Team, 106

When Planning a Secret Mission, Never Forget that Your Foe Might Already Be onto You

Ao3 Link

“Okay,” said Cal, sitting on the hill and looking down at the shining city. “So we need to get in there, find whatever stuff Bob needs, and then get out. Preferably without getting spotted.”

“There are kind of a lot of us for that,” Beatrice said, tapping her knee through the hole in her pants. Bob had summoned some clothes for all of them that were based on what the versions of them who lived on Earth wore, so Beatrice was wearing pants cut from a thick blue fabric with holes in it and a black shirt with only thin straps on the shoulders that showed off a lot of cleavage.

“Yeah,” agreed Cal. For his part, he had on a pair of frayed shorts and a white shirt with no sleeves. The utter lack of pockets in the shorts was irritating the hell out of him, but it wasn’t like he had anything to put in them anyway. “It’s better if two or three of us go in alone. I think me, Travis and Bob.”

“I’d argue Sully would be a good call,” Wes said, in a blue shirt with short sleeves and a pair of pants similar to Beatrice’s but with no holes, but also no fastener in the front. “Better than you, probably.”

Cal nodded. “I can see that. Bob and Travis are the two non-negotiable elements, I think.”

“Because they can both turn invisible,” Ray said to Arky, who nodded. Ray had on an overly large shirt with a tiger painted on it, and Bob hadn’t had any clothes for Arky, so he was wearing something that also apparently belonged to Ray, which was a shirt with the words Catboy Summer written on it in Earth’s language.

“Honestly it might be best if I went by myself,” Bob said.

“No. If you go by yourself none of us will know if anything happens.”


“No,” Cal repeated. “Travis is going with you, and someone else. Three people is ideal.” He thought about it. “Either me, Sully or Beatrice.”

“Just one team?” Mick asked, wearing an aggressively orange shirt and silk shorts that outlined his dick very clearly. “You don’t want to send two? You, Bob and Sully on one, Beatrice, Travis and Arky on the other?”

Cal thought about that for a second. “No,” he finally decided. “Bob’s the only one who knows what he’s looking for. There’s no point in sending a team that doesn’t have him on it.”

“But if we’re just scouting the area,” said Juniper, in white and blue clothes that were too big for him because they were Mick’s, and which were therefore falling off. “Isn’t it a good idea to cover as much ground as possible?”

“Normally yes, but I’m nervous about doing that when we don’t know what kind of people built this city and what they’re like. The reality is that whoever goes in there is going to be in potential danger.”

“Before we go in, we can take an hour or two and I can teach whoever’s going with me how to shoot a gun,” Bob promised. “Cal’s the only one who knows how.”

“You should teach us how to do that anyway.” Joey had initially refused clothes, claiming wing privilege as if he wouldn’t have refused anyway. But then once he’d seen everyone else getting stuff he’d wanted something too, so now he was wearing an extremely skintight white one-piece outfit called a singlet that left his arms and shoulders bare and had room for his wings in the back, and which Bob had cut a hole in for his tail. “It’s cool.” He’d seemed perfectly fine ever since his transformation and claimed that he wasn’t in any pain. No further nonconsensual transformations had happened, but Cal was still worried about him even if he wasn’t worried about himself.

“I will,” Bob promised. “Especially if it seems like we’ll be stuck here for a while.”

“At least it’s not winter here,” Travis said, wearing another shirt with no sleeves and low-cut shorts with an image of a blue and red Earth animal called a Salamence on them. He was nestled in Joey’s wing.

“It’s possible they don’t have winter here. Their planet it tilted funny,” said Bob. “But anyway. That’s a big fucking city. It’s going to take us a long time to search it. Your world doesn’t have cities that size and to be honest I don’t think you realize the scale of it.”

Cal looked at it, really looked at it, and nodded. “Yeah. I remember when I was on Earth. The city went on forever. You could be on a bus, which is like a public carriage they have, and ride like four of them for hours and never get near any edge of the city.”

“What the fuck?” Wes asked. “How would you feed a city that size?”

“Magic, I assume.”

“And if the magic fails?”

“Then everyone dies,” Bob promised. “The point is, we can’t count on hopping in there, being gone for one day, and then hopping back out by sundown. We have to assume that reconnoitering the city could take several days. If we’re lucky, the people here will be friendly and won’t care about visitors. If we’re not…” he shrugged a bare shoulder. He was wearing a shirt that hung on one and didn’t cover his belly, and a pair of shorts so white they were nearly see-through even dry.

“We’ll be careful. Okay, I want to stay on topic,” Cal said. “Bob and Travis. Who else? I don’t need to go for my own ego.”

“But it should be you,” Beatrice said. “You already know how to work with Bob’s machines and you’ll be annoying if you stay behind.”

“I agree with all of those things,” said Cal, because he did, and what was the point of pretending otherwise?

“Bob,” asked Lillian, who was wearing a pleasant, airy dress that was very short. “Do you have a machine that can let you stay in touch with us while you’re gone? The equivalent of a communication spell?”

“Yes.” Bob reached into somewhere and pulled out a small rectangle, which he handed to Lillian. “Here. You can communicate with me with this. Only over short distances, but short is relative.”

“That’s what Cal’s brothers said,” Ray said.

Cal reached over and flicked Ray’s ear. “Anyway. Since we’re likely to be there for a few days, we can get going whenever as far as I’m concerned. But it makes the most sense to go in the morning, so we have the most daylight possible.”

“Yeah,” said Bob. He pulled out his unireader, and showed it to Cal. “I scanned the area and it looks like the best way to get into the city is…”

He trailed off when the wind picked up and a loud whooshing sound filled the air. His unireader started making a noise, likely to warn him about the half dozen metal boxes that were suddenly hovering in the air all around them.

Cal stood up and everyone followed him. They emitted loud sounds and then someone was shouting at them. “What are they saying?” Cal asked. It took him a second to realize it was a person because it was so metallic.

Bob shook his head, tapping his unireader. “I don’t know. I need a larger language sample to translate it.”

“Just a guess,” Beatrice said, looking up at them. “But I’m guess they’re telling us not to move and that we’re trespassing and/or under arrest.”

“Yeah,” Cal muttered. He swallowed. “Okay. Listen, everyone just don’t do anything. Let’s see if we can reason with them.”

There was no time to see if everyone agreed with that. Three of the boxes landed and disgorged several people, who surrounded them. They were wearing identical blue uniforms and holding long weapons that Cal recognized as guns.

They were all human. “What the fuck?” Cal asked.

“What the fuck?” Bob echoed. “There shouldn’t be humans here by this point.”

“According to who?” Juniper asked.

Nobody was able to answer, because one of the floating boxes dislodged a small cylinder that started spewing white smoke everywhere, and all of Cal’s team started coughing, holding each other as they fell.

Cal collapsed, the last thing he saw was a bunch of uniformed guards tying up and carrying away his team. At least that meant they were still alive, he thought.

For now.

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