Nine

Erika couldn't understand why Piro was so reluctant to split up. She knew he was cautious by nature, but she was surprised that it would cloud his judgment like this. Maybe he felt responsible that his team had been captured, and he was being extra cautious now. It still was no excuse for making a tactical mistake. With a tinge of desperation in her voice, she reiterated her point, "If we all go to the barracks, whoever's guarding Largo is sure to be alerted. If that happens they'll either kill him or use him as a hostage. If we all go to find Largo, we may alert the rest of the camp and lose our element of surprise. Plus, someone is going to eventually notice we've escaped. Sir, splitting up is our best chance of getting Largo and ourselves out of here safely."

She could tell that Piro was torn over this, and she assumed he was struggling with his instincts and logic. She hoped logic would win out. She held her breath as he spoke, "Ok, we'll split up, but I'm the one who's going after Largo."

Erika shook her head and said, "No disrespect sir, be we both know I'm the team's best fighter. If anyone is going by themselves it's got to be me." Piro was obviously agitated by this, and it looked like he was about to give Erika an order when Kimiko reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. Erika watched as the two stared at each other, then saw how Piro deflated.

Piro looked back and forth between the two girls and said, "Sometimes I wonder who's really in charge here." He threw his hands up and said, "Ok Erika, you go after Largo, and Kimiko and I will take care of the guards." Then he turned to Kimiko and said, "She's going to need a disguise, and we've already wasted too much time; I suggest you get busy."

In a little under fifteen minutes after Kimiko freed her, she was disguised as a guard and on the move. They knew which buildings the guards used as barracks, because they had seen them going in and out on the way to the bathroom. They had no idea where Largo was, or even if he was still in the complex. Fortunately, there weren't many buildings to check, so it wouldn't take long to find out.

It only took Erika a few minutes to discover that there was only one other building that was guarded. I sure as hell hope he's in there, she thought as she scoped the area. It only took her a minute to come up with a plan of attack, when she was ready she checked her watch. Piro told her he was going to give her ten minutes before he acted. He also told her to use her own judgment on whether or not to attack before they did.

Erika decided that it shouldn't be a problem taking out the two guards. If she waited for Piro and Kimiko to act first only one guard, at most, would leave to see what was going on, and the other one would be alerted. If she acted first they would have one less guard to worry about. With her mind made up she put her plan into action.

She starting walking in a leisurely fashion, straight down the main path to the building. Kimiko did good enough of a job with her disguise that, in this light, she could probably get as close as fifteen feet without any problems. The guards didn't notice her until she was about twenty feet away. When one of them greeted her she just waved her hand in reply. When she was about fifteen feet away the other guard asked, "Que pasa?" She acted like she was going to answer then she bowed her head, so the brim of her hat would cover her face, and she started coughing. At about eight feet away she was still coughing when both guards started asking questions in suspicious voices. That's when she made her move.

She ran the last few feet and struck the guard on her right in the throat with the side of her hand. The powerful blow crushed his windpipe, and he fell to the ground gasping for air. At nearly the same instant as her blow connected, she thrust the knife in her left hand into the abdomen of the other guard. Leaving the knife in his gut, she grabbed his head with both hands and broke his neck, then quickly killed the other guard.

Hurriedly, she dragged both bodies into the shadows and out of sight. Next, she looked for a monitor to see if Largo was inside, but was disappointed when she couldn't find one. Preparing herself to go in, she chose a handgun over the AK-47 as her primary weapon. She didn't expect anyone else to be in there if Largo was, but she knew she was more accurate with a handgun just in case there was. With a handgun in one hand, a knife in the other and an AK-47 strapped to her back she thought she'd be ready for anything. She had no idea how wrong she was.

As quietly as she could, she opened the door about an inch then backed away. She waited a few moments to see if anything would happen; when nothing did, she tried to look into the building. Not being able to see anything, she cautiously opened the door a little more. When the door was open enough, she stuck her head and gun into the room to see what was inside. She was so surprised by what she saw that she actually dropped her gun.

The sight of their captor sitting on Largo's lap, dressed like a tart, and passionately kissing him was more than she could cope with. She didn't even realize she had dropped the gun until she heard it hit the floor. As soon as she realized what she'd done, she instantly regretted it, because she felt like shooting both of them.

Dropping the gun had another undesirable effect; it alerted the kissing couple that they had company. With speed that defied belief, the woman he had called Miho saw her and came charging at her. A knife seemed to materialize in her hand as she charged. Only later did she realize that it must have been hidden on the chair, because there certainly was no place to hide it on her body.

Luckily Erika's fighting instincts were so fine-tuned that she didn't need her brain to respond to the attack. If she had, she would have been dead before she knew what happened. Instead, she deftly blocked Miho's attack, and automatically countered with a slash of her own. Miho spun away from the attack and swung her blade at Erika's head. Erika blocked the swing then snapped a kick at her opponent, which forced her to jump back to avoid it.

Now that there were a few feet between them, they took a brief pause and sized each other up. Neither one was overly eager to return to combat, so Erika took the time to try to sort her thoughts. Her first thought was, Why is Largo still sitting in the chair? A quick glance revealed that he was bound to it. While she was still upset that he had been kissing Miho, she was now glad that she didn't shoot him. Thinking of shooting him reminded her of the gun she'd dropped.

They took a few more stabs at each other, but it soon became obvious that they were almost equally matched. At the next break in the action, Erika stole a quick glance at the gun, but she quickly discarded any thoughts of retrieving it. Miho was just too fast; she knew she'd be dead before she could use it. She also realized that the same held true for the AK-47 strapped to her back. Her biggest concern was how to keep Miho from getting the gun. Her opponent was much quicker and nimbler than she was, so her chance of retrieving the weapon was much better. While considering Miho's abilities, she came to the conclusion that if it hadn't been for her longer reach and extraordinary reflexes, she'd surely be dead by now.

She decided that the best way to keep the gun from Miho was to kick it out of reach. If she were lucky, maybe Miho would run after it, then she would have time to use the AK-47. When she kicked the gun, Miho attacked. The attack was a straightforward lunge directed right at her heart. Once again her lightning reflexes saved her, but this time she didn't come out unscathed. The deflected lunge missed her chest but still caught her on the upper arm and left behind a gaping wound. Her counter thrust was slow and unbalanced; it completely missed its mark as her opponent had already backed away.

As they studied each other again Erika became mad at herself. She realized that she must have telegraphed her thoughts with her eye movements, and that Miho had been waiting for her to act. As she vowed to herself not to repeat her mistake, she began to wonder if she could pull a similar trick. Then it dawned on her, when Piro and Kimiko attacked, Miho was sure to be distracted. She took a quick peek at her watch and saw that it was almost time. Knowing she had little time left, she made a quick decision about what she was going to do then simply waited for her distraction to happen.

Moments later she heard the gunshots and instantly lunged at her opponent. Even though she was distracted, Miho was able to jump out of the way quick enough to avoid serious damage, but Erika's blade did make a long shallow cut along her forearm. Without taking a break to check her wound, Miho lunged past Erika, trying to take a swipe at her arm as she passed, but Erika was prepared and expertly parried her attack.

Now Erika stood in-between Largo and Miho, and Miho was closest to the door. As Erika watched her, she could tell that she was listening to the fighting going on out side. After a moment of listening she finally spoke. "Your friends?" she asked. In reply Erika simply nodded her head. After another moment Miho said, "I see… perhaps another time." Then with a quick look at Largo, that Erika couldn't read, Miho disappeared out into the night.

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