HIMALAYAS, NEPAL

Irina leaned heavily against Jack, flakes of moving snow tickle the back of her neck. As the snowmobile cleared the valley and began its ascent of the smaller hill, she allowed herself to glance backward. The dense white snow packed the confines of the valley, leaving nothing in its wake.

A smile lit Irina's face at the adventure she had just faced. She tried but failed to stifle her hearty laughter in the wake of exhilaration. Jack felt her shaking behind him and wondered momentarily if she was crying but then felt the outline of her smile against the cooling skin of his neck. He slowed the vehicle as they continued to travel up the smaller hill and over the top. Halfway down the other side, Vaughn and Sydney had parked their snowmobile and waited for her mother and father to clear the avalanche.

Jack stopped beside them and glanced behind him at Irina. She had yet to stop her joyous laughter, succeeding only in igniting her husband's. Sydney and Vaughn caught each other's eyes in confusion, going unnoticed by their two laughing companions.

"What?" Sydney asked finally, finding herself smiling at her parents' enthusiasm.

"Your mother has decided to bring credence to the phrase 'laugh in the face of danger'. And she just went off the deep end but I expected that," Jack continued to smile while Irina pouted.

"I haven't gone off the deep yet. I already promised you that I would take you with me when I do take the plunge." Irina kissed his lips softly and ran her thumb over his mouth.

"Are you ready to get moving? The snow stops at the bottom of this hill, but we should be able to make it into town on foot within the next hour," Vaughn pointed down the hill as he spoke.

"Vaughn is right, we should get moving," Jack agreed.

"There should be a flight to somewhere in Europe tonight as long as we get back to the city before ten," Irina told the group.

"We're expected back in Los Angeles tomorrow night. You and I have a meeting with the director of the CIA to debrief them on the mission and to determine what they expect from us now that Sloane is out of the way." Jack looked to Irina.

"Alright, so let's get moving. I want to make sure we get something to eat before we board the plane." Irina secured the ties on her jacket and brushed some on the snow off her hair.

"For an international criminal of genius intelligence you do most of your thinking with your stomach." Jack smirked in his wife's direction and adjusted the collar on his own coat.

Vaughn and Sydney snorted at the exchange, realizing such interludes were common place. Irina began walking down the rest of the oversized hill while leaving a parting shot, "Mmmm, while I suppose that is an improvement from the lower organ you think with." Jack chuckled at her words and continued after her.

Sydney stared at her parents' retreating backs with a grimace firmly draw over her features. "Are my parents determined to always be abnormal? I don't want to hear that and they're a little too open about their relationship, they should really learn to act their age." Sydney flared her nostrils and stuffed her hands in her coat pockets.

"I think it's pretty funny, to remember where they were two years ago and to listen to them now. They're like completely different people: nice people." Vaughn's half grin mocked Sydney's unease.

"I'm not impressed," Sydney pouted at Vaughn's teasing.

"It's okay Syd, we'll be going our own way once we get back to L.A. They can have their sexually charged conversations in front of the CIA intelligence panels." Vaughn wrapped his arm around Sydney's shoulder and continued to walk down the hill, getting a laugh from her in the process.


Location Unknown

The office was still, with only the hum of the computer as a disturbance. A fair, lanky woman approached the ornate doors carefully, as though her steps would set off a bomb. She knocked and listened for the sound of her boss admitting her entry into the room.

"What do you have for me?" Her boss asked gently. But her tone did nothing to ease the nervousness of the woman.

"Our charge seems to be reacting poorly to the new drug we have her on," she told her boss.

"Can we put her back on the drug we were using before?"

"That would not be advisable. I would like to spend some time looking for alternate sedative cocktails." Her shoulders tensed in anticipation of her boss's answer.

"That would be fine, keep me apprised of the situation." Her boss dropped her head to focus on the files on her desk but pauses and looks up once more to better address the woman in front of her once again, "I would like you to take me to her so I can check her state for myself."

"I will take you to her at once." The fair woman held the door open for her boss and led her to the holding room.

"Leave me. I wish to have a moment alone with our charge," her boss spoke softly.

"She isn't awake; you can't speak to her."

She flinched when her boss's cold eyes flashed with irritation. "I didn't ask for your opinion. Please leave." She left the room, not wanting to make her boss any angrier.

Alone with the prone body on the table, Emily Sloane ran her fingers through her curly hair. She looked down at the woman on the table and pressed a tentative hand to her cheek.

"Are you aware of what is going on around you? Do you dream? I hope you know how valuable you are. Arvin spared your life and soon you will help me accomplish my mission. I know Sydney is your friend but she and her parents were responsible for my husband leaving me. He said it was for my own protection but who was going to protect him? He's dead now you know. They killed him and now they deserve to pay. Don't worry though, I'll take good care of you." Emily gave one last glance at the figure of Francie Calfo before leaving the room and returning to her office.

END