Hello, everyone. Just to let you all know that this is the finale.
I dedicate this chapter especially to all dedicated fathers out there. You pull us up when we fall down. You are the shield when we are in danger. You slay the dragons under our bed. You are our hero. HAPPY FATHER'S DAY.
"It was supposed to be a routine op," Braddock senior was telling Sergeant Parker as the command truck sped towards Pickering. "Matt's only mission was to get in, get intel, get out. That was it."
"Then what went wrong?" asked Parker, wanting to find out more now that the General decided to open up a little.
"Matt got the intel, alright. But it was much bigger than we expected. He stumbled upon some vital information that could mean the life or death for millions of people."
"The missing nuclear warhead."
"Yes. The broken arrow, as we called it. Everything just went haywire. Before he could complete his real mission, Matt's true identity was discovered and he was almost killed. He was lucky to escape with his life intact, barely."
"If his mission was so highly confidential, how could he possibly blow his cover?"
"Because someone in our side betrayed us. And we still do not know who it was." Braddock pursed his lips, his expression a mixed reaction of anger and embarrassment. "When we decided to 'kill' Matt, we thought it better that he carried the intel to 'the grave'."
"So only he knows the code."
"Exactly. I can't trust anyone when a traitor is still at large among us. I can't even trust myself not to accidentally disclose that intel."
"And now, whoever the traitor is, has found out that Matt is still alive."
The General grimly responded, "Highly possibly he already has Matt in his clutches. And he will do anything to get Matt to spill up the codes. There are a lot of buyers out there for a nuclear warhead, if you must know."
"Oh, I know." Parker nodded. "And how does Sam fit in all this?"
Braddock ran an agitated hand through his still thick blond hair, a sure sign that his nerves were fraying at the seams. "Whether Sam was involved in the plot or not, to them he's just a leverage to get the codes. A collateral damage."
Parker squeezed the other man's shoulder. "Let's hope it will not come to that."
"Five minutes to target," Spike suddenly announced, making the already tense situation more ominous.
"Okay, guys. Initiate stealth approach," the Sergeant spoke through his radio, "Subjects are armed and dangerous, numbers indefinite. One known hostage, possibly two. Eddie, what's your take on this?"
Ed quickly yet thoroughly ran through the tactical steps Team One would take, ending with, "Team One will cover the black door and Team Four the white. You're good with that, Troy?"
"Hammer and anvil. Got it," confirmed the other team leader.
"Steady and cautious, everyone," said Parker. "Let's go get 'em!"
"Wake up, Braddock!"
Sam jerked back to consciousness when a sharp stinging blow landed on his back. The shower had been turned off by then and he was just hanging there, shaking from the cold.
"I said, wake up!" Rob shouted, as he swung the belt again. He had been whipping Sam with it for a full minute now. Only after the tenth blow that the captive finally opened his eyes to stare blearily back at him.
"That's better." Wrapping the belt around Sam's throat, Rob added, "Now pay attention. You had better talk and talk fast. I have no more time to fool around. So tell me, what are the codes?"
"I don't…kn…know." Sam choked as the belt grew tighter and tighter around his neck.
"What did Matt tell you?"
"I don't believe you. He must have told you something, now what is it?"
Due from the lack of air, Sam started to convulse. But Rob didn't seem to care.
"The codes, Braddock!" he yelled. "Tell me the codes!"
And then all hell just broke lose.
Two simultaneous explosions suddenly shook the building, followed by the sound of multiple gunfire. Alarmed, Rob looked to his men and shouted, "We're being breached! Get to your posts now!"
They all ran out of the room with their firearms raised, only to realize that the rest of their men who stood sentry were already overpowered. A horde of SRU officers with assault weapons were pouring in from the front and back, trapping them in between.
"Drop your weapon!" they yelled at Rob and his two men, "Do it now or we will shoot!"
Knowing the futility of their situation, Rob's cohorts reluctantly threw down their guns and surrendered. But not Rob. He rushed back into the room towards Sam, attempting to use him as hostage.
Only Sam was ready for him.
As Rob came near, Sam gathered all the energy he still had and yanked himself up to lash out a high kick, hitting the other man on the face. Stunned by the blow, Rob dropped his gun and stumbled. Not stopping there, Sam hooked one knee around Rob's neck and shoved the other foot against the man's jaw.
And that was when Ed rushed inside, followed by Raf and Sergeant Parker. "Sam!"
Putting more force against Rob's face, Sam spoke through gritted teeth. "I'll kill him."
"No, Sam. You won't," said Parker soothingly as he made his cautious approach. Sam looked like a caged animal about to attack. A wrong word said and he would snap.
"I can break his neck with just a twist of my foot," Sam continued to say, his eyes wild and burning with rage.
Raising his MP5 but not aiming at his teammate, Ed nodded. "We're sure you can. But you don't have to. It's over. He's done."
"He killed my Dad!"
"Your Dad is alright, Sam," Parker said, "He's fine."
A tear ran down Sam's white cheek as he sadly looked at them. "Don't lie to me. I can take no more lies."
"Would I lie to you?" Parker asked, taking a step closer. He blanched when he noticed the level of abuses that Sam's body had taken. He wondered how the young man could bear it all and was still able to talk. "Look at me, Sam. Am I lying to you here?"
Sam's lips were trembling as he gave his teammates a direct searching gaze. He saw that Parker meant what he said, but how could that be possible? He saw his father fell, he saw the blood on his head. How could he survive that?
His hold on Rob slowly began to lessen, but Sam was still in doubt. Until Braddock senior himself appeared at the door.
As Sam released Rob altogether, Ed and Raf quickly ran over and pushed the man onto the floor before cuffing him.
"We need the medics!" Parker was yelling as he and the General grabbed Sam around his naked torso and held him up, releasing the painful strains in his arms. As Rob was dragged away from the room by other SRUs, Raf and Ed worked together to cut Sam down from the shower head. The entire while, Sam could only stare at his father in great shock.
"You're…alive," he managed to say in a quiet voice as he stood wavering on his feet with their support.
Braddock senior shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah. Sorry to disappoint you."
"Disappoint me?" Sam echoed with a blink, his voice so low it was almost inaudible. He weakly glanced to the side, where Matt lay crumpled on the floor. Dead.
He thinks he disappoints me for being alive?
Red haze suddenly filled his vision. Without warning, he lashed out and slammed his fist into his father's face.
"You bastard! You stupid ungrateful bastard!" he screamed as he continued to throw punches.
"Sam! Sam!" the others cried out as they try to pry him off his father but Sam was in frenzy.
Still, for a man his age, General Braddock was agile on his feet. After the first punch, he twisted and twirled about to avoid his son's flying fists. With his jaw still stinging, he grabbed Sam's swinging arm and yanked it behind his son's back. Cursing, Sam backpedaled to throw his father off. He jerked his free elbow up, almost hitting the older man in the chin.
"Enough!" the General roared, wrapping an arm around Sam's neck from behind and dropped to the floor, bringing his son with him. Raf and Ed helped held Sam down but Braddock senior told them to back off, which they grudgingly did.
By then, Sam had already stopped struggling. The adrenaline rush had gone as sudden as it had come, and it left him completely drained and weakened. Unable to move, overcame by grief and physical agony, he sat slumped in his father's arms and began to weep.
"Oh, Sammy." The General sighed and embraced him tighter, his own eyes dampened with tears to hear the sound of his son's heartbreaking sobs. Turning to the others in the room, he implored, "Please, leave us."
Moved by the sudden vulnerability that the General is showing, Parker gave him an understanding nod. He ushered Raf and Ed out, giving the Braddocks some space of privacy. At the doorway, the Sergeant gave Matthew Walsh's lifeless body another sad look before turning back to gaze at Sam's bowed head buried against his father's chest.
The young Braddock had survived the night's atrocity, but there were still many more hard nights ahead. He would need a whole lot of resolve and willpower to survive them.
If anyone could do it, it would be Sam.
Team One walked down the hallway of St. Simon Hospital towards Sam's room. Their shift had ended a while ago, but they had to wrap up the scene and then sat for debrief. By the time they had finished, it was already two in the morning.
Reaching Sam's room, the team was quite surprised to see two military guards stood flanking the doorway. The General was not taking any chances then. Peering inside they saw him sitting next to the bed, his hand gently stroking his son's head. Sam was lying on his side, fast asleep.
Braddock senior raised his head, looking slightly embarrassed to be caught showing his soft side. Giving Sam's forehead another brush, he rose to his feet and approached the team with half a smile. "It's all done?"
"Done and wrapped up." Parker nodded. "How's Sam doing?"
After a brief glance at his son, Braddock turned back to them and said in a low voice, "He sleeps. Finally. I had to fight tooth and nail to make him agree to stay here. That's why I placed the sentry, to assure that he doesn't run away."
They all laughed softly at that, knowing how Sam felt about hospitals. Within the last two months alone, he had been hospitalized more than he had been in three years. No wonder he had been terribly anxious to be released.
Seeing the wistful look on Jules' face, Braddock inclined his head at her and said, "Go to him. He needs you."
Jules emitted a grateful smile and went to take the seat the General had just vacated. Sam stirred, so she squeezed his hand and whispered soothing noises into his ear until he settled back down.
"What did the doctor say?" Ed wanted to know. He had been aghast to see Sam's awful condition when they came to rescue him.
"The usual—concussions, abrasions, a couple of cracked ribs. To top it off, he also suffers first degree burns, mild hypothermia and bruises around his neck. But Sam is Sam. When I pointed out these injuries to him, he just told me he'll rub some dirt on them and move on." Braddock chuckled ruefully. "That kid can be too stubborn for his own good."
"Oh, yes. Indeed," Parker agreed with a grin. "Sam is strong, that's what he really is. No matter what have been done to him, he will pull through. Your son is not an easy man to bring down, General."
Braddock sighed, looking a little self-conscious. "I brought this whole disaster on him. If Sam had died, I…I could never forgive myself. I might have not been able to get him back alive without your help. For that, I thank you."
"No need to thank us, sir. Sam is one of us. We protect our own," Spike was saying. "In fact, he doesn't need to be in our team to get to be rescued. It's our job. We save everyone."
"Connect, respect, protect. I hear you." Braddock stood a little straighter as he noticed two military officers approaching. "Okay, I'm afraid I should be going. My ride is here."
Raf's eyes widened. "You're leaving now?"
With a shrug, the older man said, "I have to, my job is still not done. There's the matter of Sergeant Matthew Walsh's body to be taken care of. He died a hero once and he died again tonight saving my son. Someone's head will surely roll for this."
"You're talking about the traitor in your midst," said Parker.
Braddock nodded. "We're going to apprehend this man who has been selling info to the highest bidders."
"You already know who he is?"
"We traced all calls which Rob, the leader of the hostile group, has made and received within the last forty-eight hours. It didn't take a genius to find out who has been his main contact. Sadly to say, it is one of our own. He's outside the loop of my immediate black ops team, but close enough that he can get ahold on some vital materials. If found guilty he will get the just punishment for his treason. Mark my words on that."
As they shook hands in farewell, Braddock sincerely told Greg, "I stand corrected, Parker. Of my son's safety, it's not only me that I trust now. I also trust you and your entire team. Thank you again for rescuing him."
"Our pleasure to help."
Returning to Sam's bed, the General reached over to squeeze his son's foot through the blanket. He then told Jules, "Get Sammy to bring you to our family dinner soon. My wife is dying to meet you."
She blushed. "Thanks. I will, sir."
Giving Sam a last concerned gaze, General Braddock nodded at Team One and went out the door where he was joined by the two military officers. Those men immediately had their heads close together, discussing something in whispers while quickly walking away.
Parker and the others exchanged knowing looks.
"Well, General Badass is back in the office," Ed dryly commented, coming near to the bed. As he watched his sleeping teammate, his face softened. "Sam looks so vulnerable now, doesn't he?"
"Vulnerable yet lethal," Parker said, sitting in the other available chair. "You saw how badly they've hurt him, and still he came up swinging. I really thought he was going to snap the man's neck like a twig."
"Me too." Raf was shaking his head as he joined Spike to sit on the window ledge. "For a while there I feared I had to shoot him for harming his captor. That would be twisted, man."
"That's why we called him Samtastic!" Spike laughed, and then quickly sobered when Sam moved restlessly in the bed. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Oops, sorry. Should we leave and let him sleep in peace?"
"I'm not leaving him, not tonight," Jules replied with a shake of her head.
"I'm staying," Parker announced as he soothingly patted Sam's back until the younger man's breathing even out once more.
"So am I," said Ed, walking towards the door. "I'm gonna get some extra chairs in here."
Spike shrugged and moved to follow Ed. "Might as well help you because I'm staying too. There's nothing fun to do at home for me anyway."
And so that night, even after their shift was fully over, Team One spent the following hours as a unit to give solace to their wounded friend. Sam's erratic dreams were plagued by the recent dreadful things he had suffered, but his loyal teammates were always there to chase the demons away.
"Whoa, Samtastic! What the hell are you doing here? You're supposed to be on medical leave," Spike exclaimed when Sam walked into HQ three days later.
Sam just grinned. "How am I going to recover fast by being holed up at home like a hibernating bear and just sit staring at the walls? I'd rather come here and watch you all gallivanting crazily about without me. Should be fun. Laughter is the best medicine, they said."
"Ha ha ha. Funny," said Ed, slapping Sam in the back none too gently. "You learn that while reading the women's magazine that Jules brought you?"
"Touché," Jules responded with a smile before she gave Sam a hug. "Hey, there. You didn't tell me you're coming in today."
"I didn't plan this, believe me," Sam replied, releasing her. "I suddenly got bored with nothing better to do. I know I'm still not cleared to join you guys out there but maybe I can make myself busy with something else, like helping Winnie man the dispatch calls."
"What, you trying to take over my job now, Sam?" the pretty dispatcher asked in mock horror from behind her station.
They all laughed at that and Parker said, "If Sam mans the calls, suddenly there would be a huge spike in the numbers of young and lonely female callers."
"And Jules is going to get real jealous," Raf teased.
"She's gonna shoot Sam in the ass just to let out some steam," Ed added, causing Jules to stuck her tongue at him.
"Then everything will go back to square one before it starts all over again!" Spike concluded, adding to their mirth. Sam and Jules looked at each other and simply blushed at the ribbing, being the good sports that they were.
As their laughter died down, Winnie remembered something. "Oh, Sam. You received a mail yesterday."
"Really? But I never put the HQ as my mailing address."
Winnie shrugged. "I don't know about that. Anyway, here it is. A postcard."
That caused Sam to frown. "A postcard? Is it from Paris?"
"Why Paris?" Raf asked.
"Oh, Natalie is on vacation there right now. She—" The moment Sam saw the postcard, his heart skipped a beat. It was not from Paris. Wherever it came from, the postcard was not sent by his younger sister.
"Sam, what's wrong?" Parker asked, concerned to see the young Braddock turned a shade paler.
Staring at the postcard, at the image of the fallen Berlin Wall with the Bradenburg Gate in the background, Sam had to swallow hard before he could answer, "I know who sent this."
"Who?" his teammates simultaneously asked him.
"It's from Matt."
They were shocked, of course. "Are you saying that he's still…"
"No, Matt is dead, no doubt about it. His death is not a stage this time because I saw it with my own eyes." Sam shook his head and started to explain, "Matt and I went to Germany together once. He decided to bring home some souvenirs for his sister, Michaela, and so he bought her a bunch of postcards. I picked this one for her myself. Michaela is supposed to keep this in a cardboard box with the rest of her postcards collection."
"So that's why Matt came out of hiding and returned here, to get this particular postcard," Ed said, as he finally understood. "But why did he do that, when he knew he was endangering himself?"
"He wanted to send me a message," Sam softly said, remembering Matt's last words seconds before he died.
I'll send you a postcard.
"I believe he sent this to me before he was captured."
"What is written there?" Jules was curious to know.
Sam was already scanning the back. "Except for my name and the address, he wrote nothing else. The writing was indeed his. I'll recognize that chicken-scrawl anywhere."
"What message could he convey if that's all that he wrote?"
No answers from Sam, for he was intently scrutinizing the stamp at the top left, a local postage. And then without a word, he gingerly peeled the stamp off. His team watched, fascinated, when Sam revealed what lay beneath.
A tiny microchip.
"Is that what I think it is?" Parker was stunned.
Sam looked grim as he held up the thing for them to see. "Only one way to find out. Spike, can you help me with this?"
"Absolutely!" Taking the microchip from Sam, Spike ran towards his computers in the briefing room. It took him a few minutes to get hook up with some supporting gadgets only he knew what. After several keystrokes, the screen was filled with variation list of numbers.
"Good God," was all Spike managed to say as they stared at the screen in sheer awe.
"What do you think the numbers stand for?" Raf shoot the question at no one in particular.
"Coordinates and the activation codes for the missing nuclear warhead," Sam answered. He was deeply touched by Matt's complete trust in him with such deadly information. "Matt knew he has been made and tried to get rid of the microchip before it falls into the wrong hands."
"And so he sent it to you because he trust that you will know what to do," Ed commented, patting Sam's shoulder.
"Yes, I do." Sam nodded. He pulled out his cell phone and started dialing. "My Dad's gonna crap in his pants when he hears about this."
To his teammates, that was the funniest line Sam had said in days and they all burst out laughing.
As Sam made the call, they crowded around him like a shield. If what they had stumbled upon was indeed the codes to the 'broken arrow', so the threat on Sam's life was far from over. No matter what the danger he would face, they would all face it together as a team, as a unit.
As a family.
Because that's what Team One truly was.
Well, that's the end of this fic. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it. Thanks soooooooooooooooooooo much for reading! To those who spent a bit of time by giving your reviews, I wish I could send chocolates to you as a sign of 'thank you'. Hehe…
Wait. Is this the end of this fic?
Plot bunnies, what do you think? Really? You're sure? Okay, then. We'll talk later, plot bunnies.
See ya, guys! Adromir has left the building!