I am not associated with Covert Affairs in any way and have no claim to any of their material beyond a deep and heartfelt appreciation for the terrific show and memorable characters their producers, writers and actors have created.
My sincere thanks go to wigginluvr for permission to use elements of her story "Yoda Killed ET." And a tip of the old black Stetson to those diminishing few who may recognize a line from Bonanza.
Some strong language as used by real people and men who have soldiered together.
Chapter 1. 0 to 12 hours
The operation was blown to hell. It had all gone south a few minutes ago when they had found the asset they had been sent to retrieve dead in a nasty, congealing pool of his own blood. And now they had to run.
The asset, a Panamanian national, supposedly had information on a plot to blow up two of the most essential locks on the Panama Canal, but he had somehow gotten mixed up with one of the drug cartels. Now he was dead.
Auggie had been easing along keeping watch on a simple package pick up by a reliable agent when a commotion broke out behind him. He swung his chair around. "What's going on?" Things had been dull for a while. Strange, but he had actually gotten off shift on time all week.
"The Panama pick up just blew," Barber told him. "They found the asset dead, and now our team's on the run from some damned drug dealers. It's a cluster fuck."
"What team, and who's running it from here?" And why was all of this news to him?
Silence hung in the air from a moment too long. "It Jai, Annie and that new kid, Frank somebody. Hough is runnin' it."
"Annie? Annie!" He couldn't believe what he was hearing. How could Annie be on an op he didn't know about? "And Hough is on it?"
"'Fraid so, Aug," Barber said. Too easy to guess what was coming next. "Joan's orders."
"Hough," Auggie called. "I'm taking over. Switch the frequencies. You can keep watch on my guy."
"Sorry. I can't do that."
"Last I heard I was still in charge of the Tech Division; switch the frequencies!"
"Sorry, boss, you've been outranked."
A soft hand touched his arm. "Auggie, it's Joan. We need to talk."
He sprang up to his full six feet and towered over her petite form. His eyes were directed exactly at her. Auggie had glowered at her a few times when he was still sighted, and that fire still burned in him.
"Damn straight we need to talk. You sent Annie, Jai and a newbie into the field and gave them to another tech? What's the matter with you? I control Annie's ops - nobody else, me! Hough is lucky he can run his own X-Box."
"We can discuss this in private…"
"No. Tell him to switch the frequencies, then we'll talk."
"Auggie, I don't want you on this; it's too much right now."
"What in hell are you talking about?"
"Listen to yourself. It's too much stress, too much tension."
"You mean we have something else besides stress around here? I don't understand where you're coming from? You know I always handle Annie's ops. She's new to the business. She needs an experienced backstop."
"Auggie, Auggie … " Joan and lowered her voice in an effort to cut out the listening bullpen. "You've been in the field too much lately. You've been hammered both physically and emotionally. You have unresolved issues with both Annie and Jai. I suggested you take some leave, get away for a while. You refused."
Joan hesitated and dropped her voice even lower before continuing.
"If this goes bad, you are begging for trouble. We both know what I mean. I don't want you on this end of the wire. Let someone else handle it." Joan was always calm, always clear and always in charge.
"It may surprise you, but I do actually understand your point of view, but I can't do that. Please, I'm begging if you like, ask Hough to hand over?"
"I'm sorry, I can't. I won't."
"Fine. Then I'll go after her myself." Auggie pulled off his headphones and turned to shut down his equipment. "Just understand that if I go, it will be my last official act for the CIA. You'll never see or hear from me again."
"Are you trying to force my hand?" Her voice was hard.
"Absolutely. Every minute you keep me off this case things could be getting worse. You don't have a better tech or an operative with more experience in dealing with trouble. The rest of it is on me. Don't make me walk out of here."
Joan hesitated, and Auggie began to unfold his cane.
"Mrs. Campbell," Eric Barber spoke up from the station nearest Auggie's with a rare show of courage. "You know he's right, and if he goes, he won't go alone. I'll be with him."
"You don't have to do that," Auggie told him.
"Yes, I do. I know what's right and what's not. I may not be much as an agent, but at least, I'm a pair of eyes. If you go, I go."
"Me too." A tall, handsome African-American woman arose from her station in the rear of the room. Her name was Evangeline St. Denis. She did excellent work, Joan remembered, and rarely said an unnecessary word. "I owe Auggie, and what's more, I trust him. You can make that three of us."
Joan looked around the bullpen. People were slowly coming to their feet everywhere.
"Four," said a deep voice off to her left.
She didn't like it, but if she let Auggie walk she would lose half her staff. The damned man had always been able to attract supporters.
"Well, I didn't know this was a democracy," Joan said. But it looks like I'm outvoted. Mr. Hough, will you please yield control of your operation to Mr. Anderson. You pick up on his."
"Thank you, God," Hough sighed. He'd had visions of Auggie cornering him the next time they were in the exercise room. "Switching, now."
"On your own head, Auggie," Joan said as she walked away, as erect and cool as ever.
Hough quickly read Auggie in. The asset, a Panamanian national, had contacted the CIA office in San Antonio while on vacation in the U.S. He claimed to have information on a terrorist plot to blow up two of the most essential locks on the Panama Canal. While the Canal Zone was no longer a U.S. possession, it was vital to world commerce, and the CIA took an interest. The informant wanted money and relocation in the States. He provided enough details to make his offer credible.
The Agency wanted to take him into protective custody immediately, but he insisted that he had to return to the Canal Zone for three weeks to close up his business and conclude his affairs there.
A meeting had been set for three weeks hence in Monterrey, Mexico, and Jai, along with Annie and a recently graduated trainee on his first field assignment, Frank Willoughby, had been sent out. They were tasked to evaluate the information offered and, if satisfied, to transport the asset back to Langley.
It has seemed to be a fairly routine assignment, with a nice trip to a lovely old city thrown in, until they found the prospective informant in his hotel room - dead in large pool of blood.
They thoroughly searched his room for any documentation he might have brought with him. They found nothing on the Canal Zone, but they found something else. It seemed their informant was a man of many interests. He had agreed to transport a shipment of highly refined cocaine to a possible buyer in Mexico. It came from a small, but well equipped lab and was half again the normal potency.
They were about to leave and call in an anonymous tip to the local authorities when drug dealers burst into the suite. The team escaped by jumping from one hotel balcony to another, followed by a mad exit through the kitchens. The cartel men knew what they looked like, and Frank Willoughby had made the fatal mistake of swooping up the briefcase containing the drugs on their way out.
They made it to their pick up point in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains, south of the city, but the cartel's thugs had trailed them. Auggie came in just as the firefight broke out at the remote landing strip.
What he needed most now was information: details and a way to contact Annie. If anything had happened to her…
He triggered the line to their pickup chopper …
The chopper's radio squealed. The pilot, a young Lieutenant, touched his throat mike. "Flight six, niner, Bravo, out of Brownsville, Texas responding."
"Six, niner, this is Captain Anderson in D.P.D." It was command voice and no doubt about it.
"Where are you?" Auggie demanded.
"About 20 minutes out of Brownsville, sir."
"What are you flying? Is it a gun ship?"
"No sir, she's a slick."
No help there. Auggie went on, "You were tasked to pick up three high security personnel in the mountains near Monterrey?"
"How many do you have on board, Lieutenant?"
"Do I understand that you abandoned two of our people?" Even eroded by distance and static, the voice in his headphones could freeze icicles in hell.
"Captain Anderson, sir, my orders were to take off at 1300 hours sharp, with or without the pickup. This is an unauthorized landing in a foreign country, sir."
"I am fully aware of that. Describe what happened."
"Only one man made it to the ship, sir. The other two were barely in sight. The man was hit hard; the woman was trying to haul him along. Bullets were flying everywhere. I saw her get hit and stagger. They weren't going to make it, and I had been ordered not to wait."
There was a long pause filled only by the hiss of static.
"I see." The words were choked. "And the one man you did pick up, he didn't suggest waiting?"
"He's just coming around, sir. He got clipped as he dove into the bay. He's yelling at me now – not making much sense. I think he wants to speak to you."
"Put him on. And, Lieutenant, I don't think you have much of a future as a combat pilot. You should look elsewhere."
"Sir, it was orders."
"Yeah. You might give some thought to judgment and initiative. Now I'll speak with the other gentleman. Over."
"Pulling rank again, Cap?" Eric asked through a mouthful of potato chips.
"Hey, I still hold it as a reserve rank. They call me up right after the women and 12-year-old boys."
Eric grinned. "Smart play, I think you scared him out of re-upping."
"I hope so." Auggie's tone was bitter.
The pilot unclipped a mike and held it out to Jai along with a spare pair of headphones. Jai snatched them.
"Auggie, man, God, I'm sorry; I'm so sorry! I've tried to get this idiot to go back. He won't listen, and I dropped my weapon."
"Jai, if you ran and left Annie and young Willoughby hung out to die, you are a dead man, dead." There was no mistaking the clear and direct threat in Auggie's voice. Blind or not, Jai didn't doubt for a minute that Auggie could and would do it.
"Hey, Auggie, listen," Jai said. "I was running to try and hold the chopper. He was already spinning up his rotors! I got my skull grazed just as I dived in. I'm still seeing double and Big Ben is chiming in my head. Set me up with a pilot who's not a frickin' robot, and as soon as we touch down, I'll throw this ass out the window, and we'll go straight back."
There was a deep sigh along the line. "Alright, Jai; sorry you got elected. Much as I hate the idea, we need a little time here to assess the situation and to try and make contact with what's left of your team. When you land in Brownsville, get your head seen to, and then stand by. I'll be back in touch soon."
Jai shook his head and wished he hadn't. Despite their undeclared rivalry, there wasn't a better ops tech anywhere than Auggie Anderson. He was very glad Auggie had taken over from Hough. His voice held everything together: warm and calm and steady. Well, except when he was making death threats. Not that he blamed him; he would have done the same. Jai triggered the mike again.
"Auggie, for what it's worth, the last glimpse I had of Annie, she was still very much alive."
"Yeah, Jai." There was a long hesitation. "Thanks. Catch you later. Over and out." The connection went dead.