CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Sam was taking a long walk through Clewiston. He'd probably seen every inch of the town by now, but he kept walking. He had a lot of decisions to make. Hard decisions. No matter what he did, there would be serious repercussions. For Randy, for him. A good chance someone would get hurt. Killed, possibly. Almost probably...

This wasn't a mission like he'd ever been on before. There were many times when he'd had to act on his own, but he'd always had backup. Always known someone would be there to pull his ass out of trouble if it happened. Always had people he could trust somewhere close by. Not this time. This time it was just him. His only backup was a group of people who would just as soon eliminate him if he crossed the line, if there were too many problems.

And then there was Randy. God, when he'd first taken this on, he hadn't planned on actually liking the guy. And he hadn't really accepted the idea of termination. That had been an abstract; he hadn't allowed himself to believe it would actually come to that. Maybe things would have been better if he had. He could have planned things differently right from the start.

Maybe it all would have come to this anyway.

The ocean. Randy wanted to go the ocean. Well, Sam would get him there. What difference did it make, where they were? They could go up north, near San Francisco. That would be safe. Relatively safe, anyway. He knew he shouldn't go out there at all. Not really. Too many people knew him out there. Too many people would know he shouldn't be there. Shouldn't be, period. That was a long time ago, though. Seemed that way, anyway. They probably wouldn't believe it if they did see him. Yeah. People believed what they wanted to believe, what fit in with their reality. All you had to do was go along with that reality and you could convince them of almost anything.

It would be okay. They'd just steer clear of LA.


*****

Well, it hadn't gone exactly to plan, but at least now they were in a position to do what needed to be done. BA, Hannibal and the one Able were in the hospital. The doctors were insisting that Hannibal stay overnight, even though the head wound wasn't serious. BA had required surgery to repair some muscle damage, but he would be okay to go in another couple of days. Murdock hadn't checked on the Able. Cold-hearted, possibly, but that was Stockwell's problem. Frankie was here at the hotel, with orders from Hannibal to keep his ass there. Period.

That left the second Able watching Murdock and Frankie. They had had some hope that BA or Hannibal would be able to contact Maggie from the hospital, but BA was still out from the surgery, and, with typical Machiavellian forethought, Stockwell had Hannibal in the same room as the wounded Able. So it was up to Murdock and Frankie. Well, this time Frankie would do exactly what he was supposed to. Exactly.

Mainly because Murdock didn't tell him what was planned....

The Able, whom Murdock had christened 'Barney Fife', was stationed in the main room of the suite, where he could keep an eye on the door. Since they were on the 7th floor, it was effective coverage. When they had gotten back from the hospital, they had all taken showers and cleaned up. That's when Barney had dropped all pretense of 'observing' the team. Once Murdock and Frankie were finished, he'd handcuffed them, Murdock with one hand each to the handles of the refrigerator and a nearby cupboard door, Frankie to the bolted down TV stand. Once he'd completed a leisurely shower and dressed, he released them.

Okay, so maybe Murdock shouldn't have called him Barney to his face...


*****

Carla read the latest report with concern. She didn't care so much about the injuries; those were just part of life. She was concerned more about the new medication order. They should be kept on a much shorter leash than that. Peck was too unpredictable, too independent. He'd already proved that when the two had gotten separated. She wished Dr. Barish had consulted with them before issuing the orders. But Dr. Barish didn't consult with Stockwell's organization. The reports were simply a part of the agreement between the two organizations.

The other report was less stressful. Corvino and his people were under wraps now, injuries sustained by Stockwell's people well within reason. The pilot and the kid were under Able 15's capable watch at the hotel, the others safely in tow at the hospital. They would be able to bring them back in two to three days. Stockwell was satisfied. Carla could only hope Smith had one of his ridiculous plans in place. It was high time he contacted Dr. Sullivan.

She sat back, staring at the wall. Nothing she could do about the team. She wasn't all that worried about Smith finding a way of getting to Sullivan; it was more concern about the timing. Especially with Peck now effectively out of reach.

Well, maybe not. She knew they would be stuck in Florida for at least another couple of days. Dr. Barish may feel confident that things were under control; that didn't mean Carla had to sit back and wait for trouble. The only problem would be keeping Stockwell from knowing what she intended to do with a couple of his Ables. Shouldn't be a problem. He couldn't keep track of all of them.


*****

Sam moved quietly through the hospital hallways. The staff were used to seeing him now, paid no attention. He had thought things through, knew what he had to do. After that talk with Randy, and the deep soul-searching it had produced, he knew it was time to pull out. He just couldn't do this any more. He knew the experiment had a good purpose, but he could no longer blind himself to the means it employed. There would be other ways to achieve the same goal. He just couldn't be part of this any more. It meant, however, that he would be totally responsible for whatever happened from now on. Responsible for whatever happened to Randy. Good or bad.

It also meant getting Randy back to himself, if that was at all possible after all this time. He had no idea where to start. After that incident in Belle Glade, he knew he couldn't just take Randy off the pills. That explosion had shown how much his stability depended on them. Not something to be trifled with while they were on the road. No, he couldn't do anything about Randy until they were settled somewhere.

As to his own future, he didn't even think about it. That could wait. It had never been something he'd thought a lot about, anyway. Once in a while, when he was feeling worn down, or just depressed, he'd think about how things could have been. But it really wasn't productive. So he'd wallow in self-pity for a while, bemoaning the fates that had put him where he didn't want to be, and then shove it away and move on with whatever happened along. It hadn't been a bad existence, after all. He wouldn't trade the friends he had for anything. Well, until this.

If he had had any choice in the matter, he might've said no. But you didn't say no under the circumstances. And then, of course, they'd appealed to his better nature, if he had one. He hadn't known Randy from Adam, but when they had explained what they were going to do, and the part he would play in it, protecting and teaching a man who would be totally clueless about the new life he was being thrust into, a fellow vet...well, they hit the mark. Dead on. His only real hesitation had been when they told him what would happen if the experiment failed. But then he decided that he would make sure it wouldn't fail. He would do his damndest to bring it to success.

But that had all been before that talk with Randy...