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Payback

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There were things that James Lester had come to expect ever since taking over the ARC six years before.

Explosions. Rampaging creatures. Insane scientists. The Minister having a temper tantrum.

However, with all of that, he was not prepared to be looking up at a group of men who were in their underthings, dripping water all over his office carpet.

Correction. Several dripping wet men and five women who were in fact very dry and apparently looking as innocent as they possibly could.

He waited a moment for the angry voices to die down so that he could be heard.

"Miss Parker? I assume that there is a logical explanation for this?"

"There sure as hell is," one of the men snarled. "Graham ambushed us."

Lester could feel a migraine coming on.

"And how did Lieutenant Graham manage to launch an ambush that ended in most of my men getting wet?"

"Pipe malfunction, sir." Said Lieutenant answered his question with a completely straight face.

"Pipe malfunction?" Lester was sure that he didn't want to hear this. Looking at Graham, Parker, Captain Fiona Black, Corporal Rachel Barrington, and Sergeant Lillian Graves’ very innocent expressions, he knew that he didn't want to know what really happened.

"Yes," the Lieutenant responded. "One of the boys turned on the shower and for some reason the pipes all over the locker room burst and shower the entire area with cold water."

"The locker room in which none of the female employees happened to be in."

"Quite a lucky break," Jess said with a straight face.

"Yes," Lester said. "Quite lucky indeed." Especially since he knew that the women were quite happy hanging out wherever they pleased -- including the men's section of the shower room. He looked at one of the soldiers. "And you're ruining my carpet instead of taking this up with your Captain, why?"

"Captain Becker seems to be otherwise occupied with business," one of the younger men said. "And Captain Black ..."

Captain Black was currently biting the inside of her cheek so as not to laugh.

"Occupied." Lester fought back a sigh. That meant that Becker had known what was going to happen and had managed to suddenly find something that he needed to discuss with Maitland and Anderson, no doubt. Which also meant that one of the wet men in front of him had done something to anger the women.

He ran his eyes along the line of men and pierced one of them with a look. “What did you do this time?”

The soldier in front of him started to protest, but then remembered that Lester usually found out everything. He sighed.

“There might have been a wager made,” he started. “Completely hypothetical, of course.”

He should have known. “And what was this wager, Aitkins?”

The unlucky focus of his attention shifted on his feet. “There might have been a discussion as to whether or not we could rig up a hidden camera in the women’s private quarters without them finding out.”

“You mean their showers?”

“Or their sleeping quarters,” someone muttered, but Lester didn’t see who.

Lester sat back in his chair and shook his head. “It would appear that you lost that so-called hypothetical wager,” he pointed out blandly.

“It appears so, sir.”

“Then I would say that you and your betting partner will be paying to have my carpet dried and shampooed.” There was a sigh, but no protests, which was a good thing for all of them. “Now go, do something.” As everyone started to leave he frowned. “Lieutenant Graham, a word with you.”

Mace had expected this so she waited until the office door had shut behind everyone before looking at Lester calmly.

“The next time you find out about a camera spying on the activities of you and Captain Black, please refrain from doing something that will cause me property damages, is that clear?”

Mace managed not to smile as she nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Lester waited until he was alone in his office. “Really, if the two of you are going to kiss like that where someone might see you there is no reason to destroy property over it.” He shook his head and then picked up his phone to dial a number. When it picked up, he smiled. “McKenna, you owe me twenty quid. It only took the men ten minutes to end up in my office soaked to the skin -- and there were no feathers involved at all this time.”