This story is not meant to infringe on WB/DC/Vertigo or any of the rigths holders of the Losers. I just like the characters and want to see them in action.
Thanks again Aislinn and Alex for proofing and commentary and not so much egging me on as dragging me down a dark alley and plying me with moutain dew and cheeze its until I promised I'd fix it. If you've read the comics then you know exactly what they want fixed.
So, I give to you a re-imagining of the final showdown between the Losers and Max.
This story does contain some spoilers and some out and out digs at the comic.
Just remember boys and girls... Kevla is your friend!
"You know he's never going to let us live…"
"Unless we kill him, or he thinks we're dead," Clay corrected.
"My point exactly, " Jensen said with a sigh. "I mean… he's whittling us away here."
"You're preaching to the choir," Clay answered.
Cougar, for his part looked up and nodded.
"Yeah right fine… then we either need to kill him or let him think we're dead... preferably both since at this point the CIA can't just let us walk away." Jensen was getting annoyed.
"What would you suggest," Aisha asked interrupting.
"Something clever," Jensen answered.
"Something diabolical," Clay added.
Clay wasn't sure where Jensen had come up with his 'situation board' but it was… creative. Part whiteboard, part glass and at least two flat screen monitors cobbled together into a semi portable mass of information.
There was a timeline along the bottom, starting with Bolivia and extending until three weeks from today. Most of it was straight forward, but there were hints of … Jensen… every now and then.
When the timeline came to Miami, there was a line marked 'Roque turns out to be a sadistic bastard in it for himself ." There was another line continuing to LA where the Roque line added 'Roque sells us out and nearly gets us all killed.. .and calls *Clay* the traitor.
There were more: "Roque 'kills' Jensen – Jensen makes a spectacular come back… Roque hurts Pooch, Jensen kills Roque with a bomb robot."
Looking at the timeline the instances of them almost buying it were getting more and more frequent. The line coming out from today's date stated "If we don't do something soon, we will all be dead in 6 days. Except for Jensen."
Clay thought about asking about it, but figured there were some things better left in Jensen's head.
Jensen looked through the storage area, taking stock and trying to figure out what they had to work with. Amid the collection of weapons, armor and ammo there were also mementos of other adventures.
The weapons, armor and ammo were obvious candidates for the 'take' pile, but some of the items were less obvious and just as useful.
There was the grass skirt he'd originally pitched onto the 'toss pile', but then moved it over. He smiled when he found a collection of fireproof clothes and sterno… it wasn't the safest combination but… Thinking outside the box involved taking risks.
He shrugged and put it on the take pile.
He was about ready to load things up when he found a small box labeled "EBC" He took one look inside and grinned before closing it and putting it in the take pile.
When he poked his head out Cougar gave him a questioning look to which he nodded.
He felt like they were leaving part of their past behind but if they wanted a future… it would mean letting go… and from the looks of things they were going to be letting go in major style.
Clay watched as Cougar and Jensen unloaded the rental van and started going through the boxes. Cougar seemed right at home organizing the various firearms, and matching up the ammo. He gave Aisha an apologetic look when it came to armor – it was, of course, all men's, but men's was better than none .
Aisha shrugged. "Body armor tends to make you look fat and flat… "
As he reached for the "EBC" box, Jensen jumped up and put a hand on top of it.
Cougar looked at him as if to say "What?"
"Uhm… remember that Honduran General the one who… liked you?"
Cougar nodded slowly, his expression growing wary.
"Remember the decoy I made…"
Cougar rolled his eyes.
"Yeah.. you never know when it could be useful."
Cougar shook his head. If this mission didn't kill Jensen, he might just have to.
Aisha's curiosity piqued, she headed over to inspect the contents, only to have Cougar grab it, and lock it in the closet, as if that would stop her.
It wasn't the locked closet so much as the glowering sniper that kept Aisha away from the closet, but she knew as well as any of them that he had to sleep some time.
She tried getting details about the Honduran General but all she found out that one of the guns in the arsenal had been his.
Jensen smiled and was about to tell her something, but one look from Cougar was all it took for him to back off. There were things Cougar would threaten people about but obviously this was one he'd actually follow up on.
She would find out about EBC, and when she did...
As the news reports came in, Jensen updated the board all the while trying to think of a way to get a bomb disposal unit to Max's location.
Clay had worked the plan, figuring out the plan of attack as well as the getaway but the plan was completely Clay. If Max were half as good as they thought, he'd know what Clay was planning and would have already thought of at least three ways to take them each out.
Of course, leaving Aisha to her own devices was a good way to get them all killed. No, they needed a new plan... something unpredictable, something creatively insane... something totally ... Jensen.
Clay looked at Jensen packed the last of the equipment into place.
"Are you sure about this?"
Jensen looked at him. "Boss, you I love ya, I love your plans... they usually get us in and out without anyone getting hurt... but Max changed that. He ain't playing with a full deck.. as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure he's playing with a Pinochle deck and didn't bother telling us, and he's going to trump everything you come up with."
"But... the EBC? Doesn't that thing leak?"
"Yeah, but it's a slow leak... and ... just trust me on this."
Aisha watched them and shook her head. She'd managed to get a peek into the box, but she was beginning to think Jensen was the one with the Pinochle deck.
"So... Everyone knows their part here right?"
Cougar simple nodded, but Clay found himself going back to Jensen's situation board. There was his plan, which ended with 'Everyone dead... (with the exception of Jensen) or.. there was Jensen's plan which involved them ending up in Antigua with a bottle of Hacienda La Capilla's 'The Diamond Sterling' at Max's expense.
"This isn't going to work..." Aisha muttered.
"It's gotta be better than dying... "
"Let's look at the players one last time," Clay said, as he turned over the meeting to Jensen.
"Alright. Let's start with us shall we?"
"There's Col. Clay, our tactician and general CO. Ever since Max sold us out... he's had one goal- Get Max... maybe get our lives back, but at this point it's looking like it's going to mean giving up our lives... "
"No offense boss..."
"Aisha... Psycho hottie who can probably mop the floor with all of us and we probably wouldn't mind..."
He stopped when he saw the glare Cougar gave him. "Okay, Cougar would mind... but you can mop the floor with me any time..."
Aisha glared at him for a minute before going back to plotting Max's demise.
"Cougar... strong silent haunted macho type... Who's best at reaching out and touching someone from a long distance."
"And ... Then there's me. Silly computer geek who can't fight his way out of an electrified tungsten steel cage "
He paused then looked at Aisha.
"You figure your friend Fahd'll be around?"
"It is a possibility," Aisha admitted.
"Okay... No offense, but he is definitely not playing with a full deck, Pinochle or otherwise... I think he's using a tarot deck stuck on the Tower and Death... just saying..."
"Now then against us ... we have... well.. Max... all of Max's men... all the people max's men have hired and well... security hired to protect them..."
"Sheik Abdul Aziz ibn al Walid... Abdul son of the first... yeah, like that's not an assumed name..."
"You're putting him in the against column? He is the one giving a chance to get to Max."
"Yeah, and if he kills us he doesn't have to pay us."
"Okay so.. to make them all let their guard down... and give us any chance... here's what we're going to do... "
As he went through the steps of his plan everything seemed clear cut... in a Jensen sort of way.
"Wait, wait..." Aisha said when she came to her part. "You want me to stand there and not shoot your ass when you call me a traitorous bitch?"
"Well... yeah, you already shot me once... and that's a lot more than I want."
"And if Clay takes out Max while he's on fire... how the..."
"Trust me on this Aisha... I may not collect ears or kill things on a regular basis... but if there's one thing I know it's comic books... okay?"
"Any other questions?"
No one dared answer.
"Okay, we have a small arsenal, one flame retardant suit, flame gel... some incendiary charges... 27 rolls of duct tape courtesy of Pooch and of course, we have the EBC."
"We're packed... now we just have to let the Sheik 'railroad us into a suicide mission and we should be good to go."
That night, for the first time in a long time, Cougar did not dream of the helicopter. No, this time he remembered a rescue mission in Honduras... and the General who had taken a particular liking to him, and how Jensen armed with only a magic marker, the EBC and a roll of duct tape had rescued him.
He woke up screaming and was thankful that everyone just assumed it was the helicopter.
Cougar refrained from looking at anyone allowing the hat to do his talking for him. When 'Sheik Abdul son of the first... or was that son of the son? ... told them about the secret way into Max's newly formed island he lowered his head. Did this guy really think they'd believe he was on their side?
Maybe before Bolivia, but not since. He looked up as Jensen made some sort of comment, and he found himself wondering if Jensen had believed the man.
Clay and Aisha were playing up their part- making their relationship look a lot colder than it was. He hoped it was an act. The last thing they needed was for Aisha to go off script and ruin Clay and Jensen's careful plans.
God he was beginning to hate his team.
It seemed to take forever for them to swim through the pipeline and reach 'New Jerusalem.'
By the time they made it into the storage area at the end of the pipeline, they knew they were going to have trouble going back that way.
"We can probably make it out, but once we get Max, this place is going to be on full alert."
Jensen listened to Clay and nodded. "Okay so... we split up... two teams of two. You and Aisha stick to the plan... get to the boats. Cougs... looks like you and I get to go back through the pipes... "
"Cougs and I will ... uhm..." Jensen paused as he looked around the storage area and sighed. "We could use the uniforms of those two guys Aisha just killed..."
"You think?" Aisha asked acerbically .
"Do you really have to kill everyone?"
"It was either kill them or kill you to stop your whining..."
"Okay people... Focus... " Clay said interrupting the exchange.
As Jensen and Cougar changed into the stolen uniforms, Clay changed into the flame retardant suits.
"First one to see Max... take the shot... And don't forget your Kevlar"
Aisha muttered under her breath as she climbed the tower. "Next time... I'm dressing up as the maintenance guy and I'm taking the elevator."
"Yes dear," Clay answered as he worked his way across the railing.
Aisha laughed then turned. "Does this body armor make me look fat?"
Clay knew he was in trouble.
It was all coming together, which was the first warning that it was all falling apart, at least according to Jensen.
He hated being proved right. He and Cougar had gotten close enough to spot Max, but even as they moved into position, Max was working on ending their lives- Clay's in particular.
He watched as they shot the glass out from under Clay's feet and winced as the boss hit the ground hard.
Oh yeah... This was so not good. He tried to get Clay's attention as Max moved over to finish him off.
He smiled when Clay looked up at him, and then at Aisha.
He took a deep breath. This was going to be the hard part.
Aisha hated what she had to do- she hated what was about to happen but Jensen had been right. It was going to come down to chaos and subterfuge.
She lit the incendiaries and tossed them, praying she wasn't imagining things when she saw Clay take a deep breath and pull down the flame retardant hood.
Jensen watched in a combination of horror and confusion as Cougar pulled him out of the blast area. It was one thing to plan an inferno quite another to see it happen.
It was... too much. He swore as he saw Max move away from the fire gloating. It was happening too fast... He watched in horror as Clay staggered to his feet and grabbed Max.
He shouted in disbelief. Even as he was trying to recover from everything he'd seen, Aisha Jumped through the hole, guns blazing...
He drew a deep breath, praying he'd figured this right. "You! Fucking..." He managed to hit Aisha, but it was harder than he'd originally planned. He gasped as she pulled her gun on him. This was so not what he planned.
Cougar watched unsure if Aisha was still following the script of if he should take her out. He hated it when she pointed her gun at Jensen.
Aisha aimed her gun at him, he usually ended up getting shot, and that meant stitching him up. Cougar hated seeing Jensen get hurt and the only thing he hated more was stitching him up afterwards. The tableau ended with a gunshot. Cougar flinched and was surprised to see Aisha go down with a bullet to her shoulder.
Mierda. He was going to have to design a ballistic vest that covered shoulders.
He reached for a gun, ready to return fire. When he turned he gasped. Max!
Jensen hated a lot of things: traitors, megalomaniacs who killed children without a thought and villains who monologued. Max hit the trifecta.
As Max prepared to kill them Aisha made her move, giving them a look that said "See you on the other side."
She threw her knife, buying the time they needed to take out the men behind them. They were moving in two different directions, hoping to draw enough fire that they all had a chance to survive.
Aisha dove through the doorway, hoping the rope would catch her before she hit the water. She could feel a few ribs crack as she reached the end and the line went taut. She had barely caught her breath when she felt someone cut the line.
She swore as she started to fall again, only to have her arm all but dislocated as Clay caught her.
"Looking pretty good for a dead man," she said as he pulled her back to the structure.
He kissed her. "Looking pretty good there yourself."
With a smile they started heading for the pier.
"This is so not heroic," Jensen said as he ducked under a desk. It went from bad to worse when he saw a grenade land at his feet.
"So not good... "
He reacted without thinking, grabbing the grenade and throwing it for all he was worth. The sudden flash and accompanying explosion left him stunned as Cougar pulled him out of the line of fire.
Clay and Aisha looked up as an explosion rocked the area they'd been only minutes before.
"I hope to god those two idiots get out of there..."
Aisha smiled at him and took his hand. "Cougar will take care of Jensen and we all know God looks out for fools and children... "
"You sure the camera's caught our deaths?"
"Oh yeah... we get out of here- they'll never look for us."
"Good. First one to Anitqua gets the bottle."
She smiled at him, drew her gun and shot the three men trying to sneak up on them.
"Have I mentioned lately how much I love you?"
Aisha smiled at him. "And you better remember it."
Jensen swore as the smoke cleared. Of all the... monologuing sons of bitches... Just how many Max's were there?
He was still stunned when Cougar leveled his auto pistol at Max and fired... only to have it jam.
Jensen tried to pull Cougar away as Max took his turn laughing all the while. Clay was going to be mad that they'd missed their chance to kill Max... again... but he figured he'd be even madder if they got themselves killed.
Cougar swore as he took a bullet to the shoulder and a graze to the arm as Jensen dragged him out of the line of fire.
'Damn Ballistic Vests... Sleeves... ' he thought to himself.
Jensen looked at the elevator and shook his head. "No, 'cause leaving the same way we got up here is just too much to ask isn't it?"
"Jensen, you're talking to yourself," Cougar said softly. "I'm right here... we climb down the shaft... "
"Oh yeah, with that arm?"
"I've had worse, now.." he interrupted his part of the conversation to a three shot burst at the guards who had decided to try and take them down. "The longer we debate in the hall way, the longer they have to line up a shot."
Jensen nodded and started climbing. "Next time I'm taking the boat..." he muttered.
He'd made it up three steps when Cougar turned and fired down the shaft at the men trying to reach them, and Jensen fired up.
"This is so not what I planned."
How they managed to get down the elevator shaft with half of Max's men trying to tag them, Jensen would never know, and he almost never found out because as he stepped into the storage room someone opened fire on him. Cougar pulled him back as, Mr. Not-A-Full-Deck Fahd emptied his own auto pistol at them.
He'd forgotten about the tarot loving psychopath.
"Dude," he growled as he returned fire. "Take the hint ... she is so over you..."
As he ducked for cover Cougar rushed in, taking four shots to the chest and one to the thigh.
"Damn it! It's bad enough the EBC has a slow leak... now you're trying to outdo him?" Jensen swore as he emptied his clip into the already dead Fahd.
"Consider it a going away present for Aisha and the Col."
He looked at Cougar as the man coughed and shook his head. While Kevlar was definitely his friend, being shot in chest was not. It still kicked like a mule.
"Easy there Cougs..."
"Yeah, I know..." Jensen agreed. "We should have taken the boat and let Clay and Aisha escape back this way."
"No..." Coughs said as he tried to catch his breath. "Bomb."
Jensen looked at the bomb... looked at the tunnel to the pipe and looked at Cougar.
"I'm not going to make it," Cougar said solemnly.
"If I die... I'll block the tube..."
"And if you don't shut up I'll knock you out cold and tow you out..."
"Seriously dude, I got this covered. We patch you up, put the EBC in your place... and we swim outta here. Got it?"
Cougar tried to argue but found he couldn't.
Jensen went to work sealing the door and then opened the EBC Box and began inflating it. Once the EBC was inflated he sat it on the ground next to Cougar. "Set the bomb in its lap... I'll rig it to blow when they open the door."
Cougar nodded. He was tired of arguing with Jensen.
He watched, drifting in and out of consciousness as Jensen added the final touches to the Emergency Backup Cougar: a curly haired wig and a cowboy hat.
"There, let them report this..." Jensen said as he admired his handiwork.
"It didn't fool the Honduran General..." Cougar warned.
"For a few minutes it did, but you remember what happened to him... We taught him..."
"Never challenge a crazy gringo to a came of Russian Roulette."
"Especially when the crazy gringo is playing roshambo!"
Cougar never could tell exactly what happened, but judging by the concussion and three broken fingers, the towing him out of the pipeline wasn't exactly as easy a task as Jensen had originally thought.
What he did know was that after 'dying' in the explosion, he almost died as their plane crashed.
"Getting kinda tired of explosions and EMPs," he muttered to himself.
"You and me both brother, you and me both..."
Cougar looked up in surprise when he saw that Pooch was driving them away from the demolished plane. "What did I miss?"
"Pretty much everything," Jensen told him. "As we figured the Sheik didn't want to pay us so he just didn't bother picking us up.
"I got a call," Pooch added taking over the narrative. "I was already on my way here anyway. Figured you guys would need some help... "
"But... Jolene... the girls..." Cougar half asked half stated.
"I promised Jo I would just protect family from now on... and she seemed happy about that and then she told me that I better bring the girls' uncles and aunt back in one piece... and well.. you know how Jo gets..."
Cougar and Jensen nodded. It pretty much said it all. The rested in silence for a few minutes and the Cougar smiled.
"Antiqua?" he suggested
"Antiqua!" Jensen agreed.
"Antiqua?" Pooch asked.
"You weren't there for the planning..."
"I'm thinking I missed something."
Two silhouettes sat toasting the setting sun. They features were blurred by shadow but one wore a cowboy hat, the other sported spiky hair and glasses. It was hard to tell which was speaking... but in the end it really didn't matter.
"And... you've been down here drinking Tequila ever since?"
"Because Max's dead, the CIA thinks we're dead... and there isn't a lot else to do..."
"Kind of a win win win scenario. "