8. Over San Miguel

"You think he's lost it?" Hyrax asked quietly. Most of the team had assembled in a dingy bar in Luzon, one of the few remaining sanctuaries for the ever dwindling population of old Asian hands from the murky operations of decades past, not exactly the sort of place one would expect to find the current generation of spooks.

"I refuse to respond to that question on the grounds the answer may be hazardous to my health." Okami's smile was razor thin.

"Come on, St. John, you saw what he did!"

Carillon laid a hand gently on Hyrax's shoulder. "We all saw what he did, Harmon," she said with a soothing lilt. "And under the circumstances, I understand why he did it."

"Just because you 'understand' it doesn't mean that you 'agree' with it," the hacker scowled.

"No, it doesn't. And if we're going to get down to semantics, I don't agree with what he did. I tend not to strip for the team when I'm right in front of them." Carillon's smile was dazzling, but the bitter tone in her voice made her opinions of Dimes' ruthless behavior crystal clear.

Trigger shifted in his seat, a bottle of San Miguel beer pressed to his still bruised face. "I can't say I enjoyed the experience, guys, but I do agree with what the boss did. Second guessing him when he's not in the room is just asking for trouble."

"Jacob, he must've clocked you harder than I thought. You don't have a problem with what he did?" Hyrax shook his head in disbelief

"No, kid, I don't. And I'll tell you why. However much we liked him, however much he did for us, Ivan sold us out. He burned us. Worse, we don't know who he gave us up to or why."

"Kinda hard to do that with a bullet in your head," hissed Hyrax.

"He wasn't going to give up the information we needed, Harmon. And we didn't have time to sweat him. Given the choice between keeping a known liability alive or keeping his team alive, Dimes chose the team."

"I notice it didn't stop him from leaving that rat bastard Koancho agent alive!"

"True," Marchuk noted, taking a sip of beer. "On the other hand, Ashihara wasn't one of us. He might have had similar goals, but he was playing for another team to begin with, regardless of these new players pulling his strings. As much as he might have wanted to, Dimes couldn't touch Ashihara without causing more problems than he solved. Flick, on the other hand, presented an immediate problem that he could solve without complications."

Hyrax balled his fists in frustration. "Flick was part of the team!"

"Yes," a new voice said quietly, "Flick was part of the team. 'Was' being the operative word in that sentence."

Buchner turned around, looking up at the slightly pale features of Annette Van Rijn. "Nike." A few moments of silence "Glad you made it," he said lamely.

"The only reason I made it is because Dimes didn't flinch when the really hard call came up. Yes, Ivan was one of us. Ivan also shot me and tried to pass it off as a hit by the perennial 'unknown assailants.' I'm lucky that the bullet got slowed down by the edge of the Kevlar, but the moment he pulled the trigger was the moment he ceased to be one of us. He was no longer our friend and comrade. He was a threat. He was a mole. He more than likely gave us up to whoever his bosses were. I don't know how Dimes figured it out, but he's not stupid, and he didn’t back away from doing the dirty work that needed to be done. And while having you sitting in your underwear for a little while might have bruised your dignity, you're still alive." Nike pulled up a chair and sat down, favoring her left side. "Gotta admit. Embarrassing as it might be, it got the point across to Ashihara. In a way, Dimes burned him probably as much as Ivan burned us. The leak on our end got sealed, and Ashihara has been unmasked. His cover is blown, even if the Koancho hasn't been alerted yet to the fact they've been infiltrated. Ashihara's usefulness is now at an end as far as a resource. The smart money says he'll run for it. Probably for Indonesia, possibly Peru. No way he'll stay in Japan or head for the States."

"What I'm more concerned about," Okami mused, "is something Ivan said right before Dimes closed his contract. Ivan called him 'Dickory.' Why would he do that?"

Carillon shrugged and took a long pull off her own beer bottle. "Don't know. Up until a few days ago, I wouldn't have thought that Dimes knew anybody on the team prior to our first assignment together. Then again, I wouldn't have thought there was a mole on the team. Either Flick knew him beforehand, Flick was informed about him, or Flick was so out of his mind with the potential for his impending demise that he started blathering and what we heard was a slip of the tongue."

"And if you believe that," snorted Hyrax, "I've got some bottom land to sell you. Can't tell you what it's at the bottom of, though."

"When it's all said and done, Har, we're still alive and we're probably still in the game. That right there proves that Dimes hasn't lost it." Merriweather just looked at his beer. "We just have to play it cool for a little while, that's all."

The team silently agreed and went about the quiet and steady consumption of San Miguel until Dimes showed up an hour later.

"My team," he said with feigned sorrow, grinning broadly. "Here you are, slugging down San Miguel like a bunch of washed up Asian hands, while I'm out working to get us transportation."

"Transportation to where?" Nike asked curiously.

"Macau. I've got a line on Deng Wei Chiang. Seems that he's freelancing for the Guoanbu, and he's covered as a 'lifestyles reporter' in Macau. Living large and rolling with the high rollers. All the better to expose the decadent lifestyles of the imperialist class enemies of the peace loving people of Beijing, no doubt. We're catching a slow boat there. It's not fancy, but it has the virtue of being unobtrusive, and highly unlikely to be noticed. We sail with the tide." Dimes checked his watch. "Which is in about three hours. Next round's on me."