A/N This one runs kind of long but the semi-fluffy scene with Beckman just demanded I write it.
This is a test of the early Volkoff threat warning system. This is only a test. If this were a real Volkoff threat, you would run screaming into the night.
"What do we do now?"
"Alexei Volkoff is in the Buy More."
"He needed a murder."
"Let's go there."
Dimmed lights. Emergency power.
Air foul with dust, explosive residue, and the stink of burnt plastic, the slightest revenge of a cell door that had quite literally given its all to protect those without from that which was within. If she breathed in through her noise she caught the stench. If she breathed in through her mouth she got the dust and coughed. Nothing to be done for it, she couldn't just breathe out.
They hadn't been able to run very far from the blast, the halls weren't straight, but the effects of the explosion were vastly reduced by all the corners, so she was more than willing to make that trade. The shock wave still knocked them off their feet, but only the smallest particles had ridden it after them. She felt them under her hands, as she braced herself to rise. Dust fell in her eyes, so she closed them and shook her head to get the worst of it out.
She took only a small step when she felt something close tight around her ankle. Frost looked down. Carina had a firm hold and didn't look ready to let go.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I said I had to try, Agent. I didn't say I had to try very hard."
Carina took a quick head count when she got back to the main room, coming up a couple short. "Anybody have eyes on Damian?"
Agent 'Simple' smiled. "We got better than that, Agent Miller. We got a whole body on him." He pointed down. His partner lay stunned across Damian's legs, pinning the murderer's body down very effectively.
"Well, what are you just standing there for?" said Hannah. "Get him up, if you can. We have to evacuate." Even if the base was still structurally sound, the dust and fumes could be a health hazard. Her fiancé moved without any prompting to help lift the man. "Josie, get the box from the infirmary, we'll take it with us." She pointed at Damian's bleeding arm. "You put that bullet hole in him, you can patch it up. These guys don't need the practice."
"If they could shoot better they wouldn't get so much," said Josie, on her way out.
Carina watched two men help a third over to the stairs. "That bad, huh?"
"They're getting better," said Hannah. She went into her office, initiated the suicide switches, and rummaged in a drawer or two. "I put her in there with them at range practice, and they try to impress her."
"So you're the reason," said Frost. "We were wondering how this base had become so much more effective."
Hannah came back out with a small satchel, and brushed some hair from her eyes. "Now you tell me."
"Don't worry, Hannah," said Carina, giving Frost a shake. "With such a ringing endorsement I'm sure they'll rebuild."
"She's wasted here," said Frost. "I can see that, if you can't."
"How about you shut your trap or I'll find out if that stapler over there still works." Carina turned to Hannah. "Frost here could give Josie lessons."
"Lessons in what?" asked Josie, coming back with a large box with a red cross on it.
Josie's face hardened. "I've already made my opinion clear on traitors," she said, reaching down with Hannah to lift Damian to his feet. He yelled at the pain in his arm. "Oops."
Frost gave her a little salute, but wisely said nothing.
"Let's get going," said Carina.
The men had a head start but the women had a lighter burden, so they all reached the upper landing at about the same time. Carina placed her hand against the screen and the overhead light turned green.
"I thought you said you was locked in with us," said Simple.
"I never said I didn't have the key," said Carina, fog blooming as she pushed open the door. "I may not be as good a liar as Frost here but I have my moments."
Click. Click. Click.
Everyone stopped, even the non-agents recognizing the distinctive sound of hammers being unnecessarily cocked. Three men had them sighted in. The laser lights in the fog showed Carina whose chest they were all sighted in on, too.
"Yes," said Alexei Volkoff, as he stepped forward to pluck Frost from Carina's grasp. "We all have our little gifts."
In the middle of the night, a cell phone beeped, a peculiar beep with a specific meaning. The woman whose phone it was woke immediately, her body long since accustomed to the occasional disturbance at odd hours. Diane Beckman picked up her phone and squinted at the screen, searching for the item that had set off her alert.
Four items, in fact, but only one had been encrypted and sent eyes-only. What the hell was going on out there?
Her bed-partner rolled over. "The vicissitudes of life intrude, my darling?"
She sighed. "Team Bartowski is in California."
He threw off the covers. "I'll make coffee."
"Oh, go back to sleep, Roan. No reason for both of us to suffer."
"True suffering is in the time we are apart, my love," he said smoothly, lifting her hand to his lips. "I would waste none of the little we get together, even if it is on the wrong side of three time zones."
General Beckman (she was on duty now, even if her robe lacked any stars) went to her office, sealing the door as required by protocol. She plugged in her phone, and called up the retinal scan app as she accessed her secure email. She read the letter through twice. Clear, concise, and lucid after two murders and an explosion, even though the woman who wrote it knew nothing about the subject matter. She was wasted in that backwater. If the CIA didn't make her a better offer, she'd make one herself.
Casey and Sarah. Was Frost really trying to help, or just casting doubt on their mental states? She'd have to read Director Bentley's note first, and play it by ear after that. For now, she had to assume the worst.
She pressed a button on her other monitor. "Eleanor Bartowski." The screen popped up a progress bar. Back to the first monitor. "Mr. Clark." His screen popped up a bar too, but it vanished almost immediately. No one sleeps tonight. "Send two cars, Mr. Clark. One for me, one for Doctor Bartowski."
He nodded, and popped off, just as the other monitor lit, with Ellie caught in mid-yawn.
"I'm sending a car and a secure message. I need you in your lab, Doctor. When you get in I expect you to tell me what else you may need."
Physician reflexes kicked in, and Ellie was fully awake. "I'll be ready, General."
"I know you will." A soft knock on the door, and Beckman clicked the connection closed automatically, cursing herself silently as it went black. Ellie hates it when I do that. She'd have to make it up to her somehow. She closed down all of her screens so she could unlock the door and admit that blessed, blessed coffee. And Roan.
Volkoff looked Frost over with a concerned and critical eye. "Did they treat you well, my love?"
My love? Carina's mind went blank as she tried to process the incredible claim. Did Volkoff really love her? Could he? And did she love him back? Chuck would freak. Is that why she was gone all those–
"I'm fine, Alexei, although the seats in their interrogation rooms could use a bit more padding."
"The same food they ate, so I can't complain."
Carina watched her body language, listened to her voice. This woman had never been anywhere near Volkoff.
Frost held out her hand. "Agent Miller?"
Carina handed over her gun.
"Excellent. Out." Carina and her group walked out of the freezer slowly. She walked to the end of the counter and pressed her fingers against the surface, knowing what was coming. The rest did likewise, as best they could, while Volkoff strolled out to the dining area and sat patiently.
Frost looked her underlings. "You, search them," she said, pointing at the men next to Carina. "You," she continued, pointing at Volkoff's blonde agent, "Search the ladies. And remember, don't cause trouble unless they cause trouble first."
Volkoff just watched her take charge, as if escaping from a cell was something she did every day. "What about that one?" he asked, indicating Damian.
"He's an assassin and a bomber, who was stupid enough to get caught. What do you want me to do with him?"
"I've had my fill of bungling incompetents for one night," said Volkoff. "On the other hand, I suppose it was his bomb that brought us to this pass, so perhaps I owe him a spot of gratitude."
Damian grinned, turning slightly to backhand Josie across the face. "Oops."
Frost stepped forward and brought her gun down on the wound in his arm. As he shrieked in pain, she kneed him between the legs and slammed his head against the counter as he bent double.
"Or not," said Volkoff.
"She's worth ten of you," said Frost as he sank down to kneel at her feet.
"Enjoy it while it lasts, bitch, you'll be on the ground soon enough," yelled Damian. "You'll be under it. Wait 'til I tell your boyfriend all about your little conversation with these two agents."
"A conversation?" asked Alexei, coming over to see the man behind the counter. "What about?"
Frost put her pistol down in front of her boss, as she lifted her accuser to his feet. "Well, you heard him."
"No need to be in such a rush," said Volkoff. "I'm keen to guess. Could she perhaps have told her jailers how she was deep under cover, working alone and in the dark to destroy me? Hmm?" Volkoff laughed at Damian's expression. "She's told that story before."
"Has she told the story about her CIA son, and his CIA wife?"
The room went silent. Everyone looked at Frost, except Volkoff. He looked at Carina. "No," he said, reaching out a hand to claim Frost's gun. "I've not heard that one before. We shall have to discuss this at length. Elsewhere." He nodded to the blonde. "Get the car."
Volkoff believed in travelling in style, Frost knew, but he considered stretch limos to be garish. "And the prisoners?" No way they'd all fit, and Volkoff wasn't known for leaving witnesses behind.
He looked at her apologetically. "I had hoped to torture them in front of you, until the memory of those long hours in captivity had become a distant thing. I know how you appreciate the little romantic gestures. But now, all I can offer is an incompetent hacker, and I've already promised him he'd live. Can you forgive me? I gave my word."
"Do you keep your word?" asked Hannah quickly.
Volkoff looked at the diminutive brunette, growling at her insults. She paled, but stood her ground. "I am Volkoff," he roared. "Lying is for lesser men."
"Okay, then, Volkoff," said Hannah, voice quavering just a bit. "I've got a deal for you."
He waved the gun around an situation firmly under his control. "And why should I make a deal?"
Hannah reached into her bag. "Because I've got this." She held up a red triangular floppy disk.
One of his men snatched it from her hand. "And now I've got it," said Volkoff.
"Yes, but there's only one reader in the country and you don't know where it is," said Hannah. "And I do. You let them live and I'll take you there."
Chuck didn't even have the van fully parked behind the Orange Orange before Sarah was out the door. The scanner wasn't hidden any more, but it wasn't a scanner anymore either. Someone had ripped it out of the wall and wired in a laptop in its place. She pressed Enter.
"Welcome to the Castle Mainframe Interface. How may I help you?"
She groaned in the back of her throat. "Chuck!"
The limo was more comfortable, but the van had room for more people so Volkoff had commandeered that instead. The hacker drove, something else within his capacity, while the blonde agent attended to Damian's wounded arm, none too gently. Volkoff turned in his seat, to look at his captive audience (his favorite kind), huddled uncomfortably on the bare metal floor. The young man who'd insisted that Hannah not ride into danger without him moved in front, as if trying to shield her from his very gaze.
Ah, young love. Such a tragedy it can be, at times.
"If you are expecting assistance to come riding out the sunset at the last minute, Miss Hannah, I'm afraid you will be disappointed." He'd left her friends alive as agreed, but not able, and no one else knew where they were. "Castle is impregnable." She put up a brave front, but he'd seen lots of those, and knew how quickly and easily they could fall. Breaking them was one of his chief joys.
The night was young.
Chuck came around to the back door. "What's up, Sarah?"
She stood back, gesturing harshly at the machine, rather than hurling it into the next county as she wanted. "All it says is 'identify yourself for access' but then it doesn't recognize anything I say."
Chuck smiled. "Sounds like a great security program, as long as you don't mind nobody getting inside."
"It's not funny, Chuck. We need to get inside."
"Your wish is my command." He pressed Enter.
"Welcome to the Castle Mainframe Interface. How may I help you?"
"Agent Charles Charles."
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Did you say cage of mars bars?"
Sarah pounded the side of the van. "You see?"
"Hmmm." Chuck cracked his knuckles, flexed his fingers dramatically. "This looks like a job for the Piranha."
"Voice print confirmed."
The door buzzed.
Volkoff looked disconsolately at his number one. "You didn't trust me around your family?"
Frost shook her head. "I didn't trust me. He's my one weakness, so I keep him as far away as possible. There's no room for weakness in a multinational criminal empire, or family, especially when they're in the CIA."
"I'll prove you wrong, someday," said Alexei, firmly. "Kids love me. Your kids would love me too."
"My son would arrest us both on sight."
Volkoff raised a fist, but not in anger. "He knows his duty, that shows you raised him right. I love him already!"
Shouting her name did no good. Shaking her availed them nothing. Chuck noticed the medical kit. "Sarah, check the box! See if there's one of those allergy pens in it. It's on the list and it's basically adrenaline."
Someone had really tossed this box around. "If it's on the list Hannah would stock it." Sarah started rummaging. "Here we go." She handed it over. "Will it work?"
"It can't hurt," said Chuck, preparing the device. He pushed it against her leg and counted to ten. Then he sat back. "Now we wait."
Sarah grabbed Carina by the shoulder and shook her harder.
"…kill me now…" whimpered the redhead suddenly. Tranq antagonists in any form were no fun.
"Carina! What happened? Where are the others?" asked Sarah.
"…Volkoff…took Hannah…she had a disk, red…" Her fingers made a triangle shape.
Chuck fumbled in his pocket. "Like this?" he asked, holding up the disk Tuttle had given him.
Eventually Carina focused on it. "Yeah."
Chuck looked up at his wife. "I let her have a disk from Dad's basement, it was corrupt. She wanted to practice retrieving the data from it. Volkoff must think she has this one. When they find out it's blank who knows what he'll do."
Sarah raised her hand, so did Carina.
"That was a rhetorical question, guys, all right?" said Chuck. "They'll need a reader."
"Hannah," said Carina, at the end of her strength. "…bargain…"
Sarah looked at all the unconscious agents. "She's taking him to the reader," she said, proud, terrified, and appalled. "She traded herself and a bad disk for everyone else."
"It's twenty minutes do get there, at least."
"Not when I'm driving." Sarah pulled out a gun and stuck it in Carina's hand, while Chuck lifted up her head and put a folded pad under it.
The movement and the metal roused Carina. She called out, "Sarah!" but they were already out the door. Curse her drugged body, she wasn't fast enough.
Chuck clutched on to the seat with one hand and braced himself against the dashboard with the other. Sarah was driving as if they were late for Ellie's pot roast. "So, uh…what's the plan?"
"Well," Sarah mused thoughtfully, "I was thinking I could go in there, explain the situation, appeal to their sense of justice, while pointing out the inevitable futility of their actions."
Chuck nodded. "Or…?"
"Or," she continued, "In a few minutes this quiet little neighborhood will be Armageddon."
They parked in the driveway. "Stay here," said Volkoff to his hacker. "If you try to run away, I'll let her track you down, and your continued existence will be questionable. Is that clear?"
The poor geek nodded.
"And you two," said Volkoff to his hostages. "His fate will be yours, tenfold."
Frost examined the man she was supposed to torture. "What's your deal?"
"Couldn't hack the base," he admitted. "Some stupid security program…"
"The mainframe Interface?" she asked, and he nodded. "Go home. I couldn't beat it either." The geek looked stunned, but not so stunned he didn't take her up on her offer.
Volkoff heard Hannah's young man whisper, "I can live with that." His face darkened with anger. "You are magnanimous, my love."
"Just prudent," said Frost, hefting a large duffel. "We have to be fair to our employees, otherwise we won't have any. Save the torture for the customers, especially when they try to cheat you."
"And they're always trying to cheat me," grumbled Volkoff. "Very well, let's get on with this."
Hannah put her thumb to the lock and flipped the light switch, allowing the group to descend into the darkened cellar.
Volkoff gazed at the racks of boxes, the dust-covered gear. "Well, well, well. Quite the busy beaver."
"The reader's over here," said Hannah. As she led them over to the machine, Frost set her bag down and slipped away. Damian had learned his lesson, leaving Hannah to the blonde while he loomed over Hannah's guy. She fed the disk into the slot, and the verdict was quickly returned. Unreadable.
"So, Hannah" said Volkoff. "You cheated."
Chuck and Sarah crept down the stairs, alert for any sounds that might reveal a trap. In perfect synchronization, they swung into the room, his tranq pistol covering everything her deadlier weapon didn't. No one was there, but now they could hear the sounds, see the movements of someone in the stacks, and they crept forward. Volkoff's voice. They were about to move in when a sound from the other side of the room made them stop. Frost, it had to be, and Sarah had to choose. Chuck tended to trust his mother more than he should, but she had a weapon that would very likely kill at close range.
She heard Volkoff's voice. "So, Hannah…"
She chose. With a gesture she sent Chuck after his mother.
"Fortunately for me, the disk was never my objective. This base must be destroyed, like everything that was ever Orion's. He haunts me, you see, he tasks me, and I must eradicate every trace of him."
"And us? Now you kill us?"
"You're trying to provoke me into giving you a quick and easy death," said Volkoff, smiling. He touched her cheek, and she twitched away. "The CIA has wasted you shamefully, but what do you expect from a government agency? I, on the other hand, am a businessman, and I am making you a better offer."
"You haven't heard the offer yet," said Volkoff softly, holding her gaze. He moved in close, blocking her view of anything that wasn't him. "You will work for me, quickly, efficiently, and well, but above all, loyally." His voice lowered, rumbled in her ears, drowning out the sound of anyone that wasn't him. "For if you don't, I will have your boyfriend here tortured to death before your eyes. Then you will be tortured, but not to death. When I am done, your crippled body will be mailed back to your precious CIA, as a warning to all who would ever cross swords with Alexei Volkoff. Is. That. Clear?"
Sarah swung into the aisle behind him. Click. "Very clear."
Hannah sank to her knees, shuddering.
Chuck's voice cried out in pain. "Aahh! What have you done?" Sarah turned, just a little.
Volkoff swung, Frost's gun in hand, catching Sarah on the side of the head, sending her down to the floor. With a quick gesture he signed his team to stay with the prisoners, while he went off after Frost alone.
"Tuttle?" quavered a voice.
"My name," came their boss' voice, dark with a rage that finally had a target. "Is Alexei Volkoff. I understand you've been looking for me." Flesh met flesh, once, and then there was silence.
Frost and Volkoff came back, dragging Chuck's limp body. "Not nearly the foe I'd hoped he would be," said Volkoff in disgust. He looked up at his agents. "Take those two away! We'll teach Mr. Charles here not to interfere with his betters." He turned to Frost. "Find me some chairs. I'll tie them while you get started with the explosives."
Casey caught the two traitors as they forced the two analysts out of the house, hitting each with a tranq dart to the back. The two prisoners jumped as he stepped from the shadows. "Two American traitors going to work for that Commie. Disgusting."
Hannah finally passed out.
Casey walked up to them. "You gonna faint too?" he asked, trying to provoke a little anger, something to get him past the obvious terror. Must be Hell inside that house.
The younger man took the bait and shook his head, unable to speak.
"Good." Casey scooped Hannah up off the ground. "I hotwired her Nerd Herder. Let's get you two inside and locked down."
Volkoff turned at the door, looking back at his defeated adversaries as they sat there, glaring impotently. "I can't believe that we took him to be such a threat."
"This is too easy," said Frost. She walked back around the prisoners for a last check. "Aha!" she exclaimed triumphantly. She knelt down behind Sarah. "You've cemented my cover beautifully," she whispered. "Thank you." She pressed a blade into Sarah's hand even as she pulled off a fingernail. "A fake nail, with a razor edge."
She went back to Volkoff and handed it to him. "She was already cutting at the ropes."
Volkoff grinned at her. "So she's the super-agent?"
"Exactly. He's just a face."
Volkoff snorted. "A dead face." He turned, and led the way up the stairs.
"Freeze, Commie!" shouted Casey as Frost and Volkoff crossed the lawn. "Federal agent!" His targets shared a glance. "On the ground, now!"
They were more than happy to comply.
This simple obedience made Casey suspicious. He carefully checked all points before moving to secure the prisoners.
Chuck and Sarah came barreling out of the house, not at all watching who was in their way. Then the house exploded, like a little piece of Hell on Earth, or more likely a couple of dozen Thermite TH1 grenades planted in the basement.
"Chuck, are you okay?"
"Yeah," said Casey. "Top notch." He pushed them off, but of course his two targets were gone. "Why didn't you stop 'em?"
"My mother did something to me in there, Sarah," said Chuck, ignoring him. "I can't flash."
"How can that happen, Chuck?" asked Sarah, looking into his eyes, his beautiful brown eyes. "Even Ellie couldn't take the skills away."
"It was in a box, something my father made." He clutched her hand like a lifeline as she helped him stand. "I feel so strange. How did she know it was there, Sarah? What did it do, and how did she know it would do it?" He looked at the house, the pyre. "Everything…"
Mother or no mother, the kid gloves were off. "I don't know Chuck, but I swear to you I'm going to track her down and get those answers." Whatever I have to do, and whoever I have to do it to.
A/N2 Uh-oh, Sarah's going a little dark. Has her Chuck been threatened one too many times? Or was she always been a little dark?
I have little use for Seduction Impossible in this series, but Roan got to make an appearance anyway, in a slightly more romantic role.
Quick question: Do you think the threat Volkoff made was a little harsh for a K-rated story?