In Action

by Stan Lee *

ATF Universe

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan; Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

I feel the tension ease a little, just enough so I can focus again on the job in hand and take my mind off my aching bladder. Not aching, burning. Burning is a better word. Like I've got a hot wire threaded up through my dick, right up inside and reaching into my guts... Christ!

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

Buck: down below on the street, clipboard in hand pretending like he's checking off a delivery; Chris: to my right, in the second floor window of a scuzzy looking low rise building, binoculars at the ready; Ezra: way off to the left and round the corner, I can only see him through my scope, looking good, looking loose, looking cool; JD: beside the surveillance van, fitting Ezra with a mic, mouth moving a mile a minute; Josiah: in front of the warehouse with Buck, playing delivery boy and humping boxes from the van to the curb; Nathan: sitting behind the wheel of the van, fingers tapping, head bobbing, like he's listening to music through his walkman. I know what's really in his head right now because it's in mine too. Chris's voice. Ease up, boys. I need ten more minutes. Hold it for ten more minutes.

Hold it! I've been holding it for four hours straight. I've been holding it since before it was light. I was lying up here freezing my balls off and holding it while the rest of them were chugging hot coffee in back of the surveillance van. I was holding it when Buck stepped out, unzipped and relieved himself against a wall. I saw his face in the cross hairs, almost pulled the damned trigger when he turned his head and winked at me. Bastard! Knew I'd be looking. Knew I'd be busting for a piss...

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan; Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

The burn eases. You want ten more minutes, Larabee. You got it.

Buck and Chris and Ezra and John and Josiah and Nathan. My mantra. Words I say whenever I find myself drifting, or whenever I need to take my mind off my circumstances. And a burning bladder is definitely a circumstance I need to take my mind off right about now.

It worked this morning, my mantra. It worked when I had to lay myself belly-down on the frozen tarmac; nothing between me and solid ground but an old piece of worn out tarpaulin. The chill seeped into me until I could feel it in my bones, hard as iron, stiffening my muscles 'till they ached with cold. Yeah, ached. That's what an ache feels like, different to a burn. My muscles are aching, my bladder is burning. Dammit to hell, now I feel the fucking cold again.

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan; Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

Control Techniques. That was the name of the course where I learned about my mantra. All the sharpshooters from the regional ATF teams had to attend. I gave Chris a hard time about it, not because I didn't want to go, just to keep him on his toes. He gave me that look. The one that still makes JD squirm, the one that makes Buck smile like he's holding a secret. Ezra says I'm the kind of person who'd poke a hibernating bear with a stick just to hear it growl. He ain't necessarily wrong about that, either. I do like to hear Chris growl. Mandatory, Tanner, Chris said, all sarcastic like. You do know the meaning of the word? Hell yeah, I know the meaning all right. Do you know the meaning of cantankerous, bossy, control-freak with a pickle shoved so tight up yer ass...

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

I thought it was gonna be a course about controlling the weapon, but it turned out it was about controlling ourselves. About ways to find focus and stay there, about concentration, about not letting our minds wander so we end up thinking about how that pickle got up Chris's ass instead of staying centered in the here and now, in the moment, in the action. I got a bit spooked when the instructor started talking about finding our mantra. I'm not into all that new-age, touchy-feely, get-in-touch-with-your-feminine-side horseshit. Leave that to the Josiahs of this world.

Buck: arms windmillin' around like he's mad at something; Chris: watching from behind a blind; Ezra: walking around the corner; JD: climbing into the back of the van; Josiah: dropping one of the crates; Nathan: shouting out a curse and sliding out of the cab to help. Looking good, Chris's voice whispers in my head. Almost there.

He gave out some suggestions. The instructor. For our mantra. Days of the week work good... just the right number of words, and you ain't likely to forget any of 'em or get 'em out of order. Months of the year are okay but twelve words is kinda long; you can lose your focus just getting through that mouthful. Avoid the names of your wife and kids. Too emotional, more likely to make your mind wander off back home than stay concentrated on the job.

I knew from the get-go it'd be the guys for me. Right amount of words and definitely helps me stay focused cos it reminds me what I'm staying focused for. Started with last names, but Larabee, Wilmington, Sanchez, Dunne, Standish and Jackson didn't exactly come tripping off my tongue. So first names it is.

Buck: bending down over the smashed crate; Chris: glancing at his watch; Ezra stepping across the threshold and disappearing into the warehouse; JD: nowhere in sight, must be in the van; Josiah: on his knees pulling packing material outta the broken crate; Nathan: standing to his left, glancing up as Ezra vanishes.

Course it took a Goddamned age to get the names in the right order. I tried by rank, Chris first of course, then Buck because he's Chris's second, but then it all turned to shit. Should it be Josiah next because Chris sometimes turns to him for advice? But Nathan joined the team before Josiah so maybe it should be him next. Threw that outta the window and started again. By age. Josiah first as the oldest, JD last as the youngest. That's as far as I got. Chris and Buck are close in age, I know that, but don't know who's older out of them two. And Ezra, he don't give away too much that's personal, like his age, or what his middle initial stands for. Ezra P. Standish. P. Pee. Aww, jeez.

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan; Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

Whew. Close call. I'm hoping like hell the damp patch I feel is just the melted ice seeping up through the tarp. I've been on this damned roof for hours, long before the time we knew it was going down. Had to make sure there were no surprises, no ambushes other than our own. Chris told me to stand down for ten when the others slipped into place, said everything was covered if I needed to drain the snake...

Buck and Chris and Buck and Chris and Buck and Chris and Nathan Nathan NATHAN.


Couldn't leave my boys, though. Wasn't about to get caught with my pants down and my pecker in my hand if things went south all of a sudden.

I settled on alphabetical order in the end. For my mantra. It was a bit weird, not putting Chris's name first. Just comes natural most times. But Buck 'n' Chris has its own easy way about it. Besides, we don't hardly ever talk about the one without the other anyway. They're real tight those two; the kind of tight that gets me to wondering sometimes . . .

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

Buck: digging down into the crate; Chris: disappeared from the window; Ezra: nowhere in sight; JD: still inside the van; Josiah: straightening up with a long package in his hands; Nathan: reaching into his jacket pocket. Chris's voice inside my head again. Ezra's on his way out in five. Look lively, people.

JD. In my mantra he's John. John... hell...

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

JD kept getting stuck on my tongue, kept making me stumble and throwing off my rhythm. Ezra JD Josiah. Couldn't make it work. Good thing the instructor asked what the initials stood for otherwise I'd have flushed the whole alphabetical approach down the toilet... ahhhh!

Buck Chris Ezra John Josiah Nathan.

Buck: pulling a handgun out of the crate and spinning around; Chris: on the street running towards the warehouse and waving his badge; Ezra stepping out into the daylight in front of three hulking goons; JD: out of the van and tearing around the corner; Josiah: pointing a rifle at the warehouse doors; Nathan: moving forward quickly, gun in hand and pushing Ezra aside.

Cross hairs. Don't move a fucking muscle, asshole. Chris wrestling him to the ground, Buck's got it covered.

Cross hairs. Right between the eyes, scumbag. Nate spins him, cuffs him. Josiah moves in.

Cross hairs. Number three goon. Making a move. Clear shot. Squeeze. Reload.

Cross hairs. Number three on his ass, shoulder bleeding. Chris giving me the thumbs up. Scanning the area. Left flank...clear; right flank...clear. JD: patting down the perps; Ezra: lips moving, delivering Miranda; the rest of the team: inside the warehouse, double-checking.

Cross hairs. Keep it steady. Wait for it. Wait for it.

They're coming out.

Buck: talking into his cell phone, calling in the back up unit; Chris: signaling me to pack it up and get on down there; Ezra: flipping through wallets checking for ID; JD: pulling off Ezra's wire; Josiah: walking towards the decoy van; Nathan: covering the perps.

Vin: aching muscles screaming, fingers stiff with cold, front wet with piss, burning bladder about to explode.

Glad you're all safe.

The End

*Author is deceased