Actions

Work Header

After Rain

Chapter Text

24th September 2015.

 

This was a rainy day in Hereford. The overcast, gloomy sky and the high rainfall was an evitable part of life in this old English city nearby the Welsh border. In the SAS base in the suburbs, the special force operators still went to their routine training despite their wet and muddy gears.

“The hostage is in the compartment behind this wall.” A SAS operator on the attacker side gave the information after investigated the area with his drone. “Sledge? Open the way.”

“Let me take it!” A tall, bald man with a large sledgehammer stood out. Even all soldier here had the well-built physique; he was particularly outstanding among them. 6'3" of height, broad shoulders and chest, sizeable arms, and perfectly fit waist and sturdy legs. The man of perfect trapezoid body shape looked likely to be able to flex his muscle under the shadow blue coloured, thick SAS uniform. He held his trademark hammer firmly, the small tartan scarf tied to the handle fluttering, “Gar!” then he smashed. As soon as the hammer hit the wall, it got collapsed into debris in no time. He immediately moved sideways to avoid being spotted. “Stay alert. Hostile inside.”

“I only detected two beside the hostage. Only blurry images before getting stopped by dispute signal.” The operator replied.

“I see. Must be them. ” Sledge answered shortly. He knew Mute and Smoke were inside -- his defender teammates and they collaborated in the same group for years, so Sledge knew their tactic well. Smoke was notorious for the toxic gas canisters he made, crazy stuff which only he could handle. Mute, who had signal disputers he developed as the trademark, was also crucial support in defence. Beside disabling drones, any wall set the disputes couldn’t be breached by explosives who required an electronic way to launch. It was not a problem to Sledge’s hammer though, as the only thing it needed to do the magic was his muscles. However, Mute was still dangerous at his unusual ways to set explosives. He even developed a unique technique to throw his nitro cell toward hostiles like a grenade then immediately detonate it, especially useful against anyone welding a ballistic shield. Of course, he wouldn’t use real explosive in training, but having the dummy nitro cell erupt the disgusting green paint to splash over the body would be the least favoured outcome to them.

“I can protect you in.” The operator volunteered to be the pioneer.

“Aidan. Don’t give Smoke any chance to launch his toxic in the room. I’m luring him out.” Sledge nodded and reminded him of the tactic. “Ok, let’s go!”

Aidan rushes in while Sledge followed, and he noticed a mattress stood up beside the desk in a strange position and grasped that someone must use it as the bunker. Sledge threw a grenade toward the gap between the mattress and wall, then the orange gas bursting out proved Sledge’s thought. “Go back!” Sledge told Aidan to hide behind a steel file cabinet, as he located Smoke’s faint silhouette among the gas cloud, almost spent no time to prepare his L85A2 and shoot. After Smoke was down, he found a grey plastic brick taped with an old cell phone was placed at his feet. The ripping sound signified its activation, but it didn’t explode. It must be Mute’s nitro cell so he might be –

“Crap.” Mute’s short curse interrupted their channel, as he walked out behind the deployment shield he was hiding. The red paint on his mask signified he had taken by a headshot. “I can’t believe. The trick doesn’t work anymore?”

“Call it the power of teamworking.” In the meanwhile, Aidan showed up with his rifle, raised his thumb to his leader “Nice tactic, Sledge.”

“And nice shooting skill.” Sledge patted his shoulder, replied friendly.

“All hostiles cleared. Good job, Seamus.” Another attacker wearing an SF10 mask entered the room, praised in a calm and slightly hoarse voice. All men – included Smoke and Mute – stood still at once. The scene proved the man was highly admired in the group.

“You’re overpraising, Baker.” Sledge nodded awkwardly.

“Relax, lads!” Thatcher clapped his hands twice to remind everyone to free his posture. “Isn’t Sledge in charge here?”

“It’s obvious. You’re the most experienced one.” Mute answered while wiping the colour off his mask.

“I know. But Seamus, don’t be so demure by my presence. You’re meant to be a leader, so you must always take the lead no matter your teammates are older than you or not.” Thatcher patted Sledge’s shoulder, “Ok, the session is over, lads! Move your arse out.” He clapped twice in front of his teammates to notice the end of the training.

Afterwards, the operators went to change room to take a short rest and prepare for the shower. Compared to Smoke’s giddy attitude toward Mute who gave him an indifferent response, Sledge stayed quiet and started undressing. He arranged every piece of gears he took off neatly, and shortly there was only his underwear remaining on his body.

“Seamus,” Thatcher’s voice dragged Sledge’s attention, “I want to tell you something.”

“What’s up?” Withdrawing his hands from the waistband of his boxer briefs, Sledge turned to his elder. He hadn’t removed any of his equipment except the mask.

“After an hour we have important visitors.” Thatcher looked up at the Scotsman who was significantly higher than him.

“Just you and me?” Sledge formed a smile while questioning back.

“James and Mark are going, too. But damn, where have they gone?” Thatcher sighed while looking for the defenders until he discovered the awful partners grappling, as Smoke already undressed Mute, pushed him on the bench and rubbed his face. Mute showed resistance by pushing him back and punched on his chin.

“You hellfire motherfucker!” Mute stood up, grabbed the neckline of Smoke’s undershirt.

“Why? I just want to go shower with you.”

“Who wants to go with an arsehole like you?”

“Behave yourself, James!” Thatcher shouted at them and made Smoke and Mute bring up serious attitude. Three men stood in front of their senior, as it might be a hilarious view as two of them were only in underwear, but nobody cared.

“Ok, let’s start again. We have visitors at 13 in the main meeting room, regarding a briefing on a global collaboration program, and we will meet four operators from FBI SWAT who will be our future teammates. Show your best side to these Yanks.” Thatcher finished fast before he told others to go, “Dismiss.”

“Yanks to be our teammates? Am I dreaming?” Smoke’s giddy attitude returned as soon as left the sight of his senior. He undressed in a second and grabbed Mute to a shower stall.

“Quick, or we won’t have time to grab our lunch.” Mute replied coldly and pinched Smoke’s bottom cheek while taking a shower.

After finishing their lunch, Sledge was browsing the news with his tablet. His teammates sat beside them, frowned at the latest “White Masks” attack in Puerto Rico.

“What a bloody crap.” Smoke sighed while looking at the news. “Last week we just dealt with these masked arseholes in London. And they spawned in America again?”

“They spread across the world, and even don’t have a name.” Mute commented, “The only commonality is the white masks they wear, and it’s what media call them, too.”

“It’s unlike any group of terrorists we’ve known.” Sledge shook his head while drinking up his coffee mug. “Wait, Baker, regarding the global program, is it……”

“You catch it so fast, Seamus.” Thatcher nodded, “Come on, we should go to the meeting. You will know the details then.” He made a sign as others followed him out of the canteen and went to the meeting room.

In the meeting room, there seated a woman in a black suit, with short black hair and copper-colour skin, along with two armed retinues standing beside. The sharp and confident eye expression told the woman’s extraordinary and capability. “She’s one of our visitors today. The founder of the global program.” Thatcher introduced his teammates of her name before they sat on the opposite seats.

“I am the director of the reactivated The Rainbow.” The woman nodded and spoke in a North American accent, “Call me ‘Six’.”

“Six?” Thatcher inquired, “I know ‘Six’ is the codename for the director of The Rainbow by custom. May I ask your name other than this?”

“It is not important to you. As you all would only work with me as the members of The Rainbow.” Six answered neutrally, “Operator Baker, or ‘Thatcher’. I am informed by your experience of the collaboration with the old Rainbow. However, the policy and rule of the new Rainbow are entirely different. Don’t let the past fool you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Thatcher replied politely, but Sledge could read the resentfulness concealed inside his voice.

“Such a rarity to see somebody pissing off Mike so much.” Smoke murmured in a low voice.

“You never mentioned it before, Baker?” Sledge turned to his senior.

“It’s always been a secret,” Thatcher answered while shaking his head. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter at now, just like she says.”

“Let’s get into the topic.” Six continued, as everyone brought their attention on her, “The Rainbow is ‘blacker than black’, the global elite force under the direct supervision of NATO and prevented terrorist plots from 1999 to 2010 by General John Clack’s lead. As the recent White Masks attacks have been impacted the safety of the world, we have decided to relaunch the project.” She scanned at four operators by her sight, one by one, “Based on here, the old home of the global elites.”

“Wait, what?” Sledge exclaimed, “Was Hereford also The Rainbow’s base once?”

“Now, you know why I worked with them before.” Thatcher made an amusing comment.

“We are going to recruit the most elite operatives from over the world. At the first stage of the program, we have selected twenty, from GIGN, FBI SWAT, GSG9, Alpha Group of Spetsnaz – and certainly, you SAS.” Six kept stating as if not minding their comments. “At now, you are going to meet the four operators from FBI SWAT Los Angeles.”

Then the door opened again, followed by the orderly steps of the American operators all in their uniforms. Their faces were still partially visible as none of them wore a mask. The one went in first was a slender woman with an FBI cap, and long red hair formed a braid. The second one was a man wearing a helmet and round goggles, everything on him looked normal apart from the stained bandages on his hands and strange scald scars all over his forearms. He seemed somewhat relaxed among them as he smiled and waved to the Brits as a greeting. The third one was a tall man of creamy-white skin and shaved head with a pair of large sunglasses. “This bald guy looks handsome. Different from our chrome-dome.” Smoke whispered to Mute’s ears, who nodded with the same thought. The last one was a muscular man with chocolate-colour skin. Unlike others, he only wore a half-sleeved shirt under his body armour exposed the thick and sturdy arms with popping vein. The helmet and goggles also protected his head as well as identity.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all. I’m Thermite, presenting for FBI SWAT Los Angeles. And here are my teammates Ash, Pulse and Castle.” The man with bandages on his hands stood forward then spoke in slight Texan accent to introduce the future American members of the new Rainbow, one by one from the red-braid, the shaved head and the black hunk (their first feature Sledge caught). Sledge stood up and greeted back, “I’m Sledge, nice to meet you too. Here are Thatcher, Mute and Smoke. They are the best ones in SAS and looking forward to working with you.”

After all, the British and American operators had shaken their hands, they seated on the table and removed their hats and goggles.

“Six, have we readied to brief our first operation?” Ash’s face conveyed impatience as she pinched her black FBI cap tightly.

“We should wait for other operators who are expected to arrive here next week. Group training and manoeuvres are also necessary before you can put in the operation together. No matter how much experience you have got from your CTUs, in The Rainbow, you all start from new.” Six answered in a tough tone before standing up, “I am going to bring the profiles of your future teammates to display to you. Pardon me for five minutes.” She then left the room with her retinues.

“I can’t understand.” After Six left, Ash turned to her FBI teammates, commented sarcastically, “Shouldn’t they prepare well before the briefing?”

“Ash, I think it’s on purpose.” Sledge, who was on the seat beside her, interrupted in a gentle tone, “She would like us to talk freely and know each other first.”

“Oh, reasonable!” Thermite commented wittily to the Scotsman, “You’re pretty smart, sort of a surprising feature for your bulky body.”

“Do you burn your hands frequently on your work?” Smoke turned to Thermite and pointed at his forearms.

“I work with explosives. Very hot ones. So, it’s natural.” Thermite replied as he extended his arms in front of Smoke to check them.

“How hot?”

“The one I developed can blow off thick metal plates and make a big fucking hole,” Thermite tried to use a metaphor, “You can imagine it’s like a patch made of hot lava from Mauna Loa.”

“How crazy! I like it.” Smoke chuckled heartily.

“What’s your gadget then?”

“You better not know the detail. All I can tell is, it’s toxic.”

“Interesting. But have you got the permission to use it in fields?”

“I know, it’s sort of on edge.” Smoke smirked, “It’s exactly my way to do things.”

Suddenly, Sledge found out all his teammates had begun their conversation with these Yanks. Castle was with Thatcher on their family and interest in languages as Thatcher was amazed that Castle had started learning Korean. Mute and Pulse were sharing each other with their gadgets as the Yorkshireman showed the will to bring Pulse to visit the workshop after the briefing was over. Ash was the only one idle without any word but witnessing the discussion in an awkward look. Sledge noticed her and tried to launch a talk with her. “Ash, how do you do?”

“Fine.” Ash replied emotionlessly before taking off her cap, “I mean, I think we’re here for briefing our future missions. Not for these nonsense social things.”

“Maybe Six has her reason. If we know each other better, I suppose it’s also beneficial to our work.” Sledge answered, “Do you know her well?”

“No. All I know are that she worked as an agent in CIA and cooperated with John Clark’s first Rainbow.”

“Does it mean she has other callsigns?”

“It doesn’t matter as she never says. And her previous experience in detail is top secret.” Ash shook her head, “I’m fine with that. As I mentioned, I’m here just for work. Give me a request, and I can do it perfectly. That’s all.”

“Okay. What’s your special skill for trade?”

“In a word, I breach things,” Ash answered, “From a significant distance. My projector is small and light, but it’s excellent to break things without approaching them.”

“I also breach things,” Sledge nodded amusedly, “with my hammer.”

“Hammer? What an old-fashioned method.”

“Trust me, it works excellently in many cases.” Sledge formed a friendly smile and explained, “Of course, you need muscles strong enough to handle this big caber.

Ash observed the vague bulging lines on Sledge’s arms hiding underneath his navy-blue shirt, as she agreed that the tall man was undoubtedly made of big muscles. She began to imagine what would this body look like without his shirt and body armour’s cover – before a sudden opening sound of the door dragged her attention back.

“I am back. How are you going?” Six returned with slightly soothed expression, looking at the operators who just paused their conversation. “Let’s brief the rest of operators from other three CTUs, as it is helpful for you to know them first before meeting them in person. First, let’s start with GIGN –” The projection curtain immediately displayed a video of four GIGN agents in heavy-looking blue and grey armour, then proceed to the solo scene of the tallest one among them, who was a shield wielder. He stopped after running for a distance with his shield, and the rim of the shield started to extend to cover all his body. Then the shield received the bullets which made nothing but small dents. “He is Montagne.” Six described, “His ‘Le Roc’ Extendable Shield is a legend in GIGN, so does himself. As the only one Le Roc expert still in the service, his experience would be great to us.

Le Roc , huh? I’ve seen some in missions with GIGN before. Sadly, it’s on the way to retirement.” Thatcher sighed.

“If he does well in this team, this shield might have a second spring,” Castle remarked.

“So, who’s the next one?” Ash questioned in slightly impatience.

“Next one is ‘Twitch’.” Six replied as the screen changed to a female operator in her balaclava, and hands holding a special-designed drone resembled a mini buggy in shape. “She is notable with outstanding technology talent, and her shock drone—”

 


 

 

This night, the FBI SWAT operators stayed in the base for their collaboration training tomorrow. Sledge decided to go to the gym, as it was what he always did to relax his mood. On his way, he passed the door of the workshop, and he found it was open. Who would be there? Smoke and Mute couldn’t be as they were resting in their quarter. He knew Thermite and Ash were technicians from his brief knowledge so one or two of them might work on their gadgets to see if there were rooms to improve. Driven by his curiosity, Sledge entered the workshop and looked around, before he discovered a pile of weapon components and many crumpled papers on the ground. Following the trail of paper balls, he found Ash laying on the desk. There were her M120 Crem – the projector of her breaching rounds and a pile of technical drafts around her.

Sledge shook his head with a funny smile. The lass just came here today, and the long travel must consume most of her energy, despite that, she immersed herself into work instead of taking a rest. He approached Ash and patted her shoulders gently, “Ash, you should go to your room to rest.”

“What--" Ash was woken up suddenly, jumped off the chair and looked at the tall Scotsman with a strange expression. “It’s so late, what’re you doing?”

“It’s my sentence,” Sledge answered with a broad grin. “I’m just going to do some exercise before sleeping.”

“Well, I can see.” Ash leaned on the desk, tried to act calmly but looking at the man of exceptional physique in just a grey tank-top and training shorts somewhat made her hard to do so. She noticed a large Celtic knot tattoo on his left shoulder and a relatively smaller one on his left forearm with a round crest of a cock rampant. Ash guessed it was Sledge’s clan crest from her little knowledge of Celtic culture (thanks Thermite, his teammate of Irish descent).

“Shouldn’t you take a rest? You look really tired, and we have training the next morning.” Sledge insisted.

“I’m fine! None your business, Scots.” Ash lifted a corner of her mouth.

“You’re my teammate now. Every teammate’s business is my business.”

“Stop commanding me!” Ash took a piece of her drafts off the desk, crumbled it and threw it on Sledge’s face. “Don’t talk to me like a girl who needs protection or guidance. I can and like to do things on my own. Understand?”

“I’m not in doubt of your ability. It amazed me so much.” Sledge picked Ash’s projector up the desk and made a ready position like holding a rifle, which was a bit small for his big arms. “Can I try it?”

“Keep your hands off from my weapon!” Ash yelled and tried to take her M120 CREM back, but Sledge raised his arms high that she couldn’t reach.

“Promise me one thing, and I would give it back.” Sledge beamed.

“Stop teasing! Return to me right now!” Ash jumped to get it, but she failed again as Sledge transferred it behind his back.

“Promise me that you will never exhaust yourself by over-working again.” Sledge’s face got serious and his every word sounded stern.

“Just that simple? But I’m not over-working.” Ash frowned.

“Then how do you get this sleepy face?” Sledge form a smile again while giving Ash’s gadget back.

“I’m thinking of how to decrease the noise. This breaching round makes while keeping the same explosive power.” Ash held the projectors tightly, “Tried many ways but none of them works. It puzzles me so much these days.”

“Maybe what you need is put it down for a while.” Sledge asked in a soft voice, “How about doing some exercise with me?”

“With you ?” Ash showed her doubt.

“One of my habits. Feeling my muscles working out can relax my mind.”

“You sound like a gym rat. Looks like one, too.”

“I won’t deny. And doing such a job, having the best physique is essential, don’t you agree?”

“Well, fine.” Ash sighed while putting her gadget on the desk, “I’m going with you.”

 


 

Just like what they predicted, there was nobody around them in the gym in such late night. Ash changed to her workout outfit and went to a rowing machine, while she observed  Sledge who was deadlifting. The weights hanging on each side of the bar seemed large and heavy, but Sledge lifted them up as if it was nothing to him. While they finished a session, Ash went to check Sledge and found out he was wiping off his sweat.

“Oh! Feeling better?” Sledge recognised Ash by his side and chuckled.

“So much sweat,” Ash commented. “I mean you.”

“Yeah, it’s true.” Sledge pulled the neckline of his wet tank-top. “Don’t you mind taking it off?”

“No. I’ve seen enough naked skin of my teammates around me.” Ash shook her head.

“You mean those lads who came along with you?” Sledge removed his damping singlet, showed his buffed pecs and abs. Ash confirmed again -- the body made of a mass of muscles could drive her mad. His body odour made her feel addicted as if she consumed a big barrel of whisky.

“I mean Thermite and Pulse. They always wear nothing except for their underwear in the quarter.” Ash shook her head to focus with a sigh.

“Smoke is like that.” Sledge drank his water bottle before continuing, “But no underwear.”

“My Goodness.” Ash tilted her head, “Fortunately he’s not in my team, or I would be mad watching him wobbling his dong in front of me.”

“Exactly what he often does toward me.” Sledge chuckled, “I told him so many times, ‘stop! I’m straight,’ as he responds, ‘oh, really?’ while still keeps rocking his waist.”

“Damn him.” Ash facepalmed. “Wait, do you mean he’s…… gay?”

“He is.” Sledge answered honestly, “And Mute is in that kind of…… relationship with him. You know, do that thing just for fun.”

“The couple I just mentioned are also like that.” Ash squeezed a wry smile.

“Oh, no. No wonder they become a friend in a flash. Birds of a feather.” Sledge laughed while patting the bench beside him. “Hey, want to try some powerlifting? I can help you to do bench press.”

“I know how to do it. I’m not a newbie.” Ash felt annoyed.

“Just to help you to put on the plates, come on.” Sledge kept encouraging before Ash laid on the bench with a sigh.

Sledge took a bar to Ash as she held it tightly. “How heavy do you prefer, my lady?” Ash could sense the giddiness in the Scotsman’s words, and she thought the endorphin might ease his mood for “a little too much”, but she decided to ignore it. “Don’t like to get it too hard at the start. 40kg.”

“I think it’s heavy enough for your slender body.”

“Shut it up and put them on, baldhead!”

“Ok, ok, calm down.” Sledge put each side with a 20 kg plate. “Good?”

“Easy to me.” Ash extended her arms to lift the barbell up slowly 10 times with steady movement. “Give me more.” She requested

“Sure, how much do you want?”

“20kg.” Ash circled her arms to relax, before going back to the ready position. This time Sledge just took the plates on without any word. Ash heaved after deep breathes, and Sledge could see that she started squeezing force in her body to lift it. She released the bar after the laps, panted heavily, “Not enough. I want more.”

“You’re straining yourself. I don’t allow it this time, as I think you’ll get hurt.” Sledge puckered his forehead along with a broad grin.

“Shut up. I know my limit.” Ash insisted. “I can lift more.”

“Ok, then give you 10 kilos more,” Sledge took the additional weight on the barbell then Ash attempted to push it up. She clenched her teeth while getting it up strenuously before Sledge held the bar to take it over. “I’ve said that. Don’t get yourself hurt.” He put the barbell on the rack before taking all weight plates off.

“What are you doing? I said I could lift it.” Ash yelled in anger.

“My experience tells me that even if you can lift it up once, it won’t benefit you.” Sledge declared, “We have training tomorrow, and I don’t want my teammate injured due to improper exercising.”

“Well,” Ash sat up and scratched her head, “Okay, you’re right. I’m just not so used to be corrected like this. None of my teammates can do that.”

“They can’t?” Sledge questioned.

“Don’t get it wrong. They’re professional and achieve the best at work.” Ash explained, “But they like to relax while resting and might be too relaxed sometimes. So, I must be responsible for them.”

“I’ve thought your team is either Thermite or Castle in charge.”

“Oh, Jordan is the titular leader, as in private he’s just like a cheerful boy, not so reliable.” Ash drank her water then commented in sarcasm. “Miles is a good and wise man. But he’s usually too good to argue with me. Jack…… Out of his professional area, he’s a mess, too.”

“I can see how challenging it is to kick their butts up.” Sledge sat beside her on the bench.

“If I can’t get myself stronger, neither can my team. Therefore, I believe I must take any chance to challenge my limit.”

“But getting too much pressure on you is not healthy. Your teammates won’t like that either, right?” Sledge patted Ash’s shoulder.

“They also say the same thing to me, but I don’t care.” Ash rolled her eyeballs, “I can’t accept myself to slack off. It’s not what my countrymen want to see.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just like what I mean.” Ash’s expression hardened, “I’m born in Israel, enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, then joined FBI SWAT as an international elite. If I don’t work hard and keep myself in the best form, everything would be nonsense.”

“I see.” Sledge nodded sympathetically, “I can understand. Being an ‘outsider’, and how much effort you should take to reward who raise and cultivate you—Honestly, I never feel I’ve done enough.”

“Where are you from?” Ash got curious, “I mean, where in Scotland.”

“John o' Groats. A small fishing village in Highland.” Sledge answered, “It’s the most northern settlement of Britain. Most people live there know each other, like a big family.” He pointed at the round crest on his arm, “It’s the symbol of my clan. Wearing it makes me always feel connected to my home.”

“My hometown is Jerusalem. I know you would probably like to say ‘oh, holy city’, but I don’t like that place at all.” Ash pouted, “I’m happier with the life in America, or anywhere else.”

“Hey, it’s your turn to help me put on some weight.” Sledge requested while lying on the bench and placed the bar above him.

“How much you want?” Ash checked the plates, “I think you should take it hard and heavy.”

“Oh, I want to start from light as well.” Sledge chuckled, “40kg, on each side!”

“It’s not light at all!” Ash exclaimed.

“It’s light to me.” Sledge laughed, “You’ll be awed at how much I can lift, I’m sure.”

Ash readied the barbell as the Scotsman’s instruction, then set aside to look at him. To be honest, the view of the hunk working out was perfect for eye candy – the moment she knew that handing the sledgehammer was not his muscles’ only function. How long was the last time she ever got attracted to a man? She couldn’t tell, and the feeling was strange.

After Sledge finished the session and was replacing the weights, “Do you like to practise some obstacle courses one or two days later?” Ash gave another request to divert her attention away from Sledge’s body.

“With you?” Sledge answered.

“Just me for now. I wouldn’t mind you bringing others though.”

“I’ve heard Thermite said that you move dramatically fast.” Sledge gazed at the FBI operator directly, “Probably I can learn one or two tricks from you? And I can reward you by guiding you to train your physical strength more efficiently.”

“If you can bear my awful teaching style. Let’s make an appointment?”

“Tomorrow’s collaboration training is expected to finish at noon. So, an obstacle course in the afternoon, and the gym at night.” Sledge placed his hand on his chin, “Good for you?”

“No problem.” Ash nodded, “Let’s hone each other for the incoming first operation.”

“You sound excited.” Sledge made a witty remark.

“No! I just like to ensure everything is ready.” Ash retorted in an amused tone.

“That’s fine,” Sledge hooked Ash’s shoulder, “I’m excited too. And now, I’m certain we can make the best team.”

“Where does your confidence come from?” Ash made a sarcastic comment but still couldn’t hide her laughter. They ended up laughing together while on the way back to their quarters.

 


 

In the meantime, the director’s office.

“Colonial Sweeney? Come on in.” Six responded the knocking door before it opened and revealed a man in SAS uniform, with brown skin and black batch cut head.

“Yes,” the man approached Six’s desk with a smile, “Tell you so many times: just call me Kevin.”

“What brings you in at this time?” Six sighed while gazing at the profile jackets on her desk.

“Just want to see if you’re alright.” Kevin replied in a steady tone, “Isn’t it part of the work of your right-hand man?”

“I’m good with my own. Your only task at now is just preparing for guiding their collaboration training tomorrow.”

“Why? Baker can do better in coaching than me.”

“Sweeney--” Six cocked an eyebrow.

“Okay, okay.” Kevin giggled, “Just kidding. And I must thank you for selecting Baker for the team. I knew he'd been aspired to be a part of such a global program, and I believed General Clark would select him for the first Rainbow. When he chose me instead, I had concern if this would disappoint my elder bro in the team. However, Baker put the trust on me and encouraged me whenever I felt down – I mean, such a wise senior is essential to the team. He deserves this chance.”

“Well, but I select him just for his ability. Same to the reason I assign you to be my deputy. As one of the former members of the old Rainbow, your experience will benefit us much.” Six made a gesture to remind Kevin to seat in front of her. “Since you’re here, can you help me with one thing?”

“Happy to help. Which thing?”

“You know, we should have a leader among these operators,” Six explained, “Like Ding Chavez, not only remarkable by his ability but also has high charisma which made everyone listen to him.”

“Agreed. Have you come up with any potential choice?”

“I’ve thought of Eliza Cohen,” Six took out Ash’s profile. “I know her for a while. She’s always the responsible one to her team, thinks forward and acts fast. But she’s not good at soothing her tension, and it might be negative for the group.”

“So, you’re looking for someone who is more positive and encouraging.” Kevin assumed, then he chose one of the files and showed it to Six. “What do you think about him?”

“Seamus Cowden, callsign ’Sledge’.” Six murmured, “The tall and big Scotsman using the big hammer. Refer to his profile; he captained Scotland U-20 national rugby team before enlisted……”

“Yes. Baker always remarks him as a natural leader.” Kevin commented, “Not unlike Ash, he stands and moves in front of people, knows how to raise their motivation and willingness. And he has the calm and stable character to balance Ash’s impulse.”

“Is it a promotion for your SAS teammate?” Six questioned half-jokingly.

“I don’t recommend him for his SAS background, but what kind of person he is.” Kevin beamed, “I think he will do perfectly as the leader of the new Rainbow.”

“How about making them work together?” Six thought for a while before the suggestion. “It can be the way of transnational cooperation.”

“Good idea!” Kevin thumbed-up.

“Ok, then you must notify them before tomorrow’s training. Dismissed.” Six arranged the jackets in order as she told her right-hand man to leave.

Later at this night, while Sledge was resting in his quarter, he had not known the new role he was going to be, neither the fact that he would lead the team together with the slender Israeli lady. The flushing sound passed through the window to let him realise the rain got heavier, but he didn’t divert his mind from tomorrow’s training and the appointment hereafter. The busy day and exercise shortly ago made his body tired for a degree, but not his mind. He went to bed with a smile of expectation, let the rain sounds accompany him to dreamland to call it a day.