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Black Horizon

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Pilot Season". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: "Many warriors of the inevitable confrontation are among us now. But before they can be considered soldiers, they must be regarded as Recruits. And the expectation must be that they are unwilling." He is one of them.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > FringeneoolongFR18314,81422010,7548 Jun 1013 Aug 10No

Chapter Two: The Algonquin Round Table

"And you think this is connected?" Peter asked, hands in his pocket. It was unusually cold in the warehouse, the blowers, now turned off, had lowered the temperature enough that his breath was frosting in the air. He walked over to one of the tables, careful not to touch it. He could see where something heavy had rested on it, scratches marking its less than careful removal.

He glanced over at one of the techs, who was currently collecting blood samples. At the very least, the low temperature kept the smell down. He was just happy this wasn't happening in the summer. Looking behind him, Peter spoke, "Who do you think these guys are?"

"Local hires most likely," Olivia said, taking a plastic evidence bag and examining the revolver within. She flipped it over, smoothing the plastic over the butt of the weapon. The serial number had been removed. Not just scratched off, something that was less than reliable with the latest forensic technology, but completely burned off. It was likely done with a laser, not something that a simple hood would have on hand. "NYPD can look into it."

"They didn't exactly get much from the apartment," Peter responded, walking up behind her. "Going to ask that guy about it?"

Olivia smiled at him, giving the evidence back to the technician. "If it comes to that."

xxx

"Damn," Xander said looking at his computer screen. He leaned back in his chair, the leather conforming to his body as he sighed. The FBI had only just finished their full report on the Edward Dominquez crime scene. And though there was an autopsy, all that they had determined was that he had been shot in the head.

There was a preliminary report on a small massacre at a warehouse as well; a number of other scoundrels and assorted lowlifes found dead. There was nothing there either, other than someone unloading a bunch of 9mm bullets into them. It was more than likely related, as Agent Dunham's report suggested. Likely the people responsible for the initial attack were cleaning house. The scariest thing was that someone had enough pull and/or guts to take out the hired help. That type of thing wasn't exactly kosher with the people that ran those types of men. It made it that much harder to hire mercs the next time things got dirty.

Grabbing the cell phone from his desk, Xander dialed a familiar number. It didn't take long for the line to be picked up. "Quinn. We need to meet. Now."

Xander stood as he listened to the other man speak. Picking up a Beretta Storm, he performed a brass check before slipping it into a holster behind his back. His jacket went on over it. "Fine. One hour. Watch yourself."

xxx

Special Agent Francis flipped open a file folder, pushing a photo over to reveal the rest of the top sheet of the dossier. "So, they found out that the men in the warehouse and Dominquez had one person in common. Thomas Quinn. He runs a bar called Donnelly's in Brooklyn. ATF has a pretty big file on him; he's had a pretty colorful past. Especially in the '80s. Nothing recent though. He either got clean, or he just get better at hiding it."

He was a little annoyed at having to sit and do the office work on the case. As necessary as it often was, more cases than not being broken through agents poring over files and paperwork, he was still very much a field agent. And being stuck in the office felt too much like getting benched.

"Do you have the address," Olivia asked, looking at the photo of the man. It looked like it was snapped from a telephoto lens, likely a surveillance photo. From the date, she mentally added a few years.

Charlie nodded. "Yeah."

"Let's go," Olivia asked, reaching out and closing the file.

Charlie smiled, opening up his desk drawer and picking up his gun as he stood up.

xxx

Xander leaned against the brick wall, almost ready to throttle the fat little man that was sitting in a creaky old chair in front of him. He idly wondered how many weapons there were in the room, despite the multitude of file cabinets and shelves and other accoutrements of a bar, he knew that Quinn wasn't particularly straight.

"You know that I can't tell you that." Quinn chuckled loudly, smiling as he sat back in his chair, hands folded behind his head. "Where would I be, if I told everybody everything that I knew?"

Xander pushed off against the wall, looking down at the other man. "Reacher's dead. Fast Eddie. Archer. Bischoff. They are cleaning house and I need to know who was running them. And if I can find you? So can they. You need this finished just as much as I do."

"Nobody goes after us," Quinn scoffed in a thick Irish accent, smiling even wider. He pulled his hands down, resting them on the armrests of his seat. "They do, there wouldn't be anybody left to hire."

"Look," Xander grumbled, stopping himself as he heard people talking in the main bar area of the pub. He looked at the proprietor and frowned, reaching behind his back and pulling out his gun. "Stay here, Quinn."

The man just shook his head, raising his hands in defeat. "What exactly are you expecting here, Xander? This is a perfectly respectable drinking establishment."

Shooting him a look, Xander opened the door a crack and peered out, stepping into the empty hallway that ran to the back door and restrooms of the bar. He moved to the head of the hall, looking around at the people that had just come in.

Shaking his head, Xander put the gun back behind his back, having recognized two of the three figures that had just come in. He glanced at the door at the other end of the hall, wondering if he should just make for the exit, but decided against it. As much of a pain in the ass as Quinn might be, he was often just as helpful. And ditching him now would just make him that much less inclined to help him out in the future, not to mention the present.

Xander stepped out, making sure that he didn't make any particularly aggressive moves. From the expression on the rather large barman, it was clear that he didn't exactly enjoy the presence of law enforcement in the establishment.

"Well, of all the bars in all the world, something something something," Xander said, smiling at the woman who was currently occupying the bartender's attention. "Is there anything we can do for you, Special Agent Dunham?"

Olivia turned to look at him, a little surprised at how unsurprised she was at his appearance. She was still a little angry at the bartender's obstinance though. "Do you know where Thomas Quinn is?"

"He's in the back, but he's not going to talk to you," Xander said, walking further into the room and taking a seat at the bar. "Which I'm sure Sean was telling you."

The bartender chuckled once, smirking as he did so.

"Look, he's not talking to me either," Xander said, swallowing his own annoyance at the man. At the very least, the bartender didn't have to revel in being a prick. "Tell me what you have, and I'll see if we can't figure this thing out together."

That wasn't what he wanted either. He would rather do things on his own terms, and though he couldn't exactly threaten the man, it would have been easier if he could do his own kind of convincing on Quinn without an audience.

"Fine," Olivia said, walking over to Xander.

Xander smiled, though it was more than a little forced. "Who's your partner?"

"Special Agent Charlie Francis," the Latino man said in a gruff voice, putting his hand out. "You must be Xander."

Charlie didn't like that Olivia was going to tell the man anything. It wasn't exactly in the guidelines to offer information on an active investigation. That someone could have such high clearance as to have gotten there before them, just because he happened to work for Massive Dynamic, ate at him more than a little.

"Yeah," Xander acknowledged, shaking the offered hand. "What do you have?"

"Five men are dead in a warehouse," Olivia said with a moment's hesitation. "They had one associate in common. Which you could probably guess. We're trying to figure out who hired them."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I was trying to figure out that too. Quinn's not going to talk. And if he won't talk to me, he won't talk to you. What else?"

"There's some blood," Olivia continued. "We're trying to match it now, but-"

"But, the NCIC database is slow and their computers are about a generation behind now," Xander cut in. "Have someone give us a sample, might be able to figure something out that you might not be able to. Anything else?"

"There's a gun," Francis put in, "well, multiple weapons. But, this one had the serial number lasered off, the rest were scratched off. Probably aren't too many guys that do that. So, if you happen to know some gun runner that lasers off serial numbers…"

Xander didn't respond to the challenge. It made him think, as if there was some half-remembered memory that perked up at the details. "More than you might think. Blood's probably worthless though. False flag. We can test for that though."

"And the gun?" Olivia asked, wondering at Xander's curt manner.

Xander looked at her, biting his lip. "Can't help you there. But, I'd check if there've been any thefts of class-4 lasers in the last few months."

"You guys make those too," Peter said, entering the conversation for the first time.

Shrugging, Xander looked at the younger Bishop. "What don't we make? But, we aren't missing any. I'd know. Still, get me some high-def pictures of the burn, and I'll match it against our lasers. See if it was one of ours."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. Placing it on the scarred top of the counter, he looked over at the three of them. "E-mail me when you can."

"You're rather helpful all of a sudden." Olivia looked at the card before picking it up. It listed what was common on business cards, the title stating that Xander was simply a security specialist for the company. Vague, but rather accurate, she believed.

"We all have our orders." Xander shrugged again, standing up to leave. "You guys make my job difficult-er."

xxx

"What do you got?" Xander asked, leaning against the top of the lab table. He looked over at the Massive Dynamic scientist that he had press-ganged once again into helping him. Executive privilege had its privileges after all.

With brown, slightly thinning hair, a large forehead, and a boyish face, Brandon looked every bit the scientist that he was. "Give me something hard why don't you."

He grinned and adjusted the flatscreen monitor of his computer towards the other man. Xander always gave him the most interesting puzzles.

"Just tell me," Xander replied.

Brandon grinned. "So, I ran the usual tests. Nothing, right? Dug a little deeper at the cells. There are micro-tears in the cell membranes."

"Meaning?" Xander asked, looking at the incredibly magnified images on the computer. He could see what the technician was talking about, though the importance wasn't exactly apparent.

"Well, it's been frozen," Brandon answered simply. "See, it's one of the problems with the cryogenic process. Drop the temperature, and you got intracellular ice formation. Ice crystals in the blood form, they tear the cells apart."

"And?" Xander asked.

"And, this blood has been treated with a cryoprotectant," Brandon continued. "A damn good one too. Nearly undetectable, and with less damage than the normal formamide/DMSO mix. There's some chemical residue, but there's no trace of the actual protectant that I can find. Mass spec isn't picking up anything unusual. Man, we can't even do this. Anyway, the ice damage is minimal, but it's there. This didn't come from a living body. At least, not when it was spilled."

"But, whoever it was wanted it to look like it was," Xander said, not liking how good a job was done to cover it up. There was preparation involved too. Somebody had been carrying around a frozen store of blood in the off-chance that they'd need to set up a false trail. "And the gun?"

Brandon worked the keyboard and mouse, pulling up one of the high definition pictures that Xander had forwarded to him. "Not one of ours. The burn doesn't match any Massive Dynamic laser. I've checked it against what we have on our competitors, but nothing there either. Probably German in origin though. There are a couple of companies over there making medical lasers that it could be. Fenstermacher-Jaeger, Koenig Medical. Or, you know, Yutani. But, you could probably check that out easier with your, uh, government buddies."

Xander nodded. It was a bigger lead than Brandon realized though, so he was happy about that. Still having to play by the rules in this case wasn't exactly making him happy. "Yeah. Thanks."

"There's something else," Brandon said, scratching a cheek. "I looked through some of your old reports."

"For guys moving tech?" Xander asked rhetorically.

The technician nodded. "Yeah. Skorzeny's been in New York for the last three months. But, you know. He's always clean."

Xander just looked at him for a moment. He backed away from the table and reached into his pocket for his phone. He glanced at the other man before dialing a number. "Brandon, good job."

The scientist just nodded and smiled.

xxx

It was cold in the parking lot. And dark, though that didn't bother him really. As a California native, the cold bothered him. Or at least it used to. At the very least, one could always put on more layers to deal with cold. You weren't so lucky with heat. And while he figured that there were easier ways to do it, and with less drama, sometimes the routine had to be followed. Even if it was for appearance's sake.

"Ms. Sharp said that I was to let you take the lead on this," Xander said, leaning against the side of his personal car. He looked over at Agent Dunham, who had come down from her motel room to meet him. "I can't exactly say that I'm used to that anymore, but I've been trying."

"What else did she tell you," Olivia asked, putting her hands in her pockets and ducking her head slightly because of the cold. She stood next to the sedan as well, using the vehicle as a wind break as much as possible.

Xander shrugged. "I have to play by the rules. You know, not break any laws."

"That a habit for you?" Olivia asked, wondering if he'd give her a straight answer, as well as if he had ever given her one.

Xander smiled a little. "That would be telling. I suppose I could take the fifth."

Olivia didn't know if he was playing, though she imagined that he was being intentionally ambiguous. She got the feeling that likely breaking into an apartment was the least of the "crimes" that the man had committed. Not that it mattered at the present moment. "So uh, this is the car they gave you? What year is this?"

"'86, but it's my personal car." He glanced at her, wondering if he should be annoyed. She did have a smile on her face though, a rather cute one, if he let himself think that way. "It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. I rebuilt the engine myself. From a Chilton manual. Trust me, it's very reliable."

"Sure." The tone of her voice made it clear that she was less than a believer. "So what did you call me for?"

"The blood's a plant, whether or not you found a match," Xander said, answering her question in a roundabout fashion. He looked ahead at the mostly empty parking lot. The motel wasn't getting much traffic as of late it seemed. The security lights left large pools of shadow and darkness, creating a slightly eerie atmosphere. "And you're not going to find a serial number on that revolver. The other guns aren't going to tell you much either I'm guessing. There are a lot of guys out there with the experience now. Hell, they're forming corporations."

"And this required a face to face meeting?" Olivia asked, the wind rustling her blonde hair for a moment. "You could have called."

"The laser's not one of ours," Xander said, not answering the new question. "And the tech I had looking at it couldn't match it. It's not like ballistic fingerprinting. Anyway, high power, narrow focus, it's not exactly something you can get out of the back of some guy's van. He says it's probably German. Maybe Japanese."

"And?" Olivia asked.

Xander glanced back at her. "There's not a lot of people that could move something like that. And it'd take months to run through the remaining companies to see if there have been any thefts. Not that that means much, evidentiarly speaking. But, there's only so many guys that move tech like that. Burning off serial numbers isn't exactly the most high volume business. Could have been done overseas, with the weapons smuggled into the US. But, I'd rather not jump down that rabbit hole just yet."

"And you know a guy," Olivia stated, unsurprised once again by the man.

Nodding, Xander continued, "I'm 75 to 80 percent sure that I know who it is. And nothing I can give you would be enough for a warrant."

"How would you handle it?" Agent Dunham asked.

Xander considered before answering. "Hypothetically speaking, if there was a man that I suspected of helping those responsible for a terrorist attack, I'd knock down his door."

"And if you're wrong?" Olivia asked. "Hypothetically speaking, of course."

"Hmm," Xander smiled. "That's why I'm glad that you guys have to play by the rules."

"Why do you think it's…this guy?" she asked.

Xander pushed off from the car and turned to face her. "Advanced tech is huge business. Corporate espionage, terrorism, and all sorts of things. You still haven't found where any stolen RUD-390 ended up after all. And no corporation's going to let you into their inventory tracking without a warrant. It's in the company's best interest for me to know who the players are. Helping law enforcement is usually the method of last resort."

"So what are you planning to do?" Olivia asked.

He looked past her for a moment. "You know what keeps me up at night?"

"No. What?" She asked, shaking her head.

"It's not nuclear annihilation. Cold War's over. They're us now. Hell it's not even another fanatic hijacking an airliner. Nowadays there's a Rambo on every one. It's not the devil coming up from the mouth of…" Xander paused, looking at her. "This is the next thing. It's a suitcase full of strontium-90 and a brick of C-4. It's cyanide in a water supply. It's a genetically engineered virus. Someone drops a tiny glass vial at the subway station during rush hour. Forty-eight hours before the first signs show up. By then it's already too late. It's been contagious for a day, and already infected a couple dozen people. Exponential growth and…"

"Epidemic," Olivia finished. Xander wasn't the first person to spin the same story. "I've seen the scenarios."

"Yeah." Xander nodded, knowing that the real problem with it all was that it was getting cheaper and easier to do. "Anyway. I have two jobs. The first is to protect Massive Dynamic's corporate interests, well, anywhere in the world."

"And the second?" Agent Dunham asked.

Xander glanced at her. "To ensure that things like this don't keep happening. Think of it as our way of giving back to society."

"What are you planning on doing?" Olivia asked, more forcefully this time.

"Skorzeny. Hugo Skorzeny," Xander stated, smiling at her ruefully. "He runs his business out of a warehouse in Red Hook. Usually he's not in this country, but he's been here for a while. What you do with that is your own business. But, tomorrow night, I'm getting my answers. One way or another."

Agent Dunham watched him turn and head towards the driver's seat of the Crown Victoria. She reached out and caught him by the arm, turning him around. "You can't just do that."

"What," Xander asked, glancing at her hand for a second.

Olivia let go, her tone still hard though. "Break into some warehouse."

Xander shook his head. "I never said that. Ms. Sharp also told me that if I felt that things were getting out of hand, that I should use my judgment. I can get things done a hell of a lot more efficiently if I don't have to play by the same rules that you do."

"Then why aren't you doing it yourself?" Olivia asked. "Not even talk to me about it."

"Because that's exactly why I shouldn't be the one doing this." He waited a beat, before turning. "You have twenty-four hours."

"Then why are you doing this?" Olivia asked. "Why are you working for her?"

He looked at her, running a hand over his face. He was tired. And it wasn't just because he kept scheduling meetings in the middle of the night. "Because once I asked Ms. Sharp for her help. And, she gave it to me."

xxx

Reese sat down at the table. Their current location was better than the warehouse that they had been using, but such was the nature of field work. He supposed that working for the organization had gotten him accustomed to better surroundings, though it had not made him softer. It was probably the opposite, in fact. "We should leave the country."

He looked over to the person sitting at the head of the table. "The feds are moving in, and I know that they've already talked to Quinn. He's becoming a liability. Do you want me to kill him?"

"Bah," the doctor said dismissively, with a wave of a hand. "The Irishman knows nothing. Besides, it would waste too much time to consider relocating elsewhere. Weaponization has already begun. It would take too long to stop and restart in another location. We have a deadline to meet."

"Yes, sir," Reese said, gritting his teeth slightly. Though it was ultimately Dr. Svobodnik's call, he was head of security. He was still responsible for the security of the operation, whether their leader followed his advice or not. "They brought in someone from Massive Dynamic. Security man. Xander Harris."

"And you know him?" Dr. Svobodnik asked, though from the tone of his voice it was apparent that he believed he knew the answer.

Reese just looked at the doctor, trying to gauge the expression on his face. "He's a known quantity. He's good."

Dr. Svobodnik stared at the man, his gaze intense and penetrating. "Does he know?"

"He's one of Massive Dynamic's top security specialists," Reese explained, though he couldn't actually be sure of anything. "I can only assume that he knows something."

"Ah well, we'll have to make sure that there's nothing for him to find then. Keep everyone close," the doctor said, nodding. "Keep everyone close for the moment. I'm still waiting for additional orders. We'll move when we're ready to move, so I do not want there to be any disruptions."

"Yes, sir," Reese said. It was the best he could hope for at the moment. "I would ask that you at least prep another test device. A failsafe if we need it."

Dr. Svobodnik looked at the other man. His head of security hadn't been one of his picks, but he couldn't complain about the assigned man's performance so far. He was probably right as it was. They shouldn't tempt fate. "Very well. Get Derek to do it. Inform me when it's ready."

"Thank you, sir." Reese stood up and turned to leave.

xxx

"Well, there is a file on him," Agent Francis said, swinging around in his government issue swivel chair. The relevant file was on his computer screen, though it didn't help much aside from exposition.

"And?" Olivia asked, skimming what could be seen on the screen. "Who is he?"

"He's suspected of being one of the larger players in corporate espionage," Charlie explained though it was all there on the monitor. "Reverse engineering in addition to straight out theft. His customers vary, and there's not really any political of sociological bent to his actions. He was EECS at Cal Berkeley, and has a master's in biomechanical engineering from Stanford. Not American, German, but he pays his taxes."

"Is there anything we can use to bring him in on?"

Charlie's frustration was apparent on his face. "No. He's loaded. Some of the best lawyers that money can buy, so we'd get hit with a pretty big harassment suit if you went fishing."

He leaned in closer to Olivia. "How sure are you about this guy?"

"Xander gave me his name," Agent Dunham explained, feeling the same frustration that her partner did. "And, he can't be sure."

xxx

The lab was empty. Though usually filled with people, it was rather late, and most everyone had gone home.

"The only thing I can see is that there's a missing shipment from a Koenig warehouse in Paris," Brandon said, looking at the phone on his desk. He heard some rustling in the background over the phone, but he didn't ask about it. "Well, partial shipment, I think. Maybe. There's about five liters of RUD-390 missing."

"Theft?" Xander asked, angling his head towards the microphone on his cell phone as it lay on his desk. He pulled on a matte black tactical vest, fastening the tabs. He picked up a black sweater from his bed and pulled it on as well. "Was it stolen?"

"Not as far as I can tell," Brandon continued, unworried about the conversation as well as the data mining he had just done. Massive Dynamic probably had the best counter-intrusion security of any major computer system, including that of the government. "I've done a little tap-dancing over their database, and it shows up like it's a clerical error. The size of the order was changed down by the five liters. But, the pull order wasn't. And from what I can tell, it basically means that it's not there, and anybody looking is going to think it's user error. So unless it actually was an error…"

"Then Koenig's missing five liters of RUD-390 and we all hold our breath. Damn." Xander shook his head, pulling on a shoulder holder and placing a charged TASER in it. His Storm followed in a holster attached to his belt. "Anything else that you gathered with your rather Sherlock Holmes-esque detective skills?"

"Well, there's signs of a break-in in their computer logs around that time, but nothing definite." Brandon said wavering. "This is computers man, it's all voodoo. But, we both know-"

"That Skorzeny's got an operation in France," Xander finished. "And he's never been shy about selling chemicals and biological agents. And, there's still nothing I can bring to the legal table. This, the laser, it's all circumstantial. And illegally obtained."

"Sorry man," Brandon said, frowning. "It's what there is."

Xander was about to say more but, couldn't really think of anything. "Look, I need to do this thing. Thanks."

"Yeah," Brandon said simply, and sadly. He could imagine what was about to happen. "Good luck, man."

"Yeah." Xander closed his phone and shoved it into his pants pocket.

xxx

Xander leaned back in his seat, the leather and springs creaking a little as he looked out the window. The last car had passed by more than twenty minutes ago, and there was nobody walking on the streets. Although he knew for sure that there would be people walking around in the compound across the street.

Looking down, he checked his watch, the face of it revealing that it was long after the deadline that he had given to the FBI. Xander wasn't exactly sure why he had kept his word, knowing that Fringe Division would not have the pull to unilaterally move on his word. PATRIOT Act or not, there were still limits to government overreaching. And they weren't allowed to egregiously break the law.

"Right then," Xander stated to no one, opening the car door and getting out. Moving to the rear of the vehicle, he popped the trunk. Xander pulled out a black duffle bag, unzipping it and taking out a cut-down Remington shotgun.

He pulled a small orange case out of the bag as well, opening it up and loading the clear plastic XREP shells into the tubular magazine of the shotgun. A handful of shells went into his coat pocket as well. He tossed the almost empty box of ammunition back into the duffle bag and zipped it up. Pulling the strap over his head, he pulled the bag over his shoulders. Shifting the shotgun to one hand, he closed the trunk and locked the car.

Half-jogging across the empty street, Xander came to the chain link fence that bordered the large area that housed a number of warehouses. He knew that they were all rentals, and that one of the bigger ones was leased to Skorzeny. Likely through multiple shell companies and false fronts, but that was the way of things. It was probably all technically legal too.

Looking around, Xander made sure that he wasn't being monitored, cargo containers stacked on each other blocking him from easy view from the inside of the buildings inside the compound. He had already made sure that security cameras couldn't see him. As it was, security was more for the inside than the out. Better to avoid them getting stolen by anybody on the street looking for scrap value.

He set the shotgun on the ground and unzipped the front pocket of the duffle bag, pulling out a small metal canister. He knelt down and depressed the trigger, holding his breath as he sprayed the compressed gas at the fence in a large circular pattern. The metal of the fence moaned a little as it contracted, the areas touched by the high-powered refrigerant freezing solid. Finishing the circular pattern, Xander stuffed the canister back into his bag and zipped it up.

Grasping the center of the section of chain link with his left hand and pulling, Xander ripped the metal from the rest of the fence. The frozen border snapped easily, a few flakes of frozen metal drifting to the ground as he dropped the segment of fencing onto the sidewalk. Picking up the shotgun, he ducked under the fence, pulling up the fallen section of chain link and resting it over the gap as much as possible. He then made his way to the cargo container closest to where he was.

Carefully making his way down the length of the rusted metal container, he peeked around the corner, observing a security guard making his rounds. The guard was wearing a puffy jacket and a knit cap, concessions to the cold though they bore no trademark or company name. If that wasn't enough to denote that he wasn't branded to any security company, the SIG carbine under his arm made it clear that he wasn't a normal rent-a-cop.

Striding forward silently and ducking past the vision of a couple of security cameras, Xander fired once, the front electrodes impacting against the back of the guard's head in less than second. The man dropped immediately, muscles clenching as the thousands of volts from the electrified shell coursed through his body. Xander continued up quickly, scanning the area ahead as he knelt down and punched the man in the face with his left hand.

He barely had to break stride to do so, veering off to the left and taking cover behind a forklift. Looking over the machine's cage, he scanned for more guards as he pumped the action on the shotgun, ejecting the spent shell.

The single shotgun blast would surely have a reaction, if he hadn't been sighted on one of the security cameras he hadn't detected, and it wasn't long before he saw it. The door on the end of one of the warehouses opened, bright light spilling out as men flowed out of the building. Xander could hear more men circle around from their own patrol patterns as well.

The guards moved quickly, but carefully so as to avoid being caught in an ambush or get in the way of each other's lines of fire. Xander had to give them credit, they certainly were professional about things.

As they came closer, Xander moved out, ducking low and firing his shotgun, pumping as quickly as he could. Not all of the shots were successful, but a few of the guards were brought down in agony as the rest scattered for cover. He could hear bullets ricochet off of concrete, a few bullets snapping by his ears. Skidding to a stop, Xander took cover behind a concrete partition.

He reached into his coat pocket to reload the shotgun, having to drop it as a guard came around the side. Smoothly reaching into his coat, he pulled the Taser from his shoulder holster and fired. The electrodes flew through the air and attached to the man's face, causing him to drop immediately. Xander scooted down and kicked him in the head, ejecting the cartridge from the electroshock weapon and reloading it after he was sure the man was unconscious.

Turning, Xander shoved the gun back into the holster and picked up the shotgun again. He fired once over the top of the concrete to keep the guards back, shouting after he did so, "tell your boss that the fucker from Munich is here to see him!"

There was additional fire on his position, but it was mostly to keep him honest too. He could hear the squawk of a radio between bursts of gunfire. He doubted that anybody was concerning themselves with calling the police.

"Alright," a deep voice called out, accented in German. "C'mon out. He'll be here very soon."

"Not till he gets here," Xander shouted back, angling around to get a look. Unzipping his bag, he felt around inside and pulled out a grenade that was clipped to the inside. From its cylindrical shape he knew that it was a flashbang. He pulled the pin and tossed it over the partition, not expecting it to really disorient anybody, but at least it'd keep them back.

He heard more movement as his hearing came back in full, reaching into the duffle bag again and pulling out another grenade, round this time.

"I'm here Mr. Harris," a voice called out, strong though the distaste was clear. It moved closer as the man approached. "What do you want?"

Xander took another peek to verify that things were okay, relatively speaking, and stepped out, the shotgun shoved into the duffle bag, and a hand in his pocket to steady the bag. He saw a middle-aged man standing underneath a security light, out in the open as if sure that he couldn't be trusted. He looked more like an accountant than a leader in black market technology but for his eyes.

Xander could nearly hear the guns snap onto him, causing him to grin a little. He looked around, noting where men were trying to hide in the shadows, not that that would work on him. Not anymore.

He calculated the meters, stopping when he came to an optimum distance. Xander smiled, as if they were meeting for drinks or a light brunch. "Weapons and a batch of RUD-390. I want to know who bought them. And where they are right now."

"Mr. Harris," Hugo said, shaking his head as if chiding a small child. He smiled as well, though it wasn't particularly a kind one. "You know I can't do that."

"Maybe you should be glad that I didn't kill any of your guys this time," Xander replied, looking the other man in the eye. "That could change."

"Take your hand out of your pocket," the guard next to Skorzeny stated, growling a little as he approached. "Do it now."

Xander glanced over at the man, nodding a little as he noted the ugly scar on the man's cheek. "It's nice to see you too, Dieter. You want your knife back?"

Slowly pulling his hand out of his pocket, he could almost feel the two men stiffen as they caught sight of the grenade in his hand. More so given that the pin was no longer in it. "Easy now, boys. We wouldn't there to be any accidents."

"Mr. Harris, there's no need for this," Hugo stated, looking on calmly as if it was any other business meeting. He shook his head slowly, scolding Xander as if he was a toddler. "You know I can't disclose the names of my customers. Client confidentiality is important in my line of business. As I'm sure it is in yours."

"True that," Xander responded, making sure that none of the security guards got twitchy. He didn't need to get shot right now, and then blown up. "But, it would be pretty bad for your business if security regulations in this country got even more tightened. If another bomb goes off, the governmental reaction's going to make 9/11 look like a picnic. You'll be back to selling stolen DVD players out of the back of a van. So, please, give me an address. Help your business out."

Hugo just looked at the other man, brow furrowed in thought and eyes slightly narrowed. "You know, you should be working for me. I pay much better than your current employer."

"Yeah well, didn't like your dental plan," Xander replied flippantly, raising the grenade a little to get the conversation back on topic. "Now, what's it going to be?"

Hugo sighed, shrugging as if it couldn't be helped. "I suppose, if I must. They are most likely located in Morrisania. On Franklin. That's the only other location I know they were at, aside from, well, I'm sure you know. I don't know the exact building, but I'm sure your can figure that out for yourself. As for their identities, well I didn't ask, and I don't know them from Adam. You will keep the origin of this information confidential, of course. Now leave."

Xander examined him, eyes narrowing a little, as he tried to ascertain if the black marketer was telling the truth. "Alright. Careful now."

He started to walk backwards, keeping an eye on the guns still aimed in his direction. It wouldn't do to get shot in the back once he was out of grenade range, which was probably in more than one of their minds. At least he didn't have to worry about cops coming after him. That was one of the fringe benefits of having to deal with criminals. They couldn't very well call the authorities on each other.

"And, Mr. Harris," Hugo called after him, taking a step forward confidently. "Don't let me catch you in Munich again. I promise that it won't go as it did last time. Or this time, for that matter."

Xander just nodded and gave a quick salute with his free hand. Better to be brave he supposed, or at least showing bravado. "I'll be seeing you, Hugo."

xxx

The glass slammed onto the top of the bar, Xander swallowing and wincing as the liquid flowed down his throat. It warmed his belly, which was good after running around in the cold night. The adrenaline had already left his body, his right hand no longer shaking as it had as he drove away from the warehouse district. It was odd, but it never seemed to happen during anything.

He looked to his right as the stool next to him was pulled out and someone sat down. It was who he expected, and looked to be about as happy as he expected as well. "So, can I buy you a drink?"

Olivia shook her head, mildly annoyed that Xander hadn't just told her what he wanted over the phone, instead of insisting on a meeting. She was beginning to think that he was just intentionally acting like an ass. "What did you want?"

"What's the point of a four o'clock last call if you're not around to make use of it?" Xander asked, halfway between rhetorical and not. "I'm guessing you didn't have much luck."

"What exactly were you expecting? " Agent Dunham asked, glaring a little at the man. "Playing cryptic doesn't let me build a case."

"Well, I suppose it keeps me out of prison, so it's not all bad," Xander said, digging his left hand into his coat pocket. He pulled out a scrap of paper, tossing it on top of the bar. "Franklin, in Morrisania. Not the best area of town. That's probably why they chose it. Anyway, you could probably scope it out. I'm sure that your director has enough latitude to get that done on an anonymous source."

"Should I ask what you had to do to get this?" Olivia asked, picking up the scrap of paper. She only bothered to glance at it before slipping it into her pocket.

Xander shrugged, wondering if he should get another drink. It probably wasn't a good idea.

"Is this what it's going to be?" Agent Dunham asked. "I need information, and you just go off and get it? Without any idea how you get it?"

"It's…safer for both of us this way," Xander said, after a moment. He grinned, feeling the buzz of alcohol against the weight of the night. "I think the issue you're having...it isn't how I'm getting what I'm getting, it's that you're not okay with how okay you are with not knowing."

The End?

You have reached the end of "Black Horizon" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 13 Aug 10.

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