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Chaos fic: God Complex 5/13

June 14th, 2012 (06:46 am)
quixotic

feeling: quixotic

A/N: I’d apologize for the cliffhanger in the last chapter but I’m not really sure how sorry I am! LOL! Notes and previous parts in the MASTER POST .



PART FIVE

-o-

Michael kept his eyes closed and listened. Heard the sound of his heart, pounding in his chest. Heard the sound of his breath, moving in and out, in and out. If he listened hard enough, he could almost hear his blood rushing through his veins, draining from his head and centralizing in his core.

He heard Rick gasp, Jenkins’ gun clicking another bullet into the chamber.

He heard the body hit the floor.

Swallowing hard, Michael opened his eyes. Jenkins was still smiling but Vaughan was on the floor, a neat, clean hole in his forehead. His eyes were open, the pool of blood splayed out, growing by the second.

“I don’t know about you,” Jenkins said with a shrug. Next to him, Sunday looked almost gleeful. “But this is working very well for me.”

He lifted the gun again, inclining his head.

“Dead men are easiest to trust, after all,” he said, steadying his aim at Michael.

Michael’s stomach churned violently and he tried to think. There was no way out. They were surrounded by armed guards, and Michael was armed but he’d never get to his gun before Jenkins killed him. Rick might get a shot off in the interim, but he’d never get out.

They were backed in a damn corner and Michael had no plans for that. No plans, no recourses, just—

There was a sound outside, something in the distance. People were yelling; a car was revving its engine. There was gunfire and the engine got closer.

Jenkins frowned, nodding toward Sunday. “Go check that out,” he muttered, his calm blanching ever so slightly.

Michael did his best not to smile. Because he was still the one in the corner but he did have a plan. There was one recourse.

He couldn’t help it; he grinned as Sunday made his way around the desk and moved toward the door. “I would have to agree,” Michael said.

Jenkins’ frowned deepened as the melee increased. His aim wavered and Michael didn’t hesitate. He lunged forward, taking Rick with him. Flinging himself as hard as he could, he yanked Rick across the room while putting as much distance between himself and the wall behind them as possible.

They hit the ground hard, the cement rubbing roughly even through his shirt. He curled, protecting Rick as best he could when the entire building shook and the wall behind them caved in as a Jeep crashed through.

As the rubble settled, Michael sat up, still grinning.

Because there was just one thing to do when his back was against the corner: Blast the whole damn wall to pieces.

And then run like hell.

Sunday was groaning and Jenkins was spread on his back, half covered in debris. Vaughan’s body was entirely obscured.

Pushing himself up, Michael didn’t stop to gauge his own condition. Instead, he reached down, pulling Rick up by the arm. The younger operative blinked hazily, not resisting as Michael hauled him to his feet. Martinez wavered but didn’t fall, and Michael slung his arm around his shoulder, dragging him along as he made his way to the car.

Billy was in the driver’s seat, window down. “Someone call a taxi?” he asked. There was a small cut on his forehead, the blood stark on his pale face.

Still, it was probably the most beautiful face Michael had ever seen. “I may have to complain about the slow service,” he groused, opening the back door and pushing Rick inside.

“Americans are such an impatient lot,” Billy muttered disapprovingly.

Casey turned in the passenger’s seat, assessing them carefully. He had a gun in his hand, another one in his lap. There was a discarded on between the seats and a handful in the back. “And you are all far too chatty,” he muttered. “Now let’s go before someone gets their act together enough to follow us.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Michael said, propping Rick up on the seat. “Let’s go.”

Billy didn’t need to be told twice. He hit reverse hard, and the tires bumped over the rubble. Gunfire broke out and Michael ducked, reaching for one of the spare guns instinctively even as he pushed Martinez below the line of fire. Casey was already returning fire, fast and effective, as Billy put the car into drive and slammed on the gas.

Michael braced himself as the car lurched forward. Casey fired a few more shots as they fled and bullets pinged off the Jeep’s exterior as Billy navigated throughout the compound. Michael could see their entrance – the gate was decimated, the checkpoint in tatters. There were men there, swarming in disarray.

“They’ll move,” Billy hissed under his breath.

“They’re trying to kill us,” Casey said, shrugging. “So either way.”

Michael shook his head. “Just get us the hell out of here.”

Billy gritted his teeth, making a face. “Aye,” he said, fingers tightening on the wheel. “Hold on.”

Michael obeyed reflexively, keeping his grip on the gun as he steeled himself, keeping low as Billy pressed the accelerator to the floor and kept going. The men scattered. Gunfire erupted and Billy broke the barrier, plunging them headlong back to safety.

-o-

They were a few miles out when Michael remembered to start thinking again.

Absence of thought was not common for him; usually, he had trouble shutting his brain off. But the entire situation had thrown him – from misjudging Jenkins’ true intention to witnessing Vaughan’s murder – Michael was still reeling too much to think.

Being shell-shocked after that sort of thing was probably to be expected. It was also wholly unacceptable. Michael didn’t have time for it.

He blinked and cleared his throat. Rick was still slouched low in the seat, but his eyes were open and alert, if somewhat bewildered. In the front, Casey was still holding his gun, eyes keen out the windows. Billy was at the wheel, face as white as his knuckles as he navigated them on the winding dirt roads.

They were silent. Waiting.

Waiting for him.

Michael took another breath and found his bearings.

“We need a secure location,” he announced over the sound of the wheels on the road.

Rick’s breath caught in what sounded like a laugh. Billy’s jaw tightened but he kept his eyes forward.

Casey looked back, eyebrows tweaked. “We’re in the tribal regions of Africa,” he said. “Every other road leads to a budding terrorist organization.”

“I’m not going to be too picky about where,” Michael said. “Someplace quiet, off the beaten track.”

At this, Billy scoffed. “There’s not even a track to beat,” he said.

“You have something?” Michael asked.

Billy shifted; he looked a little ghastly, sweaty and pale, but there wasn’t time for that. “Aye,” he muttered.

“Good,” Michael said. He turned to Rick, giving the younger man a real look for the first time since they’d left. “You okay?”

Rick blinked, eyes wide but clear. There was blood smeared on the side of his face, matted into his hair above his right ear. He looked too young like that. His face darkened though. “It’s over,” he said. His voice was hoarse but he swallowed, nodding now. “The mission – it’s over, isn’t it?”

It was Michael’s turn to blanch, although he tried hard not to let it show. It was a point he had to consider, though. Now that the pressing need to escape alive was out of the way, the shambles of the mission did have to be reckoned with.

“We didn’t hear the last,” Casey said from the front. He glanced purposefully toward Billy. “Some of us were not handling the pressure well.”

Billy made a face. “They were going to be killed.”

“Which is why we were going to rescue them,” Casey countered.

“Which is why I had to hurry!” Billy exclaimed, lifting one hand from the wheel to gesture wildly.

“And your timing was impeccable,” Michael assured them, hoping to circumvent the argument he knew would ensue. “And you didn’t miss much. Jenkins is in a lot deeper than we thought.”

“And Vaughan?” Billy asked. “I meant to look for him but with the wall and the gunfire, I seemed to have other things on my mind.”

Michael’s throat constricted. “Vaughan’s dead.”

The pronouncement was cold, sober. No one reacted; no one dared to. More than that, none of them had to. They understood the implications. Vaughan was their mark – a criminal – but the loss of life was never something they relished.

“So we’re looking at more than simple arms dealing,” Casey assumed.

Rick snorted.

Michael cast him a look but continued. “He’s organizing an army.”

“In the name of social justice,” Rick added.

Casey rolled his eyes. “This is why I never fight for abstract causes,” he said.

“Says the man who has given his life and liberty to the unyielding will of the CIA,” Billy pointed out.

“Says the man who believes in social order as a means of preserving my own general well being,” Casey said. “Enacting subversive measure to keep the masses safe and in check is beneficial to everyone. Transferring power out of some outmoded notion of justice doesn’t. Besides, I like a job that pay me to express my frustration through violence.”

“Yes, well, I suppose we should be relieved you have a more mainstream understanding of social justice and a keen grasp of the tenuous balance of power that keeps the world safer,” Billy said. His eyes flicked to the rearview mirror, meeting Michael’s. “Do we know what their plan is?”

Casey pursed his lips. “Better question: do we know what our plan is?”

That was the question. The question Michael needed to answer. The question Michael always answered. The question Michael didn’t know how to answer.

His stomach churned. “I’m still working on that.”

-o-

Billy didn’t explain how he found the place, and Michael didn’t ask. Billy had an innate sense of direction when it came to this kind of thing, which was why he was the best driver of the group. It wasn’t so much his skill as it was his instincts.

So when they pulled up to the decrepit warehouse down a straggly dirt lane, Michael took it in stride. A stroke of good luck in an otherwise disastrous mission. Michael didn’t usually take to luck but he’d be foolish to reject it when it actually did come his way.

Inside, the place was abandoned. The windows were broken but the walls were solid. There was a hole in the roof on one end, but there was enough space to park the Jeep out of view and plenty of area to set up and take stock.

Not that there was anything good to take stock of.

The first concern was the well being of his men. Missions were missions; some went well, others didn’t. Success and failure in the field was measured one way in reports. For Michael, it was simpler than that. Getting his men out alive and whole was paramount. No amount of intel could ever justify anything to the contrary.

He started with Rick. The youngest member of the ODS was clearly the shakiest. His eyes still had a shell-shocked quality about them, even as he sat up and started engaging in conversation. He’d taken more hits in the dramatic rescue than Michael would have liked, but while the head laceration was clearly bleeding, the kid didn’t seem to have a concussion if his pupillary response was any indication. He was pale and sweaty, but he had nearly almost been killed, so Michael was inclined to let that slide.

Casey’s head wound was clearly less impressive and it showed no signs of slowing him down. He unloaded the weaponry, creating an easily accessible stockpile before maneuvering some of the leftover crates in what Michael could quickly identify as a defensive formation. Casey wasn’t one to let injury slow him down, but even then, Michael could detect no sign of weakness that he needed to be concerned about.

Billy was another story. In the dim interior of the warehouse, Billy’s appearance was shocking – rather, would be shocking if Michael was one to experience shock. At the very least, it became quickly apparent to Michael that Billy’s weariness from earlier was mounting to a full fledged illness. Probably a cold, from the plane ride, no doubt. Or, if they were unlucky, the flu.

The ODS wasn’t big on luck, so Michael wasn’t sure he wanted to know which option was true just yet. As it was, Billy was dragging. He was clearly trying to hide it – helping Casey arrange the crates and handing extra ammo off to Rick – but his movements were slower than normal. His skin was waxy, the sheen of sweat no longer easily attributed to stress.

This wasn’t perfect, but at least they were all still alive, which Michael hadn’t been so sure about a half hour ago. He had to take what he could get.

And then he had to make it better.

When Casey came back with the last load from the Jeep, Michael took a deep breath and asked the inevitable. “We all okay?”

Rick looked at him. Casey snorted. Billy wet his lips and coughed hoarsely before asking, “You mean besides the part where the mission fell apart in a total and complete debacle of spectacular proportions?”

“Or the part that we compromised our cover and lost our only access to Jenkins?” Casey pressed, sitting down on one of the crates next to Billy.

Rick was pressing a wad of his shirt to his head. “Or the part where we stood there and let Vaughan get slaughtered?”

They had points – valid points – but Michael didn’t need to hear them. Because he already knew. Better than they did. These things were his responsibility. These were his failures. But dwelling on that wouldn’t fix any of it.

He pressed his lips together, refusing to give in. He didn’t even sit. “I admit, it’s less than ideal—“

Casey and Billy didn’t even have it in them to protest. Rick scoffed loud enough for them all, though. “You keep saying that,” he said.

“We just need to plan—“

“The plan failed!” Rick interjected, almost hysterical. He took a ragged breath and then shook his head. “The plan failed. Vaughan is dead, our cover is compromised, and there’s no way we’ll be able to keep a tail on Jenkins or Sunday. They’ll both go to ground after the meet tomorrow.”

The minute Rick said it, he stopped. He suddenly knew.

Just like Michael knew.

Nodding, Michael kept his enthusiasm in check. That was never easy for him; when he had a plan forming, when the pieces were coming together, it was all he could do control the burst of energy that made him feel young and invincible again. Casey liked to fight for the rush of adrenaline, Billy liked to charm people for the same reason. Michael didn’t need that. Michael just needed to plan.

“Exactly,” he said. “Which means we still have time.”

“Time to do what?” Rick asked. “Get ourselves killed for real this time?”

Casey shrugged apologetically. “The kid has a point,” he said. “Now that Jenkins has us pegged not only as irrelevant and evil but as a well equipped enemy, he’s going to be on his guard more than ever.”

“And I’m guessing that he’s not going to be overly keen on seeing us walking up to his front door and asking nicely for a second chance,” Billy said.

Michael shook his head. Not that they were wrong, but the fears weren’t relevant. “We’re not going to ask nicely,” he said. “And let’s forget about the meet. Getting the buyer was always part of the plan, but that was when we thought Jenkins was a gun runner. He’s clearly got much larger aims. If he’s making an army, then we need to take down the army now while we have the chance.”

“He could ship out tonight,” Casey said. “It’d be prudent.”

“But not practical,” Michael said. “We did damage, which means they’ve got a mess to clean up. They can’t leave everything behind because they don’t have enough supplies to just start over.”

“And they need this meet,” Rick said, almost reluctantly. He sighed, shaking his head. “If what Jenkins really is trying to finance an operation on that scale, he’s going to need all the liquidity he can get. Now more than ever.”

Casey nodded thoughtfully. “So they won’t want to leave their supplies behind and they won’t want to cut out before the meet,” he said.

Billy clucked his tongue. “This is why I never pick up my messes,” he said. “Just leaves you vulnerable.”

“Your apartment should be condemned but the idea’s the same,” Michael agreed.

“I’m insulted,” Billy said, chest puffed out indignantly. He coughed, swallowing with obvious difficulty. “Not wrongly so, but insulted nonetheless.”

Michael didn’t even stop to roll his eyes. “This means we need to make a quick, surgical strike,” he said. “If we can take out Sunday and Jenkins, the rest of the unit will be in disarray. Cleaning them out shouldn’t be a problem if we can secure them.”

“They won’t go down without a fight,” Rick pointed out.

“I would be disappointed if they did,” Casey said.

“Yes, we certainly wouldn’t want this mission to start being easy now,” Billy said. He lifted his eyebrows. “Not when we have such an impressive string of disasters going.”

Michael couldn’t suppress his grin. “So are we agreed?”

“To throw ourselves with abandon back into a fray that is indubitably stacked against us?” Billy asked. “Count me in. I certainly haven’t had my fill of near-death experiences yet on this mission.”

Casey shrugged. “The odds are stacked against us,” he said. “Which is just the way I like it.”

They turned to Rick, who was looking at the ground. Finally, he nodded, lifting his eyes. “We’re too far into this,” he said. “We know too much. We’ve lost too much. We can’t turn back now. We just can’t.”

Michael nodded, their affirmations swelling in his chest with the newfound certainty found only in team unity. They were together. They were united. They could do this. They would do this.

“Okay,” Michael said. “We have some work to do.”

-o-

Michael understood that sometimes the best plans were the simplest plans.

However, a plan that consisted of: attack compound, capture leader, get out alive was a bit too simple, even for Michael.

But that was what he had.

To his team’s credit, they didn’t seem too upset about Michael’s plan and they were somber as they reorganized the gear. Casey took to retrofitting the Jeep to better accommodate weaponry while Rick sort through their remaining ammunition. Billy was checking the rest of their supplies – a smattering of tools, a sparse first aid kit and various emergency items – while Michael sat on a rock outside and watched.

The sun was high in the sky by now and burning bright. Michael wanted to leave sooner rather than later, if only because the less time Jenkins’ army had to recuperate, the better off their assault would be. Normally Michael didn’t like to base his plans on perceived weaknesses of others, but he didn’t have a lot of options this time.

People responded differently to nerves. Rick paced. Casey glared. Billy fidgeted. Michael sat.

Stillness was essential for him. He needed to settle everything else around him in order to control his jumping thoughts. Normally, it helped.

Today was another story.

Watching his team, he couldn’t help but think he was missing something. Missing everything.

Billy had sorted through the bags, loading the last one. He turned back toward the building, probably to make one last sweep, when he wavered on his feet. His body seemed to convulse slightly, and the Scot looked ready to topple.

Concerned, Michael tensed. Billy caught himself, using one hand to lean on the open back of the Jeep. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he looked tentatively at Michael with a sheepish smile.

“I’ve never been one for such arid heat,” he said. “My Scottish disposition tends to thrive in colder temperatures. Give me a frigid winter and then you’ll see me at my finest.”

Billy, in typical Billy fashion, was redirecting. The Scot’s cheeks were flushed, contrasting with his pale forehead. He was drenched with sweat, soaking his hair and clearly visible on his shirt. His breathing was visibly labored, each inhale an obvious effort as he sat cautiously, almost guarding his stomach.

“You sure you’re up for this?” Michael asked, even though he knew what Billy’s answer would be.

“Aye,” Billy said, not to disappoint. Carefully, he eased himself onto the open bed of the Jeep, sitting gingerly.

“You don’t look so good,” Michael observed.

Billy shrugged. “My headache is flaring up a wee bit,” he said. His face seemed to pale for a moment and he swallowed roughly, as though against the bite of nausea.

Michael lifted his eyebrows. “In addition to the coughing and fever?”

Billy didn’t even try to deny it. “Might as well add a little drama to things,” he said.

“If you’re too sick to go,” Michael began.

Billy made a face. “I’d never hear of such a thing,” he said, clearly stomaching another wave of nausea. “Besides, it’d be a shame to miss the climax of the mission after all this.”

Michael regarded Billy warily. He glanced toward the front, where Casey and Rick were still working. “I’m serious,” he said. “If you’re not up to it—“

Billy quirked his head to the side, smiling just a little. “What? I’ll get to stay here, by myself in the middle of the tribal regions?” he said. “I’d prefer to take my chances with Jenkins’ army and the common cold.”

It wasn’t a cold and Billy knew that as well as Michael did. But the Scot had a point. They were too remote now; there was no place for Billy to stay behind, even if he agreed to it.

Still, Michael didn’t like it. Billy looked bad, and Billy was skilled at making people see what he wanted them to see. If he couldn’t hide the illness, then he was suffering in earnest. “Things are going to get pretty dicey in there,” Michael said cautiously, because it did worry him. All of it.

Billy’s smile was wan. “Which is why you need to be focused on the plan, not my struggling autoimmune response,” he said. “Jenkins is a much more formidable foe than we expected.”

Michael’s jaw worked. That much was an understatement. “We’ll get him,” Michael said, trying to rally his own confidence.

Billy nodded, but hesitated. “You are certain about this?” he said. “This mission has been one surprise after the next. I know usually we try to plan for a little less chaos, all appearances to the contrary.”

Michael sighed. Billy’s question wasn’t cruel or even subordinate. It was honest. After these years together, they understood each other, and Michael recognized Billy’s question to be as much about the Scot’s own uncertainties as it was an invitation for Michael to further refine his plan.

“I’m certain it’s all we can do,” Michael said. “The attack earlier today will make Jenkins’ reevaluate things, but he won’t quit. He’s got too much invested in it at this point, but he will retreat and reassess his strategy before moving out. We’ll be lucky if we catch word of anything he’s up to in time to stop it after this.”

Billy’s head bobbed. “Hard to imagine,” he mused. “How does a man go from serving his country in the most fundamental way to plotting its demise?”

Michael shrugged. It wasn’t something any of them would ever truly grasp, Billy more than most. Billy had more reason than any of them to doubt the justice decreed by governments, but he was steadfast in his service, more idealistic than Casey or Michael combined. “It can be easy to lose yourself when you’re in service,” he said. “Too many years following orders. If I hadn’t been recruited to the ODS, I don’t know how I’d have coped.”

Billy coughed discreetly, making a face and shaking his head. “That would never be you,” he said. “You are a paranoid bastard but your moral compass is inexorably fixed at true north.”

Michael let himself smile in return. “I wish I could be more certain of it sometimes,” he admitted. “But I understand Jenkins better than I’d like to admit.”

“His plans and methods, perhaps,” Billy agreed. He pointed to his head with one finger. “You do have a maniacal brain at times.”

“Sometimes I worry,” Michael said. “I’m so busy planning that I wonder if I’m losing sight of the big picture I’m working toward. It wouldn’t take much and we could go rogue entirely.”

“Aye, this is true,” Billy said. His expression seemed to waver just for a moment before he pulled it back into a smile. “And it’s happened more than once. But not to you. Too many people with a God complex isolate themselves. You will always have us to talk you back down to earth, at least every now and then.”

That was the difference, Michael knew. The key difference. Michael liked to plan and control and plot, but he was only as good as his team. They improvised the details and poked holes until the thing stood on its own.

Michael nodded. “So you’re sure you’re good to go?”

“I’m sure about following you,” he said. “To the brink of hell, if necessary.” He hacked again, wiping a hand across his forehead and airing his shirt briefly. “Literally, it seems.”

Michael got to his feet, smirking. “You know I wouldn’t take you to hell,” he said, walking close to Billy and patting his shoulder. “Not without a very, very good reason.”

Billy grinned at him. “Then, by all means,” he said with as much vigor as he could clearly muster, “lead on.”

-o-

There was only time to go over it once.

“The key to this is speed,” he said. “There’s no way we can keep our approach secret, so I want us going full throttle.”

Billy nodded. He still looked sick – maybe worse now, coughing and holding his stomach in equal turns – he was mostly upright, leaned against the Jeep. “I usually prefer an approach with a bit more finesse, but a nice blind charge does make a certain point,” Billy said.

Michael turned his gaze toward Rick and Casey. “Once we’re inside, we’re going to have to split up. Jenkins is our main priority. Sunday, too, if we can find him. If we all fan out from the entrance, then we’ll have a better chance at taking one or both of them alive.”

“They’re not going to take kindly to an assault,” Casey pointed out.

“Which is why we’re going for incapacitation,” Michael said. He hesitated but had to say it. “By any means possibly.”

Casey inclined his head. “I just needed to know my limits.”

“As far as I’m concerned we can’t have limits on this one,” Michael said. “If we let Jenkins get away, then all of this has been for nothing. But just remember, we do want him alive if at all possible.”

“Jenkins isn’t stupid,” Rick reminded them. “He might hole up.”

“He’s also not a coward,” Michael said. “Men like Jenkins, they don’t hide. Not when their men are on the line.”

“How can you be sure?” Rick asked. There was a small bite to his voice, but the question was valid. Earnest, even.

Michael held his head high. Met Rick’s eyes and didn’t waver. “Because that’s what I would do,” he said. “Jenkins may be a crazy son of a bitch, but he’s a good leader. He wouldn’t have gotten this far if he wasn’t. He’ll be there, and he’ll come out firing with the rest of them.”

Rick stared back, long and hard, but he didn’t disagree.

“Not to be mincing the details, but do we have a timeline on this thing?” he asked. “We won’t have two way radio on the ground. When should we assume that a retreat is in order?”

“Five minutes,” Michael said decisively. “Based on the size of the compound and the number of men there, five minutes should be enough time to get in, get Jenkins, and get the hell out.”

“And Sunday?” Rick prompted.

“He’ll come out even more fast and furious,” Michael said. “He doesn’t have the same self control. He’ll be easier to find but harder to take alive. If we get him, great, but Jenkins is the one with the master plan here. He’s the one we need to focus on.”

Billy took a wheezing breath. “Apt enough,” he said. “And while you three are off running around, what should I be doing?”

“Stay with the Jeep,” Michael said. “We’ve got it rigged so you can fire and drive all at once.”

“I do like to boast at my ability to multitask, but that may hinder my accuracy a bit,” Billy said.

“Accuracy isn’t the point,” Michael said. “Your job is to distract. Create the biggest diversion you can.”

Even exhausted, Billy managed to grin broadly. “That is perhaps one of my greatest skills,” he said.

Casey snorted. “At least you’ll be able to use it against someone else for once,” he said. “Instead of making us endure it.”

“You would miss me terribly if I weren’t on the team,” Billy said, coyly indignant. He took a breath and looked ready to continue his quip when a dry cough cut him off. His body bent while trying to contain it and his face twisted into a grimace. When he was done, he looked back up at them sheepishly, the sheen of sweat starting to drip on hi face.

“You sure you’re okay?” Michael asked again.

Billy’s smile was noticeably weak but he persisted in it nonetheless. “A little uneasiness before going into a fray is normal,” he said.

“A little uneasiness does not constitute a fever,” Casey reminded him dryly.

“I’m just a bit warm,” Billy tried to explain.

Rick shook his head. “Is that why you were throwing up earlier?”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. He’d noticed the fever a while ago and suspected the nausea ever since they’d gotten to the warehouse. But his attention to detail was slipping if he’d missed the fact that Billy was actually throwing up.

Billy’s cheeks probably would have reddened were they not already flushed with obvious fever. He wasn’t so stupid to try hiding it. Instead, he shrugged meagerly. “Just a touch of the flu, I’m afraid,” he said. “Were there better circumstances, I promise you, I would indulge my body’s seeming weakness but adrenaline is a wonderful and powerful thing.”

“We can do this without you,” Michael said.

Billy gave him a withering look. “We’ll be lucky to pull it off with the four of us,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but I can get through this mission. I promise you.”

Billy’s eyes were bright with fever but fervent. He meant it. Billy said a lot of things he didn’t mean, but he didn’t make promises lightly. He wouldn’t fail them.

And Michael wasn’t going to fail them either. That meant getting them through this – alive. Leaving Billy behind would not only compromise their plan of attack, which was scrabbled together at best, but it would leave him vulnerable as well. They would do this – together.

He nodded. “Okay,” he said. “So any last questions?”

Casey gave a surly tilt of his head, lips pursed in general disdain. Rick was blinking rapidly, shifting tensely from foot to foot. Billy had steadied himself but nodded intently.

“Too many questions, and this will get redundant,” Casey said. “That will just throw off my concentration. I say we go.”

Rick’s head bobbed in agreement. “Jenkins has to be stopped,” he said. “This is our best shot.”

“Who am I to pass up a firefight with an up and coming army?” Billy joked.

That was that. After everything, three simple phrases of agreement was all Michael had to carry them through. This was his plan; these were his mean. They were good, and they were ready. Michael could only hope it was enough.

“All right,” Michael said. “Let’s load up.”

They moved to part when Billy held up his hand. “Just one more thing,” he said, face blanching as his back curved. He turned quickly, his body convulsing as he threw up forcefully into the brush.

He took a moment, heaving dryly a few times before resting there, hands on his knees. After another minute, he pushed up, wiping a hand across his mouth. With a breath, he nodded. “Good, then,” he said, smiling. “After you.”

For once, Michael didn’t let himself think – it wouldn’t help them now anyway – and turned to load up into the Jeep.

-o-

Usually, Michael counted his tendency toward evaluation to be an asset. It often gave him insight that others missed, let him see the forest and the tree and leverage any situation to his maximum advantage.

There was a time and place for everything, though. And his so-called fevered brain was good in most situations, but when they were driving at break-neck speed toward an unpredictable and essential altercation, spending those fleeting moments second guessing himself really wasn’t so ideal.

Because there was a lot to second guess. What if Jenkins had left the compound? What if they’d moved the meet up? What if the men were better organized than they had appeared? What if they had pegged them as CIA and were prepared for a fight?

These were all very real possibilities, and each one would spell disaster for them in the field. They were outmanned and outgunned; they only thing they had was the element of surprise, and they had already played that card once today.

More than that, Rick was overly invested, Casey was unduly angry, and Billy looked like he was ready to pass out. They were all on board with Michael’s suicidal plan, which really may have been part of the problem. They knew better and they were trusting him, no matter how compromised they were.

And that was the point Michael couldn’t get over. They were compromised. He didn’t like to admit weakness – in general, he avoided it when he could. But as a good leader, he had to be realistic in his expectations of his men. When Casey’s patience was frayed, he was too likely to put himself in harm’s way. When Rick was too attached to the cause, he was prone to making mistakes of passion. When Billy was sick, he was too stubborn to acknowledge it until he his body just shut down.

If any of these problems persisted, the mission would be compromised even further.

Compromise happened sometimes, and Michael usually built in various safety nets to prepare for such situations.

Here, they had no safety net. If they screwed this up, the mission wouldn’t just be a loss, but they’d probably be dead.

Michael had them rushing headlong into a fight they had no choice but to win. It was either brilliant or stupid.

Time would tell.

The uncertainty of it nagged at him, building with each passing mile. The Jeep hit the ruts in the road, bouncing them, and Michael felt his stomach churning. This was what he had to do, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

Putting his men on the line was part of the job, no matter how hard he worked to avoid it. They knew the risks. Even now, he could see it in their faces. Next to him, Rick was checking his gun, looking at the ammo and setting it again. He took uneven breaths, nodding to himself every now and then, lips muttering what Michael made out to be the snippets of a prayer.

In front, Casey was calm and stoic. His eyes were turned outward, ever vigilant. His expression was neutral, almost purposefully so. There was no hint of anticipation in his eyes, just the ready calm before the storm. He sat with his favorite gun in his lap, finger resting on the trigger just so, the only indication that anything was about to happen at all.

Billy was in the driver’s seat, stiff and ready. His body was hunched slightly, nerves seemingly on end as he gripped the wheel and kept his eyes forward. He looked worse than before – the sweat coalesced along his brow, trickling now and then down toward his neckline. He didn’t seem to notice it, though. His driving was focus and his senses keen as he drove them onward without looking back.

They all knew the risks, but they didn’t know it like Michael did. He didn’t think about it often, but it was an unavoidable thought. What it would be like to lose one of them. How he’d write the report, how he’d explain it to Higgins and the review board. He imagined calling Rick’s mother, talking to Casey’s sister, contacting Billy’s government back home.

He thought about a star on a wall, an empty desk. Losing Carson had destroyed his marriage, crippled his team, and nearly killed Michael with the guilt. He couldn’t do that again.

But what if he had to? What if this was the mission?

Billy turned the Jeep hard, and Michael recognized the road. Sunday’s compound was in the distance. Rick steadied in his seat with an audible breath while Casey’s shoulder tensed. Billy bared down and the Jeep’s engine revved as they sped forward.

Michael swallowed hard against his doubts and trepidation. Michael was a planner, but the thing about plans was that they were made to cause action. Eventually, no matter how much he worked, the planning had to start and the action had to begin.

Eventually, that time was now. No more second guessing, no more tweaking. It was time to see this plan come to fruition, no matter what.

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
Pensive


ARGH! Your cliffhangers are evvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvil!

LOL and meep at Billy's last act and bravado before driving them back to the compound...

Great thinky thoughts and discussions about the nature of what they do, their own natures, and the Murphy's Law about plans...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 11:37 am (UTC)
billy considers

But cliffhangers are so much fun! Writing them, anyway :)

I love Billy's bravado. Mostly, though, I love Billy.

Thanks!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
Chaosketeers

I'd be such a lousy undercover spy. Plans not working, improvising, dealing with hardship and illness.

Billy is so like Billy, even when he's sick. LOL and awww.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 11:38 am (UTC)
billy watches

I can write about spy work (and make a lot of things up!) but ultimately, I'd be horrible at it, too.

I love Billy being Billy like even under duress. It makes him all the more endearing.

Thanks!

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: June 15th, 2012 08:46 am (UTC)
Locked Door

I love the pacing in this part, the action is approaching with fast steps, yet there is still so much detail in it.

And I'm waiting eagerly for the next part.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 11:39 am (UTC)
billy casey trouble

It seemed my muse really wanted to take its time with this fic, so I'm glad you like the detail :)

More should be up tomorrow.

Thanks!

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