Anonymous 'reviews' will be deleted, if you want to make a comment about me or the story, do it as yourself so people know who you are, not some pathetic troll hiding behind anonymity. Yes 'Not Mark', I am referring to people like you because I'm sure that you're lying when you say you don't have an account here, though if that was what you really regard as being 'respectful' it isn't hard to see why you'd want to hide behind 'anonymous reviews'. What made you keep coming back to check and comment on the notes I put in that same chapter when there obviously wasn't anything that you liked there? If you believe that you have a point, post it as yourself for everyone to see, otherwise 'just go away'.

This may be my swansong, I don't know. I realise that I may sound like the boy who cried wolf, I has seriously considering packing it in, but then I had this idea and decided that I wanted to try it out.

NB: This 'foreign dialogue' is used to depict when the characters are speaking in a foreign language. For that matter, this 'thinking' is used to depict the character's internal dialogue.

Usual disclaimers, no rights to any characters portrayed, and this isn't the real world, all make believe folks.

Lubyanka Building – November 1980

Two men and two women sat nervously in the waiting room on the third floor of the Lubyanka Building as they waited to be called into Comrade Kryuchkov's office, one of the women was anxiously calling to the little girl, hardly more than a toddler, who was running around the waiting room to try and get her to come and sit quietly, 'Eleonora, Eleonora, please come here my sweet.' The other woman smiled fondly at the little girl, as she would love to have a family, but her work for the Committee for State Security was making that unlikely, as most men she met were like the operative who was sitting beside her, arrogant and with an overblown opinion of himself.

She'd been the first to arrive, so she had heard the others' names as they announced themselves, the man sitting beside her was Jacek Burski, while the other two were apparently a couple, Stefan and Maria Bartkowski, and she was Emma Burdon. This posed a question, why had four Polish people, apparently two operatives and two analysts because that other woman did NOT look like she worked in an office, been called here to have a meeting with the Head of Intelligence for the First Chief Directorate of KGB?

Emma didn't have to ponder that question for long, because just after Maria managed to get her little girl settled on her lap, the box on the secretary's desk squawked and they heard the order to send them in. When they were all in the office, they were waved to seats and the secretary was brusquely ordered out of the room. Comrade Kryuchkov looked at them and said 'It is my understanding that you all speak English fluently, yes?' When everyone answered in the affirmative he went on in that language "Good, we will speak it from now on!"

"You have been called here because your State needs you. Your superiors have assured me that you are the most capable people we have who will be able to blend into and operate in an English speaking environment. Are you prepared to do what is necessary to serve the State in America?" After another round of emphatic affirmatives he went on.

"Good! As you can see, the Bartkowskis are already a couple with a delightful little girl…." He tried to smile at Eleonora, but he made it look so painful that he frightened her with his expression and she hid her face in her mother's blouse. He frowned at that and turned to the others to speak brusquely. "Comrade Burski, Comrade Burdon, are you prepared to also operate as a married couple to fulfil your duties?" Jacek Burski swept an appreciative look over Emma's form and responded enthusiastically "Yes, Comrade Director!" Emma was rather quieter and more reserved when she said '"Yes, Comrade Director."

Comrade Kryuchkov nodded and went on "Good! We already have operatives in America, but we have recently lost some of them, and it has been decided that to ensure our operations there can continue without interruption, we must have additional personnel established over there to support the operatives who are currently establishing themselves and also to cover for other possible losses." He looked down at the paper and then back up at the Bartkowskis "Stefan Filip Bartkowski, you will be Stephen Philip Jaworski, Maria Elzbieta Bartkowski, you will be Mary Elizabeth Jaworski and your daughter Eleonora Klara Bartkowski will be Eleanor Clara Jaworski."

He had another look down before looking at the other pair "Comrade Burski, as Comrade Burdon is being sent for her skills as a controller and information analyst rather than an operative, and she has not had the same training to adopt other identities that you have, you will be using her name for your identities. So Jacek Henryk Burski, you will be Jack Henry Burdon, and Emma Lesia Burdon, you will be Emma Lisa Burdon."

"Are there any questions on this?" They all shook their heads "No, Comrade Director."

He nodded "Good! You will only be in contact with two of our operatives in America, they are operating under the names of Diane Beckman and Roan Montgomery. These operatives have been established in America for some years now and they have successfully gained entrance into the American Intelligence community. Comrade Beckman went through the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps to become an Air Force officer, and was assigned to their Air Force Intelligence Unit before being transferred into their National Security Agency, she has been climbing the ranks in the NSA since then. Comrade Montgomery also completed his degrees there and was assimilated into the university culture so…."

Comrade Kryuchkov frowned as he read what was in the report in front of him, but looked up and continued abruptly "He has been successful at getting himself recruited into their Central Intelligence Agency and is establishing his position there quite well, so we have operatives in place in both of their premier intelligence agencies. These operatives are not the only ones we have in America, but they are the only ones that you will know about. Due to the sensitive nature of their placements, you are not to attempt to contact either of these operatives directly, you will be provided with indirect communications channels but the ONLY direct contact will be initiated by them."

"These two operatives are located around the Americans' centre of operations in Washington, but to ensure that your presence does not compromise their established covers, you will initially be established across the country, in California." He looked at 'Jack Burdon' "Comrade Burdon, you and your 'wife' will be located in San Diego and you are to secure employment as a contractor in the United States Marines and Navy bases there. If required you will collect the information you are instructed to by your 'wife' as she will be in charge of the operation, and you may be required to assist the Jaworskis as well."

He looked at Ema "Comrade Burdon, you will be the controller for the Jaworskis as well as your 'husband' and handle the information that they obtain. You will maintain the cover of being lifelong friends with Mrs Jaworski to explain your staying in close contact with them." Ema nodded "Yes, Comrade Director."

He then looked at 'Stephen Jaworski' "Comrade Jaworski, you and your family will be located in Los Angeles. If possible, you are to secure employment at the Los Angeles Air Force Base so that you can get access to the secure computer systems there, if this is not possible you and your wife will have the lists of alternate targets. Your wife will have authority over your operation in Los Angeles, but you are authorised to continue to operate as you have previously due to the successes of your previous operations together."

He looked around the group "Are there any questions?" "No. Comrade Director!"

"Very well, you will be provided with the instructions, paperwork and equipment to carry out your operations and then you will be flown to Mexico. In Mexico you will be supplied with cars and whatever else you need to drive across the border into America as though you are just returning from a vacation in Mexico. You will notify Comrades Beckman and Montgomery via the channels provided once you are established and wait for them to contact you. Good luck comrades, this will be a long and difficult assignment, but you will serving your state as few citizens can."

They all returned his salute at that and shuffled out of his office.

The four operatives spent much of the time that they were preparing for their insertion into America for their operation getting to know one another, because their cover as close friends would require them to have intimate knowledge of each other, especially the two women, and they needed to ensure that they had the variations of their stories for their cover lives down by rote. One thing that quickly became obvious was that the focus of this operation was on Stephen and Emma, as Stephen was a technology expert that the State was relying on to steal American secrets and Emma was one of, if not the, best controllers and information analysts that the First Chief Directorate had.

Mary was one of the First Chief Directorate's top operatives (THE best if the legends about her were at all true), and she'd been assigned to work with Stephen on previous operations. Their working relationship and results on these operations were good enough for their superiors to allow them to continue their relationship when it came out that they were involved and she was pregnant with Eleanor. Jack was also a highly capable operative, so he was angry when it came out that the only reason that he'd been selected for this operation was to complement and protect Emma, as she was the controller for the operation.

The discussions they were having did answer the question that had been going through Emma's mind about why four Polish people had been selected when they were waiting to be called into Comrade Kryuchkov's office though, as Mary told them stories about other operatives being caught out when they slipped up and spoke Russian on a mission, but speaking Polish apparently didn't raise the same suspicion, especially in America where they had so many Polish immigrants.

California - December 1980

A month after their meeting with Comrade Kryuchkov, the two couples were in place in San Diego and Los Angeles, and the two men began working on securing the employment that they'd been instructed to. Of course, when the Jaworskis had to send a notification a couple of months later through the channels that had been established that they'd discovered that Mary was pregnant again, they fully expected to be reprimanded, and possibly be recalled or ordered to terminate the pregnancy, but they got quite a surprise. The response that came back from their superiors stated that the purpose of their assignment there was to settle in for the long haul, and so an established family was expected to solidify their cover. They couldn't quite believe that they'd escaped reprimand for slipping up with the birth control the way they had, but they weren't about to argue.

When they looked into trying to get Stephen into the Los Angeles Air Force Base, Stephen, Mary and Emma agreed that their supplied backgrounds weren't solid enough when they first arrived to be assured that they'd hold up to the security checks that they expected for a sensitive installation like that. Stephen therefore went with a safer choice, getting a job in the research projects at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech as they called it. The security checks at Caltech were considerably less that they would have been at Los Angeles Air Force Base, but many of the projects they worked on had military and other government connections, so working there should help to build the case for him to get a serious security clearance.

Successes there would also help in building his credibility and increase the chance of him being approached for more sensitive roles. This actually happened far more quickly than they'd expected, because Stephen had only been on a couple of successful projects for Caltech before he was poached for a government technology project. The subject matter of this project and the way it was being handled made them rather suspicious, so they sent coded messages with all the relevant details through the established channels to Beckman and Montgomery, and sure enough Montgomery came back with confirmation that the people concerned were part of the CIA.

The real win that they had on this though, was that the person running this project, an imposing black man by the name of Langston Graham, was apparently desperate to get results. This meant that when they heard the glowing reports about Stephen's results on the other projects he'd been associated with, they did little more than cursory background checks on him, Mary and the Burdons (as their close friends) before they brought him into the project.

'Jack Burdon' made no attempt to secure the contractor roles that he'd been instructed to. He'd been put out when he discovered that an operative of his standing was not in charge of this operation, and if anything he had the least authority of any of them. Because of that, and the fact that he considered the contractor work he was expected to do beneath him, he used the same argument about his background not holding up to security checks as they'd used for Stephen (even though there was little validity in his case) and didn't even attempt to gain employment at the firms providing contractors to the Marine and Navy bases. Instead, he got himself a job as a salesman for one of the major suppliers of the Marine and Navy bases, arguing that he could get as much access that way as he would have otherwise. They all knew that this argument was baseless, but as he'd already done it without consulting Emma there was nothing that they could do about it without exposing the operation that they were trying to get established.

Los Angeles - August 1981

As Mary's pregnancy progressed, her mobility was becoming more restricted and lengthy car trips were becoming more uncomfortable for her, so the Burdons drove up to Los Angeles once or twice a month to see them. It was more logical for them to be the ones doing these trips anyway, as the training that Jack had as an operative had made it a simple matter for him to be a very successful salesman, so they had a lot more money and free time to travel between San Diego and Los Angeles than the Jaworskis did with Stephen's government research job.

While they were up there with the Jaworskis, Jack observed Emma as she doted on the Jaworskis' daughter and hovered around Mary when she was pregnant, noting that there was more talk of children than there was about the operation that they'd been sent to America for half the time, and an idea formed in his head. As he'd noted in their initial meeting in Comrade Kryuchkov's office, Emma was a fine looking woman and he was all for embracing their cover as man and wife, but she was reluctant to engage in sexual relations, only giving in when he really pressed her for it. With his flexible schedules and operative's training, he had no trouble finding the opportunities to charm other women into bed when he wanted, but he wanted her to be a more active partner in this, if they were going to be here as man and wife for an extended period he wanted much more participation from her.

Watching the way she was with the Jaworski girl, he thought that he knew the way to do that now. The woman obviously wanted children of her own, and they'd already had confirmation from their superiors that they believed that children strengthened their covers in a long term operation of this nature, so it shouldn't be too hard to convince her that people were asking questions about why they didn't have any children and use that to get her to stop her birth control and engage in a lot more sex.

Jack was pleased to see that he'd read Emma correctly, and within a month she'd given in and the sex life at home was much more to his liking. He was less pleased when his plan backfired (or worked, depending on your point of view) and she found that she was pregnant a few months after that, but at least with the hormones kicking in when she was pregnant, she was more interested in sex.

Their trips to Los Angeles increased to at least once a week as Mary drew closer to her due date, and Emma ended up staying with the Jaworskis for a few weeks before and after the birth to look after Eleanor and Mary, but Jack found that he didn't mind that much, as she was broody and unresponsive with her worry about Mary and the baby, so her being away left him free to entertain other women.

Karol Filip Bartkowski, or rather Charles Philip Jaworski as the official records showed, was born hale and hearty, and with a good set of lungs as they could hear him all the way down the hall. His parents and sister were totally enthralled with him, and Emma wasn't much better. Mary took in the look of longing on Emma's face and smiled as she reached out to gently touch her still unseen baby bump "It won't be much longer for you Em, I just hope that our children can be as close as we've become."

Emma smiled and covered Mary's hand with her own, quickly looking around before she answered in Polish 'For all of it starting as only a cover friendship, you ARE the best friend I've had all my life Maria!' Mary smiled again and responded in the same language 'You are the same to me Emma, and we have a better life here than we had back in the old country.' Stephen leant in to hug the two women with a smile, while keeping an eye on Eleanor who was sitting up on the bed cradling her baby brother in her arms.

Emma had been a little angry when Jack sent a message to say that he couldn't get away from work to come up for the baby's birth, as she knew that he would in fact be busy playing around with other women, but in truth none of them missed him that much as he hadn't made any effort to become part of the group beyond what was required to support their cover.

When Mary was back on her feet and able to look after her family, Emma went back to San Diego, but they still had to come up every two weeks at least, because most of the information that they were getting was from the CIA project that Stephen was working on. Jack wasn't getting anything but troop and ship movements from the Marine and Navy bases, and most of that wasn't important enough to send back to their superiors.

Less than six months later, Mary went to San Diego to look after Emma, taking Eleanor and Charles with her. Her reaction to a half serious suggestion from Jack when he was drunk that he could do with some looking after as well ensured that he stayed clear of her until she went back to Los Angeles, and whenever they saw each other after that. Having Mary there was what got Emma through the birth as Jack was hardly playing the role of the doting husband well, but disappointment with him was forgotten when her daughter was born. Samanta Lesia Burdon, or Samantha Lisa Burdon for the official record, was born beautiful and perfect, and from that moment she was the whole world for her mother.

Emma knew that, unlike Jack, Stephen was telling the complete truth when he told her on the phone that he wanted to be there for her baby's birth, but he couldn't get away, because Mary had told her about the threat that had been made to have him locked up if he tried to leave Los Angeles. The upset and wishful tone in his voice as he told her this and wished her all the best was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and she tried to let him know how much that meant to her.

As Emma had with her, Mary and her children stayed until she was back on her feet and able to look after herself and her baby and then they headed back to Los Angeles. After Emma made it clear that it would be some time, if ever, before she'd be ready to go back to the type of sexual activity that they'd had before Samantha was born, Jack progressively withdrew more and more from her and the operation that they'd been inserted into America for.

San Diego - February 1983

Unfortunately, the situation was much the same as it had been when he ignored his orders to secure employment as a contractor on the military bases, in that they couldn't take action against him without exposing their operation. While they couldn't force him to fulfil his duty though, they COULD ensure that he didn't do anything to compromise their covers, and a very direct threat from Mary about what would happen to him if he did anything of the sort did that quite well.

Before they left Russia, he'd asked around about the people he was being inserted into this operation with, and the stories he'd heard about Królowa Mrózu, the Frost Queen, had chilled his blood. All that came back to him as she transfixed him with a look and told him that if he did anything to put the rest of them and their children at risk, no matter where he ran to, she'd track him down and kill him very slowly and painfully, so he had no doubt that she'd do exactly as she said!

His terror grew when he thought of that stupid crack he'd made to her about her 'looking after him', he may have been drunk at the time but what had he been thinking? Propositioning one of the most lethal women on the planet, who also happened to be very married, and a close personal friend of his cover wife? Had he been so taken in by watching her play a wife and mother for over a year and a half that he'd forgotten what she really was?

Jack was on his best behaviour for a while after that, going out and replacing the rickety old car that Emma drove with a new car that would be much safer for her and the baby and making an effort to keep his philandering under wraps to avoid upsetting her, but he kept drawing away from them and the operation. The part that upset Emma the most was that he showed almost no interest in their daughter, making it all too obvious that to him she was merely an unexpected and unwanted by-product of the sex that he'd been soliciting from her with his talk of having children.

Given that their home life was now even more of a sham than it had been before, Emma took Samantha up to Los Angeles at least two or three times a week, she'd work on their operation with Mary, and Stephen if he was home, and their children would play together. Charles and Samantha were inseparable, they effectively grew up together until they started school, and even then they still saw each other every weekend, until the incident.

San Diego - June 1985

Ever since Samantha's birth, Jack had been slipping further and further away from his duties to the operation. The information that he was supplying from the military bases had been tapering off for a while, but that hadn't created issues with their superiors as there was never really anything of note coming from his reports. When the information stopped altogether though, and Emma asked him why, he brusquely told her that he'd quit his job so he wasn't going onto the military bases any more. Emma just looked at him in disbelief, then left the room to go and call Mary to tell her about what he'd done, and she wasn't really surprised when Mary arrived within an hour and a half.

Faced with Królowa Mrózu, Jack quickly buckled and told the full story, one of the women he was sleeping with had convinced him that he could make far more money as a con artist than he could as a salesman, and she was right, he'd made more in a few months than he could in years as a salesman, so he'd given up the salesman's job. When Mary called him an idiot, he got hot under the collar and shouted at her that no-one had paid any attention to those reports since they started anyway.

In a matter of seconds, he was being held up against the wall with a knife to his throat as she asked, choosing her words carefully as if she was talking to a simple child, "Have you forgotten who we work for? Yes, those reports were probably filed away without anyone looking at them, but they'd notice soon enough that they were no longer getting them, because that's what bureaucrats do!" She looked down at the puddle on the floor beneath him with distaste, then looked him in the eye and told him that it was up to him to make sure that he still got that information for them to send through.

Jack breathed a sigh of relief as she turned away, but froze as she spun back and put the point of the knife to his eye, as she hissed "Do not even think about trying to make up that information! If they ever found out that we'd been feeding them false information we'd all be placed at risk, need I need to remind you what I will do to you if that happens because of you?" "No Mary!"

"Right then, keep getting that information from all the bases and feeding it through, and make sure that you don't do anything to expose the rest of us when you do it. As long as you do that, keep providing for Emma and Samantha as we expect you to, and make an effort to at least pretend to be a good father to Samantha, we'll let you pursue your career as a con artist, but just remember what will happen to you if fail to deliver on even one of these requirements, do you understand what your requirements are?" "Yes Mary!"

Mary turned and walked away in disgust again, but this time kept going, changing into a happy 'Aunt' figure when she picked up Sammie and had an excited conversation with her 'niece' about the little girl's marvellous discoveries of the day.

Jack's fear of Mary ensured that he tried to deliver everything that was required of him, but Emma had to plan and organise his cons for him to ensure that he could keep up with the requirement to provide for them properly, because with him flying by the seat of his pants as he tended to do, his success rate was barely 50%, if that. The problem was that, if Mary killed him as she so wanted to, it would derail whole their operation because they wouldn't be able to keep up the pretence that their close friends the Burdons were a happy family in San Diego, and if that happened the CIA would discover their secret sooner or later. What this meant was that she had to keep Jack's cons successful and keep him living there with her and Sammie for their operation, and their friendship, to continue the way that they wanted it to, which was why she helped him.

San Diego - November 1989

This continued until November in eighty nine, when Sammie was seven. That was when Jack's ego and showing off to try and impress some woman led to him totally screwing up a big con. When the con fell apart, Jack ran off and hid without telling Emma what had happened, and he'd left a trail leading straight home to Emma and Sammie, so she had no warning before the FBI and ATF agents descended on their house. Emma didn't have time to do any more than call Mary and say "Feds!" before they broke in.

By the time that Mary managed to get to San Diego, Emma was already in custody somewhere, and Jack had disappeared with Sammie. When she got back to Los Angeles, she tried to contact Beckman and Montgomery, but as she eventually found out, they'd both been in Berlin, tied up in the middle of the activities that led to the inevitable downfall of the Berlin Wall at the time.

On top of that, as soon as the name Emma Burdon showed up on the federal alert systems in regard to her being arrested by the FBI, Graham had all the security around his project and the Jaworski family locked down, and once he had them under lock down conditions he kept them there, so Mary couldn't get away from Los Angeles to hunt for Jack and Sammie (to kill Jack and recover Sammie), or try to find and rescue Emma.

What Beckman and Montgomery determined had happened when they finally returned to the United States and had a chance to look into it was that Jack had come out of hiding and collected Sammie from school some time between when Emma called Mary, and Mary had managed to reach San Diego. Mary had been delayed because she was forced to keep to something like the speed limit during the day to avoid being pulled over every ten miles. Jack had taken whatever money he could get his hands on without being caught and sold his car, then used a series of cabs to get to where he'd apparently had another car stashed. The only good news they got out of this was that everyone who had seen them said that the little girl was fine.

Beckman and Montgomery were tied up in Europe for another four to five months after the incident and then it took them nearly nine months to locate Emma and organise her release in early ninety one after they returned. This meant that Emma ended up spending over a year in a Federal prison, because she'd refused to offer any defence on the charges she was put up on in an attempt to ensure that she didn't lead anyone to Mary and her family.

Graham kept Stephen and Mary locked down so tight that they'd barely managed to get the message from Beckman and Montgomery that they had located Emma and were working on her release without being exposed themselves, or so they'd thought. The problem was that Emma's getting arrested had set off alarm bells with Graham, and that started him wondering about what else they'd missed regarding these people, so unbeknownst to them he'd used every bit of authority he had to thoroughly investigate all of them, and everything they'd done for the past ten years too.

This was the type of investigation that they'd been dreading when they first arrived in America, because the CIA had the resources to pull just about everything apart and find their secrets, well their secrets in America anyway. That was how Graham's people started finding the small irregularities in their records and indications of their secret communications with other parties, and they also saw when they received that message to say that Emma had been found.

Graham's people couldn't crack the codes of the message, but to Graham that was immaterial, the fact that they were communicating that way was proof to him that they were involved in something bigger, so he started casting a wider net. It was when he started hearing tales of a legendary spy couple, Królowa Mrózu and Myśliwy, the Frost Queen and the Hunter, who'd suddenly vanished about eight or nine years before that he thought that he was getting somewhere, because from those stories, the Hunter was supposed to be some sort of technological genius. Of course, the stories about the Frost Queen were a problem, as she was supposed to be some sort of rampaging Valkyrie who was unstoppable.

That did not suit Graham at all, because he knew that his project wouldn't get anywhere without Jaworski, it had only really taken off when he'd brought him on-board, but he couldn't afford to leave a wild card like this Frost Queen there, as she'd take Jaworski and run as soon as they realised that they'd been made. He also knew that he couldn't openly have the wife killed or thrown into prison, because Jaworski would just refuse to do anything if that happened. Graham was wracking his brain, trying to come up with a plan, and then he remembered a demonstration that the team had given him just before Jaworski came on-board.

Los Angeles - April 1990

The powers that be had vetoed and squashed the idea when it was demonstrated because it was essentially instant brainwashing, overwriting a person's personality and memories with the image that they were imprinted with, and they were afraid of the backlash that would occur if anyone ever found out that they'd been experimenting with anything like that. The persona that they had to load into someone had also been pretty frightening, because for some reason the head case who wrote it had created the image of a psychopathic Russian arms dealer, and then loaded it into himself to demonstrate it. That was when they'd found that there was no way of reversing this, so that guy was going to spend the rest of his life locked away in a rubber room.

This was all adding up to something that Graham could see as possibly working in the current situation though, because even though he'd been ordered to destroy it, he still had the equipment to imprint someone else with this Agent-X persona as they'd called it and create another Alexei Volkoff locked away. The beauty of it was that, unless he'd told anyone else about it, there was only one other person still on the team who knew anything about it, the British scientist Hartley Winterbottom, who just so happened to be a good friend of the Jaworskis. So if, say, he imprinted himself with this program and went into Russia on a mission, and then the CIA decided that they couldn't risk sending any agents in to extract him, they'd have to find someone else willing to go in and deactivate the program and bring him out. Yes, this could just work, especially if they re-wrote the Królowa Mrózu legend as CIA Agent Frost and then tipped off Volkoff that the CIA was sending an assassin after him, giving him hints about where to find the information on her.

It took some time for Graham to set all of this up and get 'Agent Frost's records inserted into the CIA's systems, so it was well into July in ninety before he called Winterbottom in to talk to him about the Agent-X program. As soon as Winterbottom assured him that he'd never said a word to anyone about that disgusting program, Graham said "Good!" and shot him with a modified tranq dart that left him fully conscious, but with no control over his motor functions. He could see in Winterbottom's eyes that he recognised the apparatus that was used to imprint someone with the Agent-X persona, and he smiled at him maliciously, saying "Goodbye Hartley!" as he fitted the apparatus onto him.

As soon as he was imprinted with Agent-X, Graham had Winterbottom, or rather, Volkoff, sedated and flown to Moscow. Only then did he go to the Jaworskis and tell them in a panic that Hartley had apparently been approached by the CIA and had agreed to imprint this persona and go into Russia on a mission, but after he'd gone in, the CIA people who sent him in changed their minds and decided that they couldn't risk sending an agent in to deactivate the program and get him out, so he could be stuck in there playing a Russian arms dealer until someone finished him off. It was obvious to anyone in the room how worried Stephen Jaworski was about his friend and that Mary Jaworski would do anything to relieve his worry, so Graham 'accidentally' let slip where the device to deactivate the program was, and told them that the security was being brought back to what it had been now that the danger seemed to be past.

Hartley Winterbottom was a brilliant man, and changing into 'Alexei Volkoff' hadn't diminished that in any way, but it did make him a totally ruthless and amoral character who had no qualms about doing whatever it took to get what he wanted. A brilliant psychopath is a very dangerous thing and he went through Moscow's Underworld like a tornado, taking control of much of it and gathering a large following of those who could see how powerful he would become in a matter of weeks.

Graham was patting himself on the back when the 'removal' device disappeared, closely followed by Mary Jaworski, as Volkoff had already been sent the the word about the 'CIA Assassin' Frost and been given hints about where to find the information on her. When he hadn't heard anything about her being eliminated within a week though, he sent one of his minions in to get proof of her death. He was NOT happy when the man came back to tell him that she wasn't dead, and in fact she seemed to be a fixture at Volkoff's side, his most trusted aide. Frustrated by that news, Graham sent the man back in with a file on Mary's husband and children, in an effort to prove to Volkoff that she was playing him because she had a family back in America, that was the last Graham heard of that lackey.

Los Angeles - August 1990

Being frustrated that he couldn't get proof of Mary Jaworski's death didn't stop Graham from trying to use it to crush Stephen Jaworski and get him to immerse himself in his work, though, and he once again put on a wonderful acting job as he told Stephen that he'd heard that Volkoff had killed an American Assassin, a woman, who'd gone in after him, saying that the CIA had apparently been trying to clean up the mess it made. He knew that Stephen would presume that Mary was was the one who'd been killed because she'd gone in to deactivate Volkoff's Agent-X program and extract Hartley once it was out of him. Stephen did a pretty fair acting job as well, as he did a very good rendition of a man who was crushed, even though Montgomery had gotten word to them via Ellie (they'd realised that their best chance of talking to anyone without being seen was if someone had a quick word with Ellie at her school) that Mary was alive and well, as she'd gotten Volkoff to confirm her identity as Królowa Mrózu through the First Chief Directorate of KGB. Stephen was still a man on the edge though because the word that came back also said that Mary couldn't get out as Volkoff had apparently decided that she was the only person he could trust, so he wouldn't let her leave his side.

They'd also gotten word out about the state that Volkoff was in and the fact that the extraction program didn't work, so Stephen was frantic, and an unstable genius being frantic is very rarely a good thing because they have a tendency to take things to the wrong, and usually disastrous, conclusion, just as Stephen did this time.

Stephen decided that the only way to get free to go after Mary so that he could extract her from Volkoff's world was to finish Graham's Intersect project so he'd release him. To do that Stephen worked frantically day and night on the Intersect code, and his children, especially Ellie, were getting more and more worried as he was retreating further into his own little world all the time. Ellie realised that their mother had been the only one who could keep their father grounded, and without her he was lost at sea. (Off with the pixies wouldn't have been a bad description either.)

As Ellie feared, their father just got worse and worse, and about a month after Charlie's ninth birthday, Stephen made a grave error, two actually. Charlie was quite mature for his age, but he WAS barely nine, and he was hurting because in the space of the last eleven months or so, he'd lost Sammie and Auntie Em when they'd disappeared, then his mother had disappeared and now his father was gone as well, even though he was physically there, so he'd had most of his world stripped from him, all he had left was Ellie. One night his father came out of his work room, but when Charlie tried to talk to him, he just brushed him off and went off to do something, leaving the door of the workroom open. Charlie decided to see what was in there that was so much more important than they were and went in. There was all sorts of interesting equipment in the room, but what caught his eye was an array of screens that had been stacked up on a desk. When he went over to look at it, it had a blinking 'Activate' prompt on the screen, so he angrily hit the 'Enter' key out of spite. Images started flashing on the screens and that was the last thing he remembered until he came around to find his father clinging to him, crying and raving that he'd destroyed his son, until Charlie asked him what was wrong?

Stephen checked him over as best he could and was amazed and thankful that he HADN'T destroyed his son as he'd believed. Then he made his second, and far more serious, error, as he decided that this showed that this version must be save to use as Charles had loaded it with out any apparent detrimental effects. Stephen decided then that he could use this version of the Intersect to accelerate the process to finish the Intersect Project and be free to recover Mary, so he loaded it, but even though it was obvious that it hit him far harder than it had Charles, he persisted in loading extra databases into it and trying to use it. As he did that, he started deteriorating frighteningly quickly, so it was left to Ellie to try and hold their family together, and as mature as she was, that was just too much for a twelve year old girl.

Los Angeles - January 1991

Beckman and Montgomery organised people to see her every day at school, to give her news about her mother and do what they could to help her while they tried to get Emma out of prison so that she could come back and take the reins (they didn't quite know HOW she was going to do that, given that she wouldn't be able to show her face, but they knew she'd be the best person for the job). This dragged on for about four months, and then one day the person Ellie found waiting for her at the usual meeting place was Auntie Em and she broke down, because the only person she needed to see more than Auntie Em was her mother.

Emma had changed her hair colour and other aspects of her appearance and they'd got her a new identity and a job at the school, so from then on, it was Auntie Em who was seeing Ellie every day and helping her deal with her father slipping ever further from reality, trying to help Charlie handle imminent puberty, managing the family's finances, cooking, cleaning and all the other things that a thirteen year old girl shouldn't have to deal with, even if she is a genius. Emma also saw Charlie as much as she could, at least their school had elementary and middle school together, which made things easier.

Los Angeles - December 1991

At the end of ninety one, they had another problem (on top of Stephen's rampant slide into dementia), as the KGB had been helping them keep the channels open to Mary so they knew what was happening with her, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB was disbanded, and when it was, they all effectively disappeared because they'd been a rather unofficial part of the KGB, so they ceased to exist when it did. They all wanted Mary to get out of that world, but she argued that she couldn't leave until Stephen and the children had disappeared as Volkoff would come after them if she did.

Eventually they agreed to compromise, Emma would take Ellie and Charlie and disappear, and then Mary would come to them. If they could grab Stephen when Mary returned without putting the rest of them at risk they would, otherwise he'd have to fend for himself for a while. Emma had to use the argument that she needed Mary to help her find Sammie to get her to she agree to the plan, as that was the only one that could sway her, both women were determined to save their children, all of them.

Eleanor and Charles Jaworski disappeared at the end of ninety one, while Ellie and Chuck Bartowski came to live with their Aunt, Emma Burton, down towards the other end of Los Angeles at the same time. The birthday present that Ellie got in February ninety two was one she'd remember as the best present of her life, because their mother walked back into their lives. She'd actually arrived in Los Angeles about a week earlier, but she'd had to take that time to try and pull herself together after spending over a year and a half in that madman's world, and she was hoping that her children would forgive her for the theatrics of coming home on Ellie's fourteenth birthday.

Once Mary was home (as Mary Bartowski, because they were banking on Stephen being able to find them with something so close to their real name if/when he got his head straightened out, but no-one else should be able to recognise the name), they started concentrating on locating Sammie, and her bastard of her father. The problem was that they had limited resources without any organisation behind them now and Emma, well all of them really, was becoming more and more despondent when it seemed that every possible lead just turned out to be a dead end. One thing that they DID know, however, was that none of them would ever stop looking for Sammie.

They kept their connections to Beckman and Montgomery, as they had the same issues as Mary and Emma did, in that any record of their old roles, and their entire identities actually, had ceased to exist with the KGB. Beckman and Montgomery were faced with an interesting quandary now, they'd spent over half their lives getting established in the United States and gaining entry into their intelligence community to serve the U.S.S.R. but now, just as they were getting into positions of power, the U.S.S.R. had ceased to exist, and so had any record of their existence prior to where they started in the United States. The question facing them was what to do? Disappear into the hills (or city somewhere) and start a new live? Or take the lives that they'd carved out with their own blood, sweat and tears and run with them?

They knew that Beckman had come to a decision when she asked them to come to D.C. for a meeting about a job. Both Mary and Emma were cautious about accepting, and they'd be taking every possible measure to ensure that they didn't get caught in anyone's trap, but they were optimistic as they didn't really believe that it was a trap.

A/N: As they're coming clean as to who they are down the track, I thought it was time to correct the Polish names here as per Xpl's advice, so I'm using the right names down the track, though I may stuff up the Russian names ;^)