No one slept. Reyes prepped CMC for the mission with the help of Castillo. Beltran took care of various necessary errands. Dickey, Delgado and Wright welcomed the troops as they reported.
Angel Pagan was the brains behind the tattoos. Morale was at an all-time high late in the offseason training. He wanted a way to bind the team even after their time together was through. It was cliché, yet effective – Mets tattoos. MetsBlooded.
The parade of Mets ready for battle filed in. Pagan was a protégé of Beltran’s but he had a wild streak to him. It was the aspect of Pagan’s approach that Beltran criticized most. War paint and a headband made from an old t-shirt decorated his head.
Next up, Bobby Parnell, the flamethrowing reliever. His weapon-of-choice? A flamethrower.
A pair of fighter pilots arrived together – Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey. The two were close, both on the baseball diamond and the (upcoming) battlefield. Niese’s call sign: “Shark”. Pelf’s: “Linguist”.
Lucas Duda and Ike Davis were next. The two lefthanded sluggers were adept with a baseball bat – each chose it as weapon of choice in hand-to-hand situations. Ike had seen a few too many action movies and was fond of the one-liner.
Ace pilot Pedro Feliciano walked in next, all business. Pleasantries are generally minimal with Pedro, although he is as loyal to his mates as anyone. Call sign: “Perpetual”.
Gregarious Jeff Francoeur was next to show, fresh off hosting The Tonight Show. Frenchy secured the job after Jay Leno quit and ratings have never been better. The consummate teammate, Frenchy headed to Citi Field at first notice of Thole’s kidnapping.
The newest squad member Ronny Paulino was known for his surprisingly excellent physical fitness and the ability to fart on command. A true morale booster.
Longtime friends Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans rode to Citi on Murph’s motorcycle. The two have long been friends but knew they might never see each other again after this mission. Murphy’s role is at CMC with Reyes and Castillo; Evans is a fighter pilot, call sign “Anonymous”.
Teen idol Ruben Tejada was the youngest member of the squad. Pagan was his mentor, just as Beltran guided Pagan. He was the only one to walk in listening to an iPod. Pagan shook his head.
And finally, the berserker of the crew, Chris Carter, showed. The reason for Carter’s celebrity among teammates is simple. As a Red Sox minor leaguer, he brutalized thirteen Florida Marlins farmhands during batting practice, mostly the top prospects. Needless to say, once the MetsBlooded crew heard about him, he wasn’t with the Red Sox for long.
The men were in high spirits but still worried about their teammate Thole. They trusted their leaders, who lined them up down the first base line. Dickey puffed a cigar silently. Delgado squeezed a bat in his hands. Wright stepped forward to address the men.
“We’re gonna be dropped into Venezuela, dressed in camouflage. And once we’re in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin’, guerrilla army, we’re gonna do everything to find Josh Thole and take him home alive. And we’re gonna destroy anything in our path to do it. Now I don’t know about y’all, but I sure as hell did not train my ass off for months, master every form of hand-to-hand combat and get woken up in the middle of the night to teach our enemies a lesson in humanity. Kidnappers ain’t got no humanity. Phillies and got no humanity. Marlins ain’t got no humanity. Every son of a bitch in our path? They’re gonna die. We will be cruel to our enemies, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. We will rescue our teammate or die trying. Sound good?!”
The response was loud and passionate: “Yes, sir!”
Beltran entered “TAKA”, the quiet Flushing sushi restaurant, which had long closed for the night. Its proprietors, Hisanori and Ken Takahashi, had been up all night, reluctantly creating for their former teammate the fiercest blade they could.
“I need Japanese steel”, Beltran had said earlier that morning.
“Why do you need Japanese steel?”, replied Hisa.
“I have vermin to kill.”
“You must have a big rat if you need Takahashi steel.”
A delirious Ken greeted Beltran at the front of the restaurant. “I’m not bald, I shave my head”, he strangely said.
Beltran was familiar with Ken’s wackiness but respected his sword-crafting ability. “Is it ready?”, he asked.
“Yes. Hisa is in back, finishing up.”
Beltran walked into the back room to find Hisa meditating over the sword. Quiet flute music played in the background. Hisa spoke, to himself at first, and then to Beltran.
“I’ve completed doing, what I swore an oath to God years ago, to never do again. I have created, ‘something that kills people’. And in that purpose, I was a success. I’ve done this because philosophically, I am sympathetic to your aim. Love the Mets. I can tell you with no ego, this is my finest sword. If on your journey, you should encounter God… God will be cut. Mole-faced warrior – go.”
Beltran need the finest steel to contend with Urbina’s weapon of choice and the Takahashi’s had provided it. He nodded, took the sword from Hisa’s hands and said nothing as he departed. The Takahashis embraced as Beltran left.
Omar had been stewing all night in his office. The bottle of Wild Turkey was empty and he could no longer sit around and do nothing. He always had ants in his pants, jumping to terrible decisions without much thought. Oliver Perez. Frank Rodriguez. Jason Bay. Countless other mistakes. He dialed a familiar friend.
“Alex, Omar here – did I, uh, wake you?”
Alex Cora was on the line. “No, no don’t worry about it.” Omar had obviously woken him, it was before dawn. “What’s up? You sound disturbed.”
“We’ve got a situation over here. Now, I know you’re not on payroll anymore but I need someone I can trust to lead a little mission for me. Are you in?”
“Um, maybe, if you tell me what the fuck this is about.”
“Right, right. Well Josh Thole was playing in the Venezuela League and he was kidnapped by Ugueth ---“
“Yes, just listen. He was kidnapped by Ugueth. Carlos, David, Jose and the boys are headed down there in a few to get him back.”
“Sounds like the boys have this one under control, but why am I needed.”
“Well, they sorta shut me out of the whole mission. I want you and a few of my guys to be a backup plan in case things go wrong. Can you get to Citi soon? And round up the rest of the crew?”
“Goodness Omar. I dunno about going to Venezuela but I’ll come to Citi if only because you don’t sound so good.”
“Thanks bub. Don’t forget to bring Mike Jacobs.”
On his way back to Citi, Beltran made one final call. It was to an old teammate who was coincidentally holing up in Venezuela for a bit.
“We haven’t spoken in awhile my friend. This I know. If you turn me away I will not hold a grudge“, Beltran said.
Heavy breathing was the only sound on the other end of the call. Then words. “I would relish the opportunity to converse, Carlos. I am quite busy with my lucrative business down here. A dozen new players are asking for shipments of this stuff every day. But how may I be of service to you? I thought you swore off enhancement?”
“Fernando, it sounds ridiculous, but how quickly can you build me a church?”, Beltran inquired of Tatis.
“Not long, not long at all. I don’t even want to know what for. Where do you need it?”
“In Venezuela, you don’t even have to leave the country. I can send you the exact location.”
Tatis paused, now curious what this was all about. “Who are you after?”
“Rescuing Thole. Ugueth has him. We'll need a place to hide out for a bit.”
“Ugueth, eh. I know him well. Do you know why I help you, Carlos?”
“Because he would want me to. He wants you. He wants to cut you up. Be ready.”
“Gracias, mi amigo. Check your phone for more info about the project. See you soon.”
Everything was coming together. The petty problems that had plagued the organization for years had not showed up. Maybe it’s because Omar wasn’t running the show, Beltran thought. Nevertheless, it was no time to celebrate. Beltran strode into Citi Field after his call to find the men prepping their gear. They all quieted at the site of their leader, waiting for his words. The way things had always gone, they expected to hear some bullshit about an unexpected snag in the operation. Instead, they got just the opposite.
“Gentlemen”, Beltran said, “let’s load up!”