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The Cold Calculus (The Professionals)

Title: The Cold Calculus
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: The Professionals
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: Which would Cowley choose? How would he make the choice?
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Graphic violence and character death.



At least the rain had stopped.

George Cowley shook himself, perplexed at the ludicrous thoughts that could still infiltrate the defences of his mind in times of emergency. After all these years, he could still lose a moment to the caprices of adrenaline. He knew he had no time for this.

He leaned against his motor as the last of his men drove past, tyres screeching as if in angry protest of this bizarre turn of events. Inside himself, Cowley screeched as well. Only three men were supposed to have been in that building. Only three. So he'd ordered his best team in to take them, dead or alive, and instead he'd sent Bodie and Doyle into the lair of an entire terrorist organization. How many men had they found? Twenty? Thirty? A dozen had just escaped through the back, including the ringleader. Now Murphy and Jax and everyone else was in pursuit.

Except Cowley. He'd stayed to pick up the pieces. He did not know the cause of this debacle -- was there a plant inside CI5 tampering with information? was it a last-minute change of plans on the part of the terrorists? -- but he placed the blame on his own doorstep.

He entered the abandoned warehouse through a side door with stealth that would have made Macklin proud. Leaning against the doorframe, gun in hand, he took the scene in at a glance. Dead bodies littered the floor. Cowley allowed himself a moment of pride; his best team might've been led into the lion's den, but the two had taken many a lion down with them.

It only took moments for Cowley to scan the warehouse, but those seconds stretched in surreal timelessness as the damage became clear. To his left, Ray Doyle scrabbled along the floor, all but paralyzed by a shot in the hip. One hand covered the wound and the other stuggled for purchase on the filthy concrete. His face contorted around a hoarse cry for Bodie, repeated over and over as he dragged himself toward the center of the storeroom.

Across to Cowley's right, Bodie fought to prop himself on his elbows, both hands clutching at his belly. Full lips seemed to form Ray's name, but any sound died behind the bright red blood that bubbled and spilled down his chin.

Before Cowley could act the walls shook with a violent explosion. He turned into the support of the doorframe, noting to himself the sound and size of the blast. There would be structural damage, and possibly fire. As the echoes died he lurched back into the building, intent upon rescue. The far wall of the warehouse burst into flame. Cowley felt the heat on his face. He had such little time.

He summoned anger and grief and put their combined power behind his rationality. Doyle was wounded, but he might well survive if he received medical attention soon. Bodie was much more gravely injured: gut shot, haemorrhaging. His chances were poor.

In a moment Cowley was at Doyle's side, hooking hands beneath each arm and pulling him toward the door. Doyle's litany of Bodie's name erupted into a scream of pain as Cowley moved him. Then the former copper went still in Cowley's arms. With awkward, dragging steps Cowley finally brought Doyle to the doorframe, then kneeled beside him and looked back for Bodie.

Smoke clouded the air and brought tears to Cowley's eyes. Squinting, he could make out Bodie's hunched form. The ex-merc was huddled in on himself, shuddering and choking for bloody breath, his eyes fixed in terrible concentration on the quickly approaching flames. He could not move; he could only drown in his own blood or be burned alive.

There was no time. No time at all. Bodie was a good lad, Cowley thought. Perhaps the best. Such a terrible loss, but Cowley would face that later. Someone would pay, but that, too, was an issue for a later time. There was no chance for rescue. But there was a chance for mercy.

Cowley aimed his gun.

The sudden movement across the cloudy room caught Bodie's eye, and he turned to see his mentor. Cowley waited as understanding shifted the angles of the ravaged body. Bodie looked to Cowley's side and recognized the unconscious Doyle, safe in Cowley's care. He settled then, as if satisfied, and ceased his struggles for air. He nodded once and closed his eyes.

Despite the smoke and the stress, Cowley's aim was true. But as he lowered the gun, the still fingers began a palsied trembling that made every movement clumsy.

He pulled Doyle clear only heartbeats before the building's roof collapsed.

The flames battered the darkening sky. With exact precision, Cowley summoned an ambulance for Doyle and called his men for reports. Steadiness eventually returned to his hands.

The rain began again, a gentle grey downpour. Cowley ignored it and thirsted for scotch.

THE END

Vital Stats: Originally written in 1998.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
parmanya
Nov. 20th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
Pros trope...but there's a reason for that.
I've seen this premise treated more than once on the Circuit, but - yours hit harder than most.
This is the kind of story that leaves you, not weeping, but - rather sort've numb, with eyes-to-the-distance or turned-inward...don't know how to describe this.
(Just read your XF "Warmth - need to go comment there - and *that* one made me cry "out loud" ... *this* one, is - quieter, but hits very deeply...I can't quite explain what I'm trying to say...)

Anyhow, thank you for writing it, and taking the time to post it for others to appreciate it. This is a very strong, well-written story, and yet another example of why Pros fandom is still going so strongly after all this time...
morganstuart
Nov. 20th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Pros trope...but there's a reason for that.
I appreciate this so much!

This is the kind of story that leaves you, not weeping, but - rather sort've numb, with eyes-to-the-distance or turned-inward...don't know how to describe this.

Oh wow - I'm most grateful for this. I'm quite a fan of the "bleak" mood in fiction, and your description here fits much of what I think of as "bleak." I'm so glad you found this to be moving and effective.

The whole thing began as part of a discussion about which of the two Cowley would choose. It struck me that he would never play favourites, even if he had one; he would be ruthlessly rational and choose the one with the better chance at survival, because he's a -- perhaps the -- professional. I have a particular soft spot for the Cowley-Bodie relationship, which is why I went this direction to make my point (and rip my own heart up a bit!).

Just read your XF "Warmth - need to go comment there - and *that* one made me cry "out loud" ... *this* one, is - quieter, but hits very deeply

This means so much to me. Thank you, on both counts.

I really appreciate your taking the time to read my stories and leave such encouraging and supportive feedback. Many thanks to you for your kindness and generosity!
shooting2kill
Feb. 28th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
I've just found my way here via AO3 and I wanted to support the first comment in saying what an impressively-written story this was and yes, a very rational decision made by Cowley, terribly bleak, harsh and necessary. Some bleak stories are just that: bleak, but when the bleakness is written so well the story assumes a new level.

I wish you'd write more Pros but in the meantime, thank you for this piece!
morganstuart
Feb. 29th, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for your kind words! I'm so glad you saw Cowley's decision as necessary and in-character, and that the bleakness worked in this context. I'm especially thrilled that you liked the writing. I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

I've written two more Pros stories, both set years later, when the Lads are older. While they are crossovers with Sherlock, they are Pros-centric (indeed, the first has only Bodie and Doyle in the scene), and my intention was for them to work for readers who are familiar only with the Pros. They are "Father and Farther" and its sequel, "I Wonder As I Wander."

Again, thank you so much for your lovely feedback. You've made my day!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )