The IT Files: Ivan's Christmas

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'. This series chronicles the adventures of the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, also known as IT or ITEA. 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. The most recent IT Files tale is here. There is also a chronological index to the series. [Ed.]

Shaftesbury Avenue Theatre, London, UK

               Ivan Popov felt under-dressed in spite of wearing one of his better suits, noting the high society around the room as he drank from a glass containing red wine. The Russian, who was the leader of the International Temporal Enforcement Agency's Team Epsilon, was dressed in a dark navy suit with pinstripes, a white shirt underneath and a solid red tie around his neck. Unseen by everyone was that Ivan also wore a gun holster under his coat, which held his old Beretta 92F, a weapon he'd used constantly as a back-up during his days with Interpol. Being technically a member of international law enforcement, as the ITEA was recognized by the United Nations Security Council, Ivan saw no problem bringing a concealed gun with him pretty much anywhere.

               "I have to say, I think that might of been my favourite Scrooge performance," remarked William Volt, one of Ivan's co-workers, who was dressed more casually in a navy suit with no tie. Will was IT's range master, having been in the SAS for years, but after getting injured in Iraq he could no longer work in the field. At Will's side was Suzanna Ortiz, a woman a dozen years younger than him but who was also his girlfriend as well as the forensic expert on Team Alpha. Suzanna had her hair done in loose curls, most of it dyed a mixture of dark blond and light brown, and wore a white strapless dress with a pattern that looked vaguely Egyptian around the seams. While Will was most likely carrying a gun too, Ivan was fairly certain Suzanna was unarmed; in spite of being with Interpol before the ITEA, she tended to avoid firearm use when she could. A common theory amongst the gossiping types within IT was that Suzanna liked Will because he could do all the shooting for her. Ivan himself just figured it was the British man's natural charms.

               "I don't know, I can think of a few film versions that have had some pretty good performances too," offered Marika Bran, the resident ITEA science expert and the director of the science wing. The female scientist wore a somewhat conservative black dress that had thick shoulder straps and hid most of her back, though she did flash a little cleavage. Marika's hair was done up in an elaborate bun and a small white scarf made of cashmere rested on her shoulders, which Ivan admitted did make him forget from time to time that she possessed a master's degree in forensic science as well as enough extra knowledge to no doubt get her at least three more bachelorÕs degrees in other disciplines. At Marika's side was her husband Dieter, who was actually wearing a classic black and white tuxedo complete with bow-tie.

               "Oh come on, the guy has managed to become a science fiction icon and can still play all these amazing dramatic roles!" Malai Kasem almost howled loudly, drawing some curious looks.  The young Thai woman already standing out due to being dressed in a casual tan-coloured denim jacket and pants combination, though she was wearing a white blouse underneath. Ivan was a bit amused by how casually Malai had dressed for the event, especially since he had specifically told her that some of the top members of London society would most likely be present.

               "I never got the big deal about the guy," sniffed Makeda Getachew, who like Malai was a member of his team, being another science expert and Marika's assistant director. In contrast to the elegant dresses that Marika and Suzanna wore and the super casual outfit Malai sported, Makeda was wearing a white business dress, complete with a black blouse and pantyhose as well as two inch heels, her hair styled extra curly. With Makeda was her husband Bennett Shaw, a fairly muscular man wearing a dark green shirt and a red tie to look festive but no jacket, his pants black.

               "Can you at least tell me how my wife did?" asked Ivan with a grin, glancing down from the railing that he was leaning against to look at his wife. A few weeks ago Irina Popov had told her husband she'd gotten the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol in a West End production, which would even allow her to act opposite beloved Shakespearean actor Peter Stuart and international film star Kathy Beckinstaff. Irina had managed to get the ITEA eight tickets to four shows, with Ivan attending all four. It was now December 22nd and a good chunk of IT had seen the play, many praising the performances.

               Irina, a dark-haired beauty, was flashing a gorgeous smile as she stood with Kathy and Peter, wearing a strapless grey dress and occasionally glancing up to nod at her husband. Years ago, when Ivan had worked for Interpol, a play she'd been performing in Moscow had come under scrutiny as it was suspected that a member of the production, which did tours that extended to Eastern Europe, was a smuggler. After the case had ended Ivan had started attending shows and before long had fallen for the lovely Irina, the pair marrying shortly before Ivan had first met Lucienne Christophe the first time during the Sierra Escorts case. When the offer to join the ITEA arose, Irina was enthusiastic, having been looking for an excuse to move to London, and now she was performing with some of the best thespians the UK had to offer. Irina Popov was not an A-list actress by any means, having done little work outside of the theatre, but Ivan knew she'd be big one day. While his love for Irina did go beyond simple physical attraction, Ivan did like the idea of being married to a woman that people all over the world recognized as being gorgeous.

               "Sorry Johnny, she was great," offered Makeda, giving Ivan's wife a compliment while calling him by a name he somewhat loathed to tease him. Ivan was considered the equivalent of John by linguists and since Makeda had found that out, she'd started calling Ivan 'Johnny' whenever she wanted to get a little under his skin. While Ivan did like living in London, he'd been raised to be a bit of a patriot and wasn't about to accept being constantly called by his non-Russian name.

               Glancing back down at the first floor, Ivan couldn't believe the turn-out at the post-show reception; quite a few notable millionaires were present, not all of them British either. Peter Stuart, who was wearing the classic tuxedo like Dieter, took a moment to shake the hands of a man Ivan was fairly certain was the UK's ambassador to France. Kathy Beckinstaff, ravishing in a dark green dress that looked to almost be made of a giant silk scarf the way it wrapped around her slim body, also took a moment to kiss a petite, shapely, black-haired woman on the cheek. Ivan recalled she was a popular singer from Spain.

               "Sorry to break the mood, but I've been meaning to ask all night: have you heard anything new about that case in France?" asked Bennett, practically out of the blue. Bennett, like most of the families of IT members, could only be told some basic details about their missions. A week ago Cassandra Flick and a few others had returned from Paris after shutting down a place called Club Mannequin that had been serving Type-7 in their signature cocktails, which was of course illegal, and had even tried to kill one of ITEA's agents. The criminals behind the clubÕs operation had escaped custody and were currently missing.

               "Unfortunately not," confessed Suzanna, not saying anything further due to problems with clearances. Ivan was tempted to offer some sort of word of encouragement, given that they were talking about criminals being on the loose around the December holidays, but it was then that something caught his eye from his vantage point. On the opposite side of the lobby on the ground floor, Ivan noted that two people that had just been engaged in vigorous conversation, the woman of the group using elaborate hand gestures, had suddenly stopped cold;, what was more unusual was both of their mouths were still held open. Moments later, Ivan noticed more and more movement stopping in what looked like a sweeping wave along the ground floor and, being a member of the ITEA, he had a good idea of what was doing it.

               "Type-7 attack!" Ivan quickly warned, jumping back from the railing as he focused his gaze for a moment on his wife, concerned for her well-being. The quick announcement was enough to get the ITEA personnel around Ivan to look at him in alarm before realizing he was being deadly serious, his warning at first coming off a bit peculiar.

               "Come on!" Marika immediately shouted, grabbing Dieter and  heading off down a nearby hallway, clearly hoping to outrun the invisible gas that appeared to be filling the lower floor of the theatre's lobby. Ivan himself wasn't far behind, with Malai hot on his heels, but the two other couples hesitated. Suzanna, a bit of a skeptic in spite of all her experience, needed a quick glance downstairs at the growing number of frozen guests before trying to help William along, the man being not too spry due to muscle damage. Bennett, meanwhile, was utterly confused and physically held Makeda back while she tried to drag him along, demanding an explanation.

               "What the hell is has gotten into you guys?" demanded Bennett. "People are staring!"

               "Sweetie, we're in-" began Makeda, but as Ivan watched from what was precious few feet away, having stayed back while everyone else hurried on ahead, his science expert and her clueless husband both froze in place, with Bennett looking dismissive, a drink clutched in his right hand, while Makeda held his right and was leaning away, her arm outstretched and her face now frozen in alarm. If it weren't for the seriousness of the situation Ivan would of been more amused by the shape of Makeda's mouth, which was held while attempting to form the letter T, most likely to say 'trouble.' As a few other people standing by the railing began to freeze, Ivan rushed after the others.

               "Ivan, can you give me a little extra support?" asked William as he tried to run while leaning on Suzanna for support, this unexpected level of physical activity taxing him greatly. The former SAS man's muscles really limited him in terms of endurance, making it hard for him to stretch fully and cramping aches starting to form a lot sooner than they would on anyone who was physically fine. Pulling Will's arm around his neck, Ivan gave the man a boost on his right side, hurrying down the hall.

               "Makeda and Bennett are down," hissed Ivan as the trio moved, getting a few amused glances from the random people they passed in the hall. Ideally in the event of a gas attack it was wise to warn people, but given how fast the Type-7 was moving through the theatre and that many people were already affected, as well as its long-term effects being not particularly dangerous, Ivan had silently decided to just try and make sure someone remained mobile that could deal with whoever had launched the attack.

               Nearly half a minute later, down the hall, Malai, Marika and Dieter had stopped at an intersection, unsure of where to go. It had recently been learned that soaking certain fluids in a rag, which would then be held over the nostrils and mouth, could block out the effects of Type-7. Water didn't work, but alcohol and mineral-rich fluids like vitamin waters had proved effective. This defence worked only with the gas and even then it wasn't a good idea to try and suck the liquid out of the rag after it had been used. The problem the rushing IT agents faced was that in spite of passing people with small amounts of alcohol in their glasses they'd ideally need at least a bottle of wine, of which they hadn't seen any.

               "Kitchen's that way!" pointed out Suzanna, recalling the layout of the theatre. While a skeptic, Suzanna's scientific mind did make her cautious and meticulous; she often looked up important locations in any buildings she planned on visiting. Though Ivan had never done a mission with Suzanna, he knew she was good at locating any blueprints that might be needed.

               "Why do you think this is happening?" asked Dieter as the six took off towards the kitchen, passing a waiter with an empty bottle on a tray as they moved.

               "Who knows, could be a kidnapping," remarked Malai. Ivan winced at the thought of a kidnapping, since in the past some women had been taken to be used as love slaves and his beautiful wife was among those such a criminal might target, especially since she was currently standing frozen next to an A-list film actress.

               "What about those two guys from Paris who escaped last week?" suggested Suzanna. "Cassandra said they got information on us."

               "They'd of had to have found some really good information to discover that any of us would be here," pointed out Marika. "I doubt IrinaÕs husband was in the information they stole." As the blond finished her quick analysis, the six found a door leading into a kitchen which Dieter led the charge into. A couple of chefs jumped in surprise, both preparing simple cocktail-party canapˇs.

               "It's okay, we're with Interpol!" declared Dieter, lying but wanting to avoid explaining the secret of ITEA to civilians when time was an issue. "There's a gas attack in progress! We need rags and alcohol now!"

               "Are you daft?" asked one of the chefs, looking at Dieter and the rest like they were crazy. "Get the hell out of here, you god-damn sodden wanker!"

               "Screw it," muttered Malai, proceeding in a single motion to pull her Glock out and shoot both chefs in the leg. The Glock was a modified model 17, the ITEA using them to fire Type-7 darts. The weapon did its work, leaving both chefs standing silently frozen in place; one holding a skillet full of shrimp over a low flame while the other was now pouring far too much cocktail sauce into a dipping cup.

               "Remind me to reprimand you when we're back at HQ," muttered Ivan, with no one really objecting to Malai's actions in spite of how reckless they were. With almost frantic speed the six people grabbed tea towels and washcloths from the small kitchen, which held two stoves, three sinks, and several cupboards as well as a large machine for washing and drying dishes. Ivan dropped down into a corner with Suzanna and Will, while Marika and Dieter went by the fridge and Malai by the door. Suzanna circulated a bottle of red wine to soak her group's rags with while Marika used olive oil; Malai had found some balsamic vinegar. As Ivan put his rag to his mouth and nose he desperately wanted to sneeze as the smell of the alcohol tickled his sinuses.

               Roughly two minutes passed before anyone ended up moving from their spot. Dieter took the initiative to carefully stand, using the counter he was sitting against to make sure he didn't have to remove his rag from his face. Slowly Malai rose as well, followed by Ivan and Marika, the latter having trouble and nearly falling if not for her husband's aid. Suzanna and Will, however, didn't move. Will was not that manoeuvrable, but Suzanna it seemed had failed to use her rag properly. The Mexican-American sat stiffly immobile with her right hand holding the slowly slipping rag to her face; her left hand was resting on her knees, which were pulled up slightly.  She had stopped with her head turned slightly to her left to look at Will, who was now looking back at his frozen companion and slowly banging the back of his head against the cupboard door he was pressed against in frustration.

               Bending over, Ivan offered Will a hand but the Brit waved him off, instead reaching into his coat and producing a Glock 17 of his own. The Russian and the Brit exchanged a silent nod before Ivan decided to move towards the door, using his free hand to draw his Beretta. Dieter drew his own pistol, an ITEA issue SIG P226, which unlike the Glock wasn't modified to fire darts. Marika was unarmed, but Will handed her his Glock as it turned out he was carrying a second, which he produced after giving his first weapon away. The four IT members who could stand all gave William a nod before cautiously leaving the kitchen.

               The walk down the back hallway had everyone on edge, given that each person was holding a gun at the same time as trying to keep a rag up to their face. Type-7 gas did tend to dissipate quickly due to how fast it spread but there was no way to tell if the concentration had dropped enough; typically the agents would wait until they saw a possible enemy walking around without any form of protection from the gas before they would remove their own. The out of the ordinary setting and atmosphere was what put Ivan on edge the most; it was a combination of his wife being in harm's way and the location being a London theatre full of high society, making the situation feel a bit like something from an older horror film.

               "I told you that guy wasn't fooling around!" came a shout, causing the four IT agents to stop for a moment, waiting to see if anyone came into view down the hall. A frozen waitress was the only person left in the hallway before it led out into the second floor of the lobby, she gripped a tray in her left hand holding several glasses of white wine; the server was dressed in a red vest with a white blouse and black pants.

               "This is just mad, like we stopped time!" came a second shout, a male voice but different from the first. While it had only been a few months since he'd moved to London, Ivan recognized the first voice as being a cultured city accent while the second seemed to be Welsh.

               "I just feel like we've gotten a pass to a jewelry shop after-hours!" declared a third voice, female and also possessing a London accent. While the voices were clear, meaning they weren't wearing anything that could muffle their voices, the ITEA agents knew they could be wearing chips, which would negate the effects of the Type-7 gas, or that the gas may have dissipated where they were yet. The voices quieted down as the trio moved off and Ivan decided to lead his group forward, motioning with his gun but hunching down slightly in the hope of casting a smaller shadow.

               Upon reaching the upper area of the lobby, Ivan took a moment to glance around before slowly working himself up towards the rail, hearing movement below but no real conversation, just a few simple reactions. The motionless scene below appeared like something found in a wax museum. Elegant women in vibrant dresses and men in fine suits and tuxedos were all standing around in groups of two to six, many holding glasses of wine or cocktails and making gestures with their hands, several were frozen in mid-speech. There were easily a dozen red-vested serving men and women with trays dotting the room, most of them holding glasses and bottles but a few possessing plates of appetizer-like food. Gesturing for the others to wait by the entrance to the hallway, Ivan quietly shuffled over to the railing to get a look at what was going on down below.

               Two men and a woman were circling the floor, all of them picking at the frozen people to remove wallets, jewels, and other valuable accessories. The most notable person was the dark-skinned man dressed in blue denim with a shotgun slung around his back, he was the only one visibly carrying a weapon as he slid multiple watches onto his right arm. The second man was Caucasian and dressed similarly to the first but wore a red bandanna around his forehead and had what looked like a Japanese sword strapped to his waist. The woman of the group was also black and was wearing a red leather jacket with her hair up in a drawn bun. The woman had no visible weapons but was walking around with a camera and taking pictures of herself next to the frozen guests before taking their valuables. Currently the woman was next to Kathy, who stood with her right hand extended to shake a turban-clad man's own hand, with her left holding a glass of red wine at shoulder level and a smile rigidly held on her face.

               Sliding back from the railing, Ivan figured the best course of action would be to let those with dart guns to lead, given they had a numerical advantage and that lethal force was a secondary option in a room full of a helpless civilians, but it still wasn't clear if the group could remove their rags. Fortunately the decision was made for them moments later when a man dressed in black leather carrying an extendable baton suddenly emerged from the nearby stairs and spotted the four agents. "What the hell?!" shouted the man in alarm, but even as he spoke Malai had aimed and fired, hitting the surprised thug with two darts in the chest.   He was stopped instantly in his tracks.

               "What's going on?!" shouted the Welsh man from below as the four ITEA agents decided to remove their rags. Given that the man in leather had been fine before being shot, it was no surprise to anyone that they didn't freeze from inhaling residual gas.

               "Malai, cover me, we'll take the far side!" ordered Ivan, indicating the stairs on the other side of the foyer's second floor.

               "We'll cover this point!" offered Dieter, in spite of the idea being implied in Ivan's order. Marika and Dieter then flattened themselves against the wall that connected the hallway to the foyer, with Marika in front as she had the modified non-lethal Glock.

               Footsteps were heard echoing all over the theatre lobby as Malai and Ivan headed for the second stairwell, then encountering yet another man in denim but holding what looked like a revolver that could have come from either of the World Wars. Seeing the gun being pointed in his direction and with frozen civilians in the line of fire, Ivan quickly discharged his Beretta; his shots dropping the thug before he'd finished raising his gun. Fortunately for the fallen gunman, Ivan was hoping to get information from him so he'd purposely shot the man in the arm and leg; the wound in the arm looked serious while the leg one seemed superficial, though not by intent. A woman holding what appeared to be a large knife was seen peering up the stairwell behind the man with the revolver, but upon witnessing the shooting she vanished.

               "Cover the stairs! There are more of them." Ivan shouted to Malai as he slid to a stop next to the man he'd downed, who was twitching in pain, bleeding freely while the military service revolver he'd been holding had fallen well out of reach. With quick hands, Ivan tore at the fallen man's T-shirt and removed two strips of black cloth that he then used to fashion bandages for the wounds. It was a temporary solution and while the leg might be fine Ivan had more than likely crippled the thug's right arm for life but the man had been waving a gun around.

               "What the hell..." coughed the wounded man, looking at Ivan like he was crazy.

               "Why are you here, who are you and where did you get the gas?!" spat Ivan as he worked to patch the gunshot wounds as best he could.

               "Are you-" began the thug, but Ivan quickly pointed his Beretta in the man's face.

               "You little shits come barging into my wife's after-party with gas and guns looking to rob these fine people, and you have the balls to ask questions?!" yelled Ivan, tempted to pistol-whip the man but knowing that it might look bad in the report he'd inevitably have to file. The injured thug also wasn't worth Ivan's trouble, given he'd just been made a member of the disabled.

               "We're the Howe Street Boys," the thug almost whimpered, losing his bravado.  Upon closer inspection, he was young enough that Ivan could have been his father. "Some bloke sold the freezing stuff to Deacon and Dylan and we figured we could use it to steal some good stuff from the theatre crowd..."

               "Good boy," grinned Ivan, patting the terrified thug on the cheek before rolling him over, promptly using the kid's jacket as a restraint. The Howe Street Boys, who Ivan knew thanks to keeping up on London crime rates, were so-named as they favoured working the area they took their name from. The gang themselves were known to mostly be men but from all kinds of backgrounds and several ages; one member who was arrested once was in his mid-thirties. From his observations earlier Ivan figured the trio he'd seen down below were all around thirty and most likely the leaders of the attack, which he figured was a heist or robbery more than anything else.  These were a gang of petty criminals, not an organization that would plan kidnappings or anything more devious.

               "I catch you trying to get away, my next shot won't be somewhere you can live without," warned Ivan as he finished trying the jacket and shirt together around the gang member's arms, effectively restraining him. The kid practically whimpered as Ivan gathered up the fallen revolver and moved to join Malai. Since Ivan had taken down the one thug there had been no more shooting but there had been a few shouts and a lot of scrambling heard below.

               "We can't stay here, they might have more Type-7 gas," pointed out Malai as Ivan came up behind her, having tucked the revolver into his waistband.

               "Worse, they might try taking hostages," noted Ivan, glancing down the stairwell but seeing no one but a large frozen man in a tux holding the railing while going up. "Sorry to make you the target, but I need you to lead. I want to avoid using bullets."

               "Don't worry, I understand," nodded Malai, her father's military influence taking over. "I just don't get why you didn't bring a dart gun yourself."

               "I trust pain to take down scumbags more than some fancy drug," admitted Ivan, shaking his head all the same. "This goes to show that I should probably carry both lethal and non-lethal though. Move on three?"

               "One... two... three!" counted out Malai, springing forward as she said the final number. Malai, being smaller than her team leader, was fast, Ivan had a hard time keeping up as she practically flew down the stairs. At the bottom, the duo practically ran into the denim-wearing blond woman with a knife that was seen earlier, Malai reacted first, freezing her in her tracks as she tried to run at them with her weapon raised.

               "Neil!" shouted the leather-wearing female Londoner Ivan had seen with the camera earlier, spotting Ivan and Malai as they pushed past the immobilized blond attacker, who toppled over like a cheap statue. Ivan raised his weapon to aim at the woman but peripheral movement to his left caused him to roll forward while Malai turned and ducked. The bandanna-wearing Welshman had approached from the side, unsheathing and swinging his sword, which Malai had in turn evaded. Malai rose and attempted to shoot the swordsman but he struck out with a lightning-fast kick that sent her weapon clattering away near Ivan. The Russian attempted to catch Malai's Glock but is passed him and hit the heels of the lady Londoner, who immediately scooped it up and fired at Ivan, forcing him to dive behind civilians for cover.

               "Nice sword," Ivan heard Malai utter as she grabbed the swordsman's hands and managed to force the weapon away, promptly ducking a roundhouse kick and striking the man in the throat. The Welshman was stunned by the strike; a quick follow-through from Malai sent the man collapsing to the ground, rendered unconscious.

               "Secure him!" shouted Ivan as he tried to move towards the fleeing female thief, but was fired upon again, forcing him to keep low. Finally Ivan made it to his mannequin-still wife, who all this time was gesturing with her right hand towards a waiter with a tray of drinks, her wine glass held to her lips and empty. Even in the heat of the situation Ivan couldn't help but touch Irina's firm rear end as he tried to continue his chase, noting the black woman with MalaiÕs dart gun had gone up the stairs towards Marika and Dieter.

               "One coming your way!" exclaimed Ivan to his friends as he rushed towards the stairs, then surprised when the other denim-clad Londoner from before, the man carrying the shotgun, emerged from behind the coverage of a rather overweight man with a pregnant woman with him, his weapon trained on the IT agent.

               "Drop the gun, or else I'll be decorating this place with your insides," warned the man, even going so far as to pump the shotgun in emphasis. Even as he stopped and dropped his weapon without even raising it, Ivan couldn't help but roll his eyes, the thug having wasted a perfectly good shell for the gesture. The gunman caught the look. "What's the matter, suit guy?" asked the thug with a grin. "You embarrassed to having been outsmarted? You've got skill, I can see that."

               "You know what, I was going to let it go, but I can't," admitted Ivan, letting out a sigh. "That little gesture of power you just did? The obligatory pump? You just wasted a perfectly good round! Look, its there next to you!" Perplexed, the man turned to look briefly at the floor where the unused shotgun shell lay, which Ivan had hoped would give Malai time to move in. The Thai agent was ready with her secondary sidearm, a Ruger Mk II which was also converted to support darts, but before she could act she was instead shot herself by another dart, this one coming from her own Type-7 Glock, hitting her in the arm. Malai instantly froze to Ivan's left where she was using Kathy Beckinstaff's extended hand as an armrest.

               "Shit, that was my last shot," cursed the woman, coming up beside the gunman. "Good news is the two upstairs are done, but Neil, it looks like we're the only ones left."

               "What a cock-up this is turning into," grumbled Neil, shaking his head while keeping his gun trained on Ivan. "That bitch even beat up Neil. Who the hell are you people, and why the bloody hell did you come here?"

               "Sorry, that's on a need to know," replied Ivan, trying to keep his cool even with a gun pointed at him and no clear way out of the situation without his taking a big risk. Neil, from what Ivan had seen, was a fan of mindless action films, at least he assumed so given the pointless gun pump he'd done earlier. Judging the street punk for what he was, Ivan suddenly had a crazy idea that he was sure wouldn't work; but given what little he'd heard, he decided to chance it. "However, I can tell you my name..." continued Ivan, focusing on the woman next to Neil as she tucked the empty Glock into her waistband. "My name is Roy."

               "Well Roy, and that is a funny name for a guy with your accent, I think its time you said goodbye," declared Neil, moving closer so he was within thirty feet of his target. "Any last words?"

               Feeling the symbolism, as it was not long until Christmas, Ivan began to laugh. At first Neil and the woman with him looked confused but, after a few moments, both of them smiled and even joined in. Finally when Neil even lowered his shotgun, Ivan knew he had his chance. "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!" shouted the Russian as he pulled the service revolver he'd collected earlier from his waistband, looking to shoot before Neil reacted.

* * *

One Hour Later...

               Ivan stood no worse for wear next to the ambulance where they'd seated Marika, who was still frozen from darts fired from Malai's taken Glock. The blond was perched on the back of the ambulance with her knees bent ninety degrees and her right arm gesturing outwards while her left was raised towards her head, alarm on her face. Somehow the woman who'd gotten away had managed to jump both Dieter and Marika before going back to join Neil, the gun in Marika's hand being removed before she'd been carried outside.

               When the rescue crews had arrived, Will having called for them, it had been decided to move everyone outside before using the Type-7 counter-agent that the ITEA had sent with some local police, though exactly why was anyone's guess. Leaning against her husband was Irina, having already been treated with the counter-agent and now was resting her head on his shoulder with her eyes closed, her arms around his waist while he had one around her shoulders. William was nearby, leaning on a patrol car and speaking with an inspector as well as Malai while Makeda was trying to help with treatment efforts, Dieter talking with Bennett, and Suzanna was not yet unfrozen.

               "Oh!" Marika suddenly exclaimed, coming to, relaxing from her frozen pose and looking at Ivan in surprise. "How did we do?"

               "Lucky," declared Ivan, taking a moment to kiss his wife on the forehead. "Will called for help but it was down to me and two of these thugs, they're the Howe Street Boys by the way, when I managed to, for lack of a better word, use a movie reference to my advantage."

               "What?" asked Marika, confused; Irina also looking a bit perplexed. After unfreezing his wife personally, Ivan had just told her they'd been attacked but he'd taken care of business and since then they'd just been silently embracing.

               "This kid Neil has apparently never seen Die Hard," explained Ivan, still getting puzzled looks. "I did the trick at the end. You know, the hero laughs, then he shoots the bad guys with a hidden gun while they're distracted?" Irina smiled and nodded slightly but Marika remained at a loss. "I watch it every Christmas," admitted Ivan. "It was really the only thing I could think of doing."

               "And he wonders why I like calling him cowboy," giggled Irina as Marika merely shook her head, incredulous.

               "So are they all caught then?" asked Marika, not getting closure on everything that had happened after she'd been frozen.

               "Unfortunately the girl that got you and Dieter actually got away," confessed Ivan, his face grim. "The Neil kid I hit in the arm and he then managed to shoot himself in the foot, but I only grazed her. While I was busy trying to grab the shotgun, she ran off."

               "They should find her pretty quickly," noted Marika, glancing around. "The guy shot his own foot with a shotgun at point blank? How's he doing?"

               "He passed out but he's alive, though he's going to be walking on a stick now," revealed Ivan, an ambulance having taken Neil away earlier. It was then that Will walked over with Dieter. Dieter didn't talk, he merely gave his wife a hug and a quick kiss, the two then continuing to embrace.

               "We've identified some of the gang members," revealed Will, holding up a trio of mug shots. "First there's Neil Deacon, the poor guy that shot himself. He's twenty-eight, been arrested several times before for theft, destruction of property, but never anything violent before. Apparently he was actually the leader of the Howe Street Boys, so it'll be good to have him put away. The Welsh chap is Dylan Kinnock, twenty-six; he actually works at a store that sells knives, swords and the like not far from Howe Street. That explains all the cutlery the gang was equipped with. Malai managed to crack his collarbone, by the way. Finally the woman that escaped is named Natalie Hudgens; twenty-nine. A weird one, she actually had police training before dropping out. Rumour has it she and Neil are, or possibly were, together. No history of violence but a lot of drunk and disorderly arrests, along with some shoplifting. It's predicted she'll hit a pub on Howe Street and they can just arrest her when she becomes a nuisance."

               "Unless she's running scared and tries to leave London," mused Dieter. "She did get away with Beckinstaff's necklace. That thing is worth a few thousand Euros easy."

               "Poor Kathy," sighed Irina. The mood of the group was somber, but it was then that a few familiar faces emerged from the sea of cars and other vehicles.

               "Marika, Ivan, Dieter!" called Cassandra Flick, heading towards the group with a few people in tow. Dressed for the holidays, Cassandra was wearing a grey business dress with a red blouse on underneath and a bit of holly in her lapel. Next to Cassandra was Jean-Baptiste Odilon, her lover and would-be fiancˇe, the would-be part being due to the fact that she'd rejected his proposal, though they still lived together. JB was wearing a simple white and black suit, the white being his shirt, but like his girlfriend he was wearing holly on his jacket. Behind the couple, who were holding hands, was Tamera Flick, Cassandra's slightly younger sister. Tamera had dark hair like Cassandra, being an almost black shade of brown, and she currently wore a simple green blouse and a black skirt that seemed too short for winter, fishnets on her legs. Next to Tamera was a somewhat surly-looking man who was quite tall and striking, having a rather large moustache and wearing a green wool sweater with a sprig of holly clipped near the collar, a red tie underneath atop a white dress shirt.

               "Cassandra, a bit late don't you think?" greeted Irina for everyone, giving the ITEA assistant director a hug while Ivan shook hands with JB, the Russian IT agent noting Cassandra had a large gift bag in what had been her free hand.

               "I did say we were going to come for tomorrow's show!" insisted Cassandra with a grin, glancing around. "We miss something? Looks like there was a Type-7 attack."

               "Glad to see working for your new agency hasn't dulled your observation skills," chimed in the older man, causing Marika to grin.

               "How are you, Nigel?" asked Marika, nodding at the older man.

               "I suppose I'm in decent spirits," confessed Nigel glancing at Tamera. "I had to hear about how one daughter isn't living up to her potential, but the other seems to be doing quite well with your agency. Plus I must say I'm warming up to the idea of a potential son-in-law who's French."

               "You don't need to change on my account, sir," offered JB with a smile, glancing at Nigel.

               "Would be nice if he did for mine," muttered Tamera, causing a few of the other people present to crack a smile.

               "Anyways, we were hoping to make catch the after-party and drop off Ivan's Christmas present," revealed Cassandra, handing the bag to Ivan. "Merry Christmas!"

               "Thanks Cassie," offered Ivan in return, giving his friend a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek as he accepted the bag.

               "You know, after everything that happened tonight, why don't you open this one early?" suggested Irina, indicating the bag.

               "Oh that would be great, he could wear it to tomorrow's show!" commented Tamera with a hint of sarcasm. Confused, Ivan glanced inside the back and his eyes went wide when he saw what it was. Reaching into the bag, Ivan produced what was a white cowboy hat, holding it up and staring at it in both surprise and joy. Marika and Irina, upon seeing the hat, just burst out laughing.

* * *

Three Hours later, Unknown London Office

               "These freaking secret agents came at us out of nowhere!" exclaimed Natalie, sitting on a couch while a tall man she knew as Peter Knight leaned against his desk, pouring the woman a glass of brandy. The office was sparse, one that had clearly been only moved into a week ago, there only being a couch, a desk with a few chairs and a small shelf full of books, most of them related to law. The liquor had come from a drawer in Knight's desk. Knight himself was a dark-haired man in a brown suit, a tan shirt underneath with no tie but a black fiddler cap on his head.

               "Secret agents, with guns like this one?" asked Peter, indicating the modified Glock that Natalie had placed on his desk.

               "Yeah, and they do the same thing as that freeze gas of yours!" confirmed Natalie as she took the glass from Peter. "This one guy was insane! He just burst out laughing and then shot Neil out of nowhere! He hit me too, but it was nothing, I barely even bled. Though if he'd been even a knuckle-hair closer I might of gotten pinched too!"

               "Sounds like someone's a movie fan," chuckled Peter as he watched Natalie drink the brandy in one long gulp. "Well, you deserve a rest, so I think I'll make sure you get dropped off at my apartment tonight. How does that sound?"

Natalie didn't reply; she merely remained sitting with the glass cupped between her hands, looking at Peter with concern still on her face, her lips and teeth slightly parted and her left leg crossed over her right. Getting no response from Natalie, Peter merely smiled and collected the glass from her stiffened hands, causing her figure to topple sideways and lay supine on the couch with her frozen legs held in a sitting position.

               "So Irina Popov is in fact connected to the ITEA," noted Peter rhetorically, moving to sit down behind his desk and turning on his computer. "I knew I'd seen a Popov in those files... Now, the question is, who should I contact to take advantage of this?"


The End


Ivan Popov - Timothy Olyphant

William Volt - Simon Pegg

Suzanna Ortiz - Eva La Rue

Marika Bran - Charlize Theron

Dieter Bran - Til Schweiger

Malai Kasem - Pumwaree Yodkamol

Makeda Getachew - Faune Chambers

Bennett Shaw - Leonard Roberts

Irina Popov - Emanuelle Chriqui

Peter Stuart - Patrick Stewart

Kathy Beckinstaff - Kate Beckinsale

Neil Deacon - Noel Clarke

Dylan Kinnock - Gareth David-Lloyd

Natalie Hudgens - Freema Agyeman

Cassandra Flick - Emily Deschanel

Jean-Baptiste Odilon - Edward Norton

Nigel Flick - John Cleese

Tamera Flick - Zooey Deschanel

No Name AKA Peter Knight - Nolan North

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