CHAPTER THREE

"Targets."

Stockwell loved that word. Not 'people'. Not even 'terrorists' or 'ringleaders'. Targets. The general had watched Peck. He'd seen the realization hit. He'd seen the denial, the conflict, the reasoning. It was the reasoning he'd been looking for. Once he'd pushed past the emotionalism and gone into logic, Stockwell knew Peck was his. Targets. What a lovely little word, signifying the switch from the moralistic high ground to practical realities.

And the tone of voice. No mistaking that. Businesslike. Professional. Oh yes, Peck would take on the mission and complete it to the best of his ability. How successful would he most likely be? Stockwell had already figured he would take the first with minimal difficulty. No one would be expecting it. The second would be much more difficult; the third, most likely impossible. He expected to lose the lieutenant on that one. However, with two of the principals gone, no alliance would take place. Even one missing would make it a Herculean task. He'd just have to make sure they were taken out in the right order, the most effective target first.

Would he have gone through with his threat? Everything was in place. 30 minutes at the most. They would all have just disappeared. The only thing the team would have noticed were a few extra security people. A clean up crew already in place, just waiting for the order. A simple push on an automated phone dialer. He wouldn't even have to speak the words. Very clean and tidy. No mess, no muss.

Yes, he would have done it. The costs for Peck's refusal would have been monstrous. Much greater than the loss of four men. Granted, very talented and successful men. But that didn't mean much when compared to the disaster resulting from an alliance; not to mention the loss of power and prestige he himself would face among the men he dealt with. Peck would have had to pay for that loss. Dearly.

He pulled three files from his case, silently handing them to the lieutenant.

"Read through these carefully. These are just the basics. When you're done, they'll stay with me. You and I will meet again on Monday. Pack a bag. Just the essentials. You'll get whatever you need when we arrive at our destination. There will be much more detailed information for you then also."

"Monday? What am I supposed to tell the rest?"

"I'm giving the team a couple weeks off, for 'good behavior'. I'll provide transportation for all of them, incentives to take separate vacations. The captain may be a problem - I don't want him making any plans for the two of you. However, you might invent a young woman to be romancing for those two weeks. Captain Murdock will accept that he would not be invited along for that."

"You expect this to be taken care of it a couple of weeks? That's crazy."

"I only expect that this will give you time to disappear into the mission without the rest stepping in to create problems. I will deal with them myself on their return."

"Deal with them? How?" Face was immediately suspicious.

"Don't worry, Lieutenant. You hold up your end of the bargain, I'll hold up mine."

Face glared at Stockwell. For just a moment, the general almost felt threatened. He must remember he was not dealing with some kind of patriotic zealot. This was a man with his back against the wall. And like any trapped animal, he was ready to lash out at any perceived threat. Peck might just decide that one kill would be better than three. Something to bear in mind. He would maintain tight surveillance on the rest of the team. Stockwell's threat must remain in the lieutenant's mind. Always.

Face finished reading the files quickly. Enough information to let him know what kind of targets he was dealing with. He would definitely need more information, detailed information. He shoved the files back at Stockwell.

"Anything else?"

"No, that should handle things for the moment. There will be plenty of time on the flight to go over details. You'll receive your travel information along with the rest of the team sometime tomorrow."

"Fine." Abruptly, Face left the limo and marched to the 'vette. Tires squealing, he left the park and hit the highway. He couldn't go back to the house right away. He had to get himself together. He had to prepare. God. How the hell do you prepare for what he was going to have to do? How was he going to live with the Team for the next three days without letting them know something was wrong? So terribly wrong...