"You have got to be kidding me," Jay said, lowering his pistol. "Seriously? That's the kid?"
"Who would've thought she'd be naked," Domino said, looking thoughtful. "The park rangers really need to get their stuff together. Can't have naked kids just running around Yellowstone."
Bolt sighed and lowered his knife. "Alright kid, where is it?"
All five looked down a girl with flawless porcelain skin, snow white hair, and large light-red eyes wide with fear. She was curled up in a little ball, completely naked and shivering. She couldn't have been any older than eleven, and she was so thin that small bones were visible through her fragile looking skin.
"Look, I'm not going to repeat myself," Bolt said, crouching down to her level. "That thing that was in the crater. We need to know where it is and we need to know now."
The girl whimpered and tried to scoot back away from him. From the looks of it she was absolutely terrified. And, in all honesty, who could blame her? Here she was, cold, naked, starving, and covered in dirt. Not to mention a group of assassins surrounding and interrogating her. Bolt sighed and his expression softened. He lowered his knife, slipping it back into its hilt before holding out a hand to the small girl. She stared at his hand for a moment, unsure of what to do. But after a short while she scotched a little closer and offered her hand as well. Bolt smiled and gently took her hand, helping her stand up. Then he took of his jacket, draped it over her shoulders, and zipped it up. Luckily it was big enough to cover her pretty well.
"Okay, great," Jay said. "We have an almost-naked albino kid, we have no idea where the thing we're supposed to pick up is, what are we supposed to do now?"
Bolt thought for a moment and shrugged. "Go home," he said simply. "Take her with us, explain to Striker what happened. The girl has got to talk sooner or later, so maybe if we take her with us she'll tell Striker where the thing is."
"Or Striker could kill us," Jay said. "You know, for failing his oh-so-important mission."
"I don't think so," Bolt said. "Hawk, Domino, what do you guys think?"
"I say it's worth a shot," Hawk said with a shrug.
"I vote we do it," Domino said. "I want to see what happens."
Bolt gave a small nod. "Alright, what about you, Canteen? What do you think?" Bolt asked, turning to his team mate.
Canteen, however, didn't reply. His eyes were locked on the small girl, looking her over.
"Canteen?" Bolt said, nudging him with a look of concern.
"Hm?" Canteen hummed, reluctantly turning his attention to Bolt. "Oh, uh, yeah, all fer it."
"Alright then, it's settled," Bolt said, quickly forgetting about Canteen's staring. "She's coming with us."
The team nodded. Even Jay seemed more than fine with the idea. Then again, he would have to be. Everyone knew that when Bolt made up his mind about something, there was no changing it.
Hawk turned and carefully began to follow their trail back to the crater the rest of the team following closely behind. Bolt gently picked up the small girl before following, his strong arms easily supporting her weight. The group walked in silence for a while before Bolt decided to try and strike up a conversation with the little girl.
"So, what's your name?" he asked with a gentle smile, trying to look as nice as he could so as to not scare her.
Instead of saying anything the girl just shrugged, keeping her gaze turned towards the ground.
"Alright then. Can I at least know how old you are?" Bolt asked.
The girl shrugged again, refusing to look up.
"Well, I guess a shrug is better than nothing," Bolt mumbled with a small sigh.
"Can't get her to talk?" Jay asked.
Bolt shook his head. "Not a word."
"Let me try," Jay said. He turned and grinned at the small girl. "Hey there, my names Jay. What's your name?"
The girl continued to stare at the ground, not even bothering to shrug in response. Her entire body was trembling, as if she was afraid of all of them. Actually, now that Bolt thought about it, she probably was afraid of all of them.
Bolt furrowed his brow, thinking. What could he do to make her feel better, less afraid? After a moment of thinking and coming up with nothing, he started to look at it from a different angle. If it were a girl he was trying to impress, what would he do? He had an idea almost instantly.
"Hey, Jay, do you have a quarter?" Bolt asked.
"Yeah, I think I have one in my pocket," Jay said. "Why?"
"Can I see it?" Bolt asked, shifting the little girl's weight to one arm so he could hold his free hand out to Jay. "I want to see something."
Jay nodded and handed him the quarter, watching the two curiously.
"Alright, see this?" Bolt said, holding the shiny quarter in front of the girl. She nodded in response, but didn't look too interested.
"Okay. Now, watch closely," Bolt instructed. He closed the quarter into a tight first and winked at the girl. "Alright, ready? Abracadabra!" He opened his hand, revealing an empty palm. The girl's light orange eyes shot open with wonder, searching his hand for the missing quarter.
"Oh, you're not going to find it there," Bolt chuckled. He then reached behind the girl's ear and pulled out the quarter, its surface glinting in the dim light. "Silly quarter, how'd it get back there?"
The girl stared at him wide eyed, marveling at the simple trick. Then she snatched the quarter and placed it in her own palm, closing her hand into a small fist. After a moment she opened her hand, and was very disappointed to see that the quarter was still there.
Bolt chuckled. "You have to say the magic word," he said. "Abracadabra. Can you say that?"
The girl paused for a moment before shaking her head and holding the quarter out to him. So much for getting her to lighten up.
"No, keep it," Bolt said, closing her hand over the quarter. "Maybe later you can practice your magic, and I'll show you all sorts of tricks."
The little girl nodded and smiled, seeming to like this idea. Although she still wasn't talking she seemed much more lively now, her crystal blue eyes glistening with excitement.
"Wait a minute," Jay said with a frown, staring at her. "Weren't her eyes red before?"
Bolt shrugged. "Maybe it just looked that way with the different lighting," he said.
"No," Jay said slowly. "No, I'm sure they were red. Almost pink."
"You're crazy," Bolt said. "We both know they couldn't have changed color like that, especially not that fast."
"If you say so," Jay said. "But I'm telling you, they were red a second ago, not blue."
Bolt shook his head and turned his attention back to the girl, who was looking the quarter over and twirling it between her fingers.
"Like it?" he asked with a small smile.
The girl nodded and smiled back. Bolt watched her play with the quarter, but after a little while her smile faded and her gaze turned down towards the ground.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Bolt asked, ducking a bit so they were at eye level. The girl glanced up at something over Bolt's shoulder and quickly returned her gaze to the ground. Bolt followed her gaze and saw Canteen trailing close behind him, eyes locked on the small girl.
"Hm?" Canteen asked, reluctantly tearing his gaze from the girl and looking at Bolt. "What?"
"You're starting to creep me out," Bolt said, shifting the girl so she was out of Canteen's line of vision. "Could you stop with the staring? Seriously, it's freaky. Especially when you're staring at an almost-naked little girl."
Canteen didn't say anything, he just huffed and looked in a different direction. Bolt watched him for a moment longer, making sure that he was done with his weirdo creepy staring. After he was satisfied he looked back to the little girl and smiled.
"Better?" he asked.
She nodded in response, offering up a small smile of her own.
"Good," Bolt said. "Don't worry, I'll make sure he stops his creepy weirdo ways and leaves you alone."
The girl nodded again and looked back up. Bolt was very happy to see that she looked like she was feeling a bit better.
The group walked in silence for a while, only occasional whispers floating by. To Bolt, it seemed that walking back was taking longer than leaving did, although that was because he was the one carrying the girl. He was pretty strong, but there's only so long a man can carry a ten year old girl while weaving through trees and branches before he gets tired. Seriously, didn't anyone else get a turn with her?
"Hey, I can see the crater up ahead," Hawk said. She stepped into the clearing and slid into the crater, disappearing from view. The rest of the team followed without hesitation, and soon they were all standing in the center of the crater, the small girl glancing around anxiously.
"Hey, what's got you all worked up?" Bolt asked. The girl didn't reply. She only clung to Bolt and kept looking around, as if she expected something to jump out and attack them.
Bolt looked around as well, scanning the edges of the crater. "Something's not right," he said, setting the girl down and drawing his knife. "Everyone keep your eyes peeled, I don't think you're alone."
The rest of the team nodded and drew their own weapons, forming a small circle and scanning the forest around them. Nothing was missed; every little sound was inspected before they dismissed it. Every twig snapped, every leaf rustled, everything was noted and watched carefully. The small girl clung to Bolt's leg, looking up at him with frightened eyes. To calm her down Bolt took her hand and gave it a gentle reassuring squeeze.
"You sure there's something there?" Jay asked, lowering his weapon and looking back at Bolt.
Bolt nodded and clutched his knife tighter. Jay, however, didn't look convinced. Canteen also started to lower his weapon, turning his gaze towards Bolt.
"Fer once, I agree with Jay," Canteen said. "I don't think there's nothin' there. I think yer just bein' paranoid."
"Damn right I'm paranoid," Bolt said. "It's the only reason I'm still alive. And right now, I know someone else is here. So if you think it's only me being paranoid, then name one time that I've been wrong."
Canteen opened his mouth to respond, but quickly shut it again when he came up with nothing.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Bolt said. "Now, shut up and keep a look out before I-- AHH! What the hell?!"
Bolt looked down and saw a small throwing knife sticking out of his shoulder. He cursed under his breath and applied pressure in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
"Guys, fan out and find them!" Bolt shouted. The team nodded and disappeared into the woods, searching for the attacker. The little girl at Bolt's feet was staring wide eyed at Bolt's bleeding shoulder, red-orange eyes filled with worry.
"I'm fine," he said with a small reassuring smile. "Not the first time, kiddo."
"I got him!" Domino shouted. "I see him! He's right—Gah! Bmy nobse!"
Bolt saw a dark figure dart out into the clearing and race for the other side. He didn't get very far; one throw of Bolt's knife stopped him in his tracks.
"Got him!" he called out to the others. "And not like Domino who only saw him and gave away his position, I actually have him. Here. On the ground."
"Nice shot," Jay said, stepping out into the crater. "He dead?"
"No, just knocked out," Bolt said. "I made sure to hit him with the hilt, not the blade."
Jay nodded as the rest of the team stepped out. Hawk and Canteen were approaching the downed man cautiously, and Domino had a bloodied hand over his nose. The little girl looked down at the man, hiding behind Bolt's leg as she did. Bolt reached down and patted her head.
"What do you guys say we take this guy back to base?"