CHAPTER TWO

"You are out of your fucking mind."

Stockwell just kept looking at him. No backing down, no acknowledgment of the comment. Just kept looking at him.

"We are not killers. Not any more."

" 'We', Lieutenant? There is no 'we' - this is you. And yes, you are a killer. You were trained for it. You were very good at it. Very good. You haven't forgotten."

"Damn right I haven't forgotten. That's why I won't do it. Never again."

Stockwell smirked. "Never say 'never', Peck. You understand what is at stake here? You understand what getting rid of these people will mean?"

"There are alternatives. There are always alternatives."

"Certainly. In this case, political chaos. Thousands of innocent people dead."

"Killing these men would only make them martyrs."

"Probably. But martyrs can't negotiate, can't cajole, can't create dangerous alliances. That remains the province of the living."

Face remained silent. He had given his answer. There was no way...

"You really have no choice in the matter. This is a mission. This is what is required of you. You will do it. Or face the consequences."

"What consequences? More waiting for pardons that aren't coming?" Face snorted.

"No, Lieutenant, this is far more important than mere pieces of paper. You will accept and complete this assignment. You will give me your word, today, before you leave. Because if you don't, by the time you get back to the house, it will be empty."

"What, you'll cut us loose? Set the army on our tail again? Like we haven't been that route before."

"No, the Team will not be cut loose. You, yes. To run and hide and watch over your shoulder for however long you can. But not the team. The team will cease to exist...completely and irrevocably, Lieutenant."

The cold was devastating. It hit him with the clout of a Mack truck. Surely Stockwell wasn't saying...yes, the bastard was saying exactly that. Three lives for four. My God, what kind of monster had Hannibal bound them to?

He couldn't do this. He couldn't. Cold blooded murder? Not that these men were innocents. No, far from that. Far far from that. But Hannibal, BA, Murdock - they'd all sworn, no more killing. He'd sworn it. No more. But...damn. To refuse to kill would mean the deaths of those he loved more than life itself. To kill or allow to be killed. Three strangers for the Team. Three terrorists for men who had saved more lives than he could count. Three monsters for his family.

What would Hannibal say? My God, Hannibal. What would you do? What would you do afterward? How would you look at me then? Would I lose you forever? BA, Murdock... could you look at me again? Could I live with myself if I said no? Could I really let you all die for a long-ago promise?

Three for four.

It wasn't as though he couldn't actually accomplish the task. He hadn't lost the touch, the surety, the finesse needed to stalk them and lay out the plans. But pulling the trigger? Lighting the fuse? Knowing it was not just disabling but destroying?

Three for four.

No turning these people over to the authorities. Total destruction. Murder. These terrorists had killed how many? How many had the Team saved? Did the math make it right?

It would take so much planning. They would not be easy to take. Foreign country - he'd stand out like a sore thumb. It would have to done so carefully. Not once, but three times. And each time it would get more difficult, as the defenses increased. And without the Team for backup, for support. No one watching his back...

Three for four.

He'd have to work through Stockwell. Ways and means. In's and out's. Backdoors. Intelligence. Facts, figures, contacts. Not too many of those. No more loose ends than necessary. Would he have to kill others to get to these three? Maybe. Probably. Do the math. How many more? How many more innocents? No, not innocents. Terrorists. Killers themselves.

Three for four.

A dozen for four.

A hundred for four.

"Tell me about the targets..."