This is the first story in my FAM Au. I created this AU back in the summer of 2001. It was before 9-11 and before we knew as much as we do now about Federal Air Marshals—like the fact that there aren't 'teams' of marshals on flights but in my reality—sure there is! Remember- everything that happens in this is set in 2001- Before the airport security changes, etc.
Disclaimer: The characters of the Magnificent 7 belong to MGM, Trilogy and Mirisch. No profit is being made off this story.
Sky Marshals: Flight 1412
Special Agent Chris Larabee tapped the confidentially marked file in front of him as he listened closely to his commanding officer summarize its contents.
"You're sure we're ready for this kind of threat?" He asked casually when Orrin Travis finished his run down.
Travis looked at him for a moment before answering. "Your team has been active now for three months. I'm getting good reports all around and your previous deployments have been successful."
Chris ran a hand through his short blond hair and shifted in his chair. "There's a big difference between dealing with a couple of irate passengers and a woman going into premature labor, and handling a threat against an international flight."
"True," Orrin agreed, "but your team has great statistics in training. Besides that, you're all we've got."
Chris looked startled, his green eyes widening. "What do you mean?"
"There are only three teams set up for larger flights; you know that. Team Five is out west investigating the flight 880 crash and Team Three is flying into Moscow."
Chris sighed and met Travis' gaze as the older man continued. "This one is yours. Most likely it'll end up being a long uneventful flight, but regardless, I have faith that you and your team can handle it." He glanced down at his watch as he waved Chris towards the door. "Flight leaves tomorrow a.m. and you have qualifying and briefing to get through. Go call in your team."
"I'm telling you, Buck. She ain't going to fall for it." JD Dunne shook his head as he shoved a small handful of french fries into his mouth. He grabbed his drink and took a long sip to wash the fries down while he wiped a salty hand on his jeans. His dark hair fell forward with the action and automatically he reached up and pushed it out of his face again.
Across the vinyl-covered table from him, Buck Wilmington merely smiled and twitched his mustache mischievously. "Just watch and learn, Kid. Look at her smile. She can't resist the 'ole Wilmington charm." Buck winked at the lady in question who blushed and dipped her head to hide her laughter.
"She's laughing at you 'cause you're making a fool out a yourself." JD pointed out, tossing a fry at his roommate.
"Hey now." Buck laughed lightly and took a sip of his drink; wiping the offending fry off the front of his shirt. "You just sit back and watch the master, then we'll see who is laughing when I'm the one out on a date all night."
Before JD could respond, Buck's pager began to chirp, followed immediately by his own. Scowling, Buck ripped the device off his belt and checked the screen. The call back number didn't surprise him but the 911 tag did.
"Guess you're not going on that date after all," JD said, reading his own message.
Vin Tanner spun out of the grip his opponent had wrenched him into and moved stealthily to counter the hold with one of his own.
Around the small run down gym several men had stopped to watch the fight with growing interest. Half-wrestling, half-boxing, it was hard to pin a label on the exercise between the tall African American who looked like he'd actually stepped out of the pro-wrestling ring, and the smaller long haired Caucasian moving with natural ability and grace.
Vin looked up, his blue eyes searching the crowd for the distracting voice. Sensing his opponent moving to take the advantage, he dropped to the mat and rolled, locking his ankles around the larger man's leg and bringing him down.
"What?" Vin panted as he struggled to his feet again.
A muscular redhead shook his head and grinned. "You're being paged," he called out, waving the small beeper above him before tossing it underhanded to Vin.
Vin caught the beeper with one hand and checked the number. "Gotta go, Jack," he said, turning to help his opponent up off the mat.
"Damn, Tanner," Jack groaned as he stretched. "Where'd you learn to fight like that?"
Vin grinned, his eyes flashing mysteriously as he climbed through the ropes. "Around."
Nathan Jackson pulled into the parking lot of a small city mission and turned his car off. He sat for a few moments, unable to suppress a smile as he watched Josiah Sanchez attack a newly painted shutter with a hammer.
Lazily, Nathan pulled himself out of his vehicle and walked toward the larger man. "You ever going to get all the repairs finished on this place?" he asked moving in to hold the shutter in place.
Sanchez laughed deeply and shook his head. "I doubt it. I'm never here long enough to make any real progress. How are you doing today, Brother?"
"I'm fine," Nathan answered, handing a nail to him. Josiah nodded his thanks and, with Nathan stabilizing the shutter, was able to easily fix it in place.
"You enjoying your day off?" Josiah asked after he'd finished hammering. He wiped his forearm across his brow and glanced at his watch, debating whether or not he wanted to take a break.
Nathan opened his mouth to answer when his beeper went off. Josiah chuckled as his own pager sounded, realizing he was done here anyway.
"I was." Nathan smiled, checking the number. "I was."
The crowd surrounding the small felt-lined table was rapidly increasing in size as tourists and regulars alike pressed in to catch a better glimpse of the two seemingly oblivious card players.
Caught in the center of the spectacle, Ezra Standish was far from unaware. His look of relaxed indifference distracted from the reality that he was paying attention to everything around him, most particularly the skinny blond man twitching nervously across from him.
Ezra casually reached up and ran a hand through his light brown hair, his green eyes never wavering from his opponent. He knew he was going to have to end the game soon. Ralph, the casino's owner, didn't mind him using the table on slower days, but cleaning out the man's customers was frowned upon.
Blue eyes flickered up to meet his and Ezra bit back a laugh at the panic he saw. 'Should let the poor kid off the hook,' he thought to himself, wondering simultaneously where the flash of conscience had come from. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ralph approaching, his face pinched in a scowl. Ezra caught the balding man's eye and inclined his head, discreetly signaling that he understood. Before he could formulate a believable excuse for pulling out of the game, however, his beeper went off. The skinny opponent jumped sharply and chuckled with embarrassment as Standish checked the number.
"Perfect," Ezra whispered, out loud he continued. "My apologies, good sir." He scooped up his winnings from the previous hands, leaving plenty of chips to appease both Ralph and the younger man. "I have regrettably, been summoned away," he drawled.
As he walked away, he couldn't help but smile at the crowd's groan of disappointment.
"You're all set, Larabee." The dark haired agent handed Chris a file of evaluations. "They all passed above grade."
"You had any doubts?" Chris asked with a knowing grin.
"Thanks, Dave," Chris called as the agent walked away. Quickly Larabee flipped through the reports, pleased to see the team's fire arms proficiency tested well above normal.
Turning, he entered the briefing room and cleared his throat to get everyone's attention.
"What's up, Chris?" Buck asked first. "We actually have a real 911?"
With a nod, Chris began his report. "We've been assigned to flight 1412 non-stop from JFK to Cairo."
"Cairo, cool," JD commented.
"Was there a specific threat?" Josiah asked.
"Specific to the flight, yes, but not specific as to what the threat is. Teams are going over the plane with dogs tonight and tomorrow before take off. I've got your seat assignments here."
"What time?" Vin asked casting a grin at Standish.
"Flight leaves at 8:10 a.m., transports leave at 5:30."
Ezra groaned, ignoring Vin's soft laughter and a few other chuckles aimed in his direction. He hated mornings.
"That's 5:30 sharp, Ezra," Chris added.
"Understood, Mr. Larabee," Ezra acknowledged with a dramatic sigh.
"How fast can you pull up an intelligence report on Cairo?" Chris addressed Ezra again.
Standish flipped open his laptop and immediately started entering commands. "Cairo itself is politically stable at the moment, but since it borders our favorite hot spot, it leaves us with a plethora of possibilities."
"Religious threats?" Nathan asked.
"Country is 94 percent Muslim so that's a strong possibility," Josiah answered.
"There was no indication of who our perpetrators might be?" Ezra asked looking at Chris for an answer.
"Nope. It was an anonymous tip. Came in through the embassy via routine intelligence reports."
"Any other flights included in threat?" Vin asked, twirling a pen in the center of his file.
"Three others, but we're on the largest of the four."
"Goody for us." Buck said sarcastically.
"You think we're ready for this, Chris?" Nathan asked trying to hide his doubt over the mission. He knew that they were a fairly new group, still working out their differences and getting used to each other.
There was silence for a minute, save the gentle clicking of Ezra's fingers hitting the laptop's keys.
Chris glanced around the room, eyeing each member of his team. "We better be," he answered finally. "Now, Ezra, keep researching any intelligence angles you can find. Call the Egyptian embassy if you need to. Take note of anything that can be construed as a potential threat and work with Vin and Buck on countermeasures. Nathan," Chris turned to the medic. "I need you to make sure your supplies are in ready order and do what you can to brush up on Egyptian law in case we run into problems on the ground over there. Josiah will help you."
Josiah nodded, acknowledging the order.
"JD, run your usual checks on all our communication equipment. Make sure everything is running without problems."
"Right." JD jotted down a couple of checks he wanted to remember to run.
Chris paused and glanced to his right as something caught his attention by the doorway. He looked up and made eye contact with Orrin Travis. With a small nod from the older man, Larabee turned back to his men and continued the briefing.
Orrin Travis couldn't help but wonder as he continued past the glass door of the briefing room, towards his office. It seemed like only a man like Chris Larabee could take control and lead a group of agents like the men of Team Seven. Mentally, Travis ran through each agent's file, shaking his head at the odd assortment of personalities and pasts. Travis could only hope that sharp edges would smooth out and form a cohesive team, though wisdom told him the experience might not be a pleasant one. So far the group had worked well together, but he knew they had yet to be confronted by a major incident. The first real test always proved to be the litmus for the effectiveness of a FAM team in the field, and Travis found himself hoping that this group of strong-willed individuals would pass whatever tests the future had in store for them.
Buck muttered softly under his breath as he shoved his carry-on into the tightly filled compartment above his seat. He scowled briefly and scanned the crowded cabin of the 747-438. "Figures it's overbooked," he muttered again as he took his seat to get out of the way of another harried looking passenger. He glanced at the person to his left and a slow smile transformed his face.
"Morning." He winked.
"Morning." The slim brunette smiled and rolled her eyes slightly at him before turning back to her brand new paperback.
Buck sighed and leaned back, ducking his head just in time to miss getting clobbered by a leather duffle bag.
"Sorry 'bout that." Buck recognized the soft drawl and glanced over his shoulder as Vin continued down the aisle.
"Sure you are," Buck mumbled, settling back in his seat and adjusting his legs.
"Happens all the time during boarding," the woman next to him commented with out looking up from her book.
Buck caught himself from saying something sarcastic and refocused on the woman again. Her heart shaped face was partially hidden behind her hair as she read.
"I'm Buck," he introduced, extending a hand in greeting.
"Korine." She looked up at him, her large brown eyes filled with hesitation, but she shook his hand in a firm grip anyway.
"Fly here often?" Buck wiggled an eyebrow as he asked, resulting in a soft cascade of giggles from Korine.
"I can't believe you just asked me that," she said, shaking her head slightly. "Nice to meet you, Buck."
Buck opened his mouth to say more and realized that Korine had already turned her attention to her book.
"Give it up, Buck," JD's voice tickled his ear and he had to resist the urge to adjust the miniscule flesh-toned device hidden in his ear. Unable to respond without looking like a lunatic, he simply tapped a finger nail casually across the top button of his shirt and smiled at the resulting hiss. "Owww, BUCK!"
"Kid must be sitting alone up there." Buck thought, he couldn't see the stairway from his seat, but knew that JD had been assigned a seat in the upper level business class section, where his laptop and various electronics wouldn't call as much attention. The location also allowed the Kid easier contact with the cockpit.
Buck glanced at his watch, noting it was getting closer to take-off. One of the most vulnerable times of the flight, equaled only by the dangers of landing. And the only time of the flight when the team was completely cut off from each other with no communication.
Buck shifted and looked around again, ignoring the impulse to pull out his laptop. They'd only make him put it away until they were in the air anyway. He adjusted his long legs and, making sure there was no one coming, stuck one foot out into the aisle. He was going to have to kill Ezra for this. That first class ticket was supposed to be his. One of these days he was going to figure out how Ezra always managed to goad him into a losing bet. And where the hell had Ezra picked up Swahili anyway? Was there a language that that man didn't speak?
A soft bell chimed and a flight attendant moved past, ducking slightly as a small monitor descended from the ceiling and came alive with the safety instructions for the flight. There was a soft deadening of sound as his earpiece switched off, and Buck felt a sudden heaviness, a momentary panic at being cut off from the others that dissipated as quickly as it had appeared.
Ezra stretched easily in the soft leather seat and glanced quickly around the first class compartment. It was full like the rest of the plane and yet each passenger sat comfortably in his or her own seat, not at all crowded or smashed into a space half the size it should be. Ezra shook his head, overhearing the brief interaction between Buck and JD over his earpiece. Buck was bitter. "It's his own fault though," Ezra thought to himself. "He's the one that keeps taking the bait."
A flight attendant stopped next to his seat, and Ezra heard the passenger across the aisle from him order a drink. His breathing froze as he recognized the faint British accent, and he waited tensely for the attendant to move out of the way so he could confirm his fear. The passenger was a large man, built like a pro football linebacker. Ezra immediately recognized the dark brown hair and square, scarred jaw line. "Dear Lord," he muttered under his breath, just as his communications unit went silent, disorienting him almost as much as the man who was now looking at him and smirking.
"Been a long time, Standish." Brown eyes narrowed, scrutinizing him.
"Not long enough, Rogers." Ezra kept his voice calm and face stoic as the plane began to accelerate down the runway.
"See you must have found another line of work." Lance Rogers pointed out, waving a hand around to indicate the cabin. "Even flying first class now."
"I manage." Ezra bit back a stronger retort, thankful for the distraction of the plane's engines roaring as the plane began its ascension.
"I'm sure." Rogers' grinned knowingly and sat back in his seat, further ignoring Ezra.
Ezra turned to the window on his left and gazed out at the cloud filled sky, thankful this time that his communication with the team was still cut off. He wondered what powers that be had taken an extraordinary interest in making his life hell and what was so damned entertaining about trapping him on an eleven-hour flight across the aisle from someone like Rogers. He almost wished it wasn't too late to switch seats with Buck.
The plane began to level out over the clouds, and Ezra stared out at the surrounding whiteness seeing only the cascade of all too recent memories run through his mind. He closed his eyes, a vain effort to block them and wondered what his team's reaction would be to whatever trouble Rogers was bound to create.
His worry almost made him laugh out loud. It was ironic enough to find himself on a team at all but here he was part of FAM7. When he'd been forced out of the National Security Agency, he'd promised himself he would never depend on anyone else again. He'd depended on those around him in the Agency and all it had gained him was the label "spy" and a handful of unproven accusations about his loyalty to his country. The men he'd relied on to back him up stepped aside and let him take on the role of scapegoat. His transfer to the FAA was approved only after an anonymous threat had turned into a physical assault and it was obvious he couldn't stay with the Agency any longer.
Even the FAA had been tentative though. It was only Orrin Travis that had kept Ezra on and placed him in security as a special agent. Ezra still hadn't figured out why Travis was so interested in him; everywhere he went the question, "is he trust worthy?" seemed to resonate around him. Why would Travis want him, let alone ask him to volunteer for FAM?
Ezra sighed heavily and shifted as he heard his earpiece come back on. He noted absently that the pilot had turned off the seatbelt light as well. He heard JD answering questions and realized a fellow passenger must have been asking about the equipment. He smiled hearing JD give the response he and Josiah had come up with. Ezra knew he would be there for this new team of strangers that he was now forced to work with. He'd do his job to the best of his ability and back them when needed, but he wasn't about to rely on them. He'd made that mistake one too many times in his life and it was about time he learned from it.
JD grinned as the flight attendant, Melanie, signaled him to go ahead with his set up. He bobbed his head in a nod and quickly fired up the system. He was thankful that even in a crowded plane, somehow he was left with an empty seat beside him. He easily hooked up the equipment and made sure he had a signal from everyone. Keying the commands into the computer he was somewhat startled when the passenger across the aisle leaned closer.
"That's a lot of equipment." The older man pointed out. His blue eyes filled with curiosity.
"Yeah," JD answered, trying to stay as vague as possible. He loved technology and part of him wanted to just jump into the explanations of what everything was and did, but he held back.
"What's it all for?" The man asked.
"What's it for?" JD repeated the question and frowned as he heard Vin's soft chuckle. "It's for tests actually." He quickly jumped into the cover story that Ezra and Josiah had helped him come up with. "I work for the FAA, testing different communication equipment to see how it works in flight."
The man's eyes widened with surprise and some worry. "Is that safe?" he asked.
"Sure." JD nodded, pushing his bangs out of his face as he did. "We only design stuff that we know is not going to interfere with any of the plane's systems. There's no doubt about safety. We just have to see if it works within those necessary parameters."
"Oh, I see," The man said, sitting back in his seat again.
JD laughed lightly, knowing full well that the man was still clueless. He figured the man had him pegged for a teenager until he'd said he worked for the FAA. One of these days, JD maintained, he was going to look his age. He'd almost not gotten a spot on FAM7 because of his youth, but he had the required experience and he knew his job well. Larabee still had his doubts, JD knew that much. But he also knew the doubts were based out of lack of in the field experience, not lack of knowledge itself. Chris trusted him fully with the communication equipment; he just didn't like the fact that running communications always left JD in one of the most dangerous spots on the plane—right outside the cockpit.
JD shivered with the knowledge that if someone was going to take over the plane they would go for the cockpit first, and there he was, the only agent standing in the way. Chris had been almost harsh with his command that no matter what happened around the cockpit or pilot, JD was to stand down until another agent could back him up. JD's responsibility was to maintain agent communication at all costs. JD wasn't sure which he would have preferred, the directive to go at a terrorist in hand to hand, or trying to hide his equipment and monitor it sufficiently enough to keep communication open.
Vin smiled to himself and shifted in his crowded row as the plane leveled out and the seatbelt sign dinged off. He didn't like takeoffs or landings much, but he was continually thankful he'd at least outgrown his childhood malady of motion sickness. He might be able to fly now but he still doubted he'd ever be able to ride a carousel again. He couldn't help but chuckle softly as he heard JD respond to some passenger's question. He remembered the first time they went up as a team, Ezra asking JD if he had a story in mind in case someone questioned his equipment. JD looked confused for a minute but then Josiah and Ezra had ironed it one out for him in no time at all.
Relaxing back in his seat, as much as was possible, Vin easily observed the passengers around him. From his seat he could just see Buck about six rows in front of him. Josiah was behind him somewhere, Chris and Nathan were both in the lower deck business sections and JD was up top, leaving Ezra in first class. Vin wondered absently how it was that Ezra always managed to finagle a first class seat?
Around him, there was an interesting mix of passengers, each stranger forced into the personal space of another and doing their best to remain aloof and distant. Three people crammed into the row in front of him, and yet no one had said more than hello to the other. His own row included a man and woman who were traveling together, content to ignore him and the rest of the plane.
Vin wondered to himself it they were going to keep up their displays of affection through out the flight. He could only imagine explaining that one to Chris. 'Sorry Cowboy, I missed the whole 'there's a bomb on the plane' thing. I was distracted by Romeo and Juliet's efforts to join the mile high club.' Forget Larabee's response, Buck would never let him hear the end of it.
He watched as the flight attendants for his section of the plane wrestled a food trolley down the narrow aisle, preparing to hand each passenger an orange juice and packaged danish. His stomach rumbled quietly, reminding him that he was hungry and he tried to ignore the fact that Ezra had just ordered Eggs Benedict.
Glancing around the cabin, Vin tensed suddenly as a feeling of unease swept over and settled on him. "Got a bad feeling." He murmured just loud enough to be sure the other's heard. He saw Buck sit up a little straighter in his seat and heard a soft "um hmm" of affirmation from Josiah. They could feel it too; he was sure. He only hoped that for once, his bad feeling would turn out to be nothing more than a feeling.
Chris leaned back in his seat and waited patiently as a red haired flight attendant named Julie cleared away the remains of his breakfast. He knew he should have eaten more of the fresh fruit mixture, but since Vin's soft comment, his tension levels had skyrocketed.
There was a natural ease about Tanner's ability to read people and situations that made Chris confident in the man's instincts. He'd been around long enough himself to pick up on the subtle atmospheric unease around him.
Julie moved on and Chris flipped the tray back into its upright position. A Business News Today magazine poked out of the seat pocket but he chose to ignore it. Beside him, a short balding executive had already shrugged out of his suit coat and was typing away at a report on his laptop.
Chris sighed softly and pinched the bridge of his nose, his thoughts floundering as he scanned the cabin again. He shifted; the pressure at the small of his back reminding him that his weapon was still there. It was not the most comfortable way to spend an eleven-hour flight, but he'd found that shoulder holsters tended to be more noticeable. He reached up and turned up the cool air, aiming it directly at him then adjusted his casual suit jacket and tried to look uninterested as he carefully studied the passengers around him.
He was seated in the smallest business class section of the plane, right behind the main galley. He hated the limited view. It left him feeling blind and hampered, but he knew the position allowed him the best chance of sneaking into the galley and then upstairs, if he needed to.
Quickly he began to run possible scenarios through his mind again. There were so many that it seemed overwhelming for a moment but he knew that his team was very well trained. They were just new to working together. His nerves continued to remind him that even though they were prepared for anything and everything…up until now they hadn't had to do anything more than be prepared.
He listened intently, singling out the sounds from each of his agents. It had taken him awhile to get used to the communication system that the FAM teams used. The first few training missions had left him with horrible headaches from trying to process all the input at once. It helped that the systems were designed to pick up sounds only in close proximity to each agent and over time Chris had learned to filter. Thankfully his agents had all learned that constant jabbering was not a good thing. He was pretty sure he was not the only man who'd needed to adjust to the system.
He smiled. It sounded like Buck and JD were playing a video game that JD had managed to rig up between their laptops. Buck's occasional cursing telling him that JD was winning. Though it might have sounded like his agents were completely caught up in the game, Chris knew that they were paying close attention to what was going on around them.
Vin, Nathan and Ezra were all quiet at the moment, although Nathan had been talking earlier. It seemed the Doc had ended up seated next to an elderly hypochondriac. Chris was somewhat concerned about Ezra's silence. Even the southerner's interactions with the flight attendant were subdued. Usually Standish oozed with charm when dealing with the flight staff but Chris had been around him just enough to know that something was wrong now. Nothing major, or else Ezra would have found a way to alert the others; this was different. Something had caused Ezra to put his walls up higher than normal and Chris swore he'd heard the man mutter 'dear lord' earlier.
Chris' thoughts turned from Ezra to Josiah as he heard the big man begin to describe the Peace Corps to someone. Sanchez had spent almost five years with the corps and if they knew the man was still such a devoted recruiter, they'd have put him on a payroll by now. Larabee listened as Sanchez described Mexico City as if he'd just been there yesterday and mused a moment over the men of his team.
He still wasn't sure what had motivated CO Travis to put such an eclectic bunch together but part of him hoped it worked out. The other part wanted to run away at full speed. He could feel the bonds between the seven of them strengthening every day they worked together and he wasn't sure he was ready to actually care about someone else again. If he was honest with himself he knew it was already too late. He just hoped he was ready for whatever came their way.
Nathan bit back a groan as he heard the lady next to him begin to inhale. He knew it was coming; she was going to ask him another question. Quickly he stood and moved down the aisle toward the restroom. He just couldn't handle another question from that woman. What in the world had possessed him to admit he was a paramedic in the first place? Oh right…his cover was that he was going to an international medical conference for further training.
Shaking his head he slipped into the unoccupied little room and closed the door behind him. "Two minutes, JD." he said quietly and smiled when his earpiece turned off. He looked at himself in the mirror and wondered what good it did to signal JD for privacy when the signal itself gave away his intentions to the entire team. He shrugged; it was better than the team listening to the whole process he supposed.
His wire came back on just as he was stepping back out of the restroom. He took a deep breath, trying to prepare himself again for Mrs. Swertfager. He didn't know if he could handle another handful of way too personal questions dealing with her current state of health. Maybe by the time he got back to his seat she would be caught up in a novel or maybe he could pull out one of his medical journals and pretend to be caught up in an article. With his luck, though, the graying little woman would probably start drilling him with questions about the article.
Nathan made a point not to look in Chris' direction as he turned the opposite way and headed back to his seat. His brown eyes swept the cabin quickly then settled on a man seated at the front of the cabin. The man looked over his shoulder and caught Nathan's gaze. There was coldness in the stranger's dark eyes. A chill darted up Nathan's spine and as he took his seat he whispered "S- one."
Josiah looked up in surprise when he heard the code from Nathan. S-one was simply a 'suspicious' character alert for the rest of the team. They usually had one on every flight; someone who just set wrong on their radar, but Nathan had never used the S-one alert before. With a higher level of concentration, Josiah watched the passengers around him.
The young man next to him had listened politely as he'd spoken about Mexico City and the Peace Corps but eventually the youth's eyes had glazed over with the look Josiah recognized as polite tolerance. The kid was bored with him, so Josiah had ended his story swiftly and pretended to be caught up in the movie playing on the video monitors.
Now, as he looked around, he catalogued the passengers with a closer eye. It didn't escape his notice that a middle-aged man, not much smaller than himself, was signaling the flight attendant for yet another drink. The man was three rows up and five seats over from him, but Josiah could clearly hear the gruff tones being used to address the man he knew as Bill. Though Bill was only about JD's size, he was holding his own against the other passenger's verbal abuse. Josiah decided that he would hold off on any alerts to the others. There was little they could do in this situation anyway since they had been strictly instructed not to get involved with disgruntled passengers unless it escalated to the point that the flight crew requested assistance.
Josiah leaned back in his seat again reassured that for now, there were no problems in his section of the plane. He'd just started to relax when he was surprised by a harsh question directed at Ezra.
"So you like your new job Standish?" Rogers' hostile voice jolted Ezra out of his quiet thoughts. Turning slightly in his seat to face Rogers better, he glared at his former friend.
"It's satisfactory," he replied managing to keep his voice even.
"I'm surprised anyone would hire you. I mean with your history and all." The insinuation in Rogers' voice was obvious.
Ezra kept his face expressionless. "Let it go Rogers." He knew the rest of his team was listening by this point, hearing every implication against his character. It was bad enough that they knew about his tainted past, he didn't need Rogers spelling the details out for them.
"What's the matter, Ezra? Truth hurt?" Rogers bit out in a loud snarl.
"I'll let you know when I hear some," Ezra replied bitterly. He heard the light laugh from JD and thought maybe that it was Chris who had growled out a soft curse. He felt like a kid on the schoolyard, trading taunts with the local bully. He cast a glance around the first class section before turning back toward the window and tried to ignore the other man. He'd have to talk to Chris about seating on the next flight. It wasn't easy to observe the entire cabin when he was in the second seat from the front.
Chris frowned as he listened to the man Ezra had called Rogers harass his agent with questions. What were the chances that Ezra would end up on the same flight as someone he knew? Ezra had a hard enough time letting his teammates get to know him without someone throwing his past in his face while they were listening. Rogers might not be aware he had an audience, but Ezra certainly was. Chris cursed softly when Ezra effectively cut the man off and ended the short conversation. He could hear the strain in his agent's voice. Damn, they didn't need this now. Ezra needed to be focused on this flight not on memories from his ruined NSA career.
Larabee shook his head slightly, ignoring the look from the passenger beside him. He was familiar with Standish's file, the facts of it anyway. He'd read the accusations and the investigative reports, had scoured them thoroughly as soon as he knew Standish was going to be assigned to his team. He'd found nothing that came close to proving that Ezra had ever sold out any in-field agents and neither had the NSA investigators, but that hadn't stopped the agency from destroying the man professionally. It had come down to Ezra accepting Orrin Travis' offer to transfer to the FAA or being fired. Chris still didn't know why Ezra had accepted the transfer, but Standish had worked well as a special agent for the Civil Aviation Security division for a year before joining the FAM7 team. Even though FAM teams were all made up of volunteers, Chris suspected that Travis had had a lot to do with Standish being placed on Team 7.
Glancing at his watch Chris wondered exactly how much trouble this Rogers was going to stir up. This could end up being a very long flight.
"Interesting game?" Buck looked up at Korine's question and immediately was shot by JD, his last space ship dissolving behind a large blinking 'game over' message.
"Damn, um oh yeah, sorry," he sputtered as he flipped the laptop closed. He could hear JD laughing softly and swore he'd get even with the kid later.
"Didn't look like you were doing too well there." Korine smiled as she brushed a strand of hair back behind her ear.
"How could I concentrate on the game with such a beauty sitting beside me?" Buck asked easily, smiling as Korine rolled her eyes. "You're not buying that one are you?"
Korine shook her head. "Not really."
The man sitting on the other side of Korine just shook his head and kept his nose in his magazine. 'Smart man,' Buck thought. He wasn't about to tell Korine he had actually been distracted by a conversation happening in first class.
"So, what is a grown man doing playing computer games anyway?" Korine asked as she ran a thumb over the edge of her book, fanning the pages.
"Why not?" Buck grinned. "I test games for a living. You know, research their marketability, handle focus groups, etc." He counted at least four different laughs from his earpiece but pointedly ignored them.
Korine raised an eyebrow, obviously unsure whether to believe him or not. Before she could voice her doubts however, Buck cut in with a question of his own.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a reporter." Korine answered easily.
"Really?" Buck wasn't sure why her answer surprised him.
"Yeah, don't tell me you've never seen me on TV?" Korine tilted her head to the side as she waited for his reply. The man on the other side of her chuckled softly.
"Uh…" Searching for an answer, Buck missed the flash of mischief in her eyes. "No, I haven't."
Korine laughed and shook her head. "Probably because I haven't been on the air yet. I'm on my first assignment with the Time news Channel. This is Dan, my cameraman." She winced, realizing how sing song the introduction had sounded.
Dan grimaced as he looked up and nodded at Buck but there was humor in his eyes as he added, "It's Daniel."
"I can see why." Buck shook the blonde's hand and settled back in his seat while Korine went on to describe the feature she was doing on the pyramids.
Now that Buck seemed to be distracted by the reporter, the game was just not holding JD's interest. Smiling to himself, he puttered with the settings on his computer. Well, the team's computer actually, but JD viewed the Roughrider I Series as his own. He ran a hand over the dark aluminum casing and sighed contentedly, then laughed remembering Buck's crass innuendo about his 'unnatural' relationship with the computer. JD shook his head; the thing was worth every penny of the $8000 plus price tag and could do almost anything. Anything except what Buck liked to insinuate or run for an unlimited amount of time on one battery. Glancing at his watch, he debated a moment, calculating the length of the flight in his head, before deciding to go ahead and put a new battery into the system.
From the empty seat beside him, JD picked up a small box that looked like a mini mixing board. Carefully he double- checked the machine, making sure that the channel was set to the one that had been pre-approved by the pilot before the flight. JD hated using the antiquated system. It was so much easier to control the entire set-up from the laptop where he could fine-tune the volume levels and give the others privacy whenever they needed it. The back-up plan gave them the rudimentary ability to communicate and nothing more, though JD figured in a crisis that would be better than nothing.
"Battery change," he warned as he switched everyone over to the backup program. Immediately he noticed more background noise over his own receiver. Quickly and efficiently, JD went through the process of changing the machine's battery and within minutes he had the computer back at full power and the back up unit on stand by.
"FUI," Josiah's voice over his earpiece made JD jump slightly. He smiled at the code, must be there was a passenger drinking too much again. There seemed to be one on every flight they took. This one must be starting to get agitated already or Josiah wouldn't have alerted them. Looking at his watch, JD sighed. It wasn't even lunchtime yet, just over two hours into the flight and someone was already drunk.
Leaning forward JD set the back up communications board on the floor and after one last check to make sure it was on, he pushed it under the seat next to his and tucked the bag he had been carrying it in around it. He was just sitting up when all hell broke loose around him.
"Nobody move!" The heavily accented shout came from behind him and instinctively JD turned in his seat, his hand moving toward the weapon strapped to his ankle. Two men were storming up the aisle; both armed with semi-automatic weapons. The first man in the duo was pushing the flight attendant, Melanie, in front of him, his weapon pressed into the back of her head.
"Shit." JD grabbed his laptop, instead of his gun and hunched over it as another shout commanded everyone to keep their heads down.