Dogs of War
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just borrowing.
Summary: Max and Alec are finally starting to get everything up and running in TC when missions start going horribly wrong... MA. Sequel to Loose the Hounds.
So finally a sequel... I hope to goodness y'all enjoy it. If you need a summary of Loose the Hounds... Umm.... Bad stuff happened (riot, capture, poison and whatnot), Max got hurt, Alec got hurt, they got together. The end. There. That about sums it up.
"We've got a meeting in five," Mole said, stepping into Max and Alec's office.
"Are you kidding?" Max asked. They were in crisis mode. They had problems on their plate. Big problems.
"Well, technically, they're on their way in. Their security called our security," the transhuman added. "We've got another five before anyone actually shows up."
Alec looked unhappily toward Max then toward the papers in front of them. "Could they have picked a worse time?"
"Secretary Gordon, himself, is going to be there with the new liaison," Mole reminded them. "This ain't optional."
Max gritted her teeth. He was right. They had to go. Secretary Gordon was waiting and he'd brought the new guy they would have to deal with for all the incoming government jobs.
Alec's eyes met Max's and she saw that they were in agreement. They would have to hold off dealing with the new disaster until after the meeting. They just didn't have any other option.
The Secretary of Homeland Security had been the one to start the ball rolling on the federal trust that had legally turned Terminal City over to them. In addition, he had proposed that, on occasion, they could do work for the government that was either too hush-hush or too difficult for normal operatives to manage. They were independent contractors and they could take any job or leave it, but in practice they were bringing in a tidy income thanks to the government. Gordon was a decent guy, for a politician. He'd looked out for them, and they owed him.
That didn't mean the road hadn't been bumpy. The first liaison the secretary had appointed had been a complete disaster. He'd turned into a bossy, You-will-do-this-out-of-duty-to-your-country type and Max had thrown him out on his ass, mostly to keep Mole from beating the crap out of him and then throwing him out on his ass. The second liaison had been terrified of them and that hadn't been much better, except Alec had had a lot more fun toying with that one before Max told the guy he should go and he'd run all the way back to Washington DC.
"I guess this will have to wait," Alec said, a fierce scowl on his face.
"I guess," Max echoed, not liking it any better than he did. This wasn't just a glitch they were dealing with. This was a disaster that could unravel everything they'd been trying to put together. They had an operative who'd apparently gone crazy for some reason and killed the contact he was meeting instead of performing the file hand-off like he was supposed to. It was the second such screw-up in a week and she and Alec were at a total loss for an explanation no matter how many times they went over what information they'd managed to gather. This newest disaster was just unfolding and they were trying to get as much info as they could before the evidence got whisked away by other agencies.
The biggest problem was that they both knew something was very, very wrong and there wasn't a thing they could do about it. Her eyes met Alec's and she saw the same frustration, worry, and anger that she knew were in her own.
"Quit staring at each other," Mole ordered. "I know you two have some weird telepathic thing going on, but it freaks the rest of us out."
"Mole," Alec said, turning toward him, "ya know, I'd stare at you, but Max is a whole lot better looking. I'm just shallow that way."
Mole cocked his head to one side as if in thought. "Yeah, she is, now that you mention it. You mind if I stare at her, too?"
Alec smiled sweetly. "As long as you don't mind having that cigar crammed down your throat."
"Are you two idiots through?" Max asked dryly.
Alec glanced at her then back to Mole. "I don't know. Are we?"
Mole shrugged. "Good enough for now anyway."
Max just rolled her eyes. The two were impossible. She never would have pegged the two men to be such friendly enemies, but they never seemed to tire of the other's company. Mole was still all growls and temper, while Alec remained all smiles and persuasion, but they seemed to work well together and both worked as hard as she did for the sake of Terminal City.
"Come on," she said. "Let's get this over with."
Mole and Alec immediately sobered. They fell in beside her and walked toward the building just inside the gates where they held all their meetings with people from outside TC. It was close to a tunnel that had been built to bring people in without it being public knowledge that they were visiting the "freaks." Civilian customers, especially the big companies, liked having a transgenic handling their dirty work for them. They just didn't want anyone to know it. In addition, since their deal with the government the transgenics were essentially being used as spies, or a solution of last resort. A lot of the government types didn't want it known they'd been there to ask for help.
Max, Alec and Mole walked into the lobby past their own guards and headed toward the big conference room down the hall. There were more guards outside it, both transgenic and fed-flavored.
As they approached, Max could practically smell the fear coming off one of the visitors. He appeared calm, but he was staring a little too hard at the wolfish transhuman standing across from him. The guard, of course, knew the effect he was having on the man and smiled, showing him a perfect set of canines just made for ripping into flesh.
"Fred, quit scaring the ordinaries," Max ordered.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, trying for subdued, although his laughing wolfish eyes remained on the nervous guard.
Max looked toward the other human guard and saw that he was one who'd been there before with the Homeland Security Secretary. "Hey, Terry. How's it going?"
"Very well, ma'am. Thank you," the man said formally. He was about thirty, had dark brown hair cut short but not too severely. He had an earpiece to match his partner's, as well as an almost matching fed-required suit.
"I've told you, you can call me Max," she chided.
"Wolf Boy called you ma'am," Terry observed.
"Yeah, but he likes pissing me off." Max smiled and the guard returned it with a tiny smile of his own. Max liked him. He was good at his job. He didn't hold their birth against them, but she knew he'd do his best to take her out if he thought for a second she was a real threat to the secretary or the new liaison. She respected him all the more for it.
"Please tell me this new government guy is better than the last one," Alec said.
"I'll let you judge for yourself, sir," the guard responded.
"Nice and formal, Terry. Your trainers would be proud," Alec said, a hint of sarcasm showing.
The guard tapped his earpiece reminding them that they had an audience and he was on his best behavior. Alec sobered almost instantly, and he nodded in understanding. The sudden change was startling, but Max understood the cause. Alec knew all about the perils of the bosses listening in. He wasn't going to get another "soldier" in trouble unnecessarily.
"Get on with it," Mole growled, causing the other, jumpy fed to actually reach for his weapon.
Before Max could even blink there were four weapons pointed at the man, Alec first, then Mole and the two transgenic guards.
"If that gun clears its holster," Alec warned, "we're really not going to be happy."
"Take your hand away from your gun," Terry ordered his fellow guard. "Very. Slowly."
The younger fed just stared at them wide-eyed, his hand clutching the gun's grip. His eyes glanced toward his counterpart then back to Alec who was closest to him. Max was unarmed and Alec had placed himself very firmly between her and the current danger.
"Warren, I said take your hand away from your gun," Terry tried again, his voice deliberately low and even. "You started this and they're not going to lower their weapons until you do."
The man took a deep steadying breath and carefully took his hand off his gun. He then held his hands up to verify to everyone that he was unarmed. Mole and the two guards lowered their weapons, but not Alec. Alec remained where he was, between Max and the guard, with his gun poised.
"Any time now, Alec," Max said. She set a hand against his back and felt how tense the muscles were, stretched tight and ready to spring. Since the riot, Alec hadn't dealt well with anyone threatening her. Transgenic or human, he made sure everyone knew they had to go through him to get to Max. It made her feel all warm and fuzzy when she wasn't ready to kick his ass for being overprotective.
"I want him escorted out," Alec said, his voice dropping to a growl.
"Not you, Fred," Max immediately said when the grinning wolf transhuman began to step forward. "Barney," she looked over her shoulder to Fred's partner, "take him back to their car or wherever."
Terry was speaking into a mic as she turned back toward the fed security team. He didn't look pleased, but he still nodded his agreement. The frightened guard now looked both mortified and terrified at the same time. He looked to Terry, who was clearly the senior partner of the team. Terry shook his head, just barely. "Go with him, Warren. Send Whitfield back to replace you."
Barney left his place against the wall and began walking toward the lobby of the building. "Come on, Warren. Let's go," he said, his tone friendly. "You're gonna have to man up if you're gonna be a fed. You see one whiny little wolf boy and you get all nervous. Man, I was in Indonesia a couple of years ago. You wanna talk about scary…"
Barney kept up a running commentary until they were out of earshot, clearly working on damage control, after such an unfortunate incident. The bad thing was that it had happened too many times now that they'd been forced to let the government types come to call when they needed a job done. It was the reason that they were all armed even though this was only a business meeting.
Alec sighed, and very carefully put his gun away at the small of his back. Max smacked him on the back of the head. "Idiot," she murmured affectionately.
"What was I supposed to do? Let him shoot you?" Alec demanded.
"He wasn't gonna shoot her, he was gonna shoot me," Mole snapped.
"Oh." Alec frowned. "So you're saying I missed a golden opportunity?"
Mole snarled, although there was no real anger behind it, and Alec broke into a grin. He turned toward the remaining fed. "Terry? Don't bring another guard like that in here, ok?"
"I apologize," Terry said quickly.
Alec's brief moment of levity melted away and he faced the man head on. "I won't take it quite so nicely next time. Do we understand each other, Terry?"
The guard didn't flinch. He just nodded. "Understood."
Max once again set her hand against Alec's back. She wouldn't dare touch his arm, or wrap a hand around his waist. Alec wouldn't appreciate her impeding his movement, especially not in high stress situations where he might be called on to act quickly.
She'd seen it more and more since their arrival in Terminal City. She'd never noticed all that much when they were out running around as Jam Pony messengers, but the longer they were here, the easier it was to see that Alec was a trained soldier. She saw how easily command came to him, and how easy setting up operations both at home and out in the field were. He had a lot more training, and years more conditioning than she did. She doubted he even realized he was doing it. Not that he even led, really. People just seemed to follow him when he was on the move.
"So..." Alec smiled widely and clapped his hands together. "Let's go meet the new guy."
"I hope he's in a better mood than you are," Mole grumbled.
"I'm always in a good mood," Alec replied. He then turned to Fred. "Call Command. I want another guard here ASAP."
"Yes, sir," the wolf transhuman answered, this time with none of the sarcasm he'd used when he called Max, ma'am. Max tried not to take it personally that many of the inhabitants took more easily to Alec's command than hers. Alec had suffered with them through all of the hard years. He'd proven himself then, and he'd continued to earn their respect since their emancipation. Max was respected, but not exactly trusted, not quite yet, but it was getting better.
Alec opened the door and stepped through first, once again acting as Max's shield. Secretary Gordon stood as they entered, as well as another man they'd never seen before. He was roughly forty years old, with prematurely graying hair, cut short in the typical politician length. He was wearing a nice suit, although not as expensive as Secretary Gordon's, so Max assumed he was several steps lower on the food chain.
"Max, Alec, Mole," the Homeland Security Secretary said with a smile. "Nice to see you all again."
Secretary Gordon had an easy charm about him and Max couldn't help liking him. After all, he'd cut through reams of red tape and, with the President's say-so, gotten things finally working in their favor. With this man's help they had a place to call their own, even if it was a rundown dump like Terminal City.
"Decided to come slumming again?" Alec smiled as he took the secretary's hand.
"Have to admit, the weather out here just gets more and more inviting," the man replied with a laugh.
"Tell me about it," Alec huffed. "Cats and water. We couldn't be more at home. We're thinking of putting in a pool behind one of the apartment buildings."
Max had to smile. She'd liked Gordon almost immediately, although she hadn't really understood why, because the first time they'd met, Alec had been near death's door. It wasn't until she'd met Gordon again, that time with Alec in tow that she'd figured it out. Secretary Gordon was a lot like Alec. He was smart, charming, persuasive, and he took charge when the need arose.
"Allow me to introduce James Kincaid," the secretary said, motioning toward the man at his side. "I've known him for several years now and I believe you will work well together."
They all dutifully shook hands and then sat down on their respective sides of the conference table. Kincaid glanced a little more warily at Mole than at Max and Alec, but that was to be expected. It wasn't everyday a person met a six foot lizard.
"Allow me to say how appreciative I am of this opportunity to work with you," Mr. Kincaid began. "I understand that there have been a few problems with my predecessors. I sincerely hope that whatever those problems might have been we can move past them and come to a viable working relationship."
"Mole?" Alec said. He had to lean forward around Max to see him sitting on her other side.
"You wanna translate?" Alec asked.
"He says he's sorry the other guys were morons. He's gonna try to do better."
Alec nodded. "Good to know. Go ahead, Mr. Kincaid."
Max saw that Gordon was trying very hard not to smile, while Kincaid was frowning trying to figure out exactly how he'd gone wrong only one sentence into the meeting. He clearly did not appreciate being the butt of anyone's joke.
"Let me save you some time, Mr. Kincaid," Max said, stepping in before the situation could get out of hand. Alec was still pissed about the intel they'd received on the botched job, about the trigger-happy guard outside and now about having to deal with yet another political type with a stick up his ass. Max was completely on board with that, but they didn't need another disaster to deal with. "We're not politicians and we suck as the social graces, so there's no need to worry about watching what you say and how you say it. We also don't need to know your credentials. As soon as you came through the gates we had your picture. By the time we're done with this meeting, our people will know more about you than you probably do."
"I beg your pardon." The man bristled.
"We don't care about the niceties or being polite or getting to know you. We're not gonna throw a cocktail party, or have a company picnic and invite the wife and kids. We're here to do a job and we don't care how you pretty it up. So whatever you need, just tell us like it is, and we'll all get along just fine, ok?"
"I see," Kincaid said dryly.
Alec settled a hand on her thigh, giving her a gentle squeeze, and Max felt a zing of anticipation shoot from the point of contact down to her toes and all the way up to the tips her hair. Alec loved watching her in action and no doubt he would show her his appreciation later.
"Well, then," Kincaid said, "let's get to business."
"Sure." Max said forward in her chair as the man pulled out a large manila folder. Mole did the same, and Alec as well. He withdrew his hand and Max felt the loss of his warm reassurance, but focused on the business at hand.
Kincaid pushed the folder toward her and Max pulled it closer. She flipped it open to see several photos of a well-dressed, middle-aged man she didn't recognize. There were lots of other papers, but for the moment she just saw the pictures. There were several of him getting in and out of cars, one where he was standing beside a woman who looked to be his wife, and another where he was walking beside a pair of teenagers who looked enough like him that she supposed they were his children.
"What is it you want us to do?" Alec asked, looking over Max's shoulder at the pictures.
Kincaid looked at them, his face expressionless. "We want you to kill him."
How's that? More soon...