A/N I admit I played a little bit fast and loose with the timing of these events, but no more than they did on the show.
"Rafe Gruber's a girl?"
"Perhaps you'd like me to demonstrate on you?"
"May God have mercy on your soul."
"I'm going to ask them their names."
Casey was scrubbing the house.
Rafe Gruber was gone, taken away by company transporters for whatever level of interrogation was considered necessary. Their final words hadn't been words at all, Rafe's lip, curled in an eloquent sneer, had been answered by Casey's fist. The house would be repaired, carpeting replaced, and eventually put on the market now that its purpose had been served.
That was for the long term. In the shorter term, care had to be taken that no fingerprints were left behind, no evidence for enemy agents. Not that he thought there were any out there, but the agents who lived longest were the agents who acted as if they were. He'd reviewed the tapes, made a list of all the rooms they'd ever been in, and moved methodically through each one. He even vacuumed the upstairs where they had never been, to bring down the level of dust to match the rest of the house.
Finished at last, he checked his clipboard, running down the list. Satisfied, he went to sign off. Where's my pen?
Rafe Gruber left the cuffs and the disassembled pen he'd used to open them in the back seat, and got out of the car. He went through the dead transporters' pockets, harvesting whatever resources he could before their absence became known, mostly guns and money. Taking the keys from the crashed car, he opened the trunk and got the evidence bag, and his—where was his cell phone?
He got one of the agent's smartphones, otherwise useless to him because of the tracking, and called his own number. He'd long ago disabled his own phone's tracking feature for exactly this reason, but he'd left a back door for emergencies like this. He got the equivalent of a GPS trace, and pulled up a map showing its location. Three times he did this, and three times got the same result. His phone was stationary.
He ran to it.
"Shaw!" said Casey. "I just got off the phone, Gruber's transport never arrived. Have you been in contact with Carina lately?"
Shaw called up the tracer program. "Yes, she called in once she got established in her cover."
Her cover. A penthouse suite paid for with taxpayer money. "Is she still there? I just scrubbed the house, I have no gear here."
"One moment." Shaw entered the code for Carina's watch. "I see it showing still at her hotel."
"I was afraid you'd say that. I already called her suite, she didn't pick up. You go there and check it out, hopefully she was just in the shower. I'll put out a trace on Gruber's phone."
"I thought his phone was untraceable?"
"I know a guy who can get a signal from a bran muffin, Shaw. We'll find it."
"Graboid, where are you?"
From zero to anxious, in one sentence. "I'm…at the Doctors'. Perfection's out with a friend so I came here."
"Dammit! I need you to run a trace for me. The killer's escaped and Stampede has his phone."
"Hold on, Dirtnap, I can network into the system from the Doc's computer. If he can find it so can I." He just had to somehow think like an international assassin. Sarah had often talked to him about what she so routinely did, now it was his turn to give it a try.
"So while you're under truth serum your husband asks you your real name and you say 'Sam'?"
"It's terrible, I know."
Hannah threw her folded blouse into the suitcase. "I didn't say it was terrible, and if you'll notice, neither did he. It's one of those truths that defined you when very little else did, an anchor as you leapt from one alias to another. But it's not aliases you're changing now, it's you. How can it be terrible that you have trouble letting go of something so basic? Most people never have the courage to do that, even if it's killing them."
Someone pounded on the door. "Open up!"
Rafe Gruber walked into the lobby of the hotel, checking reflexively for a trap and not seeing one. He dialed the number on the agent's stolen phone once more. Eighty feet, straight up. He headed for the elevator.
Casey's phone buzzed. "Dirtnap! I got an address for you. He disabled the tracker, but he's using a stolen phone to triangulate his own."
"Good work, Graboid," said Casey as he wrote. "I'll call Stoneface, see if he's found Stampede yet."
"Negative, Colonel. The room is clean, except for a Rolex box in the trash."
"What happened to her old watch?"
"Tracker is showing it…ten feet beyond an open window with a negative z-vector."
"They threw it out the window?"
"Looks that way, but it can't have fallen far."
"We'll get it later, Shaw. Right now get to the address I gave you."
"I'll be late."
"Better than never."
The second the door opened Carina pushed her way through, giving the diminutive brunette a hard shove for good measure. "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Rafe Gruber kicked the door in, taking the men watching and listening at the sniper's perch by complete surprise. "Who the hell are you?" one of them asked.
"Rafe," said one bullet.
"Gruber," said the other. The two men had no more questions after that.
He rang his number again, and a coat responded. He took his phone and threw the other out the open window as he looked to see what the men had been looking at. Three women in a room over a mile away, one with a gun. He picked up the head phones.
"I know who I am," said the brunette with surprising calm, "The question is, who the hell are you?"
The redhead stepped forward, gun steady. "You can call me Gruber."
A girl! A girl was pretending to be him? He searched the bodies, found keys. He had to get there now.
Sarah's eyes widened as she realized what Carina was saying. "Hannah," she whispered as loudly as she dared. When Hannah glanced her way, she murmured, "There's a sniper watching this room, and you're the target."
"What?" She looked back at Carina and the very big tube pointing her way. "Why me? I'm nobody."
Carina smirked, closing the door. "You got that right. A complete nobody." She paused, her eyes shifting from one to the other and back again. "I can't imagine why anyone would waste anything on you, much less the kind of money it takes to buy one of my bullets, but that's just the way the world is." She jerked her head around to look at Sarah. "Unfair." She pointed her gun Sarah's way casually. "You, move around here."
Sarah moved as slowly as she thought she could get away with. Any delaying tactic in a storm.
Casey ran into the lobby and stopped, phone in hand. "Graboid. Tell me you got something."
"He hasn't made a call for a while, Dirtnap. Last vector was z plus eighty feet ."
"It's a hotel."
Carina stalked over to the blonde and stuck the gun in her face. "Tell me your name!" she demanded. "Tell me your real name, right now."
Sarah stared at her wild-eyed friend, wondering what her game was. Why would it matter? "My name, my real name, is Sarah Lisa Carmichael."
A single tear ran from Carina's eye, shocking Sarah to her core. Carina never cried. "Is that the truth?" The redhead sounded almost like she was pleading.
LIAR! Carina grimaced in rage, raising her arm to swing.
The door smashed open under the force of Rafe's boot. He advanced into the room, gun raised and ready to kill everyone, but the redhead first.
Carina spun in place, bringing her gun around, far too slow.
Sarah moved to protect her friend.
A glass shattered.
Carina finished her spin, but her target was on the floor, a bullet in his brain and no threat to anyone anymore. She looked to her right, saw Sarah standing in defense of Hannah, ready to take any bullet that came her way. Carina lowered her arm, and the gun slid from her grip to thump on the floor as she just…walked away.
"Shaw," said Casey, ejecting the cartridge from the shot he'd just fired. Not a bad shot. "Head over to Mrs. Pendergast's B&B. Hannah was the target, but Gruber's down. I'll clean up here and join you later." He ran his hands over the silenced rifle and smiled, with no one to see. Today had been a good day.
The operative stood at the podium under the spotlight. "Leader, the operation is complete."
The foremost among the silhouettes responded, "What percentage of success?"
"All mission goals were accomplished, Leader."
"What was learned from these successes?"
An image of Rafe Gruber rose to the screen. "Gruber allowed his pride to overcome his professionalism, as we expected. His death was accomplished by a marksman of equal skill." The image sailed off into the recycling bin.
"Your ploy with his alias was well done."
The image of Hannah that had been placed in the operative's folder after the museum fiasco rose to the screen. "It is a sign of his disposability that his target survived. The woman Hannah is an analyst and technician of some ability, but insufficient to account for the observed reversals we have experienced so far. Plus her timeline doesn't match our observations. We believe her inclusion in the museum debacle to be a matter of proximity only. Questions are being asked, but no concern for her continued safety is being shown by higher powers. She is being dispatched to a relative backwater, most likely in an attempt to upgrade their behavior."
Another silhouette moved. "Which backwater?"
"Castle, in Burbank."
The table of Elders echoed with mild laughter. "May god have mercy on her soul."
"I think we may safely disregard this woman for the time being," said Leader. "Put her on a level two watch."
"It will be done."The operative touched the podium and Hannah's image sailed off to another folder. "We remain without a plausible explanation for the recent successes of the team which Shaw has allied himself with. The observed members are all agents, with Shaw himself the only analyst among them."
"And we all know how creative he's been these last five years." Again the table echoed with laughter. "Do we suspect a hidden analyst?"
"Of course, Leader. Someone spotted Gruber's alias, far faster than expected. But no reasonable candidates have surfaced so far."
"This is not a task for you. We will assign a longer range team to it. You will continue with your assigned task."
"Yes, Leader." Another photo started flashing, his next target, the Elders communicating their approval with a lack of criticism. "We find the behavior of Daniel Shaw to be suspicious as well."
"The mere fact that he's been a thorn in our side for five years is reason enough. The death of Evelyn Shaw should have crushed him. This level of resiliency was unexpected."
"That's because it is not resiliency. He is simply too stolid to do otherwise. We expected that any actions on his part would be thinly-veiled attempts at suicide, which we could exploit."
"Yet we have his recent successes, at the museum and elsewhere. Sharp, precise, effective. Something has changed."
A shadowed hand reached out to touch the desk, and suddenly the operative could hear nothing, as the Elders conversed among themselves. Then the hand dropped. "We agree, but this also is not a matter for you. We will take action. Something appears to have given him hope, and we cannot allow him to feel hope. Only in his pain is he useful to us."
A/N2 This is the end of the nine2five version of the misery arc. I hope that it has proven to be a less miserable experience for you than the original. I re-watched the Mask and the Fake Name for the first time in order to get the timing and whatnot right. Please leave a comment and tell me my suffering was not in vain.