Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
"Did I say I wanted it hot?" I growled as I slapped yet another mosquito.
"Hn," Heero grunted as he checked our position.
"I wanna go home," I whined under my breath, just because it felt good.
"Hn," Heero replied again.
"And I want a keg of beer, beach babes on both arms, Gundams in g-strings...
"Alert!" I snapped. Heero dropped his map and his gun was out faster than I could blink, nosing for a target. I grinned at him and he looked annoyed as I said, "Well, at least I know you're paying attention."
"Of course I am," Heero growled and picked his map up again. He pointed to the left, to a spot of cypress knees and swamp bushes, that looked like every other spot in the swamp, and said, "There."
I raised an eyebrow. I didn't question his skill, but I did question the information. "Doesn't look like anyone's been through there, not with any heavy equipment."
"Maple?" I turned in my seat and looked back at the huddled men and the one woman bunched at the center of the gravi skiff.
"Definite signatures," Maple replied as she read a display on a hand scanner. She was a very... manly... woman. Muscular, big, with hair pulled back tightly and as black as Wu Fei's. She wore fatigues and a large shoulder rifle. She was solid, completely dependable, and the best 'nanny' for our men. She dwarfed everyone around her with the exception of Tamil.
"Captain Wu Fei?" I asked. "Take Crandell and Jenkins and scout ahead. No hotdogging. Keep it low and keep it quiet."
Wu Fei gave me that withering look that told me I was an ass, but he said, "Yes, sir." When he motioned to the two men, they rose instantly and looked nervous as they jumped lightly to shore. Heero and I are Gundam pilots with reputations too, but Fei was the one that terrified them. For some reason, it was much easier for them to believe that he was a cold blooded killer.
"Kendell," I called and saw the man start. "You stay with the skiff and cover our only means of retreat."
Heero grunted, agreeing my my assessment. I could see that the man was shaky already and I wasn't going to trust him any further.
"Tiger?" Tiger looked like his namesake, very intense, broad in the shoulder, and with a stooping tension that made you think he was about to spring into action. He had two scars traveling from his nose to his left ear. I jokingly called then stripes. He was my woodsmen, my Lord of the Swamps.
"Those are planted," Tiger pointed to vegetation near our landing point. "They don't match the plants in that area."
Tiger was dressed like Heero, in one of the climate controlled, flack suits that looked like painted on, black skin. It allowed for easy movement when he jumped to land and I envied it's ability to shed heat and cold, but damn if I could bring myself to wear one. I was just too... modest. My men must have felt the same way, because most of them had decided on fatigues as well. Maple had her own style, a cross between proper military and B movie commando.
"You're getting this?" I said into my com unit.
"Yes, sir," Wu Fei replied. "We've found two traps. Sensor beam and pressure tab. DNA analysis is being downloaded to headquarters."
The man was an arrogant piece of work, but he was the best and he didn't need direction for every step of the operation. The man knew his procedures.
"Report?!" I demanded into my com, gun out. On shore, Tiger ducked, his own gun ready. The men were fumbling to get their own guns and rifles out of their holsters.
"Crandell was injured by a turtle," Wu Fei growled. "I'm sending him back."
I swore and we waited. I motioned Tiger to continue.
"These plants are on boards," Tiger announced. "They're made to slide in and out of place. That's why there's no evidence of any traffic."
"Dumb enough to work," I snorted. "Paint the area, so our friendly satellite can pinpoint the location."
"Yes, sir," Tiger replied and began popping locator bulbs from a string and tossing them around our 'entrance'.
Crandell came hopping out of the swamp. Tiger looked down at his wound and scowled. "Out of action. It bit through his boot and into his toe."
"Damn big turtle," someone muttered nervously.
Tiger helped the man onto the skiff. He sat beside the medic and grimaced as his boot was worked off. It was ugly and he definitely wasn't continuing with the mission. Two men down and we hadn't even moved in.
"Found it," Wu Fei's voice whispered in my ear.
I motioned to Heero and he nodded as he moved back and checked the men. Maple would be point and Tamil would bring up the rear. Two solid walls to keep my newborn lambs in order. Tiger would be up front with me, keeping us safe from killer turtles, and Heero would be our ranger, staying alert to danger, but moving up and down the line to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.
"Ready," Heero announced.
"Status?" I asked Fei, feeling my adrenaline start pumping. This was my element, the thing, I think, I was born to do, because I don't think any other job needed me as much or required so much of what I could do.
"Perimeter alarms and guards," Wu Fei replied. "The installation is primitive, prefab on dirt, and hidden by holos mimicking swamp canopy. I can hear machinery, but there is a smell... alcohol, grain, wood smoke."
"Trying hard to look like a still," I thought. I tied my braid to my belt to keep it out of my way and tied a bandana around my forehead to keep the sweat off. I touched my cross briefly and then tucked it under my fatigues. "We're coming in, Fei."
"Yes, sir," he replied, " but..."
"Yes?" I prompted, one foot out of the boat and pausing.
"If they are manufacturing weapons," Wu Fei told me, "Then they must be very low tech."
"Explain?" I prompted impatiently. "We have weapons manufacturing signatures, Fei."
"Yes," he replied in that damnable cool voice of his, "but I don't see any signs of a high level operation going on."
I frowned and thought about that. "They might be that good at covering it up," I suggested.
"Or they might not," Wu Fei replied.
I looked my men over and then said, "Hold position. I'll assess when we get there."
If Wu Fei was right, and we were about to make a very large mistake, then I couldn't have my men under anything but complete control. I stood before them and said, "This is a very serious operation requiring you to follow my orders to the letter. We don't want friendly fire or chance shooting innocent civilians."
Tamil was checking his rifle. He glared at me and I knew just where to look for trouble. He didn't have to say, 'Fuck you.'The others were nodding and saying, 'Yes, sir.', and he gave them a disgusted look. Yeah, trouble, all right.
"No talking," I ordered as I motioned them to follow me out of the boat. "No noise."
Tiger fell in beside me, eyes on the ground and looking for trouble. I could smell wood smoke up ahead and my doubts gnawed at me. Tiger kneeled by a small trickle of water coming from the target. He dabbed his fingers in and brought it to his nose.
"Oil, fuel, metal slag, alcohol mash." He looked up at me in concern "Your call, Captain."
I rubbed between my eyes. "Damn." Have you ever listened to that little voice yelling at the back of your mind? The one that told you exactly what was going to happen? It's probably natural to distrust it, because listening to clairvoyant voices in your head is usually considered nuts. Mine was telling me to go in blazing. My brain, the part that thought logically and factually, was already questioning my sanity and counting civilian body bags. X bags times how many men it took to run a large still operation.
I slapped at a bite on my neck and discovered a tick. I flicked it away and resisted the urge to check for more. There probably were more, along with leaches and mosquitos.
"Where are you?" Wu Fei's voice wondered angrily.
"Painting our nails," I growled back, but then amended, "Just considering options."
"No one has come out of the building," Wu Fei reported. "Our targets are still unknown."
"Plant a bug," I finally decided. It was risky. If the man planting it was caught, it could blow a very important element of surprise and endanger my people.
"I can do it," I heard Jenkins voice say and I stiffened.
"This calls for experience," I quickly argued back.
"I have experience," Jenkins snorted. "Who do you think planted the video booster on your quarters?" He was right there. They may have taken long distance shots, but planting the booster had made them sharp ones.
I counted to three, waiting for an excuse to pop into my head so I could tell him no, but one didn't appear. Wu Fei was a warrior, not a ninja. I doubt that he had any more experience sneaking up on targets than Jenkins did. During the war, the man had always gone in frontal assault despite the odds against him.
"You've got the job, Jenkins," I told him. "Make me proud."
I could almost hear the man grinning. "I won't let you down."
We moved forward again. Tiger found two more traps that Wu Fei and Jenkins had passed over. When the building began to peek through the cypress trees, we all ducked down and crawled the rest of the way to where Wu Fei was waiting.
"He's brave," Wu Fei said appreciatively as he watched Jenkins through small binoculars.
As I waited, I scratched and found mosquitos trying to settle on wherever I had bare skin. Wu Fei seemed impervious to them, as if they didn't dare suck his blood.
"Here." Heero tossed a tube of cream at me. I opened it and dabbed some on, knowing I was going to get a rash from it. My skin hated repellent almost as much as mosquito bites.
"What the hell..." I heard the faintest whisper. "I knew he was a damned chicken. Sitting here on our asses...."
I usually ignored grumbling. If a man couldn't do anything about his misery, he should at least be allowed to complain about it. This was different, though. This was questioning me.
"We might have civilians in there, Tamil," I whispered and glared at him."You want dead civies on your conscience?"
The man frowned, but I could see it penetrate that thick head of his. Maybe there was hope for him yet.
Jenkins came slipping back under cover and I squeezed his shoulder, returning his grin. "Good job," I told him. "Maple?"
Maple came forward with a flat panel and handed it to me. I grunted as I saw the inside of the building. Jenkins had done a very good job. I was a little high and had a clear view over some stacked machinery. He must have threaded the camera through the top of a doorway. That was dangerous if someone opened it, but it was an acceptable risk.
A still. There were men sitting around talking to each other with still equipment all around them chugging illegal juice. No, not the hillbilly scene from old movies, but steel, polyurethane, and energy units. I panned the lens and saw some reinforced doors behind them. Storage? The doors didn't make sense. The hairs on my neck stood up and the little voice was getting louder.
Heero looked over my shoulder and frowned. "Looks normal... except for those doors."
I nodded, but Tiger had an explanation. "Oz put some weapon caches around here during the early part of the war. It's possible these boys took one over. That would explain the tech."
Chewing on my lip, I looked over our still boys. They looked bored and irritated, but not out of character. "Heero?"
"We won't know until we go in," he replied, a goad if there ever was one. He didn't want to wait any longer.
I took a deep breath and then said, "Okay, people. Form up. We're moving in."
They worked well. They knew their jobs. We hit the door with a blast cap and then poured inside, guns ready. Still boys stood up and then froze, mouths open. No firing. No resistance. I almost grinned and said, 'Good job,' but, it's never that easy, is it?
Tamil shouldered his gun and started firing. Still boys hit the deck. Maple grabbed Tamil and Heero was suddenly between him and the still boys, ready to defend their lives from one of our own. I had a split second to feel a sliver of ice cold terror slide up my spine for my lover, but then I realized that men were pouring in from the back doors and they were coming in shooting. Tamil had been firing at them.
I didn't need to shout orders, but I did anyway. "Get the civies out! Cover and return fire!"
Heero was shouting his own orders. "Tiger! Laser rifle! Chang! Locator beacon!"
Heero grabbed the rifle Tiger tossed him and he covered the civilians retreat while our targets did their best to make him swiss cheese. They had me to go through, first, though, me and my people. Jenkins went down with a bullet to the leg. I felt one burn my arm and another slice my side as I knelt and covered him. We were sitting ducks. The others were already diving behind equipment.
Whatever these men were guarding, they were zealots. They went down to a man, despite shouts to surrender. When it was over, I sat hard on the floor, panting and feeling blood oozing from a dozen points. Behind me Jenkinsl gasped out. "Holy shit, Captain!"
I snickered and asked,"Status?"
"Missed the bone," he replied through gritted teeth. "I'd be dead, though, if you hadn't covered me."
"I spent too much time training you," I chuckled. "If you died, it'd be a waste."
He laughed back, but it was strained and I knew he was in pain. "Report!" I shouted to the room.
Wu Fei looked over our targets. "All dead," he announced as if that had been an honorable decision on their part.
Maple was checking the men. "You, Captain, Kendall, Tamil, Captain Heero."
I swivelled around, ignoring my pain and tried to focus. "Heero?"
Tamil was holding Heero up. He grunted, "He ran into a support beam."
"Concussion?" I tried not to laugh, it really wasn't funny, but I was riding on adrenalin.
"No, don't think so," Tamil replied and settled Heero down in a comfortable place.
My lover looked dazed, but his eyes were trying to find me as he asked, "Duo?"
"A lot of nicks," I told him.
Tiger growled as he kneeled by me and looked me over. "More than nicks."
"We need evac," I said. "Get us up to the roof so they can air lift us."
"I'm in command now," Wu Fei announced. "Leave it to me."
"Will do," I replied and gave him a short salute. "Orders Captain Wu Fei?"
"We'll go to the roof for dust off," he announced coolly.
"Good idea," I laughed. "Now, get me over to Heero, so I can keep him awake until the medic arrives."
As Wu Fei helped me up, I looked my people over and said, "Good job everyone." I especially zeroed in on Tamil and added, "Good call, Tamil. Don't let it go to your head."
"Thank you sir," he replied and I thought I heard some respect in his voice. It might have been the blood loss though.
"Heero," I ordered testily and Wu Fei took me over to my lover.
Return toChapter sixteen
On to Chapter eighteen: