A/N Okay, back to work.
"So this is it?"
"You're as bad as the children."
"You can download Chuck's brain?"
"You're not my type."
Ellie goggled at the strange creature that looked like her mother. "This place is like, like, Evil, Incorporated! And you have an account there?"
"Of course. Anywhere Alexei Volkoff could go, I had to be able to go, too. Having my own card was the only way they would let us in together, they're very strict."
Casey rumbled a laugh. "I can imagine. Their customers have their own ways of dealing with bounced checks."
"And the bank has ways of dealing with bounced customers," said Mary. "It's not just agents who sometimes don't come out."
"And you want to go in there?" asked Ellie. "They have to know you're CIA by now."
"They did then, I made no secret of it," said Mary with a shrug. "In some ways the criminal world is the more honest world."
"I guess it's a good thing the Powers That Be have been slow to reactivate you," said Beckman, testing out a cover story. "If you're on the run from us as well as Volkoff you'll need whatever funds are there."
"Oh, there aren't any," said Frost. "I just got the account to be a member."
"Yeah, but do they know that?" asked Casey.
"Probably," she said. "They have to know I've never accessed the account. I always went in with Alexei."
"I can give you a record of visits," said Chuck. "Easier than inserting a false user."
Mary shook her head. "They escort all their important clients personally."
"Great," said Casey with a grunt. "Then we're still SOL. May as well not have an account there at all."
Chuck's face went slack, and his eyelids fluttered.
"Chuck…?" asked his mother.
"Not to worry, Mom. He's flashing," said Ellie.
Eventually Chuck rejoined them. "Out of the mouths of Caseys…" he said.
"What'd I say?" Casey didn't mind provoking a flash but being compared to a babe was sort of annoying.
Chuck ignored him. "Mom, you said they were strict. How strict?"
"Failure to follow their rules is usually punished by death."
Chuck got wide-eyed. "So when you say 'strict, you mean, like, underlined, italicized, all-in-bold 'strict'." Then he put on his back-to-business face. "What are the procedures?"
"They have a DNA sample on file. Access is for card-holders only, no personal guards. Even as a cardholder, I had to get a special dispensation from the Chairman to go in with Alexei. They have the interior carefully rigged so cardholders never see each other. Even in the room you have a guard with you. When you finish, he signals a bank officer to escort you out."
"So cardholders never meet?" Not a question, a request for confirmation.
"Not on the vault level. It reduces the chance that someone will do something foolish, that might involve the bank."
"What about outside?"
"They don't care what we do to each other, as long as it doesn't draw attention to them. I've helped Alexei swallow lots of their smaller customers."
"So they only care if you act against the interests of the bank? Have you ever done that?"
"Obviously not, I'm still alive. Even Alexei couldn't have protected me."
Chuck's voice changed, becoming more melodramatic. "And he can't now, either. That's why you're trying to get back in the CIA, all those bad guys looking for revenge."
"Yes, and…?" Mary made a hand gesture, inviting him to be a little less goddamn cryptic.
"Your reinstatement's being held up due to your known association with the bank. You have to close it out. The bank will be happy too, since you'll be removing an association with the good guys. Everybody wins."
Mary made an Aha! face. "And while I'm in there, I plant a black box that inserts a tracking code into their data stream. With a guard watching."
"We'll stage a diversion."
"What kind?" asked Carina.
"The kind that lets you keep your clothes on, Miller," growled Casey.
"The kind that makes a lot of noise," said Chuck, "And should pull all the guards to the source. We are going to rob a bank."
Elsewhere, at a reception hall…
Sarah took the microphone for her speech. "Hi. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Sarah. I am the matron of honor and Hannah's best friend, which I think is horribly unfair but I'm sure you all know what she'll do if I tell her she can do better than me."
"Don't put yourself down," said many people, from different parts of the room.
Sarah nodded. "So here I am. I want to start off by saying that every once in a while… two people meet, and you know it's meant to be. You know instantly that the stars have aligned, and their paths would bring them together regardless what the world may throw their way. But enough about them." She waved a casual hand at the main table, and Hannah laughed.
"Looking back over the years, and remembering when I first met Hannah, it truly amazes me that something that seems so minor, such a simple thing as an airplane falling out of the sky… could change my life forever. Hannah may tell you that I have saved her life, and she may even tell you how, if your clearance is high enough, but what she won't tell you is how she saved mine.
"And neither will I. I can't. She saved my life by inspiring me to claim my life, to live it, and that is what I do, each and every day, thanks to her." Sarah turned to Hannah.
"You are the best friend a girl could ever ask for. Since the day we met you have been there for me, and I will always be there for you. I don't know where I would be without my best friend–well, actually I do know, and it isn't pretty–but I also know that standing here today… on your wedding day … is exactly where I'm supposed to be. "
From her seat at the main table, Sarah's clutch emitted the much more annoying squeal of a second-stage alert. "But I guess not any more."
Everyone turned and watched as Hannah grabbed for the bag and made the appropriate responses to quiet the sound. Hannah tossed the clutch to its owner. "Go save the world for me, Sarah."
Sarah caught the bag, and said, "Deal." She handed the microphone to the person who was nearest, turned and walked away, to polite but confused applause.
The wedding planner opened the door for her. "I'll send you everything," her father promised as she passed. "The gods will dance tonight."
Sarah's smile lasted all the way out to valet station, the parking lot, and into her car and some privacy. "Did you inherit your father's bad-timing gene, Ellie?" she practically shouted into the phone. "I was in the middle of my speech, I hadn't even gotten to the groom's part yet–"
"Sarah, get back here now."
Sarah put her emotions back in the box. Ellie usually didn't try that 'bossy' stuff on her, and this wasn't supposed to be a mission day, so something must have gone sideways. Again. "What's going on?"
"Chuck's going to Macau, to rob the First Bank of Evil, Incorporated. You've got to do something."
Sarah snapped her car and herself into gear. "Oh, I'll do something, all right. I'll kick his ass if he thinks he's going without me. You tell him that. I'm on my way."
Later, in Moscow…
"The house will be ready by tomorrow night," said Riley.
"Yes, but will we be ready?" asked Vivian. She could wait, but it seemed like she'd been waiting a long time already. All her life.
"Your little hint may have been too subtle."
Vivian shook her head, absolutely confident. "Not for him."
Later still, in Macau…
Her escort was different, this time, unknown to all the staff, who were trained to notice such things. She walked into the bank as she had a hundred times before, but if her manner was a little less assured, a bit more harried and circumspect, well, they were equally trained not to notice such things. The loud beeping that came from the metal detector as he entered after her was harder to ignore.
"Stop," said the guard.
He didn't stop, until Frost turned and held up a hand.
"Step through the scanner again," said the guard. He nodded politely to the cardholder. "We were unable to get an accurate count."
Frost flicked her fingers. The burly man grunted in disgust. "Seven," he said, taking a step backward.
"Thank you," said the guard to the woman, as his scanner completed its threat assessment and updated all the other stations.
By the time they reached the gate Mr. Chan was already there. He dismissed her bodyguard with barely a glance. "Ms. Frost."
Mary nodded at him. "Mr. Chan."
"What is your business here?"
"I've come to close my account." Casey handed the plastic card over, but this time Mr. Chan placed it in his own pocket after scanning it.
"A wise choice," he said. "Come with me. We will verify the contents of your box, and then you will leave here, never to return."
Outside, monitoring the progress...
"They let him keep his weapons?" asked Carina, as they geared up in the van.
"None of them are automatic, so the guards won't care," said Sarah. Plus, the most important one had already gone off.
Carina stopped to look at all the weapons they were draping about themselves. "I hate to tell you, Sarah, but none of these things are, either."
"Talk to the boss," said Sarah, dismissively, jerking a thumb over her shoulder as she checked the mechanism of her fourth backup.
Carina looked. "The boss, huh? You mean the guy with the stocking on his head?"
Sarah turned to look. Her husband did indeed have a stocking over his head. "Take that off, those are for later."
Chuck grabbed the material and started to pull. "I didn't know," he whined. "I thought you were getting all, you know, traditional."
"None for me, thanks," said Carina. "Hat hair and bedhead have nothing on stocking hair."
"And don't stretch them," snapped Sarah.
"Well, at least we know who wears the stockings in your house," said Carina as Chuck stopped stretching them.
"She does," said Chuck, folding the delicate nylon. "I don't have the legs for it. So," he looked back and forth between them, "We're going with the new traditional, sunglasses and bad attitudes?"
"Take my word for it. Chuckles," said Carina, putting on her glasses, "No one's going to be looking at our attitudes."
In the vault area...
The door slid open, and Mr. Chan waved his unwelcome and soon-to-be-gone guest into the room. "You will open your box and take your possessions, we will certify it empty, and then, you will go." He walked up to the box and entered his half of the code key.
She followed somewhat more slowly, but not so much as to be obvious about it. "Then this won't take very long."
In the lobby...
The two women who walked in the door of the bank were tall, but the man behind them was taller. Not that anyone noticed. They passed through the metal detectors and the alarms went off. The soldiers gathered to ogle the pair of beauties, as they opened their leather dusters to reveal their bodies, clad in form-fitting leather. Carina had agreed to keep her clothes on, but that didn't mean she was hiding anything. There was supposedly a bit of psychology behind it, but since she'd been modeling the outfit as she talked, Chuck couldn't remember anything she'd said. He remembered Sarah hitting his head, though.
The tall man walked up behind his lovely outriders, put his hands on their shoulders…
And opened fire, his Intersect-driven reflexes making his hands and the tranq guns he held into automatic weapons that no scanner could detect.
The obvious guards fell first, paralyzed even though conscious, and that not for very long. The less obvious guards took a bit longer, as the tall man had to wait a bit for them to reveal themselves. The big guy in the corner was first, quick to draw, slow to aim, but he was by no means the last.
Eventually he ran out of darts, and the two women leapt forward as he dropped behind a desk to reload. The incoming guards opened fire, spraying great destruction around the lobby, none of it coming anywhere close to the intended targets.
In the vault...
Frost tapped at the pad, as if trying to remember a combination she rarely used. The lid to the box unsealed, and she lifted it. "What?"
The box was filled with bundled hundred-dollar bills. "Two million," said Mr. Chan. "Assuming the box is full and the notes are all the same." He looked at Frost's face, still slack with surprise. "You expected something else?"
"I expected the box to be empty," said Frost. "I never used it."
Mr. Chan reached out and pushed the lid higher. Taped on the inside of the lid was a card, and Mr. Chan opened it. He read it once and handed it to her. 'In case of emergency', it said, 'Love, Alexei.'
"A misplaced devotion," said Mr. Chan. "You will need a case." Had she been a normal cardholder, he'd have fetched it himself, but under the circumstances he decided to send a minion scurrying instead.
The guard behind her tensed, and Mr. Chan's eyes flicked up to meet his. "Go." He entered a code on the console and ran his card over the scanner. Behind them the red-lit door turned green, and the guard backed out.
"What?" asked Frost, as the door closed.
"A small matter," said Mr. Chan. "All doors are sealed for patron safety." Or against patron involvement, perhaps? "I believe you of all people know how to wait for events to play out?"
Back in the teller area...
The doors were sealed. The safe was sealed. The computers were in lockdown mode. Only the teller area had any loose cash available for plundering, and the tall man walked the counter as the tellers plundered their stations for him. "Let's go, let's go, let's go!"
No one had gotten around to noticing the lack of wounds, blood, or any real damage that the guards hadn't wreaked themselves, and they were encouraged to keep on not noticing. Occasionally a shot would ring out, as the two women kept the patrons properly compliant.
"Wow, sweetie," said Chuck mildly. Sarah had become a bit of a potty-mouth all of a sudden. "What's gotten into you?"
"They made me miss the cake!"
Well, at least she was making it work for her. "The fiends." He pointed at a random person behind the counter. "You, keep packing."
"Don't laugh, Chuck," said Carina from across the room. "It looked like a great cake." She kicked the big guy in the leg, rather than move it gently out of her way.
"Not you, too."
"Hey, I missed the whole damn thing!"
The stopwatch on Chuck's phone went off. "On the ground, now," he barked at the tellers, and they all fell to their knees. He jumped off the counter, snatched up the bags full of paper, and turned to his comrades. "Grab one."
Sarah snagged a man, while Carina grabbed a young woman, and Chuck rolled his eyes. "Fine, one each." He fell in between his partners, shielded on both sides as one hostage went out the door first, and the other brought up the rear.
Outside the doors, a car squealed up to the curb as they reached the bottom of the steps. Carina and Sarah popped the doors and forced their hostages inside, while Chuck took the front seat, next to the driver.
"Where are the others?" asked Alex.
"They'll be along in a bit."
"You're just gonna leave my dad in there?"
"Oh, he'll be fine," Chuck assured her. He turned to look back at Carina. "You did wake him up?"
She lifted her leg, showing off the needle at the front of her shoe. "Antagonist delivered."
Chuck gave Alex the thumbs-up. "So how about you show off those fancy federal driving skills I've heard so much about, and get us to the dropoff."
Mr. Chan surveyed the chaos from above. Heads would roll for this disgrace, and his would be first among them, if revenge was not both brutal and swift. "How many dead?"
"None, sir," said his assistant. "They were all knocked out with some kind of darts." He held out several in his hands.
Chan growled deep in his throat, reminding Mary of her own concerns. "And my man?" she asked.
The underling hadn't been told that she was an Outsider now. "He is over there, one of the first hit."
"Take him and go, Frost," said Mr. Chan.
Mary nodded, and went to check on Casey, who was conscious and not liking it. "Up and at 'em, John, I don't pay you to nap."
Casey wobbled to his feet and took his position, watching her back as they headed out the door. Mr. Chan forgot her immediately, more concerned with bringing the systems back on line, and checking the security footage. Someone would pay for this.
"All right, out you come," said Sarah, pulling her guy after her as she exited the car. She let him go and hopped into the truck, throwing out some new outfits.
The man stared at the military-style vehicle waiting for the team, and placed himself in front of the second hostage, left behind by Carina. "Where are you taking us?"
"Nowhere," said Chuck, tossing the bags into the truck, and his greatcoat. "Take the car if you want, you're free to go." He pulled on some stained and wrinkled coveralls, with some industrial name.
Alex tossed the keys at the man, but they bounced off his chest and fell to the ground. "What kind of bank robbers are you?" he said.
"Who said we were bank robbers?" said Chuck. "We're agents of the United States Government."
"Bloody Hell!" shouted the man.
The woman stopped cowering behind him. "Do you have any idea what you've just done?"she shouted.
"Saved your lives," said Carina, unzipping her suit right there in the alley. "If we spotted you for MI-6, so did they."
Chuck stepped in front of her as Sarah climbed out of the truck, in a normal business outfit. "We had the same mission, and an inside man." He raised his phone, on speaker. "Talk to us, M. And be polite, we've got guests."
"I'm not M, I'm Q," said Manoosh, and the Brit spies rolled their eyes. "The worm looks like it was deployed in good order. They're bringing their systems back on line now, getting data. If all goes well we'll have their whole operation in under an hour."
"Thanks, Q," said Chuck. "Keep us posted." He smiled at the two 'guests'. "Game, set, match."
Carina stepped out from behind him, in the same leather outfit as before, only bright red. "Say that after we touch down, Agent Charles. It's time to blow this pineapple stand."
"Right." Chuck went to the driver's side of the truck, while everyone else got in the back, dropping the tarp. He waved at the 'hostages'. "Cheerio."
Outside the bank, Casey handed Mary an earpiece, and she lost no time plugging in. "Graboid, this is Little Tractor, come back."
"Little Tractor, this is Graboid, over."
Under his words she heard a truck rumbling along, that was comforting. "On our way to the rendezvous. Who thought up these stupid codenames?"
"It's completely appropriate! Dirtnap, a little support?"
Mary looked at the hulking Marine Colonel in surprise.
Casey looked apologetic. "He's not lying." He signaled, and their hired car pulled out from where it had been waiting.
"Fine," said spy mother to spy son. Casey got the door. "But you and I are going to have a little chat after the debrief. Little Tractor out."
Mr. Chan sat in his office, reviewing footage of the brazen attack while the security programs examined each and every aspect of their systems for intrusions. They found none so far, especially not the virus Casey had uploaded into the security system's metal scanner. That was the trickiest part of the operation, but Mr. Chan was already out of his office to confront his unwelcome visitor by the time that initial alert sounded. By the time he got back to his desk there was no trace it had ever happened. Manoosh had been a busy mouse, while this cat had been away.
Not until the systems tried to bring the ATMs online did an alert sound, and Chan immediately stopped to check the hazard. A crude little thing, embedded on the magnetic strip of a plastic card. He pulled up the recordings for that machine.
The girl again. He wondered which agency she worked for, but really it didn't matter. She'd tell them everything, downstairs. Where was she now? He tracked her through the attack, the perfect time for her to do some damage. She tried, but the redhead stopped her every time, with increasing violence as the woman foolishly provoked her. Chan snorted as the time for hostage-taking came, and the woman was dragged away with some other person, her operation blown. He wondered how she would explain it to her superiors, if and when she regained her freedom.
He backtracked the recording. The cameras over the teller area couldn't catch the man's face, he was too tall, but the hostages and the metal detectors forced his path as he left the building, and some of them had caught his face from various angles.
Mr. Chan felt the noose around his neck relax. A simple robbery, daring, but no more. The stolen money, a trifle. The loss of face was great, the loss of the female spy was greater. An example would have to be made, and now he knew who he would make it from.
Mr. Riley looked out over his audience. "Attention!" he shouted, the words echoing. "Attention, all of you."
The milling sheep looked, as they were told.
When he was satisfied, Riley turned and gestured to the open doorway behind him, Mr. Carmichael taking up a matching position opposite him. A woman walked through the door and past her honor guard, the steady, measured tap of her shoes the only sound. The heels were high, her suit was black and expensive. Her face was cold and still, her eyes were hard. "Alexei Volkoff is no more," she said to them in her accented Russian. "My father is dead."
Everyone reacted, down below. Vivian looked for guilt, but there was none.
"As you all know, I am his heir," she declared, and they settled. She thought of Mr. Charles, and smiled. "You all work for me."
A/N2 It was funny to see Chuck and Sarah talk about weddings while they were robbing the bank, but really, they couldn't talk about non-mission-related stuff on the plane ride over?