Alternate ATF Universe
Sequel to Passing the Torch
Retired ATF Capitan Chris Larabee walked out of his back door. The bitter breeze forced him to zip up his windbreaker. The chill in the air was the first sign of the fast approaching fall.
He looked around his ranch, not believing how much it had grown in the last few years. The energy that he had once put into busting criminals and upholding justice was now devoted to the four legged animals contained in the three barns. The ranch now housed almost thirty horses. Larabee Stables, known throughout the US as one of the best breeding facilities in the country, was beginning to gain international acclaim. Just last week, one of the top show jumpers in Britain bought one his newly weaned fillies.
Chris's eyes fell upon the original barn. Some modern renovations had been done in recent years, but it still looked the same. The stalls were still reserved for the special horses that had formerly made up the entire farm. The breeze blew once again, forcing the man to shudder. He thought about going back in for a cup of his wife's freshly brewed coffee, but a light shining through one of the barn windows caught his eye. Chris swore. The only downside to his growing business was his inability to run the business on his own. The large amount of work was impossible for one man to do. The breeder had been forced to hire five additional workers on his farm.
"Damn Ryan left the light on last night," he growled. Knowing that none of his young trainers and grooms would be in so early, he realized that the light must have been on all night. He walked towards the door. To his surprise, he saw somebody standing near his old horse's stall.
"Sarah?" He asked, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Hey Dad," she answered. "I heard that you were short a couple of grooms today. Thought I'd help out this morning." She continued stroking Pony's nose. "Watch out for the bucket," she added when Chris almost tripped over the grain.
Pony reached his head out father when he saw who the new visitor was. Chris scratched his horse behind the ears. The old horse's coat was not as shiny as it used to be and the caved in back revealed the horse's age. One of the hardest things he had to do was watch his horse grow old.
The horse nudged Sarah in the shoulder as she began to walk away. Pony had never been a friendly horse, so Chris had been nervous when his daughter had taken a liking to him He was pleasantly surprised to see that Pony shared mutual feelings with the four year old. The little pig-tailed brunette had learned to ride on the black. Sarah had become as much a horseperson had her father, sharing his passion for the most spirited animals. Chris usually felt himself holding his breath when he watched her ride. This was never the case with Pony.
"So you just can't just stop by and see your father?" Chris asked with a raised eyebrow.
Sarah just shrugged her shoulders, glancing away.
Chris knew there was another reason his daughter was here. He wanted nothing more than to force it out of her, but he decided to try a different approach.
"So how are things at the office?" He asked.
:"Oh! Well you know, umm...The usual paperwork and...just a lot of busy work. We're still waiting for Vin to give us our first case."
Chris stared at her, knowing that she knew he didn't buy it. He waited for her to tell the truth, but she didn't say another word. The agent in him told him not to push the issue, not yet anyway.
"This for Pony?" He asked, picking up the grain bucket.
"What? Oh yeah, that's for Pony," Sarah stuttered. Obviously she hadn't thought the issue would have been dropped so easily.
Chris began pouring the grain into a trough. He waited for Sarah to say something, but she stayed silent. Chris cursed under his breath.
"So Vin called me this morning." He hoped the comment would spur a confession, but other than the guilty look in her eye, Sarah revealed nothing.
"He mentioned something about you two going fishing on the mountain sometime soon," she added nonchalantly.
Chris was loosing his patience fast.
"I tried calling Ezra last night," he tried again. "But nobody answered."
"Molly's in Wisconsin for the week," Sarah answered. "Ezra was over at Inez's. Natalie, Nick and I went out for a beer and we saw him there."
"God Damnit Sarah," Chris swore. He threw the bucket on the floor. It made a loud clanging noise that startled several of the horses. "Vin told met that you kids are just got assigned to your first case! You are working on it right now!"
"Shit, what else did he tell you?" Sarah asked, hesitantly.
"Bastard wouldn't tell me anything else. Says I have to hear it from you. So you are going to tell me now!" Chris's voice rose.
"This isn't a damn interrogation Dad. I will tell you what I want!" The volume of her voice matched her fathers.
Chris shut up mouth, but his eyes were blazing.
"Look, I came out here to explain everything to you. That's why I'm here." She didn't say anything else.
"And..." Chris prompted, feeling his temper rise again.
"Can we do it over a ride?" she asked. "Please."
"Fine," Chris sighed. He paused for moment. "I figure you want to ride Night Fox?"
Sarah nodded her head.
"I'll got get her," she answered and disappeared out of the barn. Chris sighed and walked to end of the stable. Night Fox was a retired racehorse that he had bought for breeding purposes. There was no denying that the mare was fast, just the sort of horse that Sarah loved.
Chris walked into the backroom at the back of the barn and reemerged with a saddle.
Pony started bobbing his head up and down when he saw the saddle. The horse watched as Chris walked past him to the front of the stall. Pony's head fell and he withdrew back into his stall.
Chris felt awful.
"Sorry boy," he answered. "Sarah's going to want to go fast, and I'm going to need someone who can keep up."
Chris half expected an answer from the horse, or some sign of reassurance. When he received none, he turned to the stall in front of him.
Another black stuck his head out. The animal was big, almost sixteen hands tall, with a shiny black coat. He watched Chris with intelligent eyes.. Hermes was everything that Pony had been in his prime. He should be, he was the first foul born between Pony and Buck's grey.
Chris lifted up his head when Sarah walked back into the barn.
"Where's Fox's bridle?" She asked.
"Sasha was cleaning some tack last night. I bet she left it in the backroom," Chris anwered, but his attention was not on his daughter. Pony has stuck his head out of the stall again.
"Don't give me those damn eyes," Chris said quietly.
"Just take him out Dad. He wants to go."
"He won't be able to keep up."
"I think he's still got more in him than you think he does," Sarah answered.
"I can't. Hermes hasn't had any decent exercise for a few days now."
"I'll take Hermes then. Fox gets more than enough. She's the new superstar around here."
Chris sighed and looked at his daughter and then at his old horse.
Fifteen minutes later, Chris and Pony were following their kids down the main trail. Chris and Sarah watched the first colored leaves of the season fall into the adjacent stream.
"Sometimes I forget how beautiful this place really is," Sarah stated.
"Now, I want to hear..." Chris began.
"I really think Calypso and Arg teally miss it here. Natalie and I built a paddock for them, but..."
"Did you know that I haven't met anyone that knows Argetlam is a Gaelic god?"
:"Alright," she sighed. "What do you know about the Divinity Cult?"
"Isn't that the group that one girl claimed she escaped from? I think the news said that the Divinity is cult living an abandoned complex building about twenty miles outside of Denver. She claims that they are collecting weapons and making different kinds of bombs to supposedly rid the world of the evil and corrupt. It was all over the news for a while, but I guess they sent some sort of task force to the compound to see what was going on, and thy just found a peaceful commune like thing,. I think some psychologist ruled that she was mentally insane or something like that. Poor girl."
'Yeah, poor girl alright. She's being forced to stay at an institution until this whole thing is over."
"What are you talking about?" Chris asked.
"Katie Griffen is not insane," Sarah explained. "She's one of the bravest people I've met. Everything you heard originally is true. She really did escape, but a task force was never sent in. It was all just a cover up."
"Cover up? You mean..."
"Nobody else wanted to listen to Katie, so the brass gave the case to Vin. Vin ran it by us, and we decided to take it. We've been working on it for the last four months now."
Chris took a deep breath to prevent the outburst from coming.
"We lied about Katie and the task force because we needed time to do more research, come up with a plan if need be. I'm telling you Dad, this group is evil."
"What do you mean evil?"
"Divinity is headed up by this woman named Melanie Stacko. Clayton did a back ground check on her and discovered that she ended up getting her PHD from Oxford in theology. Sometime in the middle ninety's she came to the United States.
During this time she started to convert people to this wacky religion of hers. I guess it's a combination of all the major religions. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are just a few. She has really picked up on the whole idea of Islamic Jihad.
Luke came across some old newspaper articles about her preaching her beliefs in Chicago. I've been in contact with different law enforcement agents where she traveled and they all say pretty much the same thing. She's a nice looking woman with crazy ideas. The most unbelievable that God asked her to rid the world of people who are corrupt. She got arrested once, but she disappeared once she got out.
Nobody knows where she went until Katie was picked up on the side of the road, revealing that Stacko was hading up some kind of dangerous cult just outside of Denver, one that's plotting to take down to obliterate the entire city."
"How did nobody notice what was going on?" Chris asked, shaking his head.
'That still remains a mystery to us. We're still trying to figure that out," Sarah answered.
Well, I think the first thing you need to do is find out how many weapons are actually inside that place. Sometimes a fifteen year old girl can distort things."
"We're already working on that," Sarah answered, looking down at her reigns.
"Good," Chris encouraged. "I don't see why you felt the need to hide this from me."
"We hid it from you because Mabrin, Luke, Clayton and Ty are currently posing as arms dealers inside the Divinity Compound." Sarah's voice was barely more than a whisper.
"WHAT!" Chris blew up. He nearly fell out his saddle. "How long as this been going on?"
"They've been inside for almost a week now. They call when they can."
"And do Nathan, Josiah and Buck now about this?"
"We told everyone else last night," she answered. "Vin and I thought it would be a good idea if I told you I was leading the mission alone."
"You're leading the mission?" Chris asked. "Sarah, you are too young. Tanner must be loosing his mind. I bet Buck is throwing a royal fit right now."
Now it was Sarah's turn to blow up.
"The only on loosing his mind is you! Buck eventually saw it our way. So did everyone else. I knew they would. But you, I knew this exactly what you would do. You don't trust me, you never did!"
She whipped Hermes head around and forced the horse to take off at a dead sprint back down the trial. Chris watched until the back of the horse disappear.
Pony snorted impatiently.
"What do you think?" Chris asked the horse. "Do you think I'm being stupid?" He could have sworn his horse bobbed his head up and down.
"You don't understand," Chris explained. "She's my little girl. She's not ready for this. It's not that I don't trust her. I don't think I could bear to see her hurt again, to almost loose her a second time. It's not worth it, but I guess I can't shelter her forever can I?"
Pony snorted and stomped his hoof..
Crouching low in the saddle he talked to his old friend.
'You're right. I am being an idiot. Come on. Let's see if we can catch them."
Pony sprung forward with an unexpected surge of energy, almost sending his rider over his head,
Chris knew there was only one way to catch up with Sarah. He turned Pony onto a side trial. He eased him up with the small dirt path connected with the main trail.
Sarah saw the other horse and rider and was forced to pull up to avoid a collision.
"Told you that you needed to have more faith in Pony," Sarah's voice was laced with coldness.
"He's not the only one I should have more faith in," Chris answered. "Come on, let's head back."
Sarah sighed and followed her father. It was Chris who the first to break the awkward silence.
"Sarah, it's not that I don't trust you. I'm just scared. I don't want to ever have to see you hooked up to life support again."
The hard features softened on Sarah's face as she turned to look Chris.
"I'm tired of having to walk on pins and needles around you. Every time I bring up work, you get this disgusted look on your face. I don't want to scare you again, but I need to do what I'm good at. I want to become good at leading Team Seven." She paused and looked away. "And I want you to be proud of me," she added.
Chris grabbed a hold of her hand and squeezed it.
"Sarah, look at me."
She turned and looked at him. Chris was taken back to the past. Mary had raised their daughter well. There was no doubt that Sarah acted like her mother, but Chris would always swear that Sarah was the spitting image of his first wife, attitude and all.
:"Don't you ever think that I'm not proud of you. It takes a special person that can take a bullet to the chest, and still have the heart to come back for more. Even through I doubt always admit it to you, it makes a father feel good when he can say that his girl is beginning where he left off."
"Well let me carry on your legacy by finishing this Divinity Case," she answered. Her head was turned, because she was wiping the tears from her eyes.
Chris smiled as they reached the barn.
"Only if you promise not to hide something like from me again," he told her. The two of them dismounted.
"Deal," Sarah answered, putting out her hand.
Chris grabbed it and pulled her into a hug.
"We don't do handshakes in this family," he told her.
Sarah's watch beeped the hour. She broke free of his embrace and looked at the time.
"Shit! I didn't realize how late it is. I've got to be at the office. Natalie's bringing Katie in a half an hour!'
"I'll take care of the horses," he offered. "Go and see your mom before you leave, or we'll both be in trouble."
"Thanks Dad," she said. He knew it was for more than just cooling down the horses. He watched as she walked into the house.
"I just might have to make a little visit to the Federal Building," he thought to himself. "You know just to check in."
Chapter Two: Checking up on Things
"God Damnit," Buck swore as he kicked the large oak door. He pulled his foot away in pain "Why the hell would they want to lock it?"
The door swung open to reveal an amused redhead.
"Maybe because we don't want you to come in," Natalie Standish laughed as she pushed aside the door to allow him in.
Buck limped inside, his foot still burning from the kick.
"You've never locked it before, why the change?"
"It wasn't our decision," she huffed. "There are new stupid security codes that we have to follow." She pulled at a small chain around her neck. Hanging from the end was an ID, with her name, rank, and position. "We know have to scan our IDs to get into any of the offices in this building."
"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard!" Buck swore. "What happens if some criminal or drug lord gets his hands on that ID? He'll know your identity and have a free pass inside."
"I know," Natalie sighed. "I've already filed a complaint. I'll send it out today after I've edited it a little bit. Mabrin said it was a little two forceful."
"Taking off where your father left off," Buck chuckled. "I bet the brass is thrilled to know that there's another Standish on Team Seven. Most of them thought they had gotten rid of Ezra for good. Looks like he's still here in spirit."
"He's here in more than just spirit," Natalie answered, shaking her head. "Sarah, Nick, and Vin are going over strategy. The girl who's been giving most of our information is helping us." Her eyes clouded over slightly. "So are Chris, Josiah, Nathan and my dad. You know they're here just to check up on things."
"Well I'm here for a different reason," Buck tried to explain, I just came here to umm...I just wanted, I guess I..."
"You don't fool me Buck, just get inside. I still have to wait for JD."
"He won't be here. He's got an important meeting with the Secretary of State. He'll be busy all..."
There was a loud knock on the door. Sarah gave Buck an "I told you look" and opened the door. JD walked inside.
"Hey Natalie, how are things going?"
Natalie just shook her head.
"What were you saying Buck?" She asked. "I want to hear what's going on inside. I trust it you old men still remember where the conference room is?"
"Watch is Sprout," Buck said. "I can still give you a noggie.
Natalie rolled her eyes.
"Aren't I getting a little old for that," she sighed.
"Nope, you're never too old for a nickname," Buck answered. "Besides I think it's cute."
Natalie just shook her head and walked into the conference room leaving the two men alone.
"What happened with the big important meeting you've been raving about for the last two weeks?" Buck asked.
"Oh, well I decided to cancel it. I felt that I needed to be here."
"You cancelled a meeting with the secretary of state to spy on your son?" Buck asked.
JD felt something rubbing against his leg. He bent down and picked up the grey Tabby.
"Hey Guinnes," he greeted the cat.
Cuervo, the original office cat, had been gone a long time, but there had always been a stray in the office since. Nobody was sure if the newer cats were decedents of Cuervo, but it felt good to think they were. It fit in with the whole current family affair thing.
"Oh shut up Buck," JD growled. "The guy is an asshole anyway. I'd much rather be here."
"At least he didn't fly all the out here," Buck answered. "He's not the kind of guy I would want to mess with.'
JD set the cat back on the ground and looked at his feet.
"He's at the Carlton right now," he answered quietly.
"Shit JD," Buck shook his head. "I still don't know what goes through that head of yours. You've got to be one of the most..."
"Can it Buck," JD looked up. "I'm a freaking adult with a wife and kids; I can take care of myself."
"All I'm saying is you should listen..."
JD shook his head and walked in to the conference room, deciding the best option was to ignore his friend.
"About time you got here," Sarah said when JD walked in. Buck was close on his heels.
JD looked around the large room. It hadn't changed much since the day he handed in his badge. The members of his team were all sitting in their usual spots. Sarah was at the front of the room, looking at a map projected onto the wall. Natalie was flipping through a binder.
Nick was sitting next to her.
"Dad, I thought you had an important meeting today," Nick said suspiciously.
"Change of plans. We both had to reschedule. Since I wasn't doing anything, I thought I'd stop by and...
"Check up on things!" the room chorused.
"Well young lady, I do not believe I've had the pleasure," Buck greeted the girl sitting on the right side of Nick.
The blond teenager smiled, but it was obvious to see that she was nervous around all these new faces.
"Katie, these idiots are Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne," Natalie explained.
"The Governor?" She asked
"Its just JD for you Miss Katie," JD answered, shaking her hand, before he sat down. .
"We were just going over the indoor layout of the compound," Vin explained. "Katie would you continue?"
"It's awful inside there. Everyone lives in constant fear. Everyone learns how to use a machine gun and detonate the security bombs the second they are initiated into the group. By the age of three, the children are taught the same thing. They are taken away from their parents as soon as possible so they don't gain any attachments. We are taught the only attachment we should have to God and our mission."
"And the parents agree to this?" Josiah asked.
"Most of the people inside are so brainwashed they would do anything for Stacko. The ones who don't want to don't have any choice. There are guards, we call them messengers, walking around with guns. They see everything. If they think you might be questioning Stacko or any of her teachings, you can be shot dead where you stand."
Katie shuddered. She had obviously seen this happen.
"Do you know how many people are inside?" Ezra asked, taking notes on legal pad.
"I think there's about one hundred. My job was in the kitchen, and that's how much food I had to prepare. But I would occasionally see new faces.. They replaced some of the old ones..." She chocked on her worlds. Nick patted her comfortingly on the shoulder and she was able to collect herself.
"How are new recruits chosen?" Vin asked.
"Stacko is very particular about who she picks, She usually picks entire families. I've noticed that if one new person enters, their whole family is here in a matter of days. I don't know how the process they go through.. My job was just working in the kitchen. I didn't to talk to many people." She almost seemed ashamed.
"How did Mabrin and the others get in then?" Chris asked.
"We made them an offer, they couldn't refuse," Sarah answered, smiling at Natalie and Nick. "Mabrin is posing as an arms dealer who is interested in converting and donating a large shipment of arms."
"What do know Chris? I think they might have to insert our feet in our mouths. Looks like they came up with a pretty good idea," Buck chuckled, placing his feet on the table.
"I'll judge that when everybody is home safe and sound," Chris answered, refusing to admit that the idea was a good one.
"You're not going to give them more weapons are you?" Katie asked, her eyes filling with terror.
"No honey, we just need to see how many they have and what Stacko's exact plans are," Vin comforted. "We don't even have the weapons to give them."
"Yet," Nick answered. "Luke gave me a number to call in case we might need to get our hands on a few. Said a friend on the street might be able to help us."
"I wish I could be more help,' Katie sighed. "They just don't let girls like me inside any of their important meetings. I've rarely even been allowed on the second floor, much less the warehouse where they store most of the ammunition."
"Katie, you've given us plenty of help. If you wouldn't have had the guts to run away from that place, we never would have know what was going on inside," Sarah told her.
"I don't understand one thing Katie," Josiah broke in. "How did a smart gal like you get mixed up in a cult group like Divinity? Are your parents involved?"
"My parents were killed in a car crash when I was thirteen years old. My sister and I didn't have any known relatives so were basically out of luck. She was eighteen at the time, but the state wouldn't let her take care of me. They placed me in this awful foster care home. I ran away one night and met her in the park. Neither one of knew what we were going to do. The only money we had was the three hundred dollars we found in our house.
We wondered around Minneapolis all night trying to figure out what we were going to do. The next morning we saw Stacko speaking in one of the parks. I guess we must have looked pretty bad, because she singled us out as soon as she stopped talking. She offered us a place to live with her, a place where we would be taken care of. It all sounded good at the time, after all we were desperate."
"Your sister's still inside?" Nick asked.
"Can you make sure that you find her? She will be more than happy to help you."
"Why didn't she run away with you?" Nathan asked.
"The opportunities for escape are far and few between. We waited six months. The one time the gate was open far enough fro me to slip though, I was all alone taking garbage. There wasn't time to go back. All I could do was run," she paused. "I feel so guilty leaving."
"Don't," Vin said. "You did the right thing. We'll find your sister."
Katie smiled, but didn't look completely comforted. She yawned.
"What do you say we go and get a bite to eat and stop at the grocery store?" Nick suggested. "We can pick up some snacks for you to stash under your bed.
Katie blushed and nodded her head.
"Go get your coat. I'll be right there," he told her.
Katie got up and walked out of the room.
'Nicky, I think that little lady's got a crush on you." Buck smacked him on the back.
"Aw shut up Buck," Nick scowled. "The poor thing deserves a little special attention. Everything she went through and now she has to stay at a mental institution so we can work an undercover mission. Life really sucks sometimes."
"We'll make sure we take care of her and her sister," Vin told him. "Now don't keep her waiting."
"Keep me posted?" Nick asked Sarah.
"I'll give you a call if we do anything," she agreed.
Nick walked out, closing the door behind him.
"Has there been any word so far?" Ezra asked.
"Ty called once and said they didn't have any substantial evidence yet. I was hoping we'd get a phone call today, but I don't know if that will happen," Sarah answered.
"Mabrin called me this morning," Natalie answered. "He called when you were at the ranch. They have an important meeting tonight with Stacko tonight about shipping the guns. We should get the information we need then."
"Wait, he called your home phone number?" Vin said. "Do we know if they have caller ID?"
"It's alright Vin, I just pretended that I was his wife and I was taking care of the shipments for him." Natalie rolled her eyes at all worried looks. "Really guys, Its no big deal."
"I don't like it," Buck said shaking his head. "You two girls out in that place all alone..."
"Don't start Buck," Sarah glared at him.
"I'm serious. Who knows what psycho could come into your house," Buck continued.
"Buck, they are trained ATF agents," Nathan said. "You worry about them more than the rest of us do."
"Well somebody has too! The least you could do is get a dog or something to chase off strange men."
"I'd be for that idea," Ezra stated quietly. "But I would also be in favor of dropping the world strange.
"Buck, what's it going to take for us to prove to you that we are capable of managing a house by ourselves?" Sarah asked.
Buck thought a moment. "How about cooking me a real meal without setting the smoke detector off?"
Natalie and Sarah looked at each other nervously. To be entirely honest, they had yet to complete this task.
"You're on," Natalie answered. She yawned. "Wow, I was up too late last night."
"Why don't you head home for a .little while," Sarah suggested. "There isn't much else we can do here. I figure we'll all be over soon just in case Mabrin tries to call."
"Sounds like a good idea." She yawned again.
"Are you going to be alright driving home?" Chris asked.
"I'll make sure I take a thermos of coffee with me," Natalie answered, rolling her eyes. "See you all in a bit."
Chapter Three: Unexpected Visitors
Sarah yawned as she turned off the John Denver CD. She would never admit it, but she found that she was starting to like her parents' choice of music. She turned her hybrid pick-up down onto the back road leading to her house. There was a van parked in the driveway.
"She's not even home for a few hours and the boys are already over." She tried to ignore the slight hint of jealously in her mind. It wasn't Natalie's fault that she had movie star looks and her smile made guys melt at the knees.. Natalie always downplayed it when it came up in conversation.
"I don't know what you're talking about Sarah. Guys are just stupid. You're the pretty one. You could have any guy you wanted honey, if you would just lighten up a little bit."
The comment brought a smile to Sarah's face as she parked alongside the road. No reason to block Natalie's guests in. The last thing she needed in her life right now was a significant other. She threw her ATF parka over her shoulders and was about to open the front door. She was surprised when the door swung open missing her face by centimeters.
"What the hell? Who are you?" She cried. There was a bulky gray haired man standing in the doorway.
"Sarah, get out of here now!" Natalie screamed. Sarah looked over the man's shoulder and she felt her stomach lurch into her throat. Her best friend was in the arms of a tall muscular Hispanic man. A gun was pointed at her temple Three other men were standing in her living room, all dressed in black.
She immediately reached for her gun, but a sudden burst of pain erupted in her skull before her hand even reached her hip. The sudden impact was enough to send her to the ground. As she tried to get up, she felt a boot stomp down on her stomach and the other connect hard with the other side of her head.
"No!" Natalie cried, when she realized that Sarah had stopped moving. "You Bastard!" She kicked back as hard as she could. The unexpected move and pain in his gentiles forced the man to let go of his pray. She rushed for her friend. A loud crack echoed through the room and Natalie felt an unbearable pain erupt through her leg. Unable to support her weight, she collapsed onto the ground. She cried out when she saw the blood spurting out just below her knee.
A pair of arms grabbed hold of her shoulders, restraining her. One of the men bent down and immediately began applying pressures to her leg.
"Get a bandage!" he cried. It was the same man who had opened the door on Sarah. "Damnit Mitch, we are only supposed to shoot if we have too!"
Natalie fought to free herself, but she just didn't have the strength. The pain was almost unbearable, but the only thought on her mind was Sarah. She tried to turn her head to look at her, but the man holding her arms blocked her way. She could feel her body growing weaker and her vision start to blur.
"Damn, she's loosing a lot of blood. We need to get her to the compound and have Darren get the bullet out."
Natalie felt herself being lifted up by strong arms. She had lost all desire to fight. She tried to break free when she saw the body of friend lying in the doorway, but it amounted to nothing more than small arm movements. She vaguely heard the conversation that was happening around her.
"What do we do about her?"
"Drag her into the house and leave her. She has no idea who we are. Nobody will have any idea where to look for Mrs. Marozokowi."
"Shit, What the hell is this? She's got an ATF jacket on."
"Damn, she's an agent! Do you think she knows about us?"
"Mitch, I changed my mind. Get out your gun and shoot her. I bet she was coming here to question the wife."
"There's two pair of headlights coming down the road!"
"Never mind, shooting her would cause too much attention. We'll just..."
Natalie didn't hear the rest of the conversation. She tried to fight the threatening darkness, but she finally gave in to the pushy invitation. Her last thought was the "Why the hell would I be so worked up about her if she was coming to question me?"
"What is this crap?" Nick asked as Ezra changed the station.
"This is cultured music, young man. Any person with class enjoys the remarkable talent of Vivaldi. Every note in this concerto was expertly placed to amaze and delight the composer's listeners.
"Or put them to sleep," Buck chuckled as he turned down the road leading to the girls' house.
"Please Mr. Wilmington; I am trying to teach this young man the joys of true music. Now an analysis of this piece reveals the... That is not necessary!" He huffed when both men started making snoring noises. Sighing heavily he turned the station to something he knew both of them liked. "Nick, have you thought about my proposal?"
The one where I try to hook up with Nat? Yeah, I thought about it."
"And?" Ezra prompted
"And I value my life more than your self comfort Ezra. Do you know what she did to the last guy who wouldn't leave her alone?"
"It's reassuring to know that I can count on you for help," the old undercover agent scoffed.
"You can, just not when it involves doing your dirty work with your daughter. She can pack a pretty hard punch."
"You'd be surprised what strength my old muscles still have in them, Mr. Dunne." Ezra said coolly, but he couldn't prevent the corners of his mouth from tightening in a smile. He felt his body slam forward, as Buck slammed on the brake. The seatbelt painfully prevented him from going very far.
"What the hell?" Buck asked as they all watched the van tear out of the driveway.
"Looks like they managed to scare off another guy," Nick chuckled.
"And they should stay terrifying to all members of the opposite sex," Ezra growled quietly.
Buck pulled into the now empty driveway. "Hey guys, do you get the feeling that something doesn't feel right?"
"Now that you say it..." Both men were out of truck in an instant.
Nick was much slower. He noticed that the horses in the paddock were running back forth. Both of them appeared spooked by something. He was about to try to calm them down but he heard the roar of Buck's voice.
"Nicky, get in here now!"
The agent didn't need to be told twice.
Buck was sitting on the ground. Sarah's limp body was on his thighs. Nick was on his feet instantly and began to do a quick scan of his friend, his heart beating a mile a minute. He was slightly relieved to see her chest moving steadily up and down. He gently lifted her head. Sarah groaned quietly.
"Easy honey. It's just us," Buck soothed. Both men winced when they saw the side of her face. A bruise was already starting to cover most of her right temple and check. Small speckles of dried blood covered her whole face.
"Oh Lord," Ezra said near the corner of the living room. He had done a quick search of the house to make sure no intruders left in the house. "Buck, can you take a look at this?"
Buck looked at the unconscious young woman and hesitated.
"I got her Buck," Nick said. "Go help Ezra."
Buck gently eased Sarah off his lap and walked over to where Ezra was standing. He was standing over a small pool of blood.
"Chris is going to wring this bastard's neck," Ezra growled. "Then I'm going to finish him."
"Ezra, this didn't come from Sarah. She was knocked around quite a bit, but there are no open wounds that would bleed like this."
"Then where did this blood come from?" Ezra asked. All of a sudden his face turned ghastly white. "Natalie!" He yelled. "Oh God, NO!"
"Easy Pard," Buck comforted. "I bet she wasn't even here. She probably went and got take out or something since neither of them can cook. Let's see if her car is still here."
Nick fought the urge go to go with them. For the moment he had to brush aside his concern for Natalie, and worry about his other friend. Seeing no other serious injuries, he moved her to a more comfortable position. He heard a hiss of pain and saw Sarah's eye flutter open.
"Hey Sarah," he greeted quietly.
Sarah opened her mouth to respond, but she never got the chance. Ezra basically flew into the living room and dropped to his knees beside the pair. He grabbed onto Sarah's shoulders.
"What happened to her?" He cried desperately. "Where's Natalie?"
Nick had never heard so much desperation in the man's voice before, but quickly snapped into action when he heard Sarah cry out in pain.
"Let go Ezra, you're hurting her!" He demanded.
Realizing what he was doing, Ezra let go of the woman's shoulders. They both watched as sudden realization spread through Sarah's eyes.
"Oh my God, Natalie!" She cried. She fought against Nick's grasp and attempted to get up.
"No way Sarah, you're hurt!" Nick tightened his grasp, but it didn't stop his patient.
"Those bastards have her! We've got to help..."
"Sarah, calm down. You're not going to do her any good if you pass out again," Ezra said quietly. The comment had the intended result. She relaxed in Nick's arms.
"Now honey, tell me what happened. I need to know every single detail." Ezra listened as Sarah talked and fought hard to keep his cool. The last thing they needed was for the only witness to hurt herself more.
"God Ezra, I am so sorry," Sarah's eyes were welling up with tears. "I should have known something was up when I saw that van I..."
Ezra put a finger to his lips. "Sarah, this wasn't your fault. You couldn't have predicted that there would be men inside the house."
"I should never have let her come home alone. I should have gone with her."
"You would still be in the same spot. You are good Sarah, but even you'd have a hard time taking on five men..."
"Hey sweetheart, glad to see you're awake."
Buck was standing a few feet away from them. No one had heard him come back in.
"I just got the others on the phone. They were already half way here. Nick, does Sarah need to go to the hospital?" He asked.
"No, I'm fine!"
"Agent Dunne?" Buck showed no reaction to the girl's comment.
"Nick, I'll fire you right now!"
"She should be closely monitored for signs of concussion, but a doctor won't tell her anything else."
Buck nodded his head in satisfaction. "Ezra, why don't you show him what you found? I'll take care of the little captain until the troops arrive." His voice was cheerful, but he wasn't very good at hiding the obvious concern in his voice.
"What do you want him to see?" Sarah demanded
"Come on Squirt; let's get you cleaned up before your dad gets here. Seeing you with all this blood on your pretty face is only going to make things worse." He lifted the girl up.
"This is my team. I have a right to know what's going on! And I don't need to be carried." She broke free of Buck's grasp, but the second her feet touched the ground, she swayed. Buck caught her before she fell.
"You're worse than your old man," Buck growled as he helped her up the stairs.
"What don't you want Sarah to see?" Nick asked. Ezra led him over to the end the center of the living rook and pointed to the ground.
"Shit!" Nick swore. "That's not good."
"Nick, I need you to be honest with me. If that's Natalie's, did she loose enough to..." Ezra's voice chocked and he couldn't finish the sentence.
Nick bent down to take a closer look, knowing what Ezra couldn't say.
"I'm not going to lie to you Ezra. There's a lot of blood here, but I don't think its enough to kill her. Not yet anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean she should be okay if... well if the bleeding stops."
Ezra closed his eyes and collapsed on the coach. He opened them when the front door swung open.
"What the hell is going on?" Chris roared storming into the room. "Where's Sarah?"
Ezra pointed up the stairs, and Chris was gone in a flash.
"That was fast," Nick commented, as the rest of the team rushed inside the house.
"You okay?" JD asked, putting his arm around his son.
Nick answered with a simple nod of his head. Things weren't really okay. In fact, they couldn't be worse. His father's grasp made him feel better. The agent couldn't count the numerous times he had been there to back him up. Nick wasn't sure if his father could make things right this time, but it sure did feel good to know that he was here.
Chapter Four: It's Her Call
Ezra paced around the living room. The others watched him, none of them knowing what to say to comfort the distraught father.
:"Did you call Molly yet?" Nathan asked.
"I've tried, but the reception out at her parent's farm is awful." He paused for a second. "God, what do I tell her if..."
"Try and pull yourself together Ezra," Josiah stated. "We don't know what happened to her. The last thing Sarah needs to see is you acting like this. The poor girl has to much to deal with as it is."
Ezra nodded and sat down on the ground. The only two options of furniture, the ratty couch and overstuffed armchair, were already taken.
Buck shifted to a more comfortable position on the coach. He bumped Nick in the head. The young medic didn't even react.
"Hey kid, you okay?"
"What?" Nick said, diverting his attention away from the window he was staring out.
"Earth to Nick Dunne," Buck smiled.
"I don't get it," Nick answered. "Am I not a member of Team Seven?" His tone of voice rose as he asked the question.
"Whoa, do I sense a problem?" Buck prompted.
"No, there's not a problem," Nick sighed.
"Come on Nicky, spit it out." Buck gently nudged the kid with his foot
"It's always Nicky this, Nicky that. I'm sick of being treated like a damn kid! They treat me like I'm too young to do anything important."
The three men exchanged surprised looks. They hadn't been expecting this kind of reaction at all.
"No one thinks you're too young Nick," Nathan answered, able to gain his composure back quicker than the other men.
"Then how come I'm not at the office down with Sarah and Vin?" Nick asked. "It's because they think I'll just get in the way."
Buck fought hard to keep the smile from his face. It didn't seem that long ago that he was having this conversation with another young agent.
"What happens if those men come back for some reason?" He asked.
"Why would they do that?" Nick replied, still not one bit convinced.
"Maybe they wanted to finish Sarah off. She did see their faces. If this was really Divinity and they figured out that their newest members are ATF agents, then they're going to want to destroy anything that can trace them hack to this house."
"I still don't see why I need to be here," Nick said. "You guys could easily take them. Wait...maybe it is a good idea that I'm around."
"You doubting our abilities?" Nathan asked with a raised eyebrow.
"No, I'm doubting the fact that they'd stay alive long enough for us to question them," Nick responded. "Cut it out Buck," he whined when Buck ruffled his hair
Buck responded by trying to put Nick in a headlock. Unfortunately, his reflexes aren't what they used to be. Nick had up on the ground before he knew what hit him.
"Your father would be proud of you Nick," Ezra chuckled. "It's nice to be Mr. Wilmington's ass officially kicked."
"If I was twenty years younger," Buck grumbled as he pulled himself back to a sitting position.
They were interrupted by the beginning of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony,
"What the hell is that?" Nathan asked, looking for the source of the noise.
"It's Nat's cell phone!"
Nick was on his feet. He was by the door, holding the phone, in a matter of seconds.
"Hello?" He answered.
"Nick? Is that you?" The familiar person on the other line asked.
"God Luke, I've never been so glad to hear your voice!" Sensing four pair of eyes on him, Nick quickly turned on the speaker phone.
"Luke!" Ezra started talking the second he was sure the man on the other line could hear him. "Natalie..."
"She's fine Ezra." He did some seem surprised at all to learn that Ezra and the others were there too. "Ty is in the hospital wing with her right now. Surprisingly, they've got a really good doctor here. What about Sarah? Natalie said one of the bastards knocked her out."
:"She's already back at the office, trying to figure out what the hell is going on."
"That girl could loose an arm and she'd still be at the office working," Luke laughed. "Listen guys, I don't have much time. I just broke into the phone room. I've only got a few minutes before they realize where I am."
"I take it you your positions aren't compromised," Nathan stated. Luke's answer of no caused all of them to breathe a sigh of relief.
"Stacko's convinced the ATF was searching for Mabrin and his weapons. The bitch still thinks that Natalie is the Mrs. Marozokowi, in other words Mabrin wife."
"That doesn't explain why they shot and kidnapped her," Ezra stated.
"The shooting was accidental. One of the guys just got carried away. I guess there's a tradition in this place that we didn't know about. If the convert has any family members, they kidnap them and bring them here. That's how they get new members."
"Genius," Buck whispered. "Sick and twisted, but still genius."
"Listen Luke," Nick broke in. "How long do you think you guys can hang out in there? Sarah and Vin are working on a plan to get you out of there, but its going to take some time to plan the logistics."
"Don't worry about us Nicky, we can hold up here as need be. There's a bunch of people in here who are beginning to question what's going on. We've got at least two people on our side. They know everything. But I'll tell you one thing, if I have to sit through another twisted interoperation of the Bible; I swear I'm going to shoot somebody. Look Buddy, I've got to go, I think I hear noises coming down the hall.
"Luke, don't you so anything stupid!" Buck ordered.
"I won't do anything you wouldn't try Dad," Luke responded.
"Good," Buck answered with a nod, but than he thought a moment. "Wait a second, don't you even think about pulling some of the stuff I..."
Luke hung up the phone with a smile on his face. He could hear the footsteps approaching, but he wasn't concerned. He would just tell the person at the door that he was calling about the arriving gun shipment. He plastered his typical cocky grin on his face.
It quickly fell when he saw the person or more correctly, people who walked in on him. Stacko was standing behind his brother. He wouldn't have been that worried, if she wasn't holding a gun to Clayton's right temple.
"I think we've got a problem Bro," Clayton said, trying to sound cheerful.
"We most certainly do," Marcy Stacko agreed. She tossed Luke a chain. Luke caught it and he felt his heart sink. It was Natalie's ID card.
"God Damnit Tanner, I ought to sock you right now! I can't believe you're going to make her do this!" Chris slammed his hand on Mabrin's desk. The impact knocked one of the pencil holders to the floor.
"If you can't get a hold of yourself Chris, I'm going to make you leave." Vin's voice remained calm, despite the obvious threat in his friend's tone.
"She's asking for your help and you are not going to give it to her. What kind of a director are you?"
The comment stung, but Vin refused to let it get to him. This was something between him and his captain.
"If she wants to hand over leadership of this case, fine, but I'm not going to do it for her. I won't give the FBI or their stooge the satisfaction." Vin watched as the anger lines on his friend's face soften, and sadness set in.
"God Vin, I hate to see her like this. As much as I hate her leading this team, its worse watching Mathews walk all over her. This just isn't like her. She's..." He stopped talking when the conference door opened and Sarah walked out. She closed the large oak door behind her.
The young woman took one look at the men, her idols since she was five years old. The disappointment in their eyes stabbed her through the heart.
"Anybody got a pen?" She asked, not meeting their glances. "Mathews has got the papers ready."
Vin pulled one out of his pocket and handed it to her.
:"Just think about this a second Sarah. Natalie is going to be okay. The boys are still safe. Are you sure you want to hand their fate over to that bastard?"
Sarah looked at her father for some form of help, but Chris bit his lip.
"He can only do better than the mess I got them into," she answered quietly. "Nobody should have ever trusted me with this case." She turned and walked back into the conference room.
Vin and Chris walked back inside. JD and Josiah were sitting at the end of the table. The four men exchanged a glance, but didn't say a word.
George Mathews was standing there with a look of glee on his face. The scrawny looking FBI agent was basically jumping up and down. Team Seven had sworn that that the agency couldn't hire more idiotic agents than the ones they had to deal with, apparently they were wrong.
"Just sign here Captain Larabee, and I'll take over the case from here. I already have a plan to get your team out."
Sarah paused and looked up at the FBI agent.
"You already have a plan? When did you come up with this?"
"Well don't take personally Captain, but my higher-ups had their doubts in your leadership abilities."
All three men watched Sarah closely. The last person that had insulted her ended up with a limp for a week. They were completely surprised when she showed no reaction.
"Guess they were right," she sighed. "Can you tell me what you are planning to do?"
"I am not at liberty to share this top secret information with civilians," Matthews answered, flashing his white teeth at the other men.
Chris felt sure that Sarah would put her foot down like she had done a few days ago, but he was wrong again.
"Guys, can you please leave?" She asked, again not meeting anyone's eyes. Josiah and JD looked at Vin for guidance. The director nodded his head. Josiah got up and walked out of the room. JD decided it wasn't the time to pull the governor card. Chris shot one look at his daughter, but she was suddenly absorbed in the paper in front of her. He sighed and followed the men out of the room.
"Sarah, do want me here?" Vin asked, glaring at Mathews. He knew that Mathews could do nothing to prevent him form listening to their conversation, but the choice was up to Sarah.
:"No, I'll tell you about his idea after I've heard it."
Vin nodded his head and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
"Poor kid. She couldn't have asked for a worse first case," JD said. Nobody felt the need to respond and the bullpen felt quiet.
All of a sudden, they heard the sound a chair being knocked over and a squeal.
"What the hell?" Chris cried. He ran into the room, before anyone could stop him. He burst out laughing when he first glanced into the conference room.
Sarah had pinned Mathews down to the table. His back was bending in an uncomfortable position.
"Is there a problem here Captain Larabee?" Vin asked, standing directly behind Chris.
"No, no problem," Saran answered. The dejected look in her eyes was completely gone.
"Help me out here!" Mathews wailed between gasps for breath.
"Didn't you just say that you don't want any help for civilians?" Josiah asked, with a questioning eyebrow.
"I will sock you all with lawsuits," the FBI agent cried.
"Not if I kill you first," Sarah growled. JD and Josiah exchanged a surprised look. They wondered if Sarah realized how much she sounded kike her father at that moment.
Chris must have seen the connection and realized what she was capable of.
"Sarah, let him go." He ordered, walking over and putting a hand on her shoulder. She released her grip and Matthews fell to the ground still gasping for air.
"If you ever even dare think about putting my friends at risk like that again, not even my father will stop me from killing you!"
"It's too late," Mathews said, gaining some of his composure back. "You already signed the papers. I have complete authority in this case now!" He held up the signed paper in his hands gleefully.
Chris grabbed the piece of paper out of the agent's hands. He ripped in hands, crumpled in a ball and tossed it to JD.
"Governor, is this a legitimate document?" He asked.
"What document?" JD asked, with a smile.
"I am going to file a complaint!" Mathews stated, but his heart was only half in it
"It wouldn't be the first this team's ever received," Josiah mused.
"Agent Mathews, I suggest you leave now. I can only offer you so much protection," Vin broke in before he did something that would not be fitting for one in his position. "Captain Larabee will contact you if she needs your assistance."
Mathews had no words for Vin's order. He simply picked up his suit coat and walked out of the conference room. Nobody moved until they office door slam behind him.
'You should have let me kill that bastard," Sarah hissed, sitting down in one of the chairs.
"Nope, you don't get to kill idiot FBI agents until you've been here at least twenty years," Vin smiled. There was a long pause.
"Thanks for backing me up," Sarah commented quietly.
"We may be old, but I'd say we still got the intimidation factor," JD mused.
"Yeah, having the governor on your side doesn't hurt either." Josiah sat down in the chair next to Sarah and began looking through the files that Mathews had left.
"What exactly was he proposing Sarah?"
"He wanted to completely ambush the place and force Stacko to give up her weapons. He thought intimidation was the best way to go."
"You know, that does seem like the logical thing to do," Vin said..
"Until you mention the words Waco and Koresh," Chris snorted. "From the reports, they've got enough weapons in there to blow up the entire city of Colorado Springs. He could have possibly recreated the worst moment in ATF history."
"So, we need to come up with a better plan to get my team out and arrest Stacko without anybody getting hurt," Sarah stated
"We?" Chris asked with raised eyebrows.
"I've just realized that since I can't get rid of you, I might as well use you as resources.
"I'll be expecting my paycheck in the mail," Josiah smiled. "I'll go call Nick and tell them to get down here."
Chapter 5:Change of Command
Sarah walked into the office the next morning, holding a coffee cup in one hand and balancing some rolled up maps in the other. Ezra saw her struggling and took the cup from her before she dropped it.
"Not a problem." He lifted up the lid and looked inside. He almost chocked when the strong whiff reached his nose.
"You call this coffee?" He asked. "There are people here to see you," he added. A grave look covered his face.
Sarah didn't look the least bit surprised.
"Do you know where they're from?"
"There are two of them, a man and a woman. Said they were from the Department of Homeland Security.
Sarah whistled appreciatively. "They're sending in the big dogs aren't they? Best not keep them waiting." She picked up her coffee cup and headed into the conference room. Ezra waited until the door was closed before pulling out his cell phone. He hit the second number on speed dial.
"It's time to move," he answered.
"Good Afternoon Captain Larabee," the man greeted when she walked inside. Both guests were tall, lean, and blond. "I am Martin Gordon and this is my partner Mindy Lyndon. The department has heard about this team's success and we have no doubt in your ability..."
"Excuse Mr. Gordon, but I doubt you are here to just praise my team. Why don't you say that the people in Washington ordered me off the case?"
Gordon and Lyndon both bristled at the tone in the agent's voice.
"I should make it clear that this nothing to do with you Captain," Lyndon began. "The federal government just thinks that this case should be in the hands of people with a little more power. We have resources under our control that you simply can't imagine."
"So what's the government's plan of action?" Sarah asked, her voice iced with sarcasm.
"Tonight, we will be surrounding the compound with troops from the National Guard and some select soldiers with army," Lyndon continued.
"And how are these select soldiers going to handle a bunch of religious zealots with enough gunpowder to create a crater ten miles long?"
"I really don't appreciate your sarcasm Captain." Lyndon face clouded over with Sarah's comment.
"And I don't appreciate my case being taken away from me when almost my entire team is at risk," Sarah shot back.
"Please Captain Larabee, calm down." Gordon stood up, trying to prevent any more confrontation between the two strong willed women. "We are prepared to offer you a generous offer. We will need the ATF's expertise in this kind of case. I know that you are in close contact with a team out of Phoenix. They will be placed under your command during the raid."
"Raid?" Sarah asked, basically jumping out of her seat. "You never said anything about a raid! This is ridiculous! You really expect to just march in there and not meet any resistance. People could die!"
"That's a risk we are going to have to take," Lyndon answered.
"Are you married Ms. Lyndon?" Sarah asked.
"Yes. My husband works in the Oval office," the blond woman responded, caught off guard.
"How would you feel if he was inside that compound and you knew what the government was planning to do?"
"I would be fur... That's beside the point!"
"No it isn't Ms. Lyndon. Those agents inside have family and friends that love them. Its my responsibility to all of them to make sure every precaution is taken to ensure their safety."
"You're responsibility is to the government, not some piss-ass agent!" Lyndon screamed back. Judging by the look on both the ATF agent and Gordon's faces, she realized that she had just said a bad thing.
Sarah's voice turned hard and cold. Lyndon shuddered when she gave her the ever so famous Larabee glare.
"Mrs. Lyndon, I am going to pretend I didn't here that comment. The next time I hear you criticize my team or any other agent for that matter, you might not be so lucky." She turned to look at Gordon. "I realize that I can't stand up your superiors.. If this is going to happen, I want full access to everything regarding tonight.
"You will Captain. I have already asked your secretary to get a hold of Captain Campbell in Phoenix. As soon as they can fly here, we will arrange a meeting with you and the major who will be in charge of the entire operation."
"Secretary?" Sarah asked. Budget cuts hadn't allowed for a secretary for the last five years.
"The man in the black suit outside," Gordon explained.
Sarah fought the urge to burst out laughing on the spot.
"Thank you, Mr. Gordon. I suggest you leave now, before I feel the urge to show Mrs. Lyndon what a piss-ass agent is capable of."
Lyndon opened up her mouth, but a look from Gordon made her shut it fast. They picked up their briefcases and walked out the room. Sarah and Ezra watched them go before either of them said a word.
"Secretary huh?" She asked, her face bursting out into a huge smile.
"If you even think about breathing a word of this to anyone..."
"What are you going to do Ezra, ground me?" She asked, still laughing.
"No, but I do believe there are some naked baby pictures somewhere in our collection."
"That's low," she answered. The laughing stopped in a split second.
"I didn't reach my high status by getting on everyone's good list," Ezra smiled. "Anyhow, I did contact Captain Campbell and his team."
"And the answer?" Sarah prompted.
"Apparently, they had urgent business and had to leave town last night."
"Hmmm, I wonder where they could be," Sarah mused. She smiled as Ezra patted her on the back.
"You do realize you could go to jail for this," Nick said as he heaved a box onto one of the two parked trucks.
"Hell Nick, if I had a penny for every time I risked jail time, I wouldn't still be paying off Ty's damn college loans.." Nathan said, taking the box from Nick. Both men were dressed in black. They watched as Chris and Buck shook hands with a group of five men outside.
"This means a lot to us Gus. Thank you." Chris shook hands with a tall blond man. His hard eyes and callused hands were a testament to the twenty hard years he had put into the force.
"We owe Sarah and the team a favor. They busted their asses for us when we got in over our heads with the Marion case."
"Yeah right Gus, I've known you since your first year on the squad. You like screwing over the brass as much as we do." Buck laughed.
"Maybe a little bit," Gus agreed. "So which one you thought up this idea?"
"This was all Sarah and Nick," Chris said. "Well, I guess they had a little help." He added when Gus gave him a suspicious look.
"And the guns came from?" Gus continued asking questions, as he watched several men, including Josiah, load boxes onto the three trucks.
"Sarah called in a couple favors from their connections on the streets," Chris responded.
"And they were able to get this many weapons in one night?" Gus asked, completely astonished.
"Hell no," Chris chuckled. "Luke may have good connections, but none of them are that good. Only four of the boxes have got guns in them. Just enough to cause a diversion."
Gus whistled appreciatively and motioned for the men loading the boxes to come on over.
They came and stood by their boss. Like Nick, they were dressed all in black. Anyone walking by would have been more than a little intimidated.
"None of you have to do this," Chris said looking each of them in the eye. "I know none of you care about breaking the rules, but this is dangerous. We don't know what to expect inside there, what kind of defenses Stacko has"
"What are you talking about Larabee? We've dealt with mob bosses and drug rings crossing the boarder for the last five years now." The comment came from a tall gangly red head haired man.
"Kevin, there is one difference between the criminals you are used to dealing with and Divinity,: Josiah explained. "Mob bosses are cowards at heart, get them in a difficult situation and they'll surrender. Brainwashed people are not so predictable, especially if they believe they have God on their side."
Buck's watch started to beep. He quickly turned off the alarm.
"It's time to move," he said, looking at the men standing around him.
'You don't have to do this," Nick said looking around. "I know that half of you have families at home."
Gus chuckled and put his hand on the younger man's shoulders.
"You know Kid for wanting our help; you sure seem convinced to change our minds." His face grew serious. "Seriously Nick, we want to help you rescue your family. Sadie might get pissed at me, but she'll understand."
"Don't want to interrupt this whole sentimental fest' Buck said. "JD and Vin aren't going to be able to stall for much longer."
"Let's get moving," Gus agreed. His men nodded and jumped into the back of the trucks. Gus nodded to the older men and took his spot in the driver's seat of the second truck.
"You guys coming?" Nick asked the remaining men. They all turned to look at him, surprise written all over their faces.
"You serious Nick?" Nathan asked
"We can use all the help we can get," Nick answered.
"Whooeee!" Buck yelled. "I'd knew you'd come around Kid!"
"On one condition," Nick interrupted. "I still get to call the shots." He looked at the looks on their faces. "Guys.."
"Alright General we'll take our orders from you," Josiah chuckled. Nick nodded his head and jumped into the driver's seat of the first car. Buck got in alongside of him.
"Hey Nicky, why don't you let me drive?"
"Don't push your luck," Nick answered. He turned his head, as Buck ruffled his hair.
"Whoee! We've got ourselves some kids to save!"
In the next car over, Chris took his place in the passenger's seat. He watched from the rearview mirror as Josiah and Nathan opened up the back of the truck and jumped in, with surprising agility.
"We are all gong to owe you after this Gus."
"Hell Chris, This is fun. It beats all the paperwork shit we were stuck doing over in Phoenix"
Chapter 6: Sacrifice
Vin pulled his truck alongside of a parked fire truck and got out of the vehicle.
"Are we getting ready for a war?" Ezra asked, as he gout out of the passenger seat.
. Vin snorted when he saw the numerous squad cars, camouflaged jeeps, and fire trucks. Law enforcement officers from various departments were talking amongst themselves and full military attired soldiers walked between them carrying out the orders of their superiors. In the far distance, Vin could just make out the outline of the large building taken over by Divinity.
"I want some damn maps over here now!' A familiar voice demanded. The two men turned their head to see a familiar brown ponytail. The men around her rushed to carry out her orders. Vin didn't blame them, Sarah looked pretty damn intimidating, dressed all in black from her baseball cap, down to her boots.
"Did you call Mary?" Vin asked.
"Yes, and her reaction should not surprise you at all," Ezra answered.
"What she say?"
"She told me where Sarah keeps the Tylenol in her car, and not get in her way."
"Why does that not surprise me?" Vin shook his head, putting on his sunglasses to shield his eyes from the setting sun.
"Well, like mother like daughter," Ezra answered. "I got a similar answer from Molly. She's scared, but she's got faith that Natalie can take care of herself.
"And what do you think?" Vin asked, looking straight at his friend.
"Aw hell Vin," Ezra sighed. "I guess I just picture her so little and innocent. There was a time when she was so helpless..."
Vin snorted loudly. "Ezra, you've got some diluted images, Natalie hasn't been helpless since she was two years old and she'd shoot you if she heard you call her innocent."
"The distorted image of a father," Ezra agreed.
"I don't care about damn security protocols!"
Vin and Ezra quickly turned to see the source of the new ruckus. JD was standing beside two young men in suits who were obviously trying to prevent him from going any farther.
"If you don't let me pass, I will take those guns and make you let me through," JD growled. He pushed through the men as they quickly grabbed for their guns.
"Bad day at the office, Governor?" Ezra asked.
"I've been on the phone of the last four hours with different people in Washington," JD answered.
"No luck calling off the Guard then?"
"Shit Vin, they took control right out of my hands. There isn't anything I can do about it. Believe me, I've been looking for any loophole I could and couldn't find a thing.
"There's nothing you can do?' There was hint of desperation in Vin's voice. "If they go in too soon, this could blow up in all of our faces, literally."
The smile on JD's face reminded the two older men of JD when he was still twenty-one years old and had discovered a way to break into a security system.
'I didn't say that. Rick Henderson and I are old friends. He won't send them in s until Sarah gives him the go ahead."
"Can she do that?" Ezra said looking up.
"I already talked to the both of them. When she thinks the buildings safe, she'll radio Henderson and they'll move."
"I knew having the governor on our side would come in handy sometime," Vin laughed.
"Director, can I have a word with you?" Sarah asked, walking up to them.
"Hey sweetheart, how are you holding up?" JD asked.
"Honestly?" She asked, looking around to make sure nobody could overhead. "I don't think I've eve been this scared in my life, and I'm not even doing anything."
"My dear, you wouldn't be human, if you weren't worried. As far as your workload, you're doing plenty. Somebody has to buy time for them to get inside, do their job and get out."
"I should beside there with them," Sarah sighed. "It's this damn position that keeping me from breaking inside with Nick and Gus."
"Politics suck don't they," JD chuckled.
The radio on Sarah's belt started to crackle.
"Captain Larabee, are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here Major Henderson. What can I do for you?" She asked, holding the equipment to her mouth.
"How much more time do you think you need? I'm running out of excuses. My men can only shine my boots so many times."
Sarah looked at the compound in the distance.
"Can you give me another half and hour?" She asked the box.
"I can try. I sure hope that whatever you're planning is going to work Captain. That is not a place I want to send my men into.
"10-4," Sarah answered, and placed the belt back on her waist. "Neither did I," she sighed as she looked at the building in the distance.
Mabrin looked around the small room as he tried to adjust to a more comfortable position. It was difficult with his hands and feet handcuffed to the chair He hated not knowing where the rest of his team was. They had all been dragged away from him. . The shadows of two men could be seen through the tinted glass on the door. Their voices were loud enough for the Iranian techie to here.
"We've got the bombs all set up across the compound. They'll go off if anyone gets past the first wall. The snipers are already at the top of the building and ready to fire as soon as the first military vehicle gets close. If we have too, we can use the agents as shields. That's why we've been ordered to keep them alive. Stacko knew something like this was going to happen. None of us have reason to doubt to her again."
"I don't know about this Eddie, Is it really worth loosing our lives over?"
"What are you talking about? Of course it is, God had planned for us to rid the world of the evil and corrupt. If this means sacrificing ourselves to take out soldiers and cops than it was a life well served."
"No, its not worth it." The second voice had a resolute tone to it. "I've been reading the Bible and some of the other holy texts lately. None of then condone this kind of stuff! What if God thinks what we are doing is wrong? What if he never spoke to her the way she said?"
"Shut your mouth Danny, That's blasphemy!"
"I'm serious, haven't you noticed that she only goes into those trances when she's got a large audience? Ty said that she thinks she might have some kind of mental disorder."
'You've been talking to the ATF agent? When did you do this?
"Before we knew who they really were, but he talked a lot of sense. Most of the stuff actually made more sense to me than what I've been taught by the religious scholars lately."
"Danny, you've committed about five different sins in the last five minutes, each of them punishable by death. I really like you kid, so I'll forgive if you apologize now. The forces from the outside world can sometimes be too strong."
"No! I'm getting out of here and I'm taking Mariah with me. I don't want to get married and raise my kids in this hell. They won't grow up to hate the I have be taught. I will..."
The surprise of the gunshot almost knocked Mabrin and his chair over. He closed his eyes and winced. Ty had thought Danny could be an ally for them inside. His friend would never forgive himself, if they could get out of here alive. So it looked like the idiots outside were planning a raid. Something must have happened, because Sarah would have never tolerated it. They all knew how dangerous this cult would be, the scene outside proved it. If they were willing to murder their own members, he could only imagine what would happen to the cops and soldiers that got in there way. He was surprised that they had kept him alive so long. Knowing Stacko, she probably had some sick twisted plan worked out. More footsteps were coming down the steps.
"Holy shit, what happened here?"
The voice immediately caught Mabrin's attention and he felt his heart start to race.
"We take those who stray from our ways very seriously. If one person dissents, it could effect our entire God-given mission. God chose us to carry out a goal, and we need to do whatever it takes in order to accomplish it."
"Where is Mabrin?" A second voice asked. "In here Sir. God, you don't know how surprised I was to see those trucks. I really thought these guys were ATF agents, Genius the way you got that woman to turn..."
The door to the room swung open. Mabrin had to squint as the sudden burst of light reached his eyes.
"Dad?" He asked, as soon as his pupils adjusted. He had heard the voice, but he didn't dare believe it.
"God Mabrin, you alright?" Josiah asked.
"What are you doing here?" Mabrin asked, as his father pulled out his handcuff key.
"Rescuing you," Josiah answered.
"How did you, I mean why are you..." Mabrin stuttered on words. He took Josiah's offered hand and winced when his sore muscles were forced to work again. Before he knew what happened, he found himself engulfed in a hug.
"Yeah, I missed you too Dad," Mabrin gratefully returned the hug. "Now what the hell is going on?"
"Come on, I'll explain on the way. We've got to find the others before it's too late."
Mabrin had seen his father in this state before and knew better than to question him. He followed his father into the hallway, not bothering to step over Eddie's body. The unconscious man's chest was rising up and down steadily. The body lying next to his was not so lucky. Mabrin felt sick to his stomach when he saw the bullet hole straight between Danny's eyes. The dark green eyes were staring listlessly at the wall.A strong arm embraced his shoulders.
"Come on, we've got to try and rescue the rest of them." Josiah handed Mabrin a gun. "You are probably going to need this."
The two men dragged the man into the dark room and closed the door.
"Mabrin, are you alright?"
The two men turned to see Nick running down the hall.
"I'm okay Nicky, just a little pissed off. Is Sarah here to?"
"No, she's trying to buy us time before the army starts firing at us," Nick answered.
"Shit," Mabrin sighed.
"Guys, over here!"
The three men turned to see Buck and Nathan walk up to them. Luke, Clayton, and Ty were close behind.
"I knew you'd pull through for us Nicky." Clayton clapped the younger man on the back.
"Oh no," Ty sighed when he saw the body lying on the ground. He started to shake slightly as he knelt down next to the still body. "This is all my fault."
"The only one to blame is that bitch." Nathan put squeezed his son's shoulder.
Ty reached down and closed the dead man's eye. He realized that Danny's hand was clasped shut. He pried open the hand and found a piece of a fuse.
"What the..." He started to ask, but didn't get the chance to finish his question.
A loud bang made the entire floor shake.
"Shit! I hope that wasn't one of our guys," Buck swore.
"Our guys?" Mabrin asked.
"Gus Hernandez and his team are downstairs trying to round everyone else up," Buck explained, but nobody else was really listening. They were all ready rushing for the nearest stairwell.
"Where's Chris?" Nathan asked Josiah on the way down.
"He was searching the East wing," Josiah answered. "We've searched the other wings. Natalie has to be somewhere in there."
Chris heard the bomb and winced, praying that he wouldn't be picking up body parts of his friends. He fought the urge to run down the steps.. So far, almost twenty rooms had been checked and none of them had revealed the location of the missing agents. For all he knew, Buck and the others had found them already.
He heard a door slowly creek open behind him. Spinning on his heels, the retired agent had his gun pointed at the intruder.
"Don't shoot!' A thin woman was standing in the doorway on the left. Her scarf was pulled up over her head. She was young, not much older than Sarah and Natalie. Holding on to her knee, was a black haired little boy.
Years of experience had taught Chris that not all threats were big men that carried guns. He didn't lower his gun.
"I'm looking for some people," he growled.
The boy buried his head into the woman's knee, terrified.
"Chris, its okay! She's a friend!" A voice called from behind the closed door.
Chris hadn't been so glad to hear that voice in a long time He pushed past the woman and ran into the room, forgetting about any possible threat.
Natalie was leaning on a chair. He face was pale and she was obviously in pain, but she appeared to be okay. She smiled up at him weakly.
"About time you got here," she said.
"You don't seem surprised to see me," Chris told her, putting a supporting arm on her shoulder.
"Mariah came up and told me that there were men in the compound with guns. I figured that Sarah and Nick had something up their sleeve."
Chris turned to look at the blond woman.
"Thank you," he told the woman.
The blond nodded her head.
"She needs our help too,' Natalie answered, wincing as she put weight on her injured leg.
Chris looked at the woman with questioning eyes.
"My boyfriend and I have been trying to escape for almost two months now, but we can't find a way past the..."
"We'll get you out too,' Chris agreed, as he watched Natalie limp unsteadily towards the door.
"There's one other thing,' Mariah asked hesitantly. "I am supposed to take care of the little ones. I don't think I could bear it if they were forced to stay here and end up as brainwashed as their parents."
Natalie took another stop, but her leg could not support her weight. Chris saw it and set the gun down on the ground. He had the woman scooped up in his arms before she hit fell to the ground.
"We'll take care of them Miss,' He said, with his back turned.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" A cold male voice echoed in the room.
Chris turned to see a tall muscular man standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at him and Natalie. He eyed his gun down on the ground and knew there was no way he could reach for it.
"Congratulations Mariah, you have served the Lord well tonight.' The man cocked the safely off his gun. He looked at Natalie. "I should have let Mitch finish you and that friend of yours back at your house. Looks like I'll have to fix this problem."
The child around Mariah's leg started to cry. She lifted him up and held him tightly.
"Eddie, don't do this. Not in front of Josh!"
"It will be good for him. Its about time he see what he'll have to do for God when he gets older."
Mariah set Josh on the ground and rushed and stood in front of the two agents.
"Mariah, don't!" Nathalie cried, but it had no impact.
"I won't let you kill them!" Mariah cried. "There's been too much bloodshot in this place already. I admit that I don't know what God is thinking, but he can't condone all this killing."
"Those kind of statements are what got Danny killed Mariah. I'd shut you mouth and move out of the way unless you want to join him."
"What?" Mariah cried, falling to her knees.
Eddie raised his gun and aimed. Chris was ready to use himself as a shield for Natalie. He closed his eyes and waited. The shot never came. He opened them when he heard a loud grunt.
Eddie was clutching his shin, and a disgruntled Josh was standing next to him with his hands on his hips.
"You made 'Riah cry!" He said.
Chris dropped Natalie as gently as he could and reached for his gun. He hadn't counted on Eddie being so quick. He watched in horror as the man raised his gun to Natalie. .
The gunshot echoed throughout the room. Mariah cried out, as Josh buried his head in her shirt.
Eddie's body fell back against the door. He crumpled to the ground, blood oozing from the side of head.
Chris waited until he was sure Eddie wouldn't move again. Then he rushed over to where Natalie was trying to pull herself to her feet.
"Sorry about that," he told her, helping her to her feet. He ended up taking the brunt of her weight as she leaned against him.
'Don't worry about it," she sighed.
They both watched as Mariah scooped up the weeping child in her arms. She looked up at the two agents with pain in her eyes.
"You have to stop them before they kill anyone else. Danny was a good person. He never did anything, but want to do the right thing."
Running footsteps got louder as they rushed down the hallway.
"Get behind me!" Chris ordered. He pushed Natalie behind him and raised his gun. He only drew his eyes away from the door for a second to make sure Mariah and Josh were behind him. His eyes narrowed in slits, and he aimed his gun at the new intruder.
"Jesus Chris, haven't seen you in a couple of days and this is the welcome we get?"
Chris lowered his gun when he saw Ty and Luke approaching. He breathed a sigh of relieve when he saw the two agents.
"Natalie, you okay?" Luke asked.
Natalie nodded her head.
"Everybody else?" She asked, for both her and Chris's sake.
"Yeah, we're all good," Luke answered. "We've got them all rounded up in their church room."
"You guys need to do something fast! The whole first floor is rigged with bombs. They are all connected to one little switch in the..." Mariah cried.
Natalie and Chris looked at each other in horror.
"Let's go!" Chris ordered. "We've got to get those kids before something goes wrong. Luke, take Natalie." He was half way out the door before he realized that nobody was following him.
"What the hell are you waiting for?" Chris asked.
"Some idiot already flipped the switch," Luke explained.
"What?" thee voices chorused.
"Gus and the others got all of the adults rounded up in the big conference room, not knowing they were standing above a freaking arsenal until it was too late. One of the bastards tried to set the whole thing aflame and nothing happened."
"That's not possible," Mariah said shaking her head. "Those wires have been checked a hundred times; Danny told me that as long as the fuse was there..."
Ty grabbed a hold of the Mariah's hand and squeezed them.
"It didn't work, because the fuse wasn't there. It was in Danny's hand when that bastard shot him," he said.
"What?" You mean he..."
Ty nodded his head.
"He saved all our lives Mariah. You should be proud of him."
"Did you see him, did he suffer?" She asked. Her eyes were welling up with tears.
"No, it was a clean shot," Luke said. "I doubt he felt a thing."
Mariah nodded her head in resigned acknowledgment. She turned to look at the men.
"Is it true that there are cops waiting to raid this place?" she asked.
"Yeah, I doubr we'll have to wait long." Luke answered.
"We can't wait here," Mariah answered. "People could still get killed. There are hidden stashes of weapons in the walls that the followers here could easily get their hands on. There's also a bunch of bombs hidden under the floor that can be detonated."
"Geez, you guys really thought this through didn't you?" Luke said, gritting his teeth.
"Stacko may be nuts, but she is smart."
"Speaking of Stacko, we can't find her or any of the other guys in her inner circle," Ty said "Buck and Gus are looking for them right now.
"If I know Stacko, she searching for some way to run," Mariah said.
They all looked at her with surprised looks.
"Danny and I eavesdropped on a conversation a few weeks ago. They were planning an escape route if something like would ever happen. That's when the two of us knew our assumptions were correct."
"Shit, we'd better get going then," Chris said.
"Should we send someone our there, to tell them that its safe in here?" Ty asked Chris.
Chris shook his head.
"I know those idiots out there. They're bound to be trigger happy. I won't risk anyone. It's best to stick to the plan." He looked at the agents. "I want you to help Mariah bring the kids down to the loading dock. Mariah, can you point the bombs to them?" He asked.
The woman nodded her head.
"I'm going to go downstairs and see how many people there are.. Don't think we can fir everyone in the trucks, but we'll try. See if you guys can find a phone or something."
Chris rushed out the door and out of sight in a few seconds.
"Get on my back Natalie. It will be easier to carry that way," Luke told her.
Natalie sighed, but she knew that protesting wouldn't do any good. She let Ty help lift her onto Luke's back.
Ty saw Josh still cowering near Mariah.
"Hey Josh, you want a piggy back ride?" He asked. He was rewarded with a huge smile and nod of his head. Ty lifted the kid onto his back and began to "gallop" down the hall.
Luke followed at a slower pace.
"Great," Natalie sighed. "The kid gets Secretariat and I get a damn plow horse!'
"This old plow horse could still throw you," Luke growled.
"Try it," Natalie answered.
Luke let her legs slip before he grabbed a hold of them again. He paused before saying what was on his mind.
"I was really worried about you when those bastards first brought you in here, and all that blood on your clothes. I really thought you were going to die."
"I'm too damn stubborn to go that way Luke. You should know that." She said in a much softer tone.
"Make sure you stay that way," he said, before breaking out into a run.
Chapter Seven: Inferno
The sun had sunk beneath the horizon almost a half an hour ago. Sarah sighed and looked at the compound through her binoculars. There was still no sign of the retreating trucks. A million bad thoughts were running though her head. What if she had made the wrong choice? What if they all had ended up in trouble? What if they all were...." She couldn't bear to finish the last thought.
A hand on her shoulder made her jump. She winced as the sudden movement made her head ache. The pain that she had refused to admit, was know attacking with a vengeance.
"You okay, Sarah?" JD walked up and stood by her side.
"I'm fine," she answered.
"Where have I heard that before?" Ezra eyed JD as he joined the group. He held out some white pills and a water bottle.
"Thanks," she said, taking both gratefully.
"We're running out of them," she answered. "They'll send the troops in there pretty soon."
JD shot Ezra a nervous look.
"That's what we came over here to talk to you about," he informed her.
Sensing the hesitant tone in the man's voice, Sarah turned to look at the man straight in the eyes.
"They're not sending anyone in right away," JD sighed.
"What? Why are you so upset? That's great news! We've got more time then!"
"They're going to start peppering away at one side of the building. Let the people inside know that they mean business. Give them a chance to surrender before an invasion takes place."
"And kill..." Sarah didn't finish her sentence. She was already halfway across the field, by the time JD thought to go after her.
"Let her go JD," Ezra said
"She'll end up killing someone herself."
"Frankly, I could give a damn right now who she kills," Ezra answered.
JD had rarely seen Ezra like this before. It was if the fury inside of him burned from his eyes down to his shaking fingers.
"What good is a governor if he can't stop something like this?" JD asked, feeling the same rage heat up inside him. "My hands are tied behind mountains of laws when things rally matter."
"Well we better hope that Sarah can use her hands and her mouth to prevent this insanity," Ezra sighed.
Sarah doubted that she had ever ran so fast in her life. She saw a small group of men gathering near a Hummer. Vin was standing there. A tall, black man was standing next to him. Both Tanner and Henderson had looks of dangerous rage on their faces. They were yelling at two men standing on their left.
George Mathews was one of them. He was looking smug. Sarah knew he wouldn't be looking so arrogant if the man was not standing in front of him. An imposing figure at 6'7 and two hundred fifty pounds, Secretary of State Marcus Ringo was not easily missed.
"What the fuck is going on here?" Sarah yelled and ran in front of Vin.
"Who the hell are you?" Ringo asked, caught off guard.
"Captain Sarah Larabee, The one who is responsible for the lives of the agents inside. The lives you are risking by this ridiculous plan of yours."
"Captain Larabee? Oh that's right, the one from Denver. I've been told that you need a lesson in showing respect for your superiors."
"I'll show respect when you dumb-asses show respect for my team."
"Director Tanner, kindly quiet your agent," Ringo glared at Vin.
"Sorry Sir, but Captain Larabee is her own person. Quite frankly, I think she's right," Vin answered.
"I agree sir," Henderson broke in. "No disrespect intended, but this really could blow up in our faces quite literally. We could be risking innocent lives. We're not just using simple shotguns here. The Missile darts can cause a lot of damage."
"You're using Missile Darts?" Vin asked in disbelief. The new technology was a sniper's dream come true. He guns was not that much bigger than a standard rifle. Instead of bullets, they contained muscles. These missiles had the capability to knock down an entire wall.
"Call them back," Sarah demanded.
"Ordering me around now?" Ringo said dangerously. "You're young Larabee, creating enemies is not the best thing for you right now. I've already given the order to fire on command on anything that moves."
"What if its one of my agents?" Sarah asked.
"It's better than risking the lives of good soldiers," Ringo answered.
"What about the lives of my friends?" She asked.
"Sometimes we all to make a sacrifice..."
Vin knew what was going to happen before it actually occurred, but he was to slow to react. He saw the small fist connect with the Secretary's jaw. The big man stumbled backwards and landed in a heap on the ground.
Mathews took a step forward, but one look from the intimidating Henderson stopped his progress.
Ringo was on his feet in a second in a split second. He lunged at the girl,.
Vin stepped in front of her, although he doubted he could provide much protection from the raging bull. He was saved when the radio on the secretary's belt crackled.
"Sir, we have two trucks feeling the compound. They're heading East and a fast speed. Requesting permission to open fire."
Ringo looked at Vin and Sarah with a sick look of glee on his face
"Permission granted," he answered.
"No!" Sarah cried and she grabbed the binoculars. She didn't feel Vin's painful grip on her shoulders.
In a matter of seconds, The whistling sound of the missiles echoed in the air. Three seconds later the fleeing trucks burst into flame. Vin had to shield his eyes from the flash of bright light. He mind urged him not to open them and see the devastation. He did not want to acknowledge what the burning steel and rubber really meant. The blankness in his mind was more acceptable than accepting the fate of the unfortunate drivers and passengers of the trucks.
Sarah's outcry brought him back to reality. He watched as she crumpled to the ground, holding her head. Mathews had his arm raised. Henderson kneeled down to make sure that she was okay. She shook her head. Her eyes were glued to the burning trucks. She appeared to be in a state of shock.
A loud bang interrupted his thoughts. One of the trucks exploded, sending black ash and debris into the air. Any chance that someone might have survived disappeared in that single second. He winced.
"You bastard!" Vin hissed.
"It was self defense!" Matthew's exclaimed. "She was going to pull out her gun!"
"I would have too," Vin growled. "I wouldn't have batted an eyelash is she would have shot either of you."
"Director Tanner. I don't think you realize who you are talking to..."
"I know exactly who I am talking to, Secretary Ringo, the bumbling idiot who is responsible for the murder of Team Seven."
"What the fuck are you talking about Tanner?" Ringo asked in disbelief. Both Henderson and Mathews had looks of disbelief on their faces.
Vin knelt down next to Sarah and pulled her into a tight hug, deliberately ignoring the other men.
"Do them all justice Sarah," he whispered in his ear. "Don't give in to these bastards. There still might be innocent people inside that compound."
"I don't give a damn about them anymore. They are the reason my father and friends are dead," she answered at the same volume. "Let them all rot in hell!"
"Even the children?" Vin asked. "What about those people that tried to help Ty?"
Sarah sighed and pulled herself to her feet.
"Captain Larabee, I demand to know what the hell happened!"
"You will have to wait Secretary Ringo until I file a negligence complaint," she answered.
"You little..." Ringo raised his hand as if he was going to strike the woman.
"Sarah, Vin!" A voice called
Ezra was sprinting towards the group.
Sarah could not stop the tears from welling up in her eyes, no matter what Vin had asked of her.
"I am so sorry," she told them as soon as they reached her. "This is my fault. I never should have... Why are you smiling?"
Ezra handed her his cell phone and nodded reassuringly at Vin.
"There's somebody that wants to talk to you."
Sarah gave him a confused look, but took the offered phone.
"Hello?" She answered
"Requesting back-up and an armed escort to help us get out of the hellhole."
"Clayton?" Sarah almost dropped the phone. "Are you all there? Is everyone okay?"
"All accounted for and unhurt Captain," Clayton laughed. "Although Mabrin has got a nasty bruise on his cheek and Natalie might need a little help getting out of here."
Sarah breathed a huge sigh of relief. The ache in her head and her chest disappeared.
"Hold on, let me put you on speaker phone. Okay, what the hell happened? Who was in those trucks if it wasn't you?"
"It seems like Stacko and her crew weren't ready to be the martyrs that we'd thought they'd be. After convincing most everyone else here to sacrifice themselves for God, they tried to escape. Looks like the good old task force took care of that problem for us."
Sarah could not believe it. She felt like she was about to loose it, although this time for an entirely different reason. She felt Vin and Ezra's eyes upon her. They both gave her confident nods. She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down.
"What about the rest of the cult?"
"We've got them all contained downstairs. Looks like many of them weren't as devoted to Stacko as we thought. A few insane idiots have been keeping them here under force. You should see the guns that they've got. No wonder they were so willing to let us in when we told them that we had a shipment for them from Mexico."
"And the bombs?"
"You were right. If Nick and others had not gotten here before they sent the guards in, you'd be looking for our body parts right now. I've never seen so much gunpowder and dynamite in my life."
"Will there be any problems when we come in?" Sarah asked. She noticed that JD was walking u towards them, also on a cell.
"I think we've taken care of most if it. But there's mines all over the compound and nobody here knows where they all are, so be careful."
"We'll be there in a little while Clayton."
"Oh Sarah, we're going to need a stretcher and a body bag. "
"I thought you said nobody was hurt!"
"One guy was. He was shot trying to convince people what Stacko really was."
"Okay, see you in a bit," she answered and ended the call. She handed the phone back to Ezra.
"What do we do now?" She asked looking around.
"I don't know, what do we do Captain Larabee?" JD smiled. "Major Henderson, I am proud to announce that you and your soldiers are back under my direct control. I'm asking that you work with Team Seven on the evacuation plan."
"What?" Ringo cried. "The National Guard is under Federal Control! The only one who can declare a change of command is..."
"I just got off the phone with our beloved Commander In Chief. He awaits your phone call about why certain information regarding why the amount of ammunition inside was kept hidden from him."
Ringo could only stare in disbelief.
"Both of you will be out of a job. My connections go higher than a lowlife governor."
"Secretary Ringo, may I ask where you received that bruise on your right check? It would be quite embarrassing to explain that you receive from a young lady almost a third your size. "
For a few seconds it looked like Ringo was going to try and punch Ezra, but he thought better of it.
"Come on Mathews," he growled. "You haven't heard the end the end of this!' Ringo stalked down the road to his awaiting limo.
Mathews looked like he wasn't sure what to do.
'That's right, follow him like the little whipped puppy you are." Sarah laughed
Mathews turned red and rushed after Ringo. Once the limousine was out of sight, everybody who had witnessed the conversation burst out laughing.
"So what's the plan Captain? How are we going to get your boys back?" Henderson said looking at Sarah.
"And lady," Ezra corrected.
"And lady," Henderson agreed.
"I've got some maps in one of the squad cars. Let's go have a look for the best entrance."
Vin watched as they walked down the road, before he turned to his friends.
'How did you know Sarah hit him?"
"I had a hunch it was either you or her. I took a chance and guessed her. Looks like I haven't lost my lucky streak."
"Talk about being lucky, I can't believe Ringo bought the whole thing with the President."
"What are you talking about JD?" Vin asked in disbelief.
"Come on guys, do you really think I could get through to the President that easily? I have a phone appointment with him in fifteen minutes. Guess I was right about his staff keeping information hidden from him though.. He'll be madder than a hornet when he finds out."
"Director Tanner. if we are going to continue helping your team the way we have been, I insist that the department up our retirement benefits"
"How about a heads-up each time the team gets assigned a new case?" Vin suggested.
"None of this telling us two days after you send a team undercover?" Ezra questioned.
"The second the team accepts a case, I'll be on the phone with you."
"You have a deal Mr. Tanner."
"None of them are going to be very happy with us," JD said with a smile.
"What are fathers for?" Ezra answered with a smile.
Three hours later, Vin, Chris, Buck, and Mabrin and Ty were sitting in the hospital waiting room The rest of them were at the airport to see Gus and his team off. Nick had claimed had had errand to run and would be right back. The men inside were waiting for Sarah and Natalie. There had been no real serious injuries. Sarah would just have a headache for a few days. Natalie would make a complete recovery, if she kept the weight off her leg for a few weeks.
They all lifted up their heads when they saw Mariah emerge from the door.
"How are you?" Chris asked.
The woman held up a bandaged hand. She had received minor burns when she was locating the bombs.
"I'll be fine," she answered. "I'm not so sure about all those kids. They are all so confused. For most of them, the only life they remember is inside that compound."
"We'll make sure they're well taken care of. They'll receive the best psychological care available." Ty said. He pointed to Mabrin who absorbed in his laptop. "Mabrin's already searching for the homes of the kidnapped children. We'll look for family members for the rest of them.
"Speaking of family members, I was wondering if..."
Everyone in the waiting room turned to see Katie run to the older woman. The two of them hugged, oblivious to everything else around them.
Nick walked over to this team's questioning looks.
"When I saw Mariah, I was pretty sure we had found the lost sister. Guess I was right."
Buck clapped Nick on the shoulder.
"You did good Kid, real good."
Chapter 8: Here We Go Again
"Tell me why we can't have dinner at the restaurant? Buck asked as he turned down Sarah and Natalie's road.
"You know the girls," Inez answered. "They're bound and determined to prove to you that they can live on their own/" .
"You remember the last time they tried to cook for everyone? It took Nathan and I almost an hour to fix the damn smoke detector and the ham ended up looking like..."
"That's enough Clayton! You should be happy you are getting real food. I've looked in your cupboards and haven't seen anything that takes more than water or five minutes to prepare."
"Rather eat that stuff than burnt pig," Clayton grumbled.
"Again, we are the last ones here." Inez sighed when she saw the long line of cars taking up the driveway and road. "I swear Buck, it takes you longer than a woman to get ready."
"Now darling, you know I don't have to anything to look this perfect. I just didn't want to have to be one stuck with fixing the fire alarms." He opened the door to get out.
A little mass of black and brown fur came bounding down out of the yard at him.
"What do we have here?" He smiled when the German Shepherd puppy stopped by his feet. "Hey little fella." He reached down to pet the dog, but was rewarded with a sharp pain in his fingers.
"You little beast!" He growled.
"Would you look at that? Little guy already knows what he's he for."
Natalie was standing in the doorway on her crutches.
The puppy bounded up the yard and nuzzled against her leg. He followed her back inside the house.
"Devil is going to be worse than his owners ain't he?" Buck asked as his wife and son joined him. Both of them were laughing.
The three walked inside the house and were rewarded with the wonderful smell of fresh herbs. Buck and Clayton looked at the plates of the people squeezed into the living room.
The chicken looked so delicious that Buck felt his mouth watering.
"You better come and get some before its all gone," Sarah called from the kitchen. Inez and Clayton walked into the next room.
Buck eyed Molly who was feeding pieces of chicken to the puppy.
"You helped them didn't you?" He asked.
"No Buck, they did it all by themselves," she answered. She handed her empty plate to Ezra who was getting up.
"Rain?" He asked.
"Nathan and I were helping at a hospital fundraiser all afternoon," she answered.
"You and both know that Chris is the cook in our family," the reporter answered.
Buck looked right past Casey, knowing her ability lay with a paintbrush, not a spatula.
"Come on guys, which one of you helped them?" He asked desperately.
"Face it Buck, we've done it all by ourselves." Natalie answered. She followed Sarah out of the kitchen.
The brunette was carrying a plate of food, which she handed to Buck.
"That's it, no more nagging us about living on our own."
Buck took the plate with both hands and didn't move. There were several seconds of silence.
"Buck?" Josiah prompted.
"Alright fine," Buck sighed. "I won't say another word about you living out here alone."
A cheer erupted through the living room.
"Aww come on guys," its' not that big of a deal!" Buck exclaimed. He sat down on the ground and began to eat. The satisfaction was evident on his face.
"While Buck is eating, I think its time we have ourselves a little rematch," Luke picked up a football and tossed it over to Chris.
:"You youngins looking for another ass whopping?"
"You got lucky last time," Ty said standing up. "This time, you're not going to know what hit you."
"We are going to need another running back though?" Clayton said. His plate was already empty. "Seeing that ours is on injured reserve."
"Mom, why don't you play?" Natalie suggested.
"Sounds like fun," Molly answered, pulling herself to her feet.
"Darling, I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"Oh shut up Ezra and tell me on the field."
"Any other takers, mothers?" Mabrin asked.
"Mabrin, leave them alone. They don't want to..." Buck started.
:"Is it two hand touch or tackle? Mary asked.
"Technically two hand touch, but there's no ref so.." Nick explained.
"I still need to get Buck back for that whole cooking thing," Casey smiled evilly.
"Hey guys," Vin emerged from the garage. "The game was just rained out. We just got a call in about a possible shipment of cocaine coming in on the East Side. Brass wants us in charge of the entire operation.
"What? This soon after a case?" Nathan asked.. "That's ridiculous!"
Besides, they've never done a bust before," Buck agreed. "They won't know what they're doing."
Vin and Sarah exchanged looks.
"Here we go again," she sighed.