Lieutenant Mitchell Brogan, Epsilon CRASH Team leader, strode through the unfamiliar halls of the Jungle with a purpose, silently weighing the pros and cons of his new situation. Captain Gaines obviously resented intrusions into the running of 'his house' from HQ-Sigma, but he wasn't stupid. So, he probably knew Mitch wasn't getting on well with the Director, and wouldn't likely make a phone call just to bring a shit-storm of bureaucratic whoop-ass down on his head. It was tempting... but in the long run he had to work with Gaines. "Never start a pissing contest with a skunk, son—no matter who wins, you're gonna stink," his old man used to tell him.
And what about his old man? Finding him had been Madam Director's last order, which Gaines technically had no authority to countermand. And technically he hadn't—he'd just said to 'do it on his own time,' and in the process insulted Mitch, his wife, and his old man. What, nothing about my mother? Oh, that's right, she works here too—you can tell her in person, Gaines. Fine. He had orders from the Director, and he'd carry them out... somehow. He'd just have to be creative, which was one of one of the things he did best. And Gaines wasn't going to like it one bit. XSWAT looks after its own, Captain. Always.
The one bright spot in the whole conversation (aside from getting promoted) was the familiar name which Gaines had dropped—Technical Sergeant David Cho was here somewhere. Jama had decided not to throw him to the wolves without his old partner from the APD to keep him company. Someone else might have complained, but as long as there was machinery to fiddle about with, Dave would be content. And of course there were women here who hadn't turned him down ten times already....
Naturally, Mitch found him in the motorpool, chatting up some APD trooper who desperately needed an excuse to leave. He was leaning against a battered old Maverick spinner which he probably should have repairing, or better yet, preparing to scrap. Mitch recognized its markings from XSWAT's original Mav' deployment back in '14—not a good year for these machines, and he didn't even know they still had any in service! Cho was completely oblivious as he walked over.
"So how's the Mobius belt on this one?" he asked without preamble.
Dave nearly jumped out of his skin, then turned around and grinned at Mitch. "Not a sound." Behind him, the trooper quietly made her escape. "Damn good to see you. It's about time you showed up. Where you been, buddy?"
Mitch shrugged "Wrapping things up back at HQ. All done now. And I just met Gaines. He said to see you if I had any questions...."
"And...." Dave knew him too well not to have anticipated this.
"Where's our new ride, pal?" Mitch's expectations weren't sky-high, after driving the Director's limo and the Stozwind for ten years, but he expected a unit like the CRASH team would have a well-equipped spinner at their disposal.
"You're lookin' at it, my friend." Dave fondly patted the decrepit old Maverick Mitch had noticed when he arrived.
Mitch stared at the not-quite-wreck in disbelief. "You've gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me!"
Dave looked hurt. "Hey, would I try to foist off a piece of junk on you?"
"No, but I think Gaines would...."
"Forget about him, Mitch. I've checked this baby out myself. She's fine! Looks aren't everything... why don't you take her for a spin and see for yourself." As Dave opened the driver's door, Mitch noticed a large 'THIS END UP' decal decorating it.
"What's that all about?"
"Previous driver was 'vertical attitude challenged.' Visual aid. Figured you might need it sometime."
Mitch shot him an annoyed look and climbed in, then began checking up all the spinner's systems. He jacked in and looked at Dave. "Are you coming?" The shotgun door opened, apparently by itself.
"Oh, like I'm gonna change my story if my butt's on the line?" Dave sat down and strapped in. "Not gonna happen. I am 100% sure that this spinner is ready to HOLY SHIT!!!"
Without warning, the Maverick pulled 3G's straight off the concrete and into the air above HQ. "Not bad, Dave. You were right. I was wrong. She's still got it, after all these years. Gotta check the handling, though." Mitch began putting the spinner through its paces, executing a series of rapid switchbacks through the narrow sky-ways between Epsilon sector's massive towers at high speed. After the abrupt takeoff, Dave relaxed a bit—he'd been riding with Mitch for 12 years now, and it took a lot to panic him.
"Talked to a couple of people you know this morning—they're both looking forward to seeing you, back at the Jungle." Dave looked over at him with that 'I've got a secret' look Mitch found so annoying.
He decided he'd play along, and if Dave got too smug he could always throw in some barrel-rolls, maybe an outside loop. "Well, Mom's been here working APD Vice since 2112. Getting ready to retire in, oh, about two weeks. Can't decide whether to move to the tropics now, or just go along for the ride when the skyhook's finished. That's one—who's the other?"
Mitch glanced over at the passenger seat, and could simply not recall ever seeing a more evil grin on Dave's face. He returned to something resembling normal flight and engaged the autopilot. He smiled a big, fake smile. "Dave, don't make me hurt you."
Dave beamed an even bigger fake smile back at him. "You'll never guess who Paige is training to be her replacement. She can't wait to introduce you."
Mitch made a show of looking over the spinner's dashboard. "You're right—I'll never guess. Do these things come with passenger ejection seats?"
"They used to—then somebody set one off in the Shaw tunnel. Very messy. Seriously Mitch... your turn now. Anyone interesting on the new squad?"
"Uh, they're XSWAT, Dave. 'Interesting' doesn't even begin to cover it."
"That's not what I mean...."
"Oh, what is this, 'hook me up' time? I can't help you, pal. I got the Director's apprentice, Rich Hemelshot's girl, a Brit I can't even understand, and a Clade who'd probably clean both our clocks before breakfast. Oh, and Nic isn't your type."
"Uhm... you fuckin' with me, Brogan?" Dave saw Mitch glowering and realized he was on the level. "O... kay. Who's the clade?"
"Name's Chrysine. Transferred from Rho sector, former... " he was cut off as his passenger nearly jumped out of the vehicle, ejection seat or no
"... Lace and Steel! You've got the Winter Fox on your squad, Mitch! Ohmigod... you think she'll give me an autograph?" Dave hadn't been this excited since... Mitch wasn't sure, really.
"Probably not, Dave. Look, she isn't Lace & Steel any more, she's XSWAT now, same as us. So that's how we're gonna treat her. Right?"
"Right." Dave got the point. No more 'fanboy' stuff.
"So, who's this mysterious woman who's taking Mom's place when she retires?" They were almost back to the Jungle now. Mitch was satisfied their spinner wouldn't fall right out of the sky for no apparent reason.
Dave's grin could only have been described as sadistic. "It's Detective Erin McCarthy."
And for no apparent reason, Mitch almost dropped their spinner right out of the sky. "OH SHIT!!!"