The First of Many

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Chapter 49

The next day, Aedan and his team returned to base and began to pack up their gear for their deployment. The mood was somber, due to the Hannah's absence. Aedan sat in his seat as the plane took off. He looked at the empty seat by his side, remembering Hannah resting her head on his shoulder every flight.

"Boss, we'll find her," Blade said from his seat.

"You don't know Rosie," Shadow said when Aedan didn't answer. "She doesn't exaggerate. She said if she misses deployment, she's dead. I don't think she was joking."

"Way to make a guy feel better, asshole," Aedan spat.

"I'm being honest," Shadow growled back. "I'm not going to baby you through this. If she's dead, she's dead."

"Hannah's stubborn. Maybe she only said that so we wouldn't find her. She wouldn't allow herself to die."

"Most people who die don't really have much of a say in the matter," Blade pointed out. "Look, don't get me wrong, if there's even a chance she's okay, I'll stick to it, but that chance is pretty small."

"Until I see a body, I won't give up on her."

Hunter groaned. "Start dredging rivers," he muttered. "Nobody good enough to pull one over on Rosie is going to do something stupid as leaving a body behind."

"How about you shut up before I throw you off this plane."

They knew he was serious: he was using his citizens-of-the-world-heed-my-command voice. His drop-and-give-me-twenty-soldier voice. His don't-fuck-with-me voice. The three did as they were told, and Aedan resumed contemplating the empty space beside him.

She would have been teasing Shadow with random engineer jokes that nobody else understood, making Hunter lose his tense face and crack a fond smile at his sister.

Aedan went to his room and unpacked, trying to keep busy in order to forget about Hannah's disappearance.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until Shadow and Blade showed up, somber-faced. “Overlord wants to see us,” Shadow said.

"What for?" Aedan asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Probably Rosie, all things considered.”

Aedan rose and left, making his way to the Commander's office. "I understand you're down an operator," he said as the team entered.

Aedan nodded. “Yessir,” he said uneasily.

"Well then, I'm trying to figure out how to go about this situation."

"Sir, she just vanished. No clue where she could have gone. I think she probably has..." He sighed. "A good reason," he said, realizing it didn't sound great.

"There's no good reason for going AWOL," he answered.

"Sir, Rosie's loyal to the team. She would never just up and leave unless she has a good reason. She's not a deserter."

"I don't have any proof of that," he answered. "You - Powell and Powell, you know her best. What do you think was going through her head?"

Blade sighed. "From what we gathered, she saw something and got pretty spooked. I don't know, for the rest."

“Smith, do you have any reason why Solomon would leave?"

"No sir, I don’t. Hannah never mentioned anything about leaving," Aedan said.

"Did Solomon ever leave a note?"

"No sir," Aedan said before he managed to figure out what he was saying. Hunter shot him a glance, but said nothing.

“Was anybody with her before she left?”

“I was,” Aedan said.

“Do you know what might have happened?”

“She saw someone who she thought she knew, from before she enlisted. Vanished the next day.”

"This person must be from her past and whatever happened has her scared. I'm launching an investigation behind the circumstances of her disappearance. In the meantime, proceed as if nothing happened."

“Sir, what’ll happen if she comes back?” Shadow asked. “Sometimes, when we’re stateside, she’ll vanish for a bit, but she always comes back.”

“We’ll see what happens then,” he answered sharply.

“Yessir,” the team droned.

“To business,” Overlord said, pulling up a map. “This house is the sole inhabited building in the area, and the current residence of Dimitri Poliakoff, a known Leninist weapons supplier.”

"And you want him dead?" Aedan asked.

"Affirmative. We'll drop you on this road where you will patrol into the AO. Once you're on target, you will be cleared hot on anything with a weapon that moves in that house."

“How is this place clear? It’s ten minutes from Moscow, tops. It should be packed.”

“The place was mostly demolished by Leninist protests. There was enough destruction that people no longer live there.”

"Check," Aedan said "Rules of engagement?" Blade asked.

"Kill on sight."

"Hooyah," they team said at the same time, with the Delta guys saying Hooah, earning them dirty glares from the SEALs on the team.

“Get some sleep,” Their commander said. “Wheels up in six hours.”
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