Title: The Offer – Book I in "The Messengers" Trilogy
Disclaimer: Gees, would I love to own them? But nope, you all know who the owners are, and certainly that doesn't include me. I'm just writing for fun :) But to make it official: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Category: CC/All – Post Graduation
Rating: YTEEN, for very occasional language
Summary: Seven months have passed since the gang left Roswell. Now, tired and scared for their latest escape from the Special Unit, they rest in a side rode motel without knowing that danger is, literally, just around the corner. Because someone else wants to catch them, and he has in mind an offer that can make both parties get what they want, or so it may look…
Author's Note: Thank you so much to my wonderful editors, KathyW, RoswieGoof and thetvgeneral to whom I'm eternally indebted for their valuable time and endless corrections. Thank you GIRLS! You are the bestest! ;)
Book 1 - The Offer
Steve Lewis checked his watch again. Three more minutes to start what he had been hired to do. Hiding below the only window of the motel room, he risked breaking his concentration for only two seconds and to watch the stars. It was a clear night by the end of January, and seeing the so familiar constellations for him made him take a deep breath. When the air came out of his lungs, it went like a white poof in front of him. Closing his mouth, he returned his concentration to what he and his other two companions where about to do.
This was the third attempt at taking these… kids to wherever it was that they were going to be taken. He didn't know how old they were, but heck, they couldn't even be older than 22 or something. The reason he and his two friends had been hired for this particular job was because they never asked questions, worked with all the rules that were given, and never said a word afterwards. Besides, the three of them owed a favor to Dave, so it was time for payback. No one wanted to owe anything to him, and they weren't the exceptions.
Still, Steve felt that he hadn't been given all the information he should have known. No surprise there; Dave would only tell them what he felt they should know, things that wouldn't really matter in the long term –or that could be denied, or changed or covered up later- so whatever it was he hadn't told them was because he wasn't sure enough of them. Not that that hurt his feelings either. This job done, and he would never again have to do anything for Dave in his life. At least not out of favors.
When Dave had contacted them a month and a half before, Steve had tried to not seem surprised, because taking his targets just like that –they weren't even in another country, for Pete's sake- wasn't exactly one of Dave's usual favors. So, one easy job to get Dave out off their backs had sounded like heaven.
Except that the job itself hadn't been as easy as he had thought. Which brought him back to why this was the third attempt. There were two specific problems as to why they had failed the past two times, though. First, Steve and company couldn't track them. Dave was the only one who knew where they were, and he had said that they were going to be notified where and when the kids could be take, so Steve had had to be at the ready for five weeks now, and it was getting old. Dave had smiled, with that "I know it all" smile of his, and added that it was okay if they failed a couple of times, but that time was a pressing thing. That they weren't the only ones following these targets –these adolescent targets, for crying out loud- and that they weren't that easy to locate. Apparently, they did know how to hide, but Steve also knew that Dave hadn't counted on five weeks of waiting. It wasn't Steve's fault, or Dave's fault, it had been just a matter of finding the right time and place. And the six sleeping figures in the three motel rooms had done everything they could to not give them the right time or place.
They stay apart for two or three days, Ray had said, Dave's strategist in tracking them down, but they always reunite after that. It's only a matter of time before they choose a motel or a place where they are going to be together and away from too many people.
And if that wasn't bad enough, there was the second problem. One of the few specific rules they had to follow was that the subjects couldn't know that they were being taken. How easy it would have been to use darts in plain daylight, while they were going for lunch or something, but that would alert the others, no matter how fast it was done. Besides, Dave didn't want spectacles for anyone else, anyway.
So, the first time they had tried to do this, they were informed that there was always a sentinel; one of them stayed up till 1:30 a.m., until another took their place, whether the whole group was together or not. That kind of trashed the whole idea of none of them knowing that something was happening, but even if that could be taken care of, that night when they were getting ready to get close to the motel four weeks ago, a snow storm had hit, hard, and that had trashed the whole idea. It would have been impossible to take them out of the motel to anywhere with three feet of snow on the roads and no nearby place to get a helicopter set up. So they had let it pass.
The second time, only three days ago, the FBI had thought it was the perfect time as well. They were still too far away to really know what had happened inside that motel room, and all they had seen was windows being blown, a green light of God knew what, and thirty seconds later, cars started to explode out of the blue as well. It was one hell of confusion, and the six of them had gotten out by a miracle. That night Steve had learned two things: those FBI guys had no style on how to do a covert thing like this one, and that those kids knew how to get out of a trap, even if he wasn't sure how. Which was fine with him, and made him even like the idea that he and his friends should do this as low key as it could get. Whatever those kids had done, they sure as hell could do it again. That also gave him some ideas as to why Dave and the FBI were behind them.
He had been tempted to ask, because he knew this was part of the things he was sure Dave hadn't told them and that they actually should know, but Dave had been worried, really worried –something Steve had never even heard of- and had told them that this time they couldn't afford to fail. Not only because this was their best chance to get their targets unguarded –the kids had left the FBI and were at the edge of losing it because of how close they had been to get caught- but because the FBI was getting better at tracking them. It was a matter of time –a short time indeed- before those idiots without style would get their targets before Steve and company did.
And that, Ray had said turning to look at Dave, would bring itself a whole host of logistical nightmares to get them out of there. So Dave did want these kids one way or the other. Stick to the plan, Ray had added facing them, but if something goes wrong… He hadn't finished, but it was clear that if something went wrong, then they'd have to do this in whatever way was possible. Their creativity and resourcefulness were the other two characteristics of why they had been hired. He only hoped that whatever Dave hadn't told them wasn't going to interfere with whatever they would end up doing.
So here he was, with one minute and twenty seconds before they liberated the special gas that would send the six sleeping beauties inside to a much needed deep sleep. They were so tense you could break a baseball bat in their shoulders, and they wouldn't even flinch. Steve had thought exactly that when he had first arrived at the surrounding areas of the motel and had taken a good look at the rooms. It was a motel at the edge of one of those little cute towns that were on postcards, that always seemed to have their roofs and pines full of snow, no matter what time of the year. A little hideaway from all the city chaos, he guessed. It wasn't all cozy-cozy, but it was neat and clean. Too peaceful for him to like, but it worked perfectly for anyone traveling. Martin, one of his companions, had checked to see how difficult it would be to drill a hole in the wall of their room and found that it would be easy. So, half an hour later, he had joined them to plan out who was going to get what room.
It was close to 2:30 a.m. now, and as Dave had predicted, they were too tired to put a second lookout for the night. Steve didn't blame them. With this cold weather and all stressed up, probably without a decent sleep in months, not to mention no sleep at all in the past three days, who would want to stay in the lookout when you thought no one was out to get you, at least not this night? Perfect.
They had approached the three rooms, two singles and one double all in a row, as quiet as mice, and had positioned themselves under their respective windows. Eight minutes before, the three of them had opened a tiny little hole about six inches above the floor, where they expected to find no obstacle for the gas to enter. Martin's room hadn't had anything on its side under the window, so they had assumed no furniture was going to be there in either of the other motel rooms. And, lucky them, none of them had encountered a problem.
Four, three, two—, Steve introduced the little tube that would carry the gas from its tiny container –it kind of reminded him of those oxygen tanks, just in micro size- into the room and let the valve open. They would have to wait twelve minutes to be sure it had worked. And hell, he hoped it was working. Because if they entered those rooms in twelve minutes and those kids were awake…
Dave had also given them darts with the liquid version of the sedatives. Martin had even joked that why all this fancy stuff. Why, are they allergic or something? We do have our own equipment, you know. But Dave hadn't smiled –which Steve hadn't liked. Whether he liked to owe favors to the guy or not, at least Dave was easy to get along with, and he liked to smile too. And when he hadn't, Steve had known this was something serious. Use what I give you to use and collect your payment afterwards.
Which brought him to the only reason as to why Steve liked to owe Dave a favor. Dave paid, and paid well. Of course, Dave's favors were never easy, but that was why he made sure the best owed him something, and why he also paid for a job well done.
Gosh, those twelve minutes were taking forever.
He had the stupid temptation of getting up and peeking inside from the window to see if his two guinea pigs were falling asleep as the experiment had dictated. But he couldn't do that. Besides, he reminded himself, if it is working or not, they would still look asleep, just not as deep as we hope them to be.
Six minutes had passed by, only six more to wait. In six more minutes they would knock on the doors telling them that there was a possibility of a gas leak. If they were awake, well, then at least Steve and his team would have a cover up story to see that the gas hadn't worked. They would re-group, and ambush the teenagers when they were leaving, because one way or another, they had to be taken this day. And there was also the oh so simple possibility that the gas had actually worked, and none of the kids would actually awake and attend to whoever was knocking on the door.
They hadn't picked their cover up story out the air, either. If the kids were actually in "Morpheus arms" –as a friend of his liked to say referring to the Greek God of sleep- the three of them would continue knocking on the remaining five rooms with the same story. With everybody out and trying to figure out if there was a gas leak or not, paramedics were going to be called –courtesy of Martin's cell phone- and would make a heroes' rescue of the poor inhabitants of rooms 6, 7 and 8 who had had a gas leak while sleeping. Paramedics courtesy of Dave, of course.
Steve checked his watch again. Two more minutes till showtime, he thought. He wasn't a big fan of acting stuff up, but he had learned long ago that it was a very useful skill. Especially in his line of work, where pretending to be someone else was a given. For some strange reason, that brought his thoughts back to his targets. He was thirty-four years old, had joined the Navy after high school, had been a Navy Seal for quite some time, and now he worked on his own, and was called pretty often to do covert operations for people in the government who didn't want anyone else knowing what was going on. It was fine with him, and his bank account as well. He was used to pressure –even liked it- and coming and going without leaving a trace. But that was a life he had chosen. What had these kids done to be in such a situation at such age? Robbed a bank? Blown up a military base? Steve laughed at that one. But seriously, he would have liked to know the background story of the people he was about to put a show on for. He didn't even know their names. He had just looked at gazillions of pictures of each one as individuals. According to Dave, they didn't need to know anything else. Brennan, the third part of this trio, had joked around the first time they had seen them in the distance by labeling the couples as "dark hair, light hair, and mixed up hair", since they had paired up like that. It had been too obvious that out of the six, four were romantically involved. He wondered why the other remaining two weren't.
Brennan and Martin started to get up, and Steve did the same. For one single time, Steve thought as he watched the last seconds of the twelve minute wait go by, could this be an easy catch? Please? At least he had gotten the "dark hair" couple to deal with. He had no envy for Martin who had ended up with the "light hair" pair, since that guy did seem to be a little… edgy. And in the state of mind that they were… Sure enough they were going to smell a trap in here, but Steve, Martin and Brennan would have to play it along. Dave should have come in here and made his offer, Steve thought two seconds before starting to knock on the door to room number 6 like a maniac, 'that' would have been the easiest way to do this.
"Hey! Someone in there? We think there's a gas leak in the motel! Don't turn your lights on!" Steve knocked as hard as he could, and yelled at the top of his lungs. Two seconds after he had started Martin had started with his own door, room 7, shouting pretty much the same thing, followed immediately by Brennan in room 8. Lights in the other rooms started to be turned on –and what was wrong with these people? Didn't they know a spark could be enough for an explosion?-, but rooms 6, 7 and 8 remained in darkness. People started to get out of rooms 1 and 3, and lights were just being turned on in room 5, right the next one to where he was. Apparently, the guests in room 2 where as deeply asleep as he hoped his targets were, or there just weren't any guests to begin with. There was always the possibility that they did have some brains and weren't turning the lights on, one never knew. Room 4 was Martin's, the closest room they had been able to get.
"What's going on?" A man in his middle forties from room three approached the still yelling trio. They all were wearing pants, tennis shoes and thick coats, just making it look like they had been sleeping as well in room 4, and had just come out to warn the rest of the people in the motel. Steve hadn't liked the idea of not having any kind of weapons with them, but they couldn't take any chances. The little gas tank was well hidden in an inner pocket. The man who had approached didn't suspect anything was off. Now, if only everyone would believe that, they would be just fine.
"There's a gas leak in our room. We have just smelled it, and we didn't want to take any chances with anyone else."
"Gas leak? Are you sure? I didn't smell anything in my room", a woman in her early thirties, still trying to put her sweater on from room five added to the now growing crowd of motel guests. The owner of the motel, whose room was beside room number one, came out as well.
Martin approached him, with a terrible worry in his eyes. "Are there people in those rooms? I think I smelled gas in there as well"
"What? Gas leak? I haven't had problems with gas leaks ever!"
"Man, that's beside the point. Are there people in there? Because no one is answering, and it does smell like gas in there."
Of course, Dave's gas had that particular smell, it was just fainter. In fact, this whole circus had been Ray's idea from the beginning, and Steve, Martin and Brennan had played it along. It was a weird plan, but so far, an effective one. The ironic part was that, all this acting and coordination and stuff was never going to be known by the only six people for whom it had been made.
"Yes, there are people in there. Two in each room, young couples, I think."
"Open their rooms, I'm calling the paramedics"
As Martin started talking with the "operator", the man from room three started to try to trash the door of room six, trying to get the people inside out of the lethal gas. The owner of the motel returned to his own room to get the keys.
"But I don't get it," the woman from room five said while her two teenage sons waited in her car, just in case something did go off. If it had been a real gas leak, people shouldn't be so damn close to these rooms, Steve thought while trying to help the man from room three to tear down the room to his own couple. "If there was a leak in your room, why would there be a gas leak in any other room? In fact, why there wasn't in mine? I'm in between of you and them."
Great, a smart lady.
"Maybe it was just pure luck, or bad coincidence for us", Brennan answered right before he broke into room number 7. The Paramedics' sirens started to be heard in the distance.
Steve braced himself to hear someone shouting or Brennan being kicked out of the room or something –that was, after all, the light hair couple room-, but nothing happened. Another woman from room one entered as well to help Brennan with the two persons inside. Martin hung up his cell phone as Steve and the man from room three finally broke into room six. It hadn't passed unnoticed to Steve that it had been harder than he had thought it would be, since they had checked the doors before –at least the one from their room- and it hadn't seemed… solid to them. Of course, he would never know that the door knobs were melted from the inside.
Steve saw the motel owner running towards room eight, the last room that hadn't been opened -apparently there hadn't been anyone at all in room two- and then he directed his attention to his targets while he entered their room in a hurry. He was caught off guard by what he saw. In the years to come, Steve Lewis would look back at this specific moment and think that that was exactly the way a couple should always look. That he had been witness, or more likely an intruder, into the private world of these two persons.
The couple was peacefully sleeping, with the covers up to her shoulders and his upper chest, she dressed in a thick pajama with long sleeves and he with a plain gray t-shirt. She was resting her head over his left shoulder, her chocolate hair framing her face and cascading down to the pillow below her, with her left hand resting over his chest, as near to his heart as it could get. His left arm was embracing her in a protective way over the covers, almost as if he were afraid that someone might steal her if he made the mistake of leaving her unguarded. Whatever these young people were being chased for –he couldn't call them teenagers again- it couldn't be worth it. If they looked so in love while sleeping, how could they do anything wrong or at least wrong enough for so many people chasing them? His eyes caught a glimmer from the young man's left hand, and Steve's eyes opened a little bit. They were married? How old were they again? What have they had to endure to be married so young? These days kids didn't get married, they just hooked up and that was it. But then again, they didn't seem like kids to him anymore.
"You are right, it does smell like gas", the woman from room five entered –the smart lady- shattering his musings about the why his targets were being chased and were also married. The room did smell like gas, but most importantly, the gas had worked. And if he didn't start moving fast and get out of there, it was going to work on him as well.
The ambulances were just parking outside and Steve saw how Martin was carrying the young blond lady out of room seven.
"We have to get them out of here," the woman said moving to the side of the young brunette woman as he moved to the opposite side of the bed. It might had been his imagination, but Steve was sure that when he and the guest of room number five had started to disentangle them after taking the covers off of them, they both had frowned slightly, as if they were sensing that they were being separated.
Two "paramedics" –although Steve had no doubt these people did know about medicine- entered the room and ordered them to get outside. Steve met with Martin and Brennan in front of the room, while all the guests watched with worry and sleepy faces how six other guests were being taken to the hospital in the three ambulances that so conveniently had been near by. He watched from the outside how his own two targets were put on the stretchers and were being checked out. Odd. Sure, the paramedics knew it wasn't real gas so they could take a little time to do the check outs inside the room, but why taking all this care to see if their vitals were all right now? Was Dave afraid that his gas wasn't as harmless as he thought? And people, if you don't hurry getting the hell out of there, not only you are going to start falling asleep, but these other people are going to start suspecting. It had seemed like an eternity to Steve the time that they took to finally get out of the room and into the ambulances, but in fact the whole thing hadn't taken more than two minutes. Brennan and Martin's targets had also been checked before being moved into their own transportation.
Later on, Steve knew, the "gas company" would arrive and then would take care of all the belongings of their no longer targets. People would be told to move out in case of some serious trouble –in fact, people were actually already moving fast to get out of there. What would happen to the owner of the motel and all that, was beyond Steve's knowledge –or care- but as he saw the last ambulance disappear up the road, he only wished that his dark-haired couple would be married for a long time. They sure had seemed to deserve it.
Ray Barlow glanced in the side mirror to confirm that the other two ambulances were still behind him. They had gone silent a couple of miles after leaving the motel. No point in attracting unwanted attention now that things finally seemed to be going their way.
They had been watching these kids for close to two years now. To know that two of them where comfortably sleeping in the back of the ambulance he was driving was a weird feeling. He wasn't relieved, not yet, because there was still too much at stake and too many unknown variables to know if Dave's plan would work in the long term, but he was glad. Glad they were now in their hands. The Special Unit was planning on taking them on the road around 6 a.m. that same day. Ray had found out about that just an hour before. If Steve and his friends hadn't been able to get them…
Steve and his friends. They already knew too much, if only because they knew Dave had a very special interest in their targets, but Ray would have to trust them –just as Dave did- and in the fact that they would keep their mouths shut. If Ray had worked for anyone else, he knew those three wouldn't see the dawn of this day. Actually, if Dave didn't trust them, Ray reflected, it could very well end like that all the same. But this was Dave, and because of who he was and how he did things, people respected him. People worked hard to earn his trust, and to remain in his trust as well. And not only people like Steve and his friends, but more dangerous, skillful and greedy people. Besides, like Dave always said, "It can all be changed, denied or covered up, Ray. Chill out." Dave could have one of the brightest minds on the planet, but he still talked like a child. He just doesn't care, Jake would say, he's an Aquarius. He'll never care what other people think, including what they think about his way of talking. Ray rolled his eyes at his imaginary dialogue with his imaginary co-worker. He had been spending way too much time with the good doctor lately, and that obsession of his with astrology was getting on his nerves. Ray liked good, hard facts, things that were tangible, measurable, or studied in any way. In that aspect, Ray sounded more like a doctor than Jake did.
But Jake was the science whiz, and the good, hard fact of alien life was soundly asleep less than three feet behind him. They were tangible, measurable and not all that easy to study. Ray had never been happier in his life that he was plain simple human Ray. But that was beside the point. In the two years that he had known about them, he had learned to respect them.
The first time he had seen them –or a part of the group, anyway- they had been studying for finals. Finals. It had been the strangest thing for him to see them acting so normal, so preoccupied, and concentrate on actually studying to graduate. Why would they need a diploma, anyway? They had gathered up information about the subjects, everything they could put their hands on, and he had read it all. In fact, he knew more about these kids concerning on how everyone else viewed them than any one else on this planet, except, of course, Dave. And even though a lot of things didn't add up, when he had first seen them after a year and a half of just reading and seeing pictures about them, he had expected something else. He wasn't sure what, but stressing about finals hadn't been it.
Still, they were a tight knot, a unit by all means, for as long as they had shared their own little secret. There were incredible gaps in what they had done for months, changes in the dynamics of the group, and with their families. Things so out of character –like robbing a convenience store for no apparent purpose at all- that he was soon as hooked up in the puzzle that were these kids as Dave was. There were so many questions Dave was always asking out loud, that sometimes Ray thought that his friend was going to knock on their doors, sit down, and simply start asking them to their faces. He was sure Dave had thought about that too. But Dave wasn't a… bringer, Ray thought absently. Dave didn't get the informants to headquarters. He had messengers to gather all he wanted to know and still keep a safe distance, if not the whole anonymity, with whatever he was studying. But something had changed.
Sure, the fact that suddenly the Special Unit was reformed again and trying to shoot at them on their graduation day –and to think they had studied and stressed that hard, Ray had thought sadly for a brief second- was one of the things, but something else had happened, it was just that Dave hadn't said anything about whatever that had been. It was as if watching them had gone from a hobby to a duty. They had lost them since the graduation day and it had taken them nearly two months to find them again. That was impressive, especially with Dave's resources. It was even more impressive when they had kept losing their trail for days, often for weeks, and three months ago for a whole month. They moved fast, and they moved quietly, but they were no professionals, they didn't know how to live with the pressure of being hunted day after day. Not like this, anyway. Eventually, they were going to make a huge mistake, and the Special Unit was waiting for that.
For those months, Dave had been indecisive about whether or not to bring them aboard. It was as if he were trying to see how dangerous they really were. But aliens or no aliens, they were acting like teenagers. The Special Unit wouldn't have had to wait too long.
Still, whatever they were, they were loyal to each other. And that Ray respected a lot. He was sure they would never abandon anyone, and if it came to it, they would die defending each other as well.
"How far are we?" one of the paramedics, John, asked him while he sat in front with him. Actually, of the six paramedics only three were actual paramedics. The rest were very certified doctors. Ray never ceased to wonder of the variety of people that owed Dave a favor.
"We are about twenty minutes from the landing area. Why? Is there a problem?"
"No, everything is fine. I'm just curious. And a little bit anxious I guess… I don't like flying all that much."
Yeah, but once you see your bank account, I'm sure you are going to be more than happy about having taken that flight, Ray thought silently. He knew John didn't like flying, but he also knew the paramedic didn't have a phobia about it either. He would do fine; otherwise, he wouldn't have been cleared out for this mission.
John started to fidget beside him. Ray knew the guy was being eaten up with a thousand questions about why would they snatch six teenagers out of a motel room, go through all the problems with the gas leak story, hire actual paramedics and doctors to take them from the ambulances to an improvised heliport in the middle of nowhere, for a flight to the other middle of nowhere in Minnesota. Especially when the only thing he had to do was to just watch their vitals. Of course, if something did happen to any of the six kids, then they would have to do something more than just watch, but chances were –as they hoped- very low on that "something" happening. Well, sorry John, no answers in here for you.
John started talking about the Super Bowl, and Ray easily went with the conversation for the remaining twenty minutes of the drive. If John wanted to pretend everything was fine, he was doing a good job. He had stopped fidgeting and apparently he had decided that whether or not he wanted some answers, there was nothing he could do to get them. It was amazing how people forgot about other people when it was more convenient. After all, for all John knew, they could very well be kidnapping these kids for ransom, but that, of course, wasn't John's problem. Besides, if morality was a real problem for John –and it wasn't much for most of the people who owed Dave something- he could always tell himself that Dave wasn't that kind of guy. Or gave himself a pep talk or something.
Ray always thought that when he was traveling with someone who was working for Dave for one mission only. What did these guys think about Dave? A terrorist? An opportunist? A business man? A guardian angel? Most of them were like Steve. People who were hired for even weirder things that they just didn't question, or didn't question out loud anyway, or that just simply didn't care. And that was perfectly fine with Ray. For the right price, you could always get someone to do the job. For the right price and obligation, that "someone" appeared a lot quicker and was a lot more loyal than to just hire anyone for money. Dave knew that. And Ray thought, just like Steve had thought an hour before, that that was why Dave always made sure the best owed him something.
Parking a few feet from the improvised but very neat heliport, Ray watched as everyone was taken down from the ambulances and carefully put inside one of the three red motionless helicopters. Each one would depart twenty minutes or so from the other, flying in three different routes, and getting to the camp around the same hour. If Ray could have had it his way, they would be flying to headquarters in England and not in Minnesota, but Dave hadn't like the idea. They are going to freak out if they are not in the U.S., Dave had said after considering it for a while. They were going to freak out about so many things, Ray didn't see the point, but he hadn't argued any further.
It was still before 4:30 a.m. when Ray boarded the last of the three helicopters, making sure that nothing that mattered was going to be left behind. Before dawn hit the hills, someone was going to take care of the ambulances –around the same time the gas company was going to take care of the three rooms in the motels- and the kids he had watched over the past two years would be gone without a trace. For all the FBI Special Unit was going to know, these helicopters could very well be spaceships taking them to their home planet. Well, maybe not home planet, but it is indeed home to me, Ray thought as the helicopter started to fly through the night sky.