Armed and Dangerous

Chapter 1.) Rogue

The man clicked the remote and a flickering screen wavered before those assembled in the small, cramped room. It was a library—or had been a library—in what used to be a large, Victorian-era manor. However, in recent years it had been converted and modified to serve as a base of operations for the IMA, which stood for Integrated Military Affairs. It was an organization that had originated in the United States but expanded outwards, thanks to the connections of their clients; powerful members of the elite class, who contributed to a large amount of the IMA's funding.

The government pretended that the IMA did not exist. There were no records. No names. Nothing.

"The night bureau," said the man, "Also known as the Bureau du Nuit. Their symbol—" he clicked the remote again and a corruption of the French flag appeared. All the color had been removed, so that the image consisted solely of white and two different shades of grey. "They are a semi-terrorist organization and sited primarily in France, although they also have operations going on presently in Cambodia, parts of Eastern Europe, and the Sudan."

When the man pressed another button on the remote, the screen flickered to black. The man set the remote down on the table. "Until now, the BN have not been a source of conflict to the IMA. We have no bases in those parts of the world, with the exception of Romania, and they have previously left us alone. A favour we have always dutifully returned. But now, they are pushing into territory in England and our clients are beginning to perceive them as a threat. Likewise, the BN is interested in political recognition. They are left-wing radicals with a large minority following. They see our clients, and therefore, us, as a threat to political security and have already killed two of our operatives in cold blood."

He paused, as if for dramatic effect, and except for the rustle of papers, it was dead silent. Pleased, the man continued, "Our mission objective in this case is simple: target the individual leaders of the BN and bring them to heel. If we cannot reach some sort of agreement, a rougher form of justice will be necessary."

"That will be all, Mr. Rivers." A suited man sitting at the edge of the gathered chairs, directly next to the projection screen, got to his feet. "Dismissed."

The man hastened to leave, bustling around audibly as he folded up the projection screen, gathered the remote.

Adrian Callahan was the head of the IMA, a position that he had usurped from the previous head of the IMA after shooting him and his mistress in the chaos that resulted after two prisoners had escaped from an island base of the coast of Mexico. Tall and slender, with a crooked nose that had been broken several years before, he didn't look particularly formidable at a glance. But Michael knew from firsthand experience that the man was as fast and dangerous as a spitting cobra, and he could hurl knives with deadly precision.

After all, one of the prisoners that had escaped the island was him. And the bastard had tracked him down with the same ruthless delight as cat hunting down a mouse.

Callahan watched the flustered man leave before turning his head and slowly facing the remaining operatives. "Ladies. Gentlemen."

For a moment, his steely eyes locked with Michael's and the corner of his mouth lifted imperceptibly.

"The attacks by the BN have been strictly hit-and-run. Their numbers are great, although not as great as ours, and they are trying to engage us in a game of cat and mouse. To eliminate our operatives one by one. It is the strategy of one who has everything to lose, which means that they are already afraid. As they well should be."

"What are your orders, sir?" A woman named Lashondre asked.

"As Mr. Rivers so eloquently put it, our goal is to hunt down the individual leaders. So far they have managed to remain silent. Remedy that. Make them feel . . . talkative."

The woman nodded briskly and said nothing more.

"I will be assembling teams to investigate the suspected locations of their various bases. These teams will be announced at eighteen hundred hours. Adjust yer watches."

He paused a heartbeat, giving them time to do so, before saying, in a brisk voice: "Dismissed."

Michael got to his feet. After sitting still for so long, in such an uncomfortable chair, his legs felt slightly sore.

Despite being dishonorably discharged as a traitor, Callahan had taken him on again, at a slightly lower position than he had held before. He wasn't quite sure what the man's motives were for doing something so rash, but Callahan had left him with little choice. Unfortunately. He disliked playing the role of the subordinate. Especially to a boss as obviously mad as his was.

"Boutilier. A word."

Michael gritted his teeth, schooled his expression, and did an abrupt about-face. "Yes?"

"I hadn't realized ye had returned to the States. When did you arrive?"

"Yesterday." He didn't let himself fall into the trap of letting down his guard. With Callahan, each question seemed to lead to another, like a line of dominoes. "It was a twelve-hour flight."

"That's right. And ye were gone for nearly three months. I never had a chance to deal with ye for putting one of my best riflemen into the hospital."

The slight thickening of his accent was the only indication of his displeasure. A newer operative wouldn't have noticed, much to his misfortune, but Michael had known his boss for a long time.

A very, very long time.

"My trigger slipped."

"Aye. Conveniently lodging itself in his side, too, without doing any major damage. What luck."

"He's a pretentious little fuck. As far as I'm concerned, he shot himself. And you have no evidence to prove otherwise, besides the Sniper's testimony."

"Insubordinate as ever, I see." Callahan walked behind him. "I heard your friend was in the hospital, too. And how is, Miss Parker?"

"I wouldn't know." He kept his voice cool and dispassionate. "I've been stationed in Scotland."

"So ye have." Callahan regarded him for a long moment, before resuming his walk. "Remind me. What was she in for? Spontaneous abortion, wasn't it?"

Michael said nothing.

"How did that happen, I wonder." He paused a beat, "Did your trigger slip that time, too?"

He found himself with the urge to wrap his hands around the bastard's neck and squeeze. He shoved them into his pockets instead. "What do you want from me?"

"I want ye to lead the team I'm sending to England. As ye said, ye've been stationed in Scotland, so yer acquainted with the exchange rates and all those other mettlesome little details."

Michael closed his eyes. "The men won't listen to me. They still regard me as a traitor. A rumor that you have done nothing to discourage, I might add," he said harshly.

"If I tell them to listen to ye, they will." Callahan paused. "It's been a while since I had someone check up on Miss Parker. In college now, isn't she? She might spread classified information."

"If you touch her, I swear to God, I'll fucking kill you."

"Yer a powerful man, Michael, but even you can't take on fifty guards with no kevlar."

"This is blackmail."

"Yes, it is." He smiled. "Yer dismissed, Mr. Boutilier."

He turned on his heel and left quickly, before he could do something that would leave him in a state of even further disgrace.

"Oh. And one more thing."

Michael didn't turn around. "What is it?"

"From now on, keep yer safety on. I don't want any more incidents with yer trigger. Even if yer just shooting blanks."

Author's note: *cackle* Phallic jokes with guns, I know I'm immature.

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