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Field Trip-The Prelude
Cam sat in the almost empty bar drinking some bourbon and absently going over a map he had picked up of the Keys. "You planning on doing a bit of Key hopping?" The voice flowed over him like soft velvet and he looked up slowly from the papers on the table, his eyes travelling up the slim but shapely set of legs and over the exposed golden midriff. A soft hand cupped his chin drawing his face upwards. "I'm up here." Came the voice once more, it's soothing warmth was echoed in the face which owned it. "Ah always take mah time when ah'm enjoying the local scenery." said Cam, his mouth stretching into a wide grin as he extended his hand to the seat next to him. "Please. Have a seat... ..miss?" The raven haired beauty looked at him momentarily, almost as if she were having second thoughts about approaching him, then with an easy smile sat down. "Rodriguez. Antonia Rodriguez. Pleased to finally meet you Mr Angus." Taken by surprise, Cam almost let out an exclamation. "I am sorry if I have caught you at a disadvantage but time was a factor here." Letting out his breath in a slow sigh, Cam waved to the waitress to bring them another glass. "Ah'm getting used tae folks over here trying tae take advantage." he said slowly, as he waited for the waitress to leave. He poured some bourbon into the second glass and pushed it towards Antonia before filling his own glass once more. "Ah guess ye have something tae dae with the men that have been following me?" he asked, remembering a few near misses with the shadowy suits. "But fae the look o' yer tan ye dinnae look like a vampyre." Antonia smiled apologetically. "No Mr Angus. I am not a vampyre. You need not worry about this Faction seeking revenge for your recent actions in London. We have given them other things to worry about. The men you encountered previously were indeed a part of my.. group. We have been trying to contact you for several weeks now." Cam sat back in his chair, cradling his glass between his hands. "Call me Cam. Trying tae contact me? What for?" Antonia chuckled and took a long sip of her bourbon. "You are a hard man to keep a track of.. Cam. We almost caught up with you a few days back in New Orleans but you managed to elude us there. Your reputation is certainly well earned." As she spoke she pulled her chair around closer to Cameron's. "I'll cut right to the chase Cam. As I said we have been following your exploits for some time." She paused and exchanged glances with the few patrons in the bar. She smiled at him and reaching into her purse pulled out a small file pushing it across to him. As he read through the contents she continued to speak. "We are in the process of forming a small team of 'talented' individuals. People such as yourself. I appreciate you have prior experience of working in a team, not all of it good. If you are willing to hear me out, I'm sure I can convince you to join with us."

A hour or so later, Cam found himself sitting on the the deck of Alabama Jack's just north of Key Largo sharing a plate of conch fritters with the latin beauty who had managed to arouse his attention. There conversation had ranged beyond the proposal to Antonia herself who had come to the US with her older brother Anton Miguel following some troubles in their South American homeland. Anton had worked for their government back home and had managed to pull some strings and get them both to Miami. He had disappeared not long after however and had later turned up dead in New York. Deciding not to dwell on what was so obviously a difficult subject, Cam asked Antonia about the Keys themselves. Having spent mose of her time in Florida, Antonia explained how she knew when she'd crossed the border into Keys territory: "You walk into a bar where you've never been in your life. If everyone there treats you as if you've been closing the place every night for the last eight years, you're in the Keys." Cam chuckled and excusing himself sidled up to the bar and set down their empty glasses next to a line of empty longneck Budweisers. It took about 10 seconds for the bartender to say a hearty hello, then another 15 for the Bud drinker, a sunburned fellow in a tropical shirt and shorts , to introduce himself. In a minute or so, we were discussing his plans to open an authentic bagel bakery south of Key Largo. "Tourists come down here from the north, and they want bagels, real New York-style bagels, for breakfast and they can't get them, so you can see the potential here," he said. Ever curious Cam could not resist asking him where he had learned so much about bagel baking. "I ran a bagel operation up north," he said. "In Boulder, Colorado." It took Cam and Antonia a while to get back on the road because of the corollary to Antonia's theory - you know you're in the Keys when it takes twice as long as usual to say goodbye in any bar. The beer was flowing, the conversation lively and the company in the shape of Antonia was certainly entertaining. Cam was surprised himself at how easily this girl had worked her way into his affections. "Been on the road too long." he thought to himself, a strange smile flickering across his face as he watched the sun begin to set.

The following morning found Cam on his bike once more with a pretty girl at his back and he Cam couldn't help but grin as they rode through walls of thick mangrove that suddenly parted to reveal flat roadside clusters of motels, shopping malls, and souvenir and bait shops. He counted the mile markers backward (Key West was mile zero), and thought about the Keys' legendary anything-goes bonhomie. He hadn't expected to find much of it being a lone drifter. He glanced over his shoulder at Antonia. Things were definitely looking up. They had been enjoying the sunshine bathed them for the past two hours or so when Antonia leaned forward, indicating to Cam that he should take the next exit from US-1 and head out to Sugarloaf Key. From there she had told him earlier he would be able to get transport to the island. As they rode down the main street overlooking the ocean, a building on one of the street corners caught Cam's eye. "Ye fancy a drink?" he asked Antonia over his shoulder. She laughed and punched him playfully in the side. "I think you may have an alcohol problem Cam." "Hey! Ah drink. Ah fall down. Nae Problem." he chuckled as he pulled the bike up to the kerbside.

"The Twilight Tap? Sounds like a place plumbers hang out." he said as he opened the double front door ushering Antonia from the bright sunshine into the relative cool of the stone floored interior of the circular lobby. As Antonia walked ahead of him into the bar proper, he smiled in appreciation of the view. The bar was small compared to some he had seen on his travels but it was well appointed with the same stone flooring throughout the whole of the lower level. From their position at the door they could see that the ground floor was split into a restaurant and bar which both appeared to be doing a fair amount of trade. Opposite the lobby entrance a curved staircase led upwards presumably to guest rooms. Approaching the bar together, Cam was surprised when the barman nodded a welcome to Antonia. "You found him then?" he said as he eyed Cam dubiously. "Don't look like much." Cam leaned over the bar looking the older man up and down before meeting his eye. "Appearances can be deceiving. Look at you." he said softly. The man's face broke into a wide grin. "At least you have a bit of spirit to you." he said with a deep chuckle. "And if Antonia think's you are ok then that will do me. You can store your bike round back if you want. Not many roads where you're going." He poured them both a large frothing glass of beer and directed them to the corner table near the window. "Won't be a boat for an hour or so. Might as well relax some." Cam looked at Antonia curiously as he picked up their beers and headed towards the table. She put her finger to her lips and ushered him ahead with a grin. Once they were seated Cam couldn't stay quiet any longer. "What was all that about? Ah thought this was supposed tae be covert." he said, frowning a little despite the cooling beer sliding down his throat. "Steve Trevor's OK. He was in the business before most of us who are doing it now were born." She said quietly. "Retired now of course, but he still helps us out now and then. Mostly by providing a safe house out here ." She took a sip of her own beer, smiling over at Cameron as she did so. "From what I know of you, I don't think you are going to want to wait for the boat over are you?"

And so twenty minutes later Cam found himself skimming low across across the waves, Antonia's final words still ringing in his ears. "You're official liaison is Dr Valerie Cooper. Word is she was something big in Washington up to a few months ago." She ran her fingers down his arm. "But if you need someone else to talk to, Steve knows how to get a hold of me and I can be at the Tap within a couple of hours." Cam had smiled and given her a kiss on the cheek, his plasma field leaving a tingling impression on her skin as he took off. "Ah may well take ye up on that offer darlin'" he said and with a wave disappeared in a cloud of spray. His bike was safely locked up in a store room behind the Tap. Up ahead he could see the island. "Another team, another island. What is it with these secret agent types." he mused to himself as he felt the cooling salt spray thrown up by his passage. He could make out the main building easily between the trees, the bright sunlight glinting of it's metal surface as it nestled amidst the greenery. Arcing up into the air, Cam landed gracefully just outside the entrance to his new home. Releasing the straps which held his belongings to his body Cam caught the large duffel easily before it hit the ground, swinging it back over his shoulder as he opened the door and entered. Inside stood a woman who looked like she would rather be anywhere but in the Florida Keys. "Dr Cooper ah presume?" he said as he held out his hand to her. After exchanging a few perfunctory pleasantries, the Doctor directed Cam to his own living quarters.

Dropping his duffel onto the bed, Cam made his way over to the window, stripping of his soaked clothes as he did. The trip across the narrow band of water had been tiring without the assistance of his suit to channel his energies but he would have looked rather conspicuous walking from the Tap in his blue costume. Besides he knew it was better not to rely so heavily on the suit since you never knew when you were going to have to fly. After tossing his wet clothes onto the floor, Cam looked at himself in the mirror. In addition to the large scar which ran the length of his left arm, his body showed the dark side of life on the road, fresher scars crisscrossing each other on his forearms and shins. He gingerly touched the scar on his shoulder. The dragon bite. Even after all this time it still ached now and then. With a small shrug he turned away from the mirror and headed into the bathroom, the prospect of a refreshing shower the only thing on his mind for the next few minutes. Suitably refreshed and dressed in a clean if somewhat boisterous shirt and kneelength combat shorts, Cam left his room with the intention of exploring the island and maybe catching a few rays before meeting his new team mates officially. He nodded to Dr Cooper and the man she was talking to as he walked briskly past and out into the sunshine once more. Beyond the trees he spied a path leading away from the building towards the sea. "Beach time!" he thought as he padded quuckly away from the base, the ground warm against the soles of his bare feet. As he exited the trees, he pulled his sunglasses from his shorts pocket and put them on, looking over the beach in a wide arc as he did so. Off in the distance he could here what sounded like a dog barking. Deciding it was as good a direction to head as any Cam found himself walking through the surf towards the noise, the warm water breaking against his ankles as his toes sunk into the soft sand. The barking grew louder as he rounded a stand of palms which reached towards the sun.

A short distance away he could see a german shepherd cavorting in and out of the surf, barking as it did. He walked towards it, stopping as he heard the sound of music and spotted what was presumably the dog's owner enjoying the sunshine. With a broad grin on his face he walked quietly over, admiring the expanse of smooth golden skin exposed to his welcome gaze. A cascade of shocking pink hair fell across her shoulders. "Now that's a sight fer sair eyes." he said with a chuckle as he stopped, his shadow falling across the bronzed skin.

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