Force Protection

by Brate

Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: MagSeven characters are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment.

Warnings: Graphic violence, strong language… and author has little actual knowledge of military and geography. 

Notes: Open AU. Thank you so very much to Heidi and Gemini for the fabulous beta job. All remaining mistakes are mine because I refused to take all their advice.

Size: Approx: 114K

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4

Chapter One: When you secure an area, make sure you tell the Enemy
Tuesday, 0945 hrs
En route to site
"Tell me again why we're here?"

"The guy running the dig is an old friend of Travis," answered Larabee.

"Is there anyone he's not friends with?" Nate asked with a laugh.

"It's a milkrun." This from the sleepy sniper in the back.

"He's a very good friend," insisted Chris.

"How much further?"

Chris groaned. This was worse than a cross-country trip with kids. "Not much further, Vin. Then you and JD can prance and frolic in the jungle."

"Fuck you, Larabee." Vin watched the trees fly by as they raced down the track. "So alls we gotta do is pick this guy and his group up and take 'em home?"

"As soon as they finish their excavation."


Following along behind his teammates in another Humvee, Buck looked over at his partner. Dunne's head was buried in a book, trying to read while the truck was bouncing all over the road.

After yet another bump nearly threw his head into the window, JD scowled and asked, "Can't you avoid some of these potholes?"

"Hell, kid," Buck laughed, "ain't any road between the potholes." Buck smiled evilly, ripping the book out of his friend's hand and tossing it in the back. "How many times I got to tell ya, JD? You learn more from real life than out of books."

"Hey!" JD scrambled over the seat to retrieve his tome. "You always say that and yet when I give you a brilliant insight from one of my many books, you take it without thinking…which is, after all, what you're best at."

Buck refused to answer his partner, merely reaching over and tossing the book in the back once again.


"We should've flown in."

"Canopy's too thick." Josiah nodded at the closely packed trees on either side of the track. "We got as close as we could."

"Mr. Sanchez, do you have to do that now?" The grey-haired man had spread maps and charts across the entire front seat and now they were creeping up onto the dash.

"It's important to know your location, Ezra. You have to be prepared."

"I don't understand how you can read anything with this horrendous road throwing us hither and yon."

"Just makes it a challenge, brother."


An hour later the squad reached their destination. The trail expanded a few feet and led to a clearing off to the left. On the western side, where the road entered, were five six-man tents with a fire pit in the center, while on the eastern side some sort of stone structure resided. An older man, alerted by the noise of the engines, came out of the farthest tent to see who was arriving. Standing little over five-feet tall, his long grey hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and his wire-rimmed glasses completed the archetype of an archeologist.

Nathan swung the vehicle to the outer western edge of the clearing and parked.  The other two Humvees stopped on either side.  Larabee exited the big truck and scanned the surroundings.  His squad climbed out of the black transports and flanked their leader, spreading out to observe the area themselves. 

The Magnificent Seven: Special Response Team members were all wearing their battle dress uniforms -- BDUs or "fatigues" as they were called: camouflage pants and jackets over black t-shirts. The men either wore pocketed assault vests, in order to keep their equipment close at hand, or carried a backpack -- known as a rucksack or ruck -- to hold it. The team didn't have dress uniforms. If required to dress up, they went in their civilian clothes.

Chris watched as the older gentleman marched right up to him with his arm extended.

"Professor Erich Morris; I'm in charge of the site." The man smiled slightly as he shook Larabee's hand, eyeing the other men warily.

"Chris Larabee. This is my team: Buck Wilmington, JD Dunne, Vin Tanner, Ezra Standish, Nathan Jackson, and Josiah Sanchez." Each man nodded a greeting as his name was announced.

"I'm so glad you gentlemen made it through the jungle all right. I was concerned; Orrin informed me you'd be here this morning."

"We had some trouble with the map you sent."

"Yep, luckily JD here wasn't drivin'. We might still be lost." Buck dodged the punch aimed at his arm.

Erich said, "I still don't know why Orrin sent you down here, it really wasn't necessary."

Larabee shrugged. "Not our call. He just wanted to make sure you all got home all right."

"So, what is this place?" Nathan asked, pushing his boonie cap back and looking at the ruins across the camp.

"It's very exciting, I must tell you. If what we have discovered is authentic, it proves that the Laketara people were here in Nicaragua."

"Remarkable," Ezra deadpanned.

"Indeed," said the man, eager to relate his historical finding. "Previously we thought they were confined solely to Mexico, but now with this evidence it clearly shows that a tribe must have broken away from the main group and --"

"Sorry to interrupt." Larabee's tone held no regret, heading off the lecture he knew would follow. "Vin, you and Nathan set up a perimeter. I want this place secured within the hour. Josiah, JD, set up one vehicle to the north, two to the south. Ezra, set up a communications center. Buck, come with me." His team acknowledged their jobs with a nod, and left. He turned back to the man Travis had sent him to secure and motioned for him to continue.

The team went to get their equipment out of the rear of the vehicles and complete their leader's orders. Each member of the team went about his job quickly and efficiently, working together like a well- oiled machine. Nathan and Vin were in charge of establishing a secure perimeter. Motion detectors would be useless in the jungle, with so much wildlife around. Instead, they chose to set up a laser tripwire system, so when something walked between the two lasers facing each other -- creating a light-based 'wire' --an alarm would be sounded at the camp. The units were mounted a few feet up, in order that only creatures tall enough to be human would set them off. Jackson and Tanner went along the outside of their location setting up tripwires around the perimeter, ensuring that anyone coming within a hundred yards would be well announced.

JD and Josiah parked the vehicles in the positions their leader requested and then went about unpacking their gear from the Humvees. The men commandeered the two outer tents to provide better protection, moving whatever contents were inside into the other three tents. The seven men would share the two tents when they weren't on watch.

Standish grabbed his communication equipment from Josiah, placing it inside the far west tent. Ezra placed the radio transceivers on the table in the center. He began testing the headset and mikes of each of his team members, to make certain they would be in contact at all times. He set JD's laptop on the table next to him, knowing the young squad member would want to configure his equipment as well. Each man wore a watch with a GPS --Global Positioning System -- installed inside so their location could be tracked anywhere on the planet, and Dunne would want to make sure they were working properly.


Knowing his squad would get the camp situated, Chris followed Morris up to the excavation, still listening to the incessant lecture. On either side of the entrance, two large, carved boulders sat sentry. The trio passed through them into a long chamber, well lit with lanterns. The light shined on various artworks along the stone walls. The narrow interior was slightly claustrophobic in Larabee's opinion.

Across from the entryway was another, larger door that Morris motioned them through. The inner room opened wider, but was still small to Chris' eyes. He scanned the area, taking in all the details available. At the front was a platform he figured to be an altar. Two people crouched down next to it, angrily discussing something. One was a good-looking woman in her mid-20s, with long red hair and the second, a thin, plain-looking brown-haired man in his late-30s. Two others stood at the southeast corner. A woman in her early 40s with greying blonde hair was sketching while a pale blond "surfer dude" in his early 20s took samples.

Erich walked over in front of the altar and cleared his throat to get the attention of the arguing couple. "Our protectors have arrived," he stated somewhat sarcastically. The statement grabbed the attention of the other two excavation team members and they came over to stare at the newcomers with the rest of the group. "This is Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington."

Larabee tried to ignore the scientists' gazes, unapologetically dissecting both him and Buck. The leader turned to his friend and was not surprised to find Wilmington making eyes at the young redhead. Chris sighed, and straightened as Erich started to introduce the dig team.

Pointing to the redhead, Morris said, "This is Amanda Pearce, one of our two archaeologists on the team. The other is Rob Denver," he motioned at the brown-haired man she'd been arguing with at the altar. "Tanya Redding," he nodded at the unsmiling blonde, "is our anthropologist. And the final member of our party is Max Kelley, geologist." The bleach-blond young man gave a mock-salute.

"And why do we need commandos?" asked the older woman, Tanya.

Larabee answered, "We're here to make sure you get back to the US safely."

"Why wouldn't we?" Amanda, the redhead, questioned.

Chris looked over at her. "It's Central America; anything can happen."

"Don't worry, little lady, we're just here to make sure nothing happens to you." Buck smiled. "And I promise to see to that."

Tanya snorted her amusement at the obvious flirtation, and Max batted his lashes. "My hero," smirked the geologist.

Chris wanted to get the conversation focused, and let the civilians know where they stood. "My team is setting up at the camp right now. We will be staying until you are finished or until I deem it unsafe for you to remain." He held up his hand, cutting off the protests. "Travis Industries has supplied the grant for this dig and I have been hired by Mr. Travis to ensure everyone returns in one piece." He looked around the temple's room at each civilian in turn so there would be no confusion. "This means that I am in complete charge, effective immediately."


Chris and Buck left the civilians to their discovery, and went to check on the team. Ezra, JD, and Josiah were nowhere to be seen. Nathan and Vin had arrived back at the camp, and were now sitting next to the fire pit examining their weapons.

Save for Vin and Buck, the team members each carried a submachine gun, the H&K MP-5.  Vin depended mainly on his sniper rifle, and as the demolition expert, Wilmington carried an M-16 semiautomatic rifle with detachable M-203 grenade launcher JIC -- just in case. All the team members had at least one sidearm, picked by personal preference, and Nathan was also known to carry a set of shurikens, or throwing blades.

Buck sat next to Tanner and started to caress his machine gun. "You sure I can't interest you in one of these babies? I mean, look at this firepower."

"I'll leave it up to you to blow shit up, Bucklin. I prefer more silent methods."

"You don't know what you're missing. Ain't nothin' better than a little noise."

Nathan and Chris exchanged a look of subdued tolerance at the discussion. It was not a new debate.

Dunne walked out of the newly acquired communications tent followed closely by Standish. "GPSs are off, but ready for activation." He passed out the watches to their designated owners, but was left with one extra. "Where's Josiah?"

"I believe Mr. Sanchez has rediscovered the joys of times gone by," replied Ezra, motioning at the temple. "Our illustrious strategist is currently occupied in searching behind the ruins." Standish handed out the radio headsets, and his teammates immediately put them on. The headsets had small earpieces, connected to a short microphone that ran toward the mouth. A small wire ran down to the waist and connected the extension to the main radio unit clipped to the belt. Ezra handed Josiah's to JD, and the black-haired soldier walked off toward the ruins. A quick radio check proved everyone was online and tied together.

Nathan said, "We got the perimeter secured and the tripwires are all connected into JD's laptop."

"Good." Larabee looked over at Vin. "See anything unusual?"

"Nope. Just trees is all."

"Let's hope it stays that way," said Buck.

"Come now, Mr. Wilmington. Don't tell me you wouldn't like the chance to, what was it… 'Blow shit up'?"

"Ez, you know I'm always up for that but with five civilians tagging along I got to be careful."


Chris pushed a button and spoke into his headset. "Merlin, Wonk, I need you at the pit." No real names were spoken over the air, as a precaution if someone unwanted was listening.

"On our way."

Once the Seven were together around the fire pit, Larabee said, "Since we didn't get a chance before, I want to go over the plan together. Josiah, what's the best extraction route?"

"As long as all goes well, we will be able to transport the civilians and their equipment out in our vehicles, driving back to the airport where we arrived." The grey-haired tactician pulled out some maps from his rucksack. Spreading one out, he pointed. "The secondary position will be at this minor airfield to the north. It'd be doubtful whether it has a plane large enough for us all, but there should be something useful that we could acquire."

"And if all hell breaks loose?" Buck asked.

Josiah sighed. "Unfortunately, this area is not easily evacuated. With a canyon to the northeast and a river to the south, I'd want to keep moving in the direction of the airfields. In an extreme situation, we could follow the river down to the local village." Again he referred to the map. "The major hitch in that plan is that the villagers wouldn't necessarily be friendlies."

"When given enough cash, all are friendly," Ezra inserted.

"I'm afraid this area has been hard hit with in-fighting and guerillas. They may not take kindly to our uniforms."

"Hopefully we won't have to find out," Chris said.

They all knew their roles in case of conflict. After a quick "refresher," the men split up to take care of their various duties. Josiah returned to the temple, intrigued by the find and eager to expand his knowledge. JD and Buck went into the tent. Dunne wanted to recalibrate his equipment and Wilmington needed to set up some charges, JIC. Vin returned to scouting the jungle, trying to get a proper picture of his surroundings. Chris and Nathan roamed around the site, keeping watch. Ezra remained at the fire pit, having stated, "Traipsing around the jungle was not my idea of a good time."

Tuesday, 1500 hrs
Excavation site

"Excuse me."

Josiah looked up from his inspection of the temple wall to see an attractive woman above him. "Yes?"

"Do you mind if I asked you a few questions?"  She motioned to the ground beside the large man.

"Not at all." The lantern he'd set up to see the artwork lit the two people's faces well enough that they could see each other's expressions clearly.

"My name is Tanya Redding," she said as she sat down next to him and stuck out her hand.

"Josiah Sanchez," he replied, shaking the hand she offered.

"I must admit I'm a little disconcerted at seeing you all arrive here." 

Josiah admired the woman's straightforwardness. "You can trust us to keep you safe."

"I thought I was safe before you came," Tanya answered ruefully. "It's because of the idols, isn't it?"

"Ma'am, I don't know about that. All I know is we were sent here to make sure no one got hurt."

Tanya studied him as he spoke and she nodded. "Okay, I believe you mean well. Can I ask about your team or is it all hush-hush?"

"You can always ask. I will not always answer," Josiah returned with a smile.

"Okay, simple one first, then. I heard you calling the young man 'Wonk.' That's not his real name, is it?"

"No, it's JD. We each have code names we can use in emergency situations or over the radio to conceal our true identities. JD happens to have 'Wonk' as his."

"Do they mean anything?"

"Usually, yes."

"What's it mean?"

Josiah smiled widely. "That pseudonym was given to him by our teammate Buck. It means 'one who studies excessively'." Wilmington bestowed Dunne's code name soon after finding out about his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Even JD had to admit it was better than "Geek," which was another name suggested.

"Did you get to choose yours?"

"Unfortunately, no."

"What is it?"

He hesitated before answering. "Merlin," he admitted softly.

"Ah, the mysterious and powerful wizard, wise beyond his time." Tanya smiled. "I can see that."

Josiah reddened slightly at the description.

She continued, "I also seem to recall the tales said that he found humor in odd situations, and would do anything to protect those he cares about."

"Well," Josiah cleared his throat, "it can't all be true."

"I beg to differ," she eyed the grey-haired soldier carefully. "From the little I've observed, I think it suits you perfectly." Seeing that she'd embarrassed him, Tanya tried to change the subject. "Would you like to hear more about this find?" she asked, pointing at the temple walls.

Smiling his relief, he answered, "I'd love to."

Tuesday, 2230 hrs
Excavation site

Vin remained at the outside perimeter, staring into the darkened jungle as if trying to see through the dense mass of trees and plants. Chris walked up to his friend and stood next to him, his silence a question.

"It's too quiet."

Larabee heard the mumbled comment from his sniper. He keyed his mike, sending out a message to the team. "Stay sharp." He heard affirmative replies from everyone.

"You think it's safe?" Chris asked.


"Milkrun, huh?"

Vin shrugged then smiled. "Reckon this might be fun after all."

"Okay, I'll spread the news -- we'll leave tomorrow morning. Nate, JD, and I have first watch so get some sleep."

"Sir, yes, sir." Vin gave a half-hearted salute. Not strictly a military group, the Seven took what methods worked best from different places, including the armed forces. Therefore, they weren't obligated to salute their leader. Sometimes it came about as a habit of military training, or more often it was sarcastic in nature.

Larabee informed the scientists that they would be leaving in the morning. Morris and his group objected heartily, stating that the work was far too important and quite unfinished to leave so soon. The civilians quickly lost the argument, grumbling as they started to pack up their equipment.

Chris was extinguishing the fire when over the headsets came a whispered, "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y…"

Then an answering, "Night!" in another voice.

Larabee growled into his headset. "I swear to God if you two start singing the Bay City Rollers again, I will come in there and shoot you myself."


Buck and Vin grinned at each other from across the tent. "Too easy," Tanner mouthed at Buck. "Sorry, Cowboy," Vin called over the radio.

"The name is Shepherd, Robin."

"Maybe we should call you 'The Mute.' You never say much, ya just glare."

"Shouldn't you be sleeping? You have to be out here in four hours."

"If you would quit yer yappin' maybe I could sleep."

"You'll be able to rest once I knock you unconscious."

"Sir, yes, sir."

Chapter Two: Incoming fire has the right of way.
Wednesday, 0525 hrs
Excavation site

Amanda Pearce woke up early, an urgent need pressing on her bladder. She quickly donned her boots, making sure they were empty before placing her feet inside, and left the tent she was sharing with Tanya. Rob and Max were in the one next door, and Erich had his own on the other side. She followed the safe path that the soldiers had left for them to use. Her friends would laugh at her if they could see her using the jungle "facilities." Her rich upbringing had not gotten her used to roughing it, but she couldn't resist this opportunity when asked to come along with Professor Morris. The chance to be a part of this discovery was enough for her to leave the comfort of her luxurious townhouse for a short time.


Dawn was just breaking, the sun beginning to streak through the trees. Nathan and Ezra were on the outer edges of the campsite as sentries. Ezra had seen the redheaded archeologist leave the camp a few minutes prior, and was watching for her return. Vin was out in the nearby area, scouting. The rest of the team was sleeping; three always stayed awake, trading off between the seven team members.


Vin stalked through the jungle, checking the tripwires he'd set up the day before and checking for disturbances in the area. He still was uncomfortable -- feeling like something was off. After finding no problems, he started working his way back to the camp when he heard a sound, a snapping branch, off to the south. Keying his mike, he whispered, "Robin to Cipher." Vin called Ezra. "Potential snakes in the nest."

"Civilian at the head," came the reply, meaning one of the scientists was using the designated area.

"Wrong location," Vin sent back. "Going for a look."

"Copy that, Robin."


Ezra motioned to Nathan who nodded in reply. Jackson walked over to the first tent and peeked inside. Chris and Buck were sleeping on the cots. Nathan made a small noise to wake them and Chris was up and alert in seconds. Already dressed in his fatigues, he put on his vest, and loaded his weapons. Buck followed suit.

Standish walked to the far tent and woke up Josiah and JD. They hurriedly dressed, and the team assembled at the fire pit. Nathan quickly informed the rest of the team that Vin was out and that there might be danger brewing.

They took protective positions around the perimeter. Buck and JD entered the three middle tents that held the civilians, and calmly woke them up, letting them know they would be leaving immediately. The soldiers gave them three minutes to pack one bag each with what they needed most, and then gathered the four together in the western- most tent, closest to the vehicles.

"Switch mikes to VA," ordered Larabee. The radios could either be set at push-to-talk or voice-activated. Normal activity allowed for the men to control their radios, but in an urgent situation, Chris preferred that everyone go to voice-activated control. That way they would have both hands free to deal with any trouble.

Tense and ready, the men waited for the report from their scout.


Vin stepped through the foliage, careful not to make the slightest sound and give away his position. Stopping, he listened closely and realized the area was missing the normal sounds of animals and birds.

Inhaling deeply, he caught the unmistakable scent of cigarettes. Amateurs, he thought. Plants and animals don't smoke. Even Chris resisted his nicotine needs while on assignment since it was impossible to conceal the smell.

The scout decided to climb a tree and try for a better view of his surroundings. Once on a solid branch, he looked around through his Steiner binoculars and saw a large group of men skulking through the jungle on a direct intercept to the site. "Shit," he murmured. Into his mike he said, "Snakes…"


"…confirmed," Vin's voice came through on their radios. "I count at least twenty hostiles, coming straight from the south and moving fast."

"Nova, Wonk, tag the civilians," Chris called. "VA off." Now that the battle had commenced, open radio traffic might distract the team.

Buck and JD acknowledged the command and ducked low, moving to the tent in order to secure the scientists and get them to safety. That was the priority of this mission. The two soldiers quickly packed the civilians into a Humvee parked and running on the west side, and told them to stay low. "What about Amanda?" asked Tanya, worriedly ducking down in the back.

"We'll take care of her," assured JD. "All set!" he called to Jackson.

Nathan and Ezra would be in charge of making sure the civilians reached the extraction point. Since Nathan was the pilot, he would be needed at the airport with the civilians. 

JD sent, "Shepherd, one civilian MIA."

"Copy that, Wonk." Larabee responded. He was about to call to his scout when the first shots went off, hitting near the campfire. "Time's up. Get out of here!" commanded the leader, lifting up to provide cover fire with his MP-5. "Doc, get them to EP2." He referred to the second extraction point.

"On it, Shepherd," Nathan called as he and Ezra raced to the Humvee filled with civilians. The hard-topped troop carriers were bullet proof, in theory, but they didn't know what other kind of ammo their enemies had. Standish jumped into the driver's side and gunned the engine, speeding off down the track they'd used the day before.

Josiah and Chris stayed behind the temple's rocks, using them as a bullet break. They'd stand up only to continue to provide cover and duck back down again.

Buck and JD ran to the other western-parked Humvee. Buck maneuvered the vehicle after his companion's. The two men would run block for their teammates and the cargo of civilians. There wasn't much room on the trail, but Wilmington managed to get around the other Humvee, staying out in front as a shield.


On her way back to her tent, Amanda heard the sounds of fighting and guns going off. Scared, she ducked into the undergrowth and hid, not knowing what else to do.


Larabee watched his men leave in the vehicles. He and Sanchez would continue to try and hold the gunmen off, while his teammates escaped. Realizing he'd been interrupted earlier, he sent out a message to his sniper.


Vin hurried back toward his team, anxious to be by their side when the shit hit the fan. He listened to the calls and commands of his team along with the sounds of weapons, picturing in his mind what was happening. Over his headset came his leader's voice. "We have one civilian unaccounted for. Robin, search and rescue. Watch your back."

"Copy that, Cowboy," Vin responded. Cursing silently, he changed direction slightly, veering off to the east. He was no longer as worried about maintaining silence, knowing that speed was now his most important tool.

Wednesday, 0615 hrs
Excavation site

With the only remaining civilian taken care of --he trusted Vin's abilities implicitly -- Larabee tried to decide how long they'd have to stay there before retreating. The jungle provided excellent coverage for their foes, leaving them more exposed. He signaled to Sanchez, "Five more minutes, then we go."

The large man nodded in acceptance before sending another round of fire into the surrounding area. He quickly exhausted his magazine and called out, "I'm out… reloading." He ducked down, popped out the empty magazine, and slapped in a full one.

Larabee took up the slack, firing his own machine gun at the men beyond.

Retaliatory fire was quick and ruthless, striking the stones they were hidden behind.

"How many, you think?" asked Larabee during a break in the action.

"Guessing by the shots, upwards of a dozen men."

Larabee nodded, taking the information in. He glanced at his watch. "One minute."

They moved slowly toward the final vehicle, parked to the north, leapfrogging back and forth. Before they reached the midway point, they heard the sound of grenade fire and watched as their Humvee blew up.

Back stepping quickly, they settled down between the large boulders of the temple once again.

Josiah turned to Chris. "Now what?"

"You´re the strategist." The blond shrugged. "Strategize," he said with a sideways smirk.


Standish drove, following behind his comrades' vehicle.

Bumping down the tracked road, the scientists held tight onto their seats to avoid smashing their heads against the roof. "What about Amanda?" asked Tanya again, still worried about the fate of her friend.

"Vin's going after her," Nathan said, keeping his eyes on the trail before him. "Trust him to keep her safe."

From far behind came an explosion.

Ezra exchanged a quick look with Nathan, hoping that none of their friends were caught in the blast.

The scientists turned and watched through the rear window. They saw bits of fire and prayed the temple would not be destroyed, and all the history lost.


In the Humvee ahead, JD and Buck heard the explosion as well.

"You think they're okay?" JD asked.

"Hell, kid, you know ol' Chris has more lives than a cat."

JD nodded, taking heart from his friend's confidence. He was interrupted in his thoughts by the sight of a large truck in the middle of the road in front of them. "Look out!"

Buck saw the truck and quickly went through his options: there was only one possible choice. Seeing nothing else beyond the vehicle blocking their path, Buck gunned the engine.

Knowing what his partner was planning, JD keyed his mike. "Doc, Cipher, we're gonna plow into this truck; you go on through."

"Understood, Wonk."

"Hold on, kid." Buck braced himself against the steering wheel as the four-ton vehicle slammed into the heavy obstacle at an angle. Their momentum pushed the lighter vehicle off the track far enough so the following Humvee could swing by, just scraping the side on the rear of Buck's and JD's vehicle.

The two soldiers shook themselves off. Buck pulled JD out of the wrecked Humvee. They checked the driver of the truck and found both he and his passenger had been killed in the crash. They grabbed whatever equipment they could and moved into the jungle.

Staying low and hurrying, they headed back to where they'd left their friends.

Chapter Three: Never draw enemy fire; it irritates your teammates.
Wednesday, 0637 hrs
East of excavation site

Vin Tanner moved back in the direction where they'd set up the facilities the day before. He'd left his jacket behind in the tent and was now wearing only a black tank top with the camouflaged pants.

He hoped he would be able to find the missing civilian, and cursed the luck that the attack had happened while one was out of the camp. He heard the continuing battle and fought against his sense of honor that insisted he go and help his team. He knew they'd get out okay, but it was his job to cover them and, at this point, he wasn't able to do so.

Getting closer, he spotted the tract where the civilian should have traveled. Standing to the side of it was a man in fatigues, but not one of his team. He watched as the man shot an AK-47 assault rifle in the direction of the excavation site. He couldn't risk the noise of shooting his own gun unless absolutely necessary.

Dropping down, Vin crept up behind the man, threw his hand over the man's mouth, and stuck his Ka-Bar combat knife into his back, killing him instantly. The man fell with little sound and, after confirming the man was dead, Vin carefully to checked him over -- a mercenary. Vin snagged some ammo and a couple of grenades from the corpse. Finding nothing else useful, he took his knife out of the merc's back and wiped it off on the man's shirt before returning it to its sheath.

He had no time to wonder who'd hired the men; he had a civilian to find. Ignoring the gunfire of the battle, he focused his attention on the area close to him, searching for anything out of the ordinary. After a few moments he noticed a bush that was shaking, not in sync with the slight breeze flowing through the jungle.

Cautiously approaching, in case it wasn't a friendly, he heard a whispered prayer in a female's voice.

"I swear if you get me out of this I will never be rude to salesgirls again."

Stifling a laugh, Vin bent down and hoping not to scare the woman, he called out softly, "Miss?"

His hope was in vain. At hearing the soft voice, she jumped in terror and shrieked, before she realized it was one of the men sent to protect them. "Oh, thank God!" she called, crawling out to the soldier.

Vin knew that her cry had most likely alerted the mercenaries to their presence and therefore they had to leave as quickly as possible. Still talking in a low voice, he said, "Ma'am, it's Vin. I'm here to get you out."

"Vin, right. I'm Amanda," she responded shakily. "Where's everyone else?"

"Already gone," he assured her. He heard crashing coming their way and whipped his head around. "We have to get out of here now."

Realizing the urgency, she ran along with the longhaired soldier, trying to keep up in the race through the trees.


Chris and Josiah had heard the radio exchange between JD and Nathan. Buck had called to say they were now on foot. Josiah ducked behind their stone block; hearing and feeling the bullets strike against it.

"I'm surprised they haven't sent a grenade or two in here yet," Chris said between shots.

"I thought the same thing," Josiah shot back. He noticed the small metallic box in Chris' vest. "I have an idea." At Chris' inquiring look, Sanchez pointed to the detonator. "It'd be a helluva distraction."

Wilmington, their demolitions expert, had set charges in the two tents the commandos had used. They believed in the phrase never leave anything behind that the enemy may find useful. That included food, shelter, or equipment. Normally they would wait until they had cleared the area before setting it off, but it didn't look like they had a choice in the matter.

Larabee nodded his agreement. "Get ready to run." He bent down and covered his head with his arms, waiting until Josiah did the same. With a silent prayer he flipped up the cover and pushed the switch. It immediately sent a signal to the detonator on the Semtex plastic explosive in the furthest tent, setting it off. The ground rocked with the explosion and debris was rained down upon the soldiers.

Apparently the gunmen were not expecting such a display and the gunfire was momentarily halted. Motioning to his partner, Chris started into the jungle, careful to avoid the sporadic gunfire. He was followed closely by Josiah.


Comments to: