Celia watched the second man with a lump in her throat.
"What? Who is it?"
"You see the tall one the one with short grey hair and blue jeans?
"That is Professor Andrew Prescott. He is a chemist of some sort and he works, or used to work for the government, and he is AD Prescott's older brother."
"Why did he leave the government?"
"There was some scandal about racism in his department."
Suddenly Vin tensed, Celia was about to ask what was wrong, but he put a finger to his lips and beckoned her to follow him. She tried to step where he had stepped so as to walk as silently as he did. Once back in the undergrowth they waited for what Vin had heard.
"You two are like a herd of mustang! Don't you know the meaning of the word stealthy," Vin chided as he and Celia stepped out of the shadows.
Chris and Ezra pretended not to hear as they walked past. There was no time however for Vin to torment them any further he had important information to impart. As evening drew on Ezra agreed to stand the remainder of their watch alone while Chris returned to camp.
"We have to draw some conclusions and make an plan of action. We know that Mr. Dixon flew the helicopter here, be believe it carried the XV 1.11, we know it was involved in Buck getting shot. What else do we know?"
"Well," continued Josiah, "we know that the helicopter landed in a well defended camp, occupied by well armed adults, mostly men. That the camp is low tech but has a high tech building in back of it."
"We know that the inside man in the desert was an FBI agent and that his brother is a discredited former government employee," Celia continued.
"And;" Nathan added, "we know that they're all white."
Chris felt suddenly ashamed that he hadn't noticed that pertinent fact.
"What we need is a man on the inside"
"Well Chris, I don't think even Ezra, could worm his way into that vipers nest in the time we have," Vin stated.
"You have a man on the inside your just not in communication with him." They turned to look at Trevalian. "Seems to me what we have to do is find a way to get in touch with David. David is a serving military officer of twelve years experience you know, you think he hasn't kept his eyes and ears open?"
"You have a plan." Chris's words were a statement not a question.
"Half a plan."
"I play the hapless lost English hiker, I stumble into camp looking for directions. The trouble with this plan is they'll just point me at the pack trail and send me down."
Chris's initial response was that it was no job for a civilian but then reminded himself Trevalian was not a civilian. He was the logical choice, if only because he was the only one the marooned pilot would recognise".
"Good point, so we need some reason for you to stay even for a few hours."
"What?" almost everyone said in unison.
"If you are an ignorant tourist you might get bit by a snake."
"Yeah and.." Mark did not like the way Vin's mind appeared to be working.
"There's lots of snakes don't kill just hurt, we get one to bite you, they'll have to let you rest a bit."
In Vin's eyes it was a near perfect plan. Unfortunately the others thought he was crazy. He looked at them, at their looks of incredulity and disbelief.
"Youre certifiable Vin," Josiah said in disbelief
"You any idea how many things could go wrong?" breathed Nathan.
"It's a bit extreme Vin," Chris commented wryly.
"You promise it only hurts?" They turned to Mark.
"Mark are you sure?" asked Celia
"I trust Vin, we can't wait much longer." He looked at the incredulous Chris "Well can we?"
+ + + + + + +
Leaving the fuming doctor to find Irving, Cindy returned to her son's side, she and JD swapped places again then she slowed her circles and reduced the pressure until she was barely touching him then she stopped, gently she put his hand down on the bed. Almost immediately his heartbeat began to rise,
"He knows youre here, " Nurse Kim explained, "he wants you to stay."
She put her hand on top of his.
"It's OK I'm here, I'm not going any place you just rest I'll be here," she soothed.
After a while she lifted her hand gently nothing happened. She looked around JD was nowhere to be seen, checked one more time that Buck was resting peacefully then she quietly left to find JD. She didn't have to look far, he was out in the waiting area, sitting with his folded arms resting on his knees and his head resting on his arms.
"JD?" He didn't respond.
She walked over and sat next to him, she was fairly sure he wasn't asleep. She bent her head down so it was level with him.
"JD, what is it?" she asked quietly.
She placed her hand under his chin and gently lifted his head and turned it to face her. He didn't resist. His eyes were red and puffy, as he sat up he wiped away the residual tears.
"Nothing I'm just tired I guess." She could hear the emotion in his voice that was more than fatigue.
"No I don't think thats the problem, I think you feel pushed out, you thought you and Buck; you were a unit, each the others emotional support. Then along I come and suddenly Buck needs me, not you. Let me tell you something, he needs both of us. You know what else; I think you miss your mom, you miss her being around to tell you it's all going to be alright, you've been telling everyone he's going to be OK, but who's here to tell you that. You see me and think it's not fair that I'm still alive and your moms dead, Buck doesnt need a mom, he's too old, too strong, it should have been me not her."
JD finally lifted his eyes, she had been right about every thing. Before he could speak she had to say one more thing.
"And you have to know thinking that, feeling that, does not make you a bad person, it's not wrong, or evil it's normal."
He didn't say anything he just flung his arms around her and let go.
Some time later Irving returned, she consulted the nurses, she asked Kim what his temperature was and studied the paper print out from the heart monitor.
"Continue to do what you're doing," was all she said about the incident with the other doctor.
"What was his temperature?" asked JD when she had gone.
"A hundred and six," Kim said quietly
As the sedation wore off, the effects of the fever became more evident, and he became more restless, he had attacks of sudden shivering and drenching sweats, his heart beat would became irregular for a time and then settle. At one point his temperature rose to a hundred and seven. Then with JD and Cindy increasingly desperate and both so sleep deprived they couldn't think straight, the ventilator alarm went off, bringing medics running. Irving had gone off duty and come back on again by the time she was called into ICU again. Buck's chest was heaving while the machine seemed to be faltering.
"What the hell is wrong?" JD pleaded. "Do something!"
Irving made a quick assessment.
"He's trying to breathe for himself, but he's not in sync with the machine."
"What do we do?" Kim asked.
"There's only one thing we can do, turn off the machine and let him breathe for himself."
She disconnected the machine from the tubs, her hand hovered over the switch for a microsecond then she flipped it. The regular noise that had been so constant suddenly stopped. They waited. There were an agonising few seconds when nothing happened then he took a breath, then another. It took a while for the rhythm to settle and it was still weak and rattled but he continued to breathe for himself. Irving watched the read outs on the monitors. She seemed satisfied.
"Stubborn isn't he," she commented.
"YES!" JD and Cindy said in unison.
+ + + + + + +
Mark looked at the small snake Vin was holding, with a rising feeling of dread. "Why did I agree to this?"
"Ready?" Josiah asked.
He nodded; Josiah took a firm hold of his shoulders as Nathan exposed his ankle. Then Vin forced the small snake to bite, being careful to avoid the major blood vessels and not letting it hold on for too long.
"Shit!" Trevalian exclaimed as Josiah released him, "Kill that thing would you."
"Hey it only did what we wanted it too," Celia protested. "Vin let it go."
Vin put the serpent down and let go, it slithered of into the undergrowth.
"Never argue with a lady," he advised the Englishman.
"Oh God in heaven that hurts," he breathed.
The five of them had ridden down to the valley bottom, now the deed was done Trevalian had to set out on foot to climb the other side.
"Now" Nathan began to explain what he knew about the effects of the venom. "If you just sat and did nothing the pain and the swelling would go after a while, the more you walk and exert yourself the more painful it's going to get and the sicker youre going to get."
"Nausea, vomiting, shakes, mild shock, youre young, fit, it was a small dose for someone of your size, nothing you can't handle, I hope."
+ + + + + + +
Three hours later Mark was more than ever regretting going along with this plan. It hurt, it hurt like hell. He was a little unsteady on his feet; he had vomited twice already, and had run out of water. But he had passed the point of no return, and so continued to climb the steep hillside. Eventually all he could do was concentrate on putting one foot in front of another, so he did not notice the gunman ahead of him.
"Hold it buddy," he ordered.
Mark looked up, his eyes stung as sweat ran of his forehead, he squinted at the man.
He needed time to get his mind working, to try and clear the buzzing in his head. Shaking his head a couple of times he then went into what he hoped was a believable story.
"Thank God, I am so happy to see you, please help me."
"We'll see about that, who are you what you doing here?"
" I was hiking and something bit me, please I've been walking for hours, I think I got a bit disorientated and now I'm lost." For emphasis he gestured to the forest behind him."
"This is private property buddy," the man stated, unmoved by his plight.
Suddenly there was another man; he appeared to Mark's left out of the shadows.
"You know, Mac he don't look too good."
Mac said nothing for a while, when he did speak there was a more conciliatory note in his voice.
"Is he armed?"
"Not that I can see."
"Armed? Why would I be armed?" Mark tried to sound hurt and puzzled.
The two men seemed satisfied he posed no threat and shouldering their weapons helped him up to the top. As they emerged into the camp they called for help. Dixon came out of the cookhouse to see what all the noise was. He immediately recognised the pale bedraggled hiker being supported by two men. Crossing the open ground in what he hoped was not undue haste he was the first to reach them.
"What the hell happened to him?" he inquired in a broad Australian accent.
"Put him in my cabin."
The cabin Dixon used was not the closest but no one questioned him and they all but carried Mark inside. The spartan cabin contained four beds but it was clear only one was in use. Once Mark was on the bed, David turned to the men.
"Well don't just stand there go get Sarah, and you get some ice." Both men hesitated.
"Well go on!"
Once they had left Mark sat up as best he could. He was about to speak when his friend put a hand over his mouth and shook his head, he pointed to the walls and ceiling, the room was bugged.
Dixon examined the snakebite and was shocked to find it was all too real, frowning, he mouthed.
Mark gave him a so-so hand gesture, and in return mouthed.
"Who are they?"
Mark couldn't understand what his friend was trying to say, he gave him a puzzled look. Dixon put one finger under his nose and did a nazi salute with the other. Mark nodded that he understood. It sent a cold shiver down his spine. At that point Sarah came in, she was about forty with close cropped brown hair and despite carrying a large first aid bag had a 9mm pistol in a holster strapped to her waist.
"OK lets have look," she said bending over his swollen ankle. He flinched as she prodded and squeezed. Then she enquired what the snake looked like. He described it, she asked about his symptoms, he told her.
"Well I reckon it's not too serious, if'n you'd had sat down after and rested you'd be OK by now, but since you went wandering about on it you're gonna have to rest a while."
She opened her kit and drew down a syringe from a small vial.
"What's that?" he inquired suspiciously.
"It'll help with the pain and the swelling, come on." He began to roll up his sleeve.
"'Fraid not son," she tapped his thigh, and he reluctantly undid his trousers.
"When did you have a tetanus shot last?" Mark was relived to report it was only a year ago, and she seemed happy with that.
They put ice on the ankle to bring down the swelling and gave him copious amounts of water to drink. Mark had to admit he did feel better for all their attention. Then they left him with Dixon. Once alone Mark delved into his pack and bought out a note pad and pen. The two of them then held two conversation, one was out loud and was the conversation between two total strangers, the other on paper was quit different.
YES. He pointed to his friend's ankle. DID YOU DO THAT ON PURPOSE?
YES HAD TO GET IN TO SEE YOU. WHAT GIVES?
I GOT THAT, DID YOU BRING IN THE XV 1.11?
YES AND 2 SEALED CONTAINERS WITH JAP MARKINGS.
WHAT'S IN THEM?
BEATS ME, THEY TOOK THEM TO WHAT I THINK IS A LAB OF SOME KIND.
ANY IDEA WHAT THEYRE UP TOO?
NOT REALLY BUT I'M SCHEDULED TO FLY NORTH DAY AFTER TOMORROW AND THERE ARE A LOT OF GAS MASKS AROUND HERE!
YOU GOT MY MESSAGE?
YES, HE'S ALIVE- JUST.
THANK GOD THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO
THE MAN WHO GOT SHOT WAS AN ATF AGENT
SHIT AND YOURE HERE WITH THEM?
ISN'T THAT THE WOLF LYING DOWN WITH THE LAMB?
I DON'T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT. ASSUME WE'RE COMING TOMORROW OR TOMORROW NIGHT, I DON'T THINK WE CAN SIGNAL YOU BUT YOU CAN SIGNAL US.
YOU ON THE RIDGE OPPOSITE?
NEVER DID UNDERSTAND THEM NOT HAVING A GUARD UP THERE BUT MAYBE THEY THINK NO ONE WOULD BOTHER. BEST TO COME IN THE EVENING TOMORROW, AT ABOUT 8 THERE'S SOME KIND OF MEETING, I'M NOT INVITED BUT MOST OF THEM WILL BE IN THE HALL.
GOOD NOW WE NEED SIGNALS; A '4' MEANS IT'S ALL OK, 'OUT' MEANS YOU'RE GOING EARLY, '6' MEANS SOMETHING'S CHANGED.
Dixon understood, the cryptic instructions. He handed over a crumpled bit of paper, which turned out to be a map of the camp, with the approximate positions of the guards, and their patrol routes as best he could work them out.
"Hope it helps," he said silently.
Three hours later he was well enough to walk out of the camp and head back down the ridge.
+ + + + + + +
Buck continued to breath for himself, he showed no sign of faltering and better still in the six hours since the machine had been turned off his temperature had dropped more than half a degree. Irving decided to remove the tube that had connected his lungs to the ventilator. She explained it was a risk, as, if he needed to go back on to the machine, it would complicate things; but, as she said.
"He could wake up at any time and it is much less traumatic to remove that thing while he's unconscious."
JD stood up, a look of wild desperation on his face. "Do you mean?"
"Yes JD I am fairly sure it is now when not if."
He was too tired to react much, he found his eyes filling up and he quickly wiped them, then turned to Cindy. She was making no attempt to control her tears; she squeezed Buck's hand as JD hugged her.
"It's not over yet," Irving warned, "it is still going to take a long time, there are still things that can go wrong."
"We understand doctor thank you, thank you so much," Cindy sobbed with out letting go of JD.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah set his sights on the ridge, the sun had set, he was now using night vision glasses to watch the camps occupants entering the meeting hall. He watched Dixon walk across the compound to the cookhouse. It seemed like an age before he came out, when he did he walked to the helicopter, he ran his hand along the body. He walked around it so he was facing Knife Ridge. Then he did what Josiah was waiting for. He held his hand in front of him with the palm facing the ground and then drew it across his chest making a slight fluttering motion as he did. It was the OK signal.
Josiah spoke into his microphone.
"The game's a-foot."
Chris responded by sending two electronic beeps. Then he gave the signal for the others to move. They had rehearsed all day. With his gun slung over his shoulder, Vin had climbed a tree that gave him a clear view of the camp. They had already taken out two guards, who now sat, their hands bound in nylon cuffs, in the forest, watched over by Trevalian, and his shot gun. Chris waited for another pair to walk past.
"They're about ten yards from you" Josiahs voice came through his ear piece loud and clear. "Eight ..six ..four ..two"
The hapless guard stopped as a gun was held to his neck, his friend immediately turned his gun on Chris.
"Now boy I'd really advise you not to do that." Ezra was laying on the southern accent thick as he pushed his weapon into the second man's ribs.
Celia and Nathan arrived at the prisoner holding area with one of their own at the same time as Ezra and Chris dropped off their two. On the ridge Josiah watched as Dixon approached the guard patrolling the edge of the ridge and the helicopter, he knew the pilot was unarmed and was concerned he would do something rash.
Dixon said good evening and asked about his weapon. As he got close Dixon grabbed the gun pulled the man in closer and drove his knee up into the man's groin with such speed and efficiency that Josiah wasn't sure he had seen what had happened. He watched with admiration as the Australian pilot double fist punched the man in the back of the neck, he dropped like a stone.
As Chris and the others fanned out to enter the camp someone exited the wash house, he spotted Celia and Ezra and instantly his gun was at his shoulder and in that same second a silenced shot from Vin's gun high in the tree dropped him. The other two ran to the body, satisfied he was dead they dragged him out of sight.
Dixon made his way to the bunker, whatever went on in there it was crucial to the whole operation. He was edging around the wall when he suddenly felt the cold of a gun barrel pushed up under his ribs.
"Name, rank, number?" He provided the information, and the gun was lowered.
Instantly he jammed the gun he had just taken from the guard under Chris's jaw.
"How do I know who you are?"
"I'm supposed to say 'it's time to call stumps' what ever that means." Dixon's face spread into a broad grin.
"What it means mate, is it's time to finish this."
+ + + + + + +
As soon as he had given Chris the go ahead, Josiah had called the local ATF team that Travis had put on stand by, having first established that none of them had any connection to Prescott. He now informed Chris that they were twenty minutes away and their helicopters would be audible in just fifteen minutes.
"What can you see Josiah?" Chris inquired.
"Outside I can't see anyone except you guys and the body below the chopper, and he ain't moving, on the thermal imager I can see two, no, three people inside the bunker at least and a lot in the meeting hall, they're staying pretty still."
"If it looks like the meetings about to break up let me know."
"You got it."
Vin appeared out of the gloom followed by Celia.
"Nathan and Ezra are gonna keep and eye on the prayer meeting," he explained.
"OK lets see what the Professor is up to, how many exits does this place have?" Chris looked at Dixon.
"Just the one that I'm aware of, all the windows are small and sealed, but I've never been inside."
"Remember the last thing we want is gun play we don't know what's in there and we don't want to warn the rest of them."
With the others close but out of sight, Dixon knocked on the door.
+ + + + + + +
Buck was becoming increasingly restless as he struggled to regain consciousness. Nothing seemed to work any more, in fact the more JD and Cindy talked the more restless he got. Cindy tried to stroke his hand but he pulled away.
"What's the matter JD?"
"I don't get it ma'am. Come on Buck it's us."
Buck knew something was wrong but he was too confused, too tired and in too much pain to work it out, and people kept talking to him, if they would just stop he could work it out.
Doctor Irving checked the read outs as JD and Cindy looked on.
"Doctor I don't need you to tell me my son is in pain, can't you do something about it?"
"I explained before, yes he's in pain quite apart from the broken bones and bullet wounds he still has blood poisoning and that hurts like hell. Trouble is, just about every painkiller that would make a difference has dangerous side affects for any one with impaired respiratory and/or renal function. Now Buck has seriously impaired respiratory function and almost no renal function at all. I have to balance his pain with introducing more toxins into his system."
"What youre saying is you can't give him any more."
The doctor nodded, "I daren't I've already gone over the limit."
"It would hurt less if you'd all shut up," the voice was pathetically week and raspy but nevertheless, and even though the oxygen mask muffled it; it was unmistakable.
"Buck" Cindy breathed. She turned from the doctor to face Buck so he wouldn't have to move his head to see her, she placed her hand on his still hot cheek. "Hello darling." She kissed him lightly on the forehead. "Welcome back."
JD came to the other side of the bed, "Hi partner, knew you were too stubborn to leave us."
Buck looked from his mother to JD and back, a look of realisation and then distress came over his pale honest features. He closed his eyes and turned his head away from them. JD was about to speak but Cindy stopped him, she pulled him back.
"JD, let me talk to Buck alone for a moment, I think I know what's wrong."
Reluctantly JD left them alone.
Cindy turned back to Buck who was still not looking at her.
"Look at me Buck, I know you can hear me," he opened his eyes and she could see the pain all too clearly and not just physical pain. "Mr. Larabee called and I came, you, well it was bad, and when I got here the boy was with you. He's just as you described him. You really think of him as your brother?"
Buck closed his eyes once, which she took to be 'yes'.
"So you were going to let him in on the family secret eventually?"
Once again he indicated yes.
"But you wanted to do it in your own time, in your own way?"
He closed his eyes.
"He only knows I'm your mother, I'm sorry it happened like this, but Mr Larabee was right, I needed to be here, no one else knows I promise. When your stronger you can tell him the rest, from what I've seen it won't make any difference."
He nodded his head very slightly.
"Now rest, sleep, we'll both be here when you wake up"
Before he allowed the medication and exhaustion to claim him again he managed to say, "love you".
Once she was sure he was asleep, she went outside to talk with JD, she explained what had distressed Buck so much.
"There's more, but you have to let him tell you when he's ready, don't push."
JD nodded what ever Buck had to tell him, he could wait.
+ + + + + + +
The door of the bunker opened flooding the area with light, a man in a white jacket stared at him.
"You're not allowed in here," he said blankly.
"Ain't my idea, they want one of you in the meeting."
"Beats me mate, I'm just the messenger."
The man turned back to the room behind him.
"I gotta go to the meeting, I'll be back soon as I can."
As soon as he was out of sight of any window the man found himself in custody. Dixon then reported to the others.
"There are two more like him and the Russian, he's the one you want. Far as I could see only he's armed."
Chris needed clarification, "You mean this Russian is the one who "
"Shot your friend, he's the one alright."
They knocked again, a second man came to the door, he was instantly grabbed and pulled out, to be pinned and cuffed by Celia. Vin and Chris burst into the room, instantly the Russian gunman raised his weapon.
"Don't shoot for Gods sake don't shoot in here!" the remaining technician begged.
What ever he was afraid of the Russian was afraid as well for he remained frozen gun raised. Vin and Chris edged toward him, all the time the panicked technician begging them not to shoot. The Russian backed into the corner of the room he seemed to be doing something with his foot. There was suddenly a loud clunk. Before Vin or Chris had the chance to react he disappeared!
When they reached the corner of the room they found out why, there was a trap door in the floor, and what appeared to be a tunnel.
Chris grabbed a nearby lab coat and hung it into the tunnel entrance, immediately it was riddled with bullets.
"Lock this end," Chris ordered, "you," he pointed at the technician "do nothing. Bennett cuff him to something."
Chris then ran outside and called up Josiah.
"There's a man escaping in a tunnel, it seems to run north from the bunker, see if you can pick him up as he comes out it can't be that long."
"I'm on it."
Then Chris turned to the others, "let's get over to the meeting house someone is going to figure out something's wrong soon."
They were half way there when Josiah called. "Got him, about a quarter mile from you going down and away from you."
Dixon looked at Vin, who was still holding his rifle. "Can you hit anything with that?"
"Well take that thing off and come with me." He tapped the silencer and headed toward the chopper.
Vin looked at Chris, who nodded.
In the far distance they could hear other helicopters. As Vin ran for the helicopter, Chris contacted Ezra and Nathan who were stationed at the two side doors. Celia and Chris stood at the front. Chris spoke to all of them on the radio.
"Heads up people it's now or never, on my count. Three. Two. One, go!"
All four of them burst through the doors guns raised, their black combats and bulky vests making them appear even more threatening.
"ATF! Nobody move!" Chris bellowed into the packed room.
A man near the back went for his pistol and in an instant Celia shot him in the chest.
"Any one else like to try it?" she asked coldly.
Out side the roar of the helicopter taking off drowned out any further comments but there was no movement in the room. As soon as Dixon was clear two black helicopters with federal markings landed spilling black clad ATF agents in to the clearing.
Vin had forgotten what it was like to fly in a helicopter under 'combat conditions', and how much he hated it. The helicopter didn't so much as lift off as fall off. As soon as they were no more than two feet off the ground when it swept sideways and fell down the side of the valley and as it did it began to turn. One moment Vin was falling sideways the next he was plummeting straight down then he was falling sideways to the other side. When the aircraft finally levelled out he was only just hanging onto the contents of his stomach.
"You always fly like that?" he gasped.
"Only when the Captain's not watching."
"Josiah talk to us," Vin called over the radio.
"Vin you in that chopper?" Josiah sounded alarmed.
"Shit! He do that on purpose?"
"So he claims, do you still see him?"
"He's about 1000 yards in front of you still going down and away."
The helicopter swept down the valley. Vin was about to ask how high up the valley side their quarry was when he opened fire on them. He couldn't hear the gun, but the muzzle flash was clearly visible in the dark. Dixon lowered the chopper so it was level with the gunfire then he hovered, rock still. Vin raised the gun and located the quarry in his night sight.
"You got him?" asked the pilot.
The man continued to fire but as far as Vin could tell not one shot came anywhere near the aircraft.
"Yes, not a very good shot is he?"
"He's probably an excellent shot but he's about three feet too far away."
"Give or take a foot."
"So he can't actually hurt us?"
Vin hesitated, he had killed people before; but it had been a very long time since he killed any one who wasn't trying to kill him, or his friends, or an innocent bystander. A long, long time since he had killed in cold blood and then he had been a solider under orders. Dixon sensed his hesitation.
"If it helps, he shot your mate in the back and then he used him for target practise."
Vin had a flash of Buck in ICU, he remembered Chris telling them what the doc had said about his injures and his chances, he saw JD's look of desperation; and he fired.
"You think he's dead?"
"Yes, but if he's not I hope it hurts like hell."
When they returned to the camp the two government choppers had left, and the camp was now alive with people mostly dressed in black.
The rest of the team ran to meet them, Trevalian, relieved of guard, duty had joined the others. Chris studied his friend's face and he knew the job they had come there to do was done. The moment of silence was punctuated by Josiah calling in Chris's ear. He turned to the others.
"Josiah just called JD, Buck 's awake, he's going to be OK."
+ + + + + + +
Twelve hours after he first regained consciousness Buck woke up, his temperature had dropped another degree. He found JD reading in the chair beside his bed. For a long time he just watched, eventually JD looked up.
"Hello again," JD grinned, "doc says youre not to talk, I told her it was impossible to keep you quiet but she insisted no talking, not yet." He moved closer.
"Your mom's the best, she's amazing, she never once doubted you, and she gave the doctors hell, well one doctor."
He watched as a smile spread across his friends' face, the first time he had seen that usually familiar and ready smile in a week. JD tried to think what questions Buck would ask if he could.
"I spoke to Josiah, they got him, Buck they got him. Vin shot him. Chris and the others are in North Carolina, (thats where the helicopter ended up) they'll be back day after tomorrow." His voice became more sombre. "It's been a week since you left the ranch. Doctor Irving said she would come and see you tomorrow to, you know, talk about stuff, but she told us you will be OK."
JD wasn't sure he had said the right things but there was a peaceful look on Buck's face which he put down to more than the medication.
+ + + + + + +
What the technical experts told Chris made him feel sick. The last remaining technician had decided to tell all before someone did something stupid in the lab. The group was, as Dixon had indicated, white supremacist; they were manufacturing their own nerve agent, which explained the sealed containers with Japanese markings Dixon had seen. Their plan was to launch it, using the XV1.11, at the black districts of big cities, starting with Harlem. He watched as Celia led her former boss in handcuffs. Eventually he was face to face with the man.
"I've heard of you, you lead a tactical ATF squad in Denver, supposedly the best, what is it they call you? The Magnificent Seven? We could've used a man like you. You have no idea what you did here, the damage you did."
"I know what I did and I've rarely been more proud."
The Russian was dead, Vin's bullet had killed him instantly. Dixon identified the man who had flown with them and ordered the shooting.
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