Max's Beta Note: Like with the last chapter, all I did was beta this. What you see here is from Frea and her brilliant, twisted mind. I want to thank everybody who has left a review, comment, or just gave the story a read. You guys are all awesome! And I want to say thank you to Frea as well, for letting me play in the Fatesverse, even if only for a little while. You know how much I like these characters, so thank you for sharing. It's been an awesome experience! I'll let Frea do the rest of the thanking.
Frea's A/N the First: Many thank yous in this chapter, go figure. To my glorious beta, Maximus the Awesome, thanks for coming up with this story and forcing me to write women knocking over a bank in Dubai in the least realistic way possible. You're a wonderful giver and I'm glad you're my beta. To my friend Ayefah who helped with this chapter, I bow to your awesome Wikipedia skills like I would to any true master. To others (lucky, BDaddyDL, Lindsay, Aardie, Muffin, Crumbles), you're awesome. To our readers, thanks for your patience. I hope you enjoy this final chapter of the whole two-women-who-stick-out-like-sore-thumbs-in-the-Middle-East-used-taxpayers'-money-to-live-well-above-their-means-and-also-maybe-dressed-as-strippers-before-they-robbed-a-bank-with-a-recluse-from-Siberia-helping-them-out saga.
Assault and Battery
26 APRIL 2006
FIRST PERSIAN GULF BANK
Sarah pushed the unfortunate Mr. Faisal forward, grateful they'd picked a time when most of the bank's employees were at lunch. A thousand thoughts whirled through her mind. Was Chuck's encryption package, the one that piggy-backed off of a transfer and overwrote them out of the surveillance tapes, working? Had the bank discovered it yet? How close were they to getting caught? And, most importantly of all, why the hell was Carina behaving?
She knew her friend. By now, Carina should have tried to jeopardize the mission three times. But the redhead moved behind her, looking every bit a wealthy heiress as Sarah propelled the bank employee forward. She had a gloved hand clutching the brim of her hat, the better to hide from the security cameras with. Carina believed in You show me yours, I'll show you mine, which meant that until Sarah revealed Chuck's identity—something that was never gonna happen, if Sarah had anything to say about it—Carina was keeping a firm lid on her own identity. It didn't bother Sarah in the slightest.
"The—the security deposit boxes are this way," Mr. Faisal said, a stammer in his voice, pointing when they reached an intersection in the hallway. "If you will follow me—"
"Nice try, Solnyshko," Sarah said, adjusting her grip on his shoulder as Carina snickered at the nickname. "Safety deposit boxes are the other way. March."
Mr. Faisal sighed. Sarah didn't blame him, given that the photo they'd shown him was rather explicit. The owner of the bank, also his father-in-law, was rumored to be something of a tyrant, to say nothing of Faisal's wife. Sarah didn't envy him the dressing-downs he'd be facing after this whole incident.
They made it to the safety deposit box vault without incident. Every echo made her want to cringe, but they passed nobody and soon, Mr. Faisal was fumbling for the keypad, cursing in Arabic under his breath as Carina and Sarah watched.
The light above the panel flashed green. Sarah didn't relax.
"After you," Carina said, smirking at Sarah.
Sarah knew that smirk too well to fall for it. "Why don't we go in together?" she asked in Russian. Mr. Faisal looked from one to the other, sweat dripping, and Carina laughed, tossing her head back just slightly (but not enough so that her face was visible to the cameras).
As she stepped through the door alongside Carina, pushing Mr. Faisal, Sarah caught a glimpse of a monitor down the hallway. There was a smiley face emoticon on it. Chuck was still watching over them.
She felt some of the tension ease from her spine. Carina must have noticed, for she gave Sarah a narrow-eyed look.
The safety deposit box room was remarkably unimpressive. While the areas of the bank where the customers were allowed were fancy and tastefully done, the interior of the safety deposit box vault was almost shabby. Cubby-holes, each with a thumbprint scanner, filled three of the walls from floor to ceiling. In the center of the room, there were tables, presumably for unloading some of the boxes, and Sarah didn't need to look up and see the four different cameras angled at this area alone to know that they took their security seriously. They really were doing the bank owners a favor, she determined, as Chuck's virus would also force them to update their digital security as well. Score one for the benevolence of the DEA.
Once the door shut, Carina moved to the table and began removing the contents of her purse: a small thumb drive, an envelope, and four small, plastic sheaths. Sarah shoved Mr. Faisal into the room's only chair and stood guard, her gun pointed at him. His eyes widened as Carina pulled one of the sheaths onto her thumb and headed for one of the deposit boxes.
The thumbprint scanner light went from red to green. Carina pulled open the little cubby door and let out a low whistle. "Ooh-la-la," she said.
"What?" Sarah asked.
Carina turned, holding up a pair of diamond earrings that cost more than Sarah would make in her lifetime. "What do you think? Do they bring out my eyes?"
"They're not blood-red or demonic, so no."
"Oh, don't be a bitch, Caro," Carina said, using her cover name. With a long-suffering sigh (Sarah rolled her eyes), she put the earrings back and closed the safety deposit box. "Very well, if you insist."
"Did I say anything?"
"You were giving me that look. I know that look well, you buzzkill." Carina discarded the thumb-sheath into her purse, picked up another, and hit up a second deposit box, which of course made Mr. Faisal whimper. But the redhead wrinkled her nose. "Paperwork. Uch."
"Some of it's probably important," Sarah said.
Carina shook her head. "Bor-ing."
Apparently, that broke the unfortunate Mr. Faisal. "Please, please, I have money—money of my own—I will give you whatever you want—"
Carina and Sarah exchanged looks. "Pass," Sarah said, and hauled the bank employee to his feet. "C'mon, Solnyshko, now we use one of your pretty thumbs, yes? Which one, do you think?" The last bit was directed at Carina as she nodded at the back wall of safety deposit boxes.
Carina pursed her lips and studied the row. "That one," she said, pointing.
"Good choice." Sarah dragged the sweating Mr. Faisal over. "Thumb, please."
"Please, I could make you rich, I wouldn't even tell the police—"
Though the man continued to babble, the fact that Sarah's fake gun was pressed against his temple won out, and he put his thumb against the scanner. The light once again turned from red to green. "See?" Sarah asked him. "That wasn't hard. Now..."
She chopped her free hand down on the side of his neck, calmly and efficiently knocking him unconscious. The man collapsed to the ground in a boneless pile. Sarah gritted her teeth. "Carina!"
"You were supposed to catch him."
"He got a little too handsy with stripper me. He deserves it."
Sarah continued to glare.
"Whatever," Carina said, rolling her eyes. "I'll help you move him. See what an awesome bank heist partner I am?"
"Why don't you focus on opening all of the other boxes we agreed on, and I'll move the body, hmm?"
"Buzzkill," Carina said a second time, but she moved on to the next deposit box. It had taken them nearly two weeks to collect thumb prints from each of the employees with access to the vault, and the sleeves had cost them a pretty penny to manufacture. If all went well, the bank would come to find that five safety deposit boxes had been accessed during the time when the cameras went dark, but none of them would actually be missing anything.
If it worked, it was going to be a brilliant plan.
Their desired box was the fourth one Carina opened. Sarah watched the other woman out of the corner of her eye as she swiftly replaced a small envelope and a thumb drive inside the box and closed the little door. "What's your favorite number?" Carina asked as she studied the left wall of the room.
A sequence of eight numbers flashed through Sarah's mind, but she said, "Twelve" because that seemed like as good a number as any.
"Good choice." Carina used the final sleeve to open safety deposit box number twelve. "Uh...you might want to see this."
"We're not actually taking anything from that box. Close it and let's get out of here before we're caught."
"No, seriously, you need to see this."
Sarah sighed and crossed the room to her partner. "What on earth could be so important that—holy hell. Is that..."
"Yeah. Yeah, pretty much."
Sarah stared at the severed hand, perfectly preserved, inside the box. Even as most of her wanted to recoil, the analytical spy side of her brain pointed out that the cut was perfectly surgical, which meant that somebody skilled had sliced off the hand.
"Do we even want to know?" Carina asked.
Before Sarah could think of a reply, all of the lights on the thumbprint scanners began to flash at once, making both women jump. The lights went from green to red and back, three times short, three times long, three times—
"Crap, that's SOS, we're blown," Sarah said, and headed for the door. Adrenaline began to flood through her system, making the weird severed hand in the box very much not her problem anymore. She wiped the gun of her fingerprints and tossed it in the wastepaper basket, as having a theater prop would do nothing but get her shot. Carina followed a few seconds later, doing exactly the same thing. "Ready?"
"Let's do this."
They'd discussed every contingency—and Sarah had reviewed each four times to make sure there weren't any loopholes for Carina—so when Sarah hit the door, she made a left. It led deeper into the belly of the bank and the guards wouldn't expect that from them.
Ahead of them in the hallway, there was a screen mounted on the wall. It flashed with a smiley face icon, and Sarah understood: Chuck had taken it upon himself to guide them out. He was supposed to be removing all traces of his hacking from the bank systems. She should yell at him for that, but she couldn't help but feel relief. She had an ally again.
"This way!" she said, running toward the screen.
"How the hell do you know that—oh." Carina spotted the screen herself, for she fell silent. They were unarmed, carrying stolen property through the middle of a bank, and to make matters worse, they were dressed very, very obviously. This was not going to be an easy escape.
The hallway hit a T-junction. Sarah skidded to a halt, looking about, and spotted the screen with the smiley face to her right. She took off in that direction.
"You must really, really trust this guy," Carina said. Behind them, they could hear shouts as the rest of the bank became aware that there were intruders.
"He's the best at what he does," Sarah said. They hooked a left at the next corner.
"Who the hell is he?"
"I heard him call himself Mr. Wizard once. Does that help?"
"You don't even know who Mr. Wizard is." Carina sounded disgusted. "And for the record, I'm not calling Bunker Boy that."
"Suit yourself." Sarah took a corner too sharply, a glancing blow to the shoulder, and winced as she continued to sprint. At least Carina was the only one who'd seen that, and Sarah could always bring up the myriad times Carina had slipped up on missions if the redhead was going to taunt her for making such a rookie mistake. "I think he'd actually prefer Mr. Wizard to Bunker Boy."
"So I'll call him Bunker Boy forever. Got it."
"Whatever." They rounded a corner and Sarah had only a split-second to read the screen on the wall, which read "DUCK!" in huge letters. She threw herself forward into a roll even as Carina slid toward home plate, and two security guards rounded the corner. They only had time to look down at the women before Sarah hit the first with a low kick to the side of the knee. Carina disabled the second by sweeping his legs out from under him and elbowing him viciously in the temple.
Wordlessly, they grabbed the two Jericho handguns and kept running. The next screen said, "Niiiiiice" before it flashed to a smile, leading them further into the labyrinth of tunnels.
Carina rolled her eyes at that one, but Sarah noticed that she didn't actively complain.
"Now's where it gets fun," she said when they finally arrived at the location they'd marked as Destination Echo. "You first."
"No, no, I insist, after you."
"Now's not the time to get polite, golubka. In you go." Sarah grabbed the chute at waist-height in the wall and pulled it open with a firm yank. There was a kitchen underneath the bank and they sent their dirty linens through a laundry chute—an oversight in the blueprints that Sarah and Carina were very much looking forward to exploiting. Sarah grabbed a handful of Carina's dress and shoved her friend inside, practically leaping in behind her. She whirled and pulled the chute door closed.
Just in time, too. The minute the door slid shut, two guards rounded the corner and raced by. Carina and Sarah froze. Sarah didn't dare so much as breathe, though her heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears, so loudly that it amazed her that the guards couldn't hear it.
They ran past, none the wiser, and Sarah breathed again. She nudged Carina with her shoulder.
"Should've known you wanted me to go first so you could check out my ass," Carina said.
"What can I say? I'm completely transparent to you." Sarah rolled her eyes.
"Uh," Carina said after a minute of crawling. "If this is for linens, shouldn't there be, like, a drop?"
"Dammit, you're right." Sarah wracked her brain, but she couldn't remember an extensive tunnel of ducts in the blueprints. Otherwise she would have memorized that sucker. "Dammit," she said again. "I'm not sure how to get us out of here."
"Well, we might as well go forward." Carina gave a bouncy little shrug and began to crawl again. "Any bright ideas?"
"Start counting feet. Let's see how much of that spatial relations training from the Point stuck."
"Aye-aye, Captain Walker." Carina tossed her a salute, and they crawled on through the ducts, occasionally pausing to sneeze or reconsider. It was dusty and cramped, but Sarah had been through worse at Quantico alone, so she didn't complain, not even when it felt like the metal walls around her were beginning to close in.
That, however, did not stop Carina. "This is ridiculous," she said, crawling forward on her elbows and knees.
"Just keep moving," Sarah said, and tried not to think about how close everything felt now, and how little oxygen there seemed to be in the ducts.
"Can't Bunker Boy do something about this?"
"Do what, Carina? He's got no way to reach us in here."
"If he really was the magical Mr. Wizard you say he is, he'd have come up with a solution by—oh, never mind, I take it back. Remind me to buy Bunker Boy a drink."
"What?" Sarah raised herself up, but she couldn't see anything but Carina. "What is it?"
"There's an access panel ahead and the lights are blinking. Morse code. Clever."
"What's he saying?" Morse code. That was Chuck through and through. Sarah couldn't help but be impressed.
"Hold your horses, Walker, I'm trying to—make a left." Carina said the words very slowly, and Sarah was grateful for all of the times their instructors had pounded learning Morse code into their heads in training. "Fifty feet ahead, turn right. There is a slide—a slide? Seriously?"
"That was how we were getting out of here originally, wasn't it?" Sarah asked.
"I hate this whole day," Carina said. "But according to your tech wizard, the slide leads out to street level. I don't even want to know what it's used for. Ready to go?"
"Wish there was a way to get a message back to him."
"Keep it in your pants, Walker." Carina sounded amused as she began to shuffle forward, making the left at the access panel as instructed. "I have to hand it to him, though. This deserves at least a handjob."
"Don't be crude, Carina."
"Aw, but then how will you know I'm serious?"
"I'll manage," Sarah said, her voice completely dry. Crawling the fifty feet, knowing that they might make some noise to alert security to their presence, made sweat ooze between her shoulder blades, but she pushed herself forward, gritting her teeth. Finally, they reached the junction Chuck had instructed them to find, and Carina made the right turn—and vanished.
Sarah nearly shouted. Her limited night vision showed an abrupt decline with no warning. It was a miracle that Carina hadn't even so much as shouted. Sarah swore under her breath, maneuvered so that she would go down feet first, and let herself drop.
It was nothing at all like a playground slide. After all, those were slow, short, and usually used in broad daylight. It was pitch black, leaving Sarah with nothing but the sharp feeling of acceleration in her belly and the heat of the slide at her back. She wriggled, trying to slow her descent even as she counted in her head.
No such luck. At twelve seconds, she crashed feet-first into Carina.
Both women stilled. The slide had deposited them in some kind of collection bay. Sarah couldn't precisely tell what sort of room it was, actually, save that it was small—she couldn't rise to her full height—and there was only a single exit to the right through a low doorway. Sunlight streamed in from the doorway and from grates in the wall directly ahead of them, which, along with the stifling heat, told her they were close to the outside wall.
She eyed the exit and then the grates. With a shrug, Carina grabbed a multitool from her purse and set to work on the screws holding the grate covers to the wall. They had no idea what could be waiting for them around that corner, but if they climbed through the grate, they had at least the element of surprise, what little that mattered with only the stolen guns and their faces bared for the world to see.
"Got it?" Carina asked, and Sarah wrapped her fingers in the vent slits on the grate, nodding. "This is the last screw. Are you sure?"
"I've got it. Get on with it."
"Pushy, pushy. You know, if this works…"
"Worry about that later. Unscrew now."
"I wish that was 'screw now.'"
"Trust me, I got that memo. A month ago."
Carina finally finished with the last screw and it nearly sliced Sarah's fingers to ribbons to hold onto the grate, but she kept her grip. She lowered it minutely for Carina to get a good look outside. "What do you see?" she asked.
"Loading bay. Lunch break's still in effect. We might actually have a chance."
"You go first. I'll cover you," Sarah said. She counted to three before she lowered the grate. The redhead slithered through, propping her hat on her head like a proper lady. When she looked over her shoulder to nod at Sarah, the spy followed.
Heat hit like a fist. "Next mission, we're going to a temperate climate," Sarah said between her teeth as they headed into the bay full of bank vans and trucks. Since they had no idea if the bank had regained use of its security cameras, they tried to avoid most of the cameras in the bay, but it wasn't easy.
Even worse than that was the fact that to get out of the bay, they had to go by a guard's way-station.
"Ideas?" Sarah asked as they crouched behind a truck, eyeing the three guards inside the office.
"Fine. You do the can-can, I'll do the Charleston, and we get by on our wits?"
Sarah decided it was better for both if she just tuned Carina out. She crouched out of the range of the cameras, watching the guards. One was barking into his phone while the other two typed away frantically at their computer terminals. As she watched, the one on the phone slammed the receiver down and gestured emphatically at his cohorts.
They all tumbled out of the booth, taking off running the direction opposite Carina and Sarah.
"Uh," Carina said. "What just happened?"
Sarah needed only to see that the computer terminals now all bore smiley faces. "Looks like Mr. Wizard struck again," she said, and grabbing Carina's arm, hauled her friend out of there. They hurried out of the bank and wasted absolutely no time blending into the midday foot traffic on the street outside.
It took nine blocks for Sarah's heart to finally stop racing. They'd done it. Now she just had to get them to the new hotel in one piece before Carina got bored and double-crossed her.
26 APRIL 2006
DAYS INN HOTEL
Carina finally collapsed back onto one of the room's double beds with a sigh. "It ain't the Desert Jewel, that's for sure," she said, eyeing the accommodations somewhat disdainfully—which was more than a little unfair, Sarah felt, as they'd nearly frozen to death in a hovel outside of Anchorage for a mission a year before. Compared to that dung-hole, anything with room service was considered high class.
Granted, they'd just spent the past month living like queens in one of Dubai's finest hotels, so maybe Sarah should go a little easier on her partner. She rose and headed over to where they'd stashed a bottle of champagne in the room's cheap ice bucket. "What time is our flight out in the morning?" she asked.
"Early, but I don't care. You're not the only one who wants to escape this hell, Walker."
Sarah grabbed a washcloth to pop the bottle. "Where to next?"
"I dunno. Wherever the DEA wants to send us on our first mission."
"Wait, first mission?" Sarah swiveled in place, eyes narrowed. "We just finished our first mission, Carina. Damn near flawlessly, if I do say so myself."
The redhead at least had the grace to wince as she slowly sat up. "Yeah, about that…"
Sarah's sense of danger began to beep in the back of her head. "Carina," she said, glaring.
"This may not have entirely been a DEA-sanctioned mission. Just so you know. I mean, they would have sanctioned it." Carina thought about it. "If they knew."
Sarah set the bottle of champagne down with an audible clunk. "Carina," she said a second time. She'd gotten Chuck's help on an unsanctioned mission. If he got in trouble because of this… "What did you do?"
"Relax, Walker, it's totally fine."
"I'm going to kick your ass."
"You could try."
"It wasn't just me this time, Carina!" Sarah whirled on her friend, anger actually making the edges of her vision sparkle with white. "Dammit, my contact—"
"Is in no trouble whatsoever. Geez, what do you think I am, a rookie? I cleared it, sorta, with my boss. Nothing's gonna blow back on any of us, Walker." Carina rolled her eyes again, and it made Sarah want to kick her in the face. She refrained only because the hotel room was too nice and she didn't want to try and find a new place after they destroyed this one. They were supposed to be flying under the radar.
So she took a deep breath, and another. When she spoke, her voice was so eerily calm that Carina eyed her. "So what was it, then? What was in that vault that we retrieved?"
"Oh, some pictures." Carina waved a flippant hand.
"Pictures of what?" Sarah forced the words out through gritted teeth.
Carina stared at her for a long time. "Wow, you're really pissed."
"Look, somebody got some…incriminating pictures of me a few months ago."
This time it was Sarah's turn to stare, and stare, and to keep staring when that failed to register. It finally did, though it took a minute for the full implication of everything to hit her. She groaned and sat down hard on the edge of the bed.
"Oh, my God!" she said. "Carina, that's—that's it? Incriminating photos? For God's sake, I have incriminating photos of you from New Year's! Most of the DEA probably does, too."
"Really?" Carina tilted her head. "What of? Was it me with the blond? Because I can explain that. He was just trying to—"
"I am not hearing this," Sarah said as she got to her feet and stalked toward the door.
"I thought friends had each other's backs."
"To the point of robbing a bank in Dubai for some pictures? Carina—"
Carina grabbed her arm, stopping her before she could head for the door. "Look," she said. "If those pictures get up the chain, it's—it's bad, okay? I needed somebody I could trust."
For a long time, Sarah met her friend's eyes, but she was furious, so angry that the edges of her vision were still quaking and she could feel her hands trembling. She might not have minded if it was just her—Lord knew she was in enough trouble with the CIA over the fallout with Bryce—but for Carina to drag Chuck into it was just too much.
Even so, she recognized that look on her friend's face. Carina was being completely sincere, for once.
"Dammit," Sarah said for the fiftieth time that day. "I hate you."
Carina relaxed. "I hate you, too."
"I'm going to go. I need to cool off. These pictures had better mean as much to you as you say they do."
"Scout's honor, Walker."
"Shut up," Sarah said, and stalked out of the room.
She took a minute in the hallway to compose herself, collect her temper, rein her anger in. Whatever was in those photos was deathly important to Carina, so it must be something huge. But she did not like being lied to, when she had stuck her neck—and Chuck's neck, too—out for her friend. It hurt, like a knife to the ribcage.
She wanted most of all to call Chuck and vent her anger to him, but the orders were clear: once the mission was completed, there was to be no contact. She was considered DEA property, he was CIA, they were done.
Sarah didn't like that. She didn't like knowing that Chuck had saved their asses—for an unsanctioned mission—without hearing a single word from them. And she wanted to call him and thank him, or apologize or something, but there were orders, and the last time she had unwittingly broken those orders, there had been severe consequences.
Still, she found herself pulling out her phone and sending a simple message to his email. Two words: thank you. It was enough to keep her out of trouble, she thought, as there wasn't a hidden code or anything the bosses would frown upon.
It made her feel calmer, at least. It wasn't much, but she'd learned to make do with what she had. He was probably asleep now, but he'd get it in the morning, and he'd know things were okay. It was enough for now. As she was heading off to take her walk, though, her phone chimed with a reply email.
It was just as simple: a smiley face from Chuck. Silly, Sarah thought, that three little characters put together in that order could drain every ounce of anger she felt toward Carina away. God, she was a goner.
She put the phone away and headed back to the hotel room, head clearer. Carina looked surprised to see her there, but the other woman held up a glass of champagne. "That was quick, Walker," Carina said. "No, sorry. That's wrong. That was quick, Sarah."
"I got over it," Sarah said, and took the champagne with a nodded thank you. "But don't you ever pull something like that again."
"Oh, fine," Carina said. She let out a long, melodramatic sigh. "Have we made up yet?"
"After you show me these pictures, yes."
"Very well. But first, a toast. To us, the baddest badass spies on the planet."
"To us," Sarah said, and clinked her glass to Carina's.
Frea's Final A/N: To everybody along the way and everybody to come, and all of the wonderful people in between: thank you. It's as simple and as complex as that. Also, did you really think I'd really leave the Fatesverse without the Castle Slide making an appearance?