The IT Files: Ivan's Reunion

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

                  Ivan Popov whistled a few bars to an old radio jingle from his childhood as he pulled his vehicle, an ITEA black Range Rover Sport, into the HQ's motor pool, having used a retinal scanner and a vehicle transponder to gain access. In spite of having recently gotten back from a frustrating assignment in Spain, Ivan was upbeat rather than livid, having gotten the news the night before that he'd get the chance to take the latest agents to join IT on a tour of the lab. Ivan did enjoy meeting new people, but in this case he'd be reuniting with his old team from his days with Interpol as they'd all been confirmed just days ago, along with another Interpol agent, Jason Holland.

                  As with all senior agents, Ivan had a personal parking spot and pulled into it, in between spaces designated for Palmira Tiago and Caesar Francisco. After taking a moment to put on his favourite hat, a white Stetson cowboy hat that Cassandra Flick had given him as a gift for Christmas, Ivan stepped out of his car and locked it. No sooner than had Ivan taken a couple of steps away from his SUV, wearing a navy-coloured suit with a grey shirt and maroon tie on underneath, than did a howl of laughter reach his ears. Smiling, Ivan turned to spot a thin-haired man in a mechanic's jumpsuit walking towards him, a small wrench in his hand. "Hello, I didn't expect a Russian cowboy this morning!" exclaimed the man, Matthew Strathairn, IT's main mechanic.

                  "I didn't expect to see a monkey capable of speech, so I guess we were both surprised," fired back Ivan, promptly exchanging a hand-slap greeting with Matt, more or less a high-five but having elements of a handshake as well.

                  "I guess we both need to get more original," mused Matthew, having traded playful insults with Ivan for the past while. The men weren't exactly friends, but were more than comfortable greeting each other in such a way.

                  "I noticed an Interpol car out front, we got a special visitor?" asked Ivan, having driven around the front of the building before heading into the back.

                  "Yeah, the London section chief is here again," revealed Matthew, nodding. "Bishop, I think that's his name, right?"

                  "Raymond Bishop, yes," confirmed Ivan, nodding himself. "I guess he's here to make sure the rookies are good before heading out."

                  "I hear he has a meeting with Lucienne actually," countered Matt, leaning in and lowering his voice. "Apparently the oversight committee is going to be meeting soon to go over everything. If that happens and we get roasted, we'll be done before we've even really begun!"

                  "Great," sighed Ivan, giving Matt a nod before walking off. While entering the building was easier from the rear, since one only needed a retinal scan and a transponder in their car, thermal scans did sweep parts of the building at all times to check if something seemed out of place, so Ivan was never too bothered with the fact that after the garage door, which had no guards directly there though there were automated turrets and other traps, there were only the magnetized biometric doors. Facial recognition software had recently been installed by Rhonda Evens, who was in charge of the electronics in security, thus the magnetized doors that dotted the building opened automatically when a registered face approached, retracting defenses as it did. Ivan had always been a bit of a geek and liked the door action; it reminded him of Star Trek.

                  "Good afternoon Ivan," greeted Yelena Nikitin, a member of building security, as Ivan entered into the rear area of the main lobby. Yelena was in her mid-twenties and had personally been selected for recruitment by Ivan while he'd been visiting the Russian embassy. The blond currently had an MP5 sub-machine gun strapped to her chest, resting outside a Kevlar vest which in turn rested on top of black military-like fatigues, her hair left loose however as ITEA didn't have a policy against it.

                  "Hi Yelena, do you know where the rookies are waiting?" asked Ivan, tipping his hat in greeting.

                  "Just upstairs, they only went up a minute ago," answered Yelena, indicating the elevator. "They're probably just meeting Marika now."

                  "Great, thanks," said Ivan, calling for the elevator when then arrived a moment later. "David's hosting poker on Friday, you interested?"

                  "Absolutely, text me the time!" called Yelena as Ivan pressed the button for his floor. As the door closed Ivan smiled, happy that he could have a friendship with an attractive woman and not be interested in her for only that. While Ivan had never stepped out on his wife he'd had at least one offer in the past and knew a few people who had indulged. Of course, most people weren't married to Irina Popov, a future international film star who'd also already starred in plays with some of the UK's top talent.

                  Arriving upstairs, the elevator opened and Ivan was instantly happy as he saw the group of eight before him. The closest to Ivan was the brown-haired Rurik Chekhol, wearing a navy-coloured suit with a matching tie and white shirt underneath. A computer expert, Rurik had been Ivan's successor to lead his Interpol team after he'd joined the ITEA. Next to Rurik was Tatiana Lebedev, an agent who was a bit younger and possessed blond hair that reached her shoulder blades. Tatiana's hair was in a half-updo and she was wearing a light blue fleece top over a black T-shirt with tan dress pants that fitted her like a glove. Past Tatiana was Victor Morozov, a tall and dark-haired man who was wearing a dark navy T-shirt with matching pants while a dark grey overcoat was worn on top, his face was covered in stubble. Anna Sokolov was next, she being the second Anna to join the ITEA but only a Russian citizen while the other Anna, Anna Federov, held dual citizenship in both Russia and the US. Anna was a short blond, her bob-cut given some bounce at the tips so it stuck out. Anna was a bit more colorful than her colleagues, wearing a green blazer over a pink T-shirt, a dark grey knee-length skirt around her waist with pantyhose and red heels below it. The last new, yet familiar, face to Ivan was Gregory Barnes, another dark-haired man who was a bit shorter than Victor and kept himself more groomed, being clean-shaven and his hair combed straight. Greg was wearing a black suit with a white shirt, the top button open and no tie present.

                  The one person that Ivan didn't recognize he figured to be Jason Holland, a former Interpol agent as well who'd already been assigned to Team Gamma following his confirmation a few days before the rest. Like Ivan's old teammates, it was Jason's first tour of the facility, hence why he was present. Jason was a decently tall man with big hair, at least on top while cropped at the sides, and was wearing a blue suit with a light brown trench-coat over top of it, a maroon collared shirt at the base but with no tie. The lovely Marika Bran, the head of IT's science wing, was also present, wearing a knee-length white lab coat over a black low-cut long sleeved top and matching tight pants, her hair pinned back in a French twist. Finally there was a short-haired man around Ivan's age that he knew to be Raymond Bishop, the local section chief for Interpol, who was wearing a grey pinstriped suit with a red tie and white shirt underneath.

                  "Ah, Ivan, there you are," noted Marika as everyone but Jason and Ray flashed Ivan a smile. "We just finished introductions so you haven't missed much, though I don't believe you've met agent Holland...?"

                  "No, but good to see you," responded Ivan, stepping past his old friends to shake Jason's hand. "I heard you've been assigned to Team Gamma already. How did Hui take that news?"

                  "Oh, I think we'll get along fine," insisted Jason with a cheeky grin.

                  "Right; I think I'm more or less done here," announced Raymond as Ivan moved to greet his old friends with a few light hugs and hearty handshakes. "I was going to speak to Lucienne about a few things and the new team assignments should be finalized around then as well. Hopefully by the end of your little tour of the labs, you'll all know who you'll be reporting to in the future." Bowing out, Ray moved to enter the elevator Ivan had just exited, everyone turning to focus on Marika as Ivan moved to stand next to her.

                  "Right, so while I was asked to show you around, this area is pretty much Marika's domain," explained Ivan, indicating the area around him with a sweep of his arm. The immediate part of the floor was a series of rooms, some with and some without windows, inside each was a great deal of lab equipment along with a few people in lab coats doing various kinds of work.

                  "The science wing has two main jobs," opened Marika, taking the floor from Ivan to start. "Our first duty is to forensics, thus we have a few specialists on hand who handle it, myself included. Since we're a small agency, we don't have to worry about the lab getting backed up unless there's a series of big cases within a small period of time, which has not happened yet. The second job of the wing is research, specifically into the cutting-edge sciences our agency was formed to look into."

                  "As I'm sure you all know, Type-7 is the most common threat we have to deal with," continued Ivan for Marika, taking turns with the department head. "In spite of only having one major source that we know of and first being developed for use recently in 2007, it has become one of the most sought-after drugs on the market. Beyond its immobilizing abilities, Type-7 is itself a medical marvel in that a person's weight and size have a negligible impact on how effective the drug is. It's fast, effective and has no known side effects, not even fatality from an overdose. Type-7 sedative has effectively spurred a revolution in medical science, though its also become the next big thing in non-lethal warfare. It can be delivered as a liquid, a gas and even a solid, and it’s virtually undetectable by the naked eye. As you know, it’s also fast-acting, in some forms immobilizing the subjects instantly. Because of these effects, Type-7 alone would be a serious drug worth controlling."

                  "Unfortunately the ITEA cannot just stop at a simple, if revolutionary, drug," pointed out Marika, jumping in once more. "The ITEA is also aware of a genetic quirk, which appears to be exceptionally rare, there being only two people known at this time to possess it. This anomaly is called the Temporal Gene and, for all intensive purposes, someone having it as part of their genome can stop time."

                  "Wait, what?" blurted out Victor, who was indeed familiar with Type-7 but had never been briefed on the gene until now.

                  "Yes, this ability seems to be something truly out of science-fiction, but we know its possible to, at least from our understanding, stop time," confirmed Marika. "We don't entirely understand if the effect comes from just an extreme alteration to acceleration and perception or if somehow time itself is altered; the implications of the latter are too abstract at this time to fully understand. Those that know about the gene have classified its unusual function as being as much of a mystery as the full nature of dark energy and dark matter. What is known that is with proper stimulation, even a sample of the genetic material can produce the effect, which is normally activated by focused mental attention."

                  "So… its some kind of psychic ability?" asked Tatiana, trying to grasp the concept.

                  "That may not be the best term," warned Marika, shaking her head. "While the key to the time-stop being used by someone who possesses the gene is simple concentration, their genetic material can be stimulated with electrical signals to produce a sort of beam which simulates the time-stop effect on a smaller scale. Devices that do this are rare, we ourselves only possess one, known simply as a 'time-stopper.'"

                  "You weren't kidding about the science-fiction part," muttered Jason.

                  "So, why don't we have a look at the kind of technology you'll be working with?" suggested Ivan, wanting to give the rookies some firsthand experience with what they were talking about. Marika had scheduled some tests for the day with a few of the lab techs. Makeda Getachew, one of Ivan's teammates and the assistant director of the wing, has off for the day with her husband.

                  "I think we will need a demonstration to back some of what you just said up," pointed out Anna, nodding.

                  "No kidding," added Victor. With that, the group moved to follow Marika and Ivan, who together led the group around the corner and towards a set of double doors, ones which the senior IT personnel then held open using their backs for the rookies to pass through. Inside was a large white-tiled room; a sheet of Plexiglas separated it from another area where the floor was covered by black tiles while the tiled walls were still white. A two-stage pass-through entrance was on the left side of room, also made of reinforced Plexiglas; a few tables and desks were set up outside along with some computer consoles as well as a smart-table and matching board.

                  "High tech," remarked Rurik, impressed.

                  "Welcome to the ITEA's main testing lab," greeted a new arrival, a Korean brunette wearing a denim skirt and a black and white blouse with a pale blue vest over that; her hair done up in a ponytail positioned to rest on her right shoulder. "My name is Hyun Su."

                  "Pleasure," offered Tatiana before everyone else spoke a greeting. Ivan had only met Hyun twice as she was still fairly new, having only been hired in December in spite of Marika learning about her back when the ITEA was formed. Hyun specialized in quantum physics, having proposed theories on the possibility of humanity's current perception of time to be inaccurate, even suggesting that stopping its flow might not be impossible. Marika had picked up Hyun from Oxford in the hopes that she'd be able to help unravel the mysteries of the Temporal Gene.

                  "Ah good, everyone's here," noted another brunette, this one a shapely American in a lab coat, pink spaghetti string top and black knee-length skirt. "I'm Katie Grant. What we were going to do today was test out a few new pieces of equipment which will hopefully become standard issue in the future. As the new guys, we figured you might want to see first hand some potential gadgets you'll get to use in the field."

                  "I gotta say I'm liking this," commented Jason, grinning. A third researcher, whom Ivan and Marika knew as Mia Santos, was keeping to herself at the far end of the room, she had on a lab coat like Katie but wore glasses and sported jeans instead of a skirt, her top was also a navy-hued tank top rather than a spaghetti strap.

                  "First up, we have what we call the Stasis Disk," revealed Hyun, producing a small black object that resembled a hockey puck, though a bit easier to palm as it was smaller and not as thick. "This could potentially replace the need for binders or handcuffs."

                  "Wait, stasis implies that all opposing forces cancel each-other out, like an equilibrium," noted Anna, tapping her chin. "So does the device somehow uses Type-7 to immobilize a subject?"

                  "Exactly!" exclaimed Katie, pointing at Anna and smiling. "Would you like to help us test it out? It's perfectly safe!"

                  "Absolutely!" agreed Anna, stepping forward.

                  "Um, Anna, are you...?" stumbled Greg as Anna followed Hyun and Katie to the two-stage door.

                  "Hey, they said it would be fine!" called Anna, flashing Greg a smile. Ivan knew that Anna and Greg had started seeing each other romantically a while back and it was one reason they'd both decided to join the ITEA, given there was no rule against fraternization. Ivan hoped that when the new team compositions were decided the couple wouldn't be broken up, as separating them would do more harm than good.

                  On the other side of the glass wall Hyun and Katie led Anna into the centre of the room, the blond of the group smiling as she went. Finally when Anna appeared to be centred they stopped, Katie then produced a remote from her coat and pressed a button. The smart board in the room sprang to life, showing several camera angles in the testing room. Mia, still by herself, shifted a few items around on the board while everyone watched through the window.

                  "Stasis Disk test, subject: Anna Sokolov," recited Hyun before suddenly pressing the disk in her hand against Anna's left shoulder. The effect was almost instantaneous as Anna froze in place while recoiling in surprise, her arms and her hips leaning away from Hyun while she looked at the Korean, surprise on her face with her mouth hanging open.

                  "Subject is in stasis," declared Katie redundantly; the two women proceeded to work together and tip Anna’s stiffened body over gently, holding her horizontally for a moment before standing her back upright.

                  "Full rigidity confirmed," announced Hyun as Tatiana began to giggle and Jason whistled in amazement. Unlike Ivan's old teammates, Jason hadn't had that much experience with Type-7 but he was known for crusading against drug dealers so he would at least have the kind of passion for justice the ITEA needed.

                  "Quite the device," remarked Ivan. "Looks at lot easier to apply and keep on someone than a chip."

                  "The shell is also designed to withstand overload shocks and electromagnetic pulses, but that does mean it has to be that size," explained Marika. "It was actually Takahishi who first suggested a chip-variant that we could use to detain people."

                  Back inside the testing room, Anna suddenly jumped to life in front of Katie as Hyun removed the disk, leaving the blond looking around in surprise. "I guess it worked?" asked the Russian, resulting in more chuckles and snickers from her cohorts outside.

                  "Yes, it does seem to have a half-second delay or so," noted Hyun, nodding to herself as she looked at the object in her hand. "Katie, would you mind walking in front of me?"

                  "Glad to!" exclaimed Katie, moving to follow Hyun's instructions. As Katie passed in front of Hyun the latter placed the disk squarely onto Katie's back, causing the brunette to freeze. Katie did however manage to complete a step first, her right foot balanced forward with her left arm, her left foot back and about to come off the ground; a wide smile was captured on the scientist's face.

                  "Delay confirmed," announced Hyun. "Thank you, Anna. Mia, could you come and help me please?" As Anna exited the room Mia moved from the smart board to the room entrance, passing by the blond as she came out, heading straight for Greg while the Panamanian moved to join Hyun. Working together Hyun and Mia straightened Katie out, standing her at attention before carrying her by her head and feet to a corner of the room.

                  "What's going on?" asked Victor, confused.

                  "Katie had volunteered earlier to see if the disk’s effects would last overnight," explained Marika. "While based on chip-technology, we don't know if it can suspend a subject for a seemingly indefinite amount of time. Katie's doing an overnight run and if that works, we'll discretely look for some local people who are willing to be paid to be guinea pigs. Knowing how long these can last could be important in the field."

                  "Even a day's worth of detainment should be enough though," observed Greg, draping his arm over Anna's shoulders, there no reason to hide their relationship now that they were in the ITEA.

                  "So what's next?" asked Ivan as Katie was stood in the back corner of the testing room by her two colleagues.  She now looked more like a waxwork figure than a scientist.

                  "Well, the KGB actually invented something back in the eighties that we think we can adapt for our purposes, though it will have more limited use than the Stasis Disk," announced Marika, facing the group and producing an item from her pocket. "This is a KGB Twilight Pen. Is anyone familiar with it?"

                  "My dad has one," revealed Rurik, raising his hand. "From what I recall its called a Twilight Pen because it was used to put people to sleep."

                  "More or less," confirmed Marika, indicating the black and gold pen in her hand. "A fancy-looking ballpoint pen, and with a few quick clicks you can deploy a small amount of liquid from the tip while still using it normally as a pen. A spy’s dream, really. We've been trying them out while they are loaded with, of course, Type-7."

                  "So how exactly do we use it?" asked Tatiana, skeptically questioning the item's usefulness. "Go up to a person and click a pen down their throat? It would be easier to just hit them with a dart, and I've seen dart guns be concealed in pens before."

                  "Sounds like you just volunteered for a demonstration," declared Marika with a smile. "Go inside; I'll follow in a moment."

                  "But—" began Tatiana.

                  "She outranks you Tatiana; now go on," snapped Ivan, hiding a grin by looking away. Tatiana frowned but nonetheless obeyed, heading into the testing room while Marika stepped aside to fill a plastic cup with water.

                  "Admittedly this pen is meant more fore undercover work and specific circumstances, but it doesn't add any weight to your standard field kit since pens are already required," rattled off Marika as she held the cup aloft and, with three clicks on top of the pen, dispensed a few drops of liquid into the glass on top of the water. The liquid mixed perfectly and everyone grinned; Marika then moved to enter the white room.

                  "So what, you want me to fight you until you somehow click that pen into my mouth?" asked Tatiana dryly as Marika entered the testing room. Mia and Hyun stayed by Katie while observing.

                  "Essentially," lied Marika, holding up the glass of water. "Having dry mouth might affect the results though, so I'd like you to drink this before we start."

                  "Whatever," shrugged Tatiana dismissively, taking the glass and downing the liquid in a flash. The blond Russian, the second from the group of rookies, was about to say something else when she froze right as she was. Tatiana's right hand held the cup around the same height as her breasts while her left was touching the zipper to her fleece, holding it about halfway down while she half-smirked in amusement.

                  "Any more scepticism?" asked Marika, facing the viewing group. Victor started to shake his head before Greg elbowed him as the windows, from the other side, were mirrored. “The liquid can also be applied directly to the skin or placed on a variety of delivery media.” Smiling, Marika took the empty cup from Tatiana's rigid hand, leaving it holding empty air, and returned to join the rest of the group.

                  "Shouldn't she be joining us?" remarked Ivan, indicating Tatiana when Marika arrived. "Best to get them all as up to date as we can."

                  "Tatiana will be fine, that small dosage will last an hour at the most," countered Marika, waving off her associate's worries. "Besides, the only things left to demonstrate are either items she's already familiar with or things we might not even use. The disk and the pen are the big two." As Marika spoke Mia and Hyun both approached Tatiana’s frozen body, but only Mia did any work this time, wrapping her arms around the blond's waist and walking backwards while dragging her on her heels, her legs bending forward slightly.   Soon Tatiana was stood against the wall, next to Katie.

                  "What is next?" asked Jason, clearly incredibly impressed already.

                  "Well, its something your Russian companions, and American, sorry, have already seen," revealed Marika, producing a small jewellery box from inside her lab coat and opening it, revealing a thin copper-colored ring that was unremarkable otherwise. "This is a new version of the Immunity Ring."

                  "I remember that!" exclaimed Anna, looking at the item. "Hui used one in Hong Kong! It made her immune to any Type-7!"

                  "But didn't using a freeze-key, well, freeze her?" pointed out Greg.

                  "Yeah, I remember that being the trade-off," agreed Rurik.

                  "So very true; you’ve clearly done your homework on the device, but this new version is much better designed," explained Marika, taking the item out of the box and holding it out. "It's copper and aluminum, and there's a small rubber seal to prevent electro-static rounds from overloading it. This is our latest blend of the metals, this last version is able to repel freeze-key usage from twenty feet away or greater. We're hoping this will be much better. Anyone want to try it?" There was silence for a moment. "I promise I won't punish you," added Marika.

                  "Okay, I guess I'll go then," offered Rurik, stepping forward and letting Marika slide the object onto his right ring finger. "Huh, didn't even feel a prick," he commented. The ring, when in place, would deploy a small needle into the wearer and activate the very basic chip inside, regulating the Type-7 within the person's body and thus allowing them to function normally even when under the influence.

                  "You considered different kinds of rings for undercover work?" asked Victor as Rurik went into the testing room, Hyun meanwhile walking closer to the window while Mia was hanging back, standing beside Tatiana and Katie. "I mean, while I get why it looks quite cheap, being made of simple metal and all to better protect it, but wearing something ordinary like that in high society could be considered unusual."

                  "We're hoping to work on that next," confirmed Marika with a nod. "That's been the big drawback to trying to make an immunity item look like it belongs in various settings. We've considered watches but they're too loose-fitting. Earrings are too small as well, at least for ones that wouldn't look unusual on men. It's really rings or something that allows the mechanism to be hidden but if found will not attract suspicion."

                  "Always a problem in the undercover world," noted Ivan with a nod as Rurik, per Hyun's gestures, moved to stand in the middle of the room while she stayed near the glass/mirror.

                  "Okay, we're good to go," announced Marika, pulling out a freeze-key from what now appeared to be a utility belt rather than a lab coat.

                  "Immunity Ring Mark IV range test," declared Hyun from inside the room. Looking closely, Ivan noted Hyun was also wearing a ring like Rurik's. "Subject one, distance, roughly five feet. Subject two, forty feet."

                  "And here we go," said Marika with a smile as she triggered the device. Hyun, as instructed earlier, had begun tapping her left fingers on her right palm, her arms held up around the middle of her chest. Rurik meanwhile, not sure what to do, casually stood around and was flicking his knuckles together. As the key went off Hyun suddenly stopped, the glazed look on her face indicating she'd been frozen, while Rurik kept on doing his thing. Hyun's face held a serious expression and her middle and index fingers were both currently nearly fully extended, touching her right palm.

                  "Test complete," announced Mia, walking up beside Rurik. "Thanks for your help, you can go now."

                  "That was painless," remarked Rurik with a smile, heading for the exit while Mia approached Hyun. As Ivan and the rest watched Mia pulled Hyun's left arm away from her body and extended her ring finger, promptly pulling her Immunity Ring off. Hyun proceeded to blink and look at her co-workers in surprise.

                  "Ah, it appears subject one froze while subject two did not," observed Hyun with a bit of an embarrassed smile as she and Mia began to head for the door. Meanwhile outside the room, Rurik handed Marika his ring.

                  "Handy little piece of jewelry," noted Jason as Rurik moved to stand with the rest. "Do you encounter freeze-keys often in the field?"

                  "Not really, but they can be a problem," replied Ivan. "Type-7 and chips are common while keys aren't. Yet. Still, we use them a lot in our field kits and it’s a problem if we can't use one while wearing the ring. Of course, we could just slip the ring off before triggering it, but..."

                  "I'm hesitant to call it field ready, but we may have to send them out as-is and just hope we can do better with different camouflage options later," mused Marika. "Stun guns were first used even when they knew their use could potentially cause someone to die. Even today, some models are capable of setting flammable items on fire, thanks to the sparks they give off."

                  "Yeah, but consider how often stun weapons are used versus any fatalities involved with them," came a new voice, surprising nearly everyone but Ivan and Marika. Hyun and Mia had just come out to join the group. Ivan saw the speaker was William Volt, the range-master with the tactical wing and a friend of his. The blond British man was using a cane today, his old injuries sometimes requiring him to do so, and was wearing a black T-shirt with grey pants. With Will were Bethany McGill, another member of the tactical wing, and Jelena Hendraille, the assistant director of the wing as well as a member of Team Alpha. ‘Beth’ was a California girl with dyed red hair, she was small-statured but dangerous-looking as she'd once been in charge of large-calibre sniper rifles while with the US military. Beth was now retired from military service and worked with IT as a weapon maintenance and modification expert. She was sporting a black T-shirt herself with camouflage-green pants, her hair tied in curly pigtails while she carried two military-issue black shipping cases at her side. Jelena, meanwhile, was wearing a purple track jacket with a European football on it, her T-shirt a dark red and she had on a plain black skirt, which Ivan had never recalled seeing her wear before.

                  "Ah, everyone, this is William Volt, our range-master," began Marika, indicating the first of the three guests. Within a few moments introductions were exchanged. The rookies learned who the three new arrivals were and vice-versa.

                  "Well, we brought a couple of the new Noi Industries weapons for testing," indicated Will, Beth holding up her two cases. "These are the latest of the tech they sent us to try out."

                  "I actually just came in to introduce myself before heading out," explained Jelena, offering a wave. "Colette and Ariel get back in tonight and I want to pick them up."

                  "Oh, Jelena, please let them I know I appreciate them staying behind while Team Gamma and I came back," chimed in Jason before the tactical expert nodded and left.

                  "So what have you got for us?" asked Marika, indicating the two cases that Beth had placed on a nearby counter.

                  "Well they know we're using tranquilizer dart weapons, so they sent us one of their own," revealed Beth, opening a case to produce a funny-looking pistol. "This is the NI Stinger. Originally designed with the idea of being a sort of armour-piercing needle gun, they converted it into a low-velocity dart gun. The shorter barrel is made possible thanks to the lower velocity, but on the range it wasn't that effective beyond one hundred yards, and even then we're talking only ninety-percent accuracy."

                  "How would that compare to the guns you rig up for us?" asked Ivan, curious. Multiple spot dart weapons weren't that common, due to most items that could be delivered by a dart requiring a specific dosage measurement to avoid being under or over-effective. The ITEA had Beth usually modify normal pistols like the Glock 17 and Ruger Mk II so they could fire type-7 darts, though the darts themselves were also custom, which did make the process a bit pricier than with conventional firearms.

                  "Well, it's got ten shots and is designed for this sort of thing," indicated Beth, ejecting the magazine. "The Stinger takes unique 10mm darts that only the Noi company makes. Still, its less accurate than the Glock or the Ruger, though granted it can hold more rounds than the latter. We were hoping to test its impact on human skin."

                  "What's the second weapon?" asked Victor, indicating the second case.

                  "Oh this," grinned Beth, handing the Stinger to Ivan to hold while she opened the second case. "This is called the NI Immobilizer, and it is something right out of comic books!" From the black metal case emerged a strange-looking gun, one Ivan didn't think he could describe again to other people. The weapon resembled a paint gun, though lacking the large canister on the bottom; what appeared to be the barrel was incredibly short. A CO2 canister was attached to the base.

                  "I'm thinking GI Joe here," laughed Gregory.

                  "It's a gas gun," explained Bethany, picking up a funny-looking silver cartridge and indicating that it clipped onto the top of what Ivan had mistaken for the barrel. "These special shells disintegrate on impact and release a controlled amount of gas that ideally can affect a small group of people if they're standing all together. You fill one of these with Type-7 cartridges and we'll have a gas launcher that shoots like a handgun."

                  "I like it," smiled Jason, nodding in approval.

                  "Even if it only has one shot, I can see it being handy in hot situations," remarked Rurik.

                  "Oh, that's the best part," revealed Bethany, indicating the top of the weapon. "You can hold a spare shot up here. It still is limited due to its unique ammo and the amount it can hold, but the purpose certainly fits a niche between normal gas canister launchers and dart weapons. Unless there's some major flaw, I'm going to recommend we start issuing these with tactical gear."

                  "Noi Industries really wants us to start buying from them," commented Will. "They already sent us some kind of super-revolver, a shotgun-like long range stun gun and some new body armor that covers better than Kevlar but is a lot lighter."

                  "Those any good?" asked Ivan as Marika took Mia and Hyun aside for a moment to speak with them. Marika's phone had buzzed during the conversation.

                  "The armor and the stun gun we'll most likely use, but we're barely even using our normal stun guns," noted William. "I have high hopes for the Immobilizer though. Stinger... probably won't, but we might pick up a couple for research purposes."

                  "Okay," chimed in Marika, turning to face the group. "I just got an email from Lucienne, our director. She regrets to inform me that you won't be able to meet her today as she and Chief Bishop are still in a meeting, but she hopes to see you all tomorrow. She did however let me know your team assignments."

                  "Well don't keep us waiting!" exclaimed Victor, suddenly excited.

                  "I won't," Marika assured the Russian, pausing a taking a deep breath. "Okay, to start off... Gregory and Anna, you two will be joining Team Beta alongside Cassandra Flick and Jean-Baptiste Odilon. They'll be here tomorrow so you can meet them then." There was a pause while the blond and the American hugged and smiled. "Jason, you're still with Team Gamma, and Tatiana will be joining you as well. Rurik, they needed a computer specialist so you'll be joining Caesar Francisco's Team Delta. Finally Victor, you'll be with Ivan on Team Epsilon." Ivan and Victor exchanged smiles, clasping their hands together.

                  "I'll introduce you to your other teammates tomorrow," Ivan told his old-turned-new teammate.

                  "Alright then, anyone want to shoot me?" asked Beth, indicating the Stinger.

                  "What?" asked Anna, confused.

                  "Well we need to test how a human subject reacts to the Stinger, so I'll stand about twenty feet away and see how I react to the dart hitting me," explained Beth. "Hopefully I'll freeze, but you never know."

                  "I've got it," offered Victor, flashing Beth a wink as he took the gun from Ivan. Together the pair entered the testing chamber while the others watched, Victor soon took up a position roughly twenty-five feet away from Beth, who stood with her hands on her hips while smiling at him. Raising the Stinger, Victor mouthed something that Ivan couldn't decipher before firing; the dart hit Beth in the lower-right area of her stomach. Surprisingly, the impact seemed to be minimal; while Beth's body pivoted slightly, it froze up just as quickly. Bethany's right arm had moved slightly away from her hip and she was twisting to the right at the waist, but aside from her eyes being slightly wider, there were not a lot of signs of pain.

                  "I'd call that an interesting test," remarked Will, nodding. Marika promptly headed into the lab with a mesotherapy gun, the kind frequently used by the ITEA for antidote delivery as well as full Type-7 injections. Victor, meanwhile, put the safety on his weapon before joining the others outside of the testing room while Marika gave Beth an injection to her neck.

                  "Has less kick than I'd have expected for a barrel this short," remarked Victor, handing the NI Stinger weapon to Will.

                  "True, but range and accuracy problems may still make it not viable," nodded William, putting the weapon back in the fitted case. "Okay, we still need to test the Immobilizer. I'm thinking three people. Who hasn't been a guinea pig yet?"

                  "Well Victor just got to shoot a gun, not get anything tested on him," pointed out Mia. "How about him and myself?"

                  "Only if Marika's the third," agreed Victor, indicating the lab director. "Fair's fair, after all."

                  "Alright, who wants to shoot it?" asked Will as Bethany returned to join the others, Hyun meanwhile used the intercom to tell Marika to stay in the room.

                  "I got it," offered Greg, taking the unusual weapon from the range-master. "So just aim at their feet?"

                  "It's recommended, though even if it hits them, the cartridge shouldn't even bruise," confirmed William.

                  "I bet this is a dream come true," muttered Victor as he marched towards the testing room doors with Mia and Greg. "A chance to shut me up?"

                  "Hey, I'm sure it'll just be temporary," grinned Gregory as the trio passed through the side doors and entered the chamber. Mia explained the test to Marika, who appeared to hesitate before nodding, sliding the mesotherapy gun into her lab coat. Moments later the three long-jacketed people stood in a line, with Victor in the middle, Mia on his left and Marika on his right.

                  "Sorry, so before-" suddenly began Marika, but the hollow “chun” sound of a canister being launched cut her off. Upon the canister's impact against the ground, roughly fifty feet away from Greg, there was a flash of powder and at first nothing seemed to happen, but then it was clear that the trio had been frozen. Marika's mouth was open as she was looking towards the one-way mirror, her right arm raised with her palm facing up, her body wobbling on her heels as she'd become about as sturdy as a mannequin thanks to Type-7 gas. Victor was squinting and had leaned back, his arms slightly raised to around stomach level. Mia, meanwhile, had a blank expression on her face; her arms were crossed while seemingly she was even more wobbly than Marika’s immobilized figure.

                  "I think I'm going to like working here," remarked Anna with a bright smile, Ivan sharing it. After being away from his old team for a few months it was nice to have them back at his side, even if they weren't all on Team Epsilon.

* * *

                  "I understand your concerns, but the committee doesn't have a lot of options," declared Lucienne Christophe, looking like she was going to go ride a motorcycle as she was wearing a black leather outfit and her hair was wrapped in a tight bun. "I created this agency, I'll dictate how it is managed."

                  "Yes but if they think someone can do better, you may find yourself demoted in, as you said, an agency you created," pointed out Raymond Bishop as he stepped out of the office of IT's director. "Watch yourself Lucienne. All we need is one person with a good track record and we could see this agency under new management. I just wanted you to know I have your back."

                  "That is still good to know," offered Lucienne, clearly agitated as Ray stepped past her while she held the door open. "Thanks for your concern Ray, but I'll be fine. No one knows what we're up against better than me."

                  "That hasn't stopped changes in other agencies before," warned Raymond, but with that he left, heading towards the elevator. Nearby was Takahishi Nakamura, better known as Taka or Tak, dressed in a white suit with a red dress shirt on underneath, his hair curtained like several famous UK football players.

                  "Ah Tak, good timing," remarked Lucienne, smiling at the man that had once been her student. "Would you mind if we talked about your last assignment for a bit? I have some concerns..." Tak didn't say anything, instead walking into the director's office with almost a spring in his step.

* * *

                  "I'm telling you those two are sleeping together," remarked Anna Federov from a desk at the other end of the floor, having leaned out from the Team Zeta office she was sitting in to watch the events unfold. Anna was dressed down in a beige tweed jacket, though she also wore a white long-sleeved blouse and black pants, her hair parted to the right.

                  "A shame, he's probably the hottest guy here who isn't married," sighed Nessa Kelly, Anna's closest friend at the ITEA in spite of being the one who gave her the Scrappy-Doo nickname.

                  "So who's the hottest if you count people that are, too?" asked Anna, surprised.

                  "Caesar of course!" Nessa almost yelled, which wasn't wise since other people were still around in spite of it getting close to seven at night. While there was a small night staff at the ITEA HQ – unless there was a critical mission going on – only a handful of people besides security usually stuck around. Anna and Kelly had just finished their paperwork and were now eating some yogurt before heading out.

                  "I dunno, I kind of like Paddy myself," shrugged Anna, her voice lower than her friend's. "I mean, have you seen him when he doesn't wear those horn-rimmed glasses of his?"

                  "I guess, but he's got that hopeless crush on Tasia," pointed out Nessa, finishing her strawberry mix and licking her spoon. "You hear that more new agents start today? We can finally not be called the rookies!"

                  "True, but from what I hear they aren't being conglomerated into a new squad," nodded Anna, musing about their situation. Team Zeta had been formed with an experienced leader, Palmira Tiago, as well as three agents who, at the time, were fairly new to the ITEA and essentially rookies, Anna and Nessa amongst them. In spite of other newer agents being with other teams, Zeta was still seen as the rookie squad, a stigma Anna was a bit sick of.

                  "Hello ladies," came a sudden voice, the agents turning to see the well-groomed and suit-wearing Juro Takashi standing at the entrance to the office. "It's quitting time, and I was curious if either of you would like to go to Vertigo 42 for a drink?"

                  "Oh, that is tempting," mused Nessa, tapping her spoon against the desk she shared with Anna. "Scrappy, you up for it?"

                  "Actually no, I was going to stay in tonight," revealed Anna, looking a bit innocent as she finished her raspberry yogurt. "Got some important reading to do."

                  "Suit yourself," frowned Nessa, shaking her head before looking back at Juro. "I guess I'm in, but is anyone else coming? Kind of want to have a group tonight, no offense."

                  "None taken," Juro assured Nessa. "I actually asked one of the new agents earlier before they started the tour. Jason Holland."

                  "Don't forget me!" added another voice, at which point Parisa Golzar appeared. Parisa was around thirty and an Iranian, originally having worked with Interpol before joining IT. Unlike most of the IT staff that came from Interpol however, Parisa was a support technician, not an agent, able to map out even the most remote of locations for field teams.

                  "This should be fun, I don't think we've ever hung out before," noted Nessa, standing up to join the other two. "You sure about that book, Anna? Vertigo 42 is a pretty nice place..."

                  "Don't worry, I think I'll live," Anna assured her friend, dismissing her with a wave of her spoon. With that Nessa grabbed her purse and the trio headed off, going a short distance before Jason appeared. Jason, however, wasn't alone.

                  "Just don't talk to me," muttered a black-haired woman in a security uniform before walking away from Jason, leaving him standing there dumbfounded. Nessa noted the woman was Christina Merritt, one of the night guards who usually ran the top-floor security office.

                  "Hello again Jason," greeted Juro upon approaching the rookie. "Christina seemed upset. Do you know each other?"

                  "We have a... history," remarked Jason, suddenly going from a frown to a smile. "Right, then.  Let’s go have some fun! First round's on me!"

* * *

Anna Federov's Apartment, East London

                  Anna had lied to Nessa about her plans, but while she appreciated her friend she didn't want her gossiping. Perhaps two minutes after Anna had gotten home, just giving her enough time to take off her tweed jacket, there was a knock at the door. After taking a moment to make sure her hair looked all in place, Anna dashed from her small kitchen to the door, practically beaming as she opened it.

                  "Hello beautiful," came the smooth voice of Peter Knight, the dark-haired local entrepreneur, who was dressed in a black dress shirt with his collar unbuttoned as well as the sleeves, his stubble-coated face making Anna's heart skip a beat. Anna barely glanced at the bottle of wine in Peter's hand before wrapping her arms around him and locking her lips with his, the two engaging in a long and passionate kiss as they stumbled back into the flat; Peter kicked the door closed behind him.

                  "Great way to greet someone, huh?" remarked Anna with a grin after the pair ended their kiss.

                  "Yeah, I'll say," laughed Peter, then holding up the bottle of wine. "You up for a little chardonnay? It's a 2003 Harrison."

                  "I would love some," declared Anna, hurrying into her kitchen while Peter casually set the bottle down on the coffee table in the living room, then seating himself on the couch. Anna tried not to blush as she dug around for wine glasses. It had only been three weeks since she'd started seeing Peter, having met him at a nearby diner, but she felt great about it. Still Anna didn't want to jinx anything so she'd kept her relationship a secret from everyone, even her closest fiends like Nessa.

                  "Can't wait to taste this," commented Peter, scratching the back of his neck as Anna sat down beside him, handing him a glass. Using a corkscrew from her pocketknife Anna was able to remove the cork and then let Peter pour the wine, first for her and then for him.

                  "To happy coincidences," proposed Anna, holding up her glass.

                  "To you," offered Peter in turn, getting his date to smile yet again as they clinked they glasses together. The pair promptly drank their wine, but as Anna lowered her glass, her senses failed her.

* * *

                  "Finally," breathed Peter, touching the back of his neck where he'd placed a chip just before the wine had been opened. Three weeks ago he'd managed to enter Anna's life, knowing she was a member of the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, and now at last he'd had a chance to freeze her with some carefully spiked wine. Anna sat like a mannequin on the couch with her left arm draped on top of it, her right holding her half-empty glass and a seductive smile on her face, her right leg tucked up on top of her left.

                  "Sorry beautiful, but business before pleasure," sighed Peter, kissing Anna's frozen lips before putting his glass down and getting up. Walking into the back of the apartment, he located Anna's computer and, as Peter had suspected from what he'd learned about Anna, her password was simply 'united,' in reference to her father's work in the United States. Almost laughing, Peter produced his cell phone and made a special call.

                  "This is No Name," announced Peter over the phone. "Stand by, we should be able to move in just a couple of days..."


The End


Ivan Popov - Timothy Olyphant

Matthew Strathairn - Jason Statham

Yelena Nikitin - Adrianne Palicki

Rurik Chekhol - Ryan Phillippe

Tatiana Lebedev - Yvonne Strahovski

Victor Morozov - Victor Webster

Anna Sokolov - Allison Mack

Gregory Barnes - Milo Ventimiglia

Jason Holland - David Tennant

Marika Bran - Charlize Theron

Raymond Bishop - Clive Owen

Hyun Su - Jina Song

Katie Grant - Autumn Reeser

Mia Santos - Jordana Brewster

William Volt - Simon Pegg

Bethany McGill - Kari Byron

Jelena Hendraille - Briana Evigan

Lucienne Christophe - Josie Maran

Takahishi Nakamura - Takuya Kimura

Anna Federov - Sasha Alexander

Nessa Kelly - Olivia Wilde

Juro Takashi - Masi Oka

Parisa Golzar - Sarah Shahi

Christina Merritt - Michelle Ryan

Peter Knight AKA No Name - Nolan North

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