Companion to Force Protection
Disclaimer: MagSeven characters are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment.
Thanks: As always, to my faithful betas who saved the day. And to everyone who continues to write new stories, letting the men live on!
Notes: Introduction as to how the seven men became the team.
Orrin Travis: corporate billionaire. After a personal tragedy -- his son being kidnapped and murdered -- he decided to form his own elite security team. Orrin didn't want what had happened to him and his family to happen to anyone else. But he'd need to find someone to run the team.
Chris Larabee met up with him entirely by accident. He saved the businessman from being robbed outside of a bar Chris had been frequenting. Waving away Travis' thanks, he'd continued on his way home, never realizing what he'd unknowingly set in motion. Within a week, Travis was at his door, offering the leadership of a specialized team, answerable to almost no one.
Initially, Larabee refused. Still haunted by the memory of his family dying, he wanted nothing to do with the military. But he was assured it was a private operation, with no military involvement and fully-supported by Travis Industries. After a week of Orrin's hassling, haggling, and cajoling, he gave in; the first spark of life in a long time flared. Now he needed his team.
First to join was Buck Wilmington, Chris' old Navy pal. Buck had left the service at the same time as Chris after Larabee's family was killed. He'd wandered around, keeping Chris out of trouble for a couple years, but they'd lost touch almost a year prior to Larabee's encounter with Travis.
That didn't mean Chris didn't know where Wilmington could be found. The son of a former Las Vegas showgirl, Buck had gone home to regroup. A quick plane ride and a two-minute discussion had the self- assured ladies' man and demolition expert on board.
When asked for ideas, Buck responded, "You know I'm more of an action man myself. We need a planner."
"You have someone in mind?"
"As a matter of fact, a few months ago I happened across a seminar conducted by a man I think would be perfect."
Josiah Sanchez came next. Buck had seen the man lecture months before and knew he'd make an excellent strategist and negotiator. Josiah'd been in the Army but finally had to leave because the military's doctrine clashed with his spiritual beliefs. He believed in negotiating first, and using violence only as the final option. His CO disagreed, ordering him to fire upon a village of natives. Josiah refused and landed in the brig. After a court-martial, he was discharged.
They found him in southern Colorado rebuilding a church. He'd politely refused, but Buck the charmer swiftly turned him around. When asked if he had any suggestions for teammates, Sanchez smiled and said, "I know a guy."
His guy turned out to be Nathan Jackson, a former Air Force pilot, currently working at a local airfield. Smiling broadly as Josiah strolled up to him, the black man greeted them warmly.
Sanchez performed the introductions. "Chris Larabee, I'd like you to meet Nathan 'Doc' Jackson."
"Doc?" asked Larabee, extending his hand.
"Yeah," sighed Jackson. "I got it back in Basic. As soon as my squad heard I was a paramedic before I'd joined, that was it."
"You're medically trained?"
Chris looked over at Josiah. "Why didn't you tell me about that?" Finding out that the expert pilot was also a medic guaranteed him a place on Larabee's team. He only had to convince the man.
Josiah shrugged. "You never asked."
Chris explained the idea behind the team.
Nathan shook his head. "Nah, no thanks. I´m doing all right."
"Are you serious?" Larabee was surprised. "Don't you want the chance to fly something other than sightseeing tours?" The young pilot was wavering but it would take more to convince him. "What about your own airfield with a mechanic and multiple aircraft?"
Jackson looked around the small airfield and at his single plane before grinning. "Where do I sign?"
Travis was impressed with the team thus far, but agreed with Chris that there should be a computer specialist. He handed over a folder with all the pertinent information required to hire John "JD" Dunne. Travis had used him previously and vouched for his abilities. JD was a private investigator via the computer, tracking people and information over the Internet -- a cyber-detective.
Chris flew to New York where he met the young man. At first Larabee said the cyber-detective was too young, but JD quickly proved his worth by demonstrating his skills.
Dunne's mother had cancer; that's why he'd chosen the computer- related profession. He excelled in computers, could do all his work at home, and take care of his mother at the same time. JD had lived with his mother until she died a few months earlier.
The imposing Larabee intimidated the young man, but JD was looking for something different something to get him away from his memories. Intrigued by the idea of the special response team, Dunne was eager to head West. The leader flew him back to meet everyone else. Nathan, Josiah, and Buck -- especially Buck -- welcomed the new addition.
Sitting with Buck in the hotel suite that was their temporary headquarters, Chris flipped on the national news. There was a story of a bungled robbery in a restaurant where an unlikely hero emerged to save the day. For some reason, this man had stripped down to his underwear in order to show his good faith to the gunman. As soon as the gunman relaxed his stance, the chestnut-haired man took him out. The news camera caught the hero, wrapped only in a checkered tablecloth, heading out the back of the restaurant.
Chris demanded they find out who that man was and put him on the team. "He's willing to put it all on the line."
Within the day, the team found out that the semi-clothed man was Ezra Standish and was an expert in communications and surveillance, allegedly coerced into working for the CIA. It seemed that Ezra's mother, Maude, had gotten involved with -- and married -- the wrong man. He turned out to be a terrorist, wanted in over fifteen countries including the United States. In order for his mother to remain free, Ezra had to join up with the Company and lay a trap for his new stepfather. He had been forced to stay on after the terrorist's capture and incarceration "for his own good."
Something like that had never stood in the way of Orrin Travis. A few well-placed phone calls and Standish was on a plane to New Mexico. When Ezra arrived at the hotel and met Larabee, the blond gave him a choice: work for him or not. Either way, Ezra was now free of the CIA; Travis had seen to that. Surprising everyone but Chris, Ezra agreed to be the sixth member of the team.
They needed a sniper, but none of the men interviewed were good enough in Larabee's eyes. This time it was young JD who ventured, "Maybe you should ask Mr. Travis if he knows any snipers." Raising an eyebrow in surprise, Chris did as suggested.
He was shocked by the response.
"You ever hear of Joshua Tanner?" the older man asked.
"Of course," Chris answered.
Tanner had been one of the best Marine snipers, famous in military circles.
"Vin's his son," Travis said, "and he's an even better shot than his father."
After hearing that, Chris was off on the trail of Vin Tanner, a bounty hunter said to be in the region of Arizona, Texas. Josiah had trailed along, having known the boy's father from his time in the Army and eager to meet the son.
Chris and Josiah drove into the fairly small town and, after spotting a commotion, they stopped. There was a school bus parked in the middle of a side road, and the entire area was roped off and surrounded by police officers holding back the crowd.
Sanchez moved up front and got a cop talking. Apparently a bounty hunter had been chasing a bail jumper who decided he'd rather not return to jail. He had taken a school bus full of children hostage and the police negotiator was not getting through to the gunman.
Larabee scanned the area and saw a lean, longhaired man in a buckskin coat climb an adjacent fire escape and point a rifle at the bus. Chris knew without a doubt this man was Vin Tanner. His eyes locked with sincere blue ones. He inclined his head as if to say 'take the shot' and saw the answering nod.
The longhaired man fired a perfect shot, knocking the now useless gun from the bail jumper's hand. The police rushed in and subdued the dazed attacker. The police were grateful no children were hurt. Since Vin didn't go for the kill shot, they figured the kids would be far less traumatized, but some officers still tried to make trouble for Tanner. They claimed he was responsible for prompting the gunman's actions.
Chris directed Josiah over to the officer in charge to explain what a public relations fiasco it would be to have the "hero" in jail. Evidently, the officer agreed and, after having his statement taken, Vin was released.
Sanchez and Larabee stood back on the sidelines, waiting for the excitement to die down. Once Tanner was done talking to the police, he spotted the two men and walked over, with a questioning gaze on his face. Introducing themselves, Chris and Josiah explained their new team, but Vin was hesitant to accept. Josiah spoke of how he had known Vin's father, and how much good a team like theirs could do.
The bounty hunter/sniper stared into Larabee's eyes as if he were looking into the older man's soul. After a long moment, Tanner accepted the job.
Once all the men were signed on, Orrin called a meeting. His instructions were simple: "You will do whatever is necessary. If there is a need for you to be bodyguards, you will do so. If there is a need for you to perform a rescue, you will do so. If there is a retrieval mission, it's yours. You will train to become the best; there will be no question of your abilities."
Three days later, the seven men reported to the offices of Travis Industries to find Mary Travis waiting for them. She was Travis' daughter-in-law and would oversee their funding and resources.
The team wanted to have someplace out of town where they could train as well as keep track of their surroundings, and Mary showed them some property she'd found. The seven men visited the location and unanimously agreed it was perfect.
It was a 500-acre ranch about 10 miles east of the small town of North Pass in upper New Mexico. Francis Corcoran was soon hired to run the place; he was left to deal with the daily aspects of maintaining their home base. David "Tiny" Davis was hired to work on the planes and vehicles.
The seven men went into North Pass soon after purchasing the large ranch. They introduced themselves to the sheriff, Rafael Martinez, letting him know they would be firing guns and various weapons on their property. None of the men wanted any of the town's children or teenagers wandering around where they could get injured.
Larabee went to set up an account at the general store owned by Mr. and Mrs. Potter allowing the seven men, or those that worked for them, could purchase supplies as needed. After a tour of the town, the men sat down to eat at the lone restaurant. They soon found out the owner, Inez Recillos, made the best Mexican food in four states. On their way back to the ranch, they stopped to fill up at the gas station operated by Virgil Watson.
It took the men a few weeks to get to know each other --trust each other -- and then begin to work as a team.
They started out by helping each other move. The men would sleep in the large ranch house for the immediate future. Plans would be made for additional housing when the team proved successful. The one exception was Tanner, who had his houseboat hauled in and set up on the small lake at the rear of the property.
Vin needed no help since he lived primarily out of a suitcase. He just threw whatever he had into his boat.
JD had trouble letting go of the apartment he'd shared with his mom, but with Buck's support he packed everything up. With a final look around his apartment, he smiled and softly whispered, "Bye, Mama."
Everyone was impressed when they went to assist in moving Ezra. He lived in a palatial manor outside DC; most of his things would be placed into storage until he was given a "suitable" place to live.
"How'd you afford such fancy digs?" JD asked as he looked around the large house.
"Just because I was being coerced doesn't mean I wasn't amply reimbursed for my skills."
"I'm just glad you're on our side, Ez," Vin added.
Ezra gave a Cheshire smile. "As well you should be."
At Josiah's townhouse they packed up hundreds of mementos from his journeys around the world, as well as his dozens of maps and journals.
Nathan needed help packing up the numerous medical and flight manuals he kept at his place at the airfield.
Buck had been staying in the Grand Monaco Hotel; his mother ran the main show there. He went to say goodbye to her, and the men followed him into the rehearsal hall. JD's eyeballs bugged out when he saw the showgirls prancing around; he pushed away Josiah's hands when the older man tried to cover his eyes.
Chris went alone to his apartment. He didn't want any company, and not even Buck could convince him otherwise.
The team had to go through a "basic training" of sorts in order to refresh the skills of the ex-military among them and to teach their civilian counterparts. It also served to teach them each other's strengths and weaknesses, and to forge them into a strong team.
JD was thrilled at the opportunity and the excitement of being a soldier, and glad he wouldn't have to cut his hair in order to do it. He absorbed everything they showed him like a sponge and read every chance he got. Buck seemed to be an instant mentor to the kid; Larabee encouraged the relationship.
Standish was familiar with most weapons from his stint in the Company, and had no trouble learning military techniques. However, he wasn't impressed with their uniforms, preferring his own apparel unless absolutely necessary. Vin had grown up with his military father and was quite comfortable with military jargon and tactics.
Their codenames were chosen late one night as they sat around a campfire behind the main ranch house. The seven men were consuming vast amounts of beer in one of the oldest traditions known to man: male bonding.
When Buck brought up the subject, he generously bestowed the name "Wonk" on their youngest because of his voracious learning. JD promptly rebelled against it and the ladies' man tried to alleviate JD's concern. "Trust me; no one likes their code name. Well, no one except me, 'cause it just suits me so damn well." Buck smirked.
"And what's yours?" JD asked the demolition expert.
"Oh, I get it. Like an explosion."
"No, kid, as in Casanova."
JD gave a confused look. "Who's that?"
Buck rolled his eyes in exasperation.
Nathan already had his name as well -- Doc -- and no one seemed motivated to change it. He watched Standish from across the fire and smiled. The Southerner was sitting just a bit outside their circle, observing. No matter the situation, Ezra could always maintain a level of ambiguity, and remain elusive.
"I got one," Jackson called gently. "Cipher."
Surprisingly, no one asked who he meant. Six men turned as one to face the surveillance expert.
Ezra looked at his teammates in mild confusion. "Come now, I will be more than happy to answer any questions posed." His accent had gotten even more pronounced with the consumption of alcohol. "In fact, I will do more than that. I will share my life's history with you at great length. Then, once and for all, it will silence your boundless curiosity and--"
"Shut up, Cipher!" called out Buck and Josiah.
"I think Josiah should be Merlin."
"And why is that, Brother Dunne?"
"You know you're always handing out advice and wisdom." JD shrugged and smirked. "I guess your name could be 'Dear Abby' if you want."
"No, I do believe I'll stick with Merlin, thank you."
"What about Vin?" Chris asked, finally speaking.
"Robin Hood." The name was barely above a whisper, yet everyone had heard it.
"How'd ya come up with that, Ezra?" Buck asked.
"I believe the moniker fits our sniper perfectly." At the puzzled expressions on his teammates' faces, Standish continued, "Given his superior marksmanship and his unfailing generosity, 'Robin' is an exceedingly appropriate name." Ezra referred to Vin's practice of sending half of everything he'd made as a bounty hunter and now as an M7 team member to the Reservation where he had spent much of his childhood.
Vin raised his beer bottle in salute to Ezra and smiled when Ezra gave a two-fingered salute in return.
"Six down, one to go," said Buck. "Now, how 'bout you, pard?" He directed his smile at his oldest friend. Chris scowled back.
There was silence around the fire as everyone was lost in thought. At long last it was broken.
"And who shall lead us but the Shepherd?" Josiah asked as a wide grin spread across his features.
"I like it," JD said.
"Me, too," agreed Nathan.
Chris raised one eyebrow, a dubious look on his face.
"So," Vin drawled, "if you're the shepherd, does that make us the flock?"
Everyone groaned, but quickly got into the spirit.
"I don't give a flock."
"Give me a flocking break."
"Let's get the flock outta here."
Larabee got up and walked away as they continued to toss out more puns and toss down more beer.
They trained as a unit for four solid months until Larabee was convinced they would work effectively as a team. No one was sure how successful they would be until they were tested. That came a month later when the Magnificent Seven: Special Response Team was called into action
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