Author: R.I.Peace PM
ATF Universe. A continuation of the Along Came Trouble series ACT Team Seven accepts a new assignment completely unaware that the Black Marauders have secretly agreed to a special assignment of their own. Trouble ensues when both operations collide.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 13 - Words: 43,753 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 08-26-12 - Published: 01-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7745401
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Sorry for the wait, but real life through some unexpected punches and I inadvertently forgot how to duck. So without further ado, on with the story.
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be. No money exchanged hands. Purely done for enjoyment. In lieu of money reviews are acceptable.
Not beta'd all mistakes are my own.
Remember folks it's a work of fiction. Don't like then by all means don't read.
A warm sickly air blew through which not only raised dust, but a touch of nervous energy among other things. In the background shouts of betrayal amid shouts of 'ATF freeze' were heard among the staccato din of gunfire. Figures of every shape and size were seen hurrying to and fro, while a few lay still upon the heated ground.
An unearthly animal like keen could be heard in the foreground as a pair of expensive shoes stopped and knelt next to a bloodied body. No it cannot be! The man dropped to his knees, checked for a pulse, pulled the body closer, and stared into a pair of lifeless eyes. Too young, you were much too young. Tears fell as he heard someone call his name.
The sleepy haze held him spellbound for a few more seconds until he snapped awake. He gasped loudly trying to bring his accelerated heartbeat under control. His hands hurriedly wiped away any stray tears which had managed to form while he slept. He then took stock of his surroundings before deciding what a horrid imagination he had until again he heard someone call his name.
A dim light clicked on casting shadows everywhere within the room.
"Are you alright?" Her sweet feminine voice seeped through the final vestiges of the nightmarish hell he recently had been forced through then back to the harsh reality of the present. "Do you want to talk about it?"
He took a deep breath trying to dispel the lingering fear. "I certainly don't want to, but I think I need to, please give me a few minutes."
"That must have been some dream."
"Like no other." He confirmed.
Inez had placed her warm hands over Ezra's and gently pulled his away from his terror stricken face. "Mi amor, something troubles you. Is it Teddy?"
"You have guessed correctly my dear. Never have I dreamed of something as cruel as that and I fear if things don't change for the better it may prove to be true."
"It was a dream nothing more."
"I sincerely hope you are right." He thought some more and held one finger up indicating he needed a moment. He then picked up the phone, pressed a button and waited until the corresponding party answered.
The voice on the other end groggily said, "Wha?"
More confusion followed, "Ez? Do you realize what time it is?"
"That I do, but I need your help. Check and see if Teddy received word from the Marauders."
Some grumbling was heard this time before the younger of the two answered. "Can't this wait 'til morning?"
"By my clock it is morning."
"You know what I mean."
"I do, but this is important."
"Alright," Ezra heard the rustling of J.D.'s blankets being thrown off and perhaps the young man finally sat up expelling a discontented sigh, "Fine."
He also heard J.D. cuss some as he most likely bumped into something. Then the unmistakable sound of nimble fingers flying across a keyboard, "Ezra, you're right. He did receive a message. Are you psychic?"
Not that he normally believed in such things Ezra answered, "That's out for debate."
"Aw hell! Damn it!" A few more expletives followed the first set. "It's encrypted." J.D. wiped a hand over his face. "Sorry Ezra it's still all gibberish to me."
This time Ezra sighed. Inez moved and sat next to her man encircling her arms around his bare torso, while laying her head upon his shoulder. "J.D., try and see if you can locate a phrase or two from within that gibberish. Say for example: On my way or we need you ASAP."
Again the steady tap tap tapping of fingers worked the system. When faced with a challenge J.D. didn't know the meaning of throwing in the towel. Ezra could hear him mutter, "Come on. Come on."
And then an excited voice hit the air waves. "Oh my gosh! Ezra! I think I got it!"
It's about time Ezra thought to himself and perhaps to Inez as well, since she gave his arm a quick squeeze. "Very good J.D., now what does it say?"
"It says everything you told me and…Oh crap!"
"J.D. what do you mean by oh crap?" Silence met his question. Ezra no longer had any patience left. "J.D.!"
"Sorry Ezra, but I think we need to inform the Director and Vin of this right away. I'm downloading their coordinates, which I'm presuming is where the Black Marauders are as well as Chris and Buck."
Agent Standish gasped, "Good heavens, Cervantes' compound."
"And what's the other problem?"
J.D. replied, "The cousins have alternate plans and I'd rather discuss this as a team than over the phone."
"I understand. I'll call Vin and Director Travis, you call Nathan and Josiah and tell them to stand by and be ready for an impromptu meeting."
"Will do." The call was then disconnected by both parties.
"Well my dear it looks as if we are in for some…" His phone rang anew; the displayed number stated he needed to answer it. "Agent Standish…Yes…uh huh…I see…Well thank you for informing me…I will keep you abreast of the situation…Yes…Good day."
Inez' eyes reflected concern. "That was the hospital. Teddy has indeed left the building."
"Is that what your dream was about? Was it Teddy?"
"Yes and something more."
She nodded in understanding then whispered in his ear. "You do whatever is necessary to insure his safe return."
"I intend to my dear." He lowered his mouth to hers and passionately expressed his needs and wants with one kiss. He left her breathless for more, but his work compelled him to make those necessary phone calls.
The reply he got was quick. Reaper never messed around when it came to his friends. If there was a will there was definitely a way. He also wondered if Team Seven had cracked the encryption code yet. It was no secret why Ezra gave Teddy that laptop to use the man obviously had ulterior motives. He could tell how much Inez and Ezra cared for Teddy and eventually Team Seven would be gradually drawn into the loop on this case. Sly mused more on it as he went to inform Jesse about the Reaper's return. As if it all wasn't a part of the plan.
If Jesse had a reaction to the news it never showed. He took everything in stride, plus he knew they were being observed, and showing any reaction could very well cost them their lives. Some of his gang admired his skills while a few others were always a little perplexed and envious of that cool exterior he displayed. Joe often told him he wished he could do that without breaking into a sweat. Little did he know, Jesse quaked inwardly his nerves were as jumbled as everyone else's.
Jesse looked to Sly, "Whereabouts?"
Simple answers would always throw off your enemy or just piss them off. Either way he didn't rightly care. "Good. Advantage?"
"Eh." Sly's fare to middlin' look dropped their odds considerably.
Hours later in a secured inner room two men conversed in hushed tones.
"What do you make of that conversation?"
"They know you are watching them."
"Are they talking in code?"
"I do believe they are."
"Watch them carefully."
The one man nodded in understanding.
Team Seven met bright and early at the ranch. The situation had intensified after Ezra had spoken with J.D. as the younger man had been about to power down his laptop when another encrypted message caught his attention. He swore to himself. Is that even possible? He followed its path and found it had made itself at home in one of Ezra's bogus e-mail addresses.
As soon as everyone had arrived J.D. waylaid Ezra with the news, "Ezra, I need to tell you something."
"Can't it wait, we're about to get started."
"No, it can't wait." He then went on to explain everything. As soon as he mentioned Ezra's one e-mail account the other man's jaw slackened and his eyes widened in surprise.
In hushed tones Ezra asked, "Which one?"
"Aces R High."
"Aw hell!" Ezra quickly brought out his phone and checked his e-mail. Sure enough a message was waiting for him. "Tell them," He tilted his head toward the kitchen as he began to peruse the mysterious e-mail contents. "I'll be along shortly."
J.D. nodded and left his friend to his business.
Meanwhile Vin's phone beeped, startling the calm cool looking sharpshooter right out of his seat.
"Vin you okay?" Nathan asked as the once easy going demeanor changed instantaneously to something resembling panic.
He ignored Nathan, because that particular ringtone was used for one purpose only and without further ado he slipped out of the room as he muttered, "I need to take this."
"Wonder what that was about?" J.D. asked as he entered the kitchen as Vin brushed past him.
"He got a call. Where's Ezra?"
"Taking care of a little business," J.D. replied.
"Seems a little odd that both Ezra and Vin have something that pressing." Josiah commented as he took a sip of his tea.
The Director entered the kitchen, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down. J.D. had been about to inform him when he held up a hand. "I've already guessed that Ezra and Vin have had some news. And from their expressions, this case has taken a turn for the worse."
At that end of the Director's statement both agents returned. Vin began, "We've got a problem. The cousins are conspiring against each other."
Ezra waited then had his say, "Well, at least we have some coordinates to guide us."
"Whoa, back up and explain."
"Yes, please do." The Director indicated that the two agents re-take their seats at the table.
Ezra and J.D. started the explanation which involved the information from the laptop that Teddy had in his possession. Although, by now Ezra knew it had been stashed elsewhere and Teddy had regained the use of his cell phone to keep matters as simple as possible. A network of information was being passed between the Black Marauders and the Reaper.
Josiah scratched his bearded chin. "I'm finding it hard to believe that quiet boy has the capabilities to…"
"Not hard to believe, just astonishing that one as quiet as that could rival even our Vin when push comes to shove."
"He's a whiz at the computer. I feel so outdated. Ow!" J.D. rubbed the back of his head.
"You're not outdated."
"But he's a teenager, not even out of high school."
"Gentlemen, please, we're getting off topic."
"Ezra's right we need to discuss what's happening now. Vin, do you have something to contribute to this?" The Director asked.
"Sly sent me a message saying he overheard two conversations that no one else knows about, except Jesse. The first is a given – the cousins don't trust their hired help and when all is said and done a little housekeeping will commence."
"And the second?"
"Mantaya is ready to take over both operations with a little help from a surprising source."
"Let me hazard a guess. Leo Stoddard."
The Director's eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened in shock. "Director, do you have something to add?" Ezra had been waiting for this reaction from his superior. "Might I ask why you didn't inform us that the FBI was involved in this?"
"Leo Stoddard a/k/a James Raab is no longer with the FBI; he's with the CIA."
"What brought you to that conclusion?"
"I had a suspicion. I then contacted someone deep within the system and it has been confirmed."
"Director you are now saying we have three agencies involved?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"That is quite a number of toes we can't afford to step on." Josiah added. His concern deepened for all involved.
"You do your job; let me worry about the bureaucracy." The Director watched each individual until his gaze landed on his marksman. "Mr. Tanner, do you have something to say?"
Of course he had a lot to say who wouldn't after all that. He wondered if they could see or sense it boiling at the surface. The people he held dear to his heart were in danger of all sorts.
Josiah hit the nail on the head when he said, "Pull out the hip deep waders boys, we're going to need them."
"Don't you mean the snorkels?" J.D. added.
Nathan then said, "Shit, if we are at the snorkel level I'd advise we all get out the shovels."
The tactic worked at least for the time being, Team Seven diffused a very volatile situation among their own. Both the Director and Vin fought a losing battle trying to keep their serious expressions intact.
"Well done, gentlemen." Ezra applauded. "You may take a bow."
"Director, I reckon I need to apologize…" Vin had begun to say only to be cut off by an upheld hand.
"No need. I understand your concern. We all are worried about the ones in the field." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Be that as it may we have the advantage over Mr. Raab."
J.D. interjected, "Of course, we have Teddy!"
Ezra surely did not like where this was going. The Director continued, "Yes. Since he's outside of the compound he has become our go between."
Vin patted Ezra reassuringly on the shoulder. "Cheer up, pard, we knew they would be in the thick of this. We need to trust them."
"I'd rather ring his neck along with a few others."
"Know what ya mean."
J.D. then raised the big question, "Director, how do we get this information to Chris and Buck?"
"As much as I like to not think of this there is only one way." Ezra suddenly announced.
"I'm sorry boys, but that is another reason they were placed in this situation."
"Ezra, Vin, they could have turned the Director down and you two know as well as I do that they would still be in the thick of it." Nathan emphasized.
"It don't make us feel any better. Either way they're risking their lives."
"But it's for the ones they care most about." Josiah summed it all up.
Both Vin and Ezra couldn't disagree with any of that logic, since that is why they did what they did on a daily basis.
J.D. had been leaning back in his chair and happened to chance a glance at Vin's phone, his eyebrows disappeared under his bangs. "Vin, what language is that?"
Not fazed by J.D.'s question Vin answered, "Commanche."
"Awesome. Is that how you two communicate?"
"I taught Sly to use it in case of an emergency."
"That explains why you…"
Vin's steady gaze cut J.D.'s ramblings off pretty quickly.
"Where did you learn to speak the People's language?" Josiah couldn't keep from asking. His curiosity had been piqued.
"A friend," He said it in a cut and dry sort of way. No one would press him further they would wait until he was ready. Obviously this came from his hidden past.
To Vin's immense relief, Ezra directed the conversation back to where it needed to be. "Gentlemen, we need a plan. Here is what I propose."
They sat upon the ground their backs against the stone wall of the courtyard waiting patiently for the electronic version of the Pony Express.
A wicked smile graced his friend's features, which prompted his response, "Done?"
Mischief making eyes met his own with two words he knew so well, "Of course."
"Good." The rest was now up to them.
Lately, Cervantes began to keep Jesse and his gang close. The drug lord knew something was afoot, yet he couldn't pinpoint exactly what had raised the alarm. Was it possibly too many players or was it Mantaya's ever growing boldness that kept him from sleeping most nights. Perhaps, it was the upcoming meeting with the mysterious Mr. Price or even Leo Stoddard's play for power. Whatever the reason, he wanted as many men between him and the unknown threat as possible.
He admired the Black Marauders' skills of deception while they kept the pretense of young men in a not so perfect world. Their carefree lives had him re-thinking his powerful position on a daily basis. When did his life become so complicated? The day his father was murdered, gunned down by the loathsome government dogs that inadvertently dogged his very footsteps now. This was the very reason he used son against father in this deadly game he played. This was his way of avenging his father's death. Perhaps he could persuade the son of the ATF agent to join his noble family and offer him the opportunity of a lifetime. No matter how many times he questioned his life he always came back to the reason which drove him relentlessly to succeed where his own father had failed. No one would get the better of Miguel Xavier Cervantes.
Jesse and his gang guarded the inner perimeter of the courtyard while Cervantes and Mantaya discussed the upcoming arms shipment. The drop was scheduled to happen soon and it had everyone on edge. In the meantime, the Black Marauders received a message from their snitch stating it was up to them to deliver some pertinent news to Chris and Buck. The only problem was to not get caught and blow all their covers in the process.
While Sly had been deciphering it Jesse noticed his friend's distress. He murmured, "What?"
A flurry of signals almost had Jesse breaking cover. Luckily, he composed himself in time. He placed two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly, his lieutenant grumpily appeared from around the corner.
"What's the rush? I was winning at poker and…" His expression instantly changed when he saw Jesse's and Sly's rigid stances. He flashed the hand signal that asked, 'when.'
Their silent conversation continued until they all knew the roles they needed to play. The sound of a warbling bird brought their discussion to an abrupt halt. It was time to see if their training, street skills, and sheer luck would get them through the toughest part of this assignment from hell.
Luck was with the Black Marauders, since Raphael at the bequest of his employer, viewed the security cams that day. To the untrained eye the discussion between Jesse, Joe, and Sly looked like a casual chat amongst friends. However, he had been trained to read between the lines and inwardly smiled at how well this group of young men had their hand signals and body language down to an art. He was thankful they taught him a few signals while they had been training.
He watched as the group left their shadowy place along the wall to where the others were spaciously grouped near the building where the powerful men in charge chatted inside. It was plain to see that the objects of their line of sight were indeed Harper and Jones a/k/a Larabee and Wilmington. He casually watched as to not alert the other men monitoring the other areas of Cervantes' compound. Although he had a feeling they would soon be intrigued by the goings-on real soon.
Harper and Jones were standing as close to the doors without actually being inside waiting on the return of Cervantes and Mantaya. They had been told to wait with gear at the ready for they were to leave and inspect the area in which the weapons were to arrive and to meet the competition. Jones tapped Harper upon the shoulder as Ace and a couple of his boys walked in their general direction.
Johnny Harper glared directly at the intruders. His hostility was felt by all present. He didn't give them a chance to speak as he barked, "What do you want?"
"We need to see Cervantes."
"He's busy. Come back later."
"I don't work for you. Step aside old man."
Ben tried to hold his partner back, but the other wouldn't have any of it. Once again he was right in that kid's face. "I said come back later." The sneer matched the growl.
Before Jesse could say another word he found himself flat on his back upon the ground pinned by the irate man. Instinctively he spat at the man. In retaliation the man gave Jesse a glancing blow to his left cheek.
Whoa he saw some stars on that one. Keep it together Jess. Shit! It was nice to know his dad could pull some of his punches. Never did he want to experience the full effect. Damn!
Ben ran interference between the two gang members as his partner and their friend duked it out. He figured the security cameras couldn't get a good look at the faces of the brawling men.
It was now or never as he jerked his head out of the way of another punch while trying to dislodge his tormentor. "I got a message."
To the inexperienced eye it looked as if the teen managed to kick the unsuspecting Johnny off of him and send the older man rolling in the dust. The Black Marauders' leader quickly stood surprising many with his agile efforts all the while his body screamed in protest. The kid continued to duck and dodge while he attacked relentlessly.
Meanwhile, the fight outside in the courtyard drew many away from the other monitors to watch the brawl between Cervantes' hired help and Mantaya's men. They cheered as Ace managed to free himself from the man known as Harper. No one cheered for Mantaya's side they knew where their loyalties lie.
Jesse tried to zig but the head on assault to his midsection literally took his breath away. Before he had time to recover he found himself turned around, pinned face first against the stucco exterior of Cervantes' lavish dwelling. Oh yeah, this was going to leave a few marks. Ouch! He felt his one arm pinned painfully across his back. Then he heard a gruff question.
"What's the message?"
The question was followed by a shake and a not so nice shove into the wall. Hell that hurt; who's the idiot that came up with the brilliant idea of stucco? Jesse's face and upper body sported a few more lacerations.
In the background he heard Ben taunting his friends. "I think you boys should back off before Johnny kicks the snot of you like he's doing to your friend." Buck must have tapped danced out of the way because he then yelled, "Hey, watch where you put that pig sticker!"
Joe taunted back, "Don't get too cocky old man, there's two of us and only one of you. Bring it on!"
Sly grinned as evilly as he could.
Hurry it up Chris these boys mean business. Shit, glad they're on our side.
Something sharp jabbed into Jesse's shoulder and he couldn't quite suppress the small groan. The pressure against his back lessened slightly alleviating the pain somewhat. That was his clue to answer the question. "Cousins plans are different. Mantaya own agenda. ATF has coordinates and date. Any deviation tell us."
Jesse shifted his weight as he heard. "Thanks."
Sly got past Ben and Harper felt a switchblade against the back of his neck. "Get off him!"
The voice sounded a lot like Vin's in so many ways. He released his hold on Jesse allowing him some space as he said, "Next time you won't be so lucky."
Joe stood by his friend as Sly kept his blade at the ready. "Go on get!"
As soon as the three stood together Jesse dropped his head and quietly said, "It's done."
Mantaya and Cervantes witnessed the fight. "Well now it looks as if my man was about to kick your boy's ass."
"Oh I don't know Julio, that boy gave Johnny a run for his money."
Julio stepped through the doorway and shouted, "Johnny, get cleaned up! We leave in fifteen minutes." His employee nodded and Jones followed Harper back to their room.
Exactly fifteen minutes later Mantaya and his entourage left leaving a very unhappy cousin behind. "Raphael! Please inform Ace I wish to speak with him."
"As you wish, sir."