Hold On & Really, Really F.I.N.E.
Rouge Park - Command Post
Sean was beat. He and the other members of Team Five, Randy, Brett and their Team Lead Carl had finished clearing their section and arrived at the command post about fifteen minutes ago. They were now seated around one of the small tables that had been setup for the teams. They were drinking coffee and munching on sandwiches that had been provided. Just then Dale walked up with a plate of food and a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Hey good to see ya man. How was your stint with Team Three? We missed ya out there. Not gonna lend you out again soon" Sean said in greeting.
Dale who was a member of Team Five but had joined Team Three to create a four-man team replied "Good. We got two subjects in our section. You?"
"Well we, got one in our section, just a kid really, gave up easy. I guess that makes the total count eleven now. Only sections four and six to finish clearing. Pull up a chair buddy you look wrung out" Sean answered Dale.
"Thanks" Dale said as the guys made room for him at the table and he sat down. "Not looking so good yourself. Today has been hell. I don't think any of us or the guys from Teams One or Three want another one like it soon. We all went from call to call. I'm hungry and exhausted."
Sean agreed "Yeah been a hellava day. But learned some new maneuvers though."
"What ya mean?" asked Dale.
"Well, Carl here had us doing some crazy shit out there" Sean replied. "Carl, been meaning to ask you where that came from."
Carl looked up from his coffee and said "Braddock."
"Braddock?" questioned Brett.
"Yeah that guy sure knows tactics. Was real helpful with coming up with today's plan" Carl replied.
"Kinda thought he might when I saw him with you guys" offered Dale. Four guys stopped to stare at him.
Brett spoke first "Why did you think that Dale?"
"Because he's had lots of field experience. It was nice seeing him looking so well for once. Almost didn't recognize him like that. Been meaning to say hi and reintroduce myself but we've been so busy since he joined SRU. Doubt he would actually remember me though" Dale said.
"You know Braddock?" Sean asked.
Dale answered "Sort of. Saw him a lot when I was an MP stationed at an outpost in Kandahar several years ago. I only talked to him once but given his state at the time I doubt he'd remember me. He looked like death warmed over when I met him."
Taking a quick bite and swallowing Dale realized they wanted him to explain further. He added "I'd only been in the camp for two days and was on my way to the mess tent. I rounded a corner and saw this guy on his knees struggling to pull himself up onto a crate next to him."
"I went to help. Grabbed his arm and helped him sit on the crate. He was covered in dust and grime, looked like he had just come back from days out in the field. Braddock looked up at me and mumbled thanks. Man, he was pale and looked like he was gonna pass out" Dale said as he shuddered a bit at the memory.
"So I asked him where he was headed. He said the mess tent. Told him that's where I was going too. He just nodded his head a bit and took a slow breath in. He was in bad shape so I asked him if he needed help. He just stared at me with a look of 'why the fuck would you care'. Shook his head no then stood. He took several shaky steps before getting his footing and headed into the mess. I followed him" Dale continued.
"This huge hulk of a man, never knew his name, that worked in the mess took one look at Sam and steered him to a table and sat him down. I went to get my food when I saw the guy return to the table he put Sam at. He had a plate loaded with food for him."
"The mess was pretty full and the table Sam was at was empty except for him so I went and sat down. Never seen someone eat so fast. After he finished the first helping the hulky guy was there with another plate. He told him to eat but slower this time or he would be sick" Dale recalled.
"Midway through this plate of food, Sam told me his name and quietly asked who I was. I introduced myself and we spent the next quarter hour in conversation. Well that's not exactly right. I spent the next fifteen minutes talking. He just sat listening and slowly eating. I told him I was almost done with my tour and getting out of the military police but was planning on returning here and trying to get into SRU. Then I told him all about the SRU."
Becoming a little subdued he said "As he finished his second plate of food this guy comes running up to him a worried look on his face. The guy was about my height, had brown hair and green eyes. The exchange between them was cryptic and so intense. It was so intense I remember it like it was yesterday."
"He came to an abrupt halt at the table and immediately wrapped his arms tightly around Sam and hugged him for a full minute, maybe more. When he released him as he tilted Sam's face to his, stared directly into Sam's eyes and said, 'Blondie, hold tight, I'm here! How long?' Sam replied 'seven'. The guy asked 'how bad?' Sam replied so quietly I barely heard 'thirty-two'. The guy wrapped his arms around Sam tightly again and whispered 'remember beauty of life'. Sam nodded once."
"Then the green eyed guy called out to four guys that had just entered the mess 'found Blondie, seven and thirty-two. Move now!' Three of the guys rushed to get food and water, one hurried to the table. They placed Sam's arms around their shoulders and walked him out of the mess; closely followed by the other three." Shaking his head slightly Dale said "Never did figure out what the numbers meant. Some code for their unit I assume."
"Anyways, saw him around the base often but never had a chance to talk with him again. He always looked like crap, like he'd just come in from the field. Units would roll in and out. He was always there and he'd join up with them. That was strange, must be a JTF2 thing."
"That first set of guys, the ones from the mess tent, seemed pretty protective of him though whenever they were in camp. Through the grapevine they said he was always in demand for his skills. Always in the field and always assigned to the extreme missions. I don't doubt it." Dale finished as Team Five sat in silence absorbing all Dale had shared.
The group of five SRU officers at the next table had stopped talking when they heard Sam's name mentioned and had listened intently to every word of Dale's tale. They exchanged shocked looks with each other. They had no words, none at all. They were completely dumbfounded.
Their thoughts were interrupted when Sarge said "Copy that. Switching to channel six with you Sam" as he motioned for the rest of Team One to switch to channel six and mouthed 'Basto'.
Dale leaned over to Wordy and asked "What's up?"
"Sam's team has located Basto" Wordy replied.
Team Five switched to channel six to listen to the exchange also. They all quickly muted their headsets so sounds around them would not interfere with Sam's team communications. Everyone listened to the action taking place in section six.
They tensed when they heard a shot ring out. Relaxing when no harms we called out. Non-Team One officers laughed at the Samtastic nickname and were perplexed about the napping comment but thought it was funny. Team One sure had an interesting dynamic.
Everyone tensed again at the second shot and no response from Sam. Then the sounds of someone getting the crap beat out of them. Sergeant Parker, Ed, Wordy, Spike and Lou were on their feet now tightly pacing wanting so badly to do something. Distress was clearly written on their faces. All frantically calling for status from Sam.
They stilled and became quiet when unknown voices said.
"God damned cop."
"You're dead cop."
There was slight relief with Aaron's voice saying "SRU drop your weapon."
They tensed again when a new voice said "You're dead cop."
Then all hell broke loose when they heard four shots in rapid succession and Sam's labored voice say "Officers down, need assistance" followed by dead silence.
An uncontrolled emotional outburst erupted from Team One.
Ed roared "God dammit NO! Sam status. Report now that's an order" as he flipped a table on its side sending the contents flying in all directions.
Wordy threw a chair and yelled "Shit, shit, shit, shit."
Spike hollered "Hold on Sam, hold on, not letting go" as he slammed his fists on a table.
Lou threw his coffee to the ground and shouted "Fuck no."
Heard but unseen was Jules in the clearing putting more pressure on the subject's wound and cried out "No, no, no, Sam respond. Sam answer me dammit. SAM."
Greg was silent his face contorted in anguish. He ripped the hat off his head and with as much force as he had threw it to ground. Then tightly clenching and unclenching his fists he tried to get control of his emotions.
Sounds so soft they were nearly missed cough, hiss, uugh, cough, aragh, hiss, moan.
"QUIET" shouted Greg pinning a stare at his guys. "Sam, Sam is that you?"
"mmmh" barely audible.
"What's your status?"
hiss, gasp, argh, cough, ooww
"alive" faintly whispered
"Hold on buddy we're coming. You just stay with us okay."
uugh, cough "k" aragh, hiss, moan
"We heard Aaron. Do you know his status?"
gasp, "dead" hiss, moan
"dead" cough, hiss "and dead" uugh, cough
"Do you mean two subjects neutralized Sam?"
"yes … Boss? …" cough
hiss, moan "Tell Ed … sorry … gotta …" cough, hiss, aaaargh "… nap … now"
"Sam you hold on. Help is on the way. Hold on buddy we're coming. You just stay with us okay."
While Greg was talking to Sam the rest of the SRU officers went into high gear organizing what was needed. Team One would focus on getting their injured teammate. The remaining teams would take over the rest of the scene including getting EMS to the wounded subject, securing the scene of the shootings, and taking care of Aaron's body. There was shock and grief at Aaron's loss but the priority right now was saving an injured teammate.
Spike had pinpointed Sam's location. Over land would take more than an hour which was too long. Ed had arranged for a police helicopter so that Ed, Spike, Rollie and Dale could fast line to Sam's position. The helicopter would get them there in thirty minutes. Once there Ed and Spike would handle the extraction plan for Sam. Rollie and Dale would secure the scene until additional officers arrived over land.
Rouge Park - Section Six - Clearing
In the clearing, Jules had finally gotten the bleeding under control on the subject and he was stable. The wound was painful but not life threatening. EMS would trek in for him. She heard Ed say it would take thirty minutes to get to Sam.
"Hey Spike" Jules called.
"Yeah Jules" he responded.
"Do you remember Sam's comment about taking lots of twists and turns during his long run?" she asked.
"Yeah?" he said a thought beginning to dawn.
"Is there a direct route from the clearing to his position? If so, how far? I might be able to get to him in less time" she said hopefully.
"Great idea, why didn't I think of that. One second let me map it" he said quickly working the computer. "Jules, sending you the route. Depending on your speed you can get there in about ten minutes."
"Copy that" Jules replied. Frank assured Jules that he could handle both subjects until back up arrived and urged her to move to Sam's position. Especially since no one knew the extent of his injury and he was no longer talking.
Jules took off at a flat-out run calling to Greg "Boss, on my way to Sam. Frank has the clearing under control."
Rouge Park - Section Six - Ravine
Sam slowly stirred. He laid still, it hurt, it hurt a lot. Focus on breathing, control the pain he told himself. For several minutes all Sam did was focus solely on the in and out of his breathing, eyes closed not moving a muscle. Better.
Next up, he thought, injury assessment. Right arm burns, bullet wound, blood loss, partially why I'm fuzzy. Head hurts, possible concussion, cut above eye, a few bumps, lip stings. Chest hurts, vest in way can't check ribs properly. Deep breathe, painful but not searing, pretty sure nothing broken, maybe a few cracked, definitely bruised. Conclusion, nothing life threatening, just damned painful.
Okay next up, assess surroundings. Basto? Neutralized. Unknown subject? Neutralized. Aaron? Dead. In the woods in a ravine. Almost dark.
Now mental status. F.I.N.E. Really, really F.I.N.E. As tears fell from his eyes feeling the guilt and pain of Aaron's death fall heavy upon his shoulders and into his heart. He had failed again. Failed to protect Aaron. Failed to protect someone under his care. Failed to protect one of their own. Aaron's blood was on his hands. His team, his family would abandon him now. How could they not? That's the way it worked. He knows that is the way it always worked. He had ample experience on how it worked.
He failed to protect Sara. He lost his family that day. When they had gotten home the General had him stand at attention in the living room for hours. Yelling at him. Telling him how he had failed. That it was his responsibility to protect his sister. That he should have pushed her out of the way. That he was a total and utter disappointment. Telling him he was not allowed to cry, to man up. The General told him he wished that Sam instead of Sara was hit. From that day forward there was no family. No love. No acceptance. He was not worthy because he had failed to protect Sara.
He failed to protect Matt. He lost his unit brothers that day. After the reccy no one would look him in the eye. They blamed him. He blamed himself. He did not protect Matt. Matt always protected him. He should have seen it was Matt. He should have seen. His unit no longer trusted him. They no longer cared. They would not talk to him. He was no longer worthy of them. He'd killed one of their own.
Today he failed to protect Aaron. He would lose his team, his chosen family today. He should have fired faster. He should have seen the other subject sooner. Aaron was under his command, his protection today. He failed to have Aaron's back. His team could never forgive him. They would no longer trust him. It was his fault. He was not worthy to be a part of this family. He always failed to protect.
Pain both emotional and physical too overwhelming washed over and through him as his eyes slowly closed and he slipped into darkness.
Jules was panting heavily as she stopped at the top of the ravine. The sight that greeted her was horrific. Aaron lay at her feet dead, a bullet hole in his right temple from near point blank range. To her left lay an unknown subject dead with shot between his eyes. Half way down the ravine laid Basto dead, with another perfect kill shot to the head. But what made this scene truly horrific for her was the still form of Sam at the bottom of the ravine.
She quickly moved down the steep incline. She knelt next to Sam and checked his pulse. Alive, thank god. His face was covered in blood. There was a deep cut above his eye. There were multiple smaller cuts and abrasions across his face and his bottom lip was split. His right sleeve was covered in blood. He'd been shot. She checked and found the entry and exit points then applied a pressure dressing. At least they don't have to dig it out she thought. She didn't dare move him for fear of causing more harm to any unseen injuries.
"Boss. Found Sam. Alive. Unconscious but alive. Pulse a little thready. He looks pretty messed up. Injuries I can see are not life threatening. Applied pressure to gunshot wound in right arm, bullet went straight through" Jules reported.
"He's at the bottom of a steep ravine. By the looks of his face he fell down the ravine. Therefore, not moving him until EMS arrives in case there are internal injuries" Jules said her voice cracking with emotion. She could hear the concern of her team as they listened to her report by their gasps and sighs.
"Copy that. Ed and Spike are ten minutes out. A paramedic with rappelling experience joined them. Keep our guy safe for now. We'll be there to help soon" Greg said.
"Copy that" she replied. Keep him safe. That's what they had promised earlier today. He deserved to be safe. He was family. He was an amazing and selfless man who protected those who could not protect themselves, often at great risk to himself. She would do her best to keep him safe.
She adjusted herself so she could apply pressure and be able to gently stroke her hand through his hair. She realized that this was the second time today she had done that. It felt right, so right but she wished it was not in situations like these.
An image of his WOW smile entered her mind. God he was handsome. His blue eyes drew you in. He was intriguing too. Wonder what it would be like to kiss him? She checked herself. Where the hell had that thought come from?
She sighed. Today had been one for the record books. She could not remember one with so many highs and lows. The team was going to have one hellava debrief.
Sam was beginning to stir. Jules called to him "Sam, hey Sammy. It's Jules. Help is on the way. Hang in there. You are going to be okay. Can you open your eyes?"
He could but he was not going to. Sam was not ready to see the condemnation for his failure in his teammate's eyes.