Cali McKinnon's

Fae Chronicles

Beyond Loyalty

1.  Planning 

They had been waiting for over fourteen hours.  It was excruciatingly cold, they were soaked to the bone, and Duncan was almost certain his toes were already damaged from frostbite.  His lips and face were cracked and raw from exposure.  Thankfully, his gloves offered enough protection that he wouldn’t lose his fingers, unless of course the final leg of this mission wasn’t completed within the next few hours as had been meticulously planned.

Otherwise, the mission had gone well and they had achieved their goal.  At least all of them were still alive, despite the desperate straits in which they found themselves now.  Surely, they could hold out for a few more hours for the interception with the extraction team.  The worst would be the arduous trip out to the rendezvous point once it was dark enough.  He said a silent prayer that their ride would be there, and on time.

Once more he scanned the gray expanse of choppy, frothing shoreline that in the distance meshed into the gray, low hanging clouds, heavy with more snow, or, more likely, with more ice, and hoped the inevitable lousy weather would hold off for at least a few hours.  It was so dark and gray now that he wished the extraction could occur before nightfall.  They all dreaded the prospect of fighting the rocky shoreline with such turbulent seas, especially in pitch-black darkness while being pelted with ice. 

He glanced around at the others.  John was already suffering from fever and Sam, though he said nothing, was quiet now so Duncan figured he was becoming ill and would begin to weaken before long as well.  That left Tony and himself to see that the others made it home despite their weakened condition.  Other than an energy bar and a scant amount to water, they had had nothing to eat or drink since their clandestine insertion into this country.  By the time they were picked up, it will have been close to forty-eight hours, which was a long time for men of such vigorous lifestyles to exist on such meager rations, especially given the amount of energy the next few hours would demand.

“Damn, Duncan.  Not a sign of them, dare we swim out to meet them and find out they didn’t make it?”  Tony asked quietly from his position nearby.  It was as though he was reading Duncan’s mind.  Of course, this was Tony’s first mission of this sort so his concern was understandable.  Once they left the shore, they might be in the water for hours if the extraction team wasn’t there as planned.

“Don’t worry about it, Tony, they’ll be there, probably already are.  We never see them or hear from them, we just go on faith.  Remember, they don’t have it much easier than us when it comes to hiding and putting up with this lousy weather.  The captain has to be cautious.  He can’t afford to lose a nuclear submarine and its whole crew over four men.  On this coastline, he can’t very well surface to send us an invitation, and wouldn’t if he could.  You know the rules, their safety is more important.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard it before.  I know the weather makes it a challenge for them to get in this close undetected, but I’d be willing to swim an extra mile or two just to get off this godforsaken piece of icy rock before our little surprise is detected.”

Duncan smiled, despite the fact that he could feel his chapped lips crack when he did, and said, “Yeah, no kidding.”

There was a long silence after that.  Though his eyes were tired from the biting wind and lack of sleep, Duncan continued scanning the horizon and, like Tony, wishing there were some sign of the submarine, but glad at least there were no cruisers or destroyers scouring the bay.

 

As Duncan suspected, Sam was also becoming ill from the exposure.  By the time they entered the water two hours later, he was weak and numb from frostbite, but in the normal manner of the team, helped gather the equipment and set everything right for their departure.  It took them almost two hours in the water to locate the submarine.  The currents around the treacherous rocks had been a battle, and then the sub had been difficult to locate since it had not come in quite as close as planned due to the rough seas and treacherous coastline.

Once they located the submarine, they swam to the forward escape hatch and tapped out the signal on the hull.  Moments later the hatch slowly crept open and they swam into the flooded void, tapped a signal to indicate they were inside, and the hatch was slowly resealed.  Within minutes of sealing, the void was pressurized and huge pumps began removing the water.  Knowing they had made it this far allowed Duncan finally to feel relief, a sense of accomplishing something he believed in, and a sense of survival beyond anything that one who hasn’t done it could imagine.

The crew welcomed them onboard, but all they wanted was a warm shower in order to thaw out a bit, some food, and several days of undisturbed sleep.  Everything they needed, including medical care, was provided quickly, without hesitation or questions as they made their way silently home for debriefing.

 

Such was the life of Duncan MacDugall, the way it had been frequently over the last six years.  It was the early nineteen seventies, at the height of the cold war.  He and his team had just set the explosives that took out miles of a primary secure communication cable and a new tower that would have been used to communicate between the Kremlin and the northern fleet command center in Murmansk to control Russian fleet ballistic missile submarines.  Its destruction would set the Soviet Union back at least five years by forcing them once again to use the older communication lines that had been bugged and tapped for years.  One nuclear submarine and its proficiently trained crew, four highly trained Navy SEALs, and a lot of exact planning.  Not your normal workday, that’s for sure.

As he fell asleep Duncan mused over the fact of what they’d done and wondered whether it would ever be made public that the communication network was destroyed.  He doubted it.  Few of their missions ever became known outside the upper echelons of the governments involved.

It had been difficult being accepted into the job he had, and he wasn’t sure what made him decide on his chosen course.  Since he was a child, he’d known his grandfather had been a Navy SEAL, in almost this same era.  When he was older, he obtained some books and documentary films on the teams and the kind of work they did, then set about his plans.  Luckily, his Sidhe fae father was capable of arranging the identity side of things, and helped him with an incredibly believable identity for this era.  But he was about finished with his adventure to the past.  He knew the cold war would begin winding down before long, and he was about ready to go home.  He planned one more mission, maybe two, and then he’d return to his time and a more relaxed lifestyle with his family.

 

Weeks later, after their return stateside and the debriefing, Duncan returned to his apartment.  It was empty and musty since he’d been away almost three months.  He often wondered why he bothered with it and didn’t just live in the barracks given how infrequently he was at home.  Of course, it was useful when he had a steady girlfriend.  The problem was that he was gone so much that a steady girlfriend was a rare event.  Women flocked to guys like him for a few dates, but the long separation while they were away on a mission was prohibitive of any meaningful relationship.

Most of the women he’d dated also resented that he would leave on less than a few hours’ notice to some place he couldn’t mention, unable even to say when he might return.  Not that it mattered much now because one more mission or two and he’d be leaving the nineteen seventies behind to return to his time--years in the future.  He didn’t care to have any entangling relationships to interfere with that at this point.

Over the next few weeks, he and his team turned to reconditioning, working out, refreshing their skills in hand-to-hand combat, swimming and running for miles, tackling the obstacle course daily, and generally sharpening their skills and honing their bodies for the next mission.  They had no idea what it might be, but they could be sure it would be grueling.

Sam had recovered, but John had lost three toes to frostbite, and was replaced on the team.  Duncan hated to see him go, since John was so good with explosives, but he deserved some downtime after the damage suffered during that last mission.  Mark looked like a good replacement, so they welcomed him into the team and started learning to work together.

 

In the future, Duncan had an extraordinary family.  His father, Nicholas, was Sidhe fae, sith, or a faery as they were often known.  Aside from being able to travel time, Nicholas had many unusual powers, including the ability to read minds and alter the location and state of objects around him--telekinesis.  But his grandfather, Caedmon MacDugall, or Cad as some of his friends called him, was the real surprise.  He was a mere human, over seventy years old now, but not a day over thirty-five if you went by his looks and health.  And he wouldn’t age, but would live exactly as he was for a thousand years or more, courtesy of a disgruntled Sidhe fae who had cursed him to live for the lifetime of a Sidhe fae while never aging.

As for himself, Duncan had some Sidhe fae powers, but they developed slowly and he was nowhere near as powerful as his father was, and he never would be since his mother was human.  He could read minds when he wanted to, he could move some things around by thinking about it, but he had never practiced enough at time travel or transportation in order to do either proficiently.  Due to his career, it had been years since he’d even used any of his sith powers except for an occasional mind reading.  When it came time to return, he could do that himself since it was such a small distance of time to travel, or he could summon his father to guide him on the journey since he hoped to return within a few years of when he’d left.

Despite the fact that six years had transpired since he’d been here in this time, he didn’t want to have been away from his family for that long.  His grandfather’s wife Erika had been expecting a child when he left, and he had no idea whether the child had been born safely, nor whether it was a girl or boy, but he had recently found himself curious and missing his family.  He held a great affection for Cad and Erika and wanted to be around to share in the upbringing of this new family member, as well as Josh, his young cousin.  He liked children and he was looking forward to having them around again.

 

Although he didn’t know it, many years in the future, Caitrin Kaie MacDugall had been born safely to Cad and Erika.  She was a healthy little sprite, and an absolutely beautiful baby.  Though he had no way of knowing it yet, she had the dark flaming red hair of her mother, the blue-gray eyes of her father, a light sprinkling of freckles across the creamy complexion of her delicate nose that had just a gentle upturn at the end.  She was a true little pixie who beguiled anyone who saw her into stopping and commenting on her beauty.  Her nephew Duncan would be no exception.

By nature, she was loving, sweet, intelligent, and gifted with languages, as was most of the family.  However, her unusual temperament is what took people by surprise.  In contradiction to the red hair, this child was not moody, temperamental, or in any way subject to flighty emotion.  She was purely logical, with not a grain of emotion unless she chose to show it.  In fact, to those who knew them well, other than the red hair and her gender, she might have been a little clone of her father, including the icy, blue-gray eyes that seemed oddly in opposition to such a sweet child.

Had he wanted to, Duncan could have summoned an image of the child from the future, but he elected to wait, planning to relish the homecoming and the surprises that awaited him there.  For now, he continued his daily routine, waiting for that last assignment after which he would be discharged, and could return home.

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