faye_dartmouth: (CHAOS team)
[personal profile] faye_dartmouth
A/N: Shall we see if I finally give the boys a break? Then again, given my track record, I’m not sure that’s likely…

Previous parts are in the MASTER POST



PART TEN

-o-

This time, there was no free escape. In the previous escapes, Jenkins had retained his leverage. There had been no need to chase them, and Michael didn’t doubt that the order to stay a search party was his and his alone. Jenkins was cold and calculating, but he wasn’t blindly vindictive. He wasn’t going to risk his men or exposure on flights of fancy that gained him no tactical advantage.

With a third round of destruction, Michael’s team had stripped Jenkins of any position of power he might have imagined he’d had. Now it was clear that Michael represented a clear and ongoing risk, one that was not likely to diminish by an out of sight, out of mind mentality. There was no hostage anymore.

That wasn’t true. There was a hostage this time, only Michael was holding him. Even if Jenkins would have seen this as the ideal time to cut his losses, he wasn’t there to give the order since he was currently semiconscious in the back of Michael’s stolen vehicle.

And apparently whoever was in charge now didn’t want Michael to get away.

Michael had a head start, which was good, but it didn’t mean a whole lot. In the mostly open terrain there are few places to hide, and with the remote location picking up the trail the car was leaving would be more than a little easy.

Worse, Rick probably needed medical help, and Billy did, too. If he didn’t get back to the rendezvous point with Casey soon the older operative would be inclined to do something stupid, no matter what Michael had told him.

No, Michael had to make it back to the rendezvous, secure Rick and Billy with Casey, then lose the tails, transfer Jenkins to military custody and that would be that.

A simple, straightforward plan. Easy.

Michael jerked the wheel, mentally going over the terrain in his head. He needed to get back around to the front side of the compound but without attracting too much attention. If they’d set up a roadblock that way it would probably be a lost cause, but Michael had to try.

He hadn’t come this far not to try.

Sand sprayed out and Michael heard Rick oof in the back.

“You okay back there?” he called, glancing in the rearview mirror. He could see the distant bobbing of lights and Rick’s dark form unsteadily righting itself in the back.

“Now I know why Billy drives,” Rick quipped.

Michael grinned. “Are you really mocking my driving skills?” he asked, turning the wheel hard again. The car careened, the wheels threatening to leave the ground from the sharp angle at this speed but Michael managed to keep it barely within his control.

Rick grimaced, face clearly paling even in the darkened interior of the car. “Not mocking,” he said, voice stunted and strained but still clear. “Just commenting.”

Michaels’ expression twisted wryly as he eyed a route around a small formation of rocks. It would be good to distract the pursuing vehicles with and wouldn’t impede his time too much. “How’s Jenkins?” he asked, eyes darting between the back seat and the space ahead.

Rick was quiet for a moment. “Bleeding,” he said. “Looks unconscious.”

That was for the best. “And you sure you’re okay?” Michael pressed.

Rick hesitated, just for a moment. It was nothing more than a split second, but it was enough. The kid wasn’t as rehearsed as the rest of them. He was still too new, and it was never more painfully obvious than moments like this.

“Fine,” Rick lied.

Michael steadied his gaze for a moment, pinning Rick knowingly.

Rick caved far too quickly. “Mostly,” he said, hiding a grimace badly. He seemed to shudder, a small cough rippling through him.

“How about you stop trying to play brave and just give me the rundown on your injuries?” Michael asked. “I’d check you over myself, but I’m a little busy right now.”

As if to prove his point, he had to swerve hard to avoid a rut in the ground and they all rocked forward as Michael careened around the side of the compound and veered back toward the road in the hopes of getting back to Casey and Billy before their tail caught up with them.

“Probable concussion,” Rick reported first, starting with the obvious. “Ribs are sore, but I don’t know if they’re broken.”

“You’d know,” Michael replied grimly, choosing to stay to the side of the road, out of the lights as best he could.

“Sprained wrist,” Rick continued. “And I’ve got a gash on my leg.”

“Bleeding?” Michael pressed.

“I thought the word gash was pretty clear,” Rick replied.

Michael rolled his eyes, pressing down on the gas, feeling his nerves spike as another pair of headlights joined the pursuit.

When he realized Rick was done, for a moment he was reassured.

But then he looked back and saw the kid again. Pale, bloody face. Perched on the seat, holding his side. “What else?” he demanded.

“Nothing visible,” Rick said.

Michael shook his head curtly. “If you lie to me, I’ll keep swerving until you tell it to me through tears.”

“Really—“

Michael veered hard, sending them over the road and across to the other side. They all bounced and Rick yelped, even as Michael refused to slow down.

“Just banged up my side!” he exclaimed, almost breathless with the admission.

“In the latest explosion?” Michael asked.

Rick grunted, shaking his head. “Earlier, when Billy rammed the building,” he said. “I went down under some rubble. It’s gotten worse.”

That was hours ago. Bruising took a while to set in and generally got more painful after the initial incident. So that could be normal, especially given what Martinez had been through today.

But Michael knew he wasn’t that lucky. Because he wasn’t lucky at all today, and whatever luck he had, he’d used up with the countless explosions and endless rescue operations. Any luck he’d had was Jenkins in the backseat and Rick still breathing.

So Rick had internal injuries. A slow bleed. That wasn’t good but the kid was alive. They had to go to the hospital anyway for Billy—

Billy.

The thought of the ailing Scotsman made Michael press down on the gas harder. He decided any pretense of hiding his route was over. He had enough distance now, so he needed to get back to the rendezvous quickly. For Billy. For Rick. For this whole damn mission that just would. Not. End.

Rick seemed to recognize the shift in Michael’s determination and braced himself accordingly. Michael’s awareness tunneled, his focus a pinpoint as he mentally recreated the path, seeing every rock, every piece of brush.

Then, there. The rock. The foliage didn’t quite hide the car but it came pretty damn close.

With the speed Michael was at, a quick stop was almost impossible. Still, he slammed on the breaks, turning the wheel as hard as he could to reduce his forward momentum. The car was out of control but not quite, and Michael reeled in the vicious tailspin with skill that only came from being flat out of the opportunity to fail. The engine wailed in protest, the structure shimmied, and then they came to an abrupt stop.

For a second, Michael couldn’t move. He was trembling with the surge of adrenaline, heart racing in his ear. He could feel everything, sensations pricking his skin. Rick was panting in the back, Jenkins taking labored pulls for air.

Then, the sound of a gun clicking as the ammunition falls into place, aimed right at his head.

-o-

At first, all Michael could see was the gun, poking out from the cracked door. Its aim was impeccable, and Michael knew that within a second, he could be dead and he’d never even hear the shot.

Which made him smile. Holding one hand up, he used the other to open the door. The gun followed him, pointed at his heart when he stepped into the night.

“Good to see you’re on your game,” Michael said.

Casey snorted, the gun dropping as he opened the door. “Good to see you actually got out in one piece this time,” he said. “Rick?”

“In the back,” Michael said. “Along with Jenkins.”

Casey raised his eyebrows. “You got Jenkins?”

“No time to explain,” Michael said, moving around to the back. He opened the door. Rick looked at him, and in the new found stillness it was clear to see that the kid was in shock. Gently, but efficiently, Michael helped him down, holding onto his arm as he led him across the ground toward Casey. “But Martinez needs medical attention. We’ve got possible internal injuries.”

Casey didn’t waste time, opening the back and guiding Rick on the other side. “Wonderful,” he said, face pinched sourly.

Michael didn’t indulge Casey’s pessimism. “How’s Billy?”

As Casey helped Rick climb into the bed, that question answered itself. Billy was still laid out, head propped up by the makeshift pillow. In the moonlight, his skin was translucent, lips parted as he took noisy breaths.

“He’s going downhill,” Casey reported tersely. “Fast.”

That was an understatement. Billy looked half dead already.

“So we need to go,” Casey said. “Should we transfer Jenkins?”

Michael took a breath, the reality of his next choice finally settling in. He shook his head. “No, I’ve got him.”

Casey hesitated but retained his composure. “You’ll follow?”

“No,” Michael said. “You take Billy and Rick to the hospital.”

There was obvious protest on Casey’s face. “And what about you?” he asked in clear accusation.

Michael reined in his emotions, knowing that was what Casey needed. The older operative was keeping it together, but Michael could see how much of an effort it was. Casey looked frayed around the edges, his eyes a little bloodshot, hair just slightly unkempt. He was collected under most kinds of pressure, but being faced with injury or illness he could not treat left him impotent and frustrated.

In short, Casey was keeping it together, but barely. If he knew Casey – and after all these years, Michael did know Casey – the last hour had probably been spent singing show tunes under his breath. Or louder, probably hoping Billy would rouse to stop him.

Michael hated that. He hated that flicker of desperation in Casey’s eyes as much as he hated the slur in Rick’s voice or the white pallor of Billy’s skin. These were his men, they were his responsibility. His plans made them; his plans broke them. He carried this burden, and it was heavier by the minute.

Yet, it wasn’t his place to assuage all these things. Casey would recover his control when Billy and Rick were okay. Billy and Rick would be okay once they had medical attention. They could have medical attention once they lost their tail. They could lose their tail when Michael went on a wild goose chase and drew their attention.

The decision made, Michael refused to be apologetic. Instead, he nodded crisply. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Michael—“ Casey said.

But Michael was already moving back to the car. As he climbed in the driver’s seat, he utilized the only thing he had to cow Casey into compliance. “Rick and Billy, they’re you’re responsibility now,” he said.

“Michael!” Casey said, the desperate tone in his voice drowned out by the sound of impending vehicles.

Michael slammed the door, throwing the car into gear. “I’m trusting you, Casey!”

He didn’t slow down, didn’t even see the look of blank protest on Casey’s face as Michael sped past him, dust in his wake.

His stomach churned, but there was no time to regret now. He peeled out, away from Casey and the well hidden vehicle. He was in sight just in time to almost collide with an oncoming car, and they both had to swerve to avoid a direct hit.

When Michael regained control he righted the vehicle in the direction of the road, glancing in the rearview mirror. There were two cars now, side by side, both following after him. Michael pressed harder on the gas, taking the car away from his team.

Glancing in the mirror again, he made out Jenkins’ form in the back. He was still breathing, the pained rise and fall of his shoulders visible in the darkness.

“It’s just you and me now,” he said, shaking his head as he kept himself centered. The engine roared and the lights danced in the mirror. “Just you and me.”

-o-

It was all very noble. Leading the assailants away from his team was the obvious thing to do. What any good leader would be willing to sacrifice for his team. In theory, Michael had no regrets.

In practicality, Michael didn’t have any regrets either. But as he drove off at breakneck speed, he was struck with the sudden realization that he wasn’t entirely sure what the details of this new plan were.

The broad strokes were, of course, obvious. Distract pursuing vehicles; turn Jenkins over to American authorities; meet up with his team; end mission.

The details, however, were a bit harder to pin down. Because he had some weapons and a speeding vehicle, but he had foreign terrain in the dark with two enemy pursuers. He could hope to speed all the way toward the nearest American base, but with that kind of distance, his odds weren’t good. Besides, if he got too close to civilians, there could be additional casualties and there was also a good chance that if he approached the US Army at full speed, he might end up a crater.

That would end the mission, all right, but it wouldn’t quite lead to any additional intelligence. And really, despite his somewhat suicidal tendencies, Michael did not have a death wish, especially not after everything he’d gone through so far on this mission.

No, the only option was to somehow lose his tails.

Glancing in the mirror, he eyed them critically. They were keeping speed, one just hanging back from the other. He’d bet his paycheck that they were in some kind of communication. It probably wouldn’t be long until they mounted some sort of offensive. Two vehicles against one – it wasn’t bad odds, and with proper flushing procedures, it would be possible to force Michael to where they wanted him to go.

Such tactics were best against untrained drivers, though. Michael wasn’t Billy, but he knew his way around a steering wheel. Any offensive could easily be turned back on them with a few careful moves.

He just had to wait.

He kept his speed steady, eyes darting between the road ahead and the rearview mirror. Jenkins was still immobile but breathing. He wondered if Casey had gotten to the hospital yet, if Rick was getting examined, if Billy was getting treatment.

Then, he saw it.

One of the vehicles lurched ahead, headlights dancing forward in the darkness. The car veered to the side, speeding up as it tried to come alongside Michael. The other vehicle edged up as well, but kept just a pace behind, cautious but aggressive.

Michael needed more than that.

Grimacing, he let the car pull up next to him. He saw a flicker of movement and the flash of a muzzle before a fresh barrage of gunshots pinged against the vehicle. Michael refused to flinch, but his automatic deceleration in speed probably looked defensive, which was entirely in Michael’s favor.

As he dropped back, the car followed suit. Michael slowed just enough so the other car had to move to the side until both cars were flanking him.

This was the scenario he needed, this split second of uncertainty, of confusion before they regrouped.

And Michael turned the wheel.

The car hit against one of the other vehicles, not hard enough to spin them but enough for them to hear. The other driver swerved in obvious surprise but quickly righted the vehicle.

Michael’s eyes narrowed, ready for the final push.

This time, he went the other direction, and the other car rocked.

In response, the first car veered toward him, harder than before, and the hit made Michael’s car jimmy. In the back, Jenkins groaned.

At that, Michael smirked. “Let’s see how well you trained them,” he said, eyeing the two cars flanking him with growing certainty.

Aggressive following would mean that they would focus on crippling Michael’s car. They would bat him back and forth until something gave. It was the surest and fastest way to end the chase.

It was also the greatest vulnerability yet.

Because the harder they veered, the less control they had.

The less control they had, the harder it would be to stop.

In general, Michael valued control over immediate results. Without control, the results may surprise you. Michael knew that now, better than ever. Sometimes, in fact, the results could entirely backfire.

It was a lesson he’d learned on this mission. And one he was about to pass on.

As the cars battered him, he held his breath. He bided his time, feeling out the hits. The force was substantial now, almost sending him from one car to the other. Just a little longer, a little longer…

One car veered hard and Michael hit the brakes.

The engine strained, brakes squealing in protest. The inertia threw him forward, his head rocking forward toward the windshield, cracking hard against the already damaged glass. Jenkins cried out and the dust from the ground billowed wildly around the car.

As the car skidded to a halt, Michael had to blink through the blood on his face to see the scene in front of him. It was hard to make out the dark cars – just a mess of bobbing tail lights – but the end result was clear enough.

The two cars had collided. The unexpected force had sent them spinning, setting off a series of ricochets. The momentum had sent one car into the air, flipping hard and rolling before settling on its side. The other car continued to spin, rocking violently, the front end mangled and off center and clearly totaled.

Heart thumping, Michael allowed himself a laugh. His head was throbbing, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because Michael had a free pass now, and he could finish the mission. He could turn Jenkins in, go back to his team, and finally be done.

Moving the car forward again, he wiped at the blood flowing from his forehead. “And that,” he said, feeling smug as he passed the wreckage and glanced back at Jenkins, “is how a plan really comes together.”

-o-

From there, it was almost laughably easy. They were no more than a dozen miles from the nearest military base. Although he had no means of radioing before his arrival, a thorough search and a series of quick calls had readily confirmed Michael’s story. Jenkins was transferred into custody and carted off to treatment while a medic made Michael sit down to look at the gash on his head.

While the young man treated him, the base commander found Michael, eyeing him gruffly. “I’ve been talking to your director,” he said.

Michael tried to quirk his eyebrow but instantly regretted. He settled for a small shrug. “That was probably interesting,” he ventured, uncertain up to what point Higgins would humor and defend him in this. The man genuinely disliked Michael, but it was hard to dislike his work, and this mission would be a boon if Higgins let it.

The man made a face, something akin to dislike. “Too many spooks lack the training to pull off military grade missions,” he said. “I’ll admit I was less than thrilled when you refused cooperation.”

In Michael’s foggy memory, the conversation with Fay about military cooperation resonated. Considering how close the mission had come to failing, he managed to feel somewhat sheepish. “I might have underestimated the enemy,” he admitted.

The man snorted. “Not from where I’m standing,” he said. “I don’t think you realize just how well connected Jenkins is. What you uncovered – what you provided us – is a feat that we might have let gone unnoticed for years. We owe you a debt of gratitude.”

It was high praise. Michael wasn’t a spy for the praise, and truth be told, he never knew quite what to do with it when he got it. Considering that the commander hardly seemed like an effusive man, the entire thing made Michael downright uncomfortable. “Well,” he fumbled as the kid pulled a stitch taut in his forehead, “I had some help.”

A lot of help. Rick and Billy and Casey. And Fay and Higgins. And even Vaughan.

“The buck stops with the commanding officer,” the man said. “For better or for worse.” He lifted a grizzled eyebrow and stared at Michael hard. “In this case, for better. Well done.”

With that, he walked away.

With that, the kid sat back and nodded. “Looks okay, sir,” he said. “Can I get you anything for the pain?”

With that, Michael realized that the mission was over.

With that, Michael realized that the real mission – the one that mattered – was actually just beginning.

Jaw tight, he shook his head. “No,” he said. “But I was wondering if you could arrange a transport.”

NEXT

Date: 2012-07-02 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nietie.livejournal.com
“And that,” he said, feeling smug as he passed the wreckage and glanced back at Jenkins, “is how a plan really comes together.” Yay for Michael \o/
(And Hannibal of The A-Team would say: I love it when a plans come together *g*)

Date: 2012-07-05 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
Michael makes a pretty good Hannibal in a lot of ways.

Thanks :)

Date: 2012-07-04 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lena7142.livejournal.com
I too love the A-team reference! :) And the thought of Casey singing showtunes made me giggle.

Gah! Poor Rick... Double the whump! I'm glad the mission is officially over (Yay for Michael getting recognition!), but I'm dying to see how our boys are faring and if Casey got to the hospital in time...

Date: 2012-07-05 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
Casey often makes me giggle :) He probably hates that, but that's not my fault.

And yeah. I figured with a fic this long, more than one of them deserved to be whumped. Poor Rick.

Thanks!

Date: 2012-07-05 10:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristen-mara.livejournal.com

Awww re Casey and the show tunes! Eeeek for poor Rick...

Flailing, meeping and eeping about the whole car chase and how Michael finishes the mission. Cripes!

Date: 2012-07-05 11:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
This mission was certainly a bit on the complicated side! I wish I could say the aftermath would be easy...

Thanks!

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