Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. We have ownership over any new characters but the rest belongs to others (such a shame!).

Authors' Note: This idea popped into my head while I was driving, and almost caused an accident. I don't know whether this is possible, but hey, that's way we call it fiction.

Test Subject - ATF

By Ladysmiths


“We have to stop charging the Bureau for our personal expenses.”

“Come on Chris, we haven't been that bad,” JD didn't like it when the team was in trouble.

“Well, according to the Finance Department we have. Our budgets are always in the top five of the most expensive.”

“Do we ever make it to number one?” Vin wanted to know.

“More times than I’d like to admit,” Chris answered giving Vin one of his glares.

“Mr Larabee, did you explain that we are just reimbursing ourselves for outlays incurred directly from the assignments they insist on sending us on?”

“Sure Ezra, but they felt charging the agency for your petrol was taking advantage. Especially seeing as we’re already given an allowance.”

“I graciously volunteer to drive Mr Wilmington home from the hospital and this is how I'm rewarded, quibbling over my legitimate expenses?”

“Shut up, Ez. Don't blame me,” Buck growled, he'd been looking sullen all morning.

“Ezra was just joking,” Josiah said, he was sitting next to Buck and could practically feel him seething.

Buck shook his head, “Sorry, I just have a headache. I'm waiting for the Tylonol to kick in.”

“Are you sure you're alright? It could be from that blow to your head you took.” Nathan started moving over to where Buck was looking concerned.

“I'm fine. Besides it's not coming from the back of my head like it was when I got hit.”

“I still think you should get it checked out.” Nathan wasn't going to be placated so easily and started reaching towards Buck.

Buck jumped out of his seat, swiping at Nathan's hands, “I said I was fine. If everyone just shut up and quit whingeing I'm sure it would go away.” With that he stormed out of the conference room.

“I guess the meeting's over,” Chris stated.

“Buck isn't acting quite himself today,” Josiah commented.

“You haven't had to live with him for the past few days,” JD remarked. “He's been like a bear.”

“Give him time,” Nathan said, “He's still healing.”

* * * * * * *

“What's up Buck?” Vin asked when he noticed the agent standing in his doorway.

“Just wonderin' how your end of that report was going.”

“Workin' on it now, should have it to you after lunch.”

“I wanted to hand it in before lunch, can't you hurry it along?” Buck's voice was lowered to a growl and he'd started advancing towards the desk.

Vin stood up, “Come on, we're not even late with this report.” He smiled and added, “Wouldn't want Chris to die of shock, would we?”

“Do you have to be a smart ass all the time? You think you can get away with everything.”

“Calm down, Buck...”

Buck wasn't listening anymore, he grabbed Vin and lifted him over the desk throwing him against the far wall. He kneeled down over the smaller man and closed his hand around Vin's throat. Vin struggled to break Buck's grip, but was outweighed.

The other five men had rushed towards Vin's office when they'd heard the crash. “BUCK!” Chris shouted as he leaped towards Buck and tried to pull his oldest friend off Vin.

Wide eyed and in desperation JD grabbed one of the pictures Vin had on his desk and smashed it down over Buck's arm. Buck let go of Vin and spun around facing JD. JD stepped back seeing the wild look in his friend's face. Buck stopped abruptly when he noticed the fear in the kid's eyes, turning he saw Chris helping Vin stand up. Buck placed his head in his hands, “I was going to...” Suddenly he noticed Nathan coming in his direction. He jumped backwards straight into a couple of chairs. As he lay sprawled amongst the now upturned chairs, Buck put his arms up defensively, “No, stay away from me. Don't touch me.”

Nathan was trying to approach Buck again, “We just want to help,” he soothed.

Buck finally managed to stand and ran for the stairs.

* * * * * * *

The stunned silence was broken when Vin spoke, “I think I should go to the hospital.”

“Did I hear correctly? Mr Tanner, did you just offer to seek medical attention without one of us having to drag you kicking and screaming?”

“I just thought I'd see if the doctor who looked after Buck was on duty. What was his name?”

“I think it was Dr Walters,” Nathan answered.

“Good idea. You'll call us if you find anything?” Vin nodded at Josiah and headed out.

* * * * * * *

Everyone started shuffling towards their offices. Chris noticed that JD was frozen to the spot, “Are you okay?”

JD nodded slightly.

“We're going to find out what's happening with Buck. Until then it might be best to leave him be.”

“I guess, I've just never seen Buck like that, he's always... I thought he was going to attack me.”

Chris felt for JD, even he'd never seen Buck quite this way. Sure Buck had a temper, no-one knew that better than Chris, but he'd never take it out on friends. Especially JD, Buck was protective of the kid, almost to the point of being overbearing. Actually attacking any member of the team without provocation was not Buck's style. Chris was startled out of his reverie when JD spoke again. “I shouldn't have hit him. He probably hates me.”

“You did the right thing. You know how bad Buck would have felt if he'd actually hurt Vin.” Chris wasn't sure if he was getting through to JD, “If he'd really wanted to hurt Vin, you or anyone for that matter, no-one would have been able to stop him. Something's making him lose control and he's scared of what might happen if he can't get it back. Don't worry JD, we'll get our old Buck back.”

JD looked up at Chris, this man understood Buck better than anyone, “Yeah, I know we will.”

* * * * * * *

Chris called his team into his office to relay what Vin had told him over the phone. “It seems Dr Walters doesn't exist, however there was a Dr Walker who was visiting the hospital at the time Buck was there who fits the description.”

“But why would a visiting doctor tend to Buck?” Josiah asked.

“I don't know, Vin says that he was there to check out the hospital's machines. He specialises in electronic equipment for patients. Hasn't been a practising doctor for five years.”

Ezra headed out the door after Chris had finished.

“This isn't making much sense,” Nathan commented, “What would Dr Walker want with Buck?”

“I'm planning on finding that out,” Chris answered.

Ezra walked back in with the newspaper and read it out loud, “Medical conference at the Hyatt Hotel on Monday, 23 April at 8.00pm. Keynote speaker, Dr Walker.”

“Someone should definitely be attending that tonight,” Chris stated. “Ezra, do you think you'd be able to get in to talk to the guy after the conference.”

“I cannot foresee any problems. Unless, of course, they are only serving cheap champagne.”

* * * * * * *

Ezra was honestly trying to listen to every word of the speech, but was struggling to keep his eyes open. Dr Walker had been the third speaker and naturally Ezra had been interested in everything the man had to say. But now this conference had become rather boring and Ezra couldn't wait until they the speeches were over so he could corner Dr Walker.

“I found your lecture very interesting. Do you believe you could eventually eliminate the need for large, cumbersome medical equipment and focus on small electronic chips?”

Dr Walker turned around to see an impeccably dressed man standing in front of him, always willing to meet someone who looked to come from money Dr Walker held out his hand, “Thank you, Mr...?”.

Ezra took the extended hand, “Slater, Evan Slater.”

“Do you work for a medical institution?” Dr Walker asked.

“Actually, I work for a private electronics company,” when Dr Walker just smiled, Ezra continued. “I wouldn't think that this type of research would be very lucrative?”

Dr Walker was now glad he was asked to speak at this conference, a private electronics company could definitely become a potential investor. “Actually it isn't, but the same technology could apply to equipment that certain groups are very interested in.”

Ezra cocked an eyebrow, “Can you tell me what kind of equipment?”

“Well, electronic devices do not have to be limited to medical uses. Certain electric currents and frequencies can be used and transmitted in a number of ways to aide in communication, databases, computerised technology.”

Ezra feigned slight disappointment, “Don”t these communication companies already have this technology?”

“To an extent, however we’re still using medical research as our base.”

“I’m afraid that you don’t seem to have anything we could use. The people I work for are looking for something that would give them an edge in business.” Ezra started backing away.

Dr Walker gave it another try, he didn’t want to let this guy get away just yet. “The chips we are talking about are very small and unobtrusive.”

Ezra turned around and scrutinized Walker, “Unobtrusive? As in easily hidden?”

“What exactly would you be looking for?” Dr Walker asked, hoping this was leading where he thought it was.

“As I said we need to stay ahead of the opposition. Communication equipment that isn’t easily detected sounds promising. How unobtrusive or well hidden are these chips exactly?”

Dr Walker smiled, this was going to work out fine. “Would your company be interested in a listening device that can be placed inside a person, picking up all conversation this person has?”

Ezra nodded a fake smile plastered to his face. “Very interested, although I will not go to my employer unless I know how it works including the cost and quantity of production.”

“Actually, there’s only one prototype at the moment. We’re having a few problems with range, when the chip is taken beyond a certain distance from the main terminal, it gives off a pulse.”

Ezra shook his head, “It doesn’t sound like you have anything for me at the moment, perhaps when you’re better organised you can give me a call.” Ezra reached into his jacket to pull out a card.

“No, wait.” Dr Walker didn’t think he could fix the prototype and start production without monetary assistance. “My associates and myself are working on the problem now, it should....”

Dr Walker waited until one of the guests at the conference moved passed out of earshot, “Meet me outside, I know a quiet restaurant where we can discuss this further.”

As Ezra walked towards the exit, he turned around and watched Dr Walker bid his farewells. These people were all the same, all you had to do was act like a potential customer and you could have them eating out of your hand.

* * * * * * *

In the conference room early the next morning six men were discussing everything Ezra had just conveyed to them. “Can we get him on that?” JD asked.

Chris shook his head, “He never admitted that he was experimenting on Buck and he hasn't sold us the device.”

“That's where you come in Mr Lawson,” Ezra smiled.

Chris just stared at his undercover agent, “What?”

“Mr Charles Lawson is my employer. Dr Walker wants one of his lackeys, a Mr Lacey, to meet with you and I this afternoon.”

“I don't get it,” Nathan was putting everything he'd just heard together, “Why didn't Dr Walker recognise your voice, hell even your accent. We have to assume he was listening when we were talking to Buck yesterday morning.”

“Yeah,” JD added, “And why did he pick on Buck?”

“Dr Walker wasn't specifically picking on Buck, he just happened to be in the hospital at the time. One of the nurses mentioned he was an agent and Dr Walker took the opportunity. It could have been any one of us. To answer your question Mr Jackson, the sound is transmitted to a computer first where it is transcribed and saved, fortunately once the computer carries the messages on, our voices become distorted, almost electronic. Dr Walker wouldn't be able to tell if it were a male or female Buck was talking to let alone any accents. Also, because this is still experimental Dr Walker needs to be able to communicate with his team through the receiver immediately. To achieve this he has the main computer hidden in a van that follows him quite closely. Dr Walker believes that these glitches will be fixed fairly soon and that range should not be a problem too much longer, therefore enabling the computer to be kept anywhere. Mr Lacey and another scientist run the computerised end of the operation." Ezra scanned the room, "And before you ask, Dr Walker only spoke to Nathan, Josiah and JD after Buck's incident, Chris and I never met the man and he only passed Vin in the hall.”

“I don't trust this Walker guy. Vin I want you to come along this afternoon and cover us.”

“Dr Walker warned us about bringing anyone else.”

“Don't worry Ez, you won't even know I'm there.” Vin smirked.

Chris looked over at Nathan, Josiah and JD, “The rest of you have to tell Buck what's happened.”

“Actually I think it might be best to write down what's happened and let him read it.” Josiah remarked.

Nathan nodded and turned to JD, “He didn't come home last night," JD said, "But I think I know where he is.”

“Dr Walker lives near the city and I noticed he was wearing his receiving device last night. I would presume he keeps it with him at all times. Perhaps it would be wise if you transported Buck closer to the city so that the problems with range don't start affecting him again.”

“We can move him to my apartment,” Josiah offered.

* * * * * * *

Ezra scanned the clearing Chris and himself were standing in, no sign of this Lacey fellow yet. He then scrutinized the trees, “You may as well quit searching, even I don't know where he's hidden.”

Finally, Lacey and one of his goons showed up. Ezra made the introductions and Chris got right to the point, “I want to see the merchandise.”

“Actually, Mr Lawson we are having a few problems at the moment.”

“Problems?” Chris looked over to Ezra, “You said nothing about problems.”

Ezra just shrugged, “Dr Walker assured me that any glitches would be ironed out by today.”

Lacey shuffled nervously, why couldn't Dr Walker do this himself these guys looked as if they could take him and the bodyguard out. “Well, actually we're still working on the problems with range, also the receiving device switches off when there are loud noises close at hand, like a construction site.” May as well be honest, he was hired for his computer skills not negotiating skills.

“I don't like anyone wasting my time,” Chris glared at Lacey.

“Dr Walker said that you could buy the first working model, but he needed a deposit now.”

“I'd prefer to discuss the financial details with Dr Walker himself,” Chris noticed how nervous the other man was and continued. “Seeing as how I have shown good faith by coming out here I'll decide on the time and location of the meeting with Dr Walker. I'll have Mr Slater contact you with the details.”

Ezra nodded his head just as his cell phone started ringing. He moved out of earshot to answer it. Chris just glared at the two men and indicated their vehicle.

Lacey took the hint, “Nice meeting you,” he stammered and almost ran to the car.

Chris watched them drive away and then saw Vin trotting down the incline he'd been hiding on. Ezra joined them, “That was Josiah. They've got Buck at his apartment. Nathan's checked him out, apparently the area around Buck's ear where the transmitter is implanted is starting to infect. Even when the receiver is within range Buck is in constant pain. Nathan wants to take him to the hospital to remove it now.”

“Are they still on the phone?” Chris asked. Ezra nodded and handed over his cell phone.

“Josiah, you can't take Buck to a hospital yet, Walker will hear it. If Buck can hold out a little longer, do you think Nathan would be able to remove it there when we give the signal?”

There was silence on the other end as Josiah asked Nathan, “Nathan says that the transmitter isn't too deep, he should be able to.”

“Good, tell them to get everything prepared. Vin, Ezra and I are meeting with Dr Walker tonight, as soon as Vin calls, you start removing the implant.”

“Okay, will do. Good luck Chris.”

Chris looked off into the distance, “I don't want Buck to have to wait too long, we don't know how long this bust will take.”

“Both Walker and this Lacey guy are gonna know we're on to them as soon as the transmitter”s out,” Vin stated.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Even if Mr Jackson takes the transmitter out and they keep up conversation around it, Buck's voice is the only one that comes through clearly because it is placed inside him. Dr Walker would realise straight away,” Ezra added.

“Yeah, I know.”

Vin and Ezra became silent and stared off into the distance with Chris.

“Music!” Chris blurted out of nowhere.

Vin and Ezra started humming softly.

“Would you two be helpful for once, or at least just listen.”

Vin and Ezra became silent and attentive.

Chris sighed, why do I always seem to get stuck with these guys. “I was thinking if we take Dr Walker to a noisy place, like that jazz club The Black Cat, he'll either have to take the receiver out or it should shut down anyway. Nathan can then start operating on Buck. The computer will still transcribe what's being said but it can't distinguish voices.”

Vin whistled, “Pretty swanky place you picked there Chris.”

“I”m supposed to be rich and we want him to sell it to us, not anyone else. We shall seduce them with success and dazzle them with benignity,” Chris turned to Ezra, “Isn't that what you told me you do?”

“I was very eloquent.”

* * * * * * *

Nathan, with the help of Josiah and JD, had prepared everything they needed. This waiting was torture, Nathan was trying to look more confident than he actually felt and Buck was getting more and more agitated. Buck had yelled that he didn't want anyone around him because he didn't know what he was likely to do. But, naturally JD was able to get close enough and once Buck had read what was happening, had calmed quite considerably and allowed them to drive him to Josiah's place. Nathan had already given Buck a sedative and Josiah was going to help him with the anaesthetic. Everyone jumped when they heard the phone, it rang twice and then hung up, following that pattern twice more. Well, that was Vin's signal, everyone sprang into action. As Buck was falling into the drug induced sleep he looked up at JD who smiled and mouthed “You'll be fine”.

* * * * * * *

Dr Walker didn't recognise the man dressed in a dark suit, with no tie and his hair pulled back, who was standing at the door of The Black Cat acting as security.

The three gentlemen were shown to a table very close to the band. Chris and Ezra noticed that Dr Walker kept twitching and his hand always came up to his ear. “Are you alright?” Chris asked.

“Fine, thank you. It's just a little noisy in hear.”

“I like boisterous places,” Chris stated. “People are less likely to listen in to you conversations.”

Ezra stifled a smile, Chris was actually very good at undercover work. “Isn't that the bodyguard who escorted Mr Lacey this afternoon?” Ezra asked.

“Very observant, Mr Slater.” Dr Walker commented, “You can't be too careful.”

“I agree,” Chris said and Dr Walker searched the room to see if he could spot who Chris had in place. Both Chris and Ezra grinned when he gave up.

After an hour had gone by Chris felt it was time to push, “Do you have the prototype to show me?”

“Mr Lawson, I don't want to give you anything that isn't working properly yet.”

Chris sighed, “How do you know it's not working properly? Who's testing it?”

“Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Damn,” Chris said to Ezra as Dr Walker moved away from the table. “He may be able to pick up that something's not right.”

Ezra nodded and looked around, Vin was still circling the room every so often, “Have you seen Dr Walker's bodyguard?” he asked.

Chris shook his head, “Not for a while.”

Dr Walker came back to the table, “Mr Lawson, I have just contacted a couple of my associates. Seeing as how you would like to see the prototype, when you're ready and I give the signal they will go and get the transmitter. You see this device also allows us to disable people with the different pitches in sound.”

Both Chris and Ezra tried not to look overly concerned. Chris looked over at Ezra and nodded imperceptibly, they needed a distraction before Walker could give the signal.

Ezra had appeared to be drinking quite heavily and had started slurring his words half an hour ago. “Well, before we do that how about another drink?”

Chris gave him a deadly stare, “Don't you think you've had enough? This deal is about to go down and I don't want to waste anymore time.”

Ezra shoved Chris, “Hey, I'm the one that introduced you two.”

Dr Walker looked at Chris sympathetically, “Good help is hard to find these days,” he commented.

“What's that s'possed to mean?” Ezra had raised his voice and started swinging blindly at Dr Walker and Chris.

Vin was right there, “You've had enough, let me show you to the door.”

“Bugger off, who do you think you are?” Ezra faced Vin, “Hey watch the suit. Let go of the suit.”

Chris and Dr Walker watched as Vin threw Ezra through the door and then followed him out.

* * * * * * *

“You didn't have to be so rough Mr Tanner,” Ezra said as he stood up and brushed his suit.

“The van's parked right beside the building opposite.” Vin stated as he headed in that direction.

Ezra was right behind him, “What about Dr Walker's bodyguard?”

“Actually, there were two of 'em, they're tied up in the lady's room.”

* * * * * * *

“Sorry about that display,” Chris said.

Dr Lawson shook his head, “That's okay, I'd prefer to discuss business one on one anyway.”

“How are you planning on signalling your associates?” Chris inquired.

“Through the receiver.”

“You mean you have it on you? May I have a look....” Chris held out his hand and when Dr Walker placed the receiver in it, he added, “....at the evidence.”

Dr Walker's eyes widened in surprise.

Chris pulled out his ID, “ATF. You're under arrest.”

Chris led Dr Walker out of the building. Across the road Ezra and Vin were coming towards him each holding one of Walker’s associates.

* * * * * * *

Chris, Vin and Ezra arrived at the hospital just as the other four members of the team were leaving. “You're leaving already?” Chris asked.

“Yes, he didn't need to stay overnight, Brother Nathan did an excellent job.” Josiah said looking proudly over to where Nathan was standing.

Vin clapped Nathan on the back, “You are good with a knife.”

“Well, you guys give me plenty of practice,” Nathan said modestly.

“What about me? I'm the one that was hurt. The nurses think I'm very brave.”

“That's because you told them that you went through the surgery without any medication or anaesthetic at all,” JD rolled his eyes.

Chris laughed, “It's good to have you back, Buck.”

* * * * * * *

A week later Chris' team went to see their leader in his office. “Is there a problem?” Chris wasn”t even mildly surprised to see them.

“How come you took out the expenses we put down for the Walker case?” Vin had been elected to speak first.

“Were any of you listening when I held that budget meeting? The Black Cat, the medical supplies Nathan used and the hospital bill are the only things the agency is willing to cover. I don't want to go into that meeting tomorrow morning with an overblown budget.”

“Just wonderful. Next they'll be making us pay for our own bullets,” Ezra mumbled as they headed towards their own offices.

* * * * * * *

The next morning at around 9.00 am, after the mail had been delivered, six men came flying out of their offices at the same time.

“A bill for your dry-cleaning?” Vin glared at Ezra.

“Well, you're the one who threw me through that door. You should have been more gentle.”

“I ain't payin' it.”

“Good, then I don't have to pay for your picture frame,” JD stated.

“You're the one who broke it.”

“I was saving you from Buck, he should pay it.”

“Oh no, Nathan's already charged me for the surgery,” Buck stared at Nathan with a hurt look on his face.

“Well, you guys are always getting hurt expecting me to fix you up. I'm doing as much as a doctor would, and we all know how much they charge.”

“Yeah, but at least we get insurance cover,” Buck hissed.

“Well, I have my own expenses to cover. Josiah charged me for the sheets used when I cut that receiver out.”

“I can't get the blood out, and seeing as how the Bureau won't pay for it I don't see that I should have to.”

All six men were talking at once when Chris stepped off the elevator looking exhausted. The all turned to him, “CHRIS!”

“I don't want to hear about it. I've just come out of a long meeting and now I have more paperwork than you can imagine. You guys sort it out yourselves.”

* * * * * * *

Just after lunch Chris realised it was rather quiet outside his office. He stepped into the main resource area and noticed everyone was out. He walked over to one of the desks and saw the petty cash box opened with a note beside it.

Dear Chris

In case you are interested, our financial problems have been solved. We have decided that we could forego our individual outlays if the Bureau offered to pay for an expensive dinner as gratitude for our notable services. We have recorded the money taken as miscellaneous expenses. We are sure you would have come up with the exact same solution.

It is a sad fact that you, as our team leader, refused to assist us in our time of need. Therefore due to the anxiety this caused to us as individuals and as a team, we have decided that, in compensation, you would not deny us the rest of the afternoon to recuperate from such a distressing situation.

As you probably have already noticed, we have left you $10.00 for your share of the meal. We would have invited you to join us, however felt it would be safer not to divulge our location.

Your devoted and loyal team.

THE END



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