That was how Carter Mason saw it. Instead of just swooping down on the headquarters of the Palawan separatists, the KGB had to draw them out with a lucrative mineral find that most probably wasn't true. But she wasn't about to complain. Working with real spies, doing real stuff, it was certainly a hell of a lot more exciting than rescuing princesses. The closest thing to excitement that came to her before was imitating those Russian soldiers on skis back in Helsinki.

Now she knew she was watching way more Russian war films than ever.

Another part of Carter was glad that she was doing this. Soon after Palawan's declaration of independence, ten American servicemen were killed in the assault for the Puerto Princesa airfields. This mission was about to be served as a very big—and very painful—back at you.

The back of their rental Toyota was full of geological equipment. Understanding their workings in English was hard enough, and now they had to explain how they worked in another language? At least she was still partners with Rosie. She took just one look at the phrasebook and then began speaking like a native.

Headlights appeared on the road beside them. Carter shook Rosie awake, and waited while the lights got nearer. "How are we going to do this again?" she asked.

"I think I should do all the talking," Rosie replied. "You don't know enough Tagalog to order a burger."

"Too right. How about taking them down?"

Rosie brought out a industrial flashlight. Carter turned away, muttering, "I don't wanna know."

The car was a silver Toyota Vios, and the man who stepped out was wearing jungle fatigues and wielding a Russian RPD light machine gun. The two women took that as a cue to step out of their vehicle. The search was surprisingly quick and halfhearted. The soldier then made some gestures with his right hand.

Severino de los Angeles, President of the Independent State of Palawan, stepped out of his car and headed for the two geologists. His brainchild was the invasion of the Cuyo Islands, with their untouched silicon deposits. But there wasn't much more minerals left to make the silicon useful for computer applications. With the discovery of the relatively unknown element technetium as the new wave of supercomputing, and the possibility of a very large mother lode underneath his own country, geology was looking very attractive to him.

"Mr. de los Angeles, it's nice to see you in person," Rosie began in Tagalog. "Dr. Pascual sends his regards."

"Ah, yes," he muttered. Dr. Regulado Pascual was one of the world's top geologists, and the top one in the Philippines. "Are you sure that there is a deposit of technetium underneath this mountain?"

"Yes, Mr. de los Angeles. In fact, the discovery of natural technetium would be a very astounding one. Before, all of the world's technetium was in nuclear reactors, and that's why there was little silicon-technetium hardware lately. With this find, which we estimate at one billion tons, you could become the world's leading producer of technetium within the day. Would you like to see some of our samples?" Rosie gestured to Carter to go to the back of the van.

Opening the door, Carter was greeted by a piece of paper taped to one of the boxes. It read, "Shout this," followed by a question in Tagalog, but as far as she was concerned, it was Martian to her.

"What did we just say to each other?" Carter asked when the two of them were at the back.

"You just asked where the sample rocks were, and I just berated you, because you supposedly have a forgetful streak."

"Wow, that's bad."

"Close your eyes."

They hadn't scheduled the meet at night just because they wanted to. If the plan was to work, the absence of daylight was needed. And it worked like a charm. The flashlight, possessing the lighting power of a million candles, blinded the three men. Within moments all three were cuffed.

"What did I tell you, Carter?"

"Very nice, Rosie. You could've blinded those guys." She then reached for the radio clipped to her belt and said, "Hammer, this is Sickle. VIP is secure."

"Hammer copies, Sickle," the radio replied. "On the way." A Black Hawk helicopter appeared on the horizon a few minutes later, the newest addition to the aerial fleet of the Russian Spetsnaz. De Los Angeles was lifted off the ground, and his face was covered with a sack.

"The rezident wants a full briefing tomorrow," the commander told the two. "And by the way, the Director says good job."

And with these events, the Independent State of Palawan was no more.