This is a crossover with Jake 2.0, but told very much from the point of view of Covert Affairs, so you don't need to have seen Jake 2.0 to understand it. You should see it anyway, though. It's awesome.
Spoilers to 1x05 for Covert Affairs, 1x16 for Jake 2.0. Serious artistic licence taken with all things CIA and NSA.
Thirty-six hours later, arms aching from the handcuffs and with nothing to look at but the back of a blindfold, Annie decided it was all the fault of the coffee. That was where it all started. In fact, maybe there was even a reason – beyond vindictiveness – that newbies have to get the coffee. Maybe it was, like, a way to weed out the incompetent ones, the ones that can manage to pass a hundred practical tests at the Farm or even in the field but can't bring coffee to a divisional director of the CIA without accidentally dumping it on her lap. Because getting shot at by bad guys is one thing, but meeting Joan Campbell's eyes when you've just ruined her dress? That is something else all together.
If it hadn't been for the coffee seeping through her dress and burning her legs, if it hadn't been for Annie knocking over a pile of papers trying to find a Kleenex or a rag or anything to salvage the situation, maybe Joan would've carried on the argument she was having on the phone, maybe she would've kept saying no and I can't spare any agents right now and remember what happened last time, like she had been when Annie came in. Maybe she wouldn't have noticed Annie, wouldn't have remembered that she had a greenhorn only four months off the Farm who could mostly be spared for anything, as long as it didn't involve transporting hot liquids. And then maybe Annie wouldn't have been sent on the mission with Duarte, and maybe she would've been home right now instead of bouncing around in the back of a truck, and hey, maybe it would rain chocolate sprinkles and espresso.
Later still, so acutely aware of the gun pressed to her temple that her mind started to wander, Annie realised she had been wrong: the coffee had nothing to do with it. Maybe there was no such thing as random when you worked for the CIA.
All the same, if she got out of this alive, she should probably volunteer to pay Joan's dry-cleaning bill.
"Annie." Auggie was smiling in her general direction before she even made it all the way through the door to his office. "How is the world of espionage and high fashion today?"
Annie'd long since given up asking him how he knew it was her. One week, she'd tried changing her perfume every day and wearing flats. Not only had Auggie consistently identified her, he'd made comments about her being two inches shorter than normal. She was beginning to suspect he'd somehow programmed his laser cane to recognise her. That was exactly the kind of thing he'd do.
"Oh, you know, same old, same old," she said. "Hey, Auggie, what do you know about the NSA?"
"The NSA," Auggie said, typing something rapidly and running his index finger along the line of braille at the base of his keyboard. "The NSA's core missions are to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information."
"What?" Annie peered at the screen. The address bar read .gov. "Oh, come on, Auggie, you know what I mean. What do you know about the NSA."
Auggie turned back to face her, leaning back in his chair. "They're a government agency," he said. "They do spy stuff."
"'Spy stuff'?" Annie made a face. "Could you be a little more vague?"
"OK." Auggie said. "They do stuff."
Annie let out a growl of frustration. "Do you hate me this morning, is that it?"
"Look." Auggie folded his hands across his stomach. "How do you think Joan would react if she found out that a mid-level functionary in the Department of Transportation knew details about the way the CIA operates and the missions it takes on?"
Annie thought about it. And then tried not to think about it.
"Exactly," said Auggie. "The CIA and the NSA are two separate branches of government with explicit interest in keeping their affairs secret. I know as much about the NSA as Joe Transport does, and with any luck, Joe NSA knows exactly that much about us."
"Right," Annie said. "Um... but inter-agency co-operation-"
Auggie snorted. "Is a myth. And not one of those myths that is really real but we don't want anyone to find out, either."
"OK," said Annie. She'd known Joan was pissed at her, but she hadn't realised quite how much.
"Why the interest, anyway?" Auggie asked, sliding his hand across the desktop to his coffee cup. "Thinking of defecting?"
"Well, it's just-" Annie started, but that was as far as she got – Joan appearing in the doorway always had that effect on her.
"Auggie." Joan's tone was all efficiency, and Auggie sat up a little straighter. "Make sure anything over security level three is locked down. The NSA is coming to visit."
"What?" Auggie was more than sitting up straight, now, he was rising to his feet.
"You heard me. Annie, Director Beckett wants you to give the tour personally. Meet me in my office in five minutes."
And then she was gone, as coolly as she'd arrived. Annie hoped her own career at the CIA would be a long one, but she was pretty sure she'd never be able to glide like that even if she practiced for a hundred years.
"I guess it's not a myth any more," she said, turning back to Auggie. He was on his feet still, but only half-way out of his chair, like he'd frozen mid-movement. "Auggie?" She prodded his arm. "What, no sarcastic comeback?"
Auggie's mouth shut with a snap. "Right," he said. "Guess that flying pig I saw this, uh." He stopped again, and Annie frowned.
"Are you OK?" she asked.
"Did she say Beckett?" Auggie was still facing the spot where Joan had been standing.
"I think so. I hope he's not a dragon." Annie looked at her watch. "Well, wish me luck." She paused, but Auggie didn't respond. "Auggie? You OK?"
"What?" said Auggie. "Yeah, no, I'm fine, I just." He visibly shook himself and grinned at her. "I really hate the NSA," he said.
"Remind me to get the story on that later," said Annie. "Assuming I survive Director Beckett."
As it turned out, Director Beckett wasn't really Annie's problem. Well, to be more accurate, Annie's problem wasn't any one person; it was more an unfortunate combination. Of course, that wasn't obvious until after Annie had walked into Joan's office to face the stony stare of a petite black woman in an exquisitely tailored suit. It wasn't obvious, in fact, until said woman had raked Annie up and down with a glare that actually wouldn't have looked out of place on a dragon, and then turned said glare on Joan.
Really, Annie's problem became obvious the moment Joan met the woman's eyes and Annie actually heard the clash of steel on steel.
"Director Louise Beckett, Agent Annie Walker," Joan said, not looking in Annie's direction. Annie wondered if she even could. Maybe the two of them were locked in a staring match from now until one of them died of concentrated resentment.
"Nice to, um." There didn't actually seem to be much point continuing that sentence, Annie decided, since Beckett was already speaking, and not to her, either.
"I'm going to ask you again, how much field experience does your agent have?" she said, and Annie recognised that tone. She wondered if directors in secretive government agencies had to go on a special course. Kill your enemies with tone of voice and pitch of eyebrow.
"And I'm going to tell you again, my agent's background is classified," Joan said.
"I see. Well, maybe you could just indicate whether her experience can be measured in days or hours. Just so I know how much risk my agent will be taking."
Annie felt her hackles go up, but there was no need for her to defend herself: Joan had already brought out the Raised Eyebrow of Death. It was actually kinda flattering she would break out the big guns just to defend Annie. Problem was, apparently Beckett was immune. They should teach that on the Farm.
"Director Beckett," Joan said, her tone so measured that Annie couldn't help but flinch. "I don't know how things work at the NSA, but we here at the CIA are not in the habit of sending unprepared agents on missons, nor of revealing details of their backgrounds to those without the appropriate security clearance. We prefer to take every precaution to make sure our agents remain alive."
The tense silence that followed that little announcement went on so long Annie thought she was going to pass out, but finally it broke, Beckett turning towards her, apparently either defeated or just satisfied.
"Agent Walker," she said. "I'm told you're offering a tour. I hope it's appropriate for someone with my security clearance."
Actually, Annie might have preferred a dragon.
Tour was a nice word. Annie had been a tour guide for two months once in Mongolia, guiding rich Americans looking for an "exotic" experience that didn't actually involve having to deal with the locals. She'd enjoyed it, in a way – seeing the sights, showing off her knowledge, feeling slightly superior. This, though – this felt less like a tour and more like, well, purgatory.
"And what do they do here?" asked Beckett for what felt like the millionth time, peering at a workstation. The operative quickly closed down whatever he was working on, and Annie sighed.
"I'm afraid that's classified," she said, also for what felt like the millionth time.
Beckett gave her an even stare. "I see," she said. "Well, Agent Walker, you're nothing if not consistent."
"Thank you, ma'am." Annie glanced at her watch. So far, the tour had lasted ten minutes. Really? Only ten? Maybe it was actually tomorrow and it had been twenty-four hours and ten minutes.
"And what's over here?" Beckett asked, making a bee-line for Auggie's station. Oh, thank God. If anyone would be able to deal with her, it was Auggie. Annie was saved.
Or she would have been, if Auggie had been there.
"He must be tied up somewhere." Annie said, feeling a little lame. Typical timing, and definitely on purpose.
"Braille keyboard?" Beckett raised an eyebrow.
"The CIA is an equal-opportunity employer," said Annie, and gave her best fake smile. "Would you like to get some coffee?"
Beckett regarded her, expressionless. "The coffee shop isn't classified?"
Annie worked for a real-sounding laugh and led Beckett away. The coffee shop was definitely not classified.
Well, not above security level three, anyway.
"The mission is a simple retrieval," Joan said. "Annie and Agent Duarte of the NSA will pick up the briefcase in Helsinki and return it to us here, where the intel gained will be shared between our agencies."
The snort from the back of the room was quiet, but definitely not quiet enough. Joan turned towards the source. "You have something to add, Auggie?"
"If it's so simple, why does it require two agents?" Auggie's tone was even, but there was something about the way he was standing that was... off. In fact, Annie wasn't sure she'd ever seen him look so... however it was he was looking. "Annie could do this with her eyes closed."
"I see." Joan took a moment to work up a proper glare, even though Auggie couldn't see it. You had to hand it to the woman: she was a professional. "And what would your assessment of the relationship between the CIA and the NSA be?" she asked, and Auggie shrugged.
"Three year olds fighting over the last action figure in the box comes to mind."
"Perhaps you might want to try a metaphor that conveys more respect for your employer," Joan said, and Auggie flashed her a hard smile.
"I call em like I see em," he said, and Joan's eyes narrowed.
"Well, you're right in the sense that previous attempts at co-operation have not always been successful," she said. "Hence the relatively simple mission."
"Then why send Annie?" Auggie's voice was rising, just slightly. "If every time we've tried this before, it's been a disaster, we ought to send someone with more experience."
Ouch. Annie tried out a raised eyebrow of death of her own. Probably a good thing Auggie couldn't see it, since she had the feeling it looked more like she'd just had a stroke.
"That's not up for discussion," Joan said, practically biting the end off the sentence. "This meeting is over. Annie, you'll be leaving in an hour. Auggie, my office, now."
Auggie's face twitched, but Annie was all out of sympathy for him. Well, mostly. Mainly she was just pissed. And confused. Pissed and confused, definitely not worried. Right.
"Overhear anything good?"
One of the things that was really annoying about Auggie was that he always seemed to be able to find Annie wherever she was, whether it was the women's bathroom, the smoker's courtyard, or standing casually by the door of Joan's office because she just happened to have stopped there to think.
"I wasn't listening," she said. "I was just passing by."
"Right." Auggie tried to take her arm, but she pulled it away.
"Actually, I was waiting for you." Which was true. And if she'd accidentally been eavesdropping at the same time, well, it wasn't like she could turn her ears off, right?
"Really. Waiting for me so you could not walk with me?" Auggie pointedly flipped on his laser cane, and Annie sighed.
"That's not fair. I'm mad at you," she said, linking her arm through his.
"So I've gathered." Auggie kept sweeping the floor with the cane even as she guided him. "It seems to be going around right now."
"Well, you're kind of acting like an asshole," Annie pointed out.
"Hey, don't hold back out of respect for my feelings or anything like that," Auggie said, and Annie rolled her eyes.
"What is your problem with this mission? You can send me out to take down arms dealers and drug smugglers, but a retrieval's too risky?"
"It's not the retrieval I'm worried about," Auggie muttered. And really, that was nothing Annie didn't already know. As mad as she was – and she was definitely mad and not worried at all – she wasn't stupid enough not to notice that Auggie's weirdness had started this morning, with the NSA. Four months, she'd spoken to him almost every day, and it wasn't like she thought she had some deep psychological insight or anything, but she'd never thought that he would be so jumpy about guys who, when all was said and done, were supposed to be on their side.
"Is there something you know that I don't?" she asked, pausing at the door to Auggie's office. "I mean, this agent, Duarte or whatever his name is – you think he's going to get me in trouble?"
Auggie made a noise that could have been a laugh or a cough, or maybe just a weird sigh. "I'm sure Agent Duarte can be trusted to look after puppies, grandmothers, and newbie CIA agents. If anything, you'll be the one getting him in trouble."
"Then what? What's the problem here?"
Auggie made his way back to his desk, settling into his chair and grabbing his headphones. "Hey, get me some licorice in Helsinki, would you?" he said. "They have the salted kind."
Salted licorice. So much for deep, psychological insight. But insight took time, and Annie had a plane to catch.
Helsinki, as it turned out, was not nearly as cold as Annie thought it was going to be. Somehow she'd always missed Scandinavia on her various tours of the world, and she'd had this picture of Finland as a blasted wasteland of blizzards and howling winds, which she had to admit was pretty stupid, given that it was the middle of summer and all. All the same, the bright sunlight and generally sleeveless population was – kind of unexpected.
"I'm at the location," she said, trying not to move her lips too much. Normally she would have staked the place out from a car, but the street was pedestrianised, so she'd had to make do with a pavement cafe. She felt exposed. Kinda ridiculous, given that the guy she was meeting was supposedly on her side, but this whole thing had her on edge.
"Are you inside?" Auggie asked in her ear. "Did you get my licorice yet?"
"No, and no," Annie said, trying to remember that she was still mad. "I'm across the street, and salted licorice sounds disgusting."
"Don't knock it till you've tried it." Auggie sounded normal, and Annie decided maybe it wasn't worth staying angry after all. Maybe the whole weirdness earlier had just been a caffeine deprivation thing.
"Oh, hey," she said. "I think I see him." Black hair, broad-shoulders – from this distance, Annie wouldn't normally have made the call, except that it wasn't like there were a whole lot of Latino-looking men in this town. "He's fifteen minutes early."
"Well, the NSA does lead the community in providing effective intelligence," Auggie said. "Maybe he's just leading by example."
"Are you reading that damn website again?" Annie asked, smiling in spite of herself as she paid her cheque. Being pissed at Auggie was turning out to be a lot harder work than she'd anticipated.
"Where I come from, that's called doing research." Auggie sounded like he was smiling, too. "Call me when you've made the retrieval."
"OK," said Annie, narrowly avoiding getting knocked down by a streetcar. Europe. She'd missed Europe, in all its murderous-public-transit glory. But Europe wasn't what she was here for. What she was here for had just entered the bookstore across the street, and so that was where she was going, too.
The Spanish-language section of the store was surprisingly large, given that the nearest relevant country was more than fifteen hundred miles away. Then again, the German-language section was large, too, as were French, Russian, Swedish and English. Oh, Europe.
There was the book. Cien años de soledad: Márquez in the original. She reached out, and her fingers touched the spine at the same moment Duarte's did.
"Förlåt," she said, just as he apologised in what she presumed was Finnish, and she turned to find herself staring up into a pair of startlingly pale eyes.
"You speak Spanish?" he said, in English this time, indicating the book.
"For my husband." The code phrase felt slightly sticky in her mouth. "Is this Love in the Time of Cholera?"
"No, I'm afraid they don't have it," he said. "But I have a copy I could sell you second-hand, if you don't mind walking me to my car."
"You're too kind," she said, dropping her hand from the book and wondering if anybody overhearing would ever buy these ridiculous coded conversations. Whoever came up with them had definitely been watching too many movies from the forties. And not the good ones, either. What she wouldn't give to be Lauren Bacall for once. Which would make Duarte Bogart, she guessed. Hm. Well, he wouldn't make a bad Bogart, when all was said and done. Apparently, NSA employees were all unfairly good-looking.
"Shall we?" Duarte asked, indicating the door.
Yes, she decided. They certainly should.
Duarte walked fast. That was OK – Annie wasn't not exactly a slouch when it came to striding, especially when she was wearing three-inch heels – but she had this weird feeling like he'd really prefer it if she couldn't keep up.
"Have you been to Helsinki before?" she asked, and Duarte glanced at her, expressionless.
"That's classified," he said.
Right. Apparently inter-agency co-peration didn't extend to small talk.
"I take it you know where we're going?" she said. "Or is that classified, too?"
This time, there was a twitch around Duarte's lips that might have been a proto-smile. Or a grimace. Annie was going with smile, but then, she'd always been a little over-optimistic.
"Not classified," he said, "but probably better not to talk about it openly. We're nearly there."
Annie resisted the urge to roll her eyes and ran her forefinger over the key in her pocket. As if working with an agent who was apparently more robot than human wasn't bad enough, intel sharing apparently meant that everything had to be ten times as complicated as it had any right to be. If it hadn't been for the NSA, Annie could have been on the flight home by now, preferably with a big glass of wine. She was beginning to see why Auggie hated them so much.
"There," Duarte said. The street they were walking down opened out into a busy square, and in the middle was a building that looked more like the Soviet-era public offices that Annie had seen in Russia than anything from a Western country. An art-deco facade supported a copper-green clocktower jutting into the sky like a salute, and a row of huge stone men lined the front clutching globes of light in their granite hands.
"Railway station," said Duarte.
"Right," Annie replied. "Let's go." And this time, she made sure she was the one who was slightly ahead.
"One twenty-four." Annie slid the key into the lock and glanced behind her. Duarte was standing with his back to her, phone to his ear. Watching the crowd, and doing a pretty good job of making it inconspicuous.
"Is it in there?" he said, not looking round.
Annie swung the door open. Yep, there it was, government standard-issue titanium briefcase. Why couldn't they ever get intel in a Prada purse? Not that she would get to keep it afterwards, but Prada was Prada, even just for a few hours.
"Got it," she said, shielding her mouth with her hand. At least titanium was light. A little too light, actually. Like, as if there was nothing in there.
"Shit," she muttered, staring at the case. "It's been tampered with." She turned to scan the crowd, but no-one was moving too fast, no-one was looking their way.
"What?" Duarte's shoulders stiffened.
"Don't look round." Annie ran her fingers along the lock. "We need to regroup somewhere."
"My hotel room. Hotel Kamp, room 204. Ten minutes."
He was gone before she looked round again, and she closed the locker door and pocketed the key. A map on a nearby wall quickly directed her to the Hotel Kamp. Not so quickly, though, that she didn't have time to wonder why the NSA had got their guy a hotel room for a job that was only supposed to take a couple of hours at most. Maybe they just had expense account money burning a hole in their pockets. Or maybe there was something more going on than Annie realised.
Whichever it was, she and Agent Deadpan were going to need to have a serious talk.
"What do you mean, it's empty?"
Auggie's voice down the line was weirdly comforting, even if he did sound at least as disturbed as Annie felt. She shook her head, staring at the briefcase on the bed. The really, really nice bed. Apparently the NSA could stretch to more than an airport Radisson and a stale croissant. Maybe Annie should defect.
"The lock was broken. I have no idea when. The locker was still locked."
"Did anyone follow you?" Auggie asked, the last word coinciding with the door opening. Duarte stood in the doorway, and now he definitely had an expression. And that expression was pissed.
"I see you're not really on board with the idea of co-operation," he said.
"I'm on with my technical support," Annie said. "They might be able to help out."
Duarte raised an eyebrow. OK, now she was sure they must teach a course in that.
"We're supposed to be working together, Agent Walker," he said. "Secret phone calls don't fall under that definition."
"It's not secret," Annie said, and Duarte shrugged.
"Then you won't mind if I listen in," he said. Annie tried to think of a reason why that was a shitty idea, but nothing was forthcoming. Damn.
"Fine," she said, taking the phone away from her ear and tossing it on the bed. "Auggie, you're on speakerphone."
"That's different," Auggie said, voice a little distorted by the speaker. "Who am I talking to?"
"Agent Kyle Duarte, NSA," Duarte said, stepping forward a little.
There was a pause that was maybe a little longer than it should have been, and Annie wondered again what exactly Auggie's problem with the NSA was. "Auggie Anderson," came Auggie's voice finally, sounding muffled now, like he was talking through thick fabric. Yep, that was high-tech, top-of-the-range technology, all right.
"Nice to meet you," Duarte said. "We have a problem."
"So I've heard." Annie could hear Auggie typing already. "We're looking into it. Anything else you can tell me?"
"Nothing suspicious at the trian station, no tails, no evidence the locker door was forced," Annie said. "Can you get us some information on the nature of the intel?"
"Working on it," Auggie said, "but we have to work on the assumption that the two of you have been compromised. We'll have local agents work on the case. Annie, I'll have a new flight for you in twenty minutes. Kyle, are you able to make your own arrangements to get out of there?"
Duarte nodded. "Not a problem," he said.
"Right. I'll call you back when I know more. Stay put, and don't take any major risks."
"Define major," Annie said.
"Oh, I don't know, going back to the railway station, going after whoever took the intel yourself, running with scissors," Auggie said. "The usual."
Annie grinned, aware that Duarte was shooting her a look that could probably be characterised as disapproving. "Yes, mom," she said, and hung up.
"What?" she said. "Your tech support doesn't care if you run with scissors?"
At least there was one thing about the CIA that was without a doubt more awesome than anything the NSA had to offer.
Twenty minutes wasn't really a whole lot of time to explore a new city, but Annie figured she could at least check out the cathedral a couple of streets away and maybe try and get hold of some licorice for Auggie. Sure, he'd told her to stay put, but sightseeing didn't count as a major risk in Annie's book. Sitting around in the hotel room with Mr. NSA dwelling on the fact that she wasn't going to get to close the deal on this one, though? That was definitely major. That would end in blood or tears, or maybe both. So, candy and architecture it was.
The licorice turned out to be a little more elusive than she thought, and she was still in the elevator on the way back up to the second floor of the hotel when her phone rang.
"Your flight's leaving at three. Coach via Heathrow," Auggie said.
"Why is it always coach?" Annie said, stepping out of the elevator. "Can't the government afford to fly me business class just this once?"
"Oh, they can afford it," said Auggie. "They just don't want to let you loose on that much free booze." He paused. "Annie? You OK?"
No. Annie was not OK. More importantly, the door to Duarte's room was not OK: it was open, just slightly.
"Something's wrong," she said. "I'll call you back." Auggie's protest was cut off as she snapped the phone closed and reached out, every nerve standing to attention, pushing the door open with the barest brush of her fingertips.
Nothing happened. Annie took a breath and stepped into the doorway, scanning the room fast for assailants and then slowly for information. It was empty. Not only that, it was trashed: the counterpane was on the floor, chairs overturned, lamp smashed. No Duarte, and no briefcase.
Annie pulled her phone out again, dialling Auggie without even looking at what her hands were doing, turning slowly to take in the destruction.
"Duarte's gone," she said.
"Any signs of a struggle?" Auggie asked, all efficiency.
"Oh, yeah," Annie said. "I'd say there were a few."
"Annie, listen to me." Auggie was using his therapist voice, gentle and measured, the one he used when he was worried about her or wanted to get her to do something that was going to suck. "You need to get out of there. You've been compromised. We'll send people to help Agent Duarte, but you still need to get on that plane."
Annie opened her mouth to tell Auggie exactly where he could shove that plane ticket, but what actually came out was something between a grunt and a sigh as something heavy hit her from behind and the really, really nice carpet rushed up to meet her.
Author's note: Hey guys, I'm totally keen to hear your thoughts on this, but I'd really appreciate it if you didn't mention any spoilers for upcoming episodes of Covert Affairs in any comments you might have. Thank you!