Roland tugged on his collar as he looked over the airfield, glancing at his watch. “They're late.”
“We're early,” Jack corrected, smiling easily. “And here they come. Remember, they don't know that we're Magisters, only that we're additional security.” He looked at the several crates that the airfield's crew were in the process of unloading from the small cargo plane, under the watchful eyes of airport security and several FBI agents, and then towards the armored truck currently crossing the airfield towards them.
“I remember. Pipes said it enough times,” Roland said back, fixing a smile on his face as he turned towards the truck.
As the truck pulled up, Jack slid a small business card out of his pocket, double-checking the face and name printed on it, and matching them against the man behind the wheel, a tall, dark-haired man whose uniform matched Jack's own. “Mister Yarrow, yes?”
Yarrow smiled. “Call me Sam,” he said, stepping forwads. As he did his partner, a young woman with dark red hair cut in short bangs, thin glasses and a serious expression, slipped easily from the passenger side and took a half-step forwards, scanning the area. Jack hesitated in mid-step, looking from Yarrow to the woman.
Yarrow misunderstood. “My associate, Miss Locklear,” he said with a smile. Locklear nodded absently to Jack, her attention on the unloading. “No problems on the flight, I hope?”
“Ah, no.” Jack shook Yarrow's hand. “Hopefully none on the way to the museum, either. Do you have a preference for deployment?”
“I was planning to drive, since it's my truck,” Yarrow said. “You and me in the front, your friend and Locklear in the back?”
“Sounds good.” Jack nodded, turning away to check on the crates. As he did, he focused his thoughts, throat quivering very slightly. 'We have a serious problem, people. The Mythica are here.'
'What?!' Piper's voice echoed across his ears, carrying a dozen echoes of words she had almost chosen, edges of confusion and worry. 'Where?'
'Yarrow and Locklear.'
'Impossible.' Director Henry this time, his voice perfectly precise and betraying nothing. 'I know Sam Yarrow. He's no criminal.'
'That's not Sam Yarrow. I can smell cold ice and blood, and it's wrapped around him like a shroud. He's a shapeshifter of some kind. The woman's power smells the same, but it's tangled inside her, angling with every shift of motion. She's probably the speedster we heard about, Kitsune.'
'A shapeshifter. No wonder they've done so well.' The director sent the thought wonderingly. 'Should have realized.'
'Do we move in?' Blossom, thoughts tinged with worry.
'No. They don't know we've tagged them, we can play that. Don't let them make a move against you, Jack, but get in the truck. Wait a few minutes before you confront the shifter, and be ready to move in. Blossom, Piper, I want you to move in the instant Jack says anything, or when the rest of the Mythica arrives.' Director Henry let a hint of satisfaction seep into his thoughts. 'We can turn their ambush against them know that we know their game. They might even be planning to wait until we reach the museum and turn the artifacts over to the guards.'
'Right.' Jack glanced over, looking around at the scene. Most of the crates had been loaded, and Yarrow was back in the truck, leaning against the door. Next to him, Roland was in the process of attempting to start a conversation with a clearly uninterested Locklear. 'Problem,' he thought. 'Roland doesn't have a clue, and I can't tell him while we're around these two.'
'Crap.' Piper's thought, ideas already start to percolate around the edges. 'Blossom, can you slip up and warn him? As a rat or something?'
'A rat?' Blossom, incredulous. 'I have no idea how to build a rat's body, Piper. I can't even begin to imagine – how does a rat's bone structure work, anyway? Do they have biceps?'
'No rats, then.' Piper thought hurriedly. 'Jack, you'll have to figure something out. Be subtle, we don't want them to know that we're on to them.'
'Agreed. This is the best chance the Mythica will ever give us,' thought Director Henry.
'I'll see what I can do.'
Over at the truck, Roland glanced over to see Jack adjusting the cuffs of his shirt, and chuckled. “That man, I swear.”
“Fashion-conscious?” Locklear said with a smile, leaning over to look. Roland glanced down at her with a grin.
“Like nobody's business. Not a fan of the uniform, either.”
“Well, some people fill it out better than others.” Locklear said with a very slightly teasing edge. Roland glanced down again, startled, to find her once again watching Jack seriously as he walked towards the pair.
“Everything under control?” he asked.
“They're loading the final crates now,” Locklear said. “I was just about to join them.”
“Very good. Roland, you're in the back with Ms. Locklear. I'll take the front seat with Mr. Yarrow. Keep an eye on the road, just in case we're followed.”
Roland grinned, turning to watch Locklear striding to the back. “I'll be very attentive,” he promised earnestly.
“Very good. See you on the other side,” Jack said, stepping past him. As he did, Roland felt the slighest pressure on his pocket. He hesitated, slipping his hand in and pulling out a small folded piece of paper. Waiting until Locklear was inside, he glanced at it. It said only 'Here now.'
Roland glanced from the paper to the woman supervising the last crate's loading, and sighed. Wasn't that always the way. You meet an interested girl, and she's just trying to get you off your guard before she takes you out. She was probably planning to distract him a bit and then knock him out.
After a half-second, he found his annoyance fading, and as she turned to look at him and smiled, he didn't find it difficult to smile back. She wanted to play him, did she? Boy, was she in for a surprise.