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Chapter Twelve

Sitting on the sparring mats with my legs crossed, I nibbled on an energy bar Kingston had given to me as we prepared Gym 5 for the debriefing. Victor had agreed that the gym was neutral ground as both a Gifted and Alpha team soldier made use of it. Not the best place to hold a debrief for soldiers in their late twenties, but on the other hand, it was perfect for teenagers like us.

“What time did Victor say this would start?” Kingston asked as he began to unravel a blueprint of a building’s layout in the middle of the mat I sat on, placing weights on the curling corners before sitting back and booting up his laptop.

Swallowing the gooey chocolate in my mouth, I glanced down at the watch Tango had given me. “Five minutes and we will be stuck in choking awkward silence.”

“You make that sound like a bad thing,” Kingston stated with a roll of his eyes and a cheeky smile as he pulled up files onto his laptop screen, covering the picture of his background. “Don’t stress too much. I’m more worried about one of my men complaining about the childish fact that we have to sit on the floor.”

“That’s low, even for you Kingston.” Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the remaining members of Alpha team strolling in. The four men stared down at us, making my muscles tense and stopping me from chewing the chunk of chocolate in my mouth.

“You know we have a room specifically for this type of thing, why did Vickie boy choose here of all places?” The only black-haired man asked, his casual clothing hugging his body tightly to show off the muscled curves of his body. He then turned his gaze on me, a questioning look on his tanned face. “Alpha, do you even know who we are?”

Being spoken to suddenly made me choke slightly as I swallowed hard. Coughing, I shook my head as I turned my eyes to the mat.

“Sorry, no I don’t. Kingston’s the only one I really know and that asshole over there who crushed my hand the other day,” I said, feeling a tiny prick of confidence and satisfaction as Murphy took an intimidating step forward, blue eyes ablaze with anger.

“Well then, we might as well introduce ourselves, right boys? We are going to be working closely for this Op,” The same man said, choosing to sit next to me so I could take in the rest of his features. His eyes were a light-chocolate brown complimenting his tanned skin and black hair slightly dipping over his eyebrows. There was a shallow scar running lengthways over his cheek.

“Names Neo Martinez. I’m the guy coordinating every move we make before going into a mission,” He said, reaching out a hand for me to shake. I did so nervously.

“Axel Clark, call me Axe if you want. I usually go in first for the stealth parts of missions, you know like James Bond shit, the only difference I’m hotter.” The next man introduced himself, his last line getting a chuckle out of everyone. Axel was pale, like me, his hair auburn and eyes a gentle lagoon green with what looked from where I sat a swirl of gold around the outside. Not Gifted gold, just normal human gold. On another note, I could also sense fourteen knives on him, six around each thigh and two hiding in his boots.

“I guess I’m the last unfamiliar face,” The last man said, turning so he no longer showed his back to me. “Owen Taylor, I am the eyes in the sky since my job is being the sniper. Please call me Taylor, Owen reminds me too much of my deadbeat Pops.” With a cheeky grin, Taylor sat down next to Kingston, piercing green eyes skimming over the contents on the screen as his sandy-blonde hair moved with the tilt of his head.

Murphy was the last one to sit down, his posture rigid as he crossed his arms over his chest in a childish manner. When he had attacked me, I never really got a good look at him, now I could. His eyes were a deep blue, dark hair shaved in the typical military cut and a tattoo peeking out from under his wrist, the black ink almost shouting for attention.

“H-how long have you guys known each other?” I asked, finishing the last bite of the energy bar, trying to ease myself as I leaned back on my arms. Kingston chuckled, eyes darting around, waiting for someone to answer.

“We signed up about the same time after high school, so about nine years?” Axel said as he took out one of his knives to test its edge against a piece of leather he retrieved from his pocket.

“Sounds about right. We were high school buddies in our last year when the recruiters showed up. Kingston was the first one to put his name down and like idiots, we followed,” Taylor stated, smirking as he slung an arm over his leader’s shoulders. Kingston only shook his head before looking up when the others filed into the room. Echo was quick to sit in the gap between me and Neo while the others spaced themselves out to make a rough circle.

“Finally, now we can begin,” Murphy breathed out, cheeks puffing out slightly with his sigh. Rooi rolled her eyes the same time Fox covered his face with a hand in annoyance.

“I believe Tango has not informed you about the actual mission?” Kingston asked, ignoring Murphy as he glanced around at us. With no answer, he carried on. “In short, we will be tackling a small-time trafficking ring that is hosting an auction on Saturday night. Attending this auction will be traffickers who have children that could be Gifted from Bridgefield. Because there are only so few of you who have been affected by the Pulse, the price of a Gifted has continued to rise.”

“Why do we need to be a part of this then?” Victor asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he frowned. “From what I’ve heard, you guys have done bigger jobs than this by yourselves, so why bring a couple of kids to this mission?”

“It may be tied up to Evolved. We need two of you to go undercover, act as if you are there to be sold so we can nab the two Evolved agents and scare off the traffickers as well as take any other Gifted back to their parents. You won’t be going in alone, Axel and I will be acting as your kidnappers,” Kingston explained, already looking for the protest that was sure to come.

“No,” Echo stated with a growl, answering what Kingston was waiting for. I glanced at him to see pure anger flashing in his green eyes. “You know very well that two of us were grabbed by Evolved and another sold at one of these auctions. You’re counting a lot on the fact that our mental states can deal with that type of thing. What says you won’t be shot and the two Gifted are taken?”

At Echo’s question, I already realized what the answer was going to be. Me. I would be one of the Gifted used as bait. If I was not there, who else could sense and control the gunfire that would surely happen when we tried to escape? The idea only then seeped into Echo’s thoughts, the air around him instantly turning chilly.

“You got to be kidding me, right? You want to send him in when he hasn’t even been here for two weeks. Sure, Alpha is powerful but think smarter!” Victor demanded, glancing at me before glaring at Kingston. “Who’s going to go in with him then or is that as far as your suicidal plan goes?”

“Echo will,” Neo said, winking at Echo who bristled in response. “The plan is to say they are a combined offer as one of them can’t control his pyrokinesis and the other struggles with his mental state. The auctioneers won’t worry as long as they get money and the buyers won’t care since they are getting two powered toys.”

“Smart, but you can’t just throw them into the shark tank yet,” Fox piped up, catching Murphy’s attention. “Alpha, how do you feel about acting as bait?”

“I don’t know... Scared, worried yet confident we can pull it off? I hardly remember how I felt when I was captured and sold, only the bright lights and shouting voices are burned into my memory.” Everyone’s eyes were on me, absorbing the little bits of my history I let slip. Echo’s hand slid up my back as I felt myself falling into that horrid memory.

“You’re throwing us into the deep end but I guess as long as we work together and don’t let the panic get to us, we can do it,” Echo stated, smiling down at me.

“It’s settled then, you two will be going in with Axe and King. Now, if you please glance over at the map conveniently placed in the middle here,” Neo said playfully, gesturing to the blueprint of the warehouse. “The building consists of two entryways. Buyers come in from the back of the warehouse and leave the same way with their buy. The traffickers use the front entry, we will be walking in through there as well.” As Neo explained, I found myself leaning forward, analysing the map and the two entryways he had marked with a red pen.

“Where will the rest of Alpha and G team be while this is taking place?” Echo asked, leaning his shoulder against mine.

“We will be on-site in the shadows for any errors. G team will be with us so we can hit with as much power as possible,” Taylor explained, taking the pen from Neo and circling two areas he said they would be hiding out in. “I will be hiding up here, keeping my scope on your backs in case someone brought more muscle than they really needed.”

“Understood. Any further information we need to know?” Victor asked.

“Not at the moment. When we arrive at our hotel, we will do a once over with the plan,” Kingston said, closing his laptop and glancing over the group. “For now, get something to eat then take a run through the obstacle course since we lost out on sparring this morning. Tomorrow is Relief Day; Alpha team will stay here. Dismissed.”

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