
"Oh No!" cried Tommy in anguish.Cautiously they moved forward
When they were almost at ground zero they heard a familiar sound.It was the gentle purring of a truck motor.They both spun around at the same moment to see the transport truck easing out from under the tree cover.

Stifling their cries of relief,they ran to the truck to be greeted by a tearful Abby.

"You made it!"she laughed.
"So did you."Tommy replied happily.

Inside the truck the rest of the team greeted them.Matt noted that the predators had been saved too.

Tommy radioed the "All Clear" to Robert and waited for their arrival.
"We have a lot to tell each other,"Abby said,"But the main thing is we accomplished our mission without any casualties."

She took the opportunity to hug her brave boys before the others arrived."I'

"It was nothing, mom. Just giving some people the freedom they deserve." Matt replied.

"Yeah, no sweat mom. Anything for you and dad." Tommy added.

She stepped aside and let them get into the Hum-V as the others began to arrive with the children that needed to go. The big guns had been blown over by the ripple affect of the emp waves. Out of the rubble and through the smoke came Robyn, now balancing herself atop one of the more sturdy structures that had made it through the blast like a fiddler on the roof. The others had sent her ahead to scout things out.

She made her way carefully down the roof line of the structure. To Abby, it seemed a bit high for Robyn's small frame to make the jump without injury. Sh was surprised to find the it distance was not to high for her as she flipped off the roof edge hitting the ground like a true ninja, knealing with a hand in front to balance her. Robyn rose slowly and came to her handler.

"Everything is A-okay ma'am." She reported.

"Did you see the camp CO anywhere?" Abby asked.

Robyn nodded in the negative. The other had found him just a short time later with a gun to his head. Kuk's honor had been lost not by his defeat, but by the reality of what he had been serving. Anakin saw tears flowing down the man's cheeks in rivers. His right hand shook as held the old Makarov pistol to his head.

"You don't have to do that, sir." Anakin Told him.

"I have disgraced my people, treated them like the ground I walk on. My life is forfeit, young man." Kuk sniffled.

"No it's not. Come with us and start new. We can go get your family and take you all to the United States, change your name if we have to." Anakin added to his speach.

Kuk's shoulders released their stress and the gun hand fell to his side. Lacey took the gun gently from his hand as grace lifted him up. Kuk had almost made hiself a casualty. Anakin called ahead to Abby to let her know they still had one las thing to do before the mission was complete.

"Skywalker to momma cat, we have the camp commander. I think we should pick up his three gens in the Capital." Anakin suggested.

Family


Abby sent them ahead to Pyongyang along with Robert. Their final mission was to retrieve and extract Kuk's family. The children were also taken across the border via China to an orphanage where adoptions were arranged. Two of the chidren were given new names and quiclky adopted by Abby.

Robert had managed to pull their files from Kuk's office in the excitement of the raid. When they arrived at he orphanage, Abby handed the files and the properly filed paperwork for Chol Kuk and his sister Minh. After a long wait, the director of the facility brought her some final forms and the two young children were brought to Abby clean happy.

Robert took out the phase two passports for North Korea. Kuk had given them photos of most of his family and the address of his home in town. Kuk's son and daughter rounded a corner, but Tom and Robert stayed put. It was still way too light to make themselves known to the man's famliy. Th rest of the Clandestine Club watched the schools where Kuk's younger children and grandchildren spent most of their days. They justt sat in a cafe and watched as they sipped a tall cola each. The sun soon began to set over Pyongyang their tallest building an overwhelming shadow against the crimson sun.

They followed the children to their homes eventually meeting up with Robert. The team had gotten lucky. Kuk's family was meeting at grandmum's house for dinner. Robert's plan was to sntach them set by set the next day. His children would be taken at school as would any grand children or parents he had living under the shadow of the night. The black Lexus 4X4's pulled up on the four streets that where the failed officer's family members lived. They took his wife first in a gentle and friendly fashion. The Clandestine club had been watching her movements and left her a note on the door in Korean.


Come to the nearest internet cafe alone if you
want your freedom. We would like to talk with you
Bring any children still at home, Anyone directly in the eye.

The Clandestine Club.

Not far away in another part of town the Clandestine Club left another note for Kuk's Oldest son and his family. The meting took place at the new internet cafe at 7:00 pm as scheduled. Waiting for them were Robert, Kang and Abby. The kids all watched from seats spread out nearby. Kuk's family came and took their seats. Kang explained the situation to them and what it meant. They were notified that if they wanted to leave their country it would have to be tonight. on the next trucks out to Yunji.


The heads of family all agreed with the reporter. That night all the heads of family gathered their children and made their ways to trucks that were sent to pick them up. The younger children were placed with Abby and Kang. Those in Kuk's immediate family including his youngest son of twelve years rode with Robert and Matt. They pulled out of the towns and drove north on a barely populatedly time they highway to the place they would turn off to go to Yuji. The only time they had trouble was at the border near the Tumen River. They had changed the guards and hade to bribe them again to allow them to pass by unnoticed.

The bribe went well and they were ignored on both sides. When they arrived at the camp the UAVs had already been loaded into the C-130. Two c-9bs were also waiting and the mission crew and families were loaded onto them. ONce in the air Matthew turned back to a thankful Kuk and wife.

"Thank you little one. You have freed my family and saved my face. You are a friend I shall revere forever. We shall not forget you." Kuk praised.

"Ah, twas nuthin'" he said just like Alfalfa from the 'Little Rascals' from the old movies.

They all just laughed. Kuk's son and Matt talked the whole trip back to Langley til they fell asleep. There they parted ways after receiving a packet with new identities. Only two North Koreans stayed behind. Matt and Tommy had a new brother and sister. As the Clandestine Club were loaded into their mom's car a phone call came in brought to them by a new comms officer.

"Ma'am, the President." He said handing her the receiver.

She suspected who the call was really for adn looked that way. They were all whispering the phrase amongst them.

"Yes, Mr. President what can we do for you?" She inquired.

"Well for openers, I would like to talk to the agent who caused the devistation in NOrth Korea the other day." The President requested.

She handed the phone to Matt whispering, "it's for you sweetie, you know who." Kissing him on the cheek in a posture of pride.

"Mom. Not in front of them." Matt exclaimed.

Matt put the phone to his ear. "Matthew Macon here, sir." He said.

"First, how old are you son." The President asked.


"Nine." Was his nervous answer.

"Well, do you realize the impact you and your friends have made on the world in the last week?" The President asked.

"I think so. A big one?" Matt replied.

The President laughed. He knew that he was in the presence of some of the greatest children in his nation and some of the bravest too.

"I just saw the news and what you have done is going to set a precident in the Far East. It will take a while but Communism will fall there. You have dealt a great blow to Kim Jong Il's regime. That is why I am giving you kids the highest civilian honor I can give you." The president explained.

"Are you going to deny we were ever there, sir?" Matt asked.

"of course I am. The whole idea sounds prepostorous anyway. Child secret agents. That'll be the day. That's what I am going to tell them."

Matt and the rest laughed with the president. It did sound prespostorous. No other country would believe Kim. It would remain a mystery. Then the President continued.

"That is why I am inviting all of you to a quiet ceremony for your Medals of Honor. You have all earned them."

"When, Mr. President?"

They all leaned in to listen. It was something they had never done. Sure, other kids wouldn't believe them about what they had don this summer, but they didn't care. They knew it was true and the Macon's had two new family members to prove it.

"Alright, how about Friday Morning at ten o'clock; can you make it?" The President inquired.

Matt turned to his parents. Both nodded in the affirmative.

"That will be fine, sir. We'll be there." Matt answered.

"See you then," The president said and he was off the line.

It was Monday in the United States. Their meeting with the President was in four days. All they wanted to do now was go home and get some sleep. Robert and Abby granted their wish. When Scotty got home he hugged his parents tightly then scolded them as his grandpa watched laughing in spite of himself.

"Don't you ever do that again! You're lucky you aren't in federal prison for this. Grandpa can't handle me too well anymore. You know better than that! The last thing is I love you anyway." Scotty chided his parents.

Liang and Lin laughed through their tears. They never thought they would see the day when their little lion would have to scold them. He was growing up. Nothing was going to stop it now and they knew it. Scotty hugged his grandpa and his parents tightly together. They were a family again at least until the next mission, which he hoped was far away.

They made the meeting and the White House was amazing. They got to see parts of it citizens were rarely permitted to see. The presentation was made in the red room. The medals lay in eight small wooden boxes on an antique oak table. The gold seemed to shine brighter in this room, Anakin’s had a ribbon for his ROTC uniform. It was guessed that they hoped Tommy would get in too. In his box there was a ribbon and a letter of recommendation for the West Point Middle Academy. He would start next year he and Anakin together with Lacey. The two looked at each other knowing they would be together for a long time. The meeting coordinator walked into the room. Behind her were the president and first lady. It was time to become young heroes.

“Well,” The President began, “I have been in the presence of heroes before, but they have never been this young. It is an honor to be here with you eight kids. Your first Clandestine Mission was a success. There is a great deal ahead for all of you. Now, to thank each of you there are eight Medals of Honor on this table. Take them with our thanks and the thanks of this nation with the hope that we will see each other again.”

They each took their Medal of Honor and carefully closed their boxes. Their parents were proud of them. Albert, who had been skeptical all along shook hands with Robert.
“You have my full support. Whenever you need my Membaya she is available. You handled them well and your sons will be good leaders for this group. They are welcome in my home any time.”
“Thank you Albert. Mems had always been welcome at ours. We are going to celebrate the completion of our first mission tomorrow. Why don’t you all come.”

Albert nodded. He knew now that this man could protect his daughter with confidence and teach her things that he could not. It was a welcome thing for him. The Clandestine Club never wore their medals they just kept them in private places and looked at them often as a reminder of their particular contribution to the world at large. Matt went off to MIT that Monday and Scotty told Robert that he wanted a little time before his next mission. Robert understood and made sure his grandfather had the time off too.

gr8dragon (Rate Passer) added to this story on Tue, Jul 21 2009 15:47:51 EST
Print Clandestine Club
Genre: Drama
Created: 02-18-2009
Word Count: 44329

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