azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: An Alien investigation
Rating: PG
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
AU: Scientific Paranormal Investigations
Main Characters: All Seven.
Summary: When reports of alien sightings and abductions are made, SPIT7 head an investigation with the help of their new team member.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Spoilers: None
Status: Complete
Total Word Count: 32,663



Denver Colorado - Thursday, 1:41am

Ezra Standish, a man of many talents - most of them illegal - stared at the man sitting across from him. His own poker face was firmly in place, just as his mother had taught him. His handsome features gave absolutely nothing away. The intense green eyes held no emotions. His winning hand rested comfortably within his nimble fingers. He wanted to tap the left fingers in a show of impatience but then he would be betraying the five cards that were going to win him the five thousand dollars in the pot. Just enough to finance a con in which he could earn three times as much.

Martin Hendriks, an officer with the Denver PD for fifteen years - the last three as an undercover police officer - fidgeted in his seat. It didn't matter about the poker face he was incapable of wearing; he didn't own one, not like the man that sat across from him. This young man was the best poker player he'd ever seen. He couldn't read him; there was no repeated body language that he could associate with a winning or losing hand. He couldn't help but smile, the little smartass was going to be in jail before too long. And that face of his wasn't going to make it easy for him. The smile turned into a frown. It wouldn't be easy at all, he was young, good looking and thin. Just the way they liked them. Maybe he would have a word with his boss. They had a list of organisations that were on the lookout for guys who were good at their trade that they could use. Abuse was more like it, but it was better than jail. This man hadn't killed anyone, his only crime was being able to play poker and play it well. He made a living out of it. He would just have to change the way he lived.

It was time to end this. The team was waiting outside, all they needed was his signal to come and make the arrest. He shifted in his seat one last time and threw his five hundred dollars into the pot.

"I call." Hendriks spoke with confidence. He knew he'd lose but the arrest would be made.

Ezra watched as the last player threw his cards onto the table. The hand was good, a four of a kind but not good enough to beat his. He placed his straight flush on the table and began to rake in the cash. Life was good. But life was about to take a nasty turn that he wasn't prepared for.

"Oh, by the way," Hendriks smiled, "you’re under arrest."

"Under arrest, me, what on earth for?" Ezra tried to keep his poker face in place. He was succeeding.

"Illegal gambling," Hendriks stated simply.

"Oh, you mean, prohibited gamesmanship." Ezra raised an eyebrow in innocence as his Southern accent rolled around the words.

"Isn't that what I said?" Hendriks was beginning to get angry; maybe they would just send him to jail after all.

"No, you said illegal gambling."

Ezra didn't flinch when the door was slammed open and a number of police officers entered the room. Both uniformed and plain clothes began to surround the table. Hendriks stood up and moved out of the way.

"All these gentlemen just to apprehend me." Ezra smiled revealing the dimples that graced his cheeks and the gold molar that had been used to replace a damaged tooth on the right side of his upper jaw.

"We heard about how slippery you can be," Hendriks admitted.

"My, my. My reputation precedes me." His tone was cocky.

"Follows you like a piece of crap more like it." The undercover cop smiled.

Ezra returned the smile. He was use to this sort of treatment. He had received a lot worse all his life and he knew he would continue to be treated like shit. He had no friends and never would. People can't be trusted. His mother had taught him that.

"You have the right to remain silent."

"The word 'silent' doesn't belong in my vocabulary," Ezra stated simply as another officer pulled him from chair and began to cuff his hands in front of him.

"Why do I find that easy to believe," Hendriks replied then continued. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

"I doubt that a man with your lack of intelligence would even begin to understand what I would endeavour to explain in my statement." The Southerner pushed himself away from the officer and began to gather his winnings.

"That's not yours," Hendriks warned him. "It's now evidence."

Ezra shrugged. "I expect it to be returned when I am found innocent."

"Cocky son of a bitch aren't you?"

"Right on both accounts." Ezra smiled even though he knew Hendriks had hit a sore point with the simple words.

"You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned."

"I would prefer a female. Preferably one like Ally McBeal. You know, short skirt, nice legs, isn't afraid to kick a man in the balls when he deserves it."

"If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish."

"How could I afford a lawyer, you just took all my money."

God he felt like knocking the smug little bastard off his feet. "You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any question or make any statements." Hendriks waited. He expected a smart-ass remark. He didn't get one so he continued. "Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?"

"No." Ezra smiled.

He was retiring in six months. If he hit him now he would lose his job and his pension. "Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us now?"

"Well, I have this nasty little rash that I would like to talk about . . .”

________________________________________

SPI Headquarters, Denver Colorado - Thursday, 10:42am

Chris Larabee, leader of the Scientific Paranormal Investigation's Team 7, or SPIT7 as his team had come to call themselves, walked with confidence towards Director Travis' office. His boots echoed within the hallway informing other workers that he was on his way. They would then create enough distance between themselves and the man who carried a lot of anger within his soul. If you rubbed him the wrong way, you were going to pay for it, usually by receiving more than one physical blow to the body.
He knocked on the door and entered the office without waiting for an answer. Travis sat behind his large desk going over some reports. The silence told Chris to take a seat and wait. Chris did as he was instructed. He sat his lithe body down into the small leather chair. He looked at the digital clock that sat on the corner of the desk, he would give Travis five minutes then he was out of there. Chris had better things to do and he wasn't going to hang around here waiting until the Director decided that he was ready to talk to him.
Travis looked up and adjusted his steel-rimmed eyeglasses. "I understand that you have feelers out for a seventh man to be placed with your team." He didn't expect an answer because it hadn't been a question.

"You do understand that you are supposed to go through normal channels to do this?"

"There wouldn't be any decent prospects if I went through normal channels," Chris told him calmly.

"You've got a point." Travis leaned back in his chair and stared at his best SPI leader. "Why do you want another man?"

"I need someone who can go in undercover, blend in. Sometimes it's difficult to get people to talk and if we were able to put a man on the . . .”

"I get the picture. Why can't one of the men you already have do it?

"They already have their assigned tasks. I need another man." Chris became more serious.

"What about an undercover police officer. There are plenty of those available to you." Travis told him. He couldn't understand why Larabee was more interested in recruiting a criminal than a law enforcement officer.

"A cop won't fit within the team. We don't like them." It was the truth, his team continuously had confrontations with the law, and they had grown to dislike them - a lot.

"A friend of mine from the 47th Precinct faxed this over. He knew that you were looking for someone and thought you would be interested."

Chris took the sheet of paper and quickly scanned it. The prospect looked interesting. "He's been arrested for illegal gambling."

"You'll also notice that he's a con artist. Takes on other roles. Might be just what you need."

"I'll have to talk to him first. Get a feel for what he's like. I don't want anyone who won't fit in with the team."

"They're expecting you."

________________________________________

47th Precinct, Denver Colorado - Thursday, 11:27am

Chris sat in the number three interview room. His close friend and fellow team member, Vin Tanner, sat on his left side. They had been waiting for thirty-three minutes for one Ezra Standish to arrive. Both men were becoming impatient with the police officer who had left to retrieve the accused man. Tanner began to tap his fingers against the table; a cold glare from his boss caused him to stop, leaving his fingers in mid-air.
The door finally opened and Ezra Standish entered the room. He was followed by the officer who had taken so long to get him. He forced the smaller man into the chair and left his hands cuffed in front of him. They had learnt the hard way how slippery the Southerner could be, they had lost him three times since his arrest, only to find him in the most unexpected places.

"Chris Larabee and this is Vin Tanner." Chris introduced himself to the man who now sat in front of them. He wasn't what he was expecting. The man was immaculately dressed in black trousers, white shirt, and thigh length black leather jacket. His short light brown hair was neat, the intense green eyes sparkled and his face was shaven, but it was the smile on the handsome face that threw him. The man was facing a jail term and he didn't look worried. Someone with his looks should be worried.

"So?" Ezra shrugged his shoulders as he studied the two men.

The one who had introduced himself as Larabee glared at him with cold blue eyes. The man could have been a beach bum because he had the blond hair to match. He was amused by the entire black wardrobe that he was wearing. Black jeans, black t-shirt and a black jacket. Was this man in mourning? Interesting question. Ezra studied the second man without looking directly at him. Soft blue eyes and a head of shoulder length light brown hair. Torn blue jeans, white t-shirt and a blue shirt over the top. A hippie? He didn't think so. Both men carried themselves with confidence, these weren't ordinary men. He was going to have to be careful.

"So," Chris repeated as he leaned forward. "We'll drop the usual stuff, you know, coffee, cigarettes, all that crap and get to the point."

"Which is?" Ezra still refused to look at Tanner. He wasn't the man in charge. The man in black was.

"We're with the Scientific Paranormal Investigations unit and I want you on my team," Chris informed him.

Larabee had read Standish's rap sheet and he had been impressed. The man had been wanted for cons in just about every state in the country for the last four years, he had to be good, and he’d only been caught once, not counting this arrest. The previous arrest had resulted in a jail term consisting of six months.

"You're talking about ghosts and that sort of thing." The gambler raised an eyebrow at the man who was smiling at him.

"Something like that," Chris answered with a shrug of his own. He wasn't willing to give out too much information and scare the man off. He might decide that jail was preferable after all.

"I'm afraid I have other plans." Ezra smiled at him.

"And they are?" Vin Tanner finally joined the conversation.

"Jail." Standish shifted his eyes then moved them back to look at Larabee.

"I don't believe you want to go to jail," Chris returned the smile.

"You my dear sir, don't know what I want," Ezra replied flatly.

"All I know is that a man with your looks wouldn't want to go to jail."

"I've been to jail before, I handled it, and I can handle it again."



"Yeah, I read the report." Chris nodded. "You seemed to have spent a lot of time in the infirmary." Chris had actually felt sorry for the man when he had read the list of injuries he had suffered during his jail term. "You handled it very well."

"I didn't get raped, that was the main thing. Injuries heal, they always have," Ezra informed him.

Chris frowned at that statement; it implied that Standish had suffered those sorts of injuries for most of his life. Suddenly he felt a kind of kinship with the man.

"You're a con man, which means you're capable of taking on different personalities. That's what I need. Someone to go undercover during investigations."

"No." Ezra stood up but he was pushed back down again.

"Jail or a cushy job with me." Chris gave him a choice but he knew which one the Southerner was going to take.

"You might not be so lucky this time. You can't fight them all off, one of them will get you," Tanner told him. He hoped Standish agreed to Chris' proposal, no man deserved to go through what he did a second time.

Ezra snarled at Tanner, the man certainly had a way with words. "I'll think about it."

"You've got ten minutes." Chris walked away from him and opened the door. He waited for Vin to join him then followed him through the open exit.

Ezra watched them go. Ten minutes. He was expected to make a life changing decision in ten minutes. Jail, it hadn't been a pleasant experience and he didn't want to go through it again. The beatings that he had suffered were still fresh in his mind. Tanner was also right, he wasn't going to last long, not this time. He had been given a choice, live that hell again or take on a new life. He knew he was capable of doing what Larabee wanted. But why did Larabee want him, surely there were plenty of other candidates out there. Why him?

If he took the job, he would be working on the right side of the law. His mother would love that. Her son helping people instead of conning them out of their life savings. She would have something to say about this. He was grateful that he only saw her once or twice a year. It would be a while before she found out. But then again once he was out of here, he could easily leave. He would give Larabee a week, if he didn't like it he would go back to his old life.

He looked up when Larabee entered the room. Tanner wasn't with him. "Well?"

"I'll take the job." Ezra stood up and allowed the handcuffs to fall loudly onto the table. He walked away from them and out of the room into what was going to be his new life; he just didn't know it yet.

Chris stared at the object on the table then at the officer who was chuckling at the sight.

"He's a slippery, smart ass bastard; you're going to have your hands full with that one." He continued to laugh even after Chris had left the room and shut the door. The expression on the SPI agent's face had been priceless.

________________________________________

Ezra sat in the back of the black dodge - what a surprise, was everything this man owned black - he wore his steel-rimmed sunglasses to hide his eyes. It was a way for him to feel without anyone seeing his emotions. He'd learnt to hide his feelings from the day he was born, from both his mother’s teachings and his life experiences. Life wasn't always good to Ezra Standish.

"Is there anywhere you want to stop before we get to the office?" Chris looked into the rear-view mirror at the newest member of SPIT7.

"No." Where was he going to go? He lived in a hotel room, you don't stay in one place when you’re a criminal, and it would make it too easy for anyone to find you. It wasn't only the police who had been searching for him.

"You'll like the rest of the guys," Vin told him.

"Sure," Ezra answered. But would they like me.

"You're sure you don't want to stop at your place, get a change of clothes?" Chris asked again.

"I am sure Mr Larabee."

"Call me Chris." He waited for an answer but Standish didn't come forward with one.

The three men became silent as the short trip continued. Chris continued to look into the back seat. The man wasn't exactly an open book. He'd been trying to read Standish since he first laid eyes on him but the attempts had been a complete failure. He would have to ask Vin what he thought of the man, he was capable of reading anyone.

________________________________________

SPI Headquarters, Denver Colorado - Thursday, 13:24pm

Ezra Standish stood calmly facing the four men he was about to be introduced to. On the outside, he was showing the confidence that he didn't feel. This was a new thing and it scared him. He had never worked with other people before, he had never depended on anyone nor had people depending on him. Could he do it? He wasn't sure.

"Vin Tanner you've already met, he's in charge of security," Chris informed the new man.
Ezra shook Tanner's hand and frowned at the wink he received.

"Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne. Electronic experts, they'll fit you with all the gear you’re going to need," his leader continued. "These two and Tanner like to get each other with practical jokes so if something happens to you; they're just trying to make you feel at home."

The Southerner shook hands. "I've been known to succeed with a practical joke or two in my time." Ezra smiled falsely. Practical jokes were the only way he'd been able to seek revenge against childhood bullies.

"Nathan Jackson, medical scientist."

Again, he shook hands, this time with a larger black man. The man seemed to be frowning down at him. Jackson was going to be a problem. Ezra didn't care; he wasn't going to be around long enough to care. He was a man that wasn't concerned with what other people thought of him. He wasn't on this planet to make friends; only money.

"Josiah Sanchez, ex-preacher who specialised in exorcism."

"Have you ever met the devil Mr Sanchez?" Ezra seriously asked him. Because I have.


"Not yet Ezra, but maybe one day he'll come knocking at my door." Josiah shook the smaller man's hand.

There had been a flicker of emotion in the young man's eyes but it was gone as quickly as it came.

"Vin, you want to show Ezra around, and then bring him into the conference room," Chris suggested to him.

"Sure." Vin stretched out his left arm as he indicated for Standish to begin his tour.

Ezra had to admit that he was impressed. Not only were the offices well furnished, the equipment they used included things that he'd never seen before. This agency had a lot of money to spend and spend it they did, wisely though. Tanner had showed him his office. Ezra Standish had an office, he had laughed aloud at the idea and when Vin had asked what was so funny he didn't answer him. Vin explained to him that most of the equipment that he would be using was in the SPI equipment van.

As the tour continued, Vin explained to him what it was they actually did. And they thought he was capable of doing the same thing? He'd probably run a mile if he saw a ghost. The question was raised again. Why him? He then had to fill out the paperwork for the new position, he had to put his mother's address on it because he had no permanent address of his own; it was in his name after all, a tax right off she had said. This had taken up most of the afternoon, and his stomach and body were beginning to remind him that he hadn't eaten anything for nearly two days.

Once he had seen all there was to see he was taken to the conference room where the others were waiting for them. Vin took the chair to the right of Larabee and Ezra took the remaining empty seat, which was between Nathan and Josiah. The two men smiled at him as he sat down next to them and he felt his skin crawl. Why were they being so nice?

"What?" he asked them.

"Just being friendly is all," Josiah replied.

"Uh huh." Ezra nodded and looked away. He was supposed to be friends with these people too?

"What do you think of the place Ezra?" Chris asked him.

"Quite impressive Mr Larabee."

"Coffee?" JD Dunne asked him.

"Thanks." Ezra watched as the man, who could be no older than twenty-two years of age, headed towards the coffee machine. Another hippie. The kid was constantly using his fingers to brush the shoulder length thick brown hair out of his face. It was a nasty habit, which at least Tanner didn't do. JD returned with a large cup of coffee. Ezra looked into the soft large brown eyes and thanked him with a nod of his head. His attention was grabbed when Wilmington began to cough.

"You get your own Buck, I ain't your mother," JD told him.

"You sure are pretty enough to be my mother." Buck smiled and wiped his moustache with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.

"I'm obviously not your mother because you’re not pretty." JD tried to swipe Buck across the back of the head but his friend and roommate easily ducked under the blow.

"Don't worry about those two, they're like brothers, never serious about anything," Josiah warned Standish.

"Really." Ezra grimaced at him. Like he really wanted to know all of this useless information.

"Did Vin explain what we do around here?" Chris put a stop to the actions of his two electronics experts.

"You investigate paranormal activities. Anything from ghost to aliens," Ezra repeated what Vin had told him.

"You're going to have to learn on the job Standish because we leave in two hours for our next operation," the leader of SPIT7 informed him.

Ezra's head began to spin; this was all happening a little too quickly for his liking. What happened to 'just relax, take a look around, see what everyone else is doing, take notes then we'll get you to jump into the shallow end in a couple of weeks'. No, not here, he was being pushed into the deep end on his first day.

"What? Now?" Ezra sat up in the chair.

"Yep, now. Vin why don't you take him home to get some things then meet us at the airport in an hour," Chris ordered him.

The hippie again. Great. He had a feeling that this man was going to ask many questions. He looked over at Tanner to find him smiling at him. His skin crawled again. He really wasn't use to this.

"What have we got this time Chris?" JD asked with a hint of excitement in his voice.

"Alien sightings and abductions." Chris smiled at him.

"You want me to go in as an alien, ask a few questions?" Ezra asked him.

There were some snorts of laughter around the large conference table. Chris hid his smile. This man was going to fit in nicely. What he didn't realise was that it was going to take a hell of a lot of work on their part to make him feel like a friend and a constructive member of the team.

"Where to?" this question came from Sanchez.

"Salem, Oregon. Airport one hour. Vin." Chris got up and began to walk away from his team, confident that they would be prepared and at the airport when requested.

"Come on Ezra," Vin moved towards him, "let's go and get you some floaties."

"Floaties?" the Southerner frowned up at him.

"You're going in the deep end, you might need them." Vin grinned widely at the astonished look on the man's face. It was the first bit of emotion he had seen since he met him.

"Shouldn't I have a parachute instead?"

"What for?"

"Aliens fly don't they, how am I going to escape if I don't have a parachute," Ezra said deadpanned.

"You're going to fit in fine Ezra." Vin pulled him from his seat and began to drag him to the door.

Don't let what you see on the outside fool you Tanner. I don't plan on staying around. The thought was kept to himself though. Aliens, what a way to start your first day. Wasn't life bad enough as it was? Did it have to get worse? Maybe he should have just gone back to jail.

________________________________________

"So where are you from originally?" Vin glanced sideways at his passenger. The security man decided that this was a good time to find out more about Chris' most recent recruit. Why he hired a criminal he didn't know and he wasn't going to ask. Chris would have his reasons and Vin trusted him. They all did. They trusted him with their lives.

"South," was the only information he was given.

"I gathered that by your accent." This wasn't going to be as easy as he thought. "That where you grew up?"

"No," another one worded answer.

A red light gave Tanner the opportunity to turn sideways and scrutinise the Southerner. He was facing the window; a glimpse of the left green eye told him that he was staring into space, not really looking at anything. Maybe he was scared. Vin had been when Chris had asked him to join the team. Hell, the first case had scared the shit out of him, but it was the adrenaline that he had enjoyed. It was what kept him in the job. It was the same for all of them, except Chris, he just wanted to catch the nasties and close the case file. The man hated having to leave a case open.

"You going to give me any more information than that?"

Ezra shifted his head so he could see what Tanner was up to. The man obviously wanted to know more about him. Why? That's what was making him suspicious. His experienced eyes watched and waited. There was no hidden agenda written on the man's face.

"No," he turned back to the window. He didn't want to talk to this man, to give him information that could later be used against him. A week let them think that he'd settled in, and then he was out of there. He had money hidden away; he knew how to hide, to blend in so no one could find him. He'd had to do it before and he could do it again.

"Why not?" Vin accelerated when the light changed to green. His confused eyes watched as the buildings passed by. Standish had said he lived on Pentington Drive, if that was the case then he lived in a hotel. It wasn't a home by any standard. He knew, he had lived in plenty of hotels in his long twenty-seven years of life. But then where would someone with his life live, he wouldn't stay in one place long enough to call it a home. Well, maybe he could now that he had a straight job. If he stayed that was.

"Because it's not any of your business where I grew up," Ezra retorted, showing a spurt of anger that he hoped would shut the hippie up. The man asked more questions than Oprah did.

It didn't work, of course it didn't work, why would it.

"I'm from Texas originally, travelled around a lot though so I didn't really have a permanent home." Vin hoped that relaying this information about himself would get the man to open up to him. He could understand why he didn't want to talk to him. It must be difficult dealing with the situation he was now in. New people, a new job that was different from any other. He had been torn from a life that he was comfortable with and thrown into a new one that was going to be difficult to adjust to.

"Really. What about your folks?" Maybe if he could turn it around, get him to do the talking.

"Mum died when I was five, never knew my father." Vin shrugged, not realising what Ezra was doing.

"I'm sorry that your mother died so young." Ezra was truly sorry. There were times when he wished that his own mother had died in childbirth. She was an aggravating woman who had never really shown any love towards her only child. He didn't know what it was like to have a loving mother, or family for that matter. He had become independent at a very young age.

"Thanks. Wasn't much I could do about it, she got sick and didn't get better." Vin steered the run-down jeep into Pentington Drive.

"You can stop here," Ezra informed him.

Vin had been right, it was a hotel. His gaze turned to the man next to him; he then quickly pulled it away when Ezra turned towards him.

"I won't be long." He opened the door to get out and stopped when he heard Tanner's soft voice.

"I'll come with you, give you a hand."

"I don't need company." Ezra slammed the door shut and quickly headed to the hotel's entrance. He just hoped the nosy prat wouldn't follow him.

Vin waited, it seemed that he didn't have a choice. He was watching the front door of the hotel hoping that the man would return. This would be the perfect opportunity for him to escape the new life that Chris had given him. He was still staring at the entrance when Ezra returned ten minutes later. Vin sighed with relief that Ezra was still with them, he didn't know why, but he liked the man. The new agent obviously didn't have many belongings. Vin frowned at the moving form. He wondered if Standish's whole life was hidden away in the carry bag he was bringing with him.


________________________________________

Somewhere over Wyoming- Thursday, 19:54pm

Ezra Standish had no choice, he was forced to sit in the middle - well almost the middle - in the four seating section in the centre of the plane. Josiah Sanchez sat on his left, with Chris on his right and Vin taking the aisle seat next to Chris. He wasn't impressed. Why couldn't they have sat in the three-seater section, that way the six of them would take two rows and he could then sit on his own? This wasn't good, not good at all. At first, it had only been polite questions; did he like to fly? did he get motion sickness? did he like airline food? His answers had been yes, no and no. The fact that he hated airline food meant that he was more than likely to go another day without eating. Even the coffee was bad. But then the questions became more personal; did he have any siblings? were his parents alive? how long had he been living on the wrong side of the law? was there a girlfriend somewhere? shouldn't he be letting his friends know where he was and what he was now doing? Ezra answered no to the first two then ignored the rest. They were trying to make conversation and his refusal to talk didn't stop them. What was it with these people, couldn't they take a hint? Was he going to have to politely tell them to mind their own fucking business? He could have done with a drink, a very strong drink but he wasn't prepared to get drunk on his first day. His new boss and teammates wouldn't be very impressed. But then again who was he to care what they thought of him.

"Miss," he leaned forward when the airhostess was passing, "may I have a large scotch whiskey please, no ice. Thanks."

He ignored the frown that he received from the man sitting on his left. Sanchez was an ex-priest; he probably thought that his background gave him the right to preach to him about his bad habits. Let him, he would have a few choice words to throw back at him. No one told him what to do. He would take orders from Larabee only to please the man until it was time to leave. It was going to be one of his biggest cons.
But he wasn't prepared to take orders from anyone else.

Ezra's eyes began to grow heavy after the fourth drink. His intention had been to only have one but the suggestion that he should have something to eat before he drank something as strong as whiskey had him asking for another. Then his intentions changed, he just wanted to shut the voices out, to close his mind off to the new environment that he was in. The lecture began after the third one. Jackson spoke from the seat behind him, telling him that he'd had enough, that he shouldn't be drinking so much without something in his stomach. Sanchez followed with his own lecture of what alcohol can do to a man's liver. He'd only known these men for a matter of hours and already they were trying to run his life. His mind grew fuzzy after the fourth and he knew he'd be asleep in a matter of minutes. He didn't care. At least he wouldn't have to listen to them anymore. His eyelids closed and he began to breathe more evenly. He heard Josiah's voice as the larger man informed the others that he was falling asleep.

Josiah waited a few minutes and when he was sure the young man was sleeping, he covered him with a blanket that he had gotten earlier. He tucked it in around the shoulders and was surprised when Ezra jerked away from him. It forced the Southerner's head to move closer to Chris' shoulder.

"You find out anything?" Chris asked Vin.

"Only that he was living in a hotel and that his entire belongings fitted into that bag of his," Vin released the information he had gained.

"That's it?"

"Wouldn't tell me anything, said it was none of my business." Vin shrugged his shoulders. "Nothin' more I could do. And I sure as hell couldn't read him, best poker face I've ever met."

"Think he'll work out?" It was Josiah's turn to ask the question.

"Yeah I do, just give him some time; it's a new life for him. It'll take him a while to adjust."

"He was different back in the conference room, was friendly enough there," Vin reminded them.

"That was until he found out he was on his way to his first SPI operation," Chris smiled. "He won't need those floaties Vin. I'm not going to throw him into the deep end just yet. Just want him around to see what it is we do and how we do it."

"What if he gets scared off?"

"Somehow I don't think he will," the smile grew on Chris' face. "I think he'll stick around."

"You didn't really give him a choice. What if he takes off?"

"I think that once he sees what it's like on the other side, he'll stay." Chris was sure, he didn't know why but he was willing to trust Ezra Standish. He just hoped that he didn't regret it.

________________________________________

Salem, Oregon - Friday, 6:08am

His stomach rolled violently, forcing him to roll onto his side. Eyes were squeezed tight against the light that was finding its way into his already pain-riddled skull. Teeth were clenched and fists curled into tight balls of flesh. Knees were drawn up to his chest in an attempt to calm his stomach. He hadn't felt this bad for a long time; he couldn't even remember the last time he had felt like this. Sometimes life really sucked. His stomach lurched again. God no. Don't make me get up, not now. Just let me sleep for a few more hours then I'll get up, you can do what you want then, you could even kill me if you want to. He sighed in relief when his stomach settled down. The pillow that lay under his head felt so comfortable that he never wanted to leave it. A blanket covered his body and he pulled it closer to his flesh in order to keep out the chill that suddenly took control of him.

He was just beginning to relax and fall back to sleep when his stomach spoke again. He voiced his own protest with a loud groan. Damn it! Next time, don't drink so much. He forced his eyes open and revealed blood shot orbs that had been hidden since he fell asleep on the plane. Where the hell was he? And where was the damn bathroom? It didn't matter, he wasn't going to make it, and he knew it. He would have to be sick on the floor. The floor wouldn't mind, it wouldn't feel anything, not like the pain he was feeling.

Ezra threw the blanket aside and searched the room quickly. There was nothing in the room that he recognised. He wasn't in his own room, must be someone else's. But who's? His eyes fell on a second sleeping form. It lay on a fold-up bed. The head was covered by a blanket so he had no idea who it was. Maybe a woman. No, she would be in this bed and he would never have been drunk if he were with a woman. What the hell was going on? He ignored the person as he made his way to the open door that he prayed led to the bathroom. He might just make it after all.

Hold on just a few seconds more. That's all, just a few. Is that asking too much? Probably. He didn't bother with the light; he could see where he was going. The toilet was in sight, just a bit further. The bile began to rise into his throat, causing him to move faster than he thought he could. He placed an open palm against his mouth to keep it in for another second. Ezra fell to his knees and bent over the toilet bowl. He removed his hand and opened his mouth. He gagged as his stomach muscles clenched. Then the liquid came. It spilled from his mouth into the bowl. Ezra closed his eyes so he didn't have to look at the contents of his stomach. That would only make it worse.

For once, he was grateful he hadn't eaten much. This wasn't going to take too long, and then he could go back to bed and sleep for the rest of the day. His muscles continued to contract then relax as he threw up the small amount of liquid in his stomach. It was over in a couple of minutes. He sat down and leant his forehead on the cool porcelain and took a few deep breaths. How could life get any worse?

"Feel better?" Nathan Jackson asked from the doorway.

Ezra jumped and fell back against the bathtub, the back of his head slammed against the outer edge and he grunted in surprise. One hand rubbed the injured area while he glared at the man who had caused the injury. Jackson also caused his memory to return. The glare turned into a scowl as he turned away from him. Life had gotten worse, he'd just forgotten. The vision before him also explained where he was and how he had gotten here.

"What do you want?"

"You drank too much yesterday, thought you might need some help when you woke up." Nathan moved towards the man who was suffering from a hangover.

"I am perfectly capable of looking after myself, thank you very much," Ezra growled.

He got to his feet and grabbed the basin. He hung his head towards his bare chest and waited for the nausea to pass. Boxer shorts, he was dressed only in his boxers. Someone had undressed him.

"Want an aspirin?"

"No." Ezra moved away from the basin and pushed his way past the taller man. His mouth could wait, the taste wasn't so bad. All he wanted was to go back to bed and forget that life still existed. He saw the comfortable warm bed and headed towards it. He crawled onto it and under the covers. His head slowly fell towards the pillow. A soft moan escaped his mouth and he closed his eyes, grateful that he was going to get a few more hours sleep, maybe more if luck allowed it.

"I wouldn't bother. Chris wants a meeting at seven." Nathan smiled at the comfortable man. Serves himself right for drinking on the first day. Nice way to impress your new workmates. He wanted to voice his feelings but Chris had ordered him to keep his mouth shut. Nathan knew better than to disobey a Larabee order.

"You couldn't have told me that before I got back into bed?" Ezra growled from beneath the covers. He opened his eyes and squinted at the clock on the bedside table. 6:14. At least he got a sleep-in. If he were in jail, he would have been up at five. Be grateful for small mercies. Jackson came into his line of vision. On second thoughts.

________________________________________

The restaurant that sat on the edge of the small Motel was quiet; two young men were its only customers. They sat side by side in a booth facing the door. The two men were waiting. They needed new blood. There was no one left in town that they could abuse and they were beginning to get bored. The grapevine had told them that seven men had booked into the Motel the night before. Surely, out of seven men they could find one man they could play with. They wanted some fun, they needed it, and they craved it. Sam Orstein was the first one to discover his talent. He found out at the young age of nine that he was able to make people see things. At first, it had been difficult and it took a few years to master the craft he had been gifted with. He believed that God had given it to him for a reason, but things went wrong. People called him evil, that he should be driven from town, or worse, killed. Orstein turned and took his revenge and at the age of fourteen, he killed for the first time. And he enjoyed it. This was the reason he had received the gift, to seek enjoyment by killing.

Jimmy Morris was older by at least six years. He was now twenty-five. His talent was drugs and hypnosis. Within a short period of time, he was able to place a false memory and feelings into a person's mind. The drugs he used helped him to do what the victim's mind normally wouldn't allow it to do. He had found Sam five years ago when the younger man had attempted to have his mind visualise a vampire. It had worked at first but it had failed the second time. The use of self-hypnosis had ended any more attempts by Orstein to have his fun. They had teamed up in an attempt to force a young teenage girl to see an alien. The young men then came up with the idea to abduct and implant a false memory that she had been taken by aliens where they had completed bizarre experiments on and within her body. It had been such a success that the sixteen year old had committed suicide three days later. They had been repeating the same experiment since and each time they had introduced something new. They now killed their victims exactly two days after abducting them. Sometimes the bodies were never found; other times unidentifiable corpses were discovered days, or weeks later.

Orstein's green eyes stared out of the window. He smiled when he saw five men approaching the restaurant. They looked strong and healthy; it would take some work to break one of them . . . that was when the fun started. Morris would make the decision as to whom the target would be. He had a way of reading people. He usually chose someone that he disliked. And he hated most people on sight. He wanted someone that needed to be taught a lesson, a person that needed to go through hell and back. To be scared so badly that when it came time for their death that they would be begging for their lives.





Part One | Part Two


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