~ Black's Magic ~
by MJ and Cephalgia
So I guess you are all wondering what this story is about huh? What do you expect from the little snippets of information in this disclaimer?
Well... this is very different from the last stories. I here by introduce you to Addison Black, Special Operations Agent for MI5. As you might imagine, we are talking about a soldier for the British government. So I will tell you now... there is violence. Not sickening or bloodthirsty, just appropriate for the story.
Sex?? Yes, I know you are wondering. Well of course there is sex, though again, appropriate for the story. It is not gratuitous... honestly... I believe it is appropriate for the story? hold on... I said that? umm, anyway? There is some bad language in here too.
Special thanks goes out to Reagan and my mum for their editing talents. To Maya, Tim and Mike for their information and to Spiky who if it wasn't for her encouraging me to turn a simple idea, from a game we played (Create your own movie character) this story wouldn't have been written at all.
Yeah, what she said.
Send any comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
By MJ and Cephalgia
High thread count, smooth texture, taste of basic fabric paint?hmm, my guess is a hand-painted silk scarf. By the taste of the pigment I'd say East Indian, more than 30 years old. Guess that seminar on Asian Craft Construction has finally come in handy.
Figuring out what was being used as a gag and blindfold, however, did Skyler Tidwell little good in actually getting rid of the things. For the thousandth time she tested the ropes binding her wrists and ankles together and wondered when she would find out what exactly had happened to her and why. She could tell she was in a vehicle and that it was moving, but basically that was all. Oh, one other thing Skyler thought as she was bounced yet again, this road is in desperate need of repair. It was a perplexing puzzle and the one thing Doctor Tidwell detested was a puzzle. She ran it over in her mind one more time, looking for the elusive clue that would let her figure out what the hell was going on.
It had been early evening when Skyler arrived at Wellington University. After a brief stop to check in at her hotel, she had taken a taxi immediately to the centuries old institution. It had been two years since she had last seen her mother and Sky was pleased when her mom suggested they get together at the University located just north of London. "If you're going to be in the same hemisphere as I am, you might want to drop by," her mother, the eminent Dr. Marlene Tidwell, had joked. The jest covered a very real longing to spend more time with her daughter.
Her mother was on a sabbatical from Eastern College in Pennsylvania where she was a tenured professor of Biology and was "on loan" to Wellington for a research project in genetics. Skyler wasn't completely sure of the nature of the project but she was under the impression the combined American and British governments were bankrolling it. Whatever it was, her mother was enjoying the time being spent on the project, telling her daughter that the stimulating research was "keeping her young". Not that her mother needed to worry, she retained the good looks of a woman many years her junior, obviously favored by the genetics she now studied.
From her cocoon of darkness, the younger doctor reviewed her present circumstances again. She was less than thrilled and was becoming more and more frightened. It won't help, Skyler Jane Tidwell, so just calm yourself down. You've got a good mind, so use it. If you lose your cool you'll have no control whatsoever. Okay, I don't know what's happening now so I'll try to think about something I know everything about. Calm down, calm down? Skyler let her thoughts drift to her own life to combat the rising feeling of panic that at times was threatening to swamp her.
Sky's family lived in the Philadelphia area where her mother had been hired as an associate professor at Eastern College. Skyler's father was a police officer and had been her best friend. So middle class she thought and smiled a little though the gag made it difficult. Swing set in the backyard and a puppy in the house.
Skyler remembered the golden lab with great fondness. I sure miss you Tess. Her mother got the puppy from a co-worker shortly after it was weaned and brought it home in a box for Skyler. The excited child pulled the dog from its blanket draped home and said, "Welcome to my house, Tess!" Marlene Tidwell was astonished that her daughter had decided on a name so quickly and asked her about it.
"Her name is on the box," the child said simply as she hugged the puppy close. Marlene flipped the lid back to see the label on the box she had obtained from work?100 Test Tubes. Tess Tube was the dog's name from that point on though it was rarely called anything but Tess.
The defining moment of Skyler's childhood took place when she was six years old on a cloudy and cold Monday afternoon. Even now the memory caused her to shiver and not only in remembrance of the weather that day. She had come home from school and settled herself in front of the television to watch the afternoon cartoons. Her mother had finished early at the college and was in the kitchen chopping vegetables for a homemade soup. The volume on the television made it impossible for her mother to hear the knock on the door.
Skyler opened the door to greet two somber faced men, one in a heavy topcoat and the other in a patrolman's uniform. The one in the topcoat spoke first.
"Skyler? Remember me? I'm Lieutenant Simmons, I work with your dad."
Marlene entered the living room then and came up behind her daughter at the door. When she saw the visitors on the front porch of her home the smile slipped from the face of the biology professor.
Skyler's father had been killed in the line of duty. He'd been trying to protect a small child who had become trapped in the crossfire of rival gangs bent on ownership of an insignificant inner city park. The little girl had survived the furious assault but Officer Jerome Tidwell had not. At the funeral Skyler held her mother's hand as tears slowly streamed down her cheeks. Her father had been her hero, but now he was gone and from that point on it would be just Marlene Tidwell and her rather serious blonde headed child.
They had been a tight-knit twosome, even through Skyler's attendance at Eastern. Being something of a child prodigy, she had graduated high school at age 14 and went directly on to college. She had a huge capacity for knowledge and a fantastic memory that was as close to photographic as you could come without actually earning that label. She immersed herself in academia, all but ignoring the social aspects of life. After all, dating was bound to be a problem for a sixteen-year-old taking courses in such arcane subjects as Pre-Columbian Archeology in South America and Mummification Processes of World Peoples. Study became a substitute for companionship and books replaced the need for friends.
Flying through her college curriculum, Skyler continued on to graduate studies, receiving her Masters Degree at age twenty-one and her Doctorate at twenty-four. Her fascination with everything from Geology to Psychology made it difficult to narrow her focus down and when she finally graduated, Eastern College issued its first ever advanced degree in the nebulous area of "Human Studies". Skyler called herself a jack-of-all-trades; "egghead" and "professional student" were the less flattering names given to her by some of her fellow students. The scholar didn't care though, all aspects of human behavior and human endeavors fascinated her.
In the two years since Skyler had last seen her mother she had both been traveling and working on projects important to her academic and professional career. The twenty-eight year old had supervised the excavation of an early man site near Olduvai Gorge in Africa, studied Sherpa populations in Nepal and catalogued destruction of crucial rainforest in the Amazon basin. Each project may have seemed completely different from the other but they all fell into Skyler's area of expertise, or at least one of her areas.
Finishing up a recent six-month survey of disaster relief effectiveness among sub-Saharan nomadic populations, Skyler was now ready for a stint in the more populated and civilized British Isles. After taking some time off to complete her blistering report to the United Nations for their failure in the area of African disaster relief, she was scheduled to oversee the excavation of a newly discovered area of Roman ruins in the northern part of the country. It seemed that an industrious farmer sinking a new well had possibly discovered the first true temple to Artemis in England. Skyler was excited by the new project and couldn't wait to share the news with her mother. It was this that had led her to the campus where her mother's lab was located.
Skyler was feeling good and if she had been given to noticing that sort of thing she would have to admit she looked good too. The North African sun had graced her features with a deep tan that accented her emerald green eyes and her blonde hair was streaked with sun coaxed highlights. The relatively rugged living conditions had subtly toughened her up and the perennial scholar now had an appreciation for the definition her form had taken on. She liked the way she fit a little more snugly into the black jeans, green polo shirt and black suede jacket she had chosen for the meeting.
Being dropped off at the main gate to the university, Skyler was surprised to find the campus quiet and sparsely populated until she remembered the students wouldn't be returning from the Christmas break for another week. The sun had set by the time she found a security guard to ask for directions to Newton Hall, the building in which her mother's lab was located. She laughed to herself at the term "security guard" as the elderly man gave her the guidance she needed. It was obvious this sweet grey-haired gentleman was more of a rattle-the-doorknob-to-make-sure-it-is-locked kind of watchman than a security guard. Fortunately, by the look of the sleepy campus, it didn't appear that his services were needed in any other capacity.
Skyler headed for the large brick building that housed the Physical Sciences Department. As she walked, automatic lights began flickering to life, illuminating the cobblestone path but sending adjacent objects into shadows. She hurried along toward the brightly lit building; her mother had assured her that working late was commonplace and she would have no trouble finding someone to point out the genetics lab once she was inside. Her hand was reaching out for the handle to the door when a voice called out to her.
"Doctor Tidwell?" Skyler turned to see a pleasant looking, red haired young woman smiling at her.
"That's right," Skyler replied, thinking her mother had sent someone to watch for her. At her words she felt, rather than saw, movement behind her. Then several things happened all at once. Her arms were grabbed; she was shuffled out of the light of the doorway and then total darkness descended as something was placed over her head. Her vision was obscured and as she opened her mouth to cry out, a smothering hand was clamped over her mouth through the material. Screaming was forgotten as breathing took precedence. The doctor pulled air through her nose in a panic as she felt a sharp jab to the inside of her left arm.
Skyler felt heaviness in her limbs and the hand across her mouth now seemed to be holding her head up as it lolled forward. The doctor dimly recognized the agent being used to drug her from a course she had taken in Applied Pharmacology, but that was as far as she got before slipping completely into unconsciousness.
And then what? Skyler thought. I don't have a clue. How long was I out? Where am I and for God's sake, why is this happening to me?
For all her education she didn't have an answer to that one.
On the rocky coastline of the southern edge of Cornwall, a statuesque lighthouse stood on the crest of a large cliff. The tall cylindrical building, painted with highly visible red and white stripes was the only notable feature on an otherwise banal landmass. Stretching out as far as the human eye could see and spanning around three quarters of the building was the English Channel; a large mass of water separating the British Isles from the rest of Europe. To any onlooker the site would appear to be abandoned, both lonely in the lighthouse's singularity and in its situation, but to one person it was home. A closer inspection of the area would reveal well maintained areas of shrubbery and flowers, hand built wooden furniture for hot summer days and even worn and muddy boots by the doorway. A wooden structure, which would seem nothing more than a small shack was actually the doorway to an underground garage. The facility was only one small part of a larger compound but it housed three cars, one motorbike and two bicycles with enough tools to preserve the upkeep of them all. The lighthouse was in perfect working order and on dark nights its light beamed proudly as a warning beacon for all passing ships.
It was mid-morning and the sky was littered with dark winter clouds. They stretched out across the sky covering a once brilliant blue with a dull and ominous grey. A distant rumble rolled over the land signaling the coming of a heavy storm. Seagulls that had been soaring through the air began heading towards sheltered land as the atmosphere flowed with an eerie calm.
From a distance the sound of an approaching vehicle began to increase. Out along a single, well-worn and narrow road a navy blue SUV rose over the horizon and made its way towards the lighthouse. The crunch and grind of dust and rocks grated under the 4 x 4's thick, heavy wheels as it made a speedy climb towards home. The vehicle never decreased its speed as it neared the wooden shack and instead a quite beep floated unheard over the land as a remote door was activated and garage doors opened. The 4 x 4 skilfully manoeuvred its way through the doors and they closed behind as it travelled down into the underground garage and screeched to a halt beside a black Audi TT convertible. The engine died as the sole occupant of the vehicle opened the door and black booted feet hit the ground.
Addison Black climbed out of the Range Rover and closed the door behind her. She pulled off black shades and slipped one arm into the pocket of her tight blue Levis as she headed towards two metal doors. The door on the left led to the rest of the underground facility and required an eight-digit password and fingerprint scan to enter while the right door lead to the lighthouse. Addison took the right door. She slipped a small silver key into the lock and opened the barrier, taking the steps two at a time until she reached the upper door of the narrow corridor. After keying in a smaller, four-digit password she stepped into the main building.
Once passing through the door and stepping immediately into the kitchen, Addison slipped off her black leather jacket and draped it across the back of a nearby chair. She held out her arms and stretched quickly before scanning the room. Usually by now she would have been greeted.
"Spike?" Addison called, her inquisitive eyes searching. "Hey you little beast, where are you?"
Hearing nothing, Addison stepped further into the kitchen and kicked off her boots. Socks still in place she padded across the black and white tiled floor to the spiral staircase. Ignoring the black iron banister, the ebony haired woman climbed the steps to the first floor sitting room of the lighthouse.
"Spike?" She questioned, spotting a peculiar looking lump under the cream throw over her settee. Knowing Spike was hard of hearing; the woman stepped a little closer. "Don't tell me you are angry at me for staying out all night? I know Jenny came to give you a walk early this morning you little mutt."
Addison sat down beside the covered lump and immediately noticed a response. A tiny head lifted under the blanket and struggled to free itself from the cover's confines while Addison chuckled at the dog's antics. After seconds of the small dog stumbling around, Addison took pity on the whimpering mongrel and pulled the throw from Spike's head. Immediately a tiny black dog, with gray speckled flecks on its head, bounced into her arms.
"Hey, I see you missed me, girl!"
Spike barked, jumping around frantically upon Addison's lap as she tried to lick every available inch of skin. Unfortunately, due to an unnaturally small stature, that was nothing higher than her stomach.
"All right, calm down, girl." The black dog settled immediately into Addison's lap. "Good girl," she said and began stroking her hand over Spike's head. "Oh you would have liked the one I had last night, girl. Uh huh! She had magnificent breasts?" Spike looked up at Addison unimpressed. "Not a breast girl? Okay... well she had legs that could wrap around your body twice... and a tongue that could scramble eggs at fifty paces!" Spike yawned and placed her head back upon her mistress' lap. "Well think what you will, Spiky, but she was one hell of a sexy lady. An off-season tourist," she added. "We spent last night in her hotel room and let me tell you... there was very little sleep involved!"
With a disinterested huff, Spike rolled onto her back as Addison's hand mindlessly wandered to her stomach and commenced a gentle tickling. Resting her head back against the sofa Addison's dark eyes moved to the television unit on the opposite side of the room. Sitting upon the television set was a medium sized photo frame holding a portrait of four uniformed soldiers. Though from her distance Addison was unable to make out the four smiling bodies, from memory she knew the colour print by heart. The picture was of Addison with the three other members of her four-man fire team. At the age of twenty-one Addison had joined the Royal Marines. Her decision to do so being one initially made out of a desire to leave her past behind. Addison was the only child of equally abusive parents who found the quest for their next drink favourable over the welfare of their child. She grew up in a small three-rise block of flats owned by the city council and positioned in a neighbourhood reputed for its high crime rate and grotty appearance. It was an estate in which just living there, alone was a strike against employment opportunity. The only way many youths attempted to earn money was by turning to a life a crime. It was a direction that Addison herself had taken. Backed by a gang of five friends from the same neighborhood, they started by stealing from shops and re-selling what they stole at half the retail price. Addison quickly earned the reputation as the girl to go to when something was wanted at a cheaper price, no questions asked. At eighteen years old of age, Addison had become quite talented at avoiding capture but soon the desire for more reared its head. Addison began stealing cars, first to smash into shops and steal the merchandise, and then simply for the thrill of the chase. She began to love the high-speed chases the police would give when they came across the stolen vehicles. Action-packed chases down midnight streets, in cars or on foot, were almost nightly rituals. Never once did she get caught, often managing to disappear around an unexpected corner. Nor did the local authorities ever have any idea of who she was. For three years that was her way of life. Continuing to live at home, she found her parents stole much of her own 'belongings' for the purchase of either cigarettes or alcohol. It was a vicious circle that found Addison's life in a rut. Then one evening, on the thirty first of October, something happened that changed her life forever.
Pushing the painful memory aside and holding Spike gently with one hand, Addison rose to her feet and crossed the room. She picked up the framed photograph and looked down at the smiling faces. The picture was taken the morning after the four friends has returned from a day's leave. They spent most the day drinking and finished the night off by getting the Royal Marine crest tattooed onto their upper arms. The day after the picture was taken they had all left for a six-month training period in the desert.
Training in the Royal Marines was one of the longest and most demanding infantry training regimes in the world. That was of no consequence to Addison. She had set her ambitions on becoming a Commando Soldier and nothing would dissuade her from the pledge she had made to serve her country the best way she could. Addison easily passed all series of tests of fitness, endurance and military professionalism and earned the right to wear the Green Beret and 'Royal Marines Commando' flashes upon her uniform. It was then that she joined the 45th Commando at Arbroath in Scotland.
Addison was also honoured to be awarded the Commando Medal which was given to any soldier who showed he or she possessed qualities such as leadership, unselfishness, cheerfulness under adversity, courage and determination while maintaining high professional standards during training. They were considered qualities that defined the commando spirit.
Addison smiled down at her friends. They had been close during their time together. Addison had always found it easy to draw people by a unique and striking visual appearance that was a point of comment by everybody she met in her younger days. It was also lucky that the four did get along so well as they not only trained together but also shared accommodation. Life as a Marine Commando was never plain sailing. It seemed that around every corner another hurdle was there to overcome, and it was something each soldier cherished. Though there were few women in the Marines, Addison didn't come up against as much sexism as she anticipated. Her talents as a Marine Commando made sure of that. It was common knowledge among the ranks that Addison Black could take a man down with a single punch? and she had.
For six years Addison remained in the Marines but soon she yearned for more, more of a challenge, something that could push her further and harder. She was given the opportunity to join the SAS, one of the most elite counter insurgency forces in the world. It was so secretive that many people weren't even aware at that time that such a team existed. Without so much as a chance for second thought, Addison agreed and passed the initial selection process easily. It was then that her instruction really started as she underwent such things as medical training, advanced weapons training and parachuting. The first phase was that of endurance, beginning with a weeklong battle fitness course and then learning basic map revision, gym work, orienteering and many miles of running or marching while carrying up to sixty pounds in weight. Addison found the Endurance March, which took twenty hours to complete, the most gruelling by far. However, she passed the first test and went on to SAS weapons training, languages and took a Mensa test to make sure she could adjust to the SAS way.
The second part was the Jungle Phase and took place in Brunei at a British army jungle training school. It was six weeks without a shower and, to Addison, the most uncomfortable part of the training. It was also the phase where many recruits failed, as getting ill was considered unsuccessful completion. Survival was the key and getting even a cold was failure. The last and most intense part of Addison's training was combat survival. One month of living off the land whilst using evasion and escape techniques, she also learned interrogation techniques from people who had been tortured. The final test was known simply as survival week. One week of trying to live off the land while being hunted down by Ghurkhas and Para's, knowing that if caught she would be interrogated. Eventually she was caught, and straight away Addison was blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination. Her wrists bound, she was kept in a small cage made from chicken wire. For forty-eight hours Addison was held and interrogated. She was allowed to give only four pieces of information: her name, rank, number and date of birth. The only other piece of information she was asked was her mother's name. For that she could only reply, 'I cannot give you that information'. For forty-eight hours she was asked the same question; she was beaten, starved, and then she had been placed back in her cage that was covered with corrugated iron that was beaten with a hammer for over an hour yet she replied, 'I cannot give you that information'. Addison received brutal punishment for her persistence. One moment that always stood out in memory was when she was hit with such force that she fell to the floor and felt bones in her arm and cheek break? but still she denied them. Because of her strength and ability to prove she was not a security risk, she passed the last phase and was awarded her SAS beret and one-year probation.
By the time her one-year probation was over, something unexpected happened. General Blithe, a member of the British Military intelligence otherwise known as MI5, approached Addison. A new secretive division was opening within MI5 to be run by high-ranking individuals with top-level clearance who wanted Special Operatives to work for the Government. These operatives, who were already highly trained in all areas and competent to work in the field alone, were required to serve the Military and Government on strategic missions. Whether they required information on other countries, kidnappings, rescues, surprise ambushes, or data hacking, each S.O. Agent was required to be able to handle them all. Addison was surprised to hear General Blithe had been watching her career for many years and considered her an ideal candidate for this clandestine operation. She readily accepted.
Was she a spy, a mercenary or a soldier? That was unclear to even herself. She was known simply as Addison Black SO2, secret agent for MI5.
This was the position Addison has held for the last five years and at the age of thirty-four Addison felt she was only now just reaching her prime. The best part about her job was that she got to choose where she wanted to live and as soon as she found the lighthouse, she knew that was what she wanted. The lighthouse was fully capable of working on its own; it didn't need a keeper and that suited Addison fine. The place was her own little oasis of solitude, away from the hustle and bustle of life and where she could simply relax. Even the most hectic life needs the occasional down time.
The vehicle, Skyler was riding in, came to an abrupt halt; bringing her out of her thoughts and back into the minimal input she was receiving from the world around her. Listening intently she heard two doors open then slam shut and a pair of footsteps crossing graveled ground.
A door nearby opened and a rush of colder air fell across her. In the back of a van or truck she thought quickly before a familiar female voice reached her.
"Doctor Tidwell? The drug should have worn off by now so don't bother to feign unconsciousness. It will be much easier if you walk with us and not make us drag you across the ground. The stones will definitely mar your lovely face." An unseen hand touched her cheek and Skyler involuntarily pulled away.
A soft laugh floated through the blackness. "That's what I thought." There was a brief pause then the woman said, "She's awake. Get her inside. The blindfold and gag stay put until she's in the guest room." Skyler felt the ropes around her ankles cut loose and her upper arms were used to roughly pull her out of the vehicle. A burning pain started in her shoulders and the ropes dug into her wrists that were still bound behind her.
Her feet touched the ground and momentarily her knees threatened to give way as the aftereffects of the drug made themselves known. With an effort she remained upright and even moved without stumbling as she was propelled forward. Skyler couldn't shake the feeling she had heard the woman's voice somewhere before, then it struck her. The red-haired woman at the University! The voice had been tinged with a light Irish accent and it was that trait that the scholar remembered now. She silently congratulated herself on figuring out one part of the mystery and she felt better for it. In Skyler's world understanding always meant control and control was the one thing she could never get enough of.
Through the soft material of her suede boots, Skyler could feel gravel give way to what felt like paving stones.
"Steps," the woman's voice came again, this time from behind her. Four short steps were taken with minimal problem and Skyler was once again out of the fresh air. The air was warmer indoors but Skyler didn't notice as she was concentrating on memorizing the pacing and numerous turns they were taking. She had a feeling her hosts wouldn't give her much of an opportunity to leave, but you never knew when the information would come in handy.
She was pulled to a stop only to feel the floor suddenly drop out beneath her. It wasn't a long elevator ride down but her heart sank with the cubicle as each second passed. The movement halted abruptly and Skyler was once again urged forward.
"In here," the voice instructed, and Skyler was moved to her left. The guiding hands left her arms and the sound of footsteps retreating preceded the sound of a door being shut and locked behind her.
"Let me make you a little more comfortable, Doctor," the woman's voice said causing Skyler to jump a little. She hadn't realized the woman was still in the room. Bindings at her wrists were removed and the scholar drew her arms around to the front of her body to massage her forearms. The gag was removed followed by the blindfold. Skyler squinted and blinked sensitive emerald orbs against the light invading her eyes after so long in the darkness.
The "guest room" was a small square room that resembled nothing so much as a bomb shelter right out of the 1950's with Spartan living quarters and bare bones furnishings. Skyler remembered seeing an exhibition of the shelters at the Smithsonian.
"Doctor Tidwell," the redhead began, "welcome to your temporary abode and I assure you if you cooperate with us, it will be temporary. Of course you must realize what this is about; we need the information you possess about Project Gemini. Tell us what we want to know and you will be released quite unharmed." The Irish lilt was deceptive in its soothing quality. Skyler could almost imagine this young woman leading a group of tourists through the Irish countryside if the reality of her kidnapping hadn't invaded her thoughts.
"Look, Miss?" the scholar began.
"You may call me Brodie," the redhead supplied.
Nice name Skyler thought, nice everything right up to those baby blues. If those blue eyes hadn't carried the dead gaze of the sharks Skyler had seen while scuba diving off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, she might have thought the woman was attractive. But a shark was a shark, in or out of the water and if the doctor learned one thing from her research in Mexico, it was you never trusted a shark. A four-inch scar on her lower left leg would always be a graphic reminder of that fact.
"Well then?Brodie?I'd love to help you out but I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about. I don't understand why I'm here and I've never heard of any Project Gemini. So if you'll just let me get the hell out of here, we'll forget about this whole thing and I won't need to inform the police or the American Embassy."
Brodie laughed out loud and it momentarily softened the predatory look. "Doctor Tidwell, you amuse me. Even in the face of the facts you have a bravado that's quite admirable." Now the amusement fled from her eyes to be replaced by an undisguised snarl. "Do you really think we were unprepared? Do you really think we didn't plan?" She pulled an index card from the pocket of the pea coat she wore and began to read from it. "Blonde, green eyes, five foot four inches tall, one hundred twenty pounds, Wellington University, Newton Hall." She looked Skyler up and down. "Right woman, no doubt about it. Now if we could just drop the pretense, doctor and get down to business."
Skyler barely heard the last words. Her mind had already worked out the fact that it was her mother these people were after. It was her mother who was in danger and Skyler had merely been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe the right place at the right time she thought. If I hadn't been heading into that building when I was?Mom?in the hands of whoever these people are?
Skyler's knees did buckle then, a movement Brodie misinterpreted. "Maybe I was mistaken, doctor, maybe the drug isn't quite all out of your system." The redhead assisted the scholar to the metal-framed twin bed and lowered her down.
"Why don't you try to rest for awhile? I'll bring you something to eat and when you're feeling better, we'll have that chat. See? We're looking out for you." The attempt at a gracious smile fell short of her eyes giving her a wholly insincere look.
Instead of responding, Skyler merely nodded and slumped back onto the scratchy gray blanket covering the narrow bed. I can't let them know they don't have the right person, not until I can figure out what's going on here.
Brodie walked toward the door where she knocked and said a few words through the thick wood. Skyler recognized the language but not the meaning of the words. Damn she berated herself, you speak 5 languages and not one of them is Gaelic.
The door was unlocked from the outside and Brodie left without another word to her captive. Skyler watched her go then closed her eyes bringing her hands up to massage suddenly throbbing temples. For the first time she acknowledged how wretched her situation was and a small tear of desperation slipped down her cheek.
Entering an efficiently organized office in the underground complex, Brodie moved behind a large oak desk and pulled a cellular phone from the top drawer. Pressing a pre-set number, she listened as the connection was made. She sat up a little straighter as a voice came on the other end of the line.
"We've got her?no, not yet but she will." From another desk drawer the redhead drew out a particularly lethal looking knife. Its polished steel reflected the ebony handle. "Oh yes, I can guarantee it. Professor Marlene Tidwell will tell us everything."
The sound of crashing thunder shook Addison from an unexpected slumber. Blinking bleary eyes, tired from little sleep, she yawned and looked down to the fidgeting bundle upon her lap. Spike loved the rain, she loved water in general and living by the sea for the little dog was pure heaven. Spike grew more excited, hearing the patter of rain upon the window of the lighthouse.
"Please not today, Spike!" Addison hoisted the scruffy dog from her lap and deposited her upon the floor. The black dog scrambled around her feet causing Addison to sigh. "Okay, but I stay by the door. You can frolic in the rain for as long as you like but I refuse to get wet!"
Spike yapped with excitement.
"Let's go and find your ball huh?"
Spike scampered off towards the stairs and Addison followed, continually amused as she watched the small dog bound up each mountainous step. Spike, however, still managed to reach the second floor of the lighthouse after Addison and she followed her mistress into the bedroom. Addison looked around the room cluttered with books piled high in each corner.
"Where's your ball, Spike?"
The dog ran off into the adjoining blue and white tiled bathroom and began her search. Shaking her head while deciding to leave Spike to it, Addison headed into the bathroom and switched on the small-boxed light above a wall mirror. She gazed at her reflection and sighed. Around her feet she felt as much as heard Spike continue her search for the infamous battered orange ball. Leaning forward, Addison opened her right eye wide with one hand while she used her finger to slide out a single contact lens. Placing the tiny coloured object in a special container Addison then splashed her face with cold water. Picking up a blue towel that matched the colour scheme of the bathroom perfectly, Addison looked down at Spike.
Spike huffed and trotted back out of the bathroom sniffing the ground diligently. Carrying the towel, Addison walked back into her bedroom. From the corner of her eye a small flashing red light caught her eye and she turned to her telephone and answering machine.
"You didn't tell me I had a message, Spike!"
Patting dry her face, Addison checked the message.
"Addison it's me," said a familiar voice to the machine.
Spikes ears shot up in recognition and her head cocked to the side intently.
"If you really aren't there then call me when you can. I was wondering whether you wanted to go paragliding with us next weekend and I have a few new toys for you to try. If you are there then pick up the phone, you lazy arse."
Addison chuckled, "Only if you have managed to adapt an onboard vibrator for my car!"
"I know you... you're there... pick up or this message will self destruct in five seconds..." the male voice paused. "Four? come on? three? pick up? two? you won't regret it... one?" The voice paused again. "Hell, I guess you aren't there! Okay well call me when you can? bye." The line went dead.
Addison looked down at Spike's furry face. "I'll call him tomorrow!" Dropping the blue towel upon her unmade bed, Addison walked back towards the spiral staircase that stood at one end of the room. "Lets go find your ball." Scooping Spike into her arms, Addison jogged down to the ground level kitchen. Under the table she spotted a familiar object. "That looks suspiciously like a ball to me, Spike, what do you think?"
Spike wiggled in her arms, insistently asking to be placed back upon the floor. Addison did as requested just as the telephone began to ring. She picked up the wall-mounted device.
"Addison, it's Perkins."
The ebony haired woman rolled her eyes. "I promise I only just received your message. I was going to call you."
"No problem, Addison," Samuel Perkins assured her. "Listen, things have gone belly up in accounts. We need you to pack for a business trip right away. National, first class."
Addison nodded, understanding the code behind Perkins' words. 'Belly up in Accounts' meant there was a kidnapping situation and 'pack for a business trip' meant she was to be sent on assignment. 'National, first class' simply meant the assignment was in the country and she was to travel at least half way by air. "Right," she answered. "Do I have a car on the way?"
"Be there within the hour."
"See you then, Sam." Addison hung up the telephone and looked down at a worried Spike. "Sorry, girl, but it looks like play time's off!" Spike whimpered and dropped the orange ball. "I've got to go to work but guess who gets to spend her time with a certain inventive scientist?" Once again Addison scooped up Spike with one hand and headed towards the door leading down to the underground facility. "Of course Sam doesn't know yet but that'll be our little surprise!" With a chuckle Addison opened the door and trod the steps down towards her secured command centre.
Access to Addison's underground command centre was limited to only three people, General Blithe, Samuel Perkins and herself. Of those three people, each had their own eight-digit access code and fingerprints mapped into the security system. What was contained behind the steel door was both highly dangerous and illegal for the general public. For that reason, access into Addison's facility was restricted, clandestine and monitored through a direct link to MI5, Special Operations Head Quarters.
Once again back in her garage, Addison placed Spike down upon the concrete floor. She quickly scampered off and disappeared under Addison's Audi TT. Her black coat blended into the shadows of the equally black car but Addison could clearly zero in on Spike simply by the incessant sound of sniffing and eyes that glinted in the artificial light of the garage.
"Spike if you create so much as a puddle near my car I swear I'll use your scruffy fur to mop it up!"
The warning was taken with little heed as the overly small dog continued to nasally cover the garage floor. With curiosity Addison bent her head to the side to watch Spike in time to see her trot back out from behind the Audi with a large, gnawed bone in tow. It was twice as long as Spike and obviously heavy with one end dragging along the floor as Spike manoeuvred it over to Addison. Chuckling to herself Addison turned to the steel door. A large square digit pad was secured to the wall ahead of her; it's access light shining a bright red. Beside that was a second pad in the shape of human hand, which too was shining a bright red. It was on this that Addison placed her left hand as she keyed in her access code. Once entered, her fingerprints were scanned before the access light flashed to a luminescent green and she was given ten seconds to enter the room.
Spike stood at the doorway ready and waiting to enter and as the heavy steel moved open Spike dragged her bone inside. Addison followed the dog, shaking her head in amusement as automatic lights flickered on casting the room in a soft glow. While Spike dragged her bone to a specified corner of the room complete with tartan doggie bed, Addison stood by a large metallic table.
The room itself was rectangular in shape. A simple square steel table, dull from age and use, stood in its centre. Around the walls of the room were racks, cabinets, cupboards and shelves containing all of Addison's field gear. The wall to her left contained multiple racks holding all her weapons, pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, knives, and flash grenades. Though MI5 headquarters did maintain a fully stocked arsenal, Addison kept a supply of her personally favoured weapons. Along the wall ahead of her stood a large wooden cupboard containing different types of combat attire from camouflage to totally black sniper's wear. Rows of shelves held many tools vital for use in the field including night vision binoculars, microscopic cameras, and handheld; global satellite tracking systems, bugs, wires, multi functional compasses and small explosive devices. On the wall to her right were many steel cupboards containing ammunition for each weapon Addison possessed. Whatever she needed from tiny clips for her 'baby Browning' to larger clips for her submachine guns, Addison had them all. On the final wall behind Addison stood a large computer, a database connected straight to Special Operations Headquarters in which she could gain information and communicate with them through a secure line. It was a place where Addison would spend much of her time, often working all hours and even sleeping upon on an old futon bed beside the computer. The room, due to its somewhat clinical appearance of metal and soft light, appeared very cold. The walls being nothing more than ancient rocks that had been mechanically dug out of the cliff; it was warmed only by a single space heater in one corner of the room.
"Right, lets get to it," Addison said to an uncaring Spike as she walked over to the firearms. Her eyes scanned over the rows of dangerous weapons and zoomed in firstly on her favourites... two Beretta Brigadier 9mm steel pistols with black rubber grips; she would carry them in holsters attached to the back of her belt. Pulling them off the rack in favour over her Desert Eagles, as they were heavier, Addison placed them upon the table and turned back to the firearm racks, folding her arms. There were three basic weapons Addison would take on any major assignment: pistols, a shotgun and a submachine gun. She was, if anything, a great believer in being prepared for any situation. Unfolding her arms Addison pulled a Spas 12 shotgun followed by an H&K MP5 A4 Kurtz submachine gun from the racks and placed them too upon the metal table. H&K submachine guns were standard issued weapons for the Special Air Service and Addison had become accustomed to their usage. Addison also preferred this submachine gun as it was around the size of an Uzi and therefore, easy to carry upon one's person. Turning one last time to the racks, Addison took a baby Browning pistol and small Colt Tactical Survival knife from their positions. She had several of these weapons as she found they were just the right size to attach to her boots.
Hearing an attention seeking yap, Addison looked down at Spike who was now scampering around her feet.
"What do you want, Spiky?"
Spike rose to her hind legs looking up at Addison with her front paws resting upon Addison's leg.
"Go and play with your bone."
Spike barked again forcing Addison to relent with a roll of her eyes. She scooped the tiny dog up and deposited her upon the table. Instantly Spike nestled into a comfortable position and closed her eyes. Chuckling quietly Addison opened a tall standing cabinet. Inside the wide compartment was a row of combat attire. Pulling out her favourite black clothing, Addison placed them upon the table and turned to choose a pair of boots.
"Hmm," Addison tapped her lips in thoughts. "What do you think, Spike, the black ones or the black ones or should I choose the black ones?" Amused at her dry humour, Addison chose the closest pair of worn boots and turned to place them with the rest of her kit. What she found caused her to smile. Spike had abandoned her position upon the cold surface of the table in favour of the softness of Addison's clothing. Dropping her boots, Addison leaned forward until she was nose to nose with the dog.
"What are you doing?"
Comfortable eyes blinked open and the scruffy dog looked languidly at Addison.
"Move your furry arse, Spiky."
A tiny tongue poked out and swiped across Addison's nose.
"And that won't work, Mongrel. Now get off my clothes!"
As slow as cannily possible, Spike dragged her body from Addison's clothes leaving behind a scattering of short white hairs from her underbelly. Addison forced out a weary sigh and pulled the now marred attire from the table and exchanged them for ones sans dog hair. She placed them straight into a large duffel bag followed by the rest of her chosen equipment. She then added gun holsters, night vision binoculars, a small medical pack, several flash grenades, tape to bind ammunition clips, two black leather belts and two pairs of handcuffs. Although she had ammunition for all her weapons, she left them alone knowing she would get it from the Special Operations Headquarters. Weapons of either blades over six inches or any gun had for some years been illegal in England and although Addison was licensed to carry and use such weapons, she preferred not to do so when it wasn't necessary.
Once her gear was packed and ready, Addison looked down at Spike. "So, Spiky, are you ready to go?"
Spike scrambled to her feet, her small tail wagging back and forth. Slinging the bag over her shoulder, Addison picked up Spike and headed out of the secure room.
"Let's go and see if our car has arrived, shall we?"
It was a fit of sneezing that woke Skyler from the uneasy sleep that had finally come over her. After a meal of soup and toast brought by the ever-watchful Brodie, the doctor had been surprised that no further interrogation had taken place. Letting me get used to my captivity no doubt she thought.
The redhead had merely set the tray down and left the room. She returned to pick up the tray and point out the toilet facility, a metal commode that pulled down from the wall and reminded Skyler of every prison movie she saw in the "Movies of Incarceration Film Festival" she had attended at the college. It was partitioned from the rest of the room by a white fabric screen. Exiting with the tray, Brodie announced it was after three in the morning and therefore the doctor must be tired. Ominously she mentioned that they would "talk further in the morning." As the door closed and locked, the lights dimmed leaving only 2 small, recessed night-lights in the wall for illumination.
Curious about the sneezing, Skyler did a brief physical assessment of herself. There was no apparent fever, so she ruled out the start of flu. There was no chest congestion and she discarded the idea of pneumonia. She had no headache or sore throat, only nasal congestion. Must be an allergy she thought miserably. Realization of what she had just thought hit her like a ton of bricks and she sat up quickly on the edge of the bed. Wait a second, I only have allergies to three things- that damn dust in the Egyptian tombs, yak fur and heather. The air is too heavy to be Nepal and I don't see a sarcophagus, so it's got to be heather. Pulling the scratchy gray blanket up, she inspected it closely. Mm-hmm, there it is, a bunch of seeds at the hem. Heather! They must have used the blanket outside at one time or another.
Let's see, heather seeds. Brodie said it was three when she turned out the lights so that means we travelled about nine hours because I was at the University at six in the evening. Nine hours by vehicle and heather seeds. Scotland, it has to be. That would explain why it was so much colder here when they took me out of the vehicle than it was when I was in London.
Making the discovery of her whereabouts elated the scholar. For the first time Skyler felt a tiny measure of victory in her quest to have some understanding of her situation. She now also knew something she was sure her captors would prefer she didn't know. Well tough tuna boats, Brodie. Skyler mused. You're messing with Skyler Tidwell and you've got to get up pretty early in the morning to out-think a Tidwell.
Even as the thought was drifting through her mind she felt the momentary bravado slipping. She knew where she was and had a good idea of what she was doing there, but that knowledge really did her little good. She was still a prisoner.
Removing the blanket with the offensive material, she carefully folded it and put it as far from the bed as possible. A small foot locker at the bottom of the bed yielded a yellow cotton blanket free of heather seeds and Skyler returned to the bed though she despaired of actually getting anymore sleep. A plan, that's what I need she thought. I'm going to lay right here until I think of one. With that she turned her considerable intellect to her dilemma.
The lights flickered on some hours later; Skyler couldn't be sure how many as there was no clock in the room. The doorknob to her room began to turn slowly. The unusual door was the one thing the doctor had remembered while she had been thinking. Instead of opening inward as most doors did, this one opened outward. Skyler pinned her hopes on that fact.
As the portal opened Skyler thought, Plan A: escape, and pushed against the door with all her might. Dishes flew from the tray Brodie was bringing in and the redhead crashed back into a large man standing behind her. Skyler took the brief opening and used it to her best advantage. She tossed the gray blanket she had discarded the night before over the two people in the hall as she pushed past them. She had thought about it and knew that every nanosecond might count.
Having mentally retraced her steps a hundred times, she took off unerringly toward the elevator. She knew this was when she would need some luck and no amount of planning could shake that fact. If the elevator wasn't on this level, she was sunk.
Luck was on Skyler's side and if she hadn't been moving so quickly she might have stopped to pump her fist in the air in victory as the elevator was not only on her level, but the door to it stood wide open. Dashing into the lift, she hit the button labeled Level 1 and prayed elevators in the British Isles were labeled the same way as in the States. The door slid shut soundlessly and Skyler took her first deep breath since pushing the door open. Plan B: to the surface, she thought. It was a little disconcerting getting to this part in the plan for Skyler didn't have a clue as to what she might find up top. Trying to wrap her mind around the problem Skyler barely noticed the car wasn't moving at all.
She realized it at once though when the door to the elevator opened and she stood facing a very angry, oatmeal covered Brodie. Behind Brodie was the man who had stood behind her at the door but this time he held a very large, very lethal looking handgun.
"Perhaps you will return to your room now?" Brodie said through clenched teeth as she motioned Skyler off the elevator and back toward her room.
"Let me guess, remote controlled elevator?" Skyler asked as she meekly returned to her room. In response, Brodie lifted up her hand in which she held a small silver box with several black buttons.
"Very astute, doctor." Handing the remote control to her confederate she moved slowly toward Skyler. "You certainly seem to be as intelligent as the reports about you indicate, but I think I'm going to need to teach you a lesson you may not have learned in the academic world." With the speed of a striking snake, Brodie's fist shot out catching the doctor flush in the mid-section. As she doubled over and crumbled to the floor gasping, Skyler knew this lesson was far from over. Plan C: she thought as a booted foot caught her in the ribs, get the shit beat out of me. Except for pain, it was her last coherent thought for quite a while.
"She's been gone for hours and what are you doing about it? Nothing!" Marlene fumed. Her fair features were flushed with agitation in contrast with the distinguished older gentleman seated at the desk across from her.
General Blithe tried to comfort the distraught blonde woman. "I assure you, Professor Tidwell, we are not idle. Ever since Constable Barclay raised the alarm we have been working on your daughter's disappearance." The constable was old but his eyes were sharp. As a retired SAS agent, he certainly knew a kidnapping when he saw one. Though a little long in the tooth to stop the crime, the elderly gentleman provided the agency with excellent descriptions of the abductors and their vehicle. "As we speak, our best agent is on the way to London to assume charge of the investigation. Agent Black is top drawer, ma'am, and has my highest confidence."
The general was considerably calmer on the outside than he felt on the inside. It had been less than a day since Skyler Tidwell had vanished and he had already received a phone call from the American ambassador as well as a terse call from 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister himself was reported to be taking "a personal interest" in the case and the General could well understand why after he had been briefed on the nature of Project Gemini.
"Professor, if I may ask you a few questions?how many people knew of your daughter's visit?" He stroked his brown moustache as he questioned the attractive woman. The general had difficulty believing the woman before him was old enough to have a daughter twenty-eight years old.
"Let me think," Marlene replied. "Skyler and I of course. Maybe one or two of my colleagues on the project but nobody knew the specifics except she and I. We weren't sure of the time until the very last day."
General Blithe stood and moved around the desk. His intelligent brown eyes looked with sympathy at the American. "You're sure of this? No one but the two of you knew your daughter's schedule?"
"As far as I know," the professor returned. "Is that important?"
"Very possibly, doctor." He ran his fingers through his brown hair, long ago grayed at the temple. "If no one else knew she was arriving that evening, there's only one explanation."
The truth dawned on Marlene Tidwell. "They were after me."
"If that's true and your daughter was taken by mistake, that puts her in a very precarious situation." Mark Blithe reached out and placed his hand on the woman's shoulder.
She trembled a little as she said, "She'd be expendable." Her eyes closed against the anguish of that realization.
Strolling down the corridor of Special Operations HQ, Addison checked her watch. It was just now two o'clock and the smell of cooked foods floated down the narrow hallway. Although Special Operations Branch was a small and secretive unit within MI5, it employed some of the country's most elite soldiers and scientists. As such it needed the presence of a fully functional canteen but unfortunately as no outside catering staff were allowed access into the highly secured building, dinners were limited to vending machines and a large selection of micro-wavable meals. This in itself caused a problem, as many of the employees were unhappy with the choice of nutrition on offer. To the soldiers this was of no concern; they could and had lived for months at a time on ration packed foods and nutrients off the land. For the scientists it was a different matter. They demanded a wider variety of more freshly cooked foods. It was, however, the scent of Chinese food that drew Addison towards the canteen.
With her black duffel bag over one shoulder and Spike in the other hand, Addison stepped into the spotlessly clean room. Although not a large area, there were ten tables each with four chairs around them and several vending machines along the nearest wall. Beside the hot drink machine stood a table holding two microwaves and beside that a chest freezer stocked full with ready meals. The room was empty apart from a single body sitting at the far table. Adorning the surface of that table, were many foil cartons containing a selection of Chinese take away foods. The enticing smell coupled with the person devouring the oriental cuisine drew Addison closer with a wry smirk.
Nearing the origin of the delicious scents, Spike began to whimper causing the sole occupant of the table to glance up in curiosity. Blue eyes narrowed upon spying the struggling Spike.
"Addison, I am not looking after that. She pissed in my favourite trainers last time you had me take care of her!"
"It was her way of showing you affection," Addison told Samuel Perkins with a laugh. The ex-soldier come scientist didn't appear convinced. "Hey I told you Spiky needed at least two walks a day."
Samuel put down his chopsticks. The blonde man's eyes narrowed. Although he and Addison had never served together in the Military, they were close friends. Samuel had been recruited into Special Operations just after Addison and as so, his ranking within the Unit was SO4, a title that naturally he disliked immensely as this was the chemical designation for sulphate. For this reason Addison jokingly called him SO3 and a half. Samuel wasn't sure which name he disliked the most but took the jesting with the humour intended.
Addison dropped her duffel bag down onto the floor and sat upon the chair opposite Samuel. She held back the scampering dog eager for a taste of the highly scented foods. "Come on, Mate, you know you are the only one I trust with her. She likes you!"
"She likes my frigging shoes," the scientist groused.
Addison shrugged. "Same thing." Leaning over the table she swiped a piece of prawn toast from Samuel's plate. "Please... I don't want to resort to physical coercion here!"
"Like you would have a chance!"
Feeling the first flutters of a challenge, Addison arched her eyebrows. "Want to bet?" Giving the remainder of the prawn toast to Spike, Addison placed her upon the seat beside her own and reached out her arm, pushing the containers and Samuels's plate to one side. "I'll arm wrestle you for it. If I win you look after Spike but if you win I will never badger you to take care of her again!"
"What kind of bet is that?"
Addison placed her elbow upon the table and held out her hand. "Come on, Sammy boy, put your balls where your mouth is!"
Samuel features burned at the comment. "You're on!" Placing his elbow beside Addison's they clasped hands. "On the count of three... one... two... three!"
And the challenge was on. Blue eyes burned into Addison as the couple strained against the strength of each other's challenger. Addison found her arm beginning to lower as a smug smile spread across Samuel's lips. Adding a little more muscle she pushed their arms back to level pegging and returned his grin with one of her own.
"Do you really think I'm that easy?" she asked.
Samuel chuckled. "Some of the women around here might think so!"
"Bull... I never mix business with pleasure." Addison pushed a little harder.
"Apart from Kathy!"
Samuel had a point there. Of the few women who worked at Special Operations that she did find attractive, Addison had only shared an intimate encounter with Kathy. She blamed it on the fact that she had just returned from a rather rough assignment, which had left her craving for some much needed sexual stimulation. It was not the first time Kathy Bridges, from the armoury, had propositioned Addison but it was the only time she had ever given in purely for lust.
"Like I was the only one." The agent returned implying she knew of Samuel's tryst with her as well.
This time it was the scientist who pushed a little harder; Addison's arm, however, remained steadfast. "Maybe we are more alike than you care to admit."
"Maybe. Except my hairline is not receding on top!"
"And that is just the way you love me!"
Samuel chuckled. "Damn right!" He frowned then. "You are aware that you are missing a contact lens, right?"
"Forgot it on my way out. I'll use one of my spares here. Now stop talking and let me beat you!"
Both agents continued their battle unaware that Spike had hopped up onto the table and was gingerly lapping at the corner of Samuel's plate. Her large round eyes remained fixed upon the battling duo as her tongue sought out the spicy cuisine.
From the doorway of the canteen two more gentlemen entered the room. Both were scientists wearing long white lab coats and sporting enquiring expressions. They approached Samuel's table together.
"What's going on?" A middle-aged man with a thick head of auburn hair asked.
"What does it look like?" Samuel responded through gritted teeth. A pink shade of exertion and sheen of perspiration coloured his cheeks. The contest was heating up and both challengers' arms shook with effort.
"Twenty pounds on Black," said the second scientist. "She will have him in no time!"
His auburn haired counterpart shook his hand. "You got a deal there."
The minutes seemed to pass a lifetime per second as Addison battled Perkins. There was no doubt in Sam's strength, he seemed to match Addison equally but what he lacked was her perseverance. Over five minutes passed before Addison finally slammed Samuel's arm down. Much to her surprise almost seventeen voices simultaneously cheered and groaned as the contest ended. She looked around bemused by the men and woman who were handing over and receiving small cash wagers.
Rubbing his aching arm Samuel admitted defeat. "You know I would have looked after her anyway."
Addison smiled. "I know but this was much more fun!" She looked down at Spike who had just finished devouring the contents of Samuel's plate. "Spike! Bad girl!"
Rising to her feet as the dog jumped, Addison scooped up the tiny mongrel. "You are a naughty girl for eating that, Spiky!" Addison shook her head and kissed the dog's soft muzzle. "Anyway I have to go now, little bit, but Sammy is going to look after you okay? I will be back soon so be good!" Addison handed the dog over to a dismayed looking scientist. "Umm... a word of warning... Spike and spicy foods don't mix well!"
"What does that mean?" Samuel asked as Addison picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder.
Addison patted her stomach then pointed towards Spike. "Just be prepared," she said, hearing Sam's despairing groan. Just before leaving Addison addressed the gathered members of the staff. "Thank you to all of those who had faith in me. I see your confidence was rewarded and I hope you have a drink tonight in my name! To those of you who didn't..." Addison grinned, "you should know I never lose... that's ?"
"Black's magic!" responded her fellow workers followed by a series of groans and chortles.
Addison winked, followed by a nod. "You know it," she said and exited the cafeteria.
Feeling slightly sorry for Perkins, the agent made her way down a long corridor. At the end was an elevator beside a stairwell. Opting for the stairs, Addison descended towards the basement level of the division. General Blithe's office was situated in this part of the building and it was standard procedure that she report to him for a briefing before every assignment. Unless otherwise stated, by the General himself, no other official could issue her an assignment.
Reaching the bottom step, Addison took a left through the grey walled hallway and stopped at the large door leading to Blithe's secretary's office. Beyond her room was the General's office. Stealthily she opened the door and peeped into the room. The secretary had her back to Addison and appeared to be profoundly engrossed in some matter of reading material. Addison crept silently into the room. Not even her breath made a sound as she skulked up behind the woman and looked over her shoulder.
"I heard reading material like that would make one go blind!"
The dark haired woman jumped and spun around in her chair. "Addison, you almost scared the life out of me!" She placed a calming hand upon her beating heart.
Addison looked down at the seated secretary and smiled seductively. Dropping her duffel bag she pulled the book from Miss Bakersfield's hand and read the front cover. It was a lesbian erotic tale that she herself was familiar with. "Really, Miss Bakersfield! Reading such things during office hours. What will the General think?" Addison perched herself upon the edge of a large teak desk.
The secretary blushed. "Addison please... how many times do I have to remind you to call me Antonia."
With a sly smile, Addison placed down Antonia's book. It was so much fun to flirt with this woman even though she knew it was harmless. "Is that what you allow your closest... friends... to call you?"
"Possibly." Antonia leaned back in her chair and allowed her dark brown eyes free roam of Addison's body. "I take it you have an assignment?"
"Here to see the General," Addison replied, enjoying the secretary's perusal. She made a point of uncrossing her legs.
Miss Bakersfield nodded. "He isn't in his office. Apparently he's been in conference since before I arrived here this morning. I haven't seen him yet today. So... do you know what's happening? It must be a serious matter for him to be up all night."
With a shrug, Addison leaned closer. "You know as much as I, Miss Bakersfield."
Antonia was just about to respond when General Blithe entered his reception.
"Agent Black... I see you have arrived! Excellent. I am in conference presently and would like you involved. Can you come with me, please?"
Winking, Addison rose from the desk and approached her superior. "Yes, General... we have a situation?"
General Blithe nodded. "Indeed we do. Come with me and all will be revealed."
With a sharp nod, Addison followed the General back out into the corridor and down to a high security conference room. Mark Blithe held the door open and Addison walked into the room first. She was expecting to see the usual gathering of military officials perched around the room but instead she found a woman sitting upon a luxury couch by the right wall. She didn't recognise her and knew she had never been into the S.O. Headquarters before... the visitors card upon her jacket proved as much. Addison did, however, know that she was a woman of high standing within the military government by the sheer fact that she was within the walls of Special Operations Headquarters.
Entering behind her, General Blithe closed the door. "Agent Black, I would like you to meet Professor Marlene Tidwell."
"A woman?" Marlene said unexpectedly.
Noting the American accent, Addison looked down at her own breasts, clearly noticeable due to the tight fit of her shirt. She then looked up at the General and shrugged before looking back at Marlene. "Since the day I was born apparently!"
Her remark seemed to break the tension in the air and the woman smiled. "I'm sorry, Miss Black, it is just that I guess I was expecting a man."
"I know, and they are always so disappointing... present company excluded of course."
Mark Blithe groused at his top agent's behaviour. "Shall we all sit down?"
"Of course." Addison sat upon one of the many chairs beside a large rectangular table that stretched across the length of the room. She positioned herself between Marlene and her boss who was seated at the head of the table. Trying to gain some understanding of the situation Addison looked into the eyes of the other woman. An undeniable layer of trepidation was clearly visible and Addison realised that whatever this problem was, it was in direct relation to Marlene Tidwell.
General Blithe sat down. "Yesterday evening at precisely a quarter to seven, a Miss Skyler Tidwell was abducted from the grounds of Wellington University."
Addison nodded with complete attention.
"The abduction was witnessed by the elderly security guard on duty that evening. I am sure you are aware of Constable Barkley?"
Addison nodded again. He was well known in the SAS for being the first Soldier to receive a Victoria Cross for bravery and conduct in the field.
"Barkley witnessed the events but was unable to raise the alarm in time to stop Miss Tidwell from being abducted. He did, however, get the licence plate of the vehicle used in the abduction. Also, Miss Tidwell dropped her purse in the struggle, which he swiftly retrieved. So far we have heard no word from the abductors."
"And who is this Skyler Tidwell?" Addison asked.
"She is my daughter," Marlene replied.
Addison frowned. "If you don't mind me asking, Professor Tidwell, what was a young girl doing out alone at that time of the evening?"
"She is twenty-eight years old, Agent Black."
Addison's sheer surprise was shielded by her neutral expression. She had no idea the woman in front of her could have a daughter of such an age. The agent looked to General Blithe for answers.
"Skyler Tidwell was on holiday here, Agent Black, visiting her mother. She had only just arrived in this country and had travelled straight to the University to meet with Professor Tidwell. We believe that Skyler was abducted by mistake with the belief that she was in fact her mother."
Addison addressed the blonde woman with a frown. "Why is it you would be the target, Professor Tidwell?"
Marlene rose to her feet. All the talking she had been doing since her daughter's disappearance was beginning to anger her. She didn't want to talk she wanted something to be done. "I am a scientist working on a coalition project between Britain and the US."
Marlene looked to the General and after receiving a nod she continued. "It is called Project Gemini?"
The name was instantly familiar to Addison. She had heard many rumours pertaining to Project Gemini through her own sources. It was said Project Gemini started out as a breakthrough discovery during research on the tuberculosis bacterium. Addison wasn't sure what that breakthrough was but she knew it was being extrapolated for use in cancer therapy research.
"But I don't understand," Addison pressed. "Why would anybody want to abduct your daughter... you? Project Gemini is a medical project... isn't it in the research of cancer therapy?"
"Yes," Marlene responded.
"Then who and why would anybody want to kidnap you?"
"The why we are unsure... as for the who, that I can help you with." General Blithe picked up a large manila folder and chucked it into Addison's lap. The agent opened Blithe's folder to the picture on the front page. Addison's eyes narrowed as she spied a familiar face,
"Agnes Brodie!" Her eyes scanned over the redhead's picture. Addison had long been familiar with Agnes Brodie. The woman of Irish descent had often been linked with several terrorist organisations and although no damming evidence had ever been produced, Addison was positive of her guilt in several major incidents. Brodie was presumed to be in the arms and terror business simply for the money. There were extortionate sums to be made through the illegal trafficking of weapons and trading government secrets. That was not to say Agnes Brodie didn't crave the power as well. Like any megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur, Brodie was not adverse to violence and intimidation. Addison was positive that as a child she would have been the troublemaker in the playground who would beat upon other children and steal their lunch money. The agent wondered what Brodie's involvement was in this case.
"And she was a positive identification?"
General Blithe walked around the table. "By Barkley himself. If you look further along in the file you will find satellite images and pictures taken from a motorway service station on the M1 northbound. Thanks to Barkley's sharp eye and quick mind, we were able to trace the number plate and although led us to a dead end, we obtained these images of the light blue transit stopping for diesel in a monitored station. We also have images of the van entering and travelling through Scotland thanks to its irresponsible driver. The vehicle was captured going over the speed limit twice by two motion surveillance cameras first in Dunblane and then Badenoch. Addison studied the documents before turning to a large map of the British Isles. She strode over to the map and ran her index finger up along the route the abductor's van had taken. Reaching the last known point of origin for the transit, Addison studied the Grampian Highlands. Her eyebrows furrowed together.
"Here in and around the Monadhiath Mountains, aren't there some abandoned mining caverns built within the hills? Are you thinking that is where they might be?"
"Intelligence believes so. We are focusing in on that area as satellite imaging seems to have captured movement in the space of five minutes." Mark Blithe folded his arms over his broad chest. "It is obviously in Skyler's best interests for us to expect they have the worst of intentions towards her. As we have no idea what part in this Agnes Brodie plays, we can only assume there are high sums of money involved."
Rubbing the smooth surface of her chin, Addison nodded. She knew her job was to go in there and get Skyler Tidwell out with as little fuss as possible. The abduction of an American on British soil would be a high profile case and one they would want resolved quickly. What troubled Addison was that the motive behind the case was unclear. Why would Marlene Tidwell be the target for abduction? Unfortunately, although these thoughts did concern her, Addison knew it was her job to follow orders and not ask questions.
Noting the sudden silence within the room, Addison turned to Marlene Tidwell. The blonde research scientist was gravely silent, her hand covered trembling lips, and her eyes glazed with unshed tears. Addison pushed nimble fingers through her hair and glared at the General. They both knew better than to be discussing the probabilities of a situation in front of the victim's mother. Scratching the back of her neck, Addison sat down beside Marlene.
"Professor Tidwell, I know it's a difficult time for you, especially facing the unknown, but please try not to worry."
"Try not to worry!" Marlene laughed quietly. "It's hard not to when all that's happened since my daughter's disappearance is a lot of talking by you people. I want to know when you are actually going to do something about getting her back." The older woman rose to her feet. "Lord knows what could be happening to Sky right now. I want my daughter back."
"That is why Agent Black is here, Doctor Tidwell. We will be sending her to locate and bring home your daughter. She is one of our most highly experienced operatives."
"And when will you be leaving to do this, Agent Black?"
"Just as soon as I have some visual and background information on your daughter, Professor Tidwell."
"Speaking of which?" General Blithe pulled a second slimmer folder off the conference table. "Here is Skyler's file... background and visual data." He handed the folder to Addison and sat back down in his chair. "The picture was taken from her drivers licence and most of the information was taken from several university databases."
"Uh huh." Addison opened the folder. She scanned through Skyler's background as her brows arched higher and higher. "Blimey! If you don't mind me saying, Professor Tidwell, your daughter certainly gives the words 'eternal student' a new meaning!"
Marlene's features softened to a glow of pride. "She got her first Masters Degree at the age of twenty one."
Addison whistled in amazement. She herself had only just scraped through high school. Addison had hated school. She would attend as little as possible and it was a great surprise to everybody, including herself, that she even managed to pass her O levels. The agent continued to skim through Skyler's file in growing amazement at the younger Tidwell's academic achievements. She has more letters after her name than in a Welsh village, she thought wryly. Turning to another page Addison found an enlarged scan of Skyler's driver's license. She gazed down at her scrawny, pimple covered features, wearing thick-framed glasses held together by clear sticky tape. And sometimes the apple falls very far away from the tree! Addison read over Skyler's licence details.
"Hold on a moment. This license picture was taken in 1997. It's six years old. Don't you have anything a little more recent?"
"My daughter travels a lot, Agent Black. In recent years lasting memories like photographs have taken a back seat to our academic quests. This was the most recent picture we could find of my daughter."
"Right." Addison put down Skyler's file after memorising the information within. The assignment seemed straightforward enough. Go in, get the girl, and get the hell out again. However easy it always seemed, any one of a million possibilities could always arise to make a difficult situation even more so. Addison had seen them all. From the highly dangerous; being chased by wild dogs and hunted by a group of vengeful terrorists in below freezing conditions with nothing to protect yourself but your own two hands ... to the highly ridiculous; disguising herself as a clown in order to infiltrate a circus believed to be trading stolen arms around the country. Addison was careful never to go into a situation with any expectations but there was one aspect of this case that did bother her. Agnes Brodie. She was a highly intelligent woman who seemed to lack basic human emotions. She was clinical in her approach to all situations and didn't appear to understand that life was a gift not to be abused. She didn't scare Addison, but she did leave her with an uneasy feeling. Brodie was capable of anything and that was her main concern for Skyler Tidwell.
Mark Blithe tapped the tips of his fingers upon the table. "There is one more thing. Due to the very fact that it appears Skyler's abduction was a mistake, we are keeping this under very tight wraps. Nobody else apart from Downing Street and us know this and that is the way it shall stay. If it was to get out that this abduction was a mistake then not only could Skyler's life be in danger but also, it would be harder for us to zero in on the organisation responsible. Present conversation about this ends here."
Taking the General's hint, Addison rose with a nod. Much to Marlene Tidwell's relief, the time for talking was over.
It was strange the things one found out from an expertly applied beating. I never knew pain had a color the doctor thought. First it had been a red in its intensity then faded a little to a purple as it settled into a steady dull hum of misery. Skyler had never been in a real fight and had never had the opportunity to explore the mysteries of an assault firsthand, but Brodie was giving her that learning experience now.
It wasn't during the actual rain of blows that Skyler learned the lessons; it was after Brodie left when the pain changed from a waterfall of agony to a steady stream of aching and soreness. She dragged herself to the bed from the floor where she had spent most of her time as Brodie beat her without mercy or any apparent emotion. If Skyler hadn't seen the clenching of the redhead's jaw she might have thought the beating was given in an almost clinical and detached manner. The doctor had seen it though and knew that a mighty rage ruled Brodie, no matter how hard she tried to hide it.
It was on the bed that Skyler's keen intellect went to work. She tried to use her mind to escape the throbbing sensations reporting for duty from her entire body. No, correct that, Skyler thought, she didn't hit my face. So, Brodie, where did you learn to hit where it wouldn't show? Were you an abused child? Did you suffer corporal punishment at the hands of an over-zealous headmistress at a parochial school? Was it a rigorous gang initiation ritual? Guess what, Brodie? I don't give a fuck. Skyler gave a little laugh at her attempt to employ the little used expletive. Fuck? That's the best word your college-trained mind can come up with? The short laugh cost her as a sharp pain issued forth from the area of her right ribcage. The doctor placed the palm of her hand against the offending area and shifted on the bed to relieve the spasm in her side.
Panting from the exertion of reaching a slightly more tolerable position, Skyler knew a few things for certain. She hadn't cried out the truth of her identity during the beating but she realized she could never hold out for long if the physical abuse continued. She wasn't cut out to withstand torture, that much was painfully obvious. Don't laugh at that stupid pun, Skyler she warned herself.
Turning her face to the bare wall Skyler battled a sense of desperation she found trying to creep into her mind. Don't give in, don't give in, that's what Brodie's counting on now. She knows I won't cooperate of my own free will and now she'll have to find a way to coerce me. Why do I get the feeling she's very good at finding those ways? Skyler wasn't sure what could happen to change the course of events as she predicted they would play out but whatever might happen, it would need to happen soon. The American felt a trembling set up in her limbs. Shock she contemplated with some detachment. Gingerly she pulled the blanket up from the end of the bed and over her shoulders. As her head returned to the pillow she knew it would take a miracle to get her out of the mess she was in. Or maybe some kind of magic she thought as the tears she had kept at bay since her abduction began to flow.
They weren't tears of sadness or fear. They were tears of pure anger. That's another thing you taught me, Brodie and I'll have to thank you for it some time. Now I know what the need for revenge feels like.
Marlene Tidwell just stared at the door as Addison departed the conference room.
"Well, she's certainly something," she said almost absently to General Blithe. "You say she's one of your top agents?"
"She's the best, Professor Tidwell," the general affirmed.
She turned her hazel eyes to the man. "Look, around our house two Doctor Tidwell's were a bit much. She's just Skyler and I'm just Marlene. Also around our house it was just the two of us. She's all I've had since the death of my husband. I can't lose her now."
"I understand," he said sympathetically. "Believe me, if there is anyone who can find and bring your daughter back safe and sound, it's Addison Black. I'd trust her with my life. I have done that very thing in fact. I'm alive today because of her."
"She saved your life?" Marlene was intrigued now. "Can you tell me about it, General? Maybe it would help lessen this apprehension I'm feeling."
"First of all you might as well call me Mark, Doc?I mean Marlene. I can't tell you everything of course because pieces of it remain "Eyes Only" to this day but let's just say hypothetically that there were some troublesome South American islands that my country was involved with. Maybe you could picture an intelligence mission to gather numbers on the opponent's troop strength and weaponry capabilities. It seems to be a routine mission until somewhere along the line inside information is passed. Information that puts almost all the team straight into the hands of a pack of mercenaries sponsored by the opposing government. A pack of very unfriendly mercenaries."
Mark Blithe's jaw clenched slightly at the obviously unpleasant memories but within a moment he continued. "Know this, on a mission of the sort I'm describing, nothing can be allowed to prevent a successful completion. Nothing. That would include the loss of the rest of your team. The loss of a team isn't acceptable to Addison Black though. Single-handedly and without regard to her personal safety, she secured the release of the team and the?termination?of the mercenaries. Literally I was seconds away from death but thanks to her I lived. She wouldn't take any credit for that mission either but they insisted on rewarding someone. A promotion to general and a desk job, it makes me wonder if it was such a great reward after all." He paused here wanting the full importance of his next words to be completely appreciated by Marlene.
"Honestly, it is a rare female that is invited into this branch of government service but Addison is that special one. She's fearless, inventive, focused and highly skilled. There is nothing she will not do to see your daughter returned safely to you."
Marlene digested the man's words. General Blithe had left no doubt of his implicit faith in the agent.
"Okay then, Mark, I'll have to trust your judgment on this. I just hope Skyler will be alright."
"She will be, Addison will see to it. Now, why don't you let me show you to the secured guest quarters here? You must be exhausted and we may not hear anything for a few hours at least."
"I suppose I could try to rest but I can't guarantee I'll sleep. You'll let me know if you receive any word, won't you?"
"Of course I will," the general assured her and escorted her to the door. Prior to opening the door he stopped to retrieve a decorative wooden cane she had seen him use before. As he stepped into the corridor he walked with a noticeable limp and when he glanced at the American he saw Marlene trying politely not to stare. Marlene realized she was watching the general's hobbling gait and reached for a subject.
"Um, Mark, can I ask you something about Agent Black?" At his nod, she continued, Her eyes?"
A brief flash of alarm crossed the general's face. "I'm glad you didn't mention that while Addison was here, Marlene. She's a little touchy about that subject needless to say."
"I understand," the American said. She hesitated a little, slowing her step for the man who was making his way along rather painfully. He decided to enlighten the woman on the circumstances of his disability.
"You're very kind to pretend I don't have a terrible limp, Marlene, but it's quite all right. It's not a permanent wounding. Though temporary, it's courtesy of an adventure with Addison as well."
"Another hypothetical mission?" Marlene inquired.
"No, a scrum on the rugby pitch two weeks ago. Did I mention Addison hates to lose?"
Despite the gravity of her daughter's situation, Marlene had to laugh at that. Mark Blithe was a very nice man she decided and she found herself glad for his company. It was while she was thinking this that a tall man in a white lab coat rushed past them carrying a scruffy looking dog in what appeared to be a diaper.
Brodie slammed the door to the office. She had lost control with Doctor Tidwell and the one thing she despised was losing control in any fashion.
"Bitch! Why couldn't she just cooperate? Damn it, this is going to put my questioning behind schedule and I need that information!" Brodie thought about the money already on deposit in her numbered account in the Cayman Islands and knew if there were a screw up, she'd never see the rest of the promised funds. She needed to check in with her superior.
Retrieving the phone from the desk, she punched the pre-set number again. Her superior answered immediately.
"Brodie here. We might be a little longer in obtaining the information you're seeking. The good doctor isn't as meek a mouse as I thought she'd be?.No, nothing like that, just a bit of spirit that needed taming." She listened then as a seriously displeased employer explained the consequences of failure.
"I understand. I'll start the interrogation later today?Right, did you find out who they were sending?" As Brodie heard the name a flush crept up the back of her neck and she clenched her free hand into a fist. "Addison Black! Well, isn't that interesting? She's managed to throw a fucking monkey wrench into several of my plans before but this time it's going to be different. Very different indeed." She disconnected after giving a promise of results in the near future.
Slipping into the chair behind the desk, Brodie thought with anger about the very charming and beautiful agent she figured would already be working on the case. Malice deformed her normally placid looks as she recalled their previous meetings. She had come painfully close to losing everything on several occasions and it was only her ability to cover her tracks that had saved her from being a permanent guest in one of Her Majesty's danker prisons.
"You'll get yours this time, Agent Black, because I'll be one step ahead of you. Don't worry though; I'm a gracious winner. I'll even get a little gift for you, Addison. Hmm, let's see, what would be appropriate for the SAS agent who has everything?"
Pretending to ponder the question thoughtfully she tapped her chin with her index finger. "I've got it! A marvelous gift for Addison! How about one dead American research scientist followed by an international incident because of Agent Black's botched handling of the job? Why Brodie you clever thing?it's just perfect."
Special Operations had its own unique exercise facility for keeping its agents in peak physical condition. From multi-gyms to a wooden dummy for martial arts training, everything was provided for the agents including a luxury tiled locker room. It was into this that Addison had retreated. She escaped for one last hot shower before dressing for her assignment. Sometimes an agent could go up to several months without the comfort of hot water for bathing, so it was Addison's tradition to have a hot shower before she departed on a mission. Once done, the agent padded into the empty locker room and slipped into a practical sports bra and matching panties.
Unzipping the main compartment of her large duffel bag, Addison reached inside the loaded container and pulled out a pair of thick, black combat trousers and a shirt. She held open the trousers and stepped into the legs, pulling them up around her hips. She neglected to fasten the row of buttons as the door to the changing room swung open and Samuel Perkins waltzed inside.
Pinning the man with an expression of faux indignation, Addison pretended to cover her chest. "Don't you know how to knock?"
"Oh, like you have anything I haven't seen before."
Addison swiftly coiled her padded, black shirt and flicked it at the scientist. "You have never seen mine before. Sod off."
Samuel pulled a round magnifying glass from his top pocket and held it up to Addison. He squinted through one eye and whistled. "Wow, through this thing you really do have sizable breasts. That, I have never seen before."
Swiping the magnifier out of Perkins' hand, Addison peered through the glass at the scientist. "This doesn't even work. It's broken." She gazed neutrally at his enlarged features.
"It certainly is not!" Perkins retorted.
Stepping closer, Addison held the magnifying glass up to the zipper of his pants. "It sure is, take a look at that."
Samuel looked down before realising what the agent was implying. "Okay, okay...!" He took the magnifier from Addison and slipped it back into his pocket. "Anyway the reason I came in here, apart from letting you know Miss Bakersfield has Spike until I finish here this evening, is that I wanted to remind you to check by before you leave. I have a couple of things I think you may find will come in handy."
"Cool... does it have multi speeds of vibrating pleasure?" Addison asked as Perkins stepped towards the exit.
"Ha, ha! You wish, Spy Girl!" Perkins backed up towards the exit. "Just you remember to make sure those little suction marks are covered before you leave this place!" Samuel pointed towards several little love bites adorning Addison's body. "At least I see the reason why you weren't there to answer your phone last night!" Perkins wiggled his eyebrows before opening the door.
Addison chuckled as the scientist left the room. Picking up a white tank top she slipped it over her head before shrugging into her black padded shirt. Addison fastened the buttons into place and tucked it into her combat trousers. Finishing the last button on her pants, the agent slipped the first belt into place. To that she added the holsters for her pistols at the back and slipped both Berettas into place. They were already loaded and she placed eight more clips into one leg of her trousers, four in one arm of her shirt and four pouches attached to her belt.
After Addison's quest to obtain a new contact lens she stopped by the armoury and loaded up on enough ammunition that she could comfortably carry. This included pistol clips, shotgun shells and ammunition for her H&K submachine gun. She had already taped the magazines together for swifter loading purposes.
Next, Addison slipped into her boots and secured the laces. To one boot she attached a knife and to the other, a baby browning pistol. This was smaller and she placed two more clips for that pistol in her other trouser leg pocket. Reaching back into her bag Addison took out a second belt and wrapped it around her waist. This belt was different as it clipped to her first belt and had straps, almost like elasticised braces, which went over each shoulder. It was a holster specially designed so she could attach her Spas 12 shotgun to her back and submachine gun to her side. Both larger firearms in place, Addison filled a small backpack with a case of shotgun shells - a second case she emptied into the secured pocket of her three quarter length jacket - and bound H&K magazines.
Sitting on a dark wooden bench, Addison leaned her side against the grey wall of the changing room. Ahead of her she could hear the constant drip of a showerhead against the tiled floor. Addison took a deep breath. She felt a familiar flutter in her stomach. It was common for her to feel nerves before a new assignment and this was no exception. However well she performed in the field, apprehension was always present before an assignment. Addison believed it was what kept her alive. If she let her over-confident nature interfere with natural caution, she doubted she would still be alive today. Regardless of that fact, as soon as Addison got started, she appeared fearless.
Removing the remaining items from her duffel bag, Addison place them in either her small backpack or in strategic places upon her body. Once finished, she rose to her feet. Addison knew both General Blithe and Samuel Perkins were waiting for her. She had a flight upon a private military jet, which would take her straight into Scotland where a Jeep would be waiting for her to carry out the mission. Slinging the backpack over her shoulder, Addison exited the changing room and headed towards Samuel's laboratory. Her booted footsteps echoed down the empty corridor as she passed several other labs. Each one contained groups of scientists, dressed in unusual attire suitable for the conditions they were working in. Addison stopped by one window and looked in upon a group of three women and one man who were all dressed in bright orange jump suits. She tapped upon the window and waved, as four faces looked her way. Putting up both thumbs she indicated approval of their choice of colourful dress and received varying forms of obscene finger gestures in response. Addison placed her hand over her heart feigning hurt and the four laughed inside the soundproof room before turning back to their project. The four bodies gathered around an unusual metallic, oval object that seemed to be emitting a yellow, non-toxic vapour. Addison wondered what on earth they were up to now. As usual, it wasn't her place to ask questions but she knew if she did ask them, she could be pretty sure of an honest response. Addison was both liked and respected within Special Operations and for that, she was privy to a lot of inside information. More information than she possibly should have known.
Samuel Perkins' laboratory was alive with activity. The room was large, about half the size of an aircraft hanger and possibly just as noisy. Scientists and fellow agents stood around the metallic room conversing with varying degrees of excitement. Venturing further, Addison sought out General Blithe. She noticed him standing in the far corner of the room beside Perkins. He stood tall; his arms crossed as he listened to Samuel speak animatedly about an unusual car in front of them. As Addison approached General Blithe nodded to her in acknowledgement.
"Agent Black, are you prepared?"
"Excellent." Blithe motioned towards the silver convertible in front of him. "What do you think? A completely new kind of vehicle designed by Agent Perkins himself. We begin tests today... as you can see it has attracted a lot of attention already."
Addison looked around the gathering of soldiers and scientists. "So it has. And it looks like I will miss it. So... is this your new brainchild, Perkins? Is this the car that you believe will be able to out-manoeuvre a Formula One racer?"
"Without a doubt, Addison! Can you imagine using one of these in a chase? You could catch anybody! I start remote control tests within the hour."
"And this is what you wanted to show me?"
"Ah no, actually I have two things for you." Reaching into his lab coat pocket Samuel pulled out a black watch. His smile was broad as he laid it out upon his hand for Addison. "What do you think?"
The agent seemed unimpressed as she answered him dryly. "Sam, it's another wristwatch. It's always another watch. What does this one do? Shoot a web like Spiderman?"
Samuel continued to grin. "Actually no." He moved closer and began instructing her on the gadget's functions. "As you can see, this looks like a normal watch but if you switch this button here." Samuel turned a small, silver catch. "It becomes a heat detection device." Addison watched as the screen turned red and the second hand of the watch began to rotate at a faster rate as many dots flashed on the circular face. "Any warm bodied presence within one hundred feet of you is detected by this. Pretty good huh?" He handed it to Addison with a proud smile.
Wrapping the watch around her wrist the dark haired woman nodded, obviously impressed. "I have to admit it, Sam. This could be a very handy little device."
"Sure could." Next Samuel pulled two silver pens from his top pocket and handed them over to Addison.
"Why do I get the feeling I shouldn't click the top here?"
General Blithe, who had been quietly inspecting the car, now spoke. "Those were my idea. Imagine the power of a single stick of dynamite in a handy, everyday instrument and there you have the Sparky 2000. Press the cap and you have four seconds to run."
"Cool!" Addison studied the design. "Lets hope you don't get these mixed up with the ones you guys use to write our pay cheques every month, huh?" She slipped the pens into a pocket on her jacket's right arm. "Is that everything?"
"It is." The General handed Addison several sheets of yellow paper as he took Addison to the side and spoke quietly. "Memorise these on the plane up to Scotland. It contains more information on Skyler Tidwell that you can use to prove you are there to help her if need be. You also have the coordinates of your vehicle that's already at the airbase waiting for you. The usual packet of information has been provided. It is still unclear why Skyler Tidwell was abducted so while you scout the area, we will be doing some detective work on this end. There will be a radio in your Jeep to contact us, so use it. I mean that, Addison! My gut instinct is saying we have trouble brewing. I want you to make sure it is neutralised before you return. If you have to put Miss Tidwell on a plane and remain in Scotland to do it, then that is what you must do. Understand?"
Mark Blithe nodded. "Good." He motioned to the far side of the laboratory where a uniformed officer stood at ease waiting. "Corporal Sanderson is waiting to transport you to your jet." He held out his hand and Addison shook it firmly. "See you later."
"See you later, Sir." Addison nodded towards Perkins. "Later, Sam."
"See you later, Addison," Perkins replied.
It was common practice never to say 'good-bye' to a fellow soldier when they headed off on assignment. They felt it was bad luck to use such a phrase that had 'permanent' overtones. Their assignments were dangerous and usually life threatening. In just the same way Macbeth was never mentioned in the theatre, so a farewell was never uttered for fear it would be the last time you would see a person. The death of a fellow agent or soldier was a tangible blow to each remaining operative and as such, no lasting goodbye was ever uttered.
Securing the backpack upon her shoulder, Addison left to begin her mission. Deep within she began to feel her excitement building. The thrill of the hunt, the adrenalin of combat, this was what she did best and this was what she lived for. No matter what the cost, Addison would secure the safety of Skyler Tidwell and solve the puzzle of why she was taken in the first place. If there was one thing Addison would never accept - it was defeat.
End of Part One
Continued in Part Two
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