Disclaimer: Don't own any, just having fun.
Notes: AU, set in different present. Third in the Haven Series. And a huge thank you to those people who have enjoyed this AU and asked for more.
"Why are they in an office building?" asked JD. The Magnificent Seven stood on the roof of the ten-story parking structure and looked at the building across the way.
"Baines wants to keep his operation hush-hush," Josiah answered. "If he were in a government building, there'd be too many questions asked. This way he can hide as a normal businessman."
"What floor are they on?" Larabee asked, trying to gauge the security of the thirty-story building. It was situated in the middle of the city, but the building had a private cul-de-sac in front, somewhat separating it from the surrounding structures. And its semi-privacy made sure that there wouldn't be a whole lot of foot traffic around.
"Twenty-second," replied Sanchez.
"What's our timetable?"
Buck answered, "They'll get shipped out Sunday."
"Four days." Chris nodded and made a quick decision. "We'll hit tomorrow then."
The date surprised Nathan. "That soon?"
"The closer it gets to the moving time, the more security conscious they'll be," Chris informed them. "We'll hit them in multiple places. Ezra and Nathan will get the kids out while the rest of us cover their escape."
"He's here," reported the telepath softly.
Chris swung his head around to face his friend. "Who's here?"
Vin narrowed his eyes, staring at the building. "Baines."
"How can you tell?"
"I can sense his absence."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Ezra.
"He wears a jammer. An electronic shield."
JD was confused. "What's that?"
"It makes sense." Josiah nodded wisely. "Imagine a man surrounded by sentients at all times. In order to retain any secrets, he'd have to keep them from invading his mind."
Tanner listened to the explanation. "Yep. Creates a void he's over there."
"Okay, that doesn't change anything," Larabee continued. "We've got a job to do. JD, we'll need your help nailing down which room they're in."
Vin was quiet on the way back to the trailer. Since Vin was usually quiet, no one but Chris noticed.
Tanner tuned out the rest of the men and recalled when he'd been caught by the Guild. He was hiding out in an old warehouse, sneaking out only for food, trusting no one, and trying to stay clear of everyone. With the news of the PCCA being stringently enforced, the young man was scared.
On one of his rare journeys outside his small domain, Tanner was picked up in a sweep. He was taken with a group of three others in a windowless van to a small, nondescript building. Under guard, he and the others were taken inside and descended in an elevator; the longest elevator ride the young man had ever been on. He kept his head down, trying to block out the fearful thoughts of the captured. Vin stepped out into a huge underground complex and was shoved along, past several rooms and numerous armed guards, until he and another of the detainees were pushed into a nearly empty sterile room. It was a stark white room, with only three chairs and a table in the middle. The two strangers nervously looked around, their gazes never stopping on each other. They were saved from having to talk to each other by the arrival of the first doctor.
The telepath was startled from his musings by his friend's voice and a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, Vin. What's up?" After watching Vin stare vacantly out the window for the past twenty minutes, Chris couldn't take it anymore.
"Jest worried 'bout tomorrow is all."
Chris watched his best friend, hoping to see if that was the truth. Taking the sentence at face value, he responded, "You'll do fine. We'll do fine."
"Yeah," Vin agreed, but without any strength behind it.
JD Dunne waited until most of his team left. In case he was caught, the others should be far away. The young man straightened his hat and, with a slow stride, walked through the lobby of the Harcourt Office Building. A few people were milling around, but ignored the young man as he marched up to the front desk and addressed the guard.
The guard looked up as a teenager in a pizza delivery outfit came up to the desk. "May I help you?"
"Yep," said JD. "I have a pizza for office," he made a show of looking at the delivery slip, "twenty-two sixteen."
"I don't have a request for that," replied the guard with a wary expression. The kid seemed harmless, but he was paid to keep the unwanted out. "What's the name on that?"
"Yes, the name on the order."
"Jenkins." He was glad he'd thought to glance at the listing for that suite on his way through the lobby.
The guard flipped through a few computer screens before nodding. "Okay. Leave it here and I'll see he gets it."
"Sure," replied JD, sounding confident, while feeling anything but. "Twenty-five bucks."
"That's the price of the pie, dude. If you don't got it, I walk." JD turned as if to leave.
"Wait." The security guard cursed his coworker for being off on rounds. "Okay, you have fifteen minutes to deliver the pizza and get back down here or I'm coming up after you."
The young sentient breathed an inward sigh of relief. "No problem, bro. I'll be down in a flash." He strolled into the elevator and pushed the button for the correct floor. He'd have to do this in a hurry, but would try his best if it meant keeping innocents out of the hands of the Guild. As the elevator door opened on his floor, JD took a deep breath and started to glide along the corridor. The psychometrist lowered his shields as he touched the doorknobs to each office complex. His ability to get information through touching objects was invaluable in this mission. His pride, however, was tampered by his fear; any mistake could ruin the entire plan.
He glanced at his watch, noting that he'd already used up half his time, and still had many offices to go. Thank God they were suites and not individual offices, otherwise he'd never find the teens. Hurrying his gait, he passed by the next office and had to stop in his tracks. Moving slowly in reverse, he placed both hands on the part of the door where people would normally touch to push it open. Images shot through his mind and he sorted out those he needed. JD noted the office number and backtracked toward the elevator. As he passed number twenty-two sixteen, he quickly opened the door and handed the pizza to the first person he saw. "Compliments of Matthew," he called out and disappeared around the corner before they could ask questions.
Dunne rode the elevator down, hoping there would be no call for the guard to stop him. Sauntering through the lobby, he waved in the direction of the desk and then hurried out the front entranceway. The youth ran around the corner, ditching his delivery outfit in a trashcan. He walked three blocks north, where he was picked up by Josiah and taken back to the trailer.
While they didn't have unlimited funds by any means, thanks to some shrewd investments on Ezra's part, the team had quite a bit of ready cash. Standish played the stock market and had a knack for knowing when to buy and sell. He maintained it was just good business sense, but the others were sure he received a useful flash now and then. And with some of their money they had bought a large travel trailer, one of the biggest on the market. It allowed them to blend into the parks and campgrounds surrounding various cities while maintaining some space to avoid being caught in a sweep.
Chris and Vin were quietly watched the children play in the park down the way from their site, Ezra sat at the picnic table playing solitaire, Nathan studied some medical and scientific manuals, and Buck perched himself on top of the trailer keeping watch.
"Incoming," Buck called out. After a tense moment he smiled. "It's just the preacher and the kid."
JD bounded out of the car, followed by a more sedate Josiah.
The crew met at the picnic table, pushing Ezra's card game out of the way. Larabee eyed his youngest team member. "Did you find out where they are?"
"Sure did. And you're right, Vin. I saw that Baines was there, too."
"Okay, kid," drawled Buck, "tell us what we need to know."
JD told the others what information he had come by. He finished his tale with, "All in all, security was pretty lax, so we shouldn't have too hard a time getting in beforehand."
"Good." Chris was pleased. "And with the low security, no one should get hurt."
If most people off the street heard a sentient say this, they would have laughed incredulously. The anti-psionics had done a good job spreading the propaganda that sentients, if allowed to exist in a free society, would take over the country, and possibly kill all those without the power. Normal fear of the unknown did the rest. No one knew why lately there were more and more people born or discovered with psychic abilities. Maybe it was nature's way of protecting the species, part of evolution. But one thing was certain: with the knowledge that sentients were out there among the population, fear increased exponentially.
Guided by that fear, Congress was quick to pass the PCCA - the Psionic Control and Containment Act. If someone was known to have psionic power, they were taken away where they couldn't harm "normal" people. They offered a large reward for turning in a suspected sentient; thus no one with psionic abilities was safe. Unfortunately, most normal people were unconcerned with what happened to those psionics after they were taken. But it was of utmost concern to these seven men.
"Good job, kid," the telekinetic leader congratulated JD. "We'll stick to the original plan, and everyone carries a backup."
All the men carried backup weaponry since most of them didn't have offensive powers, and the rest didn't want to rely solely on their abilities. They practiced with the weapons before they left the ranch and found that Vin had the makings of a sharpshooter. Chris was the fastest shooter, followed surprisingly by JD. Nathan still preferred his throwing knives, and Ez had a sidearm in addition to a derringer rig up his right sleeve. Buck and Josiah, although not the best, were both very good marksmen.
The team split up to enjoy the last hours before sunset and to get ready for their mission.
Although it was a large trailer, the seven men were large themselves, thus it was a tight fit when it came time to go to sleep. The first night after its purchase, when sleeping arrangements were being discussed, Tanner had taken one look inside and remarked he'd rather sleep under the stars. He grabbed his sleeping bag and climbed on top of the camper, ensuring himself a claustrophobic-free sleep. Tonight was no different as each man settled down for the night. Ezra was annoyed at the enforced bedtime, but quieted down with a quick glare from Larabee. Tanner waved goodnight to everyone and climbed on the trailer's roof.
Vin watched the stars above for a while, too wired to sleep. He held doubts about tomorrow and hoped his team had not made a mistake, bringing him in. The longhaired man not only worried over his abilities, but also he didn't want his new friends being targets because of him. He took deep breaths, focusing his energy inward. Slowly his body relaxed and his mind followed.
The telepath drifted off to sleep, coasting deeper and deeper until he reached REM state. His dreams started out like they normally did. First he dreamt of his time in the Dungeon and on the run after his escape. But somehow, they changed. Tanner watched Chris playing with his son in front of a small farmhouse. His wife smiled down from her place on the porch at the antics of the father and son. Suddenly the scene switched drastically. It showed Chris arriving home with Buck in time to see his wife and son being shot in the back as they ran away from Guild members. Vin could see and feel Chris' rage as he lashed out at the murderers, raising them forty feet in the air before releasing them to fall to their deaths. Chris gently and lovingly placed his wife and son in the house on the bed, kissed them both, and then went outside, motioning to Buck. The house was burned down as the two sentients watched.
Tanner woke up with a start, heart pounding, and breath coming out in gasps. He tried to calm his racing heart, realizing he'd subconsciously entered his leader's nightmare. Oh my God! He'd known that Chris' family was dead, part of the reason for the sorrowful aura surrounding the man, but he'd had no idea that they'd been killed while attempting to escape from the Guild.
Sleep was impossible now; the image of Larabee's dying family etched in his mind's eye. He sighed and sat up, deciding to take a walk around the grounds. Vin lightly scanned the men in the trailer before he started out. The small gesture gave him some measure of comfort; he knew that he was no longer alone.
Vin ended up at the edge of the river, watching the slow current drag by. Baines had done a good job with the telepath. He had made him comfortable after his initial fears were put to rest and made him think that he was becoming part of something special. Baines was a man who has no psychic abilities and he became the "leader" of the psychics. Yet another irony that Vin needed Josiah to talk to the Almighty about. Tanner may have fallen for it if Baines hadn't let his shield slip. It was a malfunction, or maybe the shield recalibrating, but it was enough for Vin to see what Baines tried to hide; he had been taught well enough. The telepath played along until he could escape, and then he made it his mission to keep as many sentients away from Baines as possible. And tomorrow would be the first of many blows against the Guild he would make with his new team.
Nathan once again marveled at the Southerner. That man could talk himself out of or into any situation, which was fortunate because he so often ended up in one. Within a minute of entering the office building, both the healer and the clairvoyant were on their way, zooming upstairs toward the teenagers. They maintained radio silence and would continue to do so until they had the three prisoners downstairs and ready to exit. Ezra and Nathan would then signal the three teammates outside to begin their attack. JD and Josiah would arrive quickly to recover the susceptives and take them to safety.
Chris, Vin, and Buck waited across the street inside their van in the parking garage. Knowing they'd have to leave the vehicle, Ezra managed to finesse a used one for a test drive. It would be none the worse for wear, and would be returned to the car lot once found. Vin kept a telepathic connection with his two friends inside the office building. Once they entered the elevator, the three in the van would exit the vehicle and take their places to await the signal.
"Listening" to his friends as they moved toward and through the building, Vin remembered being part of Baines' group. They taught him to control his abilities, to read minds, to "push" people, although not all people were accessible to him. Some had natural shields, some were just unreachable, but the majority of people could be pushed to perform certain tasks. This is what Baines hoped for; this is what he strived for. The telepath would become an assassin for, and protector of, the Guild. And anyone who was foolish enough to go against Baines would end up dead and listed as a suicide, and it would be completely untraceable back to him or his circle. Now Vin used his learned abilities to go against his "teachers."
Vin was roused from his musings. "They're on their way up." Chris nodded and the trio left the confines of the van to move into position just down the street from the targeted building.
Paul Baines settled down into a chair in his borrowed office on the twenty-second floor of the Harcourt Building. He ran his hand through his white-blond hair. Normally not involved in the day-to-day business of the Guild, he was intrigued by these three young susceptives taken in last week's sweep. Again, he looked at the file containing the test results of Tamra Lee, Angelica Santos, and Louis Garter. They all ranked on the high end of the psionic spectrum but for some reason, only when together. Separately, the teenagers were unremarkable in their abilities, but banded together, they had the potential to be astounding. Unfortunately, they were currently unrealized, but Baines hoped that in the next few days his group could jumpstart their powers.
Ezra closed his eyes outside of suite twenty-two thirty-five, and again wished his power to be able to be called upon at will. It would be useful especially now, at one of the most vulnerable parts of the mission. When they must take a chance opening the door and hope no one was there to see them and sound the alarm.
The healer stood behind Ezra with one of his knives clutched tightly in his hand, ready to defend the mission. Gunshots would attract too much attention; stealth was the key.
Knowing it was time, and every second wasted was adding to the danger of detection, Ezra sighed and pushed the office door open. Nathan motioned him forward, indicating that he would continue to cover the clairvoyant.
In the center of the suite was a waiting area with a couch, chair and two tables with outdated magazines. The room where the teenagers were being held was somewhat separated from the other four in the suite. All five doors were shut, and preferably the other four would remain that way. They moved quickly to the first door on the left, where JD had told them the three young people were being held. Ezra listened at the door, hoping that the teens would still be here. He tested the doorknob, bending down to pick the lock of the door when he found it was engaged.
"Hear anything?" whispered Nathan.
Ezra looked up from his position at the door. "Not a thing." He made a final twist of his wrist and the lock clicked.
"Well, open it up and see what's inside. The others are waiting."
Ezra nodded at the healer, took a deep breath, and pushed the door open. Nathan moved inside, leaving the gambler to cover the door. Sitting around a small television were three young people. They couldn't be more than sixteen years old, if that. One looked up from where she sat on a lounge chair, glaring at the newcomers.
"I already told you to go away," the Hispanic girl snapped. "Are you all that stupid?"
The two other teens looked up at the harsh words and saw the men standing in the door. "Ignore them and maybe they'll leave," the red- haired boy quietly said. He shook his head, returning his attention to the television, and slapped the blonde girl's knee sitting next to him on the couch. She, too, turned to watch the drivel being displayed on the tube.
"Y'all need to come with us right now," spoke Nathan urgently. He kept his voice low, while Ezra watched the other doors in the suite for signs of trouble.
"It's not time for tests, we just got here," the spokesperson of the group said. "We get two hours free time before the quacks get a whack at us." She turned to the television as well, effectively blocking both men from her attention.
Knowing the time for subtlety was over, Nathan marched over to the TV and yanked the plug, ripping it from the wall. "We came here to rescue you, but we will be caught if you three don't get off your butts and come with us right now!"
The hostile voice of the girl was replaced with something that sounded suspiciously like hope. "Really?"
Nathan softened his tone. "Yes. We're working against the Guild, but if we don't get downstairs in about five minutes, we're goners."
The three looked at each other for a few seconds before nodding simultaneously. "We're coming," the boy announced.
Quickly, Nathan pushed the trio out into the suite's common room. "You've been busy," he said to Ezra as he gazed upon the clairvoyant's work. Standish had managed to tie wires to the doorknobs of the remaining four rooms, stretching them around a post in the main room. Whoever was inside of the rooms would have a hard time getting out.
Ezra shrugged. "I was bored."
Nathan led the way; Ezra followed after the teens. Once they'd arrived in the relative safety of the elevator, the healer turned to the oldest girl, the one who'd told them to get out. "I'm Nathan and this is my friend, Ezra."
"I'm Angel, that's Louie, and she's Tamra."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance." The gambler bowed and Tamra, the smallest of the three, giggled.
A tense silence fell in the small elevator, each person realizing that this was a crucial time. They'd gotten this far without mishap, but they'd been lucky. The elevator chimed, announcing their arrival on the ground floor.
"Mr. Jackson, take them to the back, I'll take care of the elevators." Nathan hurried Tamra, Louie, and Angel along, and Ezra hooked up an electronic device to each of the elevator controls, short-circuiting the system.
"That should slow down those reprobates." He smiled, showing off his gold tooth, and rushed to meet Nathan and the others.
As soon as Ezra arrived at the rear entrance, Jackson brought his radio up to his lips and stated, "We're in position." He looked at his fellow teammate and the trio responsible for this mission. "Now we wait." They couldn't open it until their friends started their diversion because the rear door had an alarm attached to it. It sent an immediate call to a guard posted near the back of the building, and an alarm through the security panel.
"Hey, pard, I think she likes me." Buck was eyeing the girl working at the newsstand on the corner, smiling when she winked in return.
"Well, she won't think much of ya in a minute, Buckley," responded Tanner.
The leader's radio crackled, "We're in position." Larabee scouted the area to make certain no innocent bystanders would be caught in the line of attack. It was still fairly early so there was little foot or car traffic around. "It's clear, let's hit 'em."
They moved to the middle of the cul-de-sac in front of the Harcourt Building. The closer they were to their target, the less energy they would have to use to cover the distance. Josiah called it "needless energy expenditure."
"Buck," called out Larabee.
The pyrokinetic gathered his energy around him, tightened it into a ball, and threw it at a car parked just outside the office building; he had perfect aim. The fireball hit the gas tank with enough force to drive it through, igniting the fuel and blowing the car up in fiery splendor. Buck quickly gathered more energy and attacked another empty car. The results weren't as explosive, but the interior glowed with flame. An alarm sounded within the building and two guards quickly rushed outside.
Baines leaned back in his chair, setting the files down, and looked out the window at the skyline of the city. From far below he heard a large noise that shook the windows of his office. He jumped up from his chair and looked out, but could see little save a small fire down below. The building's security alarm sounded, but when he called down to see what was amiss, no one answered. The Guild leader ran to his door, wrenching his shoulder when it didn't open as expected. He tugged on the door, twisting the knob and discovered that it wasn't locked, but was being held shut somehow. Baines took out his handgun and fired two shots at the knob, blowing it out of the door. He shoved his hand in the now-empty socket and yanked the door open.
Baines scowled in disbelief at the scene before him. The door to the teens' room was wide open, and they were nowhere to be seen. The other doors of the suite were tied like calves at a rodeo. His men were yelling and beating on the doors. Idiots. He cut the lines with his pocketknife, and listened as one of his men stumbled back and fell at the sudden release of the tension.
"You assholes get out here!" The three Guildsmen surrounded their boss, taking in the empty room where the kids should be. They all tried to avoid looking in the dark eyes of their boss, knowing there would be only censure and disapproval.
"Those brats are loose and I want them found now!" Baines followed his men out of the suite, pushing past curious office workers wanting to know why the alarm was sounding, and watched as two went toward the elevators while one left to scout the floor. They promptly found out the elevators were useless. Baines sent the two men down opposite stairwells, while he called for backup on his cell phone. He told the new men to start searching the area around the building when they arrived. He looked around the twenty-second floor and chanced across a janitor's closet, checking to make certain his charges weren't hiding inside. Baines cackled in triumph as he saw the maintenance elevator in the rear, got in, and took it to the ground floor.
He wanted to check to see if the disturbance downstairs related to his missing susceptives. Paul Baines didn't like, and didn't believe in, coincidence. He exited out the back door, noticing the red alarm light flashing above the door, and made his way around toward the front.
At the loud explosion from out front, Ezra and Nathan tensed, and when the building alarm went off they hustled the three susceptives out the rear door and into the plumbing van that JD and Josiah had obtained. Nathan got in, while Ezra went to get the other car to pick the trio up in front. "See you there!" hollered Nathan as the gambler closed the van's sliding door.
As the first car was burning, two guards rushed out of the building. Larabee harnessed his TK force, snagged the guns from the holsters of the security men, and dropped them down a sewer grate. Deaths, even inadvertent, were to be avoided at all costs. Sentients needed no more bad publicity.
Seeing more guards arriving, Vin called out, "I got 'em." He focused his mind and entered those of the three newest guards. Pushing their will, he made them go sit down Indian-style at the far end of the building with their hands clasped on their laps. It took a bit of energy and a lot of concentration to control all three guards. Luckily they were office guards, not guards from the Guild; Guildsmen are trained to ward off psi-attacks.
The gun-less guards spotted the trio and charged at them. A quick fireball thrown at their feet made them rethink that strategy. Clouds of smoke were beginning to roll into the courtyard, coming from the burning cars and Buck's fireballs. Chris used his TK and lifted the two guards into the air, sitting them gently on a building's ledge at least twenty feet from the ground.
Ezra Standish drove the Buick Regal around the corner, watching as his friends defended their position. Buck was still conjuring fireballs to toss, but Ezra could see his friend's energy level was fading quickly. Vin gave his attention to three men sitting on the side. Chris stood beside Vin, glaring at two men who then flew up onto a ledge. The gambler glanced around and spotted a man slinking around the side of their targeted building.
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