The Lone Gunmen were infiltrating the D.C. Technological Fair in order to get information on one of their nemeses. "We need a good cover." Jimmy said as he tried to fit in with the rest of the group. "We have a cover. We work for a newspaper. That's our cover." "Well, I think that we need something else. Something less obvious...." Frohike looked over at a sign that they were hanging. "I believe I have found it." He said. The sign said 'Sexiest Geek' contest. "How is that going to help us. I don't think any of us qualify as a sexy geek. Wait. What if they need a judge?" Byers was thinking as he was saying this. Everyone slowly turned and looked at Langly who was mysteriously quiet throughout this conversation. "What?" And that was how Langly found himself as a judge for the sexiest geek contest. Karen Smith worked at the Brinkley Consultant Agency. Her main job was as a consultant to different groups, such as schools, with their computer systems. They also worked on research and development. It was this side of the job that Karen did not like. Not because she didn't like research and development, but because it was so competitive. She had been considering leaving, which would make her male colleagues very happy, until she mistakenly intercepted an e-mail that was meant for one of her co-workers. She didn't understand its cryptic message, but it intrigued her enough to make her want to dig deeper. She got hold of a disk that would tamper with the U.S. defense system. Once 'they' had figured out what she had done, they wiped her identity clean and she went on the run. All that she had going for her was her computer knowledge that kept her one step ahead of her pursuers. Karen had come to the D.C. Technological Fair to make contact with someone who could possibly help her. She was aware upon entering the facility that she was being watched. She had to make sure that she stayed near lots of people. She had just been given the name "Ringo". How am I going to find the Beatles here. It was then that she saw the sign advertising the Sexiest Geek Contest. She stifled a smirk and headed for the line. Langly, being one of the judges was at the booth to hand out applications and answer questions. "Hi, can I have an application, please?" Langly almost didn't look up, but when he did, he almost couldn't take his eyes off of her. She had beautiful, curly, auburn hair, and green eyes that were very exotic. But, it was her skin that was what blew him away. the best way to describe it was to say it looked liked buttercream. Suddenly, Langly couldn't speak. He tried, but no words came out. "May I have an application?" Karen repeated. This time she pointed at the application in case he couldn't hear or he couldn't speak English. Langly just handed her the application. She wasn't surprised by his reaction. People were often affected by her unique coloring . Her father had been Irish with red hair and freckles. Her mother had been half Hispanic and half African-American which made for a very unique look. She was beautiful. She hadn't always been. When she was kid they used to call her Umpa Lumpa like from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If those kids could see her now, they would be shocked. "Thank you." She said in her sultriest voice. She took the application over to a table to fill out. There were lots of people at the tables. She kept looking up to see if someone were looking at her. The only person that was looking at her was the guy at the counter. She couldn't tell if he'd even blinked since she left. In the meantime, Frohike came up to see how things were going. "Huh?" was all he got form Langly. Frohike followed Langly's line of sight and saw what Langly had been looking at. "Wow! Where'd she come from?" Langly still had not uttered more than two words. She hadn't really planned on going through with the contest. She was just wasting time until she could figure out how to find "Ringo". The questions on the application were mostly about computers and science fiction. "Oh my goodness. I am a geek!" She hadn't realized it until now. She giggled as she looked up at the guy behind the counter. At that moment another guy came up and called the guy behind the counter "Ringo". "Oh no. Here I was flirting with that guy and now I have to go back up and talk to him. Oh well, here goes." She took the application back up to the counter. "Hi again. All done." She handed Langly the application. "Uh - I heard that guy call you Ringo. I'm supposed to meet someone here named Ringo." As she thought about what she said, the more it sounded like a 'pick up line. "SpaceCase sent me." Langly knew who SpaceCase was and he knew that if SpaceCase sent her, she must be in trouble. "Do you need help?" She suddenly wanted to cry as she thought about what her life had become over the past few months. "Is their some place we can talk?" He could tell that she was about to cry as he led her to an empty conference room. Between the sobs, she explained to him what she had gone through. He listened and then let her cry on his shoulder. Afterwards, he held her until she stopped crying. "We can help you."
********************************************************************** "So, you intercepted an e-mail. that's how this whole thing got started?" Frohike didn't seem to believe her. "Yes, my e-mail address is close to the one for the person it was intended. When I received it, of course I didn't know what it was about. But, I'm always receiving strange e-mails. Its nothing new. This one made me want to find out what was going on. You see, this group that I work wit is supposed to share all information. So, this was information that I didn't know." Byers jumped in at this point. "So, you were mad that you were out of the loop?" She nodded and they could see the anger on her face. "Its happened before. You see, my colleagues are all men. So when a minority woman joined the team, things got a little chilly." They all knew that this was probably true. "I stayed after work one day and started downloading some files. The problem is that I didn't know Jacobson was coming back that evening. I didn't get everything before I had to leave." Her eyes began to fill with tars again. She was not usually so weepy, but she felt the situation was hopeless. Langly handed her some tissue. "They wiped my identity clean. The next morning no one knew who I was at work. I'm pretty much a loner and I don't have any family..." "No um- boyfriend or husband?" They all looked at Langly knowing his motivation for the question. "No." She was amused. Langly didn't realize it, but he was already fantasizing about this girl. His love life wasn't really anything to talk about. He was also a loner. Alright let's face it, he thought, he was a computer geek. Everybody knew girls didn't dig computer geeks. Unless, they were a computer geek. He would keep his options open. "So, what your saying is that we need to break into the Caldwell building with its sophisticated security system and download the rest of the information?" Karen nodded in agreement. Everybody looked at Langly. His expertise would be needed for this job. "Alright, alright you don't have to tell me twice." They set the operation for that night. Karen would disable the alarm system while Langly went in. Langly watched as Karen's fingers flew over the keyboard almost as fast as his. He was impressed. "All alarms are shut down." she announced. She caught his look of approval and smiled back. Everyone except Karen and Byers left the van to do their various jobs. Karen was also monitoring the cameras that were set throughout the building. Her eyes went to one particular camera. "Oh, no,." she whispered. Byers began to look interested. "What's wrong?" She ignored his question as she quickly contacted Langly on his earpiece. "Ringo, you've got to get out. They've hired a security guard. A real, live person. Probably after I broke in. He's doing his rounds. Langly could tell that she was frantic. "I'm almost finished. How close is he?" She flicked through the cameras. "He's on your floor headed straight for you." Peter Sanders, the new security guard at the Caldwell building knew that they had an intruder. They had also put in a silent alarm that was on a separate system. The big boss wanted the intruder without police involvement. He knew that she would be back. She didn't get everything the first time. "Hurry, Ringo. He's almost there." Langly made a few last minute plucks and then shut down the system. "I've got it!" "But you can't get out. He's right outside...." There was no word from Langly as the security guard opened the door. She expected to hear a gunshot or something, but the guard just backed out and closed the door. Karen began to frantically search for Langly. She was almost at the point of tears now. Suddenly, the side door of the van opened and there was Langly. She sprang out of the door and hugged him. "I thought you had been captured." Langly was shocked when she sprang on him, but then he took the opportunity and hugged her back. She didn't resist. The others noticed and were surprised. "Uh, 'scuse me, but don't you think we oughta get outta here?" Frohike was right. It seems an alarm was pulled and cars were beginning to pull up to the building. They all jumped into the van and took off. "We're going to put you up in a motel while we sort thorough things." Byers was saying. Karen didn't let go of Langly's hand during the whole trip. She didn't even realize it. Langly didn't know what to think. "OH, she's just scared. She would have latched onto anyone. It just happened to be me." He thought to himself. When they arrived at the motel, Karen began to panic. "You aren't going to leave me here alone are you?" She was terrified. Her eyes locked onto Langly's. He didn't know what it was, but she needed him. "I'll stay with you." He heard himself say. the others didn't know what to make of it. There was something strange going on between the two of them, but no one thought that it had anything to do with love. "Okay. Well, we'll pick you up tomorrow morning." Frohike was saying. Langly and Karen went into the motel office to register. "Mr. and Mrs. Jones." The clerk read and then had a little smirk on his face like he didn't believe them. Karen felt as if she were about to drop. When they got inside, she went directly to the bed and laid down. "Tired?" Langly asked as he covered her up. "I haven't had a good night's sleep in two months." She was drifting . Langly turned off the light and went over to the sofa. He took off his shoes and glasses and tried to fit his six foot frame on the four foot couch. Her shriek split the night. Langly was up and off the couch in a flash. He was by her side. She was screaming, crying and fighting. All he could do was pin her arms to her side to keep her from fighting. When she finally go to the point where she was too tired to fight anymore, she just hung there onto him. Langly was holding her and a million thoughts were going through his head. He wanted to hold her not just for her, but for him. Suddenly Karen pulled away and looked into Langly's eyes. She was trying to figure out why she cared so much for him. One thing for sure, she knew she felt safe with him. He wasn't a big, brawny guy, but she knew that he would do whatever it took to protect her. He was also honest and sincere. She had met so many guys that were jerks. Guys that would say anything to get her into bed. She didn't feel the same around Langly as she did with the jerks. She touched his cheek as if she was memorizing the planes of his face. Langly felt as if he would explode at any moment. She kissed him lightly at first and then she stopped to look at him once again. You could have heard a pin drop. There was no sound as they stared at each other. Karen saw his very prominent Adam's apple move as he swallowed hard. He was having trouble controlling himself. This time he touched her face and her hair as if in disbelief. Then he kissed her harder than she had kissed him. Up until now, he had only dreamt of this. He never actually expected those dreams to come true. Who was this woman, and why did she like him? He was asking himself these questions as the kiss deepened. As the sun rose the next morning, Langly was holding Karen. It seemed so natural although he had never really been in this situation before. She trusted him; he could feel it. She relied on him for strength which was also something new. It was quite a turn on having someone feel that way about you. He held her closer as he thought of this. He hadn't really slept at all. He was content to watch her sleep. She had been very tired. There was a knock at the door. Langly silently laid her down and went over to get his glasses before answering the door. Of course, he bumped into a few things before getting his glasses. When he reached the door, he made sure that he looked out the peep-hole before opening it. "Shhh - Karen's still sleeping" Frohike eyed Langly closely. He wondered if anything had CHANGED since they last saw him. Oh well, he'd save that for later. They kept their voices low as they talked. "Your friend SpaceCase is dead. They found him in a dumpster this morning. I'd say her friends know who we are now." Langly looked pissed. SpaceCase had not been a real good friend, but he didn't want him to be dead. "SpaceCase is dead?" Karen had woken up and heard the whole thing. She was wearing one of Langly's shirts which reached to just above her knees, but it still looked suspicious. A few eyebrows went up and eyes looked at Langly. "Don't even say it, Frohike." Langly warned. "That means that they know who you guys are and in just a little while they'll figure out where I am." She had ignored what Langly said and was starting to panic again. Langly immediately flew to her side and put his arms around her. The others looked at each other again wondering what had happened the night before. "I'm okay." she was saying as Langly continued to hold her. Byers, trying to bring the focus back to the situation, continued. "We think that you and the discs will be safer here. Are you going to stay here with her Langly?" This was, obviously a silly question, so Langly made a sarcastic face. "We brought your computer. We thought you might try to figure out what's on the discs." The part that was unspoken was, "instead of messing around with the girl". Langly hadn't even thought about his computer in the last day or so. Before Frohike, Byers and Jimmy went back to the office, they brought Langly and Karen something to eat. After showering and changing and while Karen finished eating (forced to do so by Langly), Langly was busy at the computer. "Oh, wow..." Langly said as his fingers flew over the keyboard. Karen came over and casually placed her hand on his shoulder. "What is it?" Langly noticed her hand on his shoulder, but only smiled and kept going. "It's a missile defense system." Karen didn't understand. "What would our company be doing with a missile defense system? We deal mostly with schools and small businesses." Langly kept punching buttons. "I think that they were planning to sell this to the highest bidder."
************************************************************************ Meanwhile, back at the Lone Gunmen headquarters, the rest of the gang was busy getting this week's paper out. All was going well until the buzzer sounded. "I wonder who that could be?" Byers said as went to answer the door. Whoever it was had stepped out of the sight of the cameras which should have been their first clue. Two angry-looking goons kicked in the door and began to bust up the place and the gunmen. Finally, the man who looked to be in charge signaled the others to stop. "Now, we are looking for the girl and the disc and I know that you know where they both are." The three guys looked at each other, but none of them was willing to give up Karen or the disc. Just then the telephone rang. The lead guy motions Frohike to answer the phone and to put it on intercom. "Hey Frohike, I figured out what's on the disc. Its some kind of missile defense system." When Frohike didn't answer, Langly said, "Hey, what's going on over there? Did you hear me?" the lead guy motioned for Frohike to talk. "Uh, we're just having a little party. Yeah, I heard you . Great work, look, uh, we'll hook up with ya later. Bye." The boys didn't know it, but they had a van outside that monitored phone calls. they had traced the call. N a connection from the van, the lead guy heard, "We have an address." "What's wrong?" Karen asked as she absently brushed the hair from his face. "I don't know. Something's not right, but I don't know what it is." Again, as if they had known each other for years, Karen sat on Langly's lap. "Frohike said something about having a party. Do you think he was trying to give me a message?" Karen stiffened; he could feel it. "Maybe someone was there. Maybe they know where we are." She jumped up and started running for the door. Langly caught her arm and drew her back into his arms. "It's okay, Karen. I'll protect you. No one's going to hurt you. I promise." He lifted her chin and had her look at him. "I promise." She relaxed somewhat and then he kissed her - lightly at first, and then more deeply. He had to let her go. "If you think that we should leave, we'll go together, okay?" She nodded as she gathered her purse and other things. Langly grabbed the computer. They quickly left the room, looking all around as they returned the key to the office. Just as they were rounding the corner, they saw the car pull up. "Hold it, hold it!" They plastered themselves against the wall as the car pulled up to their former hotel room. "Come on , quick, it'll be only a minute before they realize we're gone." They headed back the other way as they saw a bus approach the stop. "Come on." They ran and boarded the bus just as the men came plowing out of the room. "That was too close." Karen said as she snuggled close to Langly. They took the bus a few more miles until Langly was sure that they weren't being followed. "We'll find another motel and then we'll need to contact the guys." "Wait, we can't contact the guys. What if they trace the call again?" She was becoming hysterical again, so he held her. "Oh the wonders of modern technology." was all he said. They went to a motel a few blocks away and Langly set up his computer and e-mailed a friend who would, in turn e-mail the guys. She smiled as she realized what he was doing. Langly smiled back. "They say that the baddies are gone. They'll meet us here as soon as they can." "Make sure they're not followed." Langly laughed. "What?" "Nothing. It's just that you're really getting into this intrigue stuff. I thought that was my job." She pretended to hit him in the arm and winced like any good geek should. As they drove to the sight of the new motel, Frohike and Jimmy checked to see that they weren't followed. "So, what do you guys think about Langly and Karen?" Everyone had been avoiding the subject, but leave it to Jimmy to bring it up. "Has he ever had a girlfriend?" Frohike was asking. There was silence as everyone tried to even picture it. "Not since I've known him." was Byers' response. "And, do you think she really likes him?" Frohike asked. "Well, if she doesn't, he's going to be a mess to live with when its over." They thought about this possibility. "Well, maybe somebody should talk to him." Frohike and Byers stared at Jimmy as if he were from another planet (which was the usual look.) "Can I ask you a question?" Langly was still fiddling with the computer and closed it down to look at Karen. "Sure. Anything." Langly said as he was clearly focusing on her now. "I just wanted to know what was going to happen after all of this is over." Karen reached out and touched his face - a movement that he was becoming used to. "What do you mean?" Langly was struggling to say. "I just meant....are 'we' over when this is over? Is there a 'we'?" Langly stroked her hair and then kissed her on the lips. She put her arms around him and deepened the kiss. "Was that an answer?" Karen asked when she could breathe. "Yeah. It means I'm not going anywhere." Then there was a knock on the door and the guys were there. "Hey, what were you guys up to?" Frohike said as he wiped the lipstick from Langly's lips. "So, what happened?" Langly said trying to change the subject. "We had some unexpected visitors. They traced your call." Byers said, calmly. "So what did you find on the disc?" After sharing the information with the rest of the gang, they began discussing the wiping of Karen's background. "It was easy for them because both of my parents are dead and I don't have many friends. Nobody would miss me." Langly gave her a look as if to say, "I would." "Well, let's just see what we can do." Langly said as he cracked his knucles. He pushed some buttons, typing in Karen social security number, first. "Uh -oh. There's a warrant out for your arrest. It seems that they've pinned the break-in at the Caldwell building on you. They've also said that you've embezzled money." Frohike looked at her suspiciously. Byers and Jimmy tried to hide their suspicious looks. "Hey wait a minute. You don't think she did it do ya?" Langly was caught between his friends and love. There were a few more dramatic moments before Karen spoke up. "Ringo, you have to admit that I do look guilty. And how do you know I'm not. I have no way to prove to you that I"m not. Don't you see what they've done. They are trying to make it so that my only allies will doubt me. Well, that's okay, 'cause I'm outta here." She didn't want to make Langly choose between her and his friends, so she thought that she would make it easy on him. As she grabbed her beat up backpack and headed for the door, tears falling from her eyes, it was Frohike's hand that shot out to stop her. "Wait a minute." He looked at her with the tears falling. She wasn't crying about her predicament; it went much deeper than that. She was in love. "We just had to be sure. You know, we didn't want Langly here getting into something that he couldn't get out of." And, as if Frohike were a father that had finally accepted his son's choice in girlfriends, she hugged him. And then she ran to Langly and kissed him solidly on the lips. Jimmy had a goofy grin on his face and was that a tear in Byers' eye? "Okay you two. Break it up. we have to figure out how to get her out of this hot water." Langly, reluctantly let go of her, and went back to the computer. He tried everything he knew to get rid of the warrant, but everything originated from the Caldwell building. "We're going to have to go back to the Caldwell building." He finally said. "But, it'll be a trap." Karen said frantically. She was beginning to think like a spy. "I think their trying to lure Karen out in the open. I'll have to go." Langly looked at Karen and then he looked at Byers. "Someone's going to have to stay with Karen." Jimmy looked as if he might speak up. Langly ignored it. "Byers, I want you to do it." Byers looked as if he didn't want the job. "Come on Byers. You're the only one I trust. You won't let anything happen to her, will you?" Langly looked desperate. "Okay." Byers agreed. Langly went over and hugged and kissed Karen no longer caring who was watching. So Frohike, Jimmy and Langly left to go to the Caldwell building while Byers and Karen stayed at the motel. "So, you and Langly, is it serious?" Karen smiled. Byers felt an obligation to find this information out, but he was extremely nervous. "I love him, but I don't think that he knows it." She just realized this. She also began thinking, again, what would happen when it was over. "Be careful with that information, because Ringo doesn't know, yet." Then she smiled. Byers could see why Langly liked her. "Your secret's safe with me, but I think that you should tell him." At that moment, all hell broke lose. The door was kicked in and Byers, instinctively, went over to protect Karen. However, the men that came in were too much for Byers. They beat him up and took Karen away. In the mean time, the rest of the gang were breaking into the Caldwell building once again. This time it was extremely easy - no guard. Langly was able to quickly get in and change the files. "You know guys, this was way too easy." They all agreed and hurried back to the hotel. Langly opened the door and found Byers sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. "Where is she Byers?" Langly quickly crossed the room and pulled Byers up by the lapels. "I'm sorry....." Langly lost it. He started hitting Byers until the other guys pulled him off. "It couldn't be helped. they must have seen you guys leave and just waited. I tried to fight them, but there were too many." Langly knew that he was telling the truth. they had been stupid and it may cost Karen her life. "We've gotta find her. We've got to get her back." they talked about the guys that worked with Karen. "It must be one of them. Do you think they took her back to the Caldwell building?" It was all they had to go on, so they all went back to the Caldwell building. There still seemed to be no signs of life there, but it was their only lead. Adam Schwartz used to be Karen's colleague, but not he was her captor. She was being held prisoner. She also knew what they planned to do with her. They had retrieved the disk and there was no need to keep her around. The hard thing was that Adam had always been nice to her. "Why did you have to go snooping anyway? And bringing those Lone Gunmen fools in....Why couldn't you have left well enough alone." She was asking herself these questions, too. She had always been too curious for her own good. "well, come on. We're not going to do it here. They'd make the connection too easily." They were going to take her out and kill her. All she could think about besides dying, was Langly. She had dreams of spending the rest of her life with him, but with her luck, she knew better than to dream. The guys saw them leaving and heading for a black L.T.D. Langly, who was driving, sped off in their direction. There were four men and Karen and the men were taken off guard. As they scrambled for cover, Langly stopped the van while Byers reached out and grabbed Karen. It was pure luck because the guys carried no weapons. Karen was so happy. She started crying and hugging Byers. "Hey, what're you hugging him for?" Langly was only slightly jealous, but he wasn't mad at Byers anymore. After Karen hugged Byers she went up front and gave Langly a great big kiss on the cheek. They were to be happy only briefly. They knew the hard truth. Karen would have to leave. She was no longer safe there or with Langly. They had e-mailed Eve. They felt that she had contacts that could send Karen somewhere safe; where no one would find her. When Eve entered the headquarters, she stopped and looked at Karen. "That's funny, she doesn't look insane." They had also told Eve that Karen was Langly's girlfriend. Eve had laughed when she first heard it, but now she was just in shock. "Can you do it?" They were wanting to know if Eve could put her somewhere safe. "Of course I can do it. And, am I to understand that you don't want to know where she is?" This was the main reason they had chosen Eve. They had to be sure that the person who hid Karen wouldn't break down and tell Langly where she was. "No, we don't want to know where she is." Langly had a hard time speaking. He was not handling this very well at all, but he knew that it had to be done. He took her hand and led her into the next room so that they could be alone before she left. There was silence. Neither of them wanted to speak - their eyes were full of tears. Finally, Karen said, "I'm really going to miss you." It seemed so cliché', but she didn't know what else to say. The tears were flowing and Langly took her into his arms. I don't know if I can do this." He struggled. "What if I come with you?" The offer was very tempting, but she knew how hard it was for even one person to be on the run. She couldn't imagine what it would be like for two. Karen touched Langly's face and he realized that it would be the last time she would do this. "Oh, God....." He kissed her slowly and deliberately. The others were spying on them mainly because they had a hard time believing that Karen felt the way that she did. "I love you, Ringo. I don't want to go, but I have to." Langly was shaking and she could feel it. "Maybe someday...." she had started to say, but they both knew that it would never happen. "You could have Eve's people keep an eye on me and report to you." Ringo nodded. "I love you." was all he could manage. They continued looking at one another until Eve came in and said, "It's time." Karen gave him one last kiss as she went with Eve. It was the last time he ever saw her. The guys had copied the information on the disk and printed the story in the newspaper. By throwing light on their operation they caused a halt in the operation and thus causing any potential buyers to run in another direction. A couple of weeks later Byers approached Langly who was still moping in his bed. "How are you doing, Langly?" Byers knew the answer before he asked. "How do you think I'm doing...I miss her." Langly's voice broke on the last part. Byers threw an envelope to Langly and quietly walked out. Langly knew without looking who it was from. Immediately, tears sprang into his eyes, but he opened the envelope anyway. Dearest Ringo, You will never know how much I love you . I hope that I showed it adequately enough when I was there. I am in the safehouse and, of course, I can't tell you where. I just wanted you to know that I'm safe. Please think of me often as I will you. And remember that I love you always. Love, Karen Now, he could cry. It was a release that he couldn't do until now. the others heard him, but knew that Langly needed to get this out. He would hurt for a little while longer, but he would soon get over it and they would be there for him when he was ready. That's the way it was with them.