Las Vegas 0930 hrs
The next morning Chris ushered Buck and Vin out of the hotel and over to the airport. Chris was confident the southerner would show and bought him a ticket. Chris thanked the attendant and walked over to wait with Buck and Vin for Ezra to arrive.
"What are ya gonna do with that ticket if he doesn't show?" Buck asked.
"He'll show," Chris smiled.
"Am I that predictable?" Ezra asked as he walked up.
"Figured you needed a job," Chris said.
"According to my dear Mother I don't," Ezra said. "But I prefer to keep busy."
"Let's go," Chris said and walked towards check in.
"Welcome aboard," Vin said holding out his hand. "Name's Vin Tanner."
"Please to make your acquaintance," Ezra said shaking his hand. "And what might your position be in this merry band?"
"You're the intelligence officer, you figure it out," Vin declared in a friendly challenge.
Ezra smiled, indicating he was up for the game. As they walked to the gate, Ezra asked Vin some questions and observed his actions. He did the same with Buck. Ezra didn't bother asking Chris anything. He already knew what his function was on the team. He was still trying to make up his mind about the other two men when the announcement came to board the plane. Chris walked on and led the three of them to the coach seats.
"Mother would be appalled," Ezra sighed as he stowed his bags and took the seat by the window.
Buck sat next to Ezra, while Chris and Vin took the seats across the isle. Ezra tired to get comfortable in the confining area as the plane was readied for take off. Once the plane was in the air Ezra hit the button to recline his chair and went to go to sleep.
"Damn," Buck cursed. "If you were gonna sleep you could have let me sit by the window."
"I didn't wish to have you disturb me every time one of the flight attendants went by and you flirted with them," Ezra said with his eyes closed.
"He got you there, Buck," Vin laughed.
"Yeah, well, Fancy pants still hasn't figured out what our positions are," Buck declared.
"Oh I figured them out some time ago," Ezra said smiling. "But I doubt Mr. Larabee wishes me to blurt out the information on the plane."
"You're right about that," Chris said.
"As I assumed," Ezra replied squirming to get comfortable. "Wake me when we get to Denver."
"I like him," Vin chuckled.
"Yeah he's a barrel of laughs," Buck said snapping open the newspaper he brought on board.
The flight to Denver was uneventful and they arrived shortly before lunch. They got off the plane and boarded the shuttle to take them to the long term parking area. While on the bus, Ezra's conclusion about Vin's position on the team was confirmed as the young man looked around watching everything. The bus finally let them off and Chris walked them over to a black Ford Silverado king cab. They threw their bags in the bed of the pick up and went to get into the truck. There was a little confusion as Buck and Vin both went to get in front. Vin quickly backed off to let Buck ride shotgun.
"Its okay kid, you take the front," Buck said.
"S'alright I'll take the back," Vin argued.
"Hell, kid, I've spent plenty of time with Chris," Buck smiled knowing that Chris would like it.
Vin nodded his thanks and got in. Buck climbed in the back with Ezra and watched the two in the front. Chris had told him about his encounter with Vin in Germany. About how the sniper was able to practically read his mind. Chris had told Buck that he didn't have to always keep his guard up with Tanner. Buck knew that Chris kept everyone at a distance since the bomb that killed his wife and son, including him. He was always on guard and never easy around people. Buck only knew Vin for a short time, but he could see the difference in Chris. Since it was close to lunch, Chris took them to one of his favorite places to eat. He pulled up to the "Saloon" and Buck sighed.
"Does my wife-to-be still work here?" Buck asked.
"If you mean Inez, then yeah," Chris smiled. "But the last time you tried to make a pass at her, I had to save you from being hit with a frying pan."
"Ah, then she must be a lady of breeding and taste if she refused Mr. Wilmington's advances," Ezra said seriously as he got out of the truck.
"That hurt," Buck said.
They walked in and Chris moved to a table in the corner. Inez saw them come in and smiled. She sauntered over to the table and put her hands on her hips.
"So you have come back to pester me again?" She asked.
"Now, darlin', all ya have to do is go out with me and I'll leave you alone," Buck said.
"Me? Go out with you?" she laughed. "That will be the day when pigs fly. I'll bring your beers."
"I'll have a red wine my dear," Ezra corrected.
"Oh you will," Inez smirked. "Shall I stomp the grapes for you also?"
"That won't be necessary," Ezra said.
"I am so glad," she said and stomped off.
"Charming, truly charming," Ezra said sarcastically.
"Who was that?" Vin asked.
"That is Inez Rocillos," Buck sighed. "Ain't she something?"
"I'll say," Vin declared. "Like a cougar with a tooth ache."
"She takes some getting used to," Chris smiled.
Inez returned with their drinks and placed them on the table. She stood there waiting.
"Do you plan on introducing me or should I guess?" she asked.
"Inez, this is Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish," Chris said.
"Ma'am," Vin said nodding a greeting and Inez smiled.
"I'm charmed to make your acquaintance," Ezra said taking her hand and kissing it. Inez smiled and took her hand back, then hit Buck.
"Hey, what was that for?" he yelled.
"Be sure to take notes and learn from this one," she smiled at Ezra. "Now what will you have?"
She took their orders and left the table. They sat drinking for a bit when Chris turned to Ezra.
"Alright, Standish, what did you decide for these two?"
"Mr. Wilmington was fairly simple," Ezra admitted. "I knew his background from Bosnia. He's your demolition expert."
"That's cheating," Buck accused.
"Can I help it if I have a good memory?" Ezra said. "Mr. Tanner was a little harder to determine, but I believe he's your weapons expert and sniper."
"How did you figure that out?" Chris asked curious.
"Well first off he's comfortable walked around wearing a small arsenal." Ezra smiled.
"He is?" Buck asked. "I know of one he's carrying."
"Yes the shoulder holster is obvious," Ezra said. "He also has one at the small of his back."
"How do ya figure I'm the sniper?" Vin asked. "Just 'cause I can handle a gun don't mean I'm a sniper."
"I didn't decide that until we walked out of the airport," Ezra said. "Mr. Wilmington spotted a beautiful woman and you told him to stay clear, that she was married. Buck asked how you knew and you said you saw a ring on her left hand. My eyesight is good but even I didn't see a ring."
"Did you really see a ring?" Buck asked.
"Yup," Vin smiled. "A big one too."
"Pretty good Ezra," Chris said.
"Now I have a question for you Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked looking at him. "How did you know who I was?"
"It was two years ago," Chris explained. "I was present at your court martial."
"I see," Ezra said suspiciously. "And you still want me on this team."
"I didn't believe them then," Chris said starring at Ezra. "I hope I'm not wrong."
"You aren't," Ezra assured him. "I'm not a traitor, and besides they never proved it and the charges were dropped."
"Your word's good enough for me," Chris said.
Ezra was surprised that Larabee was willing to trust him. While in Naval intelligence, no one trusted him and it was tough to make friends. Ezra knew he'd still have to prove himself to the others but it felt good to be accepted for who he was. Inez brought their food and left them to eat. They discussed options for finding a pilot. Ezra knew several but he wasn't sure they would fit into the eclectic group Larabee was putting together. Chris told him to make a list and he'd get their information from Travis.
"Have you talked to Nate yet?" Vin asked.
"Not yet," Chris replied. "Was heading over to the clinic after lunch."
"You plan on us all storming the place?" Buck teased.
"Since we all came in the same truck I guess so," Chris said.
When they were finished, Chris paid for lunch and Inez gave him a kiss on the cheek and welcomed him home. When Buck bent down for a kiss Inez smacked him lightly on the cheek and told him to get out as she stormed away.
"I'm breaking her down," Buck smiled as he rubbed his cheek.
"Yeah I can see that," Vin said as he rolled his eyes.
They climbed into the truck and Ezra asked where they would all be staying. Chris explained that since they had to establish a plan and get to know each other before the mission, they would be staying at his ranch. If this mission went well, Travis would need them for more. They could worry about finding housing in the area later. Nathan's clinic was just on the outskirts of the depressed area of Denver. Chris pulled the truck into the parking lot and found a space. A group of kids were hanging out in front of the clinic and Chris could see gang emblems on their jackets. The group took one look at Chris and they moved away from the door. Chris gave them a feral grin as he walked by.
"Interesting talent he has," Ezra commented as he followed Chris.
"If you was one of them, would you mess with Chris?" Vin asked chuckling.
"Excellent point," Ezra conceded.
"I'd like to see Nathan Jackson," Chris said as he walked up to the receptionist.
"I'm afraid he's busy," she said without looking up.
"We're friends of his and we wanted to see him," Buck added.
"I said he's very busy," she snapped. "If you aren't sick or don't have an appointment then you can't see him."
Vin nudged Ezra and gave him a wink. Suddenly Vin groaned and his eyes rolled back. Next thing Ezra knew he had his hands full trying to keep Vin from crashing to the floor.
"Chris!" Ezra yelled as he lowered Vin to the floor.
"What happened?" Chris demanded.
"I don't know," Ezra said. "I heard him groan, then he was falling into my arms."
"Jeez, Chris, he's having trouble breathing," Buck said as he watched Vin gasp for air. "Maybe he ate something he's allergic too."
"Quickly. Pick him up and follow me," the receptionist said.
Buck grabbed Vin's arms while Chris and Ezra got his legs. They followed her to an examination room and she left to get Nathan. They placed Vin on the exam table and Chris stood anxiously by while Vin struggled to breathe.
"What happened?" Nathan demanded as he rushed in.
"I don't know, Nate," Chris said. "Vin's having trouble breathing."
"Chris?" Nathan asked shocked as he moved to check Vin.
"Howdy, doc," Vin said and opened his eyes.
"Shit, Tanner, you're dead," Chris growled.
"You wanted to see him," Vin said defensively as he sat up and leaned on his elbows. "Broomhilda wasn't lettin' us in so I came up with this idea."
"You could have warned me!" Chris snapped.
"Had to make it look real," Vin smiled. "Besides, I signaled Ezra."
"You call that a signal?" Ezra asked. "Groan and then fall into my arms?"
"Damn, kid, you scared the pants off me," Buck exclaimed.
"Someone want to tell me what's going on!" Nathan demanded.
"Came to see if you were interested in joining us," Chris said.
Chris made Nathan get rid of the receptionist. Once she was gone Chris explained what they needed and he agreed. He was just worried about the clinic. The people really needed him and he didn't want to leave them. Chris assured him that that he wouldn't have to. That he would only be need for the missions and that he could still work at the clinic. Nathan agreed saying they would need someone to patch them up.
"I get off around four," Nathan said.
"We'll meet you back here," Chris said shaking his hand. "You wouldn't happen to know any pilots that might join us."
"I do know one," Nathan said. "Josiah Sanchez. He used to fly Huey's in the Army, but he can also fly small planes. I'll talk to him and you can meet him when you come back later."
"Great, we'll see you then," Chris said.
They left the clinic and Chris drove them out to the ranch. Buck remembered when Chris bought the place. The mustached rogue liked coming here to relax. It was always peaceful and he could get his head together after a mission. Vin perked up when he saw the corrals.
"You got any horses to go in those corrals?" Vin asked hopefully.
"Just two," Chris said. "I thought I might try my hand at breeding some."
"I'm gonna like it here," Vin drawled.
"Yeeha," Ezra exclaimed. "The dust will go so well with my imported Italian loafers."
"Ezra, how are you planning on running though the jungle in them fancy suits?" Vin asked.
"Don't worry, I'm willing to wear those god awful battle dress uniforms if the price is right," Ezra assured him. "Even if I look terrible in black."
"Damn, Ezra, why can't you just call them BDU's like everyone else," Buck complained.
"Because I'm not like everyone else," Ezra smiled.
Chris pulled up to the door and they all climbed out. He took them inside and Chris was surprised to see Colonel Travis
"I see you were able to gather a few men," Travis said looking them over.
"We're meeting our medic later in town," Chris said.
"That's good," Travis said. "I had a vault installed in the basement for your weapons. Make a list of what you'll need."
"That's Tanner's job," Chris said.
"I figured as much," Travis smiled. "Mr. Tanner your things arrived safely. I had them put in the caretaker's apartment out back."
"My bike?" Vin asked anxiously.
"Out back," Travis said. Vin dashed out the sliding glass door and disappeared.
"Now I can see that boy moving fast for a woman, but a bike?" Buck commented.
"Well I'll leave you to get settled," Travis said and went out back.
Chris and the others followed. Travis stepped into a black limo and closed the door. Once the door was closed the limo pulled away.
"Who the hell we working for Chris?" Buck asked.
"Does it matter?"
"Not as long as we get paid," Ezra said.
Denver 1400 hrs
The three new additions to Chris's team spent the rest of the afternoon getting settled. Ezra decided to share the caretaker's apartment with Vin. The sniper was quiet, unlike Buck. The southerner didn't think he could take living with Buck for very long. As soon as this mission was completed Ezra planned on finding a place of his own. Vin spent the afternoon with the Major's two horses. The horses were both blacks but had different markings. One had a single star on his forehead and was well mannered. The other one had a white blaze down his noise and always wanted to be petted. Vin took an instant liking to the one with the blaze.
"Ready to go?" Chris asked as he watched Vin from the door.
"I reckon," Vin said giving the horse a final pat.
"I think Peso likes you," Chris said as they headed for the house.
"Buck and Ezra decided where they're sleeping?" Vin asked as he walked beside Chris.
"Ezra's gonna bunk with you," Chris replied. "Hope you have a dictionary."
"We'll get along," Vin assured him.
They all climbed into Chris's truck and headed back to the clinic. They met Nathan and he had them follow him to a mission not far away. They parked the vehicles and got out. Chris walked up to Nathan and stopped him before they went inside.
"Is Josiah a priest?" Chris asked.
"Ain't sure," Nathan admitted. "I asked him once and he evaded the question saying he had trouble turning the other cheek. Says fixing this mission is his penance."
The interior of the mission was in the process of being repaired. Some of the walls had a fresh coat of paint while the others were still covered with graffiti. They heard hammering from the back room and Nathan led them down the hall. They passed the kitchen but didn't notice a dark haired youth cleaning up. He saw them pass and was curious. The young man looked in the hall and saw them enter the room where Josiah was. Curiosity got the better of him and he moved quietly towards the door. He saw the five strangers talking to Josiah and decided to eavesdrop. He heard the blonde talking about a covert mission but couldn't hear all the details. He cursed to himself as they moved further into the room and he could no longer hear them. The young man decided to sneak outside and listen by the window. When he got to the window he looked in and counted the men to make sure they were all there.
"One, two, three, four, five..." he counted but realized one was missing.
"Six," said a voice behind him. "If you're gonna listen in on people's conversations you better learn to move quieter. Now let's go!"
Chris was explaining to Josiah what was needed for the mission. Josiah listened but still wasn't sure he was interested. He was about to ask some questions when the mustached man that left came back dragging a young man by the collar.
"Look what I found snooping at the window," Buck said shaking the boy by the collar.
"I can help," he exclaimed. "You'll need a communications and electronic expert. That's me."
"I don't think so," Chris said.
"Come on, Josiah, tell them," the boy pleaded.
"This is JD Dunne," Josiah said introducing the youth. "What he says is true. He's great with computers and just about any electronic device. The Army snatched him up to be a communications specialist."
"See, I've been through all the training," JD said. "Graduated last week. I could help."
"I don't think so," Chris said without emotion. "Go home kid."
"I ain't a kid!" JD said hotly. "Don't have a home to go back to. My mom died last year."
"Come on, Chris, you can check out his story with Travis," Buck said backing the kid. He didn't know why but he saw potential in the boy. "Besides he knows too much and I'd hate to have to kill him."
"Fine. You want to die young, be my guest!" Chris growled and walked away.
"Yes!" JD exclaimed and held out his hand to the others.
Vin gave him a measuring look but didn't take his hand. This didn't deter JD as he offered it to Ezra. Ezra smiled and shook his hand welcoming him to the team. Buck started teasing JD about his hair and his clothes. Especially the Red Sox baseball cap the kid wore. Buck grabbed it off his head and threw it on the ground and told him to get a cap from a real team. JD snatched the hat off the floor then kicked Buck in the ass. Buck ended up chasing JD out he door.
"Think I will join you," Josiah smiled. "You all might need some spiritual guidance."
"Perfect," Chris said. "Alright for the next few days you'll be staying at my ranch. We need to formulate a plan and get to know each other.
Suddenly Chris's cellphone rang and he answered it. He stepped way as he talked on the phone. Buck and JD returned and they started talking amongst themselves. Vin glanced at Chris and could tell something was wrong. Chris cursed and hung up the phone.
"Well, I hope you can all work together," Chris declared. "We leave day after tomorrow."
"What happened?" Vin asked.
"They upped the date of the executions," Chris replied. "We have four days to get them out."
"Aw hell," Vin cursed. "Doesn't give us much time to learn each others flaws."
"We don't have a choice," Chris stated. "Everyone is coming to the ranch tonight. We've got work to do."
"The perfect ending to a hectic day," Ezra lamented as they followed Chris.
"Could be worse," Nathan said. "We could be going tomorrow."
Ezra rolled his eyes and they continued out to the vehicles. Josiah, Nathan and JD were given directions to the ranch. They were heading home to pack what they needed. The ride back to the ranch was silent. They all knew what was at stake here. The lives of the hostages were in their hands. An hour later Chris pulled up to the house and wasn't surprised to see Travis waiting for them.
"I'm sorry this is going to be rushed," he said. "I can get three of you in country as archeologists. Luckily there are a number of ruins close to where they are holding the hostages."
"Looks like the rest of us will be going in HALO," Vin smiled.
"HALO?" Ezra asked.
"Well it looks like fancy pants won't be one of them," Buck laughed.
"HALO is a high altitude low opening parachute jump," Vin explained.
"I see," Ezra said swallowing hard. "I believe I will make a wonderful archeologist."
"You ain't never jumped before?" Vin asked.
"Oh I've jumped, but never at high altitude," Ezra said. "I actually parachute regularly."
"Looks like that's one of the things we will have to work on," Chris commented. "Colonel I need information on Josiah Sanchez and JD Dunne."
"Both Army, Dunne is still active."
"I'll get the information to you as soon as I can," Travis said and turned to Vin. "I need a list of armaments you'll need."
"What kind of resistance are we looking at?" Vin asked.
"Morales buys his guns on the black market," Travis said. "He has Russian as well as German automatic weapons."
"MP5's all around," Vin said confidently. "They're the most reliable assault rifle. I prefer SIG's as my hand weapon but the others might like something different."
"SIG's are fine with me," Chris said.
"Me too," Buck agreed.
"H&K's for me," Ezra said to be different.
"Talk it out amongst yourselves," Travis smiled. "All the latest intel is on that laptop. It lists Morales' strengths and weaknesses. In those boxes are camouflage BDU's, face paint and body armor. If you need anything else let me know."
"Right," Chris said as he walked Travis to the door.
Ezra logged onto the computer and pulled up the information. The hostages were being held at an Indian village in a secluded valley. Ezra kept reading and found out that the villagers were being forced to work in Morales' cocaine and marijuana fields. This didn't sit well with Ezra, but the natives weren't part of the mission.
"Damn shame," Vin said causing Ezra to jump. He didn't realize Vin was behind him.
"Yes, it is unfortunate," Ezra agreed. "But will they hinder our rescue attempt?"
"Don't know," Vin said. "I doubt it."
"Doubt what?" Chris asked.
"That the villagers will give us a hard time," Vin answered.
"The hostages are being held at a native village," Ezra said.
"Wonder who this hostage is that the Colonel wants so bad," Chris commented as he read over Ezra's shoulder.
"Let's see if the colonel included information about the hostages," Ezra said as he tapped away at the computer. "Ah, here we are."
Buck joined them as they all huddled around the laptop reading the information. Four of the hostages were really Peace Corp members. Two young men, one older man and his daughter. The fifth was the one the colonel wanted. He was Army Captain Ian Thomas.
"Why would he be there?" Vin asked out loud.
"The government has a dirty little secret," Ezra confided. "We supply arms to the local guerillas so they can fight against the government we oppose. In exchange for Morales doing the fighting we let his drugs pass over the border unchallenged. I'm guessing the colonel wants this guy so he can tell who he's working for."
"Damn," Buck said. "Wonder how long that's been going on?"
"A long time," Ezra admitted.
"What are we going to do about the villagers?" Buck asked.
"Nothing, Chris said. "They aren't part of the mission."
"No, Buck," Chris said cutting him off. "We can't get involved."
"Chris is right," Vin said backing Chris. "We won't have enough man power to free the villagers."
"Free what villagers?" Josiah asked as he walked in with JD.
"The hostages are being held at a native village," Buck explained. "The people are forced to work for Morales."
"We can't leave them like that," JD said passionately.
"We were hired to free the US hostages not a whole village," Chris pointed out. "End of discussion."
Nathan arrived in time to see Chris storm out of the room. Vin watched him go then turned back to the computer. He told Ezra to pull up info on Morales strengths. Vin needed to know what equipment to ask Travis for.
"Vin you better add explosives to the list," Buck said looking at his list.
"Never know when you might need some," Buck smiled.
"What do you want?" Vin asked.
"C4 travels good," Buck said. "Get four sticks and detonators."
Vin nodded and added that to his list. After that he moved over to the boxes and started to check the equipment. There were enough BDU's to go around and he laid them out according to size. JD came over and gave him a hand. When they found the box of communication equipment JD took it over to the couch and went though it.
"I ordered Chinese," Chris said when he came back from the kitchen. "Vin I'm gonna need the weapons list ASAP."
"Give me an hour," Vin said looking up.
"You got it," Chris nodded.
Chris watched the six men he picked for his team. Vin was going through the boxes of equipment checking to make sure everything was all right. JD was doing the same with the communications devices. Buck, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra were huddled around the laptop going through the intel from Travis and discussing possible plans. The men were all different with unique personalities. The only one Chris had worked with before was Buck but he was confident they could work as a team. If they didn't, they were dead.
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