- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
- Future Fic
Resuming his work the next morning, Jensen decided to assuage his curiosity and take a look at their military records. The last time he looked had been while they were in Bolivia. Back when he had believed that their country would never hurt them and that Clay and Roque could solve every problem that came their way.
He had been so naive then. It was a wonder he had survived long enough to meet Cougar, who was serious and cynical enough for them both.
The pain of Roque’s betrayal still lingered, but he started there. Everything still looked the way it should. Roque’s next of kin, a brother he never mentioned, had been alerted and collected Roque’s personal belongings. Just as it had in Bolivia, it struck him that they were only listed as deceased. There were no red banners and flashing lights proclaiming them to be traitors. That had been the media spin. Now, more than ever, Jake suspected that the brass knew Max was using them for their own purposes.
Sighing, he moved on to the colonels’ file. Again, everything looked as it should. Clicking to another page, he frowned and clicked back. While the military hadn’t labeled them as traitors, the had put a freeze on all of their monetary benefits. That had been the most frustrating for Jake and Pooch, who relied on the promise of those funds to take care of their families.
But now, the freeze on Clay’s funds was missing. He had planned to donate it all back to the military, but why would they unfreeze it?
He quickly checked all their records and with the exception of Roque, their pensions and whatnot had been reinstated. Why would they return retirement and benefits to supposedly dead men?
Taking a little more time with his file, Jensen read over it very carefully.
When he was done, he sat back and removed his glasses to rub at his eyes. Replacing the slightly bent frames, he was startled to see the others had joined him and a plate with eggs and toast sat next to his computer.
“Jake?” Pooch asked softly.
The men all shared al look while Aisha cocked her head.
“Um, yeah, man. Living and breathing and needing to eat.”
“No, Pooch. I mean, we’re alive according to the military. Everything is active and our statuses have been updated to missing in action.”
Clay’s frown dug deep furrows into his forehead. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” he sighed and took a few bites of his breakfast. “While we were in Bolivia, the records listed us as deceased and our assets were frozen. I imagine our money would just sit there for a few years until they could quietly absorb it. .Lord knows Jess and Jolene would never have had enough money to fight for it.”
“Amen,” Pooch muttered into his own plate.
“But it’s all active?” Cougar’s dark eyes met his own.
“Except for Roque’s,” Jensen confirmed.
“What does it mean?” Aisha asked, eyes darting between them all.
Jensen shook his head. “I have no idea, but I’m going to find out.”
An hour later, one of his news alerts went off, drawing the attention of the others. By this point, Aisha had stopped questioning his unexplained use of the internet and was just as pleased as the others to have contact with the outside world.
“What’s going on?” Clay asked, slumping into his chair. His fever was finally going away, but he was still tired and sore.
A couple clicks and Jensen turned the laptop so they could all see the screen. “Looks like a press conference about the explosion. I didn’t see any pre-released information, so we’ll just have to wait.”
On the screen, they could see a podium and technicians running last minute checks. With Jensen’s live feed, there were no reporters making guesses about what was happening. The sound, faint as it was, was indistinct conversation and the fumble of equipment.
It was several minutes before the conferences started. Jensen knew that during every one of them, Clay debated whether or not to ask about their records. Thankfully, he never quite asked. Jensen didn’t have any answers for him.
A sudden lull in the noise from the computer drew their attention. A nondescript man in a slightly rumpled suit made his way to the podium. After tapping the mike, he leaned into it a bit. “Thank you for attending our last minute conference. We appreciate your time. The CEO of D&G Industries, Ms. Angelica Swartz has a statement to give and will answer a few questions. Please welcome Ms. Swartz.” Stepping away from the podium, he clapped his hands as the CEO stepped up to the mike.
She was a stunning woman. Her dark skin glowed and was beautifully complimented by the yellow conservative suit she wore. Her hair was cropped close to her head and he smile was bright as she took in the audience. Thank you Henry, and thank you everyone for attending. As mentioned, I have a brief statement and then I’ll take questions. Press packets will be available to all of you before you leave.” Pausing, she glanced down at her notes.
“It’s been a little over two weeks since the explosion at one of our research facilities that claimed so many lives. We have been working closely with the appropriate authorities to discover and fix and issues that may have contributed to this tragedy. No,” she said with a pointed look at her audience. “I have nothing to disclose now.”
There was a scatter of chuckled from the audience and Swartz shifted slightly.
“we are pleased to announce that the board has agreed to extend employment opportunities to any of the surviving victims. If they wish. We know that their recuperation may take time and long term complications may make it difficult for them to return to their military service,” her smile was a bit sad and she kept her eyes on the podium, a pointed reminder that she was not answering questions yet.
“D&G Industries is proud to continue our contract with the United States military and this tragedy has touched all of our hearts. It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifice and dangers our servicemen and women face, no matter where or what their duties entail.” A quick flick of her notes too her to the next point. She now raised her head and met the gaze of several reporters.
“As tragic as this all is, there is always a silver lining. At the behest of the military, a special forces team was actually on site the night of the explosion. This information was not revealed to us until yesterday morning. The team, affectionately known as the Losers was tasked with infiltrating our facility to check the security.”
At the name of the team, several reporters began shouting out questions. Swartz waited until they were once again quiet before continuing.
“I know previous reports have stated that not only was that particular team reported as deceased, but traitors as well. My army contacts assure me that it was all fake. The losers,” she visibly grimaced at the name,” were part of a very secretive mission. One that necessitated the belie that they had done as reported. My contact assures me that the members of the team are highly trained and dedicate. If you are wondering why I get to announce their innocence and continued existence,” she shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.
“I will say I am honored to offer a public redemption to these men as well as my humble thanks. Initial reports indicate that without them on site, the casualties would have been much higher. “Turning her attention to the camera, she spoke plainly. “Colonel Clay, you and your men saved a lot of lives and a lot of money. I would be honored to thank you in person and offer all of you jobs with my company. You have proven to be worth your weight in gold. A numbers should appear at the bottom of the screen. Please contact us at any time.”
Glancing back at her audience, she smiled. “I know man y of you will be tempted to call that number just to see what happens. Please don’t, there is quite a verification process to ensure that we only speak with Colonel Franklin Clay. Thank you. I will now take questions.
Back in the bungalow, the Loser’s watching in complete surprise as the CEO was bombarded with questions about their activities. Swartz remained calm and repeatedly replied that there was a lot she didn’t know. The reporters quickly grew frustrated and the press conference slowly ground to a halt. Once Swartz was sure she had taken and answered as many questions as she could, she thanked them again and left the podium. The camera continued to film, but all they could hear were the sounds of people packing up and leaving.
“Well,” Jensen broke the silence with an overly large smile. “I guess those new IDs aren’t necessary now.”
“I guess not,” Clay’s eyes were still glued to the laptop screen. The video window had turned black. “Find out everything you can on Swartz and D&G Industries. They can wait a while.. We’ve waited long enough,” he mumbled as he rose and left he room.
The others shared a look, but none of them followed the colonel. They knew he had a lot of bitterness and regret over the last few months.
What was surprising was the pained look that crossed Aisha’s face. Without saying a word, she stood up , sending her chair screeching across the fading linoleum and stormed out of the kitchen. They heard the slamming of a door as she left the bungalow entirely.
Stumbling away from the others, Aisha held her hands to her head. She didn’t stop until she felt the warm sand of the beach give way to the clinging, wet sand that the ocean tossed waves at. Keeping her eyes closed, she slowly counted her breaths.
Nothing had gone as planned since Max’s death and she didn’t know what to do. Sinking to her knees she considered praying. God had never listened to her before, why would he start now?
She wished for her father. He had always been so wide and sure in his actions. Surely he would know what she should do and how to deal with the emotions of others that were overwhelming her at every turn. It just made everything so much more complicated.
The plan had been so simple before. Her contacts had confirmed that her father’s killers were sill alive, betrayed by their own government It was simple to track them down and rouse them into action. Clay had been food for a few fucks as well. She would have liked to try out Cougar or Roque, but both had a dark warning in their eyes. Clay was the less threatening offer.
Once they had taken care of Max, getting her revenge for betraying her father, she was to kill the Losers. Vengeance for killing her father. So simple. What had gone wrong?
The explosions at Max’s base had changed everything. Had changed her.
It had happened so slowly and she had spent so much time under Pooch and Cougar’s tender mercies that she hadn’t noticed at first. She had a hazy memory of trying to hide from it all. Nothing was clear though.
The conferences had brought it all up again. They had all been unsure about it. It hadn’t been until the CEO mentioned their supposed innocent and approved actions that she realized she knew exactly what the others were experiencing.
Cougar was a calm pool that felt as is a rock had been tossed into it. His shock had gone deep, but he was otherwise unmoved. She understood him better than the rest. He’d wait to gather more information before he reacted.
On the other hand, Jensen had been filled with excitement. Aisha wasn’t sure if it was to work for that woman or not. She was just surprised he didn’t actually wriggle in his seat like a puppy.
Pooch had been a stab of sadness and longing. Something to with his family, she was sure.
The rage that had come Clay was surprising and downright frightening. She had flashbacks to Roque, who had been the most concerning member of the Loser’s until his death.
It had been so much, she couldn’t feel herself thing or feel.
Away from the others, she was able to sort it all out and finally think for herself. Disappointment, that’s it.
If she couldn’t bring herself to kill the Loser’s for her father, she could have used them to suit her purposes. A wonderful team of mercenaries with fantastic skills who would follow her advice and wreck havoc throughout the world. Now they had another option, one she wasn’t necessarily included on. She might be a U.S. citizen, be she was not a member of the army, much less a member of their team.
They could leave her behind and she had no idea what she would do if they did.
Shaking her head, she tried not to think of the what ifs. For now, they were still together. Clay would, and in fact, did, want more details before they did anything.
With their return to life and no longer being wanted, they would certainly want to see their families before they did anything else.
Her make shift family would remain her for a little longer. She had time to plan.
In the kitchen, the remaining Losers had exchanged looks and remained where they were. Clearly neither Clay nor Aisha wanted to be followed. Best to give them space and let them cool down on their own. They had plans to make in the meant time.
Jessica Jensen was cleaning up after lunch and considering whether or not she wanted to clean the oven or get started on editing the next chapter of the book she was working on. Freelance editing had become very lucrative over the years, but she often found it difficult to consistently stay on schedule.
Ever since finding out that her brother hadn’t died in Bolivia she’s been distracted. When he and the others had shown up on her doorstep, she and Beth had been overjoyed. Their family was small enough, losing anyone, again, would be devastating.
Jake and Cougar’s decision to follow their colonel and that Aisha woman to hunt down Max should have led to a scream fight. Not for the Jensen’s. They booth narrowed their eyes, set their jaws, and erased any doubt that the two could be anything but siblings. Then they descended into extreme politeness. While pointedly being as courteous as possible, Beth had walked in. She’d taken one wide eyed look at them and grabbed her tio’s hand to return tot he relative safety of the backyard.
Only without an audience were the siblings honest with each other. Jess still wasn’t happy, but she was trying to respect their decision.
Now there would be no official death notice. If Jake and Cougar died, she would never know. She knew that Clay and Pooch would never leave any of the team behind. Once she would have said that about Roque, his betrayal would leave slow healing wounds.
Jess had no opinion about Aisha. They had barely looked at each other, much less spoken. She seemed very bitter and uninterested in the nicer things in life. The thought made Jess pity the other woman, who must have had a hard life and no one like Jake to try and make it better. Now it might be too late. Aisha would probably;y get herself killed proving to the world how much she doesn’t care.
Jess wasn’t sure what to make of her place on the team. She would try to withhold judgment, but knew herself well enough to know that she probably wouldn’t.
Sighing, she opened the kitchen cabinets. Cleaning the oven it is. Her distraction would keep her from doing her job properly. Better to take out her unease on baked on residue. To celebrate a clean oven, she and Beth could make pizza for dinner.
Of course pizza would make them think of Jake. He always made such a production of putting together the ingredients and trying new combinations. There were times even Cougar wouldn’t try his creations.
“Dammit,” she swore. They had been on her mind to the exclusion of all else the last couple of days.
Two days ago she had received a one word message from her brother. It literally only said ‘alive.’ Not as reassuring as he meant it to be, she just had more questions and a queasy, anxious feeling in her stomach.
She wanted her brother and his partner home. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask for.
Jolene certainly felt the same about Pooch. She was staying with her mother while recovering from their son’s birth. At least she was with family, but Jess knew from experience that bitterness and sadness that comes from a father missing out on a child’s first moments of life. As well as all the moment’s that come after.
The shrill ring of the phone surprised her. Swearing again she stoop up and rubbed her head where it had connected with the top of the oven. “This better be good,” picking up the phone she say Jolene’s name and managed a weak smile. “Hi Jolene,” she answered. “How are-”
“Did you see the press conference?” Jolene cut her off.
“No, what press conference?”
“One of the companies that had people at the base that exploded held a press conference.” The both left unspoken that it was probably the Loser’s that had caused it.
“The lady announced that Linwood and the boys were there legally and had been working for the government the whole time!”