The First of Many

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Chapter 60

Hannah and the Delta team dismounted their chopper with all the enthusiasm of a caterpillar when they returned to base.

Hannah walked back to her room and collapsed onto the bed, deep in thought. Suddenly, she heard a knocking on her door and perked up.

“Come in,” she said.

The door opened and Aedan appeared in the doorway. “Hey, I heard you got back. You guys are awful quiet, is everything okay?”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Hannah answered.

Aedan sighed, leaning against her. “What’s wrong, Kitten?” he asked gently, smoothing back her sweat-matted hair.

“Hunter’s dead,” she said hollowly.

Aedan froze, something in his chest going numb. “Dead?”

“Yeah.”

“How?”

“Shadow shot him.”

"What do you mean Shadow shot him? Shadow's the traitor?" Aedan frowned. “That’s not possible. Shadow wouldn’t do anything against us, and definitely not his brother.”

Hannah turned away, curling on her side and turning her back to Aedan. “Shadow wasn’t the traitor,” she said, voice hollow. “Hunter was.”

Aedan froze, chest going cold. "Oh my God. Hannah, are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine, just can't believe it."

“Me either,” Aedan sighed, pulling her back towards him. “He was so close. What happened?”

“He’d made a deal with the Leninists. To keep the team safe – all of us. He’d surrender us, make this op go bad, and they’d let us go.” She sighed. “He was broken. He needed a way out and that was all he had. He thought he was helping us.”

"Hannah, I'm here for you. You know that, right?"

"Yeah. I do know that. I'm glad you're here."

Aedan sighed. “And we thought it was Overlord. Guess we owe him an apology.”

“I still don’t trust him,” Hannah answered. “Hunter said he was subject 410. I know 410 survived the experiments, became a good asset, and was supposedly killed off when he hit thirty. I guess he didn’t.”

“So he was one of you guys? Like you and Aleski?”

“Apparently. I can’t believe I never knew. I should have seen it, I knew something was off about him.”

“You, Hunter… how many of you guys might be moles in the military?”

“There’s so few of us still alive today, there can’t be more than ten or fifteen that lived to see eighteen. Aleski’s dead, I’m one of them, Red isn’t in the military, Hunter’s dead. Petrov is the department’s coordinator, so he wouldn’t be in. That means that there’s between five and ten subjects unaccounted for.”

"So we have to go through this again? Are you kidding me?" Aedan asked as he threw his hands up.

“Doubtful,” she answered. “It’s useless to keep people on the grid unless they need to be there. Subjects don’t exist – they’re usually declared dead or missing when they’re taken into the program. So it’s easier to keep them that way, to be unable to track them when they kill someone. How much harder would it be to assassinate someone if your fingerprints are in half the databases on the system?”

"Well, what do we do now?" he asked.

“We move on. We fix what Hunter broke. It was our fault for trusting him, letting him in.”

“We have to trust our teammates.”

“But sometimes we can’t.”

"Hannah, without trust, we lose everything."

“But with that trust, we lost more than Hunter. Where there’s one traitor, there can always be another. Hunter murdered Teddy, Aedan. He rigged the explosives in that chopper and killed my brother. I can’t let that happen again.”

"Do you trust me?" he asked

She stared at him for a while – long enough that he feared she might say no – but she looked away from him, squeezing her eyes shut. “I don’t want to,” she said. “I shouldn’t. But God help me, I do.”

"That's a start. Are you happy with me?"

“I don’t know what that means,” she answered. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, and that’s enough for me.”

"I'll take that as a yes. Now come here," he said as he pulled her close.

She buried her head in his chest, clutching at him like a child. “I just can’t believe he’d do this,” she said softly.

"Shh. Just relax. I'm here for you. I'll always be here for you, my love," he said as he kissed her forhead

Hannah sighed, shivering slightly. “We should go make sure the other guys are okay,” she said. “Shadow and Blade were really close to Hunt.”

"You going to be okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Thank you for being there for me."

“No worries. Come on, let’s go find the others.”

They soon found the team gathered around a bonfire outside. "I heard about Hunter," Aedan said as he approached.

“Son of a bitch,” Shadow muttered, glaring broodily into the flames.

“He was our brother,” Hannah said weakly.

“No brother of mine.”

"I'm sure he had his reasons for what he did?" Blade said doubtfully.

“I don’t care what reasons he had. He killed Teddy. Who the fuck’s gonna explain that to Abby and Will? Bad enough his dad was killed in action, even worse that he was murdered by his own teammate.”

"We don’t tell them the details."

“They deserve to know.”

"We can't tell them the traitor part."

“Wouldn’t you want to know, if you were in their place?”

"But what we do is the stuff no one ever hears about."

“Hell, what are we going to tell command?”

"We tell them that we took care of the traitor. Let them piece it together."

“At least it saves us the investigation,” Hannah muttered.

“What about the corpse?”

"We left it there. We're not burying a traitor," Shadow said

Wraith nodded once. “Good,” he answered. “Shoulda burned the place down.”

"We almost did. Look, let's forget it and move on," Hannah said.

Aedan sighed. “I agree,” he answered. “We got the bastard down. The leak is gone, we’re all okay.”

"Yes sir," Blade said.

“Let’s all get some rest,” he said finally, wrapping an arm around Hannah’s waist. “Debrief is at 0700 tomorrow.”

The team slipped away one by one, and Aedan turned to Hannah. “You gonna be okay tonight?” he asked.

She nodded. “I’ll be okay,” she said. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to share a bed on base. Too many awkward questions.”

"You sure? We could be covert. I don't want you to be alone tonight," Aedan said. “I don’t think it’ll be an easy night for any of us.”

“Imagine what command would say,” she answered. “I promise, if I have a nightmare or whatever, I’ll find you.”

"Okay. Sleep well," he said softly.

She smiled, leaning up to kiss him softly. “The same goes for you, Aedan,” she said sternly. “I know you don’t sleep too easy either. My door’s open for you.”

“Thanks,” he said with a smile as they left for bed, letting the fire burn down into ashes.

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