Independence Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be

by Kati

“You’re cheating Ezra!’ Sidney exclaimed as she handed over her queen. Ezra placed the two cards on his pile of matches. They had been up in the air for about three hours now. After being briefed by Robert, they had all settled back for the long plane ride. Chris appeared to be dozing in the seat behind the girl. Sidney and Ezra had exhausted every card game that they knew.

“Please explain to me how you cheat during a game of Go Fish?” Ezra asked.

“I don’t know how you do it, but you are. Do you have any threes?”

“Go fish,” Ezra answered. Sidney sighed and drew a card. She placed it in her hands.

“Do you have any fives?” Ezra asked. Sidney slammed her hand down on the table. It was the card that she had just drawn. She realized that Ezra’s eyes were looking at something over her shoulder. She turned her head around to see Chris holding up five fingers.

“I knew it!” She threw her cards up into the air. The two men started to laugh. Sidney turned around in her seat, disgusted. Ezra tapped on her shoulder.

“I don’t talk to cheaters," she said.

“Would you accept a peace offering?" he asked. Sidney turned around in her seat.

“Depending on what it was," she said. Ezra handed her a small box. She opened it up and pulled out a watch. She recognized it as the same one that Ezra wore only with a smaller face and less links. The watch didn’t work, but Sidney didn’t think that is was supposed too. She looked for a small lever on the back. She found it and pushed it. The face popped off and a small piece of wire was hidden inside. She smiled at him as she put it in her wrist.

“Thank you," she said.

“There is no need. This watch was included with my own watch when I bought my own from the Tibetan merchant. Besides, I am getting rather sick of watching Mr. Tanner and Mr. Dunne handcuff you to my office chair. This way, you won’t have to wait for me to come to your rescue.”

Chris’s cell phone started to ring. The CIA had issued the phone and only one person had been given the number. Chris took a deep breath then answered.

“Hello?" he asked with a heavy Russian accent.

“Mr. Belousov, welcome to Alaska! My computer scans have just picked up the signal from your jet. Landing instructions have lust been given to your pilot. You should be on the ground in about ten minutes.”

“I am glad to here that. I really hate to fly,” Chris answered.

“I apologize for the inconvenience, but it was the only way to reach my property,” Thomas Robinson answered.

“There is no inconvenience. My daughter says that I am to old fashioned for my own good.”

“I look forward to meeting you all and giving you a real Canadian welcome when you land, but right now the cell phone signals are interfering with the radio signals. I had better go.”

“It was very nice talking to you Mr. Robinson,”

“Please call me Tom; last names are too formal for me.”

“Then you may take the liberty of calling me Adrian.” Chris answered then hung up the phone. He turned his attention to Ezra and Sidney. “Here we go; from now on we are the drug dealing Belousovs. We should all go change into the decent clothes. I don’t think any of them would show up wearing jeans.”

Sidney was the last one to change. She felt uncomfortable in the tight black suit and high-heeled shoes.

“You should wear clothes like that more often,” Ezra scrutinized. “They actually make you look professional.” Sidney stuck her tongue out at him.

“That doesn’t," he said with a shake of his head. Ezra looked the same as he always did; very debonair in his three piece suit Chris was wearing a suit very similar to Ezra’s. All their luggage and wardrobe had been supplied for them. Chris was holding a hanger; Its contents were covered by plastic.

:”I was told that I have to make you wear this," he stated, handing the hanger to Sidney. She took it and ripped off the plastic.

“There’s no way I’m wearing this!” She gasped at the heavy, white, fur coat.

“Don’t argue with me Sid. This is one of Ekaterina’s prized possessions. We aren’t taking any risks,” Chris ordered her. Sidney sighed and took the coat off the hanger. She put in on over her suit jacket.

“Please take your seats, the plane will be landing shortly,” Robert’s echoed throughout the cabin. They sat down and buckled their seatbelts.

“Think about how many poor animals were used to make it. Fur should stay on animals, not humans," she answered.

“I wasn’t aware that you were a member of PETA,” Ezra said. “That coat is worth thousands of dollars.”

“”When I’m done I’ll sell it and give it to World Wildlife Fund. That will make my conscious feel a little better,” Sidney answered.

The plane landed without a problem. The doors to the cabin opened and a fresh burst of cold air entered the plane. The three ATF agents gave an involuntary shudder.

Robert opened the door to the cockpit and entered cabin. They all watched as steps were pushed up. Two walked up them and entered. Both men were tall and lean. Each of them was carrying a gun on their hips.

“Hello Mr. Belousov, my name is Jake Gordon and this is Don Santos. We are Mr. Robinson’s closest associates.”

Chris, Ezra and Sidney shook hands with the three men.

“Where is your boss?” Ezra asked. “I though he would be here to greet us.”

“Mr. Robinson has taken an unexpected phone call. He has sent us to escort you to the house.”

“Then let’s hurry,” Sidney broke in. “I am tired of sitting on this plane. I have spent more time in this plane than on the ground over this past week.”

“In a few minutes Miss, we just have to check the plane first. Standard procedure, I’m sure you know the drill.”

Sidney sighed heavily, "Yes of course.”

“That is quite a coat miss,” Santos said.

“Thank you. My attraction to fir is unmatched,” Sidney answered. Ezra hid his smile at the girl’s comment.

“You passed the inspection,” Gordon said closing one of the suitcases. “Do you know how to ride a snowmobile?” Sidney rolled her eyes.

“My father refuses to drive a as he calls them ‘death machines.’ He hates any kind of modern technology. I know how to drive one.”

“As do I,” Ezra answered.

“Follow me outside,” Santos motioned with his hand. Sidney picked up the backpack containing the laptop.”

“Your luggage will be brought out later,” Gordon told her.

“I have my laptop in here and I don’t trust it anybody else’s hands.” She answered. Sidney knew that she had to keep that laptop in her possession at all costs.

Gordon nodded his head.

Ezra and Chris both exhaled the nervous breath they were holding. Chris had to hide his admiration at the four top of the line snowmobiles waiting outside. Gordon and Santo got on the two front ones. Ezra walked over to the red one and grabbed the helmet. Sidney and Chris were left with the yellow machine. Sidney held out a helmet for Chris.

“Don’t be worried Father, I will drive safely. It is a shame that you don’t about the thrill that you get from driving these," she said with a smirk. Chris stepped on her foot. They both got onto the snowmobile and joined the line of snowmobiles that was heading north.

+ + + + + + + +

“Did you get a map location yet JD?” Buck asked impatiently. He leaned over the airplane seat to stare at the laptop screen.

“For the millionth time, No!” JD answered. “The compound is about twenty miles outside of Anchorage, that’s all I know so far!”

“And we appreciate your efforts JD,” Josiah answered. He noticed that Nathan had just gotten off his cell phone, “Did you find us a hotel?”

Nathan nodded his head. “Yeah, but there was only two rooms available. This is the prime tourist season for the city.

“So who’s sharing the bed?” Vin asked.

“I say the Kid and Vin, they are both the smallest.” Buck answered.

“No way!” Vin and JD yelled at the same time.

“I am older and more mature. I call seniority over you,” Buck said.

“Seniority my ass! Besides Billy Travis is more mature than you,” Vin answered.

“We’ll get a cot,” Nathan answered not wanting this argument to continue. People on the flight were starting to stare at them. JD’s laptop started to beep. All of their attention was directed at the computer screen. A map covered the entire screen. JD typed a few keys and a beeping red dot appeared at the top of the map.

“There are you happy now?” JD asked.

“You’re sure that is where Robinson’s compound is located?” Josiah asked. JD nodded his head.

“Yeah, that red dot shows where the microchip is. That beeping noise meant that the computer was just turned on.”

“Hey JD?”

“I know Buck, you are sorry for making fun and bugging the crap out me.”

“Actually, I was going to ask you to get that stewardess’s attention for me.’

+ + + + + + + +

“I am wearing a slip,” Sidney whined as she exited her room. She had changed into a slinky blue dress for dinner.

“Quite the contrary, Ms. Marks, I would say it looks quite lovely,” Ezra answered. “Along with the other clothes that I have seen you wear over the week.” Robinson had given them their own wing of the compound. They had done a complete search of the rooms and found no bugging devices. They could talk freely in here, without fear of being heard by their host. They had spent the last week in the lap of luxury. To bad it was with a felon.

“The day we bust this guy is the day I burn these high heels," she sighed. .

“Robinson is planning to go over what he wants from us tonight. We will pass the evidence over the CIA via your computer and leave. As far as the high heels go, you just don’t know how to walk in them.

“Oh, and you do?" she snorted.

“As a matter of fact, I do have some experience in the matter. The key is to take small graceful steps. Here let me show you.”

Chris was changing into his proper dinner attire. He checked the lock on the safe in his room. The key was in her coat pocket. The bomb that Robinson wanted was inside. The second Robinson’s hands touched the bomb; they could arrest the son of a bitch. Chris opened his room door to see Ezra sauntering across the hallway.

“Umm is there something you want to tell me Ezra?” Chris asked. Sidney fell to the floor laughing hysterically.

“I was simply showing Sidney how to walk in a ladylike fashion,” Ezra tried to clarify, but the statement only made Sidney laugh harder.

“Come on, we are already late,” Chris said with a shake of his head. He pulled Sidney up to her feet. She got herself under control and they walked into the dining room. Gordon was running though the hallways and accidentally ran into Chris.

“I am very sorry sir, my boss has me running around here like crazy," he said. His face turned a scarlet red.

“It is quite alright,” Chris answered.

Robinson was already sitting at the table. He was a surprisingly small and stubby man. His blond hair was neatly cropped at the ears. He was always seen in the classic Canadian flannel shirt and jeans, not matter what the occasion.

Sidney sighed enviously. She wished Katia wasn’t such a sophisticated snob. She missed her jeans and sweatshirts.

“Please have a seat,” Robinson said with a smile. They all took their usual seats.

“May I inquire what we are having for dinner?” Ezra asked.

“You are in for a real treat tonight. We are going to have an authentic meal that you won’t find in Russia. My cook is preparing some real venison stew.”

They almost laughed out loud. They had eaten Vin’s venison stew so many times before, it was coming out of their ears. It was the only thing that the sharpshooter knew how to make.

“But that will come later; right now we are here to talk business.” He winked at Sidney. The girl was taken back. She knew that he was quite fond of her, but she had no idea why he would wink only at her.

“You are all aware that my son, Peter was killed by a law enforcement agency in Denver.” The drug lord had continuously talked about his son over the last week. The anguish in his voice was so pure that Sidney almost felt sorry for him. The thought of how many innocent people Peter Robinson had killed quickly got rid of the feeling. Chris played his role perfectly.

“I have heard about it. I offer my sincerest apologies. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to loose your only child, especially in such a terrible way.” Sidney and Ezra exchanged knowing looks.

“His death has controlled my life for the last few months. I have been obsessed with finding his killers. Through some serious detective work, I have some very important details about who the killers are. They are an ATF team that works out of the Denver Federal Building.” Anyone would have been amazed at the masked look of indifference on the agents’ faces.

Sudden realization hit Ezra. The reason Robinson wanted the bomb had become clear.

“I am beginning to understand Sir. You are planning your revenge on the American cops, No?" he asked aloud.

Robinson had a sick smile on his face. Sidney noticed that Santos and three of Robinson’s largest men had just entered the room. A shudder slid down her spine. Something wasn’t right

“You are very observant Boris. Do you approve?”

“I have dealt with many Yankee agents when I was still in the KGB. I have no tolerance for any of them.”

.“And I have no tolerance for double crossers.” He growled.

Before any of them had a chance to react, the four men had moved in. Chris and Ezra were engulfed in painful headlocks with guns pointed strait at their temples.

“What is going on?” Sidney cried rising to her feet, wishing she had her gun with her. Her mind was racing. Had they just been discovered? Why hadn’t she been attacked too?

“Just simply abiding by your wishes my dear,” Robinson smiled. Sidney couldn’t hide the look of confusion on her face. Robinson was apparently confused too.

“I received a call earlier from one of your workers. He told me that you were suspicious of your father and uncle’s actions. You were terrified that they were planning on handing over the entire operation over to the authorities and that your father was trying to kill you. Your informant says he tried to reach you and tell you that your thinking was true, but that was impossible. He called me shortly before you arrived, but wouldn’t give me a name.

There were several seconds of silent disbelief.

“How could you do this to me? You are my own flesh and blood,” Chris growled. Sidney turned to him in surprise. She read the pleading look in his eye. He was asking her to play along.

“You betrayed me!” She cried. “You were going to turn yourself in to a government that is more corrupt than us; I couldn’t stand by and let your disgusting good intentions get in the way of all my hard work.”

Robinson had walked around the table and put his arm around her shoulder. She fought the urge to shrug it off.

“No you couldn’t. You are a genius criminal mind. I like you child, and will nurture you in the way that these fools couldn’t. We will make ourselves known world wide starting with the bombing of the Federal building!” He laughed sickly.

“You will never get your hands on that bomb.” Ezra said trying to break the grip of his captor.

: I already have,” Robinson smiled triumphantly. “One of Mr. Santo’s talents is his slight of hands tricks. He got the keys to your precious safe a short time ago. Santos is on his way to Denver with the bomb. We will be meeting shortly. ”

Chris remembered the man bumping into him. His anger was rising fast. The situation had just gone from bad to horrifying. Ezra seized up the situation as fast as he could. The wheels in his head were spinning furiously. They had to get Sidney to Denver, no matter what. Somebody had to warn the Team and the others in the Federal building. He tried to convoy this message to Sidney though his eyes.

Either Sidney understood or she had figured out the same thing herself. She looked at Robinson.

“What do you want me to do with this scum?” Robinson asked.

“Lock them up and leave them,” Sidney asked.

“After all they put you through?” Robinson asked surprised.

“We don’t have the time. I want to see this bomb go off. Believe me the plans that I have for my double-crossing father will take more than a few minutes to execute.”

Robinson laughed. “That is why I love you child. Go and get your things ready and meet me by the snowmobiles.”

Sidney headed for the doors. She turned to look around again. Robinson only saw the fake smile. Chris and Ezra saw the look of anguish in her eyes. She was torn between doing the right thing and leaving her friends behind. Both of them knew that nothing would reassure her that she was doing the right thing. She left the room.

“Take them to the basement,” Robinson ordered the men. “Show them the pain and suffering that I reserve for the men who betray me.”

“What about the girl’s wishes?” Gordon asked.

“She’s got to much on her mind, It will be better for her if these vermin are dealt with before we come back.

A few minutes later, Sidney pulled the helmet on over her head and hopped onto the back of the snowmobile. She wondered once again if she had done the right thing. She wasn’t sure if the others would forgive her if anything happened to Chris and Ezra. She knew that she would never be able to forgive herself. The snowmobile lurched forward. The sudden motion sent her flying into Robinson’s back.

“Hold on Darling, we wouldn’t want to see you go flying off the back.” He paused when he didn’t receive a response. “You made the right decision. Your father and Boris are from the old school. They will only stand on the way. With your brain and my resources, we will be unstoppable. This bomb will make you famous.” Sidney didn’t answer. She didn’t want Robinson to hear her cry. She noticed five snowmobiles sailing over the hills above them. She was aware of the five men back in Denver totally unaware of what was happening. She took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself for the upcoming events.

+ + + + + + + +

Ezra felt like his whole body was on fire. He braced himself for another electric shock. He did have to give credit to Robinson. The felon really did know the meaning of pain and suffering He was thankful that Sidney had been spared seeing the torture that Robinson had planned for them. She never would have left, otherwise.

The two men had been strapped down to some steel tables across from each other. Yellow wires had been attached to various parts of their bodies The other ends of the wires were attached to a large box-like machine on the floor. Every few minutes the machine would release an electrical current that shot right through their bodies. Ezra had felt pain in his life, but nothing like this. The scene belonged in a science fiction novel, not real life.

The silence in the cold basement room was starting to get to him. Chris hadn’t said anything for the last fifteen minutes. He looked over to where Chris was laying on the table next to him. He was relieved to still see his bare chest rising.

“May I inquire about your condition Mr. Larabee?" he asked.

“Hell Ezra, we’re laying here with an eclectic current shooting through our bodies. Can’t you talk normally for once?” Chris asked, but Ezra heard the amazement in his voice.

“How do you feel Chris?” Ezra rephrased the question.

“Like shit,” came the answer. “How much longer do you recon we’ve got?”

“Well if yoy figure the rate of the electric current and divide that by the amount of the static pulses…I have no idea,” Ezra answered. Chris chuckled softly.

“I never thought I would go out like this.” The electric machine started to hum again. Both men prepared for the new shock of pain. Ezra prayed that that his life would end at that second. That the pain would stop forever. Unfortunately, his wish was not granted. The humming of the machine stopped once again.

“Ezra?” Chris asked through wheezing breaths. Ezra didn’t answer right away. “Ezra?” Chris asked again with more desperation in his voice.

“I am still among the living,” Ezra answered. “I pictured a different death for you as well. I imagined you going out in a blaze of glory. Something along the lines of you running into a blazing inferno to rescue the life of some innocent victim. Myself on the other hand, I would probably end up getting shot in the back by one of my many enemies.

“That would never happen,” Chris answered.

“Why not?” Ezra asked wishing he could turn his head to look Chris in the eyes.

“Because I’ve been watching your back for the past few years. You probably don’t know half the guys that I’ve knocked off for you.”

“I offer you my gratitude,” Ezra answered touched.

“I didn’t watch your back this time.”

“Not just for knocking off the bad guys. I will never be able to repay you for the other things,” Ezra couldn’t finish.

“Your welcome,” Chris answered knowing what Ezra was going to say. The machine started to hum again.

“I think this is going to be it,” Chris answered. “I don’t think this old heart can stand another one.”

“I quite agree with you, Mr. Larabee.”

Both men closed their eyes preparing for the final jolt. Several different images flew through their minds. Chris pictured Sarah and Adam, glad that he would be returning to them soon. Ezra imagined the few happy moments from his childhood Both of their minds flew to their teammates faces. How were they going to deal with it? Would they be able to last? They preyed that somebody would be there for Sidney. Both knew that the girl would never forgive herself for leaving them behind. How would she cope with loosing more men in her short life?”

Chris reached out his hand as far as the wires would let him. His hand brushed against Ezra’s fingers. Chris squeezed Ezra’s hand in a final gesture of friendship.

All of a sudden, the humming of the machine stopped and the room went completely dark

“Well I guess dieing isn’t so bad,” Chris said. He attempted to get up. He realized that he was still chained to the table. “Ezra?" he asked.

“Oh God, am I in Hell?" the agent groaned.

“You’re lucky I’m chained to the table right now Standish,” Chris snarled. Ezra chuckled.

“I apologize. The opportunity was just too perfect.”

“What the hell is going on?” Chris asked.

“I would assume some sort of power outage,” Ezra answered.

“Thank you Captain Obvious,” Chris snorted. “Why?”

“I have not the slightest clue. Perhaps there is some divine power watching over us.”

The door leading the basement swung open and a flashlight beam lit up the steps to basement.

“Anybody down there?” A voice called.

“I have never thought I would be so glad to hear your voice, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra called.

In a matter of minutes, the cords had been ripped off of Ezra and Chris. A makeshift lantern had been set up in the middle of the floor. Nathan had left with the other flashlight to find shirts and warmer clothes upstairs. The power outage had meant that there was no heat.

“Where is Sidney?” Buck demanded. “We didn’t see anybody or hear anyone when we broke in here.”

“She is on her way back to Denver right now. Robinson wants some form of retribution against Team Seven and plans to set a bomb that will aid in your demise. Sidney is going to help him,” Ezra answered.

“You better start from the beginning,” Vin said shaking his head. “How did you end up down here and Sidney is setting a bomb.”
Chris explained everything that happened since the dinner. Chris paused. “Wait a second. How did you end up here?”

“Travis gave us tickets to Anchorage to wait for you guys. We figured out where the compound was with the radio signal from Sid’s laptop. Last night, I was walking back from dinner at this cute little café. There’s this waitress there. Wow, she’s something else…”
“Buck!” JD scolded.

“Oh yeah, Anyway, yours truly just happened to spy our favorite CIA guy, Agent Brady. I wondered what he was doing here, so I tailed him down to the alleyway where I lost him. As you can imagine, that really got my dander up. At first, I thought he was interfering in your job. I rushed back to the hotel. Nathan made a few calls. It turns out that Brady was fired four days ago. We rushed out here as soon as we could. JD hacked into the security system and caused the power outage. And here we are now.

‘Do you think Brady was Robinson’s informant?’ Vin asked Ezra.

“It appears that way. But nothing adds up though. Why would he not just tell Robinson that we were CIA agents?” Ezra asked.

“If Brady and Robinson are in league together then,..” Nathan started to say.

“Sidney will have no idea. She’s walking right into a trap!’ JD exclaimed. “What is Brady doing?”

“I’ll ask him that before I kill him!” Chris growled, standing up. He didn’t realize how weak he was. Josiah caught him around the arms, before he collapsed on the ground.

“Maybe you should let us do the questioning for once Boss," the older man said. “JD, go get Nathan. We’ve got ourselves a plane to catch.”

+ + + + + + + +

Sidney took her seat on the jet. The rest of Robinson’s workers were taking a coach flight down to Denver. Robinson didn’t want to attract any unneeded attention. She was trying hard to appear excited, but inside she was felt like she was gong to rip apart. She hadn’t realized that she was shaking until Robinson grabbed a hold of her hands.

“You are a nervous wreak.. Here, drink this. It’s my own secret remedy to calm nerves.” Sidney took the wine glass with a smile.

“Thank you, I will be fine once I am able to rest for a while.” She said taking a sip.

“There will be another man joining us on this flight. I will be meeting him on the ground. If you are asleep when we come aboard, I won’t bother waking you up until we are there.”

“Thank you Tom," she answered. The man bent down and kissed on top of her forehead. Sidney leaned her head on the window, anxious to find out who this new man was. Large snowflakes were starting to fall. A huge snowstorm was blowing in from over the mountains. She saw a black Toyota Camry dive up. She almost yelled for joy when she saw who got out of the car.

Her rescuers were here. She figured the rest of her team couldn’t be that far away. They would arrest Robinson and then go and get Chris and Ezra. She prayed that they would last enough for her to get there. Sidney would have rather have seen Buck’s smiling face than the man on the ground, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Mark Brady would have to do.

Her jaw dropped when she saw Brady and Robinson shake hands. Brady said something. Robinson stared at the plane and his face clouded over. Sidney had no idea what Brady just said, but she knew that she had to get off the plane. She jumped out of her seat and headed for the cockpit, hoping she could escape through that exit and not be seen. She raced for the door, but she two hands grab onto her waist. She was turned around and was staring straight into Robinson’s icy cold blue eyes.

“Where are you going so fast darling? I thought you had a headache.” He dragged her over to the first row of seats and threw her into one of the seat Brady grabbed onto her wrist and snapped a pair of handcuffs on it attaching her to the armrest. Robinson headed for the back of the cabin.

“Hello Agent Marks, long time no see," the man greeted.

:”Are you trying to get us killed? You’re CIA!” She whispered trying to understand what was going on.

“Not anymore, your stupid boss got me fired. When Travis told my superiors what I did, they booted me out of the door. I am here for my own interests and I am sure that they don’t match yours," he stated simply. Robinson had returned carrying a large white bottle.

“*I don’t understand,” Sidney stated. “How did you do all this?””

“I called Robinson pretending to be Ekaterina’s informant. I told him the same story that Robinson told you.”

“Why not just tell them all that we were agents?” Sidney asked.

“You are the reason I was fired, you little bitch. Just getting killed would have been far too easy for you. I had to make you feel guilty about leaving your friends behind. From the look in your eyes, it seems that I have succeeded," he laughed.

Sidney’s face burned with fury. She swung her free hand, but Robinson grabbed onto it. He twisted it forcing the girl to gasp in pain.

“That drink I gave you had a very small amount of Barbiturate which is a sedative. It was supposed to help calm you, but it appears that I didn’t give you enough. Mark, hold onto her while I fix that problem.”

Brady pulled Sidney’s head back and forced her mouth open. The Canadian began to pour the liquid down Sidney’s throat. She felt herself start to choke. Brady let her head go. She spat out the remaining fluid out, but Robinson had managed to get half the bottle down her throat. She was already feeling woozy. She knew it was only just a matter of time.

+ + + + + + + +

:”What time did the plane leave?” Nathan demanded of the terrified airline worker.

“About two hours ago.” The little man answered. “It got off just before the snowstorm blew in.”

They all cursed loudly. All planes had been grounded until the storm let up.

Vin whipped out his cell phone. The others that had phones did the same thing. They all had the same message, No Service.

“I need to use your phone," Vin said.

“Our phone lines have been down for the last ten minutes. We can’t do anything until the storm lets up. You are welcome to wait inside until this snow stops.” After the worker finished talking, he ran the other way, terrified of the wrath that shown in the seven men’s eyes.

“We have no choice, but to wait.” Josiah said with a huge sigh. “And hope that our girl can take her of herself.”

“No,” Ezra stated. “There is another option if you gentlemen are willing to take a risk.”

“What kind of risk?” Nathan asked, eying Ezra with suspicion.

“There seems to be quite a few unused airplanes here at the moment. I will be leaving in one of them in about ten minutes whether this storm lets up or not, You are welcome to join me.

“You are in no condition to fly a plane, weather permitting or not,” Josiah said shaking his head. “Your heart almost stopped for Christ’s sake!”

“I refuse to just sit here and do nothing!”

“I never said you had to do that Ezra. I will fly the plane while you rest. We are all going to need our strength when we get back to Denver. Who else is with us?”

“So what plane are we taking?” JD asked.

Mike Roberts, the director of the Anchorage Airport was walking around the grounded planes. He had several angry passengers waiting in the lobby and packages that needed to get to lower Forty-eight by tomorrow. The storm had blown its course, but the snow was still bad enough to keep the birds on the ground for another few hours. He walked over to the hanger that held the pride and joy of his Airport. Senator Grover flew his plane to and from Washington DC at least two times a week.

He was surprised to see men working around the plane. They seemed to be preparing it for takeoff.

“What the hell is going on here?" he yelled. “Who are you?” A man walked up and flashed his badge.

“My name is Agent Jackson. I’m with the Denver ATF. We are seizing this plane for a confidential reason.”

“This plane belongs to Senator Richard Grover! There’s nothing wrong with it!”

”Senator Grover is currently under investigation for embezzling. This plane is needed for evidence in Denver as soon as possible.”

“I am not letting one of my pilots out in this weather!”

“We have a very qualified pilot who is going to fly this plane.”


Josiah walked around the other side of the plane. He pulled out his wallet and took out his flying license. He handed the card to Roberts.

“You aren’t cleared to fly commercial planes. I can’t let you take this.” He heard a safety click off. He turned around to see Chris with his gun out.

“We are going to take this plane; there is an easy way and a hard way to do this. I am sure that you want to see your wife tonight and I am in a real big hurry, so I think the easy one would be the best for the both of us.” Roberts looked around at the faces of the men.

“I’ll send a mechanic down here. I won’t stop you, but you guys are going to get yourselves killed.”

“Grover wanted for embezzling?” JD asked after Roberts had left.

“It’s the first thing that popped into my head,” Nathan said with a shrug of his shoulders.

+ + + + + + + +

Sidney’s head was throbbing. She tried to open her eyes, but something was covering them. She tried screaming, but she couldn’t get anything out from under the duct tape. Somebody was pulling her arms around the support beam she was leaning on.. She tried to struggle, but her body wouldn’t move.

Somewhere she found the strength to kick up her leg. She felt her bare foot connect with his nose.

“She’s awake!” Robinson hissed. Sidney winced as she received a punch square in the jaw,

“Guess where you are girl," the drug lord hissed in her ear. “You are in the basement of the Federal building.” He took her hand and set in on a box. Sidney felt the heat radiating form it and the numerous cords. She shuddered when she realized that is was bomb. Apparently, he had met Santos sometime on the way here.

“You know what it is. It’s set to go off in ten minutes at nine o clock AM, The entire building will be full and your teammates will be hard at work in their office. When the bomb reaches the number one… No more Team Seven! Sidney tried to break free of the man’s grasp, but both her arms were forced behind her back once again and handcuffs were slapped on her wrists.

“I liked you, child. You had the makings of a great criminal, but the wrong side found you first. You played a part in my son’s death and betrayed my trust. You will suffer for your sins.”

“Sidney was licking the tape around her mouth. She could feel it loosening.

”Let’s get out of here,” Brady hissed. “We only got a couple of minutes left!”

“Yes that’s a good idea Brady, I am pushing it a little to close for my comfort. But I wouldn’t want to leave Ms. Marks around here all by her lonesome. Sidney heard a familiar click and then a loud thud. The familiar click had been the sound of a silenced pistol. She gasped as she felt a body collapse on her legs.

“You remember what I said about double crossers.”

Sidney heard the sound of him running back up the steps. She struggled against the cuffs. She started twisting her wrists the way that Ezra had showed her too. She reached for the watch that he had given to her, and ripped off the top. The piece of metal cut into Sidney’s hand, but she ignored the pain. She had to get the people out of the building. She prayed that she would have enough time.

Meanwhile six minutes away…………

A black limo was flying down the Denver freeway. JD wanted to choose something a little sportier and faster, but the others had called seniority. .He was driving like a madman down the street. Buck was on his cell phone next to him. The others had chosen their rides and were racing towards the Federal building. Chris had passed out from exhaustion halfway through the plane ride and Ezra was on the verge of joining him.

“The building had to be evacuated! There is a bomb somewhere inside! No, this isn’t a threat! I work in the damn office and I have information that somebody has planted a bomb in the building. I would tell you if I know where it was. I…”

Buck slammed the phone down. “Damn! Mindy’s out with the flu. There’s some old bag in there who just hung up on me.”

JD stepped on the gas knowing that a lot of people’s lives depended on how fast he could get to that building.

Buck dialed Travis’s office number, His private secretary answered.

”Hi Wendy, this is Buck.” JD marveled at the fact that his friend knew the name of every single secretary in the building.

“Wendy? Wendy?” Buck pulled the cell phone from his ear. JD even heard the loud familiar ringing noise. They both recognized the fire alarm.

“Now the damn building is on fire! What else could go wrong?” Buck huffed. They had reached the Federal building. JD pulled the limo up beside a Lamborghini and a Mustang. People were flying out of the doors. Both men got out and stood beside the others. Chris had regained consciousness and was leaning against Vin.

“Where’s the fire? Buck asked.

“I don’t see one,” Nathan answered. “Maybe somebody accidentally pulled the alarm. At least we don’t have to evacuate the building. I’m going to call the bomb squad.”

A gunshot whizzed past Ezra’s ear. Nathan pushed Ezra down to the ground and took shelter behind the cars. They all instinctively dropped to their knees. People in the crowd screamed,

“Stay down on the ground!” Buck yelled.

Chris’s eyes sought out the source of the gunshot. To his surprise, Thomas Robinson was standing in front of him He desperately looked around for Sidney, but didn’t see her anywhere.

Robinson took cover behind a tree. How could Larabee and Standish have survived? What was the rest of the team doing outside the office? He checked his gun. He only had one shot left. His plans were ruined. Somehow everyone had gotten out of the building. Robinson hung his head. He felt his heart breaking all over again. He had failed his son.

“Where is the girl. Robinson?” Chris barked. Robinson’s head shot up.

“She’s not with you?" he asked. There was a smile threatening to appear on his lips.

“I’m not in the mood for games. Giver her up and I might save you from the death penalty!’ Chris yelled back.

Robinson stood up with a smile. His gun hung by his side. Chris raised his gun to shoot, but Vin grabbed a hold of his arm.

“Not until we find out where Sidney is,” Vin ordered. Chris nodded his head, but didn’t lower his gun.

“You killed my son, Larabee, the one person that I loved in this world. I know you know what that feels like, so the experience won’t be anything new. I’ve seen the look in your eyes when you are with her. She might as well be your daughter.” He paused. “Sidney is guarding the bomb downstairs for me. I can guarantee you that she wasn’t one of the ones who exited the building. My son would rather have died that be brought into custody. I taught him well.”

Before anyone had a chance to react, Robinson had raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His body crumpled to the ground. A split second later, a loud explosion shook the earth The Federal building actually did start to burn. The impact from the bomb knocked everyone over. Chris was on his feet in a second.

“NO!” Chris yelled. “God don’t do this to me again!” He dropped his gun and ran into the blazing inferno before anyone else knew what happened.

“Oh shit,” JD yelled and took off sprinting after him. Ezra watched as Chris ran through the blazing inferno with a nauseating feeling. Josiah put a strong arm around his shoulder.

“Don’t even think about it, Ezra. You will sit here and wait.” Ezra knew that none of them would understand. Only hours before, he had imagined this exact scene when he taught of how his leader would die. His energy was sucked out of him. He collapsed onto the ground and could only watch the others.

Chris fought through the flames. He couldn’t see more than two feet in front of him. The heat was almost unbearable. “God, don’t make me loose another one!” He yelled. Chris heard a noise beyond him. He turned around and could just make out the silhouette of JD. The younger agent moved to Chris’s side.

“I’m not letting you do this alone,” JD stated. Chris nodded his head.

“Do you have any idea where she might be?" he asked. The two were walking through the rubble searching for any signs of human life.

“The sound of the explosion was muffled. A bomb that shook the entire building like that would have had to come from the foundation.” JD answered. He got a whiff of smoke in his mouth and started coughing.

“The basement?” Chris asked. JD nodded his head. His eyes were watering from the smoke. Chris took off for the nearest entrance to the basement.

“Wait!” JD called.

“JD, we don’t have time!” Chris growled.

“There was no fire in the building when the alarm sounded. Somebody pulled the fire alarm.” Chris stopped dead in his tracks.

“Do you think Sidney managed to find one to get everyone out of the building?” Chris asked.

“Yeah,” JD answered confidently. “She must have made it up to the first floor”

“”JD, I want you to get out of here. This building is going to collapse at any second. I don’t think I could handle..,”

Chris felt something brush against his leg. He looked down to see Cuervo.

“Get out of here you stupid cat,” Chris hissed. The cat didn’t move. He was about to walk away when JD stopped him. The younger agent kneeled down. He noticed crumbs in the cat’s whiskers.

“Chris did Sidney have her coat on when she left?” He jumped when a large banister fell to the ground. The building was slowly weakening.

“Yeah, she wouldn’t wear the fur one.”

“I think Cuervo knows where she is,” JD said. “I bet he dug a dog treat out of her pocket. She’s always giving them to him.”

Chris looked JD in amazement.

“Where’s Sidney, Cuervo? Go get a treat!” JD told the cat. The cat sprinted down the back hallway.

“You think that a cat will lead us to Sidney?” Chris asked dumbfounded.

”You got any better ideas?” JD demanded.

“Hold up you damn cat!” Chris called. He took off in the direction that he had seen the tabby go. JD was close on his heels.

Chris ran frantically trying to keep up with the animal. Cuervo stopped in front of piled desks and debris. He leapt on top of the pile and started mewing loudly A few feet above the pile was a flashing fire alarm, Chris dived for the pile, by something pushed him to the ground, He looked up to a large beam fall inches away from where he was standing. He quickly got to feet and helped JD up,

“Thanks," he croaked. The smoke was burning his throat. The two of them desperately picking up the pieces of wood and throwing it to the side. They didn’t see any signs of Sidney and the fire was closing in. Chris could feel his clothes starting to melt. He lifted up a wooden chair. A small groan reached his ears, He starting chucking pieces with a fury.

Sidney’s body was lying under a desk. Chris’s anger grew when he saw her mangled hands and the bruises covering her face, but he didn’t have time to worry about it now. He reached down and grabbed her arm, yanking her out of the rubble. She cried out in pain. He noticed the broken watch on her wrist. He reminded himself to thank Ezra if they managed to get themselves out of here. Chris scooped the girl up in his arms.

“Let’s get out of here JD!” He yelled. The two men started to sprint for the entrance of the door.

+ + + + + + + +

Team Seven could do nothing except watch the remaining part of the building collapsed to the ground. Loud screams echoed as people rushed for cover. The firefighters and SWAT teams were having trouble breaking through the crowds of terrified people.

Buck put an arm around Vin, before he could rush towards the building.

“Nothing we can do, but wait and see,” Buck said sadly. Vin crumpled to the ground with no protest.

Orrin Travis was one of the last people to leave the building. He was desperately searching for someone who could give him the answers. He noticed Team Seven leaning against the expensive cars. Chris, Sidney, and JD were not among them. The remaining members of the team were staring at the burning debris. Travis prayed that that was not the location of the missing agents. Josiah met the Director’s questioning eyes and nodded his head sadly. The older man felt his heart skip a beat. What the hell is going on here?" he wondered, but now what not the time for answers. He walked over to his team. He opened his mouth to say something, but the right words just wouldn’t come out. He could only hope that his presence would offer some form of comfort and strength. He placed his arm on the nearest man’s shoulder. Ezra didn’t even flinch.

Two EMTS stopped a few feet in front of the Team, oblivious to the men behind them. Both women were so caked in dirt and mud that their features could not be made out.

“We need a firefighter with an ax on the southwest side of the building. There are a couple of people caught under a bunch of fallen beams.” The taller one said.

“How many are there?" the other asked.

“Two men and a girl. The men could probably crawl out, but I guess the girl is really hurt bad. Both of them are being stubborn pain in the asses about not leaving without her,”

Both women jumped when the heard the loud whoop of joy behind them.

+ + + + + + + +

“Please crawl out Captain Larabee, Agent Dunne. These beams could collapse any second. I promise you we will get the girl out!”

“I already told you that we’re not leaving without my agent!” Chris called. :”Get that through your thick skull and go and find someone who can get all of us out!” Chris growled. JD chuckled as he heard the mutters coming from above the beams. The three of them had been lucky, incredibly lucky. The large wooden planks had missed them by inches. Instead, they were cramped into the tiny tepee like space. It was completely dark except for the sunlight that was creeping through the small spaces between the planks. One of the holes was just big enough for them to slide through, but they would have to go one at a time. That meant leaving the unconscious Sidney behind, and neither of them wanted to do that. He heard Cuervo prancing around outside. The tabby seemed to have escaped without a scratch. He shook his head, wondering how many of his nine lives the stray had used.

“JD, get out of here and go and tell the others we’re okay. I doubt Buck will be able to keep Vin back any longer,” Chris said.

“But Chris…” JD started to argue.

“I am not going to argue with you JD, get out of here now!” The older man ordered. “Besides, you can get those lazy idiots up there to move their asses. I am really going to get pissed off if I have to stay down here for much longer.” JD sighed heavily and called out.

“I’m coming out!” He stood up as far as he could. Chris scooted out of his way as much as possible. Sidney groaned slightly. JD hesitated.

“I’ll take her of her JD, Now get!” Chris demanded. JD squeezed his way through the beams. His foot accidentally bumped one of the beams. The pieces of wood started to shake violently. Chris attempted to cover the girl, fearing that that the beams would collapse on the two of them. Miraculously, they all stayed up. Chris breathed a huge sigh of relief and looked down at Sidney who he had laid across his lap. There was just enough light in the room to see that she had her eyes open.

“Hey sweetheart," he said pushing her bangs out her eyes. “Do you know what happened?”

Sidney nodded her head as she looked around. “Did the bomb go off?" she asked. Millions of thoughts were racing through her throbbing head.

‘Yeah it did, but I think everyone got out.” Chris answered.

“Robinson?" she asked trying to sort out the events that she was remembering. Chris could see the clocks turning in her head.

“We got him Sidney, He’s gone.” There was no reason to tell her the whole story now.

“How did you get here?" she continued on her long list of questions.

“Buck and the others were in Anchorage. They figured out that we were in trouble and got us out. Ezra’s fine too.”

“Brady double crossed us Chris. They drugged me and brought us down here. Robinson shot Brady before the bomb went off.”

Chris breathed a sigh of relief. That made his job a lot easier. He could give all his attention to his injured agent. Sidney opened her mouth to say more, but Chris put his hand gently over her mouth.

“No more questions Sidney. Just relax.” Sidney painfully raised her hand to show one finger Chris sighed.

“One more question," he said and removed her hand from her mouth.

“I am not dead am I?" she asked. Chris smiled and pulled her closer.

“No, far from it I hope. We’ll be out of this hell as soon as possible.”

“Good, It would really suck if I hurt this much when I die," she answered. Chris laughed.

“What would I do without you?’ He asked. He looked down when Sidney didn’t answer him. Her eyes were closed again. Chris reached down and felt a steady pulse. He kissed the girl on the forehead and sat back patiently waiting for the familiar sound of his team to echo throughout the wood.

+ + + + + + + +

“I can’t believe you ran into a burning building!”

Six hours after Chris and Sidney had been rescued, Nathan waked into the Denver Mercy Hospital pushing the girl in a wheelchair. She was very pale and had a couple of ghastly looking burns and bruises, but no other injures. The overdose of the sleeping medicine had accounted for the girl’s unconscious spells. One of the doctors had suggested pumping her stomach, but the idea was quickly abandoned. Sidney had told the man where she would put the tube that was supposed to go down her throat. A few tests had been run, and it was determined that Sidney would suffer no lasting effects from the overdose.

Chris ignored Sidney’s outburst and looked towards Nathan.

“What’s the diagnosis?" he asked.

“”She’ll be just fine. Doctor suggests that she should make a few weeks off of work to relax Good luck on that one.” He snorted.

“Believe me I will make her settle down,” Chris said with a glint in his eyes.

“Quit talking to me like I am not here!” Sidney whined. “I don’t need a break!”

“We all have a break coming up. I just got off the phone with Travis. The office is going to take at least a few months to fix and at least a week to fix up a temporary headquarters.” He finally directed his attention to Sidney.

“Somebody has to save your ass every time you get yourself in trouble. I never met someone who attracts as much trouble as you,” he said shaking his head.

“Over protective old man,” Sidney grumbled.

“Fool hearty kid,” Chris growled back. Despite the words, Nathan saw the look on the both of their faces. He smiled too, knowing that neither of them would want it any other way.

+ + + + + + + +

The loud cheers of the football crowd echoed throughout the football stadium. The winter weather was perfect for Sunday afternoon game. The Packers were ahead of the Broncos 21-7. There was only three minutes in the game, but the Broncos were valiantly trying to catch up.

“I can’t believe Ryan got us End Zone seats!’ Buck yelled over the noise of the crowds. “This is awesome, even if the Broncs are loosing.”

Sidney just smiled and brushed some crumbs off her Packer jersey. Her attraction to the starting wide receiver couldn’t stop her complete devotion to her team.

“I can’t believe Ezra got our temporary office set up at the Ritz,” Josiah laughed.

“If I am forced to relocate my office, I insist that I am able to work in a fashionable place with style and…”

“Shut up Ez and watch the game,” Vin hissed. Ezra directed attention back to the game. The crowd gasped as the ball sailed sixty two yards into Ryan’s hands. The rookie fell into the end zone. Buck whopped in joy and hugged a sulking Sidney. Ryan leapt into the stands of the waiting fans in an imitation of the Packers’ Lambeau Leap. He let the fans lift him up into the stands. He rushed over to Sidney and handed her the football.

“Will this change your loyalties?" he asked.

“Not even close,” Sidney answered with a smile.

“Well, how about this?" the young man asked as he pulled Sidney back and kissed her. There was a mix of cheers and boos as the fans watched the scene on the Jumbo screen.

Ryan let her go and leapt back onto the field. Sidney didn’t say a word. She could only stare.

“How big a fine do you think he’ll get for that one?” Nathan laughed.

“I don’t think he cares,” Buck laughed, “That’s going to be on every sports show from Denver to Mars.

“You can kiss your undercover career goodbye Sid. Everyone from Madden to Peter Jennings is going to be talking about the girl that Ryan Borbane made-out with.”

Sidney ignored the comments and hesitantly looked over at Chris. She wondered what his reaction was going to be.

She was rewarded with a smile. “Ryan risked a lot to save you from the dark side. Are you ready to see the light yet?" he asked. He pulled off his Broncos baseball cap and handed it out to her. Sidney took it and fingered the foreign object. After a few moments, she handed it back to him, just as Brett Favre took a knee to win the game

“He’s going to have a lot farther than a kiss to persuade me of that!” They all laughed at the terrified look on their leader’s face.