A/N: This is going to be a long term project. This is a rewrite of the first fic I ever wrote which was -as many first time work's are- a complete mess. I'm going to spend the next few months pulling out the good bits and turning them into something worthy of presenting to you fine people. Also, now that I live in LA I won't butcher the city's geography like the first draft did. If you are curious and want to read the hot mess original it's archived over at the SD-1 boards. My handle over there is Ace of Dyamonds.
Hope you guys like it.
Disclaimer: I can only pretend to own them. Alas, they belong to ABC. Sue me not. I have no cash.
Chapter One: As It Is
Michael Vaughn sat at his desk, index and forefinger kneading his temples in an attempt to push the pain from his head. He'd spent the past three days in a debriefing with Jack Bristow and somehow he still couldn't grasp what his superiors were telling him.
Sydney was gone.
It hadn't happened how he had imagined it in his nightmares. She hadn't gone down in a blaze of patriotic glory. No, in fact Sydney was very much alive. A traitor. A triple the whole time.
Vaughn sat his elbows on his desk and pushed his palms hard into his forehead desperately trying to relieve the pressure. He has so many questions running through his head. How could he have been so wrong about her? How could she never falter in her performance? Had she faltered? Had he ignored it? Was he too wrapped up in the job to notice? Was he too wrapped up in her to notice? He still couldn't get around everything. Devlin had called him into his office three days ago and his whole life had been turned upside down.
"Agent Vaughn will you please take a seat?" Devlin asked him a little more distant and firm than Vaughn was used to hearing from him.
"Has Agent Bristow made contact with you in the past 72 hours?"
"No sir. I haven't received anything since we retrieved the gyroscope."
"That's what I was afraid of," Devlin replied grimly.
"Wait. What is this about?" Vaughn questioned.
"Son, you had better come with me."
Vaughn couldn't deny what he had seen after that conversation. There were two videos. The first had shown her doing a crossword puzzle at table in the food court of the Burbank mall. Vaughn had not thought anything about the video was unusual until the end of the clip. Sydney had been sitting with her back to the security monitor and Arvin Sloane came to occupy the seat across from her. The two talked for a few minutes before Sydney reached into her purse and handed him a small red cell phone. Her CIA phone. Then Sloane handed her a different envelope, which they had assumed were orders of some kind, because shortly after Sloane got up and walked away. A few minutes later Sydney stood up and tucking the newspaper under her arm walked in the opposite direction.
The next tape was the more damning of the two. It left very little to be interpreted. It was a security tape from a CIA testing lab where Sydney had stolen the Rambaldi manuscript. Her timing or those helping her had been off by a matter of seconds because the camera went dead just immediately after capturing her face.
After three days of questioning and little sleep Vaughn found himself uselessly pinned between logic and faith. This was the woman who had cried on his shoulder, trusted him with her life, and had risked her own to save him on more than one occasion. Yet, the evidence seemed irrefutable, and his superiors reminded him of every past action of Sydney's that could be deemed questionable: Badenweiler, her rogue op to Taipei, and of course the page 47 prophecy. Yet at the end of the day he refused to believe he could be so fundamentally wrong about someone. The past year and a half with Sydney had taught him two things.
Trust his instincts and damn protocol to hell.
Sydney Bristow woke with a start, her head pounding. She was handcuffed to a large wooden chair and in a bare concrete room with no windows.
Sydney groaned, half from the memory of the afternoon before and half from the ache in her head. Sloane had figured out her secret. She had been shopping at her favorite used book store when she had been paged to the front desk. The annoyed cashier had given her an envelope someone had dropped off for her and huffed that the place was not a post office. Always dubious of strange communications Sydney had immediately torn the letter open, and in the process set life altering events irreversibly in motion.
The message was from Sloane, who wanted her to meet him in the food court. It was also very clear that if she spoke to anyone between that moment and the meeting Michael Vaughn would be on the wrong end of a Sniper's bullet. Not seeing a way out she had complied, handing over her phone and following his directions to leave. She had been snatched up by the security section team in a lower parking deck. The next day she had gone ahead and stolen the Rambaldi manuscript for them.
She had no doubt the CIA now thought her to be a traitor. She had made sure that she got into the CIA compound just seconds before the security feed was cut. If the CIA thought she was a triple, then Vaughn would undoubtedly be sent through the ringer to make sure he had had nothing to do with it. It would mean that Vaughn would be safe for at least the next two days, maybe longer. She wasn't sure what would happen to her father. She had no way of knowing if his cover had been blown too. She had other things at hand.
After she'd returned from the compound with the artifact she had been knocked out. She had woken up in this room, and now she needed to focus on a way out. She was fairly certain Vaughn was safe now, and she'd be damned if Sloane used her again. It was time to think about her life now. Or what was left of it anyway.
As her vision refocused Sydney took a better look at her surroundings to size up her situation. Each arm was separately cuffed to the wooden chair where she sat. The only access to the room was from a large metal door. She could literally be anywhere. It didn't feel as if she had been out that long, but there was no way to be certain. She decided to go a step at a time. She had to get out of the room first. Then she would figure out how to get out of the building. Tossing her head back in frustration her eyes fell upon the best thing she had ever seen. A large steel air duct.
She went to work quickly. Tipping forward so she could walk Sydney shuffled up to the room's corner. Then holding the base of the chair firmly and leaning to the left she threw herself back against the wall sharply. This action earned her the satisfying crack she had hoped for. She had almost cleanly broken of the chair's back. Her hands now free Sydney placed the bottom half of the chair under the vent and proceeded to sit down and take off her shoe. Removing the laces from the shoe she tightly wound it around two of the wooden pieces broken off of the chair. She stood on the bottom half of the chair and then used the wood to loosen and unscrew the bolts on the vent's screen. She pocketed her impromptu screw driver, tucked the handcuff ends into the sleeves of her sweater and climbed swiftly into the duct. She slid carefully through, watching the rooms change beneath her. The guard station outside her room seemed to be engrossed by a game of snake on his cell phone. The noise of her escape had clearly not penetrated the large metal door.
After only a half hour of wrong turns and dead ends Syd had found her way to the street level. Since she couldn't unscrew the bolts from the inside she spent a good fifteen minutes kicking the screen out silently praying that sound would be on her side for a second time that day. Two very sore heels and several curse words later she was rewarded when the screen snapped and fell to the street with a clatter. She ran.
She couldn't call for extraction without proof that she had been coerced unless she wanted a nice glass cell next to her mother and she was sure Sloane had put a nice little spin on her "betrayal" which meant Dixon was out as well. Her father, Will and Francie were probably all under surveillance and thus also out of question. The best she could do now was lay low and give Vaughn time to find the bread crumbs she had left him. She had no money, was unarmed, and hadn't the slightest idea what part of town she was in then. Escaping had been the easy part, but now she needed safe place to spend the night. The past 24 hours had left her both physically and mentally exhausted and the pounding in her head had yet to subside.
She would try to figure things out in the morning, but for now all she needed to do was stay alive that long.