The team woke up early on the morning of the last day of the conference. Becker walked down the hallway of the hotel as he looked over the team report he had begun in his room last night. He was still "in cognito" wearing his geek apparel. He was wearing the dark rimmed glasses and a heathered grey T-shirt that said 'Shiny' on it. He wore a black denim shirt over it. He would be glad to get back to the ARC so he could change back into his uniform. The ridiculous converse trainers on his feet were beginning to annoy him. The entire team had decided that they needed to stay in character until they left in the afternoon so as to not draw unwanted attention to the ARC and their actual purpose at the Excel.
As he turned the corner, Abby came out of the room that he was passing by and he waited for her to join him. She was wearing a large blue T-shirt that said "Bad Wolf" with her dark pants and the glasses that she had been wearing the day before. She glanced up at Becker and smiled.
"I'm think I'm getting used to seeing you in that disguise, Becker. You're a natural," she said as she smirked at him.
Becker rolled his eyes. "Yeah…well take a good look because the minute we're out of here, these clothes are going in the trash bin. 'Bad Wolf'?…..what does that even mean?"
Abby shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea. Remember, Connor gave me this shirt. What about yours?... "Shiny"? I don't get it."
Becker shrugged also. "Me either. I think when Jess gave it to me she said it was from weird TV show…..Firebug, Firefly?...I'm a little off the grid when it comes to all this," he said as he gestured to his clothing. "I'm going to stop by Jess' room and see how she's feeling."
"Oh, no need, she's called me this morning. She's already down in the Hub supervising the removal of the ADD equipment. You know her…she wants to make sure it's all done properly," Abby said sarcastically. Becker smiled. It was nice to know some things you could always count on.
Abby and Becker continued on to the makeshift hub as they joined Connor, Matt, and Emily supervising removal of equipment from the makeshift ARC setup on the convention floor. Becker immediately walked over to the petite redhead who was lecturing one of the soldiers who was disassembling the one of the delicate pieces of the ADD.
"Now, Fitzsimmons," Jess admonished him with her best imitation of a school teacher's stern expression, "You need to make sure the main housing is COMPLETELY locked down before you try to move it!" He nodded seriously as she looked down at her clipboard to check another item off her long list. She looked up and grinned as Becker approached. Her hair was pulled back into a long braid held with a lavender ribbon. She was wearing a purple and lavender short skirt with green accents and a pair of impossibly high purple heels. Becker was relieved to see that she was her usual radiant self. He put his hand on her arm.
"Feeling okay this morning, Jess?" he asked her with a serious expression. She rolled her eyes.
"I'm fine…..really…..I'm just lucky that idiot took the brunt of the EMD blast…..I haven't even got a headache this morning…." she interrupted their conversation to tell one of the technicians to make sure they were completely disconnected from the Excel server, then turned back to him. "Well, this is your last day on Planet Geek before you turn back to your old self, Cinderella…..shame….I rather liked "nerd" Becker…" She smirked at him cheekily. Becker laughed as he steadied her when she picked up one of the small boxes.
"Well, you would be proud of me. Logan and I are going to meet for a pint next week and then go to a showing of Lord of the Rings. He says if I've seen that part of the trilogy I can at least understand some of the references. In fact right now I'm on my way over to Logitech to get some information he gathered for me on cyberterrorism…. could be helpful in my "real" line of work, though he doesn't know that," he said.
Jess grinned at him until she suddenly turned to her left and began to chastise an unfortunate technician who had ripped several cords unceremoniously from the wall. Becker smiled to himself and turned to make his way to the Logitech display.
Gimli Logan was standing next to several of his coworkers in their display when Becker walked up. He could tell by the expression on their faces that something was definitely amiss. The four specialists, with frowns on their faces, were discussing an email they received.
"Why do we always have to participate in this farce," one of them moaned.
"Because that bastard Miller enjoys showing off to all his ivy league buddies and using us as his targets," said another.
Becker walked up to the group. "What's going on," he asked conversationally.
Logan looked over at the captain. "Larry Miller, you know the son of the owner of the company? Every year he invites a bunch of his old buddies who were on the lacrosse team at Harvard to come try out our military combat simulation game. We sell lots of the product to the military and some to companies who use the "laser tag" games for recreation, team building, competitions, etc…..Anyway, we always set up a laser tag simulation room here at the convention so companies can beta test our product and see it in action. At the end of the convention, he always invites his buddies here to play against us in an all out simulation game…..Team with the most laser hits wins. He and his "jock" friends were also members of the rifle club and they destroy us every year. If this was an online game, we'd annihilate them, but this is an actual shooting and athletic competition and if you look at the tech department here, there's not a lot of athletes working here…..The worst thing is, not only does he force us to play him, he makes us bet a steak dinner at Gaucho, which is about $200 American dollars,…..for a steak…He's a first class son of a bitch."
Becker stood thoughtfully for a minute as the door opened and a man of about thirty in an expensive suit entered the room followed by several other Americans who seemed to be on some kind of tour. "….and as I said, Dad started this entire company and now I'm in charge. Ahhh…..here is our research and development team. We were just talking about you. Ready to play our annual laser tag game? You guys know we have to have a bet, right? I've been dying to try that "Gaucho" steak house I heard about. I think $200 per person for a bet oughta be just about right. Losers pay the winners steak dinner…..and since my girlfriend and these guys wives are visiting with them, I think we should include their dinner too!" He grinned, a smug, self- satisfied look on his face. "So the bet is $400 per person ….and since there are only three of you, you'll need two more geeks to fill out your roster."
Becker could see that Logan was just about to explode and he decided the time had come for another intervention. He adjusted his posture to more of a slouch than his usual straight stance and tried to look as innocuous as possible.
"Ummmm….I think I might be able to help Logan…" he said quietly." I have a mate who might be able to help us…"
Logan looked at him and was about to object when a raised eyebrow from Becker silenced him.
Larry Miller smirked triumphantly. "Well, there you go, two more victims…..hahaha….I mean teammates!" He chuckled smugly looking at his friends who laughed. "See you in about an hour, Logan?" The group of men walked out as the technicians sagged against the nearby table.
"Becker….you didn't have to do that! These guys are really good marksman and besides that they're really all athletes. We're toast. You are gonna lose some money unless you know somebody who's a trained sniper."
Becker stood quietly as what could only be described as an evil grin appeared on his handsome face. He pulled out his mobile and began punching in a number. "Better call your best girl or your best friend to join you because tonight, the dinner is on Larry Miller." He nodded to the group of technicians and headed out the door.
One hour later, Logan and friends were standing in the middle of a large auditorium wearing vests with laser receptors on the front and back and carrying modified laser guns, when suddenly Larry Miller and his group of friends entered the room dressed in similar fashion. They were laughing and talking loudly, when Becker entered followed by a rather large man wearing the laser gear also. The group of executives turned to greet them.
"Whoa….here comes another member of the geek squad," he snickered as he held out his hand to shake the tall man's hand. "….and what's your name?"
The tall man stood unsmilingly in front of the executive and gripped his hand very hard. "The name's Jim," he said softly as Larry pulled his hand away and shook it. "Okay…..well guys remember there are base targets on each end. You get 100 points for hitting the opposing team's base target so guard it well. When you get hit with a laser your gun is inactive for five seconds so you can't shoot anyone in that time. Any questions…all right…go to your base. Good luck…..you guys are going to need it…." He shouted as each team walked to their base.
The group of technicians stood by the base and tried to make a plan. "Mike, try to get some shots of base, Stephan, at least try to get a few hits on Larry…..," Logan whispered. Becker and Jim walked up to the group and interrupted the technician as he instructed the others.
"Okay…you're gonna have to trust me on this. This is Jim MacPherson. We have a tiny bit of military experience and this is how it's going down. Jim, here, is….ummm…a pretty good shot so he is going to make first contact. I am going to attack with him," Becker glanced over at his large friend. "Run attack pattern Delta and make sure you take out the two hostiles that are set up near the wall. I'll take out the other two. Logan, Mike, Steve….stay here and count to ten then storm their base and shoot the hell out of it. Steve…..It's your job to pretty much follow your twit of a boss and keep shooting him so that his weapon never comes back online. Are we clear?"
A flicker of hope began to dawn in the eyes of the group of men gathered with the military men. They all nodded and as the tone that heralded the beginning of the game sounded Becker and Jim disappeared from the group as the rest of them began counting. When ten seconds had elapsed Logan, following Becker's instruction charged to the other side of the auditorium only to find their boss and his friends completely immobilized, their laser inoperative from multiple shots, as Logan and the others scored point after point. It was over quickly. The final tone sounded both teams gather in the center of the room.
Larry Miller ran his hands through his curly hair. "What…..the ….hell….was ….that? How did you…We didn't even see where they came from…..WHO ARE YOU GUYS," he practically shouted the last part of the sentence.
Logan stepped forward. "I believe you called us the Geek Squad….I believe five times $400 is $2000 American dollars. I believe we are going out for a steak tonight…"
Larry stared at Logan for a second as his friends each opened their wallets and passed their money to the group of excited coworkers. Finally he opened his wallet and handed over his payment. Disgusted, his friends walked out of the room leaving Larry Miller to follow dejectedly.
There was high fives all around as the men proceeded to call their significant others to make plans for dinner. Logan approached Becker.
"I have no idea how you did that. Are you?...what exactly did you do before you did this job?"
Becker smiled. "Ahhhh….let's just say Jim and I were in "public service" shall we? So, are you and Leslie Feldspar having dinner tonight?"
Logan grinned. "Actually, I had already called her to join me tonight. We've made some plans to go out next week too. Thanks to you….."
Becker laughed. "I don't think anyone would believe that I'm much of a matchmaker, but thanks. Better get back to our display now. Thanks for walking me through all this tech stuff. Call me and we'll meet up next week," he said. Logan shook his hand but stopped him from leaving with a hand to the shoulder.
"Becker, I'd like to return the favor if I could…Look I'm going to be honest here. I've seen the way you look at Jess. You really need to do something about that. No, really….." he said as Becker tried to interrupt him. "I've known her for five years and I've never seen her look at anyone the way she looks at you…..I'm not telling you this because I want to help YOU…I'm telling you this because I care so much about HER…Do you understand what I'm trying to say? She's amazing…. Becker….and you need to let her know how you feel…..trust me…she feels the same way." Becker looked at his friend warily. "Thank, Logan…I'll think about it," he said with a slight grin.
Logan smirked. "Well, you can tell her right now. I invited her to come watch our match. Good luck, my friend," he said as he walked toward Leslie Feldspar who was waiting for him at the door.
Jess walked swiftly toward Becker and threw her arms around his neck. "Becker!...thank you, thank you, thank you for helping Logan," she said. "You and your friend, Jim were amazing." She suddenly realized she was hugging the captain and self-consciously stepped back as she grinned, slightly embarrassed, at him.
Becker looked at the smiling field coordinator and thought about Logan's words. Their job made it difficult but he knew he had to act on his feelings sooner rather than later. She WAS an amazing woman and he was an idiot for putting off for tomorrow what he wanted right now. Jess looked up at him confused as he realized he had been standing in front of her silently as his thoughts processed. "Jess Parker…I've been an emotional basket case for far too long and what I'd really love is if you would join me for an expensive steak dinner tonight. I think you're amazing and I've waited way too long to tell you this but…" Becker's perfect speech was interrupted by Jess stepping toward him and putting fingers to his mouth.
"Shhh….Hilary Becker…..I'd love to join you for dinner and how long are you going to stand there in your cool T-shirt and sexy glasses before you kiss me," she teased, as he pulled her toward him and slanted his lips across hers to kiss her as Logan glanced back toward the couple in a passionate embrace and laughed. He turned to his girlfriend. "I hope they actually make it to dinner tonight. I have a feeling they might be otherwise occupied. " Leslie smiled and took his arm as they walked out the door.
EPILOGUE – ONE WEEK LATER
Jess Parker noticed the flowers at her desk as she moved to sit at her station. The beautiful Lupines were some of her favorites. The attached card, from Becker, brought a rather attractive blush to her face as she placed the flowers on the desk and moved to the ADD. Abby walked into the hub as her eyes fell on the floral arrangement. She grinned and rolled her eyes.
"Geez, Becker…..more flowers? What have you done to him, Jess? You guys have gone out every night this week!"
Lester entered the hub and grimaced at the display of flowers on the field coordinators desk. "Miss Parker, could you please refrain from distracting my head of security. We are actually trying to do WORK here," he mumbled.
Jess blushed even more as she rolled her eyes at Abby and grinned. "Oh shut up, Abby," she whispered good naturedly.
Matt walked up to Jess at the ADD and made a grimace as he looked at the lupines in the vase. "Is he trying to make the rest of us look bad? I need to talk to him," he teased Jess.
She pretended to scold him. "Don't you dare, Matt Anderson! Oh by the way, shipping just contacted me. There's a large box that's been delivered downstairs with your name on it. You know security has to open it and go through it so if it's some of your live plant specimens you might want to supervise them so they don't damage them.
Matt glanced, distracted, up at her from the tablet he was reading. "Oh, okay…..what company is it from?"
Jess glanced back at the computer. "The manifest says it's from a company called 'Tempus Fugit'," said Jess as she looked confused. "It's a pretty big order…that's not a company you usually get shipments from…"
Matt Anderson bolted upright as the name of the company registered on his preoccupied brain. He quickly ran over to the computer that Jess was looking at. "When did you say this arrived," he asked in a panicked voice.
"About two hours ago. Security is probably going through it right now. But, don't worry. Your name is all over the paperwork. It's kind of weird actually …..whoever ordered it made sure that all the boxes have your name all over them ….."
Matt's face grew redder than it was already. "Becker….," he whispered furiously. "I'm going to kill our head of security, Jess. Sorry, but your boyfriend is toast."
Emily who had just walked in the hub looked up at him. "I told you not to send him down there at the convention…I believe he has also sent out an email to the team that says simply "Revenge is a dish best served cold." I would advise you to go down there and stop them from opening that box unless you want the contents with your name on it opened and shared with the security team. Matt stared for a minute than quickly ran out of the room. The women in the hub all rolled their eyes and went back to their stations as the ARC continued its important work.
Thank you to all those readers who read and reviewed. Thanks especially to the lovely Prawn Crackers and Drawn to Darkness for their wonderful support on each and every chapter! Happy New Year to all!