Alternate Y2K Universe
San Diego, California
Josiah Sanchez pushed the smaller cargo plane fully into the hanger before he anchored it. Glad this stint was over. For two weeks he helped out a buddy so he could honeymoon with his new wife. Tomorrow he had mineral report to give, then two weeks for himself. He could almost taste it.
Over the hanger intercom, “Josiah Sanchez, please check in at hanger office. Josiah Sanchez, check in at the hanger office please.”
He wrapped up what he was doing and walked over to the hanger office. Inside he boomed, “Well, Babs, whatcha need?”
She smiled up to the large man, then pointed to the three men standing by the windows. “They asked to see you. Been waiting for an hour and a half.” She shrugged as she smiled again.
Josiah walked over to the three men that turned around at his approach. The black man seemed familiar to him, but he recognized the tall, lanky, blonde man. Chris Larabee. SEAL 7 team leader. He saved many a life during the Gulf War, coulda used him in Nam. “Mr. Larabee, nice to see you again. How can I be of service?”
Chris said with a sly smile, “There is definitely something you could do for us. This is Nathan Jackson, and Vin Tanner.”
Josiah took Nathan’s hand as he said, “I remember, meatball surgery. You were with a MASH unit. I flew many a wounded your way.” He then shook Vin’s hand, “Nice to meet you.”
Nathan smiled at Josiah, “Now don’t be selling yourself short. You flew in wounded under some extremely harrowing circumstances.”
Chris said to Josiah, “Care to join us for dinner. We’re still on Mountain Time and we’re hungry.”
Josiah nodded, “Sounds good to me any time. What kind of food you interested in?”
“Eatable. I’m starved.” Vin said first.
“All that junk food Vin, keep telling you.” Nathan joked. In the two weeks that they’d been together, Nathan had been teasing Vin on his eating habits.
Vin always responded in kind, “Hell Nathan, I ain’t no rabbit.”
Josiah smiled at the banter and decided on a seafood place.
After the meal and general catching up, Josiah waited for the real reason that brought Chris Larabee his way.
Chris could tell Josiah was ready and explained to him what he was trying to put together. “Your name was the first that popped into my head. We need helicopter and small craft pilot. You’re also a geologist and I know you ski and climb.”
“I’m also forty nine years old. Why do you want to saddle yourself with an old man?”
Chris looked at the man and answered honestly, “I know men half your age that can’t do one forth of the things you can. You’ve had battle experience, so you’ve seen some gruesome things. Search and rescue is not for the faint of heart. Your experience can only help the team. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe that.”
Josiah was surprised. He’d heard the Larabee stories, but he’d based his opinion on his actual contact with the man. The stories centered on his innate gift at picking the right man for each job. Josiah was flattered. His quiet air of authority sat about, but that wasn’t what he was about. Josiah believed he could work for this man.
“Well, thank you. I’m in.” He shook Larabee’s hand. Remarkable, he thought to himself, another career change. He smiled. “What are the living arrangements?”
“An inn is being remodeled. It will have eight individual living units. One of those will be the office. Since we’re living out in the middle of nowhere together, each person should have their own place, a two-bedroom apartment, kitchen, living room, bath. We’re making do right now, but at least we have the weather for it.” He gave Josiah his cell number and email.
“I’ll fly in myself. Do you have a chopper pad?” Josiah asked.
Chris wrote the GPS coordinates after his email and smiled as he handed it to Josiah, “Glad to have you with us.”
Their office was packed to the max. The new equipment, medical and office supplies were coming in steadily. Just as the Governor promised, they weren’t skimping on quality. Chris was pleased. The men seemed to get along well together and he was hoping that the next addition would work as well.
They seemed to be taking all their evening meals together and this evening wasn’t any different. So after a meal of pizza and beer, Chris brought up the subject, “I’ve found another individual that I plan to add. I’ve had to wait till this week.” The eyebrows raised the question and Chris explained, “He’s just graduated from University of Michigan.” He waited and wasn’t disappointed.
“A kid, why in the hell do we need some snot nose kid. Chris, what can he add, he hasn’t even lived yet.” Buck just couldn’t believe it. He was about to start up again when Chris put up his hand.
“He’s an Olympic skier, anyone remember the last winter Olympics?” Buck and Vin shook their heads. Nathan tried to remember, couldn’t come up with anything and shook his head. Josiah had a faint memory and was working it. “Here is a tape of his final event. He was the favorite for the gold….just watch.” Chris put in the video tape.
The tape wasn’t the copy that was live on TV, this was shot from a different angle. This view allowed for seeing the event running next to this one concurrently. The skier in the far event took off, but the camera was on the skier for the near event. They could hear the announcers in many languages, but the five men had their eyes on the young man at the gate. He was off, he was rounding flags and was posting a good time when on the far event one could see that skier get into trouble and careen off the side and was sliding out of control toward the edge. The skier in the near event saw this and instead of finishing his event he jumped the rope and placed his body in front of the out of control skier, preventing his fall off the edge. The camera zoomed up on the face and as he put his hand down to help the fallen skier, he was smiling, and nodding. The tape now changed to an interview done later that day. The reporter asked, “JD, are you now regretting your action, you had the gold after you rounded that first flag. Now you’re out.”
JD pushed at his hair as it fell in his face, but his voice was strong. “No I don’t, that Swiss skier would have been seriously hurt, and no one else would have been able to reach him in time. I made the right decision, and I’d do it again.”
“But JD, you could have gone home a winner?” The reporter insisted.
“If taking home a gold medal is more important than a human life, I don’t want to be that kind of winner.” The expression on his face left little room for doubt as to his opinion of the reporter in front of him. The tape ended.
Josiah smiled, “I remember that interview. Was proud to an American at the moment.”
Chris looked at the others, Vin was smiling and so was Nathan. Chris settled his gaze on Buck. He was serious. “What ya waiting for Chris?” Chris smiled.
JD Dunne was sitting by the fire at the ski chalet. This was a great graduation gift, and such a surprise. He just wished his mom had lived to see him finish college. That was her only wish, but she had supported his dream of the Olympics, and she had been proud of him. He looked into the fire and thought, ‘I did it mom!’ He curled his dark brown hair behind his ear, it almost touched his collar, but he liked it. His mom would probably have told him he needed a hair cut. That made JD smile.
JD didn’t take real notice as two men sat opposite him. People came and went all day and all night and he wasn’t looking for conversation. So he was a bit startled as he was addressed by name.
“Mr. Dunne?” JD looked up and nodded. “Mr. Dunne…”
JD interrupted, “JD please.” It felt weird to have older people call him mister.
Chris smiled, “Okay,…JD, my name is Chris Larabee and this is Vin Tanner. I was curious, do you have career plans now that you’ve finished college?”
JD looked at the man, he sure didn’t seem like a reporter. But it was just the way he sat there, quiet, intent, JD felt like answering him. He told him the truth, “I don’t really know. I love skiing, but that’s not a career.”
The man with the long wavy hair asked, “What ya study?” His blue eyes twinkled, and JD felt relaxed around him.
“Natural Resources. It was as close to nature that I could get.” JD shrugged, hoping they’d understand. The blue eyes smiled at him in complete understanding.
The gentle but commanding man asked him, “JD, outdoor work would appeal to you?” JD nodded emphatically. Chris smiled at the youth, “How about search and rescue work, in Wyoming?”
JD turned his head, not quite understanding, “What are you asking?”
Vin answered him with a smile in his voice, “Do you want a job on our search and rescue team in Wyoming?”
JD’s mouth dropped open and his eyes went as wide as they go.
Both Vin and Chris nodded. JD smiled with his whole body and nodded to them.
+ + + + + + +
As JD still had four days left of his gift, and Chris wanted to bring JD back with them, he and Vin decided that they would stay and spend a few days skiing. JD and Vin rode in the lift in front of Chris. He knew as he watched JD jump off the lift and ride down the slope that he was looking at someone at one with his craft. His lines and form would have won him that gold medal. Chris hoped that JD was truly okay with his choices. Chris then watched Vin lunch himself, and it was like watching music. His fluid motion was breathtaking and Chris marveled that the sweeping motion virtually showed no marks on the snow as though he rarely touch it. He was glad there was no one to watch him go down.
JD had them trying snowboarding next, and Vin ate it up. JD got Vin up to the jumps by mid-day and they would snow balls at Chris as they passed him. Chris growled outwardly, but inwardly was pleased that JD would join the group with already shared experiences.
+ + + + + + +
On their last full day in the Austrian Alps they climbed a short peak. For Vin it was like looking out over the world. The freedom, beauty and that feeling that he was connected to nature was humming through him. He turned to smile at his companions. Chris and JD flanked him over looking the world.
On the rough face of the peak they were surprised as a face peaked over. The man then climbed up on top. He had a rope about his waist but no other climbing equipment. Vin watch intently as he too loved to free climb.
The chestnut haired man turned as if feeling the scrutiny and flashed them a smile, his gold tooth sparkling as the sunlight hit it. He said aloud, “Good day gentlemen. Is it not a most engaging view?” The Southern accent should have seem out of place on an Austrian peak, but the mischievous look in the emerald green eyes seem to put that aside.
“It sure is!” JD answered the man and returned his smile.
Vin was about to start a discussion on free climbing when they all head the child’s cry. Four men started looking over the edges to locate the cry. On his belly Vin peered over a steep dropoff, “Over here, looks like two kids. Can’t reach em.” As the other three men came up beside him, Vin said to the kids, “Hello, can you hear me?”
“Il y a quelqu' un , au secours !,” a frightened voice called out.
“That’s French,” the Southern man recognized, “Allow me.” He knelt down, looking over and said, “Hey, ça va aller” He sat up and untied the rope from his waist and tied it around one foot and handed the other end to Vin. “Lower me down then you can pull them up, then hopefully me. I told her it’d be okay.” With that the green eyed man went over the side head first.
Chris and JD came over and helped Vin with the rope. Chris thought the man was nuts, but this wasn’t the time to get into it. They could hear him talking.
“C' est très bien, ça va aller. That’s a good girl.” He was speaking both languages, partly for himself too. “Okay, prends ma main.” After he righted himself he put his hand out to her. “okay, prends ma main, prends ma main, accroche-toi bien. C' est très bien.” Holding her close he untied the rope from his foot and put it around her waist. He looked the little girl in the eye as he said, “Tu es très courageuse.” She hugged him for calling her brave, and he hugged back. “Ton frère maintenant.” She nodded as he called the boy her brother. The little boy copied the girl and reached out for the strong man. Holding the boy, he called above to the others, “Pull her up.” Her eyes panicked as she was lifted away, but the Southern man continued to say to her, “ça va aller. It’s okay.”
Vin grabbed the little girl as Chris and JD worked the rope. Vin held her as Chris untied the rope and lowered it again.
The Southern man tied it around the little boy’s waist and called up, “He’s ready. Ca va aller,” he told the boy, and the boy waved as he was raised. JD reached out and grabbed the boy. Then the two children reached for each other.
Chris was about to throw the rope over again when he heard, “Grab on to my hand.” The man had free climbed almost to the top. Chris reached out for one hand as Vin was going for the other and they pulled him up. After he was seated the two children ran over to him and buried their heads in his chest. He murmured to them as he patted their backs.
Someone must have spotted what they were doing, for they were invaded by many people coming to aid them. The children’s parents were in the group for as they heard their names being called they ran to them. They thanked the men in many languages and left them alone on their peak once more.
Chris turned to the man and growled, “What in the hell did you think you were doing? That was risky and dangerous.”
The self possessed man turned to the ranting man and replied calmly, "Rescuing the children, obviously, Mr…..?”
“Larabee, Chris Larabee. That risk was foolish, we could have had help up here quick.”
“Mr. Larabee, they appeared tired and I feared that the girl was about to lose her grip.”
Vin put his hand out as he introduced himself, “Vin Tanner.”
“Ezra Standish.” He gave his name as he accepted the hand shake.
JD looked star struck, “That was awesome. Their part of a search and rescue team back home.” JD pointed to Vin and Chris. Then added, “I’m JD Dunne.”
Ezra smiled at them, “Ah that’s why the names we’re familiar, you saved the President’s grandson last winter. Made a big splash here. Why don’t we go on down to the lodge and I’ll buy you all a drink.”
Chris could tell that both Vin and JD wanted to, so he reluctantly nodded and they left the top of the world behind as they headed back down the mountain. Vin hiked next to Ezra, comparing different free climbing techniques. On the trip back Chris heard them comparing skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, mountain biking. Vin squeaked when they both discovered that they dog-sledded. But Ezra had him beat as he sky dived and bungee jumped regularly.
JD whispered up to Chris as he too was overhearing the conversation, “Standish….he was one of the first to bungee jump, they credited Baldwin, but the scuttle was that Standish was first. Wow I can’t believe we all met up here.”
Chris was thinking to himself that Ezra was involved in a lot of high risk activities.
They went into the bar at the lodge and sat near the window. Chris watched as Vin and JD chatted with Ezra Standish. JD talked without reservation as though they were old friends. Vin talked about all the sporting activities, but shared nothing more about himself. Ezra wasn’t much different than Vin. He shared nothing personal, and actually took it a step further, he shared nothing with his expressions. He hid behind a mask that the world top poker players would envy.
Standish occasionally stole a glance at the man watching him intently. Ezra was surprised at his reaction to Mr. Larabee, for he had met very few men in his lifetime that had warranted the need of spending any more time than necessary with them. Inviting these men for a drink was a surprise even to himself.
JD was barely ten years his junior and full of enthusiasm, Ezra didn’t think he’d ever had that much enthusiasm for anything. It was almost exhausting. Vin was different, his lean frame and gorgeous hair had probably misled many, but the steely glint in his eyes, bode ill for any that crossed him. He had the air about him that he had already survived hell, so tread carefully.
Chris continued to watch, he’d never been into social chit-chat. He found himself pleased, though, at how both Vin and Ezra treated JD. Despite his youth, they listened intently and let him share his stories. Ezra, himself was hard to get a bead on. Chris had always found that he could sum up most people in a very short time. Standish fell into the uncommon category of needing a second look. He was obviously reckless, but he wasn’t stupid. His clothes spoke of money, and he obviously had education, but something was eluding him. He spoke for the first time since sitting down. “Standish, from some of the remarks the locals made, this wasn’t your first rescue. Why’d you do it?”
Standish turned his head and met the direct stare of hazel eyes. While the gaze was not wholly antagonistic, skepticism lurked behind the hooded expression. Ezra felt that while the question appeared innocent, the answer was important to dark dressed man across from him. “They were children, I had the skills, I couldn’t take the chance that someone else would be too late.”
“Do you approach all rescues with reckless abandon?” Chris asked.
“I knew what I was doing, so it wasn’t reckless.” Ezra answered a little too pat. Not wanting to explore his own actions any further.
Chris Larabee wasn’t sure he even liked this man, but his gut instinct was shouting at him. He wanted to argue with himself, but he’d learned during the war, his gut wasn’t oft wrong. “What plans do you have for the immediate future?”
Ezra was startled, this was not the sort of question he had expected from this man, but his expression did not show this. “Competitions.”
“Have you ever thought to putting those skills to beneficial use?” Chris saw the slight turn of Standish’s head and outlined the plan of his upcoming team.
“You have some most unusual skills. This will be an unusual team.” Chris didn’t wish to explore any of the other thoughts that were hovering without form.
“I don’t know.”
Chris stood and removed a card form his wallet, he handed it to Ezra. “We leave tomorrow.” No smile, no good bye, Chris just turned and left the bar.
Vin stood saying, “We’re with him.” He put his hand out to Ezra, who accepted it and met the enigmatic blue eyes, that conveyed all and nothing with a glance.
JD looked after the retreating back of Vin and said to Ezra, “Sure be great if you’d join up too.” He just waved good bye as he hurried after Vin. Ezra continued to sit there, thinking.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Vin had already loaded their belongings into the van that was taking them to the airport. It was taking JD a bit longer, he had all his equipment to load also. The driver had just finished cramming all the luggage in back, when one more bag was added. He grunted and then closed the back door. Ezra Standish stood there.
JD smiled and said, “Cool.”
Chris nodded to him as though he had expected him. Vin nodded also, but added a welcoming smile. Ezra was relieved, no questions why. No big fanfare. This might work.
They four entered the van and headed for the airport. It wasn’t a silent trip as JD chatted the entire way. Chris smiled internally as he closed his eyes. The team was complete.
Chris knew they were ready. All the equipment for summer and fall were housed and ready for action. Their apartments were completed. A little different than the Governor planned, but better for the occupants. Instead of having some live on the top floor and some on the bottom, Chris convinced the contractor to remodel them so each man would have a two story place to themselves. Each dwelling had their own entrance, each deserved to have their own space without everyone monitoring their movements.
Chris walked into the Governor’s office and smiled at Dorothy. She signaled that the Governor was waiting for him. He entered the office that had started the project six months ago.
The Governor stood at the window and turned at Chris’ entrance, “Chris, I know I said I wouldn’t interfere with your choices….but what in the hell were you thinking on this one?” Travis threw the manila folder at Chris.
Chris already knew that he would find Standish’s picture and info as he calmly opened the folder. He looked at what the Governor’s people had gathered. The picture showed a charming rouge. The green eyes divulged exactly what the risk taker wanted divulged, nothing.
He read the bio. He had a mother living, father: whereabouts unknown. He had attended a multitude of boarding schools. Apparently never spent a holiday at home. Actually it was hard to ascertain if there was a “home” port at all. His mother apparently married frequently and moved a lot. He graduated from Oxford, major unknown. Spoke several languages, including French, Spanish, German, some Chinese and even Sign Language.
He was considered a K5 climber, excelled at skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding, snowmobiling, mountain biking, bungee jumping, skydiving, kayaking, rappelling. Proficient at shooting, computers, poker, scuba diving. Extreme spot participant. ‘Boring man,’ Chris thought to himself.
Kicked off six different extreme sport teams. They cited, unable to work with a group. Also had attitude problems with authority figures.
He had several minor gambling arrests. One arrest for free climbing the Eiffel Tower. Chris smiled at that one.
Chris took his time, then looked up at the Governor, “What’s the problem?”
Travis was astonished, “Chris that man has been kicked off six teams. How do you expect him to work on yours?”
“Different group, different situation.”
Travis shook his head, “He’s going to cause problems, and you’ll have wasted all the time on him.”
Chris pinned the Governor with his steely stare, “My gut tells me different.”
Travis shook his head again, but this time with resignation, “Okay Chris, this is your team.” Then with a different tone, “You set to start?”
Chris stood as he nodded, “Yup. Two days. July 1st.”
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