The IT Files: Anna's Worth

by Zero

These are all tales of hijinks that Tucker has with his magical gizmo, which take place in what will be known from now on as the 'Tuckerverse'. You may want to read more of Tucker's tales from the beginning, or catch up on the latest chapter before continuing; the lead characters are introduced in the first story. There is also a chronological index to the series as well as a comprehensive Tuckerverse Wiki! [Ed.]

Authors' Note: We hope you've enjoyed the Clockwork and Tucker series' so far and hope you will continue to do so in the Tuckerverse!

ITEA HQ, London, UK

            Anna Federov was not looking forward the morning she was bound to have. It had been almost two weeks since Anna had been kidnapped by a man she'd thought at the time was named Peter Knight but who was actually Drake Stilton, member of Ouroboros, who had then used her as a bargaining chip to kidnap Tasia Spiro. The aftermath of the Ouroboros incident had left Anna extremely embarrassed and then to top it off her first day back she'd drunk the spiked coffee in the break room and promptly froze as rigid as a mannequin, resulting in her best friend Nessa being able to dress her up like a clown. Anna didn't blame Nessa for the prank, Anna most likely to have done something similar if the tables were turned, but ever since unfreezing in the outfit in front of the new director's office, Anna felt like her life could only get worse.

            Pulling her Volkswagen Scirocco III into her parking spot at ITEA HQ, Anna hesitated to get out of her car. Since her kidnapping Anna had become more paranoid, getting a license to have a shotgun in her car and also stashing a Taser in her glove box. Worse still, Anna was feeling useless as an agent, a position she'd dreamed of reaching for years after initially being more of a translator than anything else. Sighing, Anna looked at her right wrist, on which rested her father's old silver Rolex, a gift she'd received upon passing bodyguard training years ago. In spite of being certified with several weapons and experienced in international law, Anna's greatest assets to the ITEA were her linguistic skills. While being able to speak six languages was impressive, especially for someone due to turn thirty-one next month, Anna was questioning if her being put on a field team was even a good idea anymore.

            "Hey comrade, you planning on getting out of your car anytime today?" came a voice outside Anna's car, causing her to turn and look. Matthew Strathairn was hovering outside Anna's car with his arms crossed, flashing her a small grin.

            "Yeah, just needed to clear my head," replied Anna as she exited her vehicle. "How are you today?"

            "Can't complain, only need to look at a rover's tires today so far," revealed Matthew with a shrug. "Your car running okay? I could squeeze in an inspection if you want..."

            "Thanks actually, that would be great," agreed Anna, handing Matthew her car keys. "I don't think there's anything wrong but no mechanic's really gotten a look at it since I bought it."

            "I'm willing to bet there's something just starting to go," mused Matthew, clipping the keys to his waistband. "Have yourself a good day, Miss Russkie." Anna gave Matthew a bemused look before heading into the building, having actually had very few Russian-related nicknames prior to joining the ITEA. In fact the running name for Anna was Scrappy-Doo, a pet name Nessa had started using that had stuck with a few around the office. Matthew was really the only one to bring up the Cold War, and he was a Brit.

            Entering the back area of the ground floor of ITEA HQ, Anna was half-surprised by the appearance of Franklin Adams, a black-clad member of security. While guards didn't usually stay around the area Anna was in, she was used to seeing him, the older stone-faced American giving her a glare that, if she didn't know better, would give her the impression he hated her. "Good morning Agent Federov," greeted Frank, giving Anna a nod. "Are you aware of today's special procedures?"

            "Special procedures?" repeated Anna, not sure what Frank meant. "I am not. What's going on?"

            "Well ma'am, I'm to tell you to report to the medical wing on the second floor for a quick overview of your medical history as well as a short check-up," explained Frank, then moving the hand that he wasn't using to keep his M4 in place to pat his own arm. "Everyone's getting a quick inspection by the doctor and nurse that are on today."

            "Good to know the medical wing's finally up and running," shrugged Anna, a bit annoyed at the detour but understanding the reasoning behind it. "Anything else I should know?"

            "I'm told a couple of agents for the new department are also starting today, but they apparently have a history with what you deal with already," revealed Frank, glancing around as he did. "Oh, and if you were planning on trying to get back at Yelena for that, um, situation she and agent Kelly put you in last week, she's off for a couple of days." The situation Frank was referring to was the clown incident; Yelena Nikitin from security having taken part as well as Nessa.

            "Thanks a million Frank, you're doing great," offered Anna as she headed for the lobby.

            "Be sure to tell the new director!" replied Frank, not breaking his semi-scowl at the lighthearted remark. Anna merely grinned and kept walking.

* * *

            "That wasn't so bad," remarked Anna as she rolled down her sleeve, having just given a blood sample. The medical office was essentially a converted lab, with two small rooms set up as well as a general area that included chair for waiting and a nurse's station. One of the side rooms, so Anna had been told, was for the new therapist, while the other was a more private room where the doctor could discuss medical history with any patients as well as do medical procedures that were more private. Anna was currently the only one in the outer room besides the nurse, the doctor in her side room.

            "It's the same technology diabetics are using these days," explained Paige Saunders, the Canadian nurse. Paige was a blonde with green eyes, also possessing a fair complexion. Given she was handling blood, Anna was happy that Paige was wearing scrubs and had her hair up, but the nurse commented to not always expect to see her or the other nurse dressed that way. The other staffer, Nancy Colfax, was off today.

            "I didn't ask, why do you need our samples?" asked Anna, finishing up with her blouse's sleeve buttons. Anna's current wardrobe was a white blouse with a grey pants suit; today she wanted to dress a bit more conservatively.

            "Various reasons, including checking blood types, screening for previously unknown diseases, and even doing some research on blood that's had long-term exposure to Type-7," revealed Paige as she labeled the blood sample and placed it on a rack with several more. "Doctor Parker-Blake should be ready for you, I've sent her CyPad your medical history.

            "Great, thanks Nurse Saunders," offered Anna, hopping off the medical bed and putting on her blazer. "Wait, Parker-Blake? As in Ian and Alexandra Blake?"

            "She's Ian's wife, but professionally she does still go by Parker also," replied Paige, removing her latex gloves. "You can just call me Paige, by the way."

            "Okay, thank you Paige," said Anna, giving the nurse a smile before heading for the side room. Sonia Castillo had hired her daughter Angelita to be her secretary and now Ian Blake's wife was their new doctor. Anna was very troubled by how many family members of IT staff were getting hired and hoped that Dr. Parker-Blake was going to be good at her job.

            Entering the side room, Anna saw it held two medical beds as well as a small desk, and beyond that a great deal of medical supplies arranged on shelves. Anna saw everything from cotton swabs to scalpels before focusing on the doctor, who was standing near the beds with a CyPad in her hands. Ian BlakeÕs wife wasn't that tall but she wasn't short either, looking about average in height for an anglo woman. The doctor also had her brown hair up in a bun and, as she turned, Anna saw she also had brown eyes. In spite of having fairly common features and wearing a lab coat, Anna could tell that the doctor was a good-looking woman, even looking about her age. "Anna Federov, nice to meet you," greeted Parker-Blake, surprising Anna since she spoke in Russian. "I'm Doctor Zelda Parker, or Parker-Blake as you wish."

            "Nice to meet you as well," replied Anna in her own Russian. Anna's father had been a Russian diplomat to the United Nations so Anna had learned but English and Russian at a young age, well before learning her other four types of spoken communication.

            "I see in your file you're a linguist, so shall we compare?" asked Zelda in French.

            "You know a few languages do you?" noted Anna in French.

            "I studied at Laval, they had several courses available and I had the interest so I made out okay," revealed Zelda in Mandarin Chinese before then shifting to Spanish. "Besides English and French I picked up Russian, Spanish, French, German and Italian. My Mandarin is very limited and you've still got Arabic over me."

            "I do actually know a little German," confessed Anna, managing to say the words in Russian-accented German before going to English. "You've got me at Italian though. If I'm ever sent to Rome you're coming with me."

            "You got it," nodded Zelda, the two women sharing a smile. Anna was a bit envious that Zelda was not only a doctor but knew several languages like she did; though it was nice to meet someone who appreciated what an asset being multi-lingual was. "Have a seat on the bed, or lie down if you want, but this will be brief," offered Zelda in English, gesturing towards the beds. Shrugging, Anna went and had a seat, not bothering to lie down.

            "From a medical standpoint you're fairly healthy," noted Zelda, pressing a few buttons on her pad. "Your had the usual flurry of childhood diseases like Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps... only allergy I see here is bee stings. Is it correct to say itÕs a mild allergy?"

            "I just swell a bit more than most; maybe a small breakout of hives around the stung area," confirmed Anna.

            "Okay, I should just make sure you get the typical vaccinations if you're going somewhere exotic," nodded Zelda, tapping at her pad. "I do have to ask I'm afraid about your recent kidnapping. While you were examined and found unharmed physically, I need to know how you're doing mentally."

            "I'm fine," insisted Anna, not wanting to admit she was feeling a bit worthless and depressed.

            "Okay, I'll take your word for it, but you should still see Doctor Becker sometime soon at least once, just to talk about your experience," Zelda informed Anna. "I'll schedule you for tomorrow. Don't worry; he's one of the best. Wrote a great book on imagination..."

            "Fair enough," nodded Anna, a bit uneasy about talking with a psychiatrist. Just as Anna wondered what else could happen to her the door to the office was opened and in leaned Paige.

            "Alexandra Blake is here to see you Anna," announced the nurse, her eyes discreetly closed. With that the nurse closed the door as quickly as it had opened.

            "You should be fine, I've known Alex for years," Zelda assured Anna as she regretted tempting fate, even if just in her mind.

* * *

            "I highly recommend you consider opting out of our little prank clause," Alexandra told Anna, the two now alone in the Team Zeta conference room on the top floor of the building. The room was small but private; the only window to the outside office area tinted very darkly so only physical shapes could be seen. The room also had a single round table and six wheeled chairs around it as well as a water cooler with a tray of glass cups placed in one corner.

            "It was just Nessa being Nessa," insisted Anna, waving off Alexandra's suggestion while trying not to sigh. Alexandra's outfit nearly mirrored Anna's except her suit portion was black and had a skirt instead of pants, the two women also having their hair down in front of their shoulders.

            "The first thing we saw when we first met you was the clown suit; not your usual attire," pointed out Alexandra, tapping her ballpoint pen on the sheet of paper she had in front of her. "Certainly there is some occasionally less than professional conduct that happens in this building, but if you don't want to be a part of it I suggest you opt-out."

            "I just don't think that will be an issue," insisted Anna, then noticing the door to the conference room open as she spoke. "Nessa didn't slip me anything; I just drank from a coffee pot that I should have avoided." Unknown to Alexandra, Nessa had just entered the room, the Irish agent wearing a plain white T-shirt and jeans, something Anna was still getting used to seeing. Moving quietly, Nessa shuffled over behind Alexandra with a Type-7 dart visible in her right hand.

            "If you opt-out and you feel you've been wronged by getting dragged into the freeze pranks, then you can-" AlexandraÕs next word was instantly cut-off as the dart did its work after being plunged into the centre of her back by Nessa. Alexandra instantly froze with her left hand holding her pen against the paper, her right resting on top of it as well with her mouth partially open, her brown eyes blank.  She looked like a waxwork figure.

            "Yeah, you can really feel secure, except in rooms that don't have proper camera coverage," chuckled Nessa to the unhearing Alexandra, exchanging a high five with an equally amused Anna.

            "You want to mess with her a bit?" suggested Anna. "She really doesn't get the idea of 'no' when it comes from someone else."

            "Yeah, but I can't go get my clown suit; it'll show up on the cameras outside," agreed Nessa, then pointing out a limit on their fun.   She poked AlexandraÕs nose idly, getting no reaction as expected.

            "No problem, I was thinking waitress pose," revealed Anna, indicating the tray and water cooler in the corner of the room.

            "I like it!" laughed Nessa, pulling the dart out from Alexandra's back before moving to the objects. Standing up, Anna herself moved over to Alexandra and bent her forwards, allowing her to be stood up. After completing the maneuver Anna next put Alexandra's hands at her sides and pulled her jacket off, revealing her white blouse.

            "Lets open a button," suggested Anna, unbuttoning the top button on Alexandra's blouse. Next Anna rolled up Alex's sleeves a bit before raising her right hand to be at shoulder level, just in time for Nessa to deliver the tray with four glasses of water on it.  AlexandraÕs hand was arranged to hold the tray stiffly balanced in the air.

            "Not quite there," noted Nessa, moving to stand next to Anna and inspect their work. "I'm thinking hand on hip, hair up?"

            "I'll do the hair," confirmed Anna, pulling a hair-knot from her blazer's pocket and, after pulling Alexandra's hair up, using it to give the Australian a somewhat unruly bun. Nessa meanwhile posed the woman's left hand to be bent down while resting against her hip. Their work done, the two women backed off from the immobilized Australian and exchanged a low-five.

            "Remember, if she asks, you were frozen too," warned Nessa, Anna chuckled along with her as the pair left the room and closed the door behind them.

            "Hello ladies," came the voice of Juro Takashi, the Japanese analyst suddenly approaching them from their right. "It is good to see you both this morning." Nessa smiled at Juro and he returned it, the recently formed couple then exchanging a quick but surprisingly steamy kiss.

            "Thank you for not looking away, Scrappy," muttered Nessa, putting her arm around Juro's neck.

            "Sorry, still getting use to you two, well, being together," remarked Anna, stunned at her best friend had suddenly decided to date their co-worker. Juro wasn't ugly or anything, Anna just knew Nessa usually went for the handsome European types and not the more nerdy Asian types like Juro.             "You know, you never did tell me exactly how you two ended up in this relationship."

            "Right, guess we were too busy talking about you and Drake," realized Nessa, nodding. "Well, he was insisting on walking me home from a bar and we got jumped by this thug from Ouroboros. We ended up in the romantic area of a park and Juro figured we could hide in plain sight by playing the role of lovers. After the criminal was dealt with, he tried to pretend the diversion was all innocent, but given just how into character he was getting..."

            "I figured the move might get me two birds with one stone, in a matter of speaking," confessed Juro, looking a bit sheepish.

            "Don't even think about getting a second bird," warned Nessa, then giving Anna a wink before smiling. "But yeah, what can I say? I admire someone who can pull of a move like that. Plus its nice to actually be with someone from work... makes talking about what we do a lot easier."

            "Pretty sure that's why we have an allowance for fraternization," nodded Anna. "I still can't believe you two managed to get together like that... makes me want to go on more missions with guys I like."

            "I don't think Paddy's going to go out in the field anytime soon," came a friendly but somewhat mocking voice, Anna turning to see Lori Jones, another analyst, joining them. "Sorry, we're talking about people around here hooking up, right?"

            "More or less," shrugged Juro.

            "Quite the trend, really;" noted Lori, glancing around. "Lucienne is with Tasia, though she's also with Tak so who knows there, right? Cassandra's engaged to JB, Marika's married to Dieter, Ian's married to Zelda, Suzanna's dating Will, Hui's with Miranda, Greg's with the other Anna, Rafael and Angela were together..."

            "Wait, that was real?" interrupted Nessa, surprised. "I mean, I know Raf's a flirt, but to actually...?"

            "Yeah, that sounds like the reason Angie quit," nodded Lori, glancing over her shoulder. Through the technical wing's area Rafael Calado was visible, the handsome Portuguese chief analyst was engrossed in studying the smart-board as data flashed on it. A third Egyptian Storm operation had just been green-lit, Team Delta was responding to what so far seemed like a false alarm in Cairo. Anna wondered if the political uprising in Egypt that had just happened in March, in part thanks to the use of the program Chirper, had anything to do with the mission.

            "I suppose that might be a point in favor of not allowing fraternization," noted Juro before glancing at Nessa. "On the other hand..."

            "I think I'd better get back to my desk," decided Anna, not wanting to see what was going to happen given the look Nessa was giving Juro. Lori also wandered off, Anna noting she then went over to talk to Raf. Arriving in Team Zeta's office, Anna quickly sat down at her desk.

            Upon logging into her computer Nessa saw she'd received the latest batch of photos from Rafael that identified known threats that were still at large. Slightly annoying to Anna was the fact that listed first were special alerts about members from a couple of gangs the ITEA had helped put behind bars who had recently been released on bail. The faces of the men just burned into Anna's head, reminding her again of what a fool she'd been to miss the truth about Drake, or Peter as she'd known him. Letting out a sigh, Anna leaned back in her chair and glanced out of her office, wondering what Paddy was doing and if she could be lucky enough to date him, solving quite a few problems.

* * *

            "You seen the latest previews for Dragon Age: Origins?" asked Rhonda Evens, the blonde American sitting on the edge of her co-worker's desk. Rhonda was due to leave soon for a lunch meeting with some security experts from Interpol so she was dressed casually, wearing a low-cut black tank top under a form-fitting leather jacket; her hair in a loose low ponytail and jeans on her legs.

            "Honestly I'm more excited about Final Fantasy XIII, though that will probably take a while to get properly translated," replied Travis Paddington, better known as Paddy, who was himself wearing a grey hoodie and jeans as well as his reading glasses. The handsome Brit was currently focusing more on his computer screen than the very attractive woman sitting on his desk, something that miffed Rhonda a bit.

            "Hey, nothing wrong with nostalgia, at least until it bites you in the rear," remarked Rhonda, standing up as she spoke. Rhonda wasn't sure but she thought she saw Paddy get a glance at her own rear end as she stood up, which had been the point. "Well I think I'll grab Cori and head out, unless there's something you need?"

            "No, I'm good," Paddy assured Rhonda, giving her a bit of a smile and a nod.

            "Okay, don't forget if you need to find me you can use that program I sent you," Rhonda reminded Paddy, heading out the door.

            "Rhonda, wait," Paddy suddenly said, causing Rhonda to stop, smile to herself as she turned around slowly, presenting her shapely profile.

            "What's up?" asked Rhonda, noticing Paddy had taken off his glasses and was clearly working with his words.

            "...Have a good lunch," managed Paddy after a short pause, promptly putting his glasses back on and getting back to work. Rhonda waited until she'd left Travis's office to frown, quickly heading for the stairs.

            Rhonda's office was attached to the security section of the third floor, her space now shared with her new assistant. A few years back Rhonda had made friends with Coriander Blankfein, a fellow fan of video games, through World of Warcraft. Cori, like Rhonda, was very talented when it came to computers and security systems, the two having corresponded for years. When Sonia Castillo became the new director of IT, Rhonda had wasted no time in recommending Cori be hired as her assistant, figuring the HQ's internal security systems needed more than just one person overseeing them. Cori had been brought on less than a week Sonia had started as director and had officially started five days ago, thus she was in the middle learning just who everyone was and how things worked at the agency.

            Entering her office, Rhonda wasn't at all surprised to see Cori was frozen stiff with a cup of coffee held up to her lips. Nearly every community coffee machine in the ITEA headquarters was typically rigged with Type-7, allowing people to prank whoever drank it. Coriander, who was an American three years Rhonda's senior, was still clearly unaware of how risky drinking the free coffee was. Cori stood solidly with her red hair hanging loose, wearing a purple short-sleeved blouse with black dress pants. The Assistant Head of Security Systems had her green eyes opened wide; her left hand was holding the mug by its handle to her lips while her right hand was touching the surface of her desk. Both desks in the office had two monitors and several personal affects, Rhonda having put the first CPU she'd burned out in a small case while Cori had paid a local painter and clay sculptor to make statuettes of her avatars from several online games she played. Two notable statuettes were of Cori's World of Warcraft priest Codex and her City of Heroes scrapper Lucky Penny.

            Letting out a small sigh, Rhonda moved over to her desk and retrieved a bottle of Motion Mist she'd picked up for occasions such as Cori drinking the office coffee. Approaching her friend Rhonda took a quick moment to appreciate that Cori complimented her own appearance well before spraying her lightly. "Oh!" exclaimed Cori as she came back to life, spinning around to see Rhonda and nearly spilling her coffee. "I didn't hear you come in Rhonda!"

            "It's okay, I just..." began Rhonda, only to then sigh as she watched Coriander sip from her coffee again. This time Cori froze leaning against her desk, her left hand resting on her waistband while she'd managed to lower her mug just a bit from her mouth, her vacantly staring gaze more normal-looking.

            "Don't drink that," warned Rhonda after spraying Cori again.

            "Oh, is this some of that special 'freeze your co-workers and make them look like statues' stuff?" realized Cori, gesturing at her mug suspiciously before making air quotes with her left hand. "Sorry, I should really get used to this."

            "Took me a while too, and I know a few people that have been here pretty much since the beginning that still aren't aware," offered Rhonda, giving her friend a quick pat on the shoulder. "You ready to go grab lunch?"

            "A bit early but I guess by the time we get there..." muttered Cori, glancing at the clock, then down at her coffee. "Oh.  ItÕs later than I thought; must have been standing there like a mannequin for quite a while... You know, despite what this does, itÕs really good. I think by freezing you it might actually stimulate your sense of taste more. You know, like how they stay being frozen during sex makes it better."

            "I wouldn't know," sighed Rhonda, annoyed that in spite of him specifically getting her the job at a workplace where fraternization was allowed Paddy still hadn't made a move on her. Rhonda then couldn't help but just watch as Cori drank from her Type-7 spiked coffee yet again, only this time it was a large amount; she practically drained the cup before freezing up with her cheeks still inflated due to how much coffee she'd drank, her mug held against her waist with both hands.

            "Thanks, I just didn't want to let it go to waste," explained Cori upon getting revived for a third time by Rhonda and the Motion Mist. "Okay, lunch!" Rhonda smirked as Cori put down her mug and grabbed her purse, Rhonda already having her wallet and such in her jacket pockets.

            "No jacket?" remarked Rhonda as the pair exited their office and headed for the elevator. "It's surprisingly dry today but it is still late March..."

            "The train will be warm enough," Coriander assured her friend as they continued to walk. "So sorry about the, um..." Cori stopped speaking for a moment, waiting until they got into the empty elevator. "... the sex talk earlier. I know you haven't exactly been... lucky in that respect lately."

            "It's alright, he'll come around," Rhonda assured Coriander. "What about you? See anyone you like yet?"

            "That Leon guy, the Sargent on the second floor?" revealed Cori, smiling, looking a little embarrassed. "He's got a few years on me but I swear those blue eyes of his are some of the cutest I've ever seen!"

            "Sorry to tell you, but Leon's married," revealed Rhonda, referring to Leonard Sharp of security. "His eyes are also just a light brown, not blue."

            "So you've noticed," pouted Coriander, crossing her arms for a moment. "His marriage okay?"

            "Don't go there," warned Rhonda as the pair left the elevator, having arrived on the ground floor. Moving through the security barrier the two women then passed by Gitana Brook, the receptionist, who was actually reading a book today.

            "Have a good lunch ladies," offered Gitana, barely looking up as Rhonda and Coriander passed her by.

            "She seems a bit aloof," noted Coriander as she headed for the doors, just behind Rhonda.

            "Rumor is she's been stepping out on her super-lawyer husband," gossiped Rhonda as they pushed open the front doors to the building. Rhonda wasn't usually one to give into gossip but the idea that Gitana was cheating on her husband had been talked about for over a month now, thus it had really stuck with her.

            "Well that's a shame if itÕs true," sighed Cori as the pair turned right on the sidewalk, heading for the nearest bus stop. The ITEA HQ's location in the Islington borough of London was a bit off the beaten path compared to other major agency buildings in the greater city, thus there were few pedestrians around. Rhonda and Cori had barely made it fifty feet away from the front door of the headquarters when suddenly van pulled up on the street in front of them as the side door then slid open to reveal men with large guns. Rhonda barely had time to process the events before darkness took her.

* * *

            Lucienne Christophe, in spite of a nagging craving, decided not to smoke as she watched the security footage. Using images recorded by ITEA HQ's own cameras, plus those of a nearby CCTV service, security was able to quickly cobble together a video showing a great deal of detail in the attack/kidnapping on Rhonda Evens and Coriander Blankfein. A beat-up old van pulled up beside the pair as they walked away from the building and then opened, revealing two men with hunting rifles. Cori and Rhonda were both quickly shot and went down, falling over stiffly like fallen statues due to the rounds containing Type-7. One man, visibly of African heritage in spite of wearing a ski mask, grabbed Rhonda and dragged her into the van while a second man, Caucasian, went for Cori. It was by then however that the guards inside ITEA HQ knew what was going on and raced out, Franklin Adams and Carmen Pared openings fire with their M4 carbines. Coriander was still laying on the ground with her eyes frozen wide in surprise, her mouth open and her hands up as the second gunman struggled to pick her up when Frank and Carmen fired on him. The second shooter ended up getting hit right in the head with a dart and fell face down as the van started pulling away. Carmen and Frank fired upon the vehicle for as long as they could, but a shot from the van hit Carmen's unprotected neck and she froze, falling backwards with her weapon still firing. Luckily Carmen's magazine was empty before anyone was hit. Gitana knew procedure, having already called the Metropolitan Police Service before Frank and Carmen had even made it outside.

            "Don't know if we can do much on that response time without posting people outside," commented Lucienne, letting out a sigh and turning to face the colleagues who were with her in her office: Sophia Katsopolis, the leader of Team Zeta, which was the current team active on the duty roster for the next available assignment; Shiori Yoshida, the agency's liaison with the police; and Michael Bradford, the newly appointed director of GRID, or General Response and Investigation Department. Sonia Castillo had created GRID on her first day and Michael had been the choice suggested by Interpol Section Chief Raymond Bishop, supported by Lucienne herself since she knew Michael from back when she'd been with Interpol. Michael's department existed to respond to possible assignments that didn't call for an entire team, possibly even just basic investigations with the ability to call in a full team later if needed. GRID had only been active for a few days but they did have a couple of agents already on board so if Sophia needed backup the department could do so.

            "We can go over possible security changes later, with all due respect," replied Shiori, the Japanese woman folding her arms. "Do we have a way to track your kidnapped personnel?"

            "I've been working on that," announced Travis Paddington, who'd just entered the office to join them with a CyPad in his hands. "Rhonda's jackets are all equipped with a special transmitter, that using this program I have here, allows me to track her. As you can see, we've traced her now to a location twenty-seven blocks away. If I get closer, I can better pinpoint where in this area on the map she is."

            "We've also identified the captured shooter as being a member of the Howe Street Boys," revealed Sophia, indicating a folder she had. "Given we arrested several of them around Christmas, they might be looking for revenge of sorts. Kioni's sweating him now."

            "Sonia picked a hell of a time to go to New York," muttered Lucienne, rubbing her forehead for a moment. With the director going to speak to people at the United Nations in the US, it fell to her to run the newly modified agency that she had once been solely in charge of. "Okay, we know where our people are, lets contact the Yard and have them work with us to investigate. I know Zeta is up for deployment, but what is the status of the other teams?"

            "Beta is back in New York as well, doing follow-up on the Stilton incident," recited Michael, needing to be more aware of team deployment than perhaps anyone else in the room due to his department needing to pick up their slack. "Gamma is tracking Tamaya Qillaq, they're currently in... Paris I believe. Delta's gone back to Cairo; Epsilon and Alpha are both currently off due to certain agents requesting recovery time from the Ouroboros fiasco."

            "I'll contact the local detachment," offered Shiori, interrupting for a moment to excuse herself from the room.

            "How many agents have you got that are field-ready?" asked Lucienne, having nodded at Shiori before focusing back on Michael.

            "Luxby and Kao are both experienced and have worked on cases related to your own before, plus they're actually here," revealed Michael, pulling out a CyPocket to go over his own information. "The transfer orders for the two from Interpol I want hasn't gone through yet so they're still in Rome. Avrum just made the big flight yesterday so while he's viable, I wouldn't recommend calling him in before anyone still able to work from Alpha and Epsilon."

            "We can scout out the location and then make the call if we want to bring anyone else in," suggested Sophia. "I've got a full team ready; Michael can back us up. Epsilon did put them away in the first place so it might be risky to use them here, depending on how we want to approach it..."

            "Okay. Team Zeta will take point, Michael, I want you and your two agents to join them," ordered Lucienne, gesturing around the room. "Paddy, can anyone track that signal with your program?"

            "No, it would probably be better if I did it myself," admitted Paddy, shaking his head. "Look, I know I'm not a field agent and, honestly, I'd rather not be, but given the situation..."

            "I'll escort the kid," offered Michael. "Still I'd feel better having one of Sophie's agents watching my back. Have you got someone you can stick with me?"

            "Anna should do nicely," suggested Sophia, nodding.

* * *

            "Agent Federov?" came a voice, causing Anna to look up from her computer. In the past fifteen minutes since Rhonda Evens had been kidnapped by a group now identified as the Howe Street Boys and Zeta was put on call for the assignment, Anna didn't have much else to do prior to deploying, thus she'd been sitting at her desk studying the supposed location of the kidnappers. Standing in the doorway of the Zeta office was a young redheaded woman who looked to barely be eighteen by Anna's estimates.

            "That's me," confirmed Anna, nodding at the young woman as she stood up. "Are you Evie Woods?" Evie was Michael Bradford's daughter and the secretary for GRID; since the woman in front of Anna matched the age and description given for the person she figured that's who it was.

            "That's me too," confirmed Evie with a quick nod, her accent English rather than being Scottish like her father's. "I was told to let you know you're to meet with your team now in the GRID office on the fourth floor."

            "Gotcha," nodded Anna, getting up from her chair and following Evie. Nessa and Kioni were waiting for Anna at the elevator.

            "Pick up anything useful from the street layout?" asked Nessa as the group entered the elevator. Anna noticed Kioni was already wearing her tactical suit, possibly to help her interrogate the captured gang-member, her hair however hung free and loose on top of her black Noi Industries Impact Armor. Nessa had also gotten changed into field gear but her hair was up in a bun already.

            "A nearby building could get us roof access with a simple zip-line," revealed Anna, recalling that an adjacent office building was two stories taller than the target. "A small team could go by that route while our main team goes in on the ground. Fire escape looks like garbage, so I doubt they'd risk using that."

            "So probably have the other tactical group go in through the back door," nodded Kioni, giving Anna an approving smile. "It's a viable plan. We just need to run a heartbeat and IR sensor on the place and get a good idea of what our opposition is and where theyÕre placed."

            "Right," agreed Anna as the elevator stopped, with Evie leading the trio out and to GRID's office. The fourth floor had mostly been office space, in particular for human resources and accounting, but there were also several large meeting rooms teams tended to also use for open briefings. GRID's office was converted from a meeting room into a space containing several cubicles and a large desk near the front of the big room. Currently gathered around Michael's desk were: the man himself, clad in a long blue coat with a dark dress shirt and pants underneath; Sophia, like the other members of Zeta save Anna already wearing Impact Armor; Travis Paddington, who was an odd presence since he wasn't a field agent; and a tall blonde Anna knew to be Yeardley Luxby, a new GRID agent, whom if she recalled right had used to work for the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United States. Yeardley, sometimes called Lux, was wearing her impact armor like several of the others, her hair tied back in a low ponytail.

            "Is this everyone?" asked Evie, glancing around as the group gathered around Michael's desk.

            "Hang on, where's Nicole?" realized Michael, noticing someone was absent.

            "Here!" exclaimed another voice, a woman of Chinese descent approaching the group from a cubicle while wearing only half of her tactical gear, her outer body-plate not pulled on yet, though she was wearing the black jumpsuit and leg protection. "Sorry, I grabbed a coffee from the break room earlier and Lux had to get me," explained Nicole, looking a bit embarrassed. Like Lux, Nicole was new to the ITEA, joining GRID after working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

            "Right then," nodded Michael, indicating the projector screen behind his desk and typing at his keyboard. "I've received an update from the police service; they've got people posted within a three block radius of the building. It's four stories in total, at one point a warehouse and offices, but empty right now; it's due to be demolished next month. So far we only know that there's at least two gang-members more than likely in there, and we know they have at least one ITEA hostage. Travis Paddington will be joining us, as he's able to determine exactly where Rhonda Evens is being held. He's not a field agent, so I'll be escorting him with agent Kao and agent Federov, in through an alternate access point yet to be determined. Agent Katsopolis will lead the other team, which will consist of the rest, except you Evie of course."

            Anna looked at Paddy in surprise, stunned that he'd be willing to do field work. Nonetheless Anna was a bit excited to be working with him, hoping that the mission would perhaps bring them closer together. It was also a bit of a delight for Anna to be working with Michael since he was very handsome himself, though she wasn't sure if he was her type, being over five years her senior. "The northern building is two stories taller than the target, the distance makes it viable to zip-line across," announced Anna, revealing what she'd learned.

            "Okay perfect, that will be our second entry," nodded Michael, marking the building on the screen. "We've got the equipment we need downstairs."

            "I'll take my team through the rear, probably better than the front even if they have it covered," declared Sophia, indicating the building's back alley. "We can get the MPS to cover possible exits."

            "Sounds like we've got our plan," nodded Lux. "Are we good to deploy?"

            "One moment," held up Sophia, pressing a button on her cellphone. "Bethany, if you would..." With that the office doors opened and in walked the dyed-hair Bethany McGill, ITEA's weapon modification expert, who was carrying a compact weapon that resembled a paintball gun.

            "Good news.  Ladies and gentlemen, you get to be the first to use our new sub-machine guns!" exclaimed Bethany, holding the weapon aloft. "This is the ITEA SM-3, a .410-calibre gun with twenty shots in a clip."

            ".410?" echoed Nessa, looking a bit surprised. Anna wasn't up to date on weapons herself but knew that a .410 wasn't a usual caliber.

            "They're custom-made to hold these," revealed Bethany, producing an unusual-looking dart that looked like a cross between a shotgun shell and a standard dart. "These are what I call Static7. .410 is the only caliber I can currently get them to work right with, so I had to make a gun that would accept them."

            "What's so special about Static7?" asked Nicole.

            "The darts can both deliver an electric shock like electro-static rounds, and deliver a dose of Type-7 that will freeze the target for a few hours," explained Bethany, indicating the unusual base of the dart. "Just in case the bad guys have Chips or, even worse, Immunity Rings, these will knock them out too and make sure the target stays frozen. I've got enough for everyone waiting for your downstairs with the rest of your supplies. Unfortunately I don't have a working pistol just yet, though its nearly done, so you'll have to stick with your usual modified Glocks and Rugers for sidearms."

            "It'll be enough; thanks," Michael assured Bethany. "Okay everyone, go get suited up and meet your teams at your Rovers in ten! Lets go save our girl!"

            Paddy and Nicole let out a small exclamation in agreement before looking embarrassed and moving off. Anna hurried to join Paddy as he headed for the elevator. "So... first time in the field?" asked Anna as she walked next to Travis.

            "Yeah... am more than a little nervous," admitted Paddy as they moved. "I can't even take an SMG into the field so I'm stuck with only a pistol while you'll all have that new firepower. Starting to wonder if this was a good idea..."

            "Hey, I've got your back," Anna assured Paddy, giving him a bit of a shoulder-nudge. Paddy gave Anna a weak grin as they entered the elevator and headed for the ground floor.

* * *

Islington, London, UK

            The two teams ended up meeting with Detective Superintendent Emily Woods two blocks away from the target building, the presence small for now to avoid causing a hostage standoff. The ITEA agents and Paddy were all wearing Impact Armor, everyone but the technical director also carrying the new SM-3. The two teams had gathered around the Scotland Yard Superintendent, who was a very attractive woman in her early forties, possessing red hair and blue eyes. She and her men were wearing basic tactical gear, not there to officially engage but yielding to the ITEA. Anna then discovered how awkward that would be.

            "In a matter of disclosure, I should let you know that Director Bradford's daughter is also my own," revealed Emily, addressing the whole group. "Just thought we should get that out of away to avoid any potential issues."

            "Fair enough," nodded Sophia, Anna meanwhile now saw where Evie had gotten her coppery hair color from. "Okay, we've got a plan, but we'll need you to back us up. We're going to have one team breach up top while the other goes in below. We need you to get people in position to cover the exits while we move in. How many have you got?"

            "Four teams of five, that should be enough to cover each side," revealed Emily, gesturing across the street to a parking lot, where more lightly equipped officers could be seen. "Miss Yoshida told me that we'd take possession of the prisoners but you'd be the first to interrogate them; is that correct?"

            "Yes, once we've got our bases covered you can prosecute them via normal procedure," confirmed Michael, nodding. With that there was a quick repeat of the plan before the teams split up, Sophia, Lux, Kioni and Nessa going one way while Anna followed Michael, Nicole and Travis another.

            Soon enough the four were in an elevator heading for the roof of the building across from the target, with Michael and Nicole standing up front while Paddy and Anna were behind them, Nicole was in charge of rigging the zip-line equipment. Paddy shifted next to Anna, one hand holding his CyPad while the other hovered near his Glock. Seeing the way his hand moved, Anna instinctively took it with her own, managing to calm him and get a thankful look. "I'm sure you've all got some cold feet here, but stick with me and you'll be fine," announced Michael. "Our weapons aren't designed to kill, just immobilize, and they're using the same thing. We're wearing state of the art armor that's both light and incredibly bulletproof. We've even got a sensor that will tell us how many heartbeats are inside the target building. WeÕre going to kick their little asses so far up and down the block it will be like a game of football."

            "Understood," grinned Nicole, with Anna and Travis both managing to smile as they made it to the breezy rooftop. Stepping outside, the group emerged and headed right for the corner, Anna sticking close to Paddy as he worked with the CyPad while Nicole began assembling the equipment for the zip-line and Michael trained his NI 150 Heartbeat Sensor on the building across the small gap. The device was programmed to register people wearing special emitters as blue against a grey background while anyone not wearing an emitter would come off as red.

            "I've got her on the top floor," announced Paddy after a few moments adjusting the variables associated with the signal he was receiving. "Looks like the opposite end from what we're facing, but we only have a couple of hallways and then it looks like she's in a big room."

            "I've got four heartbeats upstairs, looks like the rest of the floors are actually clear," revealed Michael, sounding puzzled at the last part. The sensor only had a range of three hundred meters but that was enough to cover most of the nearby building, so it did seem oddly empty for a supposed gang hideout.

            "Could be the rest are away," suggested Anna. "We did arrest a lot of them last Christmas..."

            "Either way it looks like there's three of them between Rhonda and us" remarked Nicole, having finished preparing the piton gun.

            "I'd say four; people injected with Type-7 don't register on the sensor, their heartbeat is too slow," corrected Michael, explaining the device. "Either way I've got us an entrance, second window to the right. You see it?"

            "I do," confirmed Nicole, aiming the grappling weapon. Anna made sure Paddy was standing well back as the piton weapon fired backwards and forwards at the same time, setting up a zip-line per the angle.

            "Fire," ordered Michael, then activating his Ghostchatter radio to transmit to Sophia's Blue Team as Nicole did as she was commanded, a piton piercing the opposing window while another embedded itself behind the team. "Blue Team this is Green Team, we're standing by to breach. We've got four upstairs, I'm not detecting any below."

            "Confirmed Green Team; Blue Team will breach in thirty seconds," replied Sophia over the radio. Anna paid little attention to the acknowledgement, instead helping Paddy clip on to the zip-line, behind Michael at the head of the group and Nicole. "Wait until I've breached," reminded Michael, then flashing his team a bright grin. With that Michael slid down the zip-line like a gondola equipped with a jet engine, zipping towards the window feet first. The GRID director's reinforced boots smashed the remaining glass of the already damaged frame and fell through the window, the rest of Blue Team matching as he rolled up and quickly scanned the doors with his SM-3.

            "Breaching!" announced Nicole, going next down the zip-line as Michael moved out of the way.

            "You sure you don't want to stay?" asked Anna, her arms around Paddy's waist as she was to help him breach safely.

            "No, but I've come too far," breathed Travis as they watched Nicole sail through the window and spring up, covering the other door.

            "Then here we go!" exclaimed Anna, pushing forward with Paddy in front of her. Anna had only zip-lined a few times before, mostly in training, but she'd never gotten used to the speed. Nonetheless the Russian agent managed to avoid screaming as the pair got close to the window and she prepared to detach. Upon reaching the contact point Anna was able to detach successfully, hitting the ground in the empty room well before reaching the wall. Paddy didn't get up right away but Anna managed to, which was lucky as it was then that someone finally entered the room.

            A thin man in denim opened the door next to Michael with a shotgun in his hands but was immediately hit by Blue Leader's SM-3, causing him to fall backwards like a collapsed statue before his weapon could even go off. "Blue Team, target down," announced Michael over the radio. "We've breached."

            "Green Team has breached!" Sophia then confirmed as well. "We're coming to your location now!"

            "Okay, lets go," insisted Michael, leading his team out of the room. Michael's sensor was attached to the side of his gun so he quickly picked up a second person approaching them from just up the hall.

            "Nicole, circle and strike," ordered Michael, showing Nicole what he'd detected. Nodding, the Chinese-Canadian broke off from the group, using the other exit in the room. Watching on Michael's sensor, Anna and Paddy could see their blue-colored teammate slip around behind the approaching shape, which appeared to be female and carrying a rifle, before shooting the target in the back and causing it to fade out.

            "Blue Team, target neutralized," announced Nicole over the radio. It was then that, to Anna's horror, she saw another shape appear on the sensor and heard a shot ring out.

            "Nicole, status?!" shouted Michael into the radio, but the woman's reading from the sensor had also faded. A third person was now moving down the hallway with what looked like a shotgun.

            "Anna, take Paddy and go secure Rhonda; this is taking too long," ordered Michael, indicating the second door. "I'll keep them coming this way, to secure you a route out. Go!"

            "But..." began Anna.

            "Go!" ordered Michael again, leaning out from the doorframe and firing blindly down the hallway. Shotgun blasts rang out but Michael seemed fine, though he'd managed to already empty his clip. Anna just had enough time before leaving to watch Michael pull out his unusual-looking sidearm, an NI Euryale revolver rather than a Glock or Ruger, before pulling Paddy out the door.

            Gesturing for Travis to be quiet, Anna pulled him down the second hallway, relieved to see no one coming their way. As it happened Anna was even able to spot Nicole as she moved through an intersection, seeing the agent had indeed been frozen. Nicole stood rigidly, facing backwards where Michael was, her gun held at her right side with her left hand touching her ear; her face held a serious expression with an almost frown on her lips. Beyond NicoleÕs statue, Anna made out the silhouette of another frozen woman who looked Indian, wearing a leather jacket and torn jeans; most likely the target Nicole had taken down before being hit herself.

            Gunshots continued to be traded back and forth where Michael and his attackers were as Anna reached the door that, according to Paddy's readout, should take them to Rhonda. "Let me get a quick peek inside," Anna told Travis, gesturing for him to wait as she carefully pushed open the already slightly ajar door a bit more to get a look inside the room.

            The room was big and essentially empty, save for one big table and several cardboard boxes. To Anna's surprise four people were in the room, not just one or two as expected. Three frozen women were standing at attention in a row, all three standing apart from one another; they were a brunette, a redhead and a blonde, the last one being Rhonda. The brunette had short, slightly curled hair, green eyes and a beauty mark below her left eye. The woman was wearing all black; blouse, blazer, pants and even heels. The redhead's hair went down past her shoulders and she had blue eyes, and was wearing a older-style chauffeur's uniform complete with cap, the outfit dark grey and buttoned along the front of her ample chest. The fourth person in the room was another redhead but she was young and moving, wearing a white and red plaid T-shirt as well as jeans with her loose hair spilling down to the center of her back.

            "So someone's getting a spot of rescue are they?" muttered the active redhead, sounding Scottish. "Too bad that by they reach us you'll all be dead..." To Anna's horror she saw the apparent gang-member had picked up a .38 revolver from the table and was moving towards the trio of helpless women, pointing it first at Rhonda.

            "Stop!" shouted Anna, bursting into the room and training her SM-3 on the armed gang member. Normally with the situations the wrongdoer would have been told to put her gun down but thanks to the weapon being non-lethal Anna didn't have to bother; instead she just firing and froze the gang redhead in her tracks, her gun still pointed with her right hand at Rhonda while she looked back in Anna's direction, surprise captured on her face as her left arm had moving away from her waist.

            "Blue team, target neutralized, hostages are secure!" announced Anna into her radio, breathing easier as she moved up to the frozen gang member, with Paddy following.

            "Rhonda!" exclaimed Travis, having pulled a needle containing Type-7 neutralizer from the arm pocket of his outfit and running to his immobilized friend.

            "Blue leader, target neutralized," came Michael's voice over the radio. "Good work Anna, I'm coming your way now."

            "Green leader here, we're just on the third floor now," added Sophia over the radio. "Keep alert; someone might be eluding us somehow." Sophia's warning fell on deaf ears as Anna was certain the building was secure, no more unknown heartbeats being detected. Satisfied with herself, Anna headed over to the gang member she'd shot and carefully raised up the frozen womanÕs stiffened gun arm before trying to remove the weapon, being cautious just in case it went off.

            "Okay Travis I think..." began Anna, only to trail off as she saw what was going on. Paddy had revived Rhonda with the counter-agent shot and the pair were now kissing, their lips locked together as they hugged, the CyPad having been callously dropped aside. "Ah," managed Anna, deciding to turn away and just wait for someone else to show up or, better yet, let the planet open up and swallow her.

* * *

            "This is Martina Aguilar, reporting live in London for the Global News Agency," announced the Spanish reporter as she beamed brightly and looked into the camera. The dark-haired reporter was standing outside the building that been raided earlier that day by a special task force, and she was now standing with another black-haired woman in an equally black business dress. The woman's hair reached her shoulders and a bit beyond, her blue eyes glinting behind a pair of glasses.

            "Today was a dramatic day for the London suburb of Islington, where the Metropolitan Police Service worked with an as of yet unnamed agency to take down recently released members of the Howe Street Boys, a dangerous street gang," explained Martina into the camera. "At least four suspects were apprehended and hostages were rescued, including this woman's employer. Would you like to tell your story?" Martina held the microphone over to the woman that was with her.

            "My name is Lily Gardner, I work for Miss Isabella Winthrop," revealed the woman, looking very calm and cool in spite of what had transpired not two hours ago, as police still milled around the scene behind them. "My employer, a known entrepreneur who, we should admit, owns a stake in the local GNA affiliate, was kidnapped by the Howe gang along with her driver Ruby Edison, earlier this morning."

            "And a task force was formed to quickly rescue Miss Winthrop?" asked Martina, quickly moving the microphone back and forth.

            "Actually at first we didn't know who had kidnapped her; she'd been abducted somewhere on the road while I was dealing with other matters across town," explained Lily smoothly. "The gang had kidnapped more than just my employer and her driver however so, while I haven't been briefed, I'd say its safe to bet it was that her kidnapping that led to this thankfully bloodless resolution. If you'll excuse me..." With that Lily walked off, leaving Martina looking surprised for just a moment.

            "Yes, bloodless, as the task force that entered the building was able to take down the gang members using innovative non-lethal methods before any hostages could be harmed," announced Martina, a monitor now turning on behind the camera to show the GNA International news desk in Washington DC. "We are still trying to discover the identity of the other hostages..."

            "I believe I can help with that," came a sudden off-screen voice, causing Martina to look over in surprise as a gorgeous Latin-looking woman in her late twenties walked into view of the camera, even holding a GNA microphone while wearing a dark blouse and grey skirt under a designer leather jacket. "This is Chita Francisco, GNA's newest London correspondent for all things that have to do with law and order. I've just been informed that there were only three hostages, the third one wishing to remain anonymous, as she is an administration clerk with the London Interpol section. The second agency working with the Metropolitan Police Service was Interpol, and we're expecting to get official statements from both Detective Superintendent Emily Woods and Section Chief Raymond Bishop within the next half-hour. The four captured gang-members are in MPS custody as per jurisdiction. Drugs, illegal weaponry and other items of interest were found on the scene and the four suspects were all apprehended using standard issue pepper spray and stun guns. I think that about covers everything?" Martina just stared at Chita, stunned by her sudden appearance while on the monitor GNA International's Steven Holbert just smiled.

            "Great first report Chita, I look forward to your next one when the authorities release their statement," remarked the glasses-wearing news anchor, a brown-haired man in his forties.

            "Thank you Steven, it's great to be on board," replied Chita, flashing a bright smile. "From London this is Chita Francisco and Martina Aguilar." With that the light on the camera went out but the satellite feed of Steven was still visible.

            "We'll take you back to that story when the official statement is released," explained Steven to the cameras. "Well that's London, lets head over to Japan where our own Arun Chopra has got some big news from the world of art!" With that the satellite feed was shut-off.

            "Okay, who the hell are you?!" Martina almost screamed, perceiving Chita as a pile of snakes that had gained a collective consciousness. "No one told me you were going to show up!"

            "I literally signed my contract two minutes ago," explained Chita, having at the producer behind the camera who waved back, then gave them a thumbs-up. "Don't worry, I'm not out to constantly out-scoop you, I'm just here to cover big crime stories with, or without, you."

            "I'm not the one I think we could do without," muttered Martina, desperately wanting a coffee.

* * *

            Kioni Abasi had once truly believed that her work with IT was doing the world some good, but after having so many criminals get out on bail or get off on some technicality only to certainly commit crimes again, Kioni had grown sick of the system. Fortunately, now Kioni was driving four of the many criminals she'd seen return after arrest to the station for processing, and she'd thought ahead enough to even plan for it.

            Kioni was driving a secured police wagon with Sophia beside her; Yeardley and Nessa were in the back with the prisoners, who were still immobilized under the effects of Type-7 for added security. Before Sophie or anyone else had gotten into the vehicle they'd requisitioned from the Metropolitan Police Service, Kioni had planted a previously prepared gas bomb under the seat, setting it to activate in less than a minute. Knowing the route she'd take, Kioni had even set the timer to go off in a section of town that had no CCTV coverage, allowing her time to cover her face so she could deliver the four prisoners to her home in Hyde Park rather to the Islington station. Kioni had previously captured four other repeat offenders and frozen them permanently with overdoses of Type-7, then hid them in her basement in a secret area. Kioni's plan was to use the gas to freeze everyone but her, thanks to an Immunity Ring she'd put on, then drop off the prisoners and then park the wagon somewhere remote before freezing herself to sell the lie that they'd been ambushed and the prisoners rescued.

            "I'm starting to regret not having taken command of Blue Team, then we could just relax back at home or, if we're Rhonda and Paddy, probably snog until our lips were glued together," remarked Sophie, shaking her head as the wagon headed for a red light. Kioni and Sophia were still wearing their body armor but had no headgear on. Blue Team, due to the need to debrief Isabella Winthrop, Ruby Edison and of course Rhonda, had gotten the chance to go home already while Green Team was stuck transporting prisoners, but that was how Kioni liked it.

            "Anna's probably a bit sad about that though, given she had a crush on him," pointed out Kioni as the wagon slowed to a stop. As Kioni spoke she knew the gas was about to be released but acted casual, glad the gas would also vent into the back of the wagon where the prisoners, as well as Lux and Nessa, were.

            "Well itÕs her own fault, no one can seem to tell anyone how they feel anymore even with there being no issues with office romances," observed Sophia, shaking her head again before looking at Kioni. "What about you? Do you-" Sophia sentence abruptly ended as the gas took effect, freezing the pretty Greek in mid-sentence with her right arm raised, her index finger pointed at the driver with a bit of an annoyed look on her face.

            "You doing okay back there?" Kioni called into the back of the wagon, sliding open the small passthrough that connected her vocally to the back of the wagon. There was no response, which Kioni took to mean she was free to head home.

            "Lucky thing I'm a good guy, this was way too easy," muttered Kioni as she made fast tracks for Hyde Park, pulling a mask over her face as she drove.

            Some time later Kioni arrived at her house and pulled in off the street to avoid being noticed. "Sorry Ma'am, but this has to be done," insisted Kioni, getting out of her seat and circling around back to open the wagon's rear doors to see a motionless tableau. Luxby and Nessa were frozen facing each other, Nessa smiling with her mouth open while Lux had a half-smirk on her lips, almost appearing to be rolling her eyes. Both women had their SM-3 guns in their hands but were otherwise seated normally, the weapons actually drawing Kioni's attention.

            "Can't have them asking why they didn't take our guns," decided Kioni, quickly collecting the weapons from both her teammate and the GRID agent, leaving them holding empty air. Slinging the sub-machine guns over her shoulders and tucking the Glock pistols she'd collected into her waistband, Kioni next grabbed the first criminal she could find, Adam Chesterton. Adam was the man in denim Michael had first neutralized, who'd been posed like the rest to sit neutrally with handcuffs on his hands. After taking Adam and the weapons inside, Kioni next returned for Vina Rai, a younger girl of Indian descent that Nicole had captured. After Vina came the redhead Mildred Boothe, the Scottish girl who'd nearly shot Rhonda before Anna had gotten her. Finally Kioni grabbed the African male Michael had pulled in and then captured, Neil Deacon, who was also the gang's leader.

            "Doubled my collection in one night; not bad," noted Kioni as she carried Neil inside, regretting only that she wasn't able to grab the last gang member, Dylan Kinnock. Still, Kioni figured with the leader and his core group captured the gang wouldn't be causing trouble again, or at least until a power struggle was resolved...

* * *

Michael Bradford's House, Kensington and Chelsea, London, UK

            Anna Federov moaned in pleasure as she engaged in post-sex cuddling with Michael Bradford as the pair sprawled in his large bed. At first Anna had been feeling down following the realizing that Rhonda and Paddy had clearly fallen for each other, desiring to just go home and order pizza. To her surprise however Anna had been invited out for a drink with Michael, the drink ending up being at his house and, soon after, also included the lovemaking they'd just engaged in. Anna had to admit to herself as the Scotsman kissed her neck that she barely knew anything about him but he was handsome and interested so she'd gone for it, quite enjoying the results.

            "You're truly beautiful, you know that?" Michael told Anna as he stroked her right arm. "I'm surprised I was able to last this long before making my move."

            "Hey, this is what we both probably needed, considering earlier," Anna told Michael rolling over and looking her new lover. "Still, I need to ask... was this just supposed to be a fling?"

            "I guess given whom you met today, that's a fair question," sighed Michael, sliding slightly away from Anna before propping his head up with his hand and smiling. "Honestly I've always been a fan of getting the raw part of the relationship down first, seeing if I can just be with something physically and have it feel right. After that... well, we see how we fit."

            "So that's a maybe?" asked Anna, returning Michael's smile.

            "Maybe," replied Michael, causing Anna to playfully slap his shoulder before both began laughing, Michael then rolling back on top of her which led to a long kiss.

            "Look, next time letÕs start with an actual drink out at a bar before we come back here," suggested Anna after the kiss ended. "Does that work for you?"

            "It's as good as anything else," shrugged Michael, then kissing Anna one last time before rolling off of the bed, revealing his naked body to Anna, which included a rear end that had her craving ice water. Michael sauntered out of the room for a moment as Anna fell back, sighing in happiness. It was too soon to say if she was actually going to date Michael but, for now, he was an ideal lover. Sure enough, moments later Michael returned with two glasses of white wine, one of which he offered her.

            "A toast," suggested Anna, raising her glass. "To this, whatever it ends up being."

            "Cheers," replied Michael, smiling as the pair clinked their glasses together and then drank them. Anna was about to suggest a second round in bed but that thought slipped away from her, as did the rest of them.

* * *

            Anna Federov sat on Michael's bed, sprawled like a model in a pornographic magazine as she lay on her left side, her right leg bent under her left with her left hand holding a wine glass in front of her very aesthetically-pleasing breasts. Anna's right arm propped her up at the elbow; she held a smile on her lips with her dark brown hair spilling around her head, not looking particularly out of place.

            "Beautiful," breathed Michael, taking the nearly empty wine glass from her stiff fingers to leave her holding empty air. Before joining the ITEA Michael had heard from Raymond Bishop that there were a lot of beautiful women in their ranks but now he knew it was true, his own department actually having no less than three women he wanted to bed. Still Michael had to be careful as sexual harassment charges did follow him everywhere, though in spite of his reputation he'd only ever fathered one illegitimate child and it had been when he was very young. Michael was also proud of the fact that he was disease-free, and he intended to keep it that way.

            Taking the Type-7 laced glass of wine along with his own pure glass; Michael wandered into his kitchen and set them down, glancing at the clock. Michael did like Anna and, should he actually go for a proper girlfriend, she was up there, though he knew she had a reputation for being a bit of a butt-monkey, her own best friend calling her Scrappy-Doo. Still, Michael's next date was coming any minute and he'd needed to keep the young agent out of his hair for that time, figuring he'd send his next date home before reviving Anna or even just revive her in the morning and suggesting she'd slept the night by mistake. Michael would prefer however to get Anna out of the house before he went to bed, not wanting the overnight thing to happen unless necessary as it might encourage her to go for a deeper relationship he wasn't sure he wanted.

            The doorbell rang, distracting Michael from his thoughts. Glancing down, Michael figured he was fine and answered the door, seeing the smiling face of Rachel Clarke waiting for him. To his surprise Rachel was only wearing a brown trench coat, his keen eyes noticing there was nothing underneath. "You're early," remarked Michael.

            "So are you," replied Rachel, stepping inside and removing the jacket to reveal she was indeed naked. "Bed?"

            "Couch; I haven't washed my sheets yet today," lied Michael, grinning as he moved to embrace Rachel.


The End


Anna Federov - Sasha Alexander

Matthew Strathairn - Jason Statham

Franklin Adams - Adam Baldwin

Paige Saunders - Alaina Huffman

Zelda Parker - Emmanuelle Vaugier

Alexandra Blake - Claire Van Der Boom

Nessa Kelly - Olivia Wilde

Juro Takashi - Masi Oka

Lori Jones - Billie Piper

Rafael Calado - Olivier Martinez

Rhonda Evens - Kate Nauta

Travis Paddington - Johnathan Rhys-Meyers

Coriander Blankfein - Felicia Day

Gitana Brook - Reshma Shetty

Neil Deacon - Noel Clarke

Dylan Kinnock - Gareth David-Lloyd

Carmen Pared - Michelle Rodriguez

Lucienne Christophe - Josie Maran

Sophia Katsopolis - Sofia Milos

Shiori Yoshida - Naoko Mori

Michael Bradford - John Barrowman

Evie Woods - Molly Quinn

Kioni Abasi - Zoe Saldana

Yeardley Luxby - Blake Lively

Nicole Kao - Kristin Kreuk

Bethany McGill - Kari Byron

Emily Woods - Nicole Kidman

Adam Chesterton - Arthur Darvill

Vina Rai - Anjli Mohindra

Isabella Winthrop - Lauren Cohan

Ruby Edison - Rachel Nichols

Mildred Boothe - Karen Gillan

Martina Aguilar - Penelope Cruz

Lily Gardner - Sienna Miller

Chita Francisco - Eve Torres

Steven Holbert - Stephen Colbert

Rachel Clarke - Elizabeth Banks


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