Disclaimer: I don't own any character you know from the TV show; Rob Thomas is the proud owner. I own the story, its plot and James which aren't much. But on the other hand I own Brayden and that's pretty damned cool. Also, Hendrix, Carter and Farmer were some of the agents' names in the pitch for season four (see season three DVD extras) and so was Seth but I made up his last name, since it was never mentioned in the pitch. Their likeness are property of Rob Thomas, their personalities, mine.
A/N: Hey people! After an eternity, I'm finally updating Work in Progress. Wow, it's been forever, hasn't it? But I've suffered from the worst case of writer's block, added to lack of time to even breathe, let alone sit down and write.
So, this chapter deals with Veronica's life as an FBI agent and before I get a ton of reviews saying such and such doesn't make sense or isn't possible, let me make a couple of things clear:
First, this is F-I-C-T-I-O-N, I've said this over and over but a lot of people don't seem to be getting that so again, look up the definition of fiction before sending any sort of review criticizing the veracity of possibility of things mentioned in this chapter.
Second: I have not worked, known anyone who works or have had any sort of dealing with the FBI so this entire chapter is what my imagination makes up for me in terms of going-ons at the FBI. I mean, come on people I'm freakin' CANADIAN so I have as much knowledge about the FBI as most people have about nuclear physics, you get my drift?
Now go enjoy this – I hope – much anticipated chapter and I swear I'll really try not to take another year to update again. Oh and as always, review!!
"Yeah, what would government agencies like the FBI and CIA want to do with Veronica?" Duncan all but laughed.
"Actually guys…" the three men turned to Veronica. The young woman's resolve melted under their intense gazes and she sighed dejectedly. "I'm not really up in BC studying journalism." the men waited expectantly. "I'm actually working undercover for the FBI."
Chapter 12: Meet the Gang
Veronica had expected a variety of reactions from her friends when she'd finally tell them about being an undercover FBI agent. But this, this was the one reaction she hadn't expected.
Logan and Duncan were staring bewilderedly at Veronica, mouths agape, arms dangling to their sides. Ben was equally silent, eyes darting from Logan to Veronica to Duncan to Logan again. And then a noise; a small cough-like noise coming from Logan. At first, Veronica thought he was chocking from the shock but then…
Duncan turned to Logan, his attention caught by the noise, the laugh.
And then Duncan chuckled nervously and Logan's laugh got more assured and a few seconds later, he was flat out laughing at her, clutching his sides in pain, and Duncan was lying back in the couch, hand over his eyes, wiping at tears!
"Oh Ronnie," Logan laughed, "you almost had me going for a second."
Veronica clenched her jaw while her entire body stiffened. She watched as her two friends and the hacker laughed for minutes on end, her blood boiling. And then she heard something else. Sirens. Lots of sirens.
"What the-" Duncan stopped mid-laugh and went to look out the windows. "Uh guys…" he said uncertainly.
"What?" Logan asked brushing away tears brought on by the laughter.
"I don't want to alarm anyone but there are about ten black SUV's parked in front of my house…" Duncan said uneasily.
Logan reacted quickly and stood next to Duncan in a nanosecond, looking through a gap in the blinds. Ben looked like a caged animal and started sweating profusely, making Veronica cringe a little.
"We've got to find a way to get out of here…" Logan started, walking away from the window and throwing on his coat. "Duncan, you go get Lily while Ben and I-" he stopped mid-sentence as an eerie noise was heard throughout the house.
"Was that an hel-" Ben was interrupted as Veronica's cell phone rang loudly, making the adults jump.
"Daddy!" Lily's scared voice sounded from the kitchen. The little girl came running in the living room, her tear-stained cheeks glistening in the dim light.
Duncan scooped her up and cradled her in his arms and then all Hell broke loose.
The front door was knocked down in a cloud of smoke and a dozen men dressed all in black battle dress uniform ploughed in. Shouts were heard over the loud noise the helicopter – for an helicopter had indeed landed in the middle of the street – was making outside and Logan, Ben and Duncan were tackled to the ground, after one of the invaders had grabbed Lily from her father's grip. Veronica calmly put her hands behind her head and kneeled down while orders to do the same were yelled at the three men.
And then it stopped.
An eerie silence fell on the house and you could hear the assault team and the male prisoners breathe heavily. Logan tried to look up from the ground but found it nearly impossible to do since he was lying on his stomach and had a knee firmly pressed between his scapulas. Meanwhile Veronica had been allowed to sit on one of the couch and she had to admit that after being laughed at, she felt kind of vindicated at the sight of the three men being forced to lay on their stomachs and having cruel knees boring into their backs.
"Mars, the boss is on his way but he wants to talk to you right away." One of the invaders said while handing Veronica a cell phone.
"Sir?" Logan, Duncan and Ben could hear a deep masculine voice most likely screaming at Veronica even though they were all the way across the room from her. "I know we had decided to keep my cover need to know basis until further notice but the hacker has found-" she was obviously cut off in her explanation, "Yes sir, I am aware that I disobeyed a direct order-" once again, the angry shouting interrupted, "Yes sir, I am fully prepared to take responsibility." Veronica suddenly jerked the cell phone away from her ear and stared at it for a while before whispering to herself, "I can't believe he hung up on me! How rude!"
"So did Hendrix rip you a new one?" another commando guy asked gleefully.
Veronica smiled crisply before answering, "He wouldn't be the Hendrix we all know and have grown to love if he hadn't." And she crossed her arms over her chest, effectively ending the conversation.
Forty fucking minutes, Logan thought angrily.
It took forty fucking minutes for this boss of theirs to show his ugly face in Duncan's living room. Forty fucking minutes that Logan, Duncan and Ben had to spend in their utterly uncomfortable – no unbearable – position. Forty fucking minutes during which Logan desperately tried to catch Veronica's eye and establish some sort of secret, undetectable form of communication that would result in their escape. But she wouldn't tear her eyes away from the magazine she'd got from God knows where and after a while, Logan stopped trying and shut his eyes thinking he might as well get a little rest because he was under the impression the rest of his day and maybe of his week even would be exhausting.
"Well, well, what have we here Mars?" a balding man asked as he stepped through the front door.
"That's Duncan," Veronica started coldly pointing at the farthest of the prisoners. "That's Ben – the hacker," she continued, "and over there's Logan." she finished with disdain soaked words. Then she turned to face her superior and most likely waited to hear what her punishment would be.
"So that's the hick that's been poking around and who almost nullified two years of undercover work?" Hendrix asked his voice even colder than Veronica's had been if that were even possible. "Well thank you Logan, you've nearly destroyed all the hard work that over twenty people have been putting into this case. And why? To get into agent Mars's pants?"
Just one look at Veronica was all it took for Logan to know that he should shut up. She clenched her jaw and pinched her lips and the slightest shade of pink coloured her cheeks and still she said nothing. Logan knew Veronica enough to tell that she was furious and that had that little man not been her boss and hadn't he probably been holding the fate of her career in his hands the little blonde vixen would have exploded and destroyed him with her biting and disdainful words. And she would most probably have been able to reduce him to tears.
"Well, I guess that now that you've blown your cover," the little hateful man continued addressing Veronica, "might as well bring them all up to speed."
"So you'll consider my suggestion?" Veronica dared to ask, which earned her a death glare from her boss and a few of the other agents now swarming the room.
"We'll see about that. First they have to get debriefed down at our LA offices. Then we'll see where we go from there."
"But you just said," Logan couldn't help but pipe in, "that you'd bring us up to speed."
Veronica glared at Logan.
"I said we might as well. We still have to determine if you pose a threat to our investigation." The little man stated as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Mars, I'll see you in LA. Agent Lombardi," he addressed the man who had had his knee well anchored in Logan's back, "you arrange these pests' transportation." he ordered. Turning away he stopped just before stepping out of Duncan's house, "And it doesn't have to be comfortable."
As Hendrix had exited Duncan's living room, Veronica had felt the cold sweat that had been pouring down her back warm up and evaporate a little. She jumped back into effective FBI agent mode and started ordering her subordinates around. She sought refuge in the kitchen where Lily had been exiled after the troopers – as she called them – had stormed in the living room. The little girl sat quietly frightened on the kitchen counter where she observed the men and women roaming around her house with a sheepish curiosity. In one hand she held a glass of water and in the other, a worn out teddy bear with a patch on his head.
"Hi there Lily," Veronica approached the little girl, smiling – she hoped – warmly, "I'm Veronica. I'm an old high school friend of your Dad. We met at the park the other day, remember?"
The little girl nodded yes then took a long sip from her glass. "If you're an old high school friend of Daddy's," she started suspiciously, "that means you're also an old high school friend of Unkie Logan."
Veronica hesitated a nanosecond before nodding. "That's right."
"Are Daddy and Unkie Logan gonna be ok?" the little girl finally asked, her lower lip trembling and her strong facade crumbling. "I, I, I wanna see my daddy!" she finally cracked and started bawling.
"They're going to be fine honey!" Veronica assured the little girl before wrapping her arms around the frail frame of the sobbing child. "I'm going to make sure everybody takes good care of them, and I'm going to take good care of you until everything is sorted out." Veronica promised.
Later, after Lily had calmed down, Veronica lifted her up from the counter and walked across the living room to the mini-van that would take Logan, Duncan and Ben to the LA offices of the FBI. She let Lily hug and kiss her dad and uncle before cradling her back in her arms. She turned around as the door closed on the three men and their escorts and walked towards the helicopter that was to take her and Lily to LA.
During the flight to LA, Veronica had dispatch connect her to her father's place and explained briefly to him the situation and told him not to expect her back home any time soon. He wished her luck with Hendrix and told her to take good care of Lily. Shortly after five, the helicopter landed on the roof of the LA offices of the FBI and she got out, Lily's small arms tightly wrapped around her neck. The little girl was looking all around, taking her surroundings in, a mix of fear and curiosity painted across her soft features. Veronica walked to the access door that connected the roof to the building, going down a steep flight of metallic stairs, then walking a long, white corridor. Stopping in front of stainless steel doors, she pushed the call button for the elevator and rode it down with Lily and several other agents to the 18th floor. By now, Lily wanted to walk but held on tightly to Veronica's hand as the two of them proceeded to Veronica's office.
Once they were alone together in her office, Veronica asked Lily if she'd like anything to eat or drink. The little girl shook her head no but Veronica knew better and picked up her phone.
"Hey Martha, its Veronica." she paused while the other woman spoke then, "can you run down to the cafeteria and get me a muffin and a milk?" She then thanked the woman on the other end of the line and hung up.
Turning back and looking at Lily, Veronica carefully studied her face. She was tear-stained and blotchy, but her pale blue eyes were roaming interestedly around the small office. Veronica followed the little girl's gaze.
The office was all glass: the exterior wall was actually a huge window and you could see LA all the way to the Hollywood sign, the walls that separated Veronica's office from the rest of her coworkers were also glass and Veronica walked to the metallic blind and shut them. Harsh grey industrial carpet and sleek black furniture was pretty much all there was for Lily to see. Other than Veronica's desk and chair, there was a contemporary leather sofa against one of the glass walls in front of which stood a sleek black coffee table and Lily decided to sit on the soft leather. Also, a tall metallic locker stood against one of the walls.
There was a knock at the door and Veronica went to open it. Martha was standing outside her office with a chocolate chip muffin and a small milk carton. Veronica signed the receipt for the food and quietly asked Martha to contact Logan's nanny to explain what had happened, well as much as the situation permitted her to explain. Then she asked her assistant to send a team to pick up Brayden.
When she finally closed the door behind Martha, Veronica was met by Lily's intense stare. The little girl still seemed slightly frightened, though there was a look determination etched over her face, like she was really trying to be brave.
"Where's Daddy and Unkie Logan?" she asked, an air of defiance sweeping her face. The little girl crossed her arms over her chest and stuck out her chin.
Veronica had to try very hard not to laugh.
"They're talking with some of my friends..." Veronica tried explaining. "It might be a while... You sure you don't want to eat? I got a muffin and some milk for you." she held the food out at arm's length.
Lily seemed to be debating whether or not she could trust her. It was to be expected. When she'd been overwhelmed with fear, she'd clung to Veronica – the only slightly familiar face around – for reassurance. But now that the little girl had regained some kind of calmness, Veronica could see a gazillion thoughts going through her head, the first of which she was sure was questioning whether or not to accept what Veronica was offering; food and reassurance.
Finally, Lily nodded and Veronica joined her on the leather couch, handing her the muffin and opening the milk carton for her. She set it on the coffee table that was just a feet and a half from the couch, then went to her desk searching her drawers for a stray straw. She found one and walked back to the couch; dropping the straw in the milk carton and watching Lily take a hungry bite from the muffin.
As a smile of appreciation spread across the little girl's face, Veronica's own couldn't help but reciprocate, a smile forcing its way onto her features. She watched little Lily eating heartily and couldn't help but notice the resemblance between Duncan and his daughter.
Lily had Duncan's pouty lips. And his blue eyes. But the nose, the high forehead were all Meg's. She felt a tightening in her chest as she remembered her friend. But also, there was a small voice at the back of her head that reminded her that, years ago she had wanted to be the one who would be the mother of Duncan's children. Now that time seemed so far away. Those thoughts had later been replaced by similar hopes concerning Logan. And then another, much more painful tightening occurred when she thought back on all the times her and Logan had tore each other apart; now she really couldn't see how any of her hopes could be fulfilled.
Her morose train of thought was interrupted by knuckles rapping on the door to her office. After she said 'come in' Martha's head peaked through the door and she smiled at Lily then turned her gaze to Veronica.
"The transport team will be here in ten with the Echolls boy." Veronica nodded. "And Hendrix wants you in conference room two right now."
"Can you look after Lily?" I asked my assistant who nodded in response. "Lily, this is my friend Martha, she's going to look after you while I try to sort out some things about your dad and uncle, ok?" She waited for Lily to nod – which she did after looking critically at Martha – before getting up. "And Brayden's going to be here in a couple of minutes too, so you won't be alone."
This seemed to immensely cheer the little girl up and she waved Veronica goodbye. Veronica walked quickly to conference room two and took in a deep breath before walking in. Her boss was sitting at the table with four files open before him, papers everywhere. Carter was sitting across from him, reading a newspaper and Q was on his left, picking invisible lint from his immaculate suit. Farmer was filling her nails, looking utterly bored and as usual, Gosselin was gawking at her, totally absorbed by the female agent's looks.
"Ah Mars, nice of you to join us." Hendrix greeted sarcastically.
Hendrix was kind of short for a man. He had slightly Hispanic features and what was left of his hair was brown. He was balding at the top, something most of the agents had quickly learned never to mention even in passing. He was one of the most obsessive task group bosses in all of the LA offices. He was reputed for not shaving while working on particularly difficult cases. Even though most agents were expected to keep up clean-cut personal appearances unless they were undercover, the leaders of Hendrix's division overlooked his antics.
"No problem, sir." Veronica answered, ignoring her boss' foul mood.
"It's good to have you back in the offices," Carter smiled at her as she sat down across from him. "Think I'll have a partner back soon?" he asked no one in particular.
Carter was a couple years older than Veronica. They had worked together on her first assignment, when she was thrown undercover in New Horizons – a school for troubled teenage girls – to investigate claims of sexual harassment from the principal of the establishment. He'd also been the key to closing one of the worst cases the LA offices of the FBI had seen in ten years, the case of a mad bomber. After those two cases, Veronica and Carter had been made partners and had been so for the past two years.
"That would imply that the HJMI case was resolved, wouldn't it?" Gosselin snarled from his end of the table. "And it looks to me more like it's been screwed up beyond hope Carter, not resolved."
Veronica rolled her eyes. Gosselin – Seth – had been a total ass to her ever since they'd graduated from the Academy. It was mostly Veronica's fault for starting a fling with him back in the last summer of their training but in her own defence, she didn't believe she'd see him again, as he had been assigned to the Miami offices. Anyway, in the past two years his behaviour toward her had been nothing but petty and immature but she'd learn to shrug it off.
"Gosselin, if someone wants to know your opinion, they'll ask." Farmer bit back, smiling at Veronica.
At first Veronica hadn't liked Callie Farmer at all; she was woman enough to admit she'd felt threatened by the only other female to have graduated from her class. They'd been neck to neck the entire time they were at the Academy and it hadn't pleased either one of them. But they'd soon gotten over it when they'd started working together and now they had each other's backs. Veronica considered her a close personal friend in and out of the office. When she'd been reluctant to go undercover for the HJMI case, she'd discussed it inside and out with Callie before accepting.
"From our point of view," Q started, running a distracted hand through his salt-and-pepper hair "it looks more like Mr. Echolls was the one who... complicated the case." he finished with tact.
Q was in his forties, or mid forties from what Veronica could gather. She didn't know exactly what is title was in the Agency – it was one of those things the FBI kept closely compartmentalized. She liked compartmentalization oh-so-much – but was sure he wasn't a simple field agent, he had too much pull with Hendrix. Maybe he was one of the Divisions' leader or something... Veronica knew better than to waste time trying to figure it out, so she concentrated back on reading Hendrix's face.
"Ok team, now's time to reassess the situation." Hendrix started, swivelling around in his chair and facing the white screen on the wall and clicking on a small remote, turning the lights in the room off and on the screen appeared a picture of James. "So Lundey has been run out of town thanks to Deputy Sheriff Echoll's APB." Hendrix stated, clicking the remote to change the image on the screen. A large organizational chart appeared on a white background. Several names and pictures had been crossed out, only four remaining untouched. "First we'll have to assess whether or not we can salvage Mars' nearly two years of undercover work. If she can't re-establish contact with Lundey, we'll have to go to plan B." he clicked and the picture of a young red-haired woman was now on display. "Gosselin, how are things looking on the Heather Black front?" he asked, cringing.
"Well, it's still kinda rocky..." Gosselin begrudgingly admitted. "She's still pretty evasive about what her family does for a living. She's sticking to the medical research front of the family business."
"What could you do to help move things along?" Q asked calmly.
"Come on guys, we're not even sure we'll have to go down that road..." I started objecting. "I'm sure I can get back in Lundey's good graces."
"Are we even sure we want you back there?" Carter objected. "I mean, he did almost suffocate you a couple of weeks ago... We've always been worried about his temper and looks like we had good reason to."
"Like you weren't already sending agents and paramedics the moment he crept to my bedroom, Carter." I rolled my eyes, knowing this was exactly the reason my dad's house had been decked out with the most high-tech surveillance equipment, from mics to hidden cameras, to motion detectors. "Lundey's temper is not the point here, boss-"
"Look," Q interrupted, "The Heather Black road is only a contingency plan. We'll try working the Lundey angle one more time but we can't get caught our pants down if it doesn't pan out." he said with authority. "So I'll ask again Gosselin, what would it take to get in Black's confidence?"
"Um... other than an engagement ring on her finger?" Gosselin asked uncomfortably.
"Ok then Gosselin, you head out to the closet," Hendrix cut in, referring to the storage facility where they kept all the equipment one might need undercover – clothes, jewellery, books, forged diplomas, passports, birth certificates, technical gizmos like watches with cameras embedded in them, pens with hidden microphones, you name it, they had it. "and get them to give you an acceptable engagement ring-"
"I'll have to find out her ring size..." Gosseling objected weakly, gulping loudly.
"Then go down to Research and ask them for the info, I'm sure it's on file somewhere." Hendrix replied sharply. "The rest of you, you know what you have to do so get to work!" he barked. He'd obviously had had enough of this meeting. "Mars," he called out as Veronica headed for the door, "We still have some things to work through concerning Echolls, Kane and Monroe." Veronica assumed that was Ben's last name.
She sighed and sat back down across from Hendrix, realizing Q had also stayed behind. Hendrix was quiet for a long time, obviously trying to sort through all the possibilities concerning my three 'friends'. Finally, he let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index fingers. Veronica knew enough to recognize the sign of Hendrix's dwindling patience
"What we have here Mars is a containment issue. Information that was on need to know basis has been released to civilians and you've involved children. Children Mars! What were you thinking?"
She'd expected Hendrix to scream at her, throw her off the case, suspend her without pay for who knows how long but not for him to worry over the kids' involvement. It left Veronica shocked and speechless.
"Now, we don't have many options here." Q started, "I mean, we could hold them until this whole case is resolved. Ship them to Guantanamo Bay on ridiculous charges we could drop later," he put his hand up to stop Veronica from objecting, which she was about to vehemently do. "But we won't. So I guess we'll have to debrief them and see how we can salvage the situation, either by using what they know or what they can do," he said, probably referring to Ben's hacking abilities, "or by ensuring we can control them enough to keep them quiet." this was FBI talk for blackmail – seeing as they'd never openly call it blackmail you know, on account that it was illegal.
It was obvious that there wasn't much of a choice between the two options Veronica was faced with so she sighed resolutely and listened to her superiors like a good little FBI agent should.
"Now, you and I will debrief each of our guests separately. They're being held in interrogation rooms one, two and three." Hendrix explained. "You are not to speak or comment or interrupt in any way, shape or form – and that includes any sort of body language Mars – unless I specifically instruct you to. Understood?" he scolded and she nodded.
He got up, gathering the manila files in front of him and Veronica followed. The two agents, followed by Q weaved through the different corridors – she'd been working at the LA offices for two years but could easily still get lost in here – and finally faced Holding and Interrogation.
This section of the building was guarded by three armed agents at all times; one was behind the desk which was next to the only door that communicated with Holding and Interrogation. The second agent was looking down at the x-ray monitor because just like at the airport, people going in had to put their belongings on a little conveyor belt so they'd get scanned. And the third one was writing down badge numbers and name in the hardcopy log, before agents coming in had to sign it and leave their weapons in a locked cabinet behind the security desk – which by the way was made of solid steel to deter people who might want to try to break out someone out of Holding and Interrogation.
Finally, after being buzzed in through the door, Hendrix, Veronica and Q stood in front of a long hallway, flanked on each side with multiple doors. There were only numbers on the doors and Hendrix went through door number one. They were now in a small room in which there was a rectangular, nondescript wood table, four chairs around it and a huge – as most people knew or guessed – two-way mirror on the back wall.
"Well Mr. Echolls, let's see what you have to say for yourself." Hendrix said as he sat down from across Logan.
A/N: Ok so there was the new chapter. I really hope it was worth the wait for everyone... And I will really, really, really try to update faster this time... I mean, I've got time on my hands for now so I'll really try and use it wisely. Now shoo! go review!