next week: CIA vs KGB.
at the FBI offices:
All of the Immortals from the case had been brought in and were being questioned by Don and his team. "Okay," David said, stepping in and sitting down in one of the interrogation booths, opposite Janet. "Let's start with something easy. Your name."
"I have one, yes," she said.
"What is it?"
"Keyser Sose's a man," David said.
She smiled and winked: "Then clearly my disinformation campaign worked."
Nor was Don faring much better: "Who does your team answer to?" Don asked.
"Our boss," Val said.
"What's his name?" Don asked.
"I don't know."
Val nodded. "I know what we call him."
"Okay, let's go with that."
One might argue Liz was having more luck...
"Why do you want to know that?" Poe asked.
"I was almost one of you," Liz said. "I'm curious what the history is there."
Nathan Poe shrugged. "I don't know much of it," he apologized.
"That's okay. Whatever you can tell me, that'd be great."
"Well, back during the Cold War, the USA was in a race with the USSR to get into space first."
The Space Race, Liz thought to herself, keeping a this-is-fascinating expression on her face.
"And while they never put anyone in orbit, the US Navy ran a battery of tests on women aviators. They made discoveries that proved women are better suited to survival than men, and that's why the organization prefers to recruit women." Poe made a face. "I know, I know, 'better suited to survival' doesn't sound official, but that's what I was told."
Liz nodded. "It's fine."
And as for Nikki...
"What makes you tick?" Nikki asked, close to the end of her rope with these people.
"White matter," Callie said.
"In the brain," Callie clarified. "If grey matter is the computer, then white matter are the cables connecting parts of the computer."
"Okay," Nikki said.
"In people who are really good at lying with a straight face - that is, people who know they're lying and are doing so deliberately - there's more white matter in the frontal areas," tapping her forehead.
"And that's what you have?" Nikki asked.
"Si. We're the next step in human evolution."
"I'm serious about the double camp," Callie said.
"Just tell me what your name is," David asked of her.
"You haven't believed me yet," Janet said.
"Because you haven't told me the truth yet."
"So, how's married life treating you?" Don asked, figuring it would be a break from the tough questions.
"No, I'm okay. It's just...he died." And I'm not happy with how it was done.
"I'm sorry," Don said.
"Thanks." Marlowe killed him.
Into the silence which followed, Val said something to Don, and he mentally translated it from her spoken Yiddish: 'I know what you were trying to ask me the day before Graduation - I should have let you ask. You would've been great for me, but I would've been too much danger for you.' "I'm sorry," she apologized to Don.
"This wasn't the first time I met Charlie - nor the first time Marlowe has," Callie said.
"Yeah, I imagine you and he met at some office party, you being Colby's plus-one,"Nikki said.
"Before then, even," Callie said. "England." Callie sighed. I turned my back for a day, letting her play tourist without me...dammit.
"Charlie's fine," Nikki said.
"You depend on him to solve your cases. What better position?"
"Position for what?"
"I was under the impression your boyfriend was a sniper," Callie said, as if that explained why Callie thought Nikki would understand the expression.
"Hey don't change the subj-" Nikki started to say, then understood what Callie meant by position: the ideal place to strike from. "Charlie wouldn't do that."
"There's an old saying," Janet said.
"Really?" David asked. He'd given up on finding out her real name, but he welcomed this other admission.
She nodded. "'Never use one word, where a dozen will do.'"
David nodded. "I've heard it, and heard it the other way around, too."
"That's what your Professor Eppes will do, one day."
"Stall, change something in the hundredths place, dissemble," Kim told Colby. "It's questioned less if it's done by someone trusted implicitly, a person who has never lied to them before."
four hours later...
"And that's why there's a bronze statue of Margaret Eppes where I work."
The agents had changed interviewing rooms every so often, in case one of them caught a break in the interviews. Liz looked disbelievingly at Janet Kotsonis. "She was one of you?"
"Welllll, she wasn't a Japanese-American like you or me, allergic to kelp, but otherwise yes, yes she was."
"That's a pretty hefty charge," Liz said.
"The truth usually is," Janet said. "But honesty is the best policy. And the most fun."
"Then why'd you lie?"
Janet raised an elegant eyebrow. "Me? Lie?"
"You're not Japanese," Liz said.
"Fine," Janet grumbled. "I'm really a haole."
Liz cracked a smile. "You mean you're a White, or you're a non-Hawaiian?"
The room's single door opened, Don sticking his head in. "Liz?" he asked, needing a word with her.
Liz nodded. To Janet, "I'll be right back."
"De nada, take your time," Janet said, affecting a yawn as Agent Warner left.
"You wanted to see me, boss?" Liz asked once the door was closed...and she saw who Don was with: Agent Carl McGowan.
"We got to let them go," Don said, not sounding happy about it.
"O-kay," Liz said, not sure why McGowan had come down here just so Don would tell her that.
"Personally, I would have preferred to pull the plug sooner," Carl McGowan said. "But we were pressured to let you have a taste of why it's a bad idea to interfere with them."
"We?" Don asked, saying what was on Liz's mind.
"Includes me," Max Flask said, standing behind the younger agents. "Neither of us like wasting taxpayer dollars like this."
"Then why?" Don asked. "Why let your agents give non-answers for the past four hours?"
"What do you think we're trained to do, in the event of capture?" Max asked.
"No different from your own training, Eppes, in that regard," McGowan noted.
Trace McKay, looking no different from any other personal secretary, walked up to Flask, and told him deferentially, "Sir? We're done with Professor Eppes, sir."
"Wait, what?" Don asked, taking a step towards her.
Liz coughed and was about to throw up an arm to block his path, when -
Trace looked at Don, and for a moment, he saw a very different person in that face: a woman who could kick his ass without breaking a sweat...and do it while reading Shakespeare.
Don stayed where he was, not moving forwards, but still not backing down.
"What did you find?" Flask asked her.
"They're fine," meaning at least McGowan and Warner.
With a voice more rote than mousy, Trace said, "He's clean - we checked the standards and then some just to be thorough."
"And you put him back?" Flask asked.
"Much appreciated," dismissing her.
"Put him back where?" Don asked before Trace could do more than turn around.
"Where the flowergirl walked," Trace said.
"Go check on your brother, Eppes," McGowan said, knowing that the agent would anyway. "And don't shoot anyone."
Don gave a cursory nod as he bolted to the elevator.
"Agent Warner, could I have a word?" Max asked her as McGowan and Trace were walking away.
"I don't see why not," Liz said.
They walked over to a window, and stood along the concrete between two panes. "This case was anamalous," Flask said, disclaimering first. "On several levels. Normally, we stay undercover the entire time."
"You think that's what Marlowe was after?" Liz asked. 'When all other possibilities are exhausted'... she quoted.
Max nodded. "Our strength is anonimity. You're familiar with what Kennedy said on the subject, aren't you? 'To have a child, is to give fate a hostage.'"
"The women under my command, they aren't orphans. They have families. They might joke with one another about resembling other people, but their ability to become other people, that's the key. And the more they can have other identities, the more insulation between their on-duty actions and their family and friends."
Liz opened her mouth.
"No," Max answered, and Liz shut her mouth. Flask explained. "There's no use in becoming a specific someone - do that, and other people (the enemy or rival organizations) can dig up a past history, compare voices, the whole nine yards. Become a temp, a face in the crowd -"
"And you're forgettable," Liz said. "You don't look twice at someone you'll never see again."
Max nodded. "Smart as your mother," Max complimented.
"Thanks," Liz said. "Did you - did you know my mother?"
"Any answer is an answer," Flask quoted. Even remaining silent, even saying 'i can neither confirm nor deny', gives information.
"Is that common?" Liz asked. "You give the impression you know more than you really do?" If someone high in government or business says he can speeddial the President...
"It can work like that," Max confirmed. "And it can also make you underestimate me."
"Because I think you're exaggerating," Liz said.
"Like I said, you're smart."
"Thank you," Liz said.
"And that's a good answer," he said. "Well, I've got to go," as his agents were walked to the elevators, and from there to the front door...where they would disappear into the passersby.
* * * * *
that afternoon, in Liz's apartment:
Her front door had barely closed behind her, before Liz noticed that she wasn't the only one to have been here today:
Her copy of The 100 Days, about President Kennedy, had been shifted. Having never really touched the book - aside from Moving Day - since her pregnancy, Liz knew instantly that somebody had been here.
Liz pulled the book out with all the slowness and care due it, in case it had been wired to blow. No danger, it turned out.
Cautiously opening it... and seeing that the only change was a new bookmark on the page she had read last: 'There were always exactly ten thousand Immortals in the service of the Emperor' it read.
Liz heard a groan, and she set down the book and unholstered her sidearm, drawing it as she approached the source of the noise: her bedroom.
Swinging into the room, Liz took one look, and lowered her gun. "Charlie?"
"Liz?" Charlie asked, bleary-eyed waking up. "What are you doing here?"
"I live here," she said. Liz had a feeling that the flowergirl at Val's wedding, had lived in this apartment for at least a little while.
meanwhile, several neighborhoods away...
Callie had knocked on their door, feeling that Colby would want the option of opening it or letting her stew. She had known he would be asking her to explain, and she was trying. And that was twenty minutes ago that she'd knocked.
Callie took a deep breath. "Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia put it best, Col," she said to Colby. "'Science is a marathon. And part of running a marathon is protecting part of yourself.' Substitute my job for the marathon, though it can feel like one at times, and its a perfect description."
Colby stood perfectly still, and Callie's heart and mind both feared his reaction...and didn't let her move either. Not towards him, not away from him, not to any side.
"I was down-time?" Colby asked quietly, his tone and any emotions wrapped up tightly within him. "Mindless fluff?" never having thought a movie description would ever be applicable to him.
Like dad always said, never go easy on somebody you love - it only hurts you both more. "If I *only* wanted your ass, Granger," Callie said, "I wouldn't have proposed. Wouldn't have needed to. You wanted me, I wanted you, we wanted each other." An option flashed through her thoughts - posing, one leg arched elegantly, lips slightly parted, arms raised so to highlight her splendid - Nah, Callie dismissed that thought: That would just reinforce any thoughts that all Immortals are experts are elicting anything we want.
Colby nodded. Can't argue with that. "Then what?" As the saying goes, what am I to you?
"My heart," Callie said, bluntly. Any other time - particularly before this mess - and he would have known that already.
note: a kelp allergy is nothing to sneeze at...kelp is part of what makes toothpaste and ice cream, among other things.
also, I don't think I can hazard how Colby and Callie would progress from this; sorry.