I don't own anything related to the rights of Harry Potter or Warehouse 13.
The next chapter of Endless Wondering.
Publish Date: September 22nd, 2016
Update Date: N/A
The next time an unknown just popped into Leena's B&B was quite a bit more tense than the last few times. Everyone was just sitting down to eat breakfast when a voice interrupted them.
"I wouldn't eat if I were you, Donovan."
Reactions around the table were varied. Steve and Myka immediately drew their teslas, Pete and Arthur froze and looked up at the intruder, Leena frowned and very nearly glared, and Claudia just sighed and replied, "And why not?" before turning around to face the new person in the room.
Meeting the icy blue eyes of the woman standing in the doorway very nearly froze her, pun intended. The blonde was only a few inches taller than Claudia, and didn't look much older than she was, but the way she held herself and her icy eyes gave her a much more regal and imposing presence. She seemed both impossibly beautiful and utterly untouchable, and somehow she made Claudia feel just a bit smaller.
"Because we need to go," The woman stated flatly. "It's time for your first field test."
Claudia was suddenly confused. "What field test?"
"You aren't taking one of my agents," Arthur interrupted. "And who the hell are you?"
The woman sighed, as if simply being here was annoying her, and replied in the same bored, flat tone, "Greengrass. An associate of Potter's. And Donovan is coming with me. Your boss should be calling now."
As if by magic, the cell phone in Arthur's pocket started ringing. Pulling it out and looking at the screen caused him to look back up at the woman for a moment before he answered the call and slowly put the phone to his ear. "Hello?" A short pause, then, "Confirmed." Another pause. "Yes, sir." A longer pause, then a much more reluctant "Yes, sir."
After hanging up a short moment later, Arthur said stiffly, "Apparently, it's already been approved for all of us."
Several quiet pops heralded the arrival of several more people, one of which everyone present recognized, Hermione Granger, and one that Claudia vaguely recognized as the Steve impersonator, mostly because she still had the shockingly bright bubblegum pink hair.
"What's going on, Artie?" Myka questioned tensely.
Arthur looked around the room at the sudden arrivals for a second and then answered, "Apparently, while Claudia is taking her field test, We've all been invited, and urged to accept, a small tour."
"Oh, this is going to be so much fun!" An airy blonde suddenly exclaimed, skipping over to Leena and hugging her.
The warehouse crew blinked at the blonde's odd behavior, but Hermione just sighed and said flatly, "Not yet, Luna. You're getting ahead of yourself."
The now named Luna just sighed and stepped back, making a motion at Hermione to hurry up.
Hermione, for her part, expertly ignored the blonde and began, "If you accept, each of you will be going with one of us." She shrugged and grinned slightly. "Should be fun."
"Tour of what?" Myka asked, less tense now that she was addressing someone who was at least somewhat familiar.
"Depends on the person, really," Hermione replied easily. "You'll be with me for the day, Arthur will be with Viktor," A large, stocky man leaning against the wall grunted, the only indication he gave that he acknowledged what was being said, "Leena will go with Luna, Steve will go with Tonks," The pink haired woman smiled brightly and waved, "And Pete will be with Neville." The man inspecting the plants suddenly snapped around and blushed, giving a small grin and wave.
"And who are these people, exactly?" Myka pushed.
Greengrass sighed heavily and replied flatly, "Viktor is the head of our Internal Security department, Tonks is the head of the Intelligence department, Neville is the head of our External Security department, Hermione is the head of Research and Development, I'm the head of Legal and Luna is head of Human Resources."
Pete frowned slightly. "A lawyer is running a field test?"
Greengrass turned to him and gave the first real expression any of them had seen on her face. A feral grin that caused the now named Viktor and Neville to cringe slightly and step further away from Pete than they already were. She stalked forward gracefully, like an apex predator, eying Pete like prey. When she was within arm's reach, she hissed, "Do remember that I had a life before my law degree." With that, her expression blanked and she stepped toward Claudia, grabbing her arm, saying, "Brace yourself," before they both disappeared with a pop.
Viktor and Neville both sighed heavily in relief. Neville looked up at Pete, wide-eyed, and said, "You just got lucky, mate." At Pete's confused look, Neville elaborated, "Daphne is only the head of the legal department because she's the only one who can handle the messes that Harry ends up getting himself in. It's actually still a point of contention between them, Daphne still wants to be back in the field full time." Neville shrugged and continued, "Implying she was incapable of running a basic field test was like running up on a sleeping dragon and pulling it's tail."
Viktor snorted at this, drawing everyone's attention, and muttered, "Better to pull dragon's tail. More likely to survive."
"So what will Claudia have to do for her field test?" Myka asked curiously as Hermione led her around a few of the labs. So far it was just a basic show-and-tell, nothing really interesting.
Hermione shrugged. "Daphne said she had a basic retrieval mission lined up." Hermione grinned suddenly, adding, "Knowing Daphne, it will likely be an interesting mission."
"Interesting?" Myka questioned. "Not sure I like the sound of that."
Hermione laughed. "Daphne has a fascination for the weird," Hermione shrugged, adding, "So she tends to pick the strange ones when she can, even for us."
Myka arched an eyebrow. "So Claudia just tags along on a pickup of the weird variety?"
Hermione's grin widened. "Not in the slightest." She took a sudden turn down a hallway and called back to Myka, "Let's go see how she's doing, shall we?"
"So what exactly is this?" Claudia questioned as soon as she got over the urge to vomit, which admittedly would have been worse if she had eaten anything beforehand.
The blonde looked at her imperiously before replying, "You will be leading a team on a retrieval mission under my supervision." The blonde's glare intensified as she continued, "We're calling this a field test for you, but it is a live mission." With that, she pulled out a compact pistol and a holster and handed them to the now wide-eyed redhead.
Claudia took the firearm gingerly and looked at it for a second before looking up to the retreating form of the Greengrass woman. She hurried after the blonde, clipping the holster to her side, acutely noting the weight of it and the feel of it brushing her arm as she walked. "Why do I need this?" She asked carefully. "I don't even know how to use it."
The blonde arched an eyebrow, replying flatly without breaking stride, "Then you're a moron, and will fail this test."
Claudia almost stumbled at that, and muttered, "I mean I've never been trained in their use."
"For now, point and shoot if you need to," the blonde shrugged. "You shouldn't need any more than that at the moment."
Claudia had a sudden sinking feeling at those words.
Stopping in front of a door in the small building they were in, Daphne turned suddenly to face Claudia, saying, "I want you to listen to me." Ensuring she had the redhead's complete attention, she continued, "This is your mission, and everyone in this room is under your command." At Claudia's widening eyes, Daphne added, "We already know how well you can follow, now it's time to see how well you can lead."
"So Claudia just has to tag along on an artifact retrieval?" Steve asked ludicrously. "Just read our reports, she does that at least once a week."
Tonks smiled indulgently and replied, "We did. It's why Harry approached her in the first place."
Steve looked confused. "Then why send her on something she's already proven again and again that she can do?"
Tonks shook her head, still smiling. "This isn't a tag-along for her to get her feet wet, this is throwing her in the deep end to see if she can swim. It's her mission."
"Oh," Steve muttered, surprised.
"Exactly," Tonks said. "Though, I'm surprised no one's asked the big question yet." Without giving Steve a chance to question what she meant, Tonks' smile widened wickedly as she asked, "Want to go see how she's doing?"
Claudia stared in front of her, her expression a mix of mild terror and resignation. This was not what she was expecting. This was not simple. This was not basic. This was rather complicated, and she had no idea how she was going to get though this, let alone lead an entire team as well.
She had four people placed under her command, two soldiers, a linguist, and a historian, with her filling out the tech spot. Apparently, that was the standard setup for their retrieval groups. So far, the others had been pretty nice, which isn't quite what she was expecting, but apparently these four had volunteered to be her team for this.
That was actually encouraging, at least.
"Any standing orders, boss lady?" Ramirez, the shorter of the two soldiers, asked as he glanced at the redhead.
Claudia tore her attention away from the hidden cave system in front of her and turned towards the man. After a second to process the question, she blinked rapidly to clear her head and replied, "Yeah, watch where you step, and don't touch anything."
"Ramirez is screwed," The other soldier snorted. "He touches everything."
"Screw you, Gordon," Ramirez shot back, laughing. "It was one time!"
Neville and Pete entered the monitor room set aside for this mission. It had feeds from the body cameras the group was wearing, monitors for health, satellite feeds and topographical maps of the area, and a slew of other related information and data. Pete blinked in surprise at the setup. Overall, it was a pretty good command center, on par with some of the ones he had seen in the Marines.
Noticing Myka and Jinks watching the monitors from off to the side, Pete joined them and asked quietly, "How is Claudia doing?"
Noting Neville standing next to the terrifying Greengrass woman, Pete snapped his head back around before he was noticed, drawing a near silent chuckle from Jinks as Myka replied, "She's doing well, so far."
"So far?" Pete questioned, tilting his head.
"Her mission just really started, their about to enter that cave system," Myka said absently, watching the monitors.
Pete winced. "That's not good." As Myka and Jinks turned to Pete, silently demanding an explanation, he sighed and muttered, "She's a bit claustrophobic."
Myka and Jinks winced.
"Wow," Claudia breathed. The cavern in front of her was so massive, they couldn't even see the edges from the entrance. Natural stone pillars held up the ceiling they couldn't see, and when Gordon cracked a glow stick and threw it across the room, they watched it arc until it hit the ground before sliding and rolling to a stop, yet still not showing the end of the room.
"You know," Claudia mused as the team was about to advance, suppressing a grin. "This would be the perfect place to put a metric ton of traps."
Ramirez, who was about half an inch from setting his foot down inside the cavern, froze. Moving his foot as slowly as he could, he eyed below it like it was a hidden viper pit. Setting his foot back down behind the threshold of the chamber, he turned around and said petulantly, "Why did you have to go and say that, boss lady?"
"Five says Ramirez touches something," Viktor grunted, his eyes never leaving the screens in front of him. "Another five says will be statue of woman."
Neville tilted his head to the side in thought before replying, "Ramirez touching something is a sucker's bet, but I'll bet five that it's something shiny." Quiet murmurs between the various department heads broke out and soon there were several small stacks of odd golden coins on the table in front of the main monitor.
The Warehouse crew were shocked at their behavior. Finally, Arthur ground out, "Are you betting on my agent failing her mission?"
Daphne turned, still not showing any kind of expression, and replied, "We're betting on how things will become more interesting." She pressed a few keys on the keyboard to bring up a small display she glanced at before closing again then finished, "The only two ways she could really fail in this is if either they are caught or someone dies, and even then, only in the case of her own gross negligence." Daphne arched an eyebrow and challenged, "Are you saying there is a risk of her failing?"
Arthur glared at the blonde for a very long moment before finally looking back at the monitors. Daphne simply turned back as well and continued, "She'll be fine, but Ramirez is rather well known for routinely making missions more... Interesting."
Everyone turned to see a slightly frowning Harry looking at the monitors. He turned to Daphne and asked, "So, how is she doing?"
Daphne turned to face him and rolled her eyes. "You were right, she's doing well."
The two seemed to stare at each other for a long moment, having a silent conversation before Daphne sighed in exasperation and said, "Fine, yes, if she passes, then I approve."
"Approve what?" Myka asked tensely.
Harry grinned brightly. "You mean no one's asked yet?" At Tonks' laughter, Harry's grin widened and he barked out a laugh. "I'm honestly surprised at that."
Tonks choked and stalled in her celebration. "Are you serious? You thought we'd lose?"
Harry shrugged in response. "Figured it was about fifty-fifty one way or the other."
"Huh," Neville's voice interrupted as he was watching the monitors. He turned to Viktor and asked, "How do we divide this?"
"Damn it, Ramirez!" Claudia bellowed at the man running just ahead of her. "What part of 'Don't touch anything' did you not get!"
The 'basic retrieval mission' was definitely anything but basic, but she had her orders. Removing an ancient artifact from a damned labyrinth in the middle of nowhere, without alerting any local authorities or destroying anything in the process.
Considering the entire mountain was shaking and the tunnels they were in were slowly crumbling and coming down around their ears, she would have to say she had failed in both respects.
"I told you Ramirez was screwed!" Gordon yelled back with a laugh over the loud rumbling.
"It was a big, shiny golden statue of a beautiful naked woman!" the Hispanic man yelled back. "How was I supposed to resist?!"
"The same way I'm resisting putting a bullet in your ass!" Claudia bellowed back.
"Oh, wow," Leena muttered, looking stunned. "Really?"
"Yep," Luna replied, nodding enthusiastically.
"Does anyone else know?" Leena asked curiously.
Luna shook her head in response. "Nope. No one's thought to ask," Luna grinned, "Not even Claudia."
"Well this isn't good," Ramirez muttered.
Claudia was openly gaping at the sinkhole that had swallowed up their jeep, their only means of transportation away from these caves and to their pickup, other than walking, of course. Finally, she sighed heavily and asked the others, "Can any of you do that popping-teleporting stuff?"
As everyone shook their heads, Claudia slumped and muttered, "Well that's just par for the course, isn't it?"
"I have a really disturbing idea," Neville muttered, his eyes never leaving the display in front of the group. Someone had even made popcorn, which he absently took a handful of, and continued, "Make a group out of Claudia, Ramirez, and Harry, release them upon the world, and make a betting ring on the video."
Daphne froze and turned slowly to Neville, glaring icily at him and growling out, "If you dare to do anything of the sort, we will be revisiting our conversation about eunuchs, and this time there will be class participation." Her eyes narrowed as Neville gulped and crossed his legs tightly. "Do you understand me?"
Neville just nodded vigorously.
"Good," Daphne nodded.
Everyone was waiting in a large, comfortable waiting room overlooking a lake with a large forest bordering one side. One by one, they had congregated around the table while they waited for Claudia to get back from making her report. Finally Myka asked, "So how do you all think it's going?"
Pete winced and said, "They gave her three objectives." He counted on his fingers as he listed, "Retrieve the artifact, don't get noticed, and don't destroy anything." Pete shook his head and continued, "She only really succeeded at one of those."
"That wasn't her fault," Steve interjected. "That stuff happening was out of her control."
"Ramirez was under her command, and his actions reflect on her and her ability to keep those under her command under some semblance of control," Pete responded. "I'm not saying you're wrong, but it may not matter past that." Pete shrugged and added, "It all depends on how strict they are, I guess."
Leena shook her head and said resolutely, "It'll be fine."
Arthur looked at her intensely for a moment before stating more than asking, "You know something."
The opening door interrupted their conversation as Claudia walked in and trudged tiredly over to the table in silence. She flopped down in a free chair with a loud sigh and closed her eyes. Finally Arthur asked gently, "So how did it go?"
Claudia opened her eyes and shrugged, replying, "They're discussing it now." She slumped a bit and added, "I doubt it'll take long."
"How do you think you did?" Myka asked softly.
Claudia snorted and replied dully, absently brushing dust and ash out of her hair and off her clothes, "I'm pretty sure I failed in one hell of an epic manner."
"You passed, actually," Daphne interrupted. Everyone spun in surprise at the sudden appearance of the blonde, but it was something they were beginning to expect nowadays. At Claudia's dumbfounded look, the blonde sighed and explained, "This was a field test to see how well you could lead, not how well you could stick to parameters." At Claudia's still confused expression, Daphne sighed again and explained further, "Yes, one of your team screwed up. Bad things happen on occasion. What matters is how you handled the fallout, and I'll admit, you did well."
"So how close was the vote?" Claudia winced, worried about the answer.
Daphne furrowed her brow in confusion for a moment before she understood what she was being asked and replied, "You seem to be operating under a false assumption. You either pass unanimously or you fail. If even one department head had voted no, then this conversation would have gone much differently."
"So everyone passed me?" Claudia questioned, dumbfounded.
Daphne shrugged and said, "I was the hardest to convince, but I'll admit that was more personal than professional."
At Claudia's incredulous face, Daphne held up a hand to forestall the group's protests and continued, "You would be going into the field with Harry, and more often than not only Harry," Daphne seemed indecisive for a moment before continuing resolutely, "And if I can't go into the field with him anymore, then whomever does had better be the best, because I'll only put his life in the hands of the best, with no exceptions."
"Why?" Claudia asked, no noticing Pete and Myka lean back in their chairs and eye each other in realization.
Daphne arched an eyebrow and replied, "Because he's my husband."