A/N: So sorry guys, I've been having a lot of stuff going on. Here's chapter 2 to make up for it! Sorry it's short, the rest of what I had planned didn't work well with this chapter. I'll update soon, though! Promise!
Chapter 2: Red
Kowalski nearly jumped out of his skin when a gentle 'clack' shook the table he was working at. Blinking blearily, he lifted his eyes to the offender, a gray mug with a blue fish painted on it. He smiled wryly, recognizing the old thing. It was Skipper's favorite. How he always managed to get it between their assignments he would never know, but then again, there were a lot of things about their leader that he would never know. Not even after knowing him for so many years.
He followed hand that held the mug, up a suit-clad arm to Skipper's face. "You should be resting," Kowalski pointed out. Rico had been crashed out on the sofa since they first boarded the private plane, and Private had curled up in an armchair himself, his small body fitting perfectly into it's corner.
"Strangely enough," Skipper responded, sitting across from him and pushing the old mug toward his teammate, "rest does not come easily after you've been shot."
Kowalski thankfully took the coffee, taking a slow sip of the warm, bitter liquid. "Again," he supplied, amusement causing his lips to quirk upwards.
Skipper snorted softly. "Again."
Shaking his head, the taller looked back down at his work. The papers from the file were spread out in front of him, organized in a manner that only he could even begin to understand. There were scribbles and equations written out over various pieces and scribbled out again in frustration. He had been at it for at least four hours.
"How is it going?"
"I'm almost done," Kowalski sighed. "It was more complicated than I had previously imagined it would be." A slight quirk of the eyebrow from Skipper and he quickly amended, "Not that I doubted my abilities at all. I simply hadn't prepared myself for several hours of work, rather than one."
Skipper rolled his eyes at the genius's ego. "Okay, so they're smart."
"Not just smart," Kowalski furrowed his brows again, taking his pen and beginning to scribble down notes again. "Whoever coded this, likely their leader, is a genius. Almost as intelligent as me."
The leader frowned. That was certainly interesting, but he still didn't know what it meant. He sighed, running a hand through his slicked-back hair. All he could do now was wait, he supposed. Skipper leaned against the wall, closing his eyes.
Skipper jolted awake as he felt a touch to his shoulder, on hand instantly shooting up to catch someone's wrist in a firm grip. Rico looked down at him calmly, accustomed to his jumpy ways. Blinking slowly, Skipper released him and rubbed his eyes. "Careful soldier, or I might throw you out a window some time." They exchanged wry smiles, both knowing how dangerously true that was.
He stood up and stretched widely. Kowalski had just finished cleaning up the files. He pressed a button on one of the walls, sending out a silent signal. Almost instantly, a man dressed in red came from the back of the plane, approaching. Kowalski handed him the files to be carried off.
"Do you need anything else, sir?"
"Supper would be lovely," Private piped up, smiling as he rubbed the back of his neck.
The man nodded and was gone as quickly as he'd come. Skipper reached into his pocket, removing a sleek black phone. "Are we ready, then?" Three affirmations and the leader began to dial. The four of them sat around the table and Skipper placed the phone in the center of them, set on speaker.
One ring. Two.
"Good evening boys. I trust all went well."
"All as planned," Skipper confirmed.
"We just sent the information-"
"I have it right here."
Kowalski still had his mouth open, staring at the phone blankly. "Wh-what? How did you get it so fast?"
"Technology these days is fantastic, isn't it?"
Another moment of silence from the intellectual before he groaned softly, resting his forehead against the table. Rico patted his back consolingly while Private tried to fight off his giggles.
Rolling his eyes, Skipper continued. "So, what next?"
"Always eager for the next job. Very well. I will look over these files and have your assignment ready for you by the time you return to headquarters. Please, enjoy yourselves until then."
A soft click indicated that the conversation was over. Skipper furrowed his brows, clearly annoyed, but he could say nothing. Kowalski raised his head enough to look at the others, his chin still on the table. "A bit abrupt, wasn't it? I'd thought…"
Private shrugged. "Maybe he had things to do. He's a very important man, after all,"
Rico growled softly, giving no other response than that. It didn't matter anyways because only seconds later, four men dressed in red had filed into the room, each carrying a silver platter with them. They set the dishes before the team, uncovering them. There was an excellent fish dinner for each of them and the men quickly set to pouring drinks.
"I don't care how rude he is if he keeps this up."
The plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The team filed out to a black Mercedes with tinted windows. A man dressed in red handed them the keys and walked away. Rico snatched the keys, clearly planning on driving, but Skipper stopped him, taking them back and holding them out to Private instead.
"You're not allowed to drive when we're trying to blend in, remember, Rico?"
Rico pouted, reluctantly climbing into the back with Kowalski instead. Skipper, naturally was at the front. He crossed his arms as they began to drive, glaring out the windows as he watched the people of New York going about their day. The entire drive to the very plain-looking office building he spent glaring out the window at the city. It was nothing unusual. He was always like this when they came back to the city.
When they finally did enter the office building, hit with a wave of air-conditioning, it seemed to be buzzing with people. They were all dressed similarly in suits, though unlike the team's they varied in color. Skipper clenched his jaw and nodded to his men. Kowalski moved to his right, walking immediately beside him. Behind them was Rico, and Private trailed at the very end, resisting the urge to wave to people familiar to him, though he still smiled.
Walking through the halls, they earned a lot of attention, sometimes glares, sometimes looks of awe, the occasional mutter of 'psychotic'. No matter what, though, they were known in that building.
Skipper pursed his lips, stopping before the man in front of them, dressed in a brown suit. "Canfield. What do you want?"
"I want to know where you and your team have been," Canfield narrowed his eyes, his gaze flickering between each one of them. "You've been gone for nearly a week."
Skipper held up a hand to silence Private before he could even think to speak. The youngest of the group smiled sheepishly, remaining quietly. "We were called by someone higher up."
"Can't talk about it," Kowalski threw in helpfully. "Confidential."
"Come on boys," Skipper ordered, starting down the hall again.
Canfield grabbed Kowalski by the wrist stopping him as the others continued. "You four can't just go running off."
Politely, Kowalski plucked the hand away from him. "Actually, we can." He offered an apologetic smile. "It's not our choice. It's just orders. Surely you understand that." Shrugging, he followed after his team again. Canfield watched them suspiciously, tensing as he saw Rico glare at him over his shoulder.
"He's just doing his job, Skippa," Private pointed out quietly.
"He's accusing my team of something," Skipper corrected him firmly. He could respect a man doing his job, but when it came to his team, he was very protective of them.
When they stepped into Skipper's office - it was immaculately clean, mostly because how very little time he spent in it - there was a woman in red waiting for them. She straightened herself, not speaking a word as she handed the leader the file and made her way swiftly out of the room. Skipper forced himself not to glare at her. He didn't like people going into his office without his permission. Even if it was on higher authority.
The office was still dark. It had only one large window which was constantly covered by black curtains, as he didn't like to leave himself open for anyone. He turned on a lamp, leaning back against his desk while his team stood at attention before him, each waiting for him to finish skimming through the pages.
Skipper's eyes widened to the size of teacups and he threw the folder down. "No."
Startled, Private knelt down to pick it up. "What is it, Skippa?" he asked, opening it up. Rico and Kowalski curiously peered over his shoulders to read as well.
Kowalski immediately located the problem. "The head of the drug ring is centralized in New York City?" He could not mask the surprise that came to his voice. "All the way across the ocean? That kind of power…" The strategies expert looked up, frowning as he saw Skipper dialing at his phone again. He sent the call once. No answer. Twice. No answer. Three times….
Growling in frustration, Skipper slammed the phone down onto his desk. "He can't do this, can he?" He began to pace, pushing his hands into his pockets to keep them from fidgeting. "This can't be it. Maybe you were wrong, Kowalski, maybe you didn't decode it right."
Kowalski bristled, forcing himself no to be offended by that. "Impossible. I checked myself. Several times."
Private frowned, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "It's not so bad, Skippa. I know you don't like it here, but we're not just going to give up, are we?"
That brought the leader to a halt. He clenched his fists in his pockets, took a deep breath, and collected himself again. "No. Of course not." There was enough tension in him to launch an arrow, but his appearance of calm was there again. "Kowalski, read the details."
Kowalski nodded, taking the folder. "The head of the drug ring is centralized in New York City. The leader has been staying under cover to avoid suspicion and has been tracked to a single area. Our job is to go under cover as well, to investigate and relay information. We can, by no means, be discovered."
Private lit up with childish excitement. "You mean we're going to be incognito?"
Skipper smirked wryly. While that was always fun, he wished it could have been anywhere else. In the jungle, in some third world country, in the middle of a massive war, anywhere but New York.
"Looks like it."