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Chapter One

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The trip back to Langley wasn't as bad as I had anticipated it would be.
I had been on enough cargo planes in my time at Triple-S to know every job the crew had from simple observation but I thought I would be interrogated by everyone this time. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.
The on-board medic reset my thumb. It hurt, but I got over it. Fran watched over my shoulder and put a comforting hand on my other shoulder.

Lucas sat on the end of the plane, furthest away from the Humvees that were secured on the opposite side, reading the latest issue of Agents & Artillery while Tristan helped himself to the snacks he remembered to stuff last minute into his duffle.

It was a fairly long flight, fifteen hours the Master Sergeant had informed us before takeoff. During that time, I had completed one of Francine's crossword puzzles, eaten a package of Twinkies from Tristan's stash that I'd no doubt have to add an additional two minutes to my workout to burn off, and I had a couple very deep conversations with some of the agents Triple S had sent to extract me.

"I think we should've kept you cuffed," Logan remarked as I walked in front of him.
I was about to retort, but the sight of my mother walking next to Ash had my steps faltering.

"Mom?" I asked, squinting.

She smiled at me, her strides becoming larger as she left Ash in her wake. "Josephine!"
When we reached each other, she started to pester me about injuries. "Are you okay? Any cuts? Bruises?"

I shrugged, not used to her affection. "Just a broken thumb."

She gasped. "A broken thumb? Did you get it set? Where's the cast?" her worried eyes glances down at my hands, hanging uselessly at my sides.

"It hasn't been put on yet. Stop worrying." I chided her.

My mother wasn't a worrier before my father passed away. After that point, she managed to find every little scrape or bruise a huge deal, often times threatening to call the doctor unless I let her put a band-aid and Neosporin on a miniscule cut. It had gotten really annoying over the years, though I learned to let her have her way-- it was the only way to make her keep quiet about it.

"You should really put a cast on quickly. What if it heals wrong?" her worried tone didn't go unnoticed by Logan, who gave me a look that said he'd be making snide comments later on. The only reason he didn't was because of who my mother was.

Alexis Merryweather was a world-renowned ex-Triple S agent, and was not to be messed with. Her extensive rap-sheet, most of which was blacked out by permanent marker, was never released to the public during the Freedom of Information Act frenzy, and would never be. The files were locked safely away in a place more secure than Fort Knox, and would never been added to, or taken from.

To say it was comical to see her worrying about her daughter's thumb was an understatement.

"I'll get a cast on it as soon as I'm debriefed, Mom." I told her lightly. "Trust me,"I tacked on before she could object any further. "
She looked concerned nonetheless, but let it go as Tristan passed me with a questioning glance as if to ask, Are you coming?. I smiled gently at my mother.
"I'm going now, but we can do dinner later, yeah?"
She smiled at me. "Of course! I'll be at Geo's at seven. Sound good?"
I nodded, placing my hand on her shoulder to reassure her that I was fine as I passed her.

"So ya mean to tell me you were completely unaware someone was following ya?"

I scowled at Ash. "Yes. My mind was on Lucky Charms, and I didn't think the man walking his dog at six thirty in the morning was following me."

"Or the man running on the sidewalk?"

"Or the man running on the sidewalk." I confirmed.

She grinned at me. "Gettin' a bit rusty, eh?"

Her Irish accent, which normally couldn't be indicated in the field was more prominent than ever as she grew more amused.
I harumphed. "Or I was distracted. Lucky Charms are pretty great, you know."
She shrugged. "Only tha marshmallow part." Her 'part' sounded more like 'pert', though I didn't think mentioning it would help me any.

"True. But I still had my heart set on getting it. You know the worst part?"

"What?" her eyebrow raised.

"I've had the craving for it all day, and I didn't get any."

She shrugged. "Tough luck, Jo."|

"I guess so."

"Alright, explain to me one more time what happened and I'll let ye get some Lucky Charms."

I sighed. "As I previously explained --twice--, "I gave her a sharp look, "I was walking along the street to the General Store on Gray Street, completely obvious to the two men who were evidently following me. I went in to get some Lucky Charms, because they are very delicious, and was blindsided by both of them.
One grabbed my arms, and, after I got a good kick in, the other grabbed both of my legs. As this happened, a tan minivan pulled up and the door slid open as the guy grabbed my leg. From that point, I was pulled into the van and another man placed a rag of Chloroform on my mouth. I struggled, but the guys were too strong and I lost consciousness."
As I explained, my mind drifted to the bullet holes littering the building in Afghanistan where I was held. My mind shifted to the patch of red around a few of the holes. Who was killed there? Anyone I knew? As I concentrated further, my words died on my lips. I hadn't realized I had stopped talking until Ash snapped her finger in front of my eyes.
My eyes snapped to her own, mine comically wide while hers were concerned.

"What happened after you knocked down the guys next to the door?"

I cleared my throat. "I opened the door, as any person would, and that's when I saw my team. From there, I was extracted and brought to the landing zone and we flew here."

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