Lay Down Your Life by the Neon Gang


Editors' Note: The original version of this story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #13, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Erica Michaels and Sierra Chaves are the primary authors of this story, they had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang – Dori Adams, Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Deyna Greywolf, Dani Martin, Erica Michaels, Karson Raine, Nina Talbot, Kacey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 7-29-2008. Art by Shiloh

Authors' Note: this story for the 2007 M7 Global Gathering is based on the "Ebola" episode of Seven Days (in season one). We thought it would make a fun Mag 7 story and couldn't resist. Besides, with just two weeks to get it done, it had to be something quick! Mary Fallon Zane did the original draft and Patricia Grace, Michelle Fortado and Erica Michaels did the rest. It was first published in the zine for the Gathering.


1410 Hours
Vin Tanner rose slowly from his well-concealed hide to watch three of his teammates – JD Dunne, Buck Wilmington and Ezra Standish – as they carefully scaled the steep side of the rise below him. It was tough going, and the three men were struggling, but he knew they would eventually make it.

The former Army sniper grinned. This was going to be even easier than he'd expected when they had set out earlier this morning – six hours ago, according to his watch.

Murphy must be on vacation, Vin thought almost gleefully, because everything had been going his way for a change. Not that he was complaining. Sometimes it was damn nice when everything just landed in your lap.

He glanced to his right, blue eyes meeting a pair of angry blue-grey and dark-brown ones. Josiah and Nathan sat on the cold, damp ground, bound, gagged, and expertly secured, their backs pressed to the rough trunk of a tree. The two men continued to glower at the sniper, their expressions promising hell would be paid for the indignity they were currently suffering.

Vin used hand-signals to silently tell them three more victims were on their way to the slaughter, and would be joining them soon.

Nathan rolled his eyes and puffed derisively through flared nostrils. The sniper ignored the unspoken, but clear message: "In your dreams, Tanner."

Vin was going to get the drop on his teammates, and nothing but nothing was going to stop him – with the possible exception of Chris Larabee.

Where was the man, anyway?

Tanner took a moment to scan the trees, the shadows, and the tall grass that covered the top of the rise where he lay, waiting. There was no movement, no sharp angles in the shadows, nothing at all to suggest that the former Navy SEAL was anywhere near his location. And that was the only thing that had the sniper worried.

Turning his attention back to the approaching threesome, he watched them with the eyes of a human predator. He knew they had picked the best possible trail up the side of the hill – the best if they wanted to avoid detection, that is. But it also meant that they were working twice as hard, maneuvering over rocks and through heavy brush that required them to basically crawl up the steep elevation. And, in the end, it was all going to be for nothing.

Not that he couldn't understand why they were willing to expend the extra effort to stake out the high ground – although how Buck and JD had gotten Ezra to go along with them was a complete mystery to Tanner. The high ground was the easiest to defend, which was exactly why he'd taken it for himself, first thing. It was also how he'd come across Josiah and Nathan – they'd wanted it for themselves as well.

What did they say? The road to Hell was paved with the best of intentions…

Now all he had to do was capture JD, Buck and Ezra, find Larabee and then take the blond out before the man did the same to him. Easier said than done, on both counts, he knew, but he was up to the challenge, he was sure of it.

Besides, everything was going his way this time. And it was about damn time as far as the sniper was concerned.

He edged closer to the lip of the escarpment and peered down. The three men were making good time, better than he'd expected, actually. But that was to his advantage, not theirs. The sooner he took them out, the sooner he could turn his attention to Larabee.

He silently urged the threesome on.

When they had finally worked their way into his line of fire, Vin calmly lifted his weapon, took careful aim, and shot Buck first, then JD and then Ezra, who, by that time was frantically waving his weapon around, trying to find a target. All three men slumped heavily to the ground, two of them lying motionless for several seconds, the third – Ezra – beating his fists against the ground in frustration.

Then they all looked up, glaring daggers at the sniper when Vin made himself visible above them. Tanner wagged his finger at them, then curled it twice, silently ordering them to climb the rest of the way up to him.

Less than ten minutes later JD, Buck and Ezra had joined Josiah and Nathan around the trunk of a second tree. Vin double-checked all their bonds, then grabbed his weapon and slipped into the tall grass to go hunting for Larabee.

There was a predatory grin on his lips that might have frightened the man if Chris had seen it.


1523 Hours

Chris Larabee knew he was being hunted. The feeling haunted him, prickling the short hairs on the back of his neck and along his forearms. He picked up his pace, hoping to reach a small stand of trees some thirty yards away before he got himself shot. Deciding to take a calculated risk, he bent forward slightly and sprinted the last ten yards across open ground, zigzagging as he went.

Once inside the grove, he eased into the tree shadows and crouched down, peering back at the tall grass he'd just sprinted through. Sweat ran down his back and face, dripping from his chin.

Where is he…?

Where is he…?

Come on… Where…?

Damn it, the man's a freakin' ghost.

Shit, shit, shit…

Larabee's grip on his weapon tightened. He could feel the sniper moving in on him, getting closer and closer. Tanner's presence was a tangible pressure faintly squeezing the surface of his skin, but there was nothing – no movement, no sound – to give away the man's location.

Sniper school must be better than I thought…

Come on… Where the hell is he?

Larabee didn't stop to analyze how he knew it was Tanner who was stalking him; he simply stood and moved farther into the trees, trying to ferret out a defensible position before it was too late. Finding nothing in particular he liked, he opted for the best location he could locate. The continuing press of Vin's presence made his nerves raw, but he ignored the nagging sensation, his gaze darting from shadow to shadow, searching methodically for the sniper.

The crackle of a dried leaf finally gave the sniper away, but by then it was already too late. Larabee's weapon snapped up, but before he could fire he felt the impact of Vin's shot as it caught him at the back of his neck. His head snapped forward with the force.

"Goddamn it, Tanner, that fuckin' stings!" he yelped.

A moment later the grinning sniper was standing in front of him, looking too damned smug for his own good. "That puts me on top for the month," he drawled happily.

Larabee sighed heavily and nodded, then reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, which was still smarting. His fingers came away red and sticky. He stared at the goo, then looked at Vin, his eyes rounding. "Wait a minute, you already got all the others?"

"Yep, some of 'em hours ago," the sniper replied, looking even more pleased with himself than before.

Chris shook his head. "Damn… I think you must've set a new record… Goddamn, we must be getting slow."

"Y' could say that," Vin replied, trying not to look too full of himself.

"Thanks," Larabee returned, scowling. "All right, you pick the place for supper tonight."

Vin thought for a moment, then named his favorite steak house.

Chris knew it was going to be an expensive evening, but it was worth it. The exercises helped keep them sharp, and helped them bond as a team. And it certainly made it more interesting when they worked with the local SWAT units, playing their tangos in joint homeland defense exercises.

He was about to suggest they go collect the rest of the team when the distant wop-wop-wop of an approaching chopper stopped him.

"Think they're looking for us?" Vin asked, looking both annoyed and curious.

"Who else would be out here in the middle of nowhere?" Chris replied a moment before his beeper sounded. He fished into a pocket and pulled it out. Need all of Team 7 now. Use chopper, Travis was the message.


1703 Hours

It was a dirty, disheveled group of agents that entered Travis' office. The older man motioned for them to sit, then ran his hand over his graying-brown hair, nervousness making him wish that they would hurry. When the seven men were settled, he walked over and sat down himself.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your weekend in the country," Travis began, noticing several of the team members were shooting scowls at the sniper. "I take it you were the victor this time, Mr. Tanner?"

Vin replied with a modest shrug, but there was a grin on his face.

Travis allowed himself the luxury of a brief smile. "Well, I'm afraid I didn't have a choice; I have an assignment for you."

"A little short notice, isn't it?" Josiah asked.

"Time for a shower would've been nice," Ezra added under his breath.

Travis grinned ruefully. "I can see that, Agent Standish, but I'm afraid this particular situation is time sensitive."

"What's going on?" Chris asked, shooting the rest of his team a warning glare.

"Have you heard of the Stardust Foundation?" Travis asked as he stood and walked over to three waiting coffee carafes sitting on a table.

"A front for a government research lab, I believe," Ezra supplied as Travis poured coffee into seven waiting cups.

Travis turned, his eyes rounded slightly with surprise. "Very good, and I don't want to know how you came by that information, Agent Standish."

Ezra smiled and cocked his head just slightly. "That would probably be for the best."

"The Stardust Project was started in the late 80s to ostensibly develop cures for potential biological weapons already in the hands of our enemies," Travis told them.

"'Ostensibly'?" Chris echoed.

Travis shrugged, then carried a tray loaded with the full coffee cups over and set it down on the coffee table. "Help yourselves," he offered, then added, "One thing naturally led to another, and cures suggested new potential weapons—"

"Which we had to develop in order to find more cures for them, leading to more potential weapons, more cures, and so on," Nathan finished for him.

Travis nodded.

"So, what happened?" Buck asked.

"There are four Stardust facilities scattered across the country," Travis continued. "Early yesterday, and then again today, there were attempted thefts of an experimental infectious agent – a virus to be exact, at two of the four facilities."

"Oh, that's just wonderful," JD breathed softly.

"In both cases it was someone on the inside and, in both cases, they killed themselves before authorities could question them," Travis continued. "We're sure they were acting on the orders of someone else, but so far no clues as to who that might be, or which organization might be behind the attempts."

"This just gets better and better," Buck sighed, shaking his head.

"Homeland Security is guessing a similar attempt will be made at the remaining two facilities. I have a chopper standing by to take you to the one that's here in Colorado."

"Here?" Nathan asked, appalled that research like that was taking place in the state and they didn't know about it.

"Why us?" Ezra asked at the same time. "This sounds like it should be FBI, or Homeland Security."

Travis' tone was deadly serious as he explained, "Because we don't know who might be involved at this point, or what kind of clearance they might have. The men who died? One was an Army major, the other an ex-NSA scientist. If we send in someone we can't trust—"

"They might get away with what they're after," Larabee finished for him.

"What kind of virus are they after?" Nathan asked.

"A genetically engineered strain of the Ebola virus," Travis said, then sighed heavily and shook his head. "It's five hundred times more virulent than the actual disease. After an airborne exposure, victims begin bleeding from the nose within four hours. After six hours their lungs begin to bleed and they become highly contagious. At twelve hours, anyone exposed will slip onto a coma and they'll be dead inside of twenty-four. The slightest exposure can lead to death."

"My God," Nathan said, "in the hands of terrorists—"

"Four of those vials would be enough to wipe out thousands. Hell, millions of people if the virus was released in the right way," Travis interrupted. "And, believe me, these people know the right way. They are, after all, the damn experts."

"The right way?" JD echoed.

Travis ignored the comment. "Look, if the pattern continues, tomorrow, or the next day, someone at the Colorado facility will try and remove a vial of the virus – Ebola 55-D. I want you there to stop him, or her."

"That lab got a shower?" Vin asked as he stood.

"I'll see that it does," Travis replied, looking at Chris.

Larabee nodded. "We're good to go, sir."

"Glad to hear it," Travis said. "They said they wanted someone I trusted… I wanted you boys."


0734 Hours

The FBI agent looked up at the nondescript apartment complex, then double-checked the address he'd written down in his small, black notebook. This was the right place.

Climbing out of his car, he locked the door, then headed for unit 201. Locating the correct door, he knocked and waited for Kevin Morrison to answer.

When the door finally opened he offered the man a perfunctory smile and said, "Good morning, I'm Agent Brian Michaels with the FBI, may I come in?"

Kevin frowned and Agent Michaels noted that the thirty-something blond looked harmless enough. In fact, he had an almost effeminate air to him, enhanced by pale blond hair, equally pale blue eyes and a round, baby-like face. But upon a second look the agent realized Morrison was also broad-shouldered and looked strong enough.

"FBI?" Kevin finally asked, his expression one of confusion.

"Yes, sir. Can I come in? I'd like to ask you a few questions; just routine."

Kevin's eyebrows knitted together in annoyance, but he stepped out of the doorway so Agent Michaels could pass.

Inside the apartment, the agent paused, glancing around. All the curtains were drawn, casting the interior into a permanent twilight. But there was enough light to reveal the religious quotes, carefully printed on five-by-seven-inch index cards and taped to nearly every available surface – the bookshelves, the TV, the lamps, the coffee table, even the walls. He read a few of the quotes and swallowed hard.

"What did you want to ask me?" Kevin asked, his voice soft, almost taunting.

Agent Michaels took a deep breath and a step back, closer to the door. "There's been a couple of security breaches," he said, his gaze drawn to one index card in particular, it read "A bitter harvest."

"Security breaches?" Kevin echoed. "What does that have to do with me? Would you like a cup of tea?"

Before he could say no, Kevin turned and disappeared into what the FBI agent thought must be the kitchen. With Morrison gone, the agent relaxed slightly. He made a silent pass through the room. The bookshelves were lined with religious books and he counted at least twenty bibles scattered across the furniture. The sign of Cain, an inverted cross, had been drawn onto the television screen using a thick black marker, and the knobs were missing. He swallowed again and felt the sweat begin to roll down his back. Kevin Morrison was a certified wacko, but whether or not he planned to steal a vial of Ebola virus, the agent didn't know. It was, unfortunately, his job to find out.

"I understand you work in one of the Ebola labs," Michaels called out.

"Yes, I do," Kevin replied from the other room.

"Have you, uh, noticed anything unusual recently?" the agent asked as he listened to the sound of clinking cups.

"In the lab, you mean?"

"Yeah," Michaels replied, wondering if someone as obsessed as Kevin Morrison obviously was could even notice anything "unusual."

"No, nothing out of the ordinary," Kevin called. "Do you take sugar or cream?"

"Just sugar," Agent Michaels said, leaning over to move an open bible lying on the coffee table. Under the book was a map of the Denver International Airport. He was about to ask if Kevin was going to take a trip when he felt the wire cut deeply into his throat. He clawed at the garrote as a stab of hot pain sliced through his throat. His fingers tried to get under the wire, but he couldn't manage it, or stop the increasing pressure. Blackness closed in on his vision.

"You and all your minions cannot stop me," he heard Kevin hiss. "You and the rest of the devils will be destroyed. God has spoken, and His word will not be denied."

The last thought to cross Agent Michaels' mind was a flash of remorse. He was going to be late for his second date with Samantha Cleary…

Kevin yanked on the wire twice, then let the body of the FBI agent fall to the floor. He stood over the dead man, indecision making it impossible for him to move. Then he glanced down at the map of DIA.

He had to go, now. They were obviously suspicious, and he could not fail God.

He looked down at his watch and smiled. There was time. God would see to it he had all the time he needed. Of that he was sure.


0812 Hours

Chris led the team into the secured facility. Before they were halfway down the entrance hall they were met by a man in a white lab coat. His light brown hair was cut short, helping to hide a receding hairline, but he was trim and fit, and he wore gold, wire-rim glasses. He smiled and extended his hand. "Agent Larabee?"

Chris nodded, accepting the proffered hand and giving it a firm shake. He noted the man's calluses and filed the information away. He smiled and said, "We're here to take a look at your—"

"Yes, I was informed," the man interrupted with a friendly smile. "I'm Dr. Thompson. If you'd come with me?"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

For the next fifteen minutes Chris and the others were led on a sightseeing tour of the Stardust facility, but they weren't shown any of the classified labs.

When they finally reached the cafeteria, Ezra sighed and said, "Why don't you tell us what you can about this Ebola strain."

The man glanced at the floor, then at Ezra, and smiled. "I'd be happy to, but why don't we get a cup of coffee before—"

"He asked y' a question," Vin said softly, but the threat was clear in his non-nonsense tone.

Chris cocked his head slightly to one side, his eyes narrowing. "I don't think he knows, Vin," he said. "I think we've been given a run-around by a decoy."

Thompson shifted from foot to foot, a shine of sweat on his face confirming Larabee's analysis. "Look, I—"

"Tom, thank you," an older man interrupted as he walked up to join them. He extended his hand to Larabee. "I'm Dr. London. I'm sorry about the, uh, tour, but I had to have you checked before I allowed you into sensitive areas of this facility. You understand, I'm sure, especially in the current climate. However, you've been cleared."

"'About time," JD muttered under his breath.

"If you would all follow me, please," London said, ignoring the comment.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dressed in top-level contamination suits, the team followed Dr. London through an initial airlock. Past that was another airlock. And, by the time they had reached the actual lab, they had passed through a total of four locks.

"To ensure that there is no possible chance of an accidental release," the scientist explained.

In the research lab, the team waited while the doctor opened yet another locked door, but it wasn't another airlock. This door opened into a small room where row upon row of small drawers waited, lining one entire wall. Lab tables took up the center of the space.

London stepped up and opened one of the trays. He glanced down and his breath caught in his throat. "Oh my God," he breathed a moment before his knees buckled and he started to collapse.

"Doctor?" Chris asked as he and Nathan grabbed the man, keeping him from falling to the floor.

"Chris," Josiah said, his voice tight, "there's a vial missing. We're too late."

"That's not possible," Dr. London wheezed. "It's not possible."

"Is that it?" Chris asked, giving the still-sagging man a jerk. "Is that the Ebola 55-D?"

London nodded. "It's gone. My God, it's the end of humanity." The man's eyes rolled back in his head as he passed out.

Chris and Nathan lowered him to the floor.

"I think he's having a heart attack," Nathan said.

Buck spotted the red button marked "Emergency" and slapped his palm against it. An alarm immediately began ringing, the sound echoing loudly through the confined space of the lab.

Within moments there were technicians swarming around them, calling out orders and instructions in a restricted code none of the ATF agents understood. Dr. London was taken away, medics already working on him.


0956 Hours

Kevin gripped his MP3 tighter, his palms damp with sweat. He crossed the lobby and pushed the door open, stepping outside. He was almost free.

The seals would be broken. He would bring the end times to the world, just like God had told him to.

Then, just ahead of him, Kevin saw Angela Patterson. Kevin felt his desire flare in his groin and tried to force it away. She was unclean, a child of Satan. Still, he had to try one last time to save her immortal soul.

"Angela?" he called.

The woman stopped and turned. He could tell by her expression he was wasting his breath. She found him dull and uninteresting. But God commanded him to try, so he would. She shifted her weight back onto one foot. She wanted to cross her arms, to ward him off, but she didn't. She forced a smile instead.

He wished she would just spit on him. It was what she wanted to do. He knew it was.

"Angela," he said, his voice characteristically hesitant, nervous. She was so beautiful…

"Hi, Kevin," she said, suppressing a small sigh. "Can I help you?"

She hated him. She desperately hated him, but he had to try – God wanted him to try. "Angela, have you renounced Satan?"

An indulgent smile crossed her face, along with an unspoken "Oh, please," but she replied, "I dumped my boyfriend, if that's what you mean."

Kevin fought back the immediate retort that burned on the tip of his tongue. She could not be saved. Why did he bother trying?

Because God commands me to, he chastised himself.

"Angela, I'm going to the airport," he said haltingly. "To, uh, hand out pamphlets. I was hoping you might like to come with me. We could get to know each other better."

Angela looked down at her shoes. "That's very nice, Kevin, but I can't. I'm, uh… I'm busy tonight."

Kevin took a step closer to the young woman. "What if this was the last night of your life?" he asked, his voice straining with undisguised hope.

She snorted softly. "I guess I wouldn't worry about doing my roots," she replied, then took a step closer to the parking lot. "Look, Kevin, I really have to get going."

He drew himself up. The wrath of God would strike her down for her insolence. "You really should have listened to me, Angela. Now you've missed your chance."

Kevin stormed past her, his shoulder bumping her shoulder. Angela's purse slid down her arm and dropped to the ground, its contents spilling free.

"Hey!" she cried, but Kevin ignored her. He strode to his car and climbed in. The last thing he saw was Angela, bending down to gather up her belongings.

"You had your chance," he hissed as he headed for the security gate. "God offered you redemption and you refused. You truly are Satan's child."

The guard at the exit checked Kevin's ID, then opened the gate, allowing him to pass. A moment later the alarm sounded. The guard pressed the button to lock the gate down. Just outside, Kevin turned the corner, heading for the airport.


1119 Hours

Chris looked up as the man who had given them the run-around earlier walked briskly up to join them. "Was that 55-D?" Larabee demanded.

"Yes," the man said, refusing to meet Chris' gaze. "We don't know when it was taken—"

"You don't know?" Buck interrupted. "That's great, just great."

"There has to be some kind of log," Nathan argued, "some way to know who's been in that room."

"Yes, of course," Thompson replied. "But everyone on the list has clearance for the lab."

"How's Dr. London?" Josiah asked.

"They think he suffered a mild heart attack. He's resting as comfortably as he can, given what we're facing."

"Which is?" Chris demanded.

The man looked around, then dropped his voice and said, "It's one of the new engineered Ebola viruses. We created it to develop cure scenarios."

"The cure's gonna be worse 'n the damned disease," Vin growled.

"Look," the security man said, "whoever took that vial is clever, and he's got to have a death wish."

"Have we been exposed?" Buck asked, looking worried.

"No," Thompson said. "The vial is designed to protect the public, unless it's broken."

"And if it is broken, then what?" Nathan asked.

"People die." The man ran his hand over his hair. "Within twenty-four hours we'll have bodies stacking up—"

"Mr. Thompson?" another, younger man interrupted.

The team and the security man looked up. "What is it, Teddy?"

"Three people left before the alarm sounded," the man said as he handed over three file folders.

Thompson glanced at each folder, reading the names aloud, "Colbert, Keevers and Morrison."

A young woman, standing nearby looked up. She walked over to join them, saying, "Did I just hear you say Morrison? Kevin Morrison?"

Thompson glanced down to check the name on the folder. "Yes. Why?"

She glanced nervously at the floor, searching for the words.

"Miss, if you have something to say, say it," Chris urged.

She looked up. "It's just that I saw Kevin before he left. He was acting… strange."

"Strange, how?" Ezra asked.

"Stranger than he normally is," she clarified.

"Look, Miss…?" Chris said, trailing off.

"Angela," she said. "Angela Carson."

"Angela, just tell us what he said," Larabee told her.

She paused for a moment, then related as much of the conversation as she could remember. She concluded with, "There was no way I was going to go with him. I mean, everyone knows he's obsessed with the Bible."

Chris and Thompson exchanged looks. "The airport," the security man said, "it's perfect: Lots of people. They'd carry it all over the globe."

Larabee nodded toward the door. "Come on," he told his men.


1203 Hours

Kevin walked along the terminal, muttering under his breath. Men and women passed by him, but he didn't notice or pay attention to them. He knew he was about to fulfill his divine purpose. Soon he would enact God's will.

He smiled – a beatific expression that prompted an answering smile from a young woman as he passed her. But her smile faded when she realized Kevin's eyes were as cold and dead as old charcoal.

"And I looked," Kevin hissed softly to himself, his expression shifting, becoming more predatory, "and behold, I saw a pale horse." He reached into his pocket and cupped the vial in his hand, stroking the smooth glass with his thumb. "And death rode that horse, and hell followed after him."

His voice rose slightly as he continued through the terminal. He knew where he was going, had worked there when he was younger. He knew where they were the most vulnerable. "They're vipers, all vipers. Spawn of Satan. They seek peace, but they find none."

An older woman stared at Kevin and his voice fell back to a harsh whisper. He could not get caught. Not now. Not this close to God's victory. "There shall be a bitter harvest… Oh yes, a bitter harvest."


1210 Hours

Team Seven arrived at the airport and headed directly to the security office. A call from Travis while they were en-route cleared the red-tape and got them into the security chief's office and from there he took them to a bank of video monitors.

"Who are we looking for?" the older man asked, his haircut and bearing suggesting that he was ex-military.

"Male, Caucasian, blond and blue, six-foot, late twenties," Chris supplied.

The man nodded to one of the women seated in front of a computer terminal and she quickly typed. The images on three of the video monitors changed, and continued to switch at regular intervals. On the screen for about ten seconds were images of men who fit the general profile Larabee had given her.

"Cool," JD said softly, nodding.

Almost three minutes later, Vin pointed to one of the screens and said, "There."

The woman at the computer reached out, her long fingernails clicking across the keys. The image froze on the screen and the camera stayed with Kevin as he walked along, his lips moving even though there was no one there that he could be talking to.

"Wonder what he's saying," Buck mused.

"Don't think I want to know," Josiah replied, studying the man's eyes. Kevin Morrison was already dead inside.

"That's the main terminal," the security chief said. "Looks like he's headed for Terminal A."

"What's there?" Chris asked.

"Gates for United, India Airlines, and a couple of the discount airlines," the security chief said. "Smoking lounge for the passengers… A break room for the attendants and crews, a few food vendors, newsstands—"

"The lounge," Ezra and Chris interrupted in unison.

"It's between Gates A-24 and A-26," the older man said.

The Team Seven members turned and were out the door before the security man could order, "Get security over to A."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"There," Ezra said, nodding.

Chris and Vin both spotted Kevin a moment later. They shifted course, swiftly closing the distance between them and the man.

"Buck, Nathan," Chris said into his lip mike, the Motorola communications units the only addition to their civilian clothes.

"Here," Buck said into Larabee's earpiece.

"We have him – Gate A-seventeen, near the escalators."

"Roger that, we're on the way."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kevin felt someone watching him, but he ignored him and kept on walking. God would keep him safe. He was doing God's will. Still, he couldn't stop himself from glancing over his shoulder.

He spotted the threesome immediately and quickened his step. He had to reach the lounge. If he could expose the flight attendants to the virus they would carry it to all the nations of the Earth. They would be like angels, carrying God's message of vengeance to all the unclean.

"Hey, Kevin," one of the men following him called.

He refused to turn and look. He refused to stop. He could not be deterred from doing God's work.

And the voice of his god whispered into his ear, telling him to ignore the voice, to keep walking, telling him he was almost there.

"Kevin, stop."

The man sounded more insistent now, but then so did the voice of God. Kevin could not ignore that voice. He hunched his shoulders and tucked his chin down as he leaned forward, walking faster.


He couldn't help himself. He looked, and silently cursed his own weakness.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chris stared into Kevin Morrison's eyes. They were bright with determination and madness. He'd seen the look before, on the faces of fanatics who were about to die for their cause.

"Kevin, we need to talk," Larabee said calmly, but he already knew he wasn't going to talk the man out of his plans.

Morrison shook his head.

"Kevin, we know what you're planning," Larabee continued.

The man's eyes rounded slightly with surprise. "You don't know," Kevin hissed. "I am God's servant. I'm doing His work. He promised them a bitter harvest, and the time has come for them to reap what they've sown."

"God promises us forgiveness, too," Vin said, his voice soft and unthreatening.

Kevin's gaze shifted from Chris to the sniper. "There is no forgiveness. It's too late for that! They will feel the wrath of God. He will kill them all! Men, women, children, they're all evil. They must die!"

"Christ embraced the children," Josiah said, walking up to join them, his voice soft and comforting. "He died so we can all live."

"God has spoken!" Kevin shouted, squeezing the vial in his palm hard enough to leave deep indentations in his skin.

Curiosity halted the passersby and Ezra gently forced them along as unobtrusively as possible while Chris inched closer and closer to Kevin.

Larabee nodded to Josiah, letting the man know he needed to keep Kevin talking.

"God talks to you?" Josiah asked, hoping he could hit on a topic that would spark the man into a sermon.

Kevin glowered at the older man and growled, "Yes, He speaks to me. I'm His servant. I'm pure! You and all those like you are the children of Satan!"

"No, not everyone," Josiah said, his voice harder, holding the man's attention. "There are good people out there. Good, god-fearing people. Are you telling me God wants them dead, too?"

"They all have to die! He will purge the world of evil!" Kevin said, his voice shrill. "God has spoken! You cannot change His will!"

"His will, or yours?" Josiah demanded. "It sounds like you're tuned in to the wrong channel, my friend."

Before Kevin could reply, Chris lunged for him. But Larabee underestimated the man's passion-enhanced strength, and Kevin wrenched himself free.

Vin dove for Morrison, catching him around the middle, but Kevin struggled forward, reaching the escalator. Tanner's weight slowed him down, making each movement clumsy and slow. Kevin's foot slipped forward on the step as his ankle gave way.

Vin tried to maneuver Morrison into a restraint hold and felt the man lunge forward. Tanner grabbed onto the man tighter, realizing too late Kevin was falling. Given his secure hold, Vin had no choice but to fall with him. He could hear Chris and Ezra behind him, scrambling down the moving steps.

Kevin's arms flailed wildly, striking a woman a couple steps ahead of him. She squealed and bolted down the remainder of the steps.

Vin and Kevin continued to struggle, but as they neared the bottom, the sniper saw Nathan, Buck and JD sprinting through the crowd. It would soon be over, one way or the other.

When they reached the bottom, Vin used his strength to force Morrison away from the escalators, but the voice rang loud in Kevin's ears, commanding him to fight, and he did – with everything he had.

The two men ended up on the floor. Kevin's hand shot out, his fist tight. "We will all die!" he screamed, his fingers curling off the vial.

"Chris!" Vin shouted, knowing he couldn't stop the man before he smashed the glass against the floor.

But a man, scurrying to escape the fray, kicked Kevin's hand, sending the vial sliding across the slick floor.

Vin immediately turned his attention to the virus while Josiah and Ezra helped Chris get Kevin under control.

Another kick from the tip of a man's cowboy boot sent the vial skimming across the floor and out an open door where it came to rest on the sidewalk where passengers were arriving at the airport with their bags. Seeing a woman who was unaware of the danger step out of a cab and start for the door, Vin dove for the vial. The woman stopped, a yelp escaping her lips as he slid on the sidewalk, his fingers cupping over the vial to protect it from other feet.

Ignoring Vin, Chris bolted to the cab, demanding, "A flare! Give me a flare!"

The cab driver, not knowing what else to do, gave him what he'd asked for.

Chris swung back to Vin, the flare in his hand. He pulled the tab on the flare and moved forward. Vin pulled his hand away, letting Larabee shove the burning end of the flare against the glass.

Vin looked up at him from the ground and grinned. "Good thinkin'."

He flashed Tanner a smile. "Better to be safe—"

"Than sorry," Tanner finished.

Chris nodded.

"Y' won't get an argument from me," Vin added as he climbed to his feet.


1437 Hours

Back at the lab, gathered around a large conference table, Travis poured coffee for the team. "I wish it was champagne," he told them.

"As do I," Ezra said with a grin.

"Good work, people, very good work," Travis continued.

"What about the last facility?" Larabee asked.

"The team dispatched to that facility caught the man in the act. He killed himself, just like the others. We have Morrison on a suicide watch. He tried to cave in his own skull against a wall."

"Fanatics," Josiah said, shaking his head sadly.

"Of the worst kind," Travis agreed. "Morrison killed the FBI agent sent to check on the staff at the Colorado facility." He shook his head, but then he smiled. "I think Uncle Sam owes you gentlemen a vacation of sorts."

"All expenses paid?" Buck asked, looking interested.

Travis chuffed out a laugh. "Only in your dreams, Mr. Wilmington. And just for a long weekend – locally."

"How many days?" Ezra asked.

"Friday through Monday," Travis told them. "Take it or leave it."

The men took it. They knew they could spend the long weekend enjoying the local sports bars and a few fancy meals, and still be close enough to home to spend a couple of the days off getting caught up on things there as well.


1548 Hours

The team stepped away from the registration desk, keys in hand and smiles on their faces. Travis had reserved one of the best suites in the Brown Hotel for them.

"So, what's the plan?" JD asked, looking around at the open ceiling that allowed a view of the upper floors.

"I don't know about you, but I plan to go take a long, hot shower," Ezra said, "then get something to eat."

"A steak," Vin added. "Rare. Y'all owe me, remember?"

Chris grinned. "That sounds good to me."

The others nodded.

"And then?" Nathan asked.

"Little night crawling?" Buck asked, looking hopeful.

The others agreed with nods and smiles.

"Guess that makes me the designated driver," Josiah said.

"You got it," Vin said and grinned.

Chris checked his watch. "Okay, go do what you have to do and we'll meet in the bar in, what, an hour?"

"Depends on how many bathrooms this suite has," Vin said.

Buck and JD chuckled.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ezra demanded.

"Nothin'," the sniper replied as they reached the elevators.

"No, that was something," Standish countered. "What?"

"Nothin'," Vin said again, grinning as they stepped into the elevator car.

Ezra followed, shaking his head. He sighed heavily as the door closed.


1630 Hours

Vin was the first one to arrive at the bar. He took a seat and smiled at the bartender, who was busily wiping down the bar top while it was relatively quiet. She was trim and pretty with short, red-blonde hair and dark brown eyes that sparkled with good humor.

"What can I get for you?" she asked with a friendly smile.

"Beer," Tanner said. "Whatever y' got on tap."

The bartender left her towel and turned to fill a tall glass.

Vin glanced around, looking for the others, then sneezed.

"Bless you," the bartender said automatically.

"Thanks," Vin said, his hand automatically coming up to his nose. It came away wet.

Looking down he found blood on his hand.

For a long second Vin sat, unable to move off the barstool. He was bleeding from his nose. The vial… it must've cracked.

The Ebola…

Oh shit…

Reaching out, Vin grabbed the towel the bartender had been using and pressed it over his nose and mouth. He bolted out of the bar, roughly shoving past two laughing couples on their way in.

Charging through the hotel lobby, Vin wove deftly through people who were checking in, heading for the bar, or simply mingling in the spacious lobby. Many stopped to stare at him, the white towel held over his face catching their attention. He ignored them all, even the brave few who dared to ask if he needed some help.

In short order, Vin burst through the entrance doors and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

A security man who hovered near the doors immediately stepped up to him, asking, "Can I help you, sir?"

With speed and focus Vin grabbed the man's sidearm, drawing it before the man really had time to react.

"Get back," Vin snarled from behind the towel.

The security man scrambled back, his hands coming up. "Take it easy, buddy," he said, trying to sound calm, but failing badly.

Keeping the security man in his peripheral vision, Vin sprinted into the street, forcing a gold-colored Saturn to screech to a halt in order not to hit him. Stepping up to the driver's door, Vin tapped the window with the Browning nine millimeter he'd taken from the security man.

"Get out!" he yelled, the towel still held over his nose and mouth.

A brown-haired young woman, her green eyes unnaturally wide, opened the car door. "W-What?" she asked, her voice hardly above a whisper.

Vin reached in and grabbed her sweater at the shoulder, dragging her out of the car. She squealed, but she didn't fight him. When she was clear, Vin climbed into the car, throwing the bloody towel onto the passenger seat and pulling the door shut. He roared off down the street, rounding the corner, one hand groping for the lever to move the seat back. A moment later he had the much-needed leg room he needed.

Glancing into the rearview mirror, he watched for lights that would tell him the police were already on his tail, but there was nothing. He had some time. He could disappear into traffic, but he knew he had to get out of the city, and as quickly as possible.


1649 Hours

Chris and the others walked into the bar and immediately knew something was wrong. The air buzzed with confusion and fear. Larabee headed to the bar, catching the bartender's eye. She walked down to join him.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"What happened?" Larabee asked, looking around for Vin.

"Some guy went nuts and tore out of here, grabbed a gun, even carjacked a Saturn. Who carjacks a Saturn?"

Buck stepped up next to Chris. "This guy in his early thirties, blue eyes, longish light-brown hair?"

The bartender nodded. "Yeah, that's him. I mean, he seemed like a nice guy."

"Did he say anything?" Chris asked, utterly confused.

The woman shook her head. "He ordered a beer; that's all. Oh, and then he sneezed. I said 'God bless,' turned around, and the next thing I knew, he was headed for the door. It was the strangest thing I ever saw."

"Strange?" Josiah asked, he and Nathan having moved up to flank Buck and Chris.

"Yeah," the bartender said. "It was like he didn't want anyone to recognize him."

"Pardon?" Nathan replied.

"He was holding my towel over his face," she explained, miming how Vin had held the cloth.

Nathan reached out, resting his hand lightly on Chris' shoulder. "He must think he's infected," he said quietly.

"Maybe he is," Chris replied just as quietly, his worried gaze flickering from Nathan to the others. "Come on," he added, his expression as serious as any of them had ever seen it.


1755 Hours

Vin drove for almost an hour, eventually finding his way out of the city and into a less populated area. Locating an old gas station just off the highway, he pulled off and parked near the pay phone, where someone stood, talking. Glancing around, he could see the station itself was no longer in operation, or was in the process of changing ownership.

Vin slipped the Browning into his waist band, then grabbed the towel again, pressing it over his nose and mouth. He climbed out of the car and walked over to the booth, stopping a few feet away. Inside, the door shut, a young man was talking.

"Hey," Vin called, "I need t' use the phone."

The young man ignored the interruption.

Tanner tried a second time. "Hey, I got an emergency here, get off the damn phone."

The young man turned to stare at Vin, then snorted and looked away, talking again – something about good deals on snowboards.

"Hey, I said I have an emergency, y' understand what an emergency is?" Vin called, almost dropping the towel.

Cupping his hand over the receiver, the young man snapped, "You understand bite me?"

Tanner's anger flared and he reached for the Browning, holding it up so the younger man could see it. "Y' understand this, friend?"

The young man's eyes rounded.

"Get out 'a there – now!" Tanner ordered.

The man dropped the receiver and pushed the glass door open. He slid past the opening, moving off in a wide arc to ensure he didn't touch Vin, then sprinted for his car. The sniper watched him until he pulled out of the station, his tires screeching.

Stepping into the booth, Vin grabbed the receiver, hung it up, then dialed. Waiting for Larabee to answer, Vin saw a police cruiser pull the young man's old Mustang over. The kid would bring the cop back, that was a given.

Slamming the receiver back into the cradle, Vin cursed and headed back to the Saturn.


1643 Hours

At the Stardust lab, Larabee and the others stood with Dr. London and Mr. Thompson. "If we find him—?"

"Find him alive, you mean," Thompson said, interrupting.

"We'll find him," Buck growled, his eyes narrowing as he stared at the security man.

"It has to be fast," London said. "The longer he's out there, the greater the probability he'll pass the virus to someone else."

"He'd never do that," Josiah countered.

"He'll stay away from populated areas," Nathan added.

"But that's going to make it harder to find him," Buck said quietly.

A young woman hurried into the room. "Mr. Thompson, we have something. This just came in over the police channels." She handed him a printout.

Thompson quickly scanned it, then handed it to Larabee, who read it and passed it to Ezra. "He'll call again, as soon as he finds a safe location."

"You have a chopper here?" Josiah asked, reading over Ezra's shoulder.

Dr. London nodded.

"Get your pilot – now," Larabee said.


1941 Hours

Vin drove along a series of rural roads, passing several houses, all set well back from the road and surrounded by large fields, some fallow, some with the start of new crops. At the intersection of two roads, he found another old gas station, this one obviously long-closed. But there was still a phone booth. He pulled in and climbed out of the car.

Pulling the door to the booth open, he reached for the phone receiver. It looked like it was undamaged. He lifted the receiver, dropped in the necessary coins, then sighed with relief when he heard a dial tone. He punched in the number and, a moment later, Chris answered. "Vin?"

"Yeah, it's me," Tanner said, his eyes closing with relief. "Chris, I've been exposed."

"We guessed as much," the older man said. "Where are you?"

"Don't know exactly. Can y' trace this call?"

"Hold on." A few moments later Larabee said, "We're doing it now, just stay on the line. How are you?"

"Don't know," Vin admitted. "M' nose is bleedin', and m' chest feels funny." He paused for a moment, then added in a tight voice, "You 'n' Josiah 'n' Ezra were with me."

"Everyone's been tested, Vin. We're all fine," Chris assured him.

"Kevin Morrison, too?"

There was a pause, then Larabee said, "Morrison's dead. He killed himself when they took his body to the lab for testing."

"Great," Vin sighed, his energy quickly ebbing away. "That was our last chance t' find out who's behind this, y' know."

"Yeah, I know," was Larabee's frustrated reply.

"Did y' find the first gas station I stopped at?"

"Yeah, the patrolman and the young man you interrupted are both being tested as we speak, but London doesn't think they were exposed."

In the background Vin heard someone say, "We have him!"


"Yeah," he replied.

"We have your location. Stay there. We're on the way."

"Will do, but y' know y' can't get too close."

"You let us worry about that. You just stay put, and that's an order, Vin."

"I hear ya."

Vin hung up. Turning, he stalked determinedly back to the Saturn and used the lever inside the car to pop the trunk open. Walking around, he opened it, his fingers mentally crossed. In the trunk sat a plastic container that was almost full of gas.

Well, at least things were still going his way… more or less.

He lifted the container out and carried it over to the phone booth, splashing gas on the ground and on the glass walls. Then he returned to the Saturn, splashing more of the gasoline on the car's seats, the dash and, finally, in the trunk. Sitting the container aside a safe distance away, Vin reached into his pocket and pulled out a matchbook. He struck one and tossed it into the trunk where the small flame immediately exploded into a tangle of dancing fire.

He flicked another match into the front seat, and one into the back. The phone booth was next. He stood, watching the fires burn for a moment, then walked over and hefted the container of gas and carried it into a field that had been overgrown by weeds and grass years earlier. He paused, looking up into the dark sky. In the distance he could hear the soft sound of rotor blades – a helicopter.

If it was the police, however, they might not understand the situation.

Vin hurriedly poured the gas out onto the ground, carefully creating a pattern. He stepped out of the liquid lines, then lit a match and touched it to the ground. A moment later, a symbol burned brightly in the night.


2017 Hours

In the helicopter, Team Seven and Dr. London looked down at the burning symbol on the ground.

"The international sign for infectious disease," London said unnecessarily.

"Where's Vin?" Buck asked, his gaze sweeping over the dark landscape.

"There," JD said, pointing.

The pilot dropped the chopper closer to the ground.

Vin waved at them, trying to tell them not to land, then they saw him lift a plastic container, pouring the remainder of the liquid inside over his head.

"What in the world is he doing?" Ezra asked.

"Makin' sure he doesn't infect anyone," Nathan said, his chest tightening.

The pilot held the hover steady above the burning sign as Vin waved them off again, then pointed at the symbol.

The pilot swung a little farther away and started to land the chopper. He stopped when Vin held up a matchbook and waved them off with large gestures.

"Vin, don't do it!" Chris said, his voice echoing through the internal and external speakers.

"Get away!" Vin yelled back.

Chris keyed his mike and said, "Vin, we understand the situation. Dr. London is with us. Put this on." He nodded to Nathan, who dropped out an isolation suit on a tether. "Get that on, and I'll tell you what happens next."

Vin tossed the matches away, nodding. He reached up, grabbing at the wildly flapping legs of the suit.


2132 Hours

The team stood, staring through the thick glass that separated them from the treatment room where Vin lay on a gurney. Around him, men and women worked in bio-suits. One woman did nothing more than wipe the blood off Tanner's face.

"It's not fair," JD said softly, his gaze intent on the woman's every move.

The others nodded, but they didn't look away from Vin and the doctors.

"He saved us all," Josiah added, equally soft.

"He's strong," Nathan offered, trying to sound hopeful.

Chris sighed. "Strong isn't going to cut it if they don't have an antitoxin… Damn it," he concluded in an angry hiss.

Dr. London stepped into the small room, stopping the conversation. Travis was right behind him. Both men looked tired and worried, which did nothing to ease the level of anxiety in the room.

"How is he?" Ezra demanded more than asked.

London glanced down at the floor and then up at the six agents, saying, "We had enough antitoxin for one injection," he said, then looked away from their worried faces, staring at Vin through the glass.

"That's good, right?" Buck asked.

London sighed. "I'm afraid we simply don't know if it will be enough, or if we got it to him in time. All we can do now is wait and see."

"And pray," Josiah added.

"How long before we know?" Chris asked, his jaw muscles jumping.

"The next twenty-four hours will tell us," Dr. London said.

"Is there anything we can do?" Buck asked.

Dr. London shook his head. "No, I'm sorry." He offered them a sympathetic, thin smile. "We'll be moving Mr. Tanner in a few minutes, so let me show you to a more comfortable place to wait. We have some coffee and food waiting for you."


1514 Hours

Eighteen hours later, Team Seven was scattered around the small waiting room. Josiah was in one of the comfortable chairs, his eyes closed – sleeping or meditating, no one could tell which. Chris sat in another chair that he'd pulled over so he could watch the hallway leading to the area where Vin was being treated. His eyes were open and focused, waiting, watching.

Across the room, near a window, JD was slowly folding the pages of a magazine into another origami creation. He hummed softly under his breath, but no one seemed to notice, or, if they did, no one said anything.

Ezra paced quietly on the thick carpet, pausing from time to time to sit on the couch until anxiety forced him to his feet again. From time to time he glanced over at Chris, willing the man to tell him someone was coming, but Larabee never moved, never spoke. His quietness was more upsetting than the concern radiating from Buck and Nathan as they sat and thumbed through whatever reading materials the lab had provided.

Ezra sighed and turned back, heading over to JD. He couldn't help it. He wondered what the hell the man was doing, but he wasn't quite ready to ask.

"Heads up," Chris said softly, but it was enough to make the others jump. "Somebody's coming."

A few seconds later a man they hadn't met before stepped into the room. He nodded to Chris, then addressed them all, saying, "Would you please follow me."

It wasn't a question, and Ezra asked, "Is Mr. Tanner all right?"

"Please, follow me."

The others stood, following Chris and Ezra as they fell into step behind the stranger.

The man led down the hall Chris had been watching, then down a second hallway to a door at the far end. He pointed to a rolling cart where several sets of what looked like green surgical scrubs sat waiting to be used.

"You'll have to put those on over your clothes," he explained.

The team quickly pulled on the loose pants and shirts, then donned hats, booties, gloves and masks.

When they were all finished, the man gestured to the closed door.

Chris grabbed the knob and turned it. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, the others following.

Vin lay on a narrow bed, the head of which was slightly elevated. Two IVs dripped liquids into his arms, and monitors softly beat out a constant description of his condition. He was awake.

Chris, Josiah and Ezra took up positions on one side of the bed, Nathan, Buck and JD on the other.

"How are you feeling?" Ezra asked as Chris reached out to gently touch Vin's shoulder with his glove-covered hand.

Vin flashed them a tired grin. "Better 'n dead… but not by much."

"What have the doctors said?" Nathan asked, sounding annoyed. "No one's told us anything."

"I probably know less 'n you do," Vin said, reaching over and groping for the controls.

Josiah spared him the effort. "Which way, brother?"

"Up," Vin replied. "'M gettin' tired 'a starin' at the ceiling."

Josiah pressed the button that elevated the head of Tanner's bed, letting it run until Vin lifted his hand to say that it was far enough.

"Thanks," Vin said, but before he could say anything more, the door swung open and Dr. London walked in to join them. This time, he was smiling.

"I hope that's good news," Ezra commented when he saw the man's expression.

The scientist nodded excitedly. "Yes, I just saw the latest set of test results. Mr. Tanner is free of the virus."

Vin's eyes widened slightly. "Y' mean it's all gone?"

London nodded. "The anti-viral treatment worked better than we could have hoped."

"When can I get out 'a here?" Vin asked the doctor.

"We'll need to monitor you for another forty-eight hours…"

"Forty-eight?" Nathan asked. "I thought you said he was cured."

"And he is," London assured them, "but we need to monitor him as his systems return to normal, to make sure that there are no lasting side effects from the exposure, or the anti-viral. It's purely a precaution, I assure you."

"Whatever it takes," Chris said. "As long as he's okay."

"He'll be fine," the scientist promised, then turned and left.

As soon as the door closed the team broke out in celebration. In his bed, Vin lay, watching them, a smile on his face. "Hey," he said, and they quieted down. "Travis here?"

Chris nodded. "You need to see him?"

Vin smiled and nodded. "I owe a woman a Saturn."


1710 Hours

Vin walked in from the kitchen at Larabee's ranch, an almost empty cup of coffee in his hand. Scattered around the living room was the rest of Team Seven.

"So, everyone ready?" Larabee asked, as he walked in behind Tanner.

"Yep," Vin said, as he offered his hand to JD and pulled the man to his feet. "After all, y'all are payin'."

"You just wait," Buck warned him, but he was smiling, "next time you'll get yours."

"That's next time," the sniper replied, tapping the ladies' man's chest with his fingertip.

"I just want to know one thing," Josiah said.

"What's that?" the sniper asked.

"How'd you get up that hill so fast?" the older man asked.

"I wouldn't mind knowing that myself," Nathan added.

Vin grinned and shook his head. "Professional secret."

"Professional secret?" Ezra echoed, his eyes rounding in an attempt to get him to elaborate.

"Yep," was all the taciturn sniper offered.

Chris grinned. "Come on, let's go pay off our debt. Next time it'll be my turn."

"Your turn?" Buck echoed. "I think it's my turn."

"You're not going to get a turn," JD teased.

Buck took a lazy swing at the younger man, saying, "Did I ever tell you about the time…"

Vin and Chris let the others leave, the blond reaching out to grab the back of Tanner's neck. "You really okay?" he asked.

Vin nodded. "Yep. Feel normal, and the physical they gave me at Summit is all okay, too."

Chris nodded. "You really have done that?" he asked quietly, the image of Vin standing in that field, soaked with gasoline and holding a matchbook refusing to leave his dreams.

Vin thought for a moment, then he nodded, saying, "If I had to. Y' heard what the man said… millions could 'a died."

Chris nodded, not really surprised by Vin's answer. "Come on," he said, more grateful than he could say that it hadn't come to that.