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Part 1

Hermosa Beach
0900 hours

On the sandy California beach behind the Silver Star Hotel, four people played volleyball. They were a handsome group, if you didn't count the little short guy vainly trying to impress nearby women with his serves. On one team, a man and a woman. The other was two men. The woman was tall and slender with dark mahogany hair pulled back and a calm, beautiful face. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes, but one would imagine them to be a piercing shade of green. One would be right. The man beside her, now serving the ball, was just around six feet, with dark blonde hair shaved in a military cut. He was very fit -many of the passing ladies noticed and drooled- and wore no top, emphasizing a prominent six-pack and toned pecs. His icey blue gaze was that of a hawk, taking in everything and analyzing it in a second. On the other team was the little man with short, curly black hair, comical features and squinty blue eyes. His partner was the tallest of the group with light brown hair that was short, but not crew cut like the man on the opposite side of the net. He was, however, just as fit. Another set of commanding blue eyes glared competitivly out of the ruggedly handsome face that was also calling the attention of several of the females on the beach. It seemed obvious that they were all military of some sort.

"That's game!" Benny Ray Riddle crowed, hugging the woman companionably after she spike-served the ball to the other side of the net. "Nice job, Margo, y'brought the big guy down a notch!" he added, his strong Southern accent becoming apparent.

Margo Vincent chuckled and pulled free of Benny Ray's embrace to walk over to the net. "Sorry, Matt," she called to the tallest man, a grin indicating the fakeness of her apology. "Didn't mean to upset your reign of terror over the volleyball nets of Hermosa Beach." Matt Shepherd, obviously the leader of the little group, smiled sarcastically and laughed.

"Ya cheated!" hollered Nick Delvecchio in a thick New York accent. He was on the ocean side of the net, bent over with his hands on his knees.

"No, you just don't like losing, Nick!" Benny Ray replied.

"Ah, whateva'."

Margo was too intent on the black limo pulling into the Silver Star's parking lot to join in the banter. Hoots of laughter drifted across the beach from the male contingent's half-hearted shots at each other.

"Think we could charge him for harassment?" Margo quipped to the guys as their laughter died upon sight of the older man walking towards them in a black suit. He looked extremely out of place. Matt reached Margo first and placed an arm around her with a grin.

"Nah, then he'd just cut us off from the bank account." Matt said just before the suited man came within earshot.

Xavier Trout tugged at his tie, obviously uncomfortable in the morning heat. Without preamble, he started his briefing.

"Have any of you ever heard of 'The Chameleon'?" Trout asked, looking around his team of elite operatives. Margo was the only one without a puzzled look on her face.

"He's a top class, elite computer hacker who has the ability to change identities faster than anyone can track him," she explained for the benefit of the rest of the group, shielding her eyes from the California sun. Margo was the team's computer expert and usually came up with the intel needed for their frequent missions.

"Hey, didn't he do dat hack job on Microsoft earlier dis year?" Nick asked.

"Yup. Nearly put Bill Gates out a couple billion." Margo replied, running a hand through her damp hair. "However, The Chameleon was blocked out of the system before he could do any real damage. From what I hear, he was none too thrilled to have his plans foiled," she finished.

"You would be correct, Ms. Vincent." Trout said. "So, he's decided to take his revenge by hacking into the Pentagon's weapons system. If he gets the go codes, we're looking at world-wide Hiroshima." the older man concluded darkly.

"Wait...I thought the U.S wasn't handling nuclear weapons any more." Benny Ray looked thoughtful as he spoke.

"Wrong." Trout said, lowering his voice as a couple strolled off the beach, past the group and into Matt's hotel. When he was sure that no-one else was within hearing range, he continued. "The Government has continued testing them for some time."

"So...you want us to...what?" Nick asked.

"There's a tough one." Benny Ray quipped. Matt, Margo and Trout all shot the sniper annoyed looks and they both shut up instantly.

"I want you to get the go codes before he can blow the whole damned world up!" Trout hissed. "Are you all clear on what you have to do?" Trout demanded, glaring about the group.

"Yeah, yeah we are." Matt answered for them all.

"Good. Your plane to New York leaves from LAX in four hours." Trout said and handed Matt four plane tickets. As Trout started to walk away , he paused, then turned back. "Have fun, people."

With a collective sigh, they all headed up to the hotel. At the bar, Matt's waitress Debbie grinned and waved at them.

"What's up, guys? Have a good game?" Debbie called brightly.

"Oh my. I cannot handle her perkiness right now." Margo said acidly as the rest of the team retreated down the stairs to the basement which was their head- quarters. "I'm going home to pack some stuff. I'll be back within the hour." She turned to walk out to her Jag when Matt caught her shoulder lightly.

"Loser buys winner a five course meal in New York?" He said quietly. Margo half-smiled and nodded.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world." She replied, and walked out the door. Matt stared at her back and smiled to himself. See? That wasn't so hard...but she probably thinks it's just a evening out with a friend. Maybe not...


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