"DAMIEN!" Stonebridge cried. He attempted to skid to the American's side like a boss, but Locke held him fast.
"We've gotta LOCKE ourselves in and complete this mission! We go after Manny and maybe possibly probably not save Scott after he bleeds out."
"Think of the mission, Michael! Leave. Him. Behind!"
Scott, meanwhile, pulled out the engagement ring with shaky hands. This was it. If there was ever a time for a sappy, tear-inducing, fangirl moment, then this was the one. He had to propose before...he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain and tapped his comm.
"Julia, I know this is out of the blue, and I know that the only kind of tea I like is liber-TEA," he coughed dramatically for added effect, "but I love you. More than all those skanky women I went out with and DEFINITELY more than that CIA what's-her-face. The point is, I'd be the happiest man alive if you'd marry me. So, Julia...will you be my wife and help me raise a secret agent super family with my as of yet undisclosed teenage son named Finn?" Silence. "JULIA?" He heard the faint buzz of white noise from the comm. The heat inside the paper mâché crapshoot had destroyed his only link to the outside world. The love of his life hadn't heard his heartfelt confession! He clutched his side and tried (unsuccessfully) to hold back a manly sob. "GODDAMMIT!"
"Sorry mate, didn't quite catch that!" Stonebridge shouted distractedly, trying to fight off Locke's death grip while keeping Manny in his line of sight. "But don't worry! Locke made up the poison rubbish so CHEERS, mate! We're not poisoned!" Scott looked up blearily from the floor.
"Oh, that makes me feel SO much better. If the amazing Locke has some new information about not bleeding out from a gunshot wound, I'd LOVE to hear it!" A staccato of gunfire interrupted Scott's whining.
"Hey! Don't ignore me!" Everyone rolled their eyes at Me-monster Mannequin's squawking, as they knew a bad guy monologue was overdue.
"No one ever took me seriously. Not as a child, not after I failed to take out Locke. But they'll all take me seriously after this volcano detonates-"
"Why don't you take THIS seriously, you overgrown child!" A voice shouted from above as a figure flipped acrobatically through the air and landed impressively next to Scott.
"JULIA!" The American cried happily as a second figure sent a flurry of AK 47 gunfire towards Manny and somersaulted next to her knight.
"KIM!" Michael exclaimed, with MORE happiness than Scott, as he embraced his fiancée.
"Jules! You just looked so badass right now!" Scott said and attempted to drag himself to his feet so that he could embrace her in an epic kiss to rock the ages. Richmond smiled warmly, placed a hand on his chest and pushed him gently back to the floor. "Stay still, Damien. We have a plan to break you and Michael out of here. We just need to buy some time. I hope you like horses."
"Well that's just too damn bad," Martinez interjected, knocking Locke aside so her bomb diggity boy scout could reach his fallen comrade.
"Scott! Hang in there, mate! Kim, take my shirt and use it as a tourniquet!"
"AWWW yiiissssss," the DEA agent murmured as she ogled Michael's shirtless bod. He snapped his fingers to get her attention.
"Tie it off! He's bleeding out!"
"Jeezus Mikey, at least sugarcoat it A LITTLE!" Scott fumed as Martinez wrapped up the gunshot wound. Richmond held his hand soothingly. Well, at least for a moment until...
"Where did all these bloody flies come from? Stop bleeding all over, mate! They're attracted to you!" Stonebridge huffed, almost regretting his decision to give up his muscle shirt.
"I tend to have that affect on people," Scott said cheekily and gave Richmond a private wink.
"ENOUGH! HELP'S NOT COMING, THIS VOLCANO WILL BLOW UP ANY SECOND, IT'S HOTTER THAN A SWIMSUIT COMPETITION IN HERE, AND I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP THE MANNEQUIN! IT'S MY FIGHT ALONE!" Locke roared, once again regaining the spotlight. He swiveled on Stonebridge and jabbed a finger in his chest. "The door's LOCKED. You and I both know that!"
"No we don't, boss! Have you even tried the door?"
"I told you to leave your pathetic partner behind and you disobeyed a direct order! That's it...you're not a Bravo! In fact...you're off the team! After we get out of this easy bake oven from hell-"
"VOLCANO!" Manny interrupted but no one paid him the time of day.
"-then your time with Section 20 is over!"
Stonebridge put on his super shades and tossed Locke his sidearm dramatically.
"Roger that. I can't see where you're coming from, but I know just what you're running from. If you want to go in this fight alone, be my guest. Enjoy your vengeance. But I'm gonna help my friend!"
Something rocked the paper mâché structure and a gurgling noise traveled up the pipes fitted into the ground by Richmond's feet. Manny raised his arms victoriously.
"The volcano explosion is starting! Once the liquid fire I stored beneath the pavement hits the air, it'll make a chemical reaction so profound that-" His words were cut blessedly short by the whinny of a horse as Grant smashed through the side of the flimsy volcano, reigns in hand. Despite the gaping paper mache hole, the volcano remained standing, but the movement caused Manny to flip over the side of the catwalk and drop his gun. The weapon sizzled as it hit a pool of acid rising from one of the pipes. Manny held onto the suspended rail with one hand, even as the volcano gave another shudder.
"Bravos Three and Four, get Bravo Two in the back of the wagon! Bravo One, take the reigns and get us the hell outta here!" Grant ordered with sass. The kickass female duo went straight to work and lifted a crying Scott into the back of the wagon. Michael slumped against one of the support beams as the acid licked the tips of his boots. He wasn't an operative anymore. Grant hadn't even bothered to give him a direct order! Kim shouted his name, but the stick in the mud refused to acknowledge her cries. Maybe it was destiny that he perish here, even though he always wanted to go out in a blaze of glory...not in a blaze! Not like this!
"You're gonna have to leave without me, Corporal! MANNY'S MINE!" Locke said. He started climbing the exposed beams in order to reach Manny's catwalk.
"Good, because I wasn't talking to you, Locke," Grant scowled. She turned her attention to the best and sexiest goddamn soldier in the biz. "Ready to join us, Bravo One, or are you gonna pout in the corner like a sissy? Grow a pair and get your sexy self over here!"
"YES MA'AM!" Stonebridge saluted and took his place next to her on the bench. He tugged on the reigns and maneuvered the horse and cart out of the sweltering volcano, dodging the acid pools like a pro. He urged the horses forward down one of the cobbled streets of the makeshift Pompeii village.
"You did it, buddy! F me!" Scott laughed from his place in the attached cart.
"Major! We can't contain this! If Manny's right, his fake acid lava mixture will combust in no time!" Michael yelled over the sound of whinnying horses. Scott complained as the cart jostled viciously over some stupidly huge decorative rocks. Grant rolled her eyes.
"The explosion is unavoidable. But Kamali and his daughter aided in completely evacuating the Fair while you two were holed up in that volcano-"
"What the fricky frack? We were only with Manny for like five minutes!" the rugged American screeched despite Richmond's attempts to calm him down.
"Kamali's one of the best the CIA has to offer. If Baxter hadn't abandoned him at the airport, he would've gotten here in time to stop this whole mess! Just be thankful his CIA mandatory sheep herding skills came in handy with the large crowds!" An excruciatingly loud BOOM resounded over the clearing, followed by a quick succession of smaller ones. Kim looked shakily behind them. "The lava's coming! Faster, my handsomely shirtless Knight!"
"HIYA!" Stonebridge yelled with a flick of the reigns. The horses obliged and thundered across the terrain. He risked a glance over his shoulder. The crappily made life sized paper mâché art project was now a ball of molten fire as it spewed acidic rain across the empty streets. His Britishness kicked in and he immediately lamented the fall of their silver-haired, oceanic blue-eyed tea-toting leader. He scrunched in on himself in defeat. "Does this mean that LOCKE is..." He couldn't allow himself to finish. Fortunately Scott had his back.
"NOT funny, Damien!" Stonebridge snapped.
"No, he's right," Grant said as she scrolled through Pinterest on her smart phone. "Locke's too damn amazing to die, much like Richmond, Sinclair and myself. Baxter just kinda popped up one season and Dalton replaced me as the feminine hardass of the team."
"Ma'am, what does that have to do with anything?" the sexy Brit inquired. The redhead rolled her eyes.
"Nothing really, only that the main characters are off limits from dying in dramatic, tear-inducing ways. This includes death by explosions, plane crashes, car ride montages, assassinations-" Scott nearly jumped out of Richmond's arms as she tried to hold him steady against the rocking cart.
"Hey! Does this mean that my buddy John Porter is alive?"
"NO!" the others shouted, including Sinclair who radioed Grant through her comm. "He's dead! It's not like we faked his death then sent him on a shady, undercover mission to the Misty Mountains-"
"WAT?" the boys said in unison, exchanging glances. Martinez squeezed herself between shirtless Stonebridge and the Colonel on the small bench, earning an exasperated sigh from Grant.
"It's a good thing you're pretty, my piping little crumpet! Just wait till we get to America!"
"Heads up, Bravos. We've got company," Sinclair commed from his position in the copter. "We've got bikers, presumably angry drama kids who were using their Renaissance Faire acting gigs to practice for the school play. They are pissed! You're gonna have to abandon the horses and jump into the copter for immediate evac."
"Roger that, Major," Grant said as she pinned a shirtless Chris Pine picture to her Pinterest board. Stonebridge hesitantly pulled back on the reigns." But-if Locke is still alive, shouldn't we-"
"NO!" the others replied. Grant fixed Bravo One with a glare.
"Locke chose to go solo when he stayed behind in that shitty volcano! Now, let's rendezvous with Sinclair and get on that copter!"
"Yes ma'am," Stonebridge said dejectedly, feeling less of a knight than he had when he'd been under the influence of Marksman's nanobots. At least then there'd been a valid reason for him to leave (or attempt to leave) a teammate behind. One could argue that man-made volcano bomb acid and Locke's insatiable thirst for vengeance were good reasons too, but...he could've done more. After all, Michael reasoned, in another life he might've been as vengeance crazed as Locke if a disillusioned soldier with a personal vendetta had killed his about-to-break-up-wait-we're-back-together-really-should've-gotten-a-divorce-because-a-baby-won't-solve-our-marital-problems high school sweetheart. In fact, he probably would've spent an entire season making rookie mistakes that really should've been a catalyst for him being fired from Section 20, only to forgive said disillusioned soldier in the biggest vengeance letdown in the history of Strike Back. Stonebridge sighed and offered his one true love Kim a sexy wink. She stroked his perfect abs. Shouts of "LEONTES!" and "thou must-eth stop-eth and clean up the fair-eth-" broke the handsome stud from his reverie.
"SHUT UP-ETH!" Stonebridge screamed, urging the horses onward as they neared their helicopter hovering several feet off the ground. Scott was muttering gibberish at this point, something about rings and sunshine and an as of yet undisclosed son named Finn, so Richmond apologetically punched him in the face to shut him up.
"You're cutting our escape pretty close, Sir Sergeant. Next time I'M driving!" Grant grumbled as the jostling carriage caused her to 'like' a stupid pin that had no business on her wall.
"Just wait a goddamn fortnight cheese toastie! We're gonna make it!" Stonebridge growled as he positioned the carriage parallel to the copter, which was slowly gaining speed. The bikers were still approaching and the acid continued to burn everything in its path. The back hatch opened and Kamali appeared in the doorframe of the copter.
"Jump!" he commanded, and the girls followed suit until only the two hunky stud muffins were left. Stonebridge dropped the reigns quickly, praying the horses would remain on course, and lugged fat ass Scott over his shoulder. He groaned under the weight. "Hurry!" Kamali commanded as the copter pulled farther away. Stonebridge silently cursed Scott for eating a bajillion hamburgers in his lifetime and jumped like a hero, hoping he'd make it to safety...
Kamali dragged Scott into the copter by the scruff of his collar and cast him carelessly aside.
"Thanks a lot, you ass-" Scott paused as he saw a pouty teenage girl with her arms crossed sitting next to Sinclair in the pilot's seat. Esther! He tried to change his cuss word before he corrupted her delicate ears. "As...guardian." He realized too late that the kid was wearing headphones and he could've gotten away with it!
"PULL ME UP! PULL ME UP!" Stonebridge cried as he dangled from the back of the plane by one hand, arm muscles bulging in all the right places. Kamali hauled him into the cargo hold and closed the hatch with a push of a button.
"Sir Sergeant Michael Stonebridge, I presume?" Kamali said and shook hands with the beaming knight. Kamali's silky voice instantly gained the trust of everyone in the copter, save for Scott who was too busy clutching his side theatrically.
"Now would be a REALLY good time to get me to a friggin' doctor!"
"I have a contact close by who knows a doctor that specializes in gunshot wounds to the chest. He'd be able to help," Kamali said as he whipped out his phone.
"Doctor Who?" Stonebridge asked.
"Classified. All right, Major, take us four clicks south, make a U-turn, and land in that abandoned football field."
"SOCCER FIELD!" Scott and Martinez corrected. Grant back-handed them both.
"Don't question our most talented, trustworthy hypnotic voice of reason, Leo Goddamn Kamali!" The Americans were about to argue when Sinclair landed the plane and their wounded team member was rushed inside a conveniently located hospital.
"Whoever the hell used a muscle shirt to stem the bleeding did a real shitty job," the lead doctor scoffed as they cut away the fabric and wheeled blue-eyed beauty Scott into the surgery wing. Stonebridge shouted at the doctor's retreating back through the swinging double doors.
"HEY! I want a refund on that shirt! And I didn't wrap up the wound! My soon to be wife and shoulda-been-a-model Kim did it!"
"You were shirtless. I was distracted. What did you expect?" Martinez shrugged and passed him a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Hours later, they were allowed to see Scott. They agreed to send Richmond into the room first for a moment of alone time with the rugged agent who was sobbing into the bed sheets and running his hands through his hair.
"I lost it, Jules," he gasped as the tears flowed down his face. "It probably got lost in that damn volcano for all I know!" The dark haired agent patted his cheek.
"Like, those horses were pulling that cart so fast then we hit those stupid, decorative rocks-"
"And then we had to jump in that helicopter! You know what? I bet one of those theater brats have it! That's it! We are gonna go back to the scene of the crime and-!"
"Damien. Shut up," Richmond laughed then pulled him into a sudden kiss. She opened up one of her palms and held out the ring. "I saw that you were holding onto it, so I took it for safekeeping before you went into surgery. And yes, I will marry you!" Fireworks showered the night sky and cast the hospital room in a kaleidoscope of colors. Damien fitted the ring on his fiancée's finger-a perfect fit! "And I've been thinking about the wedding. It should be romantic," Richmond said. Damien nestled his head in the pillows.
"We'll have the engagement pictures taken at the laser tag course."
"And we'll have a double wedding with Michael and Kim." Scott nearly toppled out of the bed and gripped his bandaged side with shaky hands.
"Wait! WAT?!" As if on cue, the rest of Section 20 entered the room and Stonebridge popped open a bottle of 1600 year old wine.
"Cheers, mate! Welcome back! While you were fighting for your life in a gross, unsterilized, secret surgery room, I was actually doing something useful. After a shot of coffee I did some hardcore research from the typewriters in the back. Dalton wasn't the bloody mole."
Scott looked up pathetically, his lower lip quivering in shock.
"Jules mentioned a...a...d-double...wedding? Double?" Kamali ghosted in from nowhere and slammed some important looking documents on Scott's lap. The American howled in pain as the typewritten mess landed squarely on his side wound; he struggled to reach the call light button in order to beg a hot nurse to give him some pain killers, but Kamali slapped his feeble hands away and turned to the group. No one paid much attention to Scott, not even Richmond, so entranced they were by the CIA agent's sexy deep man voice.
"Michael's right. The Mannequin was simply a hired gun planted to keep Section 20 running around in circles while the real criminal mastermind set his true plan in motion." Sinclair paced in confusion.
"But Dalton infiltrated Section 20! And tried to manipulate Scott!" Kamali waved a hand dismissively.
"She was a red herring. A mere tool so our culprit could hide behind his identity a little while longer...we now know who the mole is, but unfortunately we were too late." Kamali stopped talking and a scary silence engulfed the room. Scott squinted through tears of pain and noticed his comrades' somber expressions.
"What are you not telling me?" Silence. "Jules?" he begged. She sighed.
"Scott...it's the base. Our files, records, computers, equipment, guns, ammo, vehicles, free lunch passes...gone. All of it. Stolen or burnt to the ground." Scott stared in shock for the second time that night and sought out Grant for confirmation. She nodded.
"It's true. We're on our own. No weapons, no transportation, no funding, no backup."
"BUT WHY?!" Scott cried, for once ignoring the searing pain in his side. This time, it was Michael who spoke up, his accent clipped and full of shame.
"The one person who was never given a proper job title. The one person who made no significant impact to the plot nor befriended any main characters. The one person who, in another life, the audience never really cared about cuz he wasn't given a backstory...and when he died, many audience members were left thinking, 'Who?'"
"GET TO THE POINT, MIKEY!" Scott huffed as his side throbbed in pure agony.
"Baxter. It was Baxter."
And so it was that fragile Cheeto Baxter ousted Section 20, leaving Sir Sergeant Michael Stonebridge, Honorary Knight Damien Scott, Colonel Eleanor Grant, Major Oliver Sinclair, kickass agents Julia Richmond and Kim Martinez and father-daughter duo Leo and Esther Kamali left to fend for themselves.
"So we really do have nothing!" Scott glowered. "Only a few handguns between us and the clothes on our back!" He frowned at this last statement and glanced at his humiliating hospital nightie. "We DO have extra clothes…right?" The production team felt slightly guilty and threw him a bag of clothes, the shirt suspiciously missing from the pile.
Two days was plenty of time for Scott's Strike Back invincible bod to recover from said bullet wound and he was effectively cleared for duty. The Section 20 agents left via helicopter to their new HQ. Grant snuck another pin on her Strike Back pinterest board before addressing the ragtag group.
"As you know, Baxter's taken over all of our technology, weapons, resources and safe houses. He's probably already found the secret tea stash we kept by the C4 table!" A chorus of British angst filled the cockpit. "We've lost use of our comms and this flying tin can is the only source of transportation we have in the sky. From here on out, we are very much on our own."
"Not only that, Locke's body was never recovered at Mt Vesuvius," Sinclair said from his place at the helm. "But that's probably not relevant to anything so forget I mentioned it."
"But if back stabby stab Baxter knows all of our intel, where in Project Dawn are we gonna find somewhere to hunker down and figure out our next move?" Martinez said, being careful to hide the spare muscle shirt deep in her bag out of her knight's dazzling eyes. If she played her cards right, maybe she'd get her wish and he'd remain shirtless the rest of his beautiful, bare-chested life.
"We're going back to where it all began," Kamali said cryptically.
"Lahore, Pakistan?" Stonebridge asked.
"Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia?" Scott asked, at the same time as his partner.
"No, you idiots! The Marksman's waterpark! It's the last place Baxter will think to look!"
"Don't question it! To the waterpark!" Grant ordered. The rest of the plane ride was filled with cheers. Meanwhile, Baxter, armed in black Kevlar, sat alone at the previous HQ, with Scott and Stonebridge's confidential files spread out across the stainless steel table before him. His cell phone rang with the catchy theme song and he answered it with swag, pausing to sip on a freshly brewed cup of Oprah's chai tea, the hidden treasure among Grant's top-secret tea stash.
"Took you long enough. Is everything set?" Baxter asked, thrumming his fingers against the side of the table. The answer was satisfactory and he smirked. "Good. Now, assemble the rest of your men. When the time comes we must be ready to shed the blood of their two finest agents! Do not disappoint me. Baxter out!"