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Chuck went back to his room after the meeting, he was fine-tuning his plan, thinking every move out. He thought about every possible scenario, every way this could wrong, and go right. Who was he kidding?
There were a million ways it could go wrong, only one way it could go right. That was just the way it was with all missions. If there was a fraction of an error, God only knew what could happen.
That was the life he lived, the life he'd chosen. He knew the rules: eyes open, ears up, guns cocked. It was 90% preparation, 10% chance. Although chance had a habit of increasing its percentage in the most unsettling of ways.
His plan was risky, but if it worked, they'd have this case solved by the time the day was over. Chuck wasn't an amateur, he knew the consequences of the slightest of mistakes. He knew it all too well.
He looked at his watch. The clock was ticking. In less than ten minutes, Casey's class would be over and then it would be go time.
Spies, by nature, hated surprises. Their base instincts took over when they were surprised. A lesson learned the hard way when Morgan insisted on throwing Casey a surprise birthday party. The Colonel had heard footsteps and walked into his door with a Bazooka ready to go.
Chuck knew that if he was going to catch the mole or moles, he was going to have to surprise them, catch them off their guard.
But spies, by nature, were always on their guard. They kept guns on them at all times, and were always prepared to use them. To truly surprise them, first you had to make them truly comfortable.
Chuck smiled to himself. It had been a while since he'd been involved with combat. It was going to be fun.
Sarah, she told herself. Your name is Sarah. If anyone asks, you're from a small town in Washington. You know nothing. You know nothing.
She was surprised at how strong her muscles were becoming, how quick her reflexes were growing and how distant she began to feel from her old self. She smiled ironically, thinking that spies were almost trained to develop split personality disorder. They were trained to be two or three people at once. She figured that somewhere along the line, it got hard to keep track.
Center yourself, she said. Being Sarah Walker does not mean losing Samantha Lisa…
An announcement over the PA system interrupted her thoughts:
"Attention, students! We're having a picnic in two hours on the West Wing Lawn. Dress comfortably and be prepared to have fun."
Picnic? They were training to be CIA agents, and they were having a picnic? Was this some kind of training exercise? Did she need to bring a knife? A gun? A flashbang grenade? Or was she just being crazy?
She knew she always needed to be on her guard. This had to be some kind of test, right?
Or maybe she was being paranoid. Maybe it really was a picnic. But this was the government, nothing was ever as it seemed.
It had to be a test. Still, they'd said to be prepared to have fun. She then wondered what she was supposed to wear to a picnic.
Casey's class had just ended. She wasn't going to lie, she actually enjoyed combat training. Finally she had a healthy way to express all of her emotions: beat the hell out of something or someone.
Who knew hand to hand combat could be so therapeutic? She thought about asking the Colonel about the picnic, but somehow that just didn't seem like a plausible course of action. She laughed at herself. She was starting to think like a spy. Chuck had said it would start before she knew it. Soon, it would be second nature.
Honestly, she couldn't wait to be a real agent. It was like her life would finally start. She could travel, see the world, be anyone she wanted to be. Well, technically, she'd be who the CIA told her to be. Still, whoever she was, she was confident it'd be a step up from the jailbird's daughter.
She was packing up her gym bag, getting ready to go change when she heard footsteps. She almost expected it to be Chuck. She'd gotten used to running into him on a constant basis. But it wasn't. It was Carina.
"Walker," she said with a smile. She'd started calling Sam by her cover because she needed to get used to people calling her that.
"Carina, hey. I was just getting ready to get cleaned up for the picnic. Although, I didn't expect a picnic at spy school."
Carina shrugged. "It's a kind of a tradition. Do something to let loose before the real training."
Sam's eyebrows went up. "The real training?"
Carina nodded. "What you've been doing so far, karate, bomb making, code-cracking, that's child's play. It's about to get down and dirty. Torture training, poison endurance, how to kill someone with a candle wick. It's about to get real. So the picnic is kind of your last taste of fun. Enjoy it, because this time next week, you won't remember what fun feels like. But I was looking for Casey. Need to talk to him about a knife fight."
"He said he was going to the armory."
"Figures. Ok, thanks." Carina turned to leave. "Oh, and Walker? Try to have a good time tonight."
Sam smiled as she watched Carina walked away. The spy's words had calmed her. So this really was just a fun thing? She could relax. Maybe chat with Chuck a little. Wait, they were supposed to be staying away from each other.
She told herself not to think about the kiss. Under no circumstances was she to think about the kiss. Her mind went all fuzzy if she even thought about thinking about it, so she was determined not to think about it.
But she was learning, her resolve wasn't as strong as she wished it was. Hopefully the picnic would be the perfect thing to distract her. For once, everything would be exactly as it seemed. But the moment that thought struck her, she doubted. This was, after all, the CIA. Nothing was as it seemed.
"Are they ready?" Chuck whispered into his comm.
"Ready and awaiting orders," Casey said back.
"Tell them to keep waiting. Wait until almost everyone is relaxed. Wait, until they couldn't possibly see it coming."
A picnic at Camp Peary? Such nonsense was unheard of. If Chuck had been anything other than the brilliant spy behind the ruse, he would've scoffed and questioned just who the Directors had running the place.
The whole thing looked picturesque. Recruits tossing around a Frisbee, a strong breeze wafting through, making everything pleasant and delightful, lemonade all around. No one in their right mind would suspect that this was a secret training facility for spies. Then again, that was the whole point.
Chuck walked around, talking pleasantries with recruits and fellow agents. Just like Bryce did. Just like Carina did. Just like Morgan did. Just Casey did. Just like Mary did. Today was the time to blend. Today was the time to slip off the cover for a moment and watch.
So watch they did. And two hours in, the sun was blazing high above them, giving Chuck a headache. Strong sunlight still bothered him sometimes. Even with his dark glasses slipped on, it still brought back the horrific memories he was trying to suppress.
Suddenly, he could hear everything. All the noises, all the laughter, the sights and sounds were suddenly too much. It was like it had been amplified a thousand times over right next to his ears.
He walked briskly away from the crowd, not fast enough to cause alarm, but he had to get away from there for a few seconds, just to breathe away from the ruckus.
When it was just him, surrounded by nothing but silence, he took a deep breath. He wondered what else besides peace of mind Cairo had stolen from him. His sleep was restless and perturbed. His senses were overactive, his brain never seemed to calm down, and he still didn't have Volto.
Suddenly, he wanted a cigarette. He sighed. He'd quit ages ago after his mother had caught him smoking and threatened him with things he was sure the Geneva Convention had outlawed.
But sometimes, at his most stressing moments, the craving would return. And there it was again now. He ran his fingers through his hair. He sat down in the grass and tried not to think. He didn't want to think about Cairo or Volto. He sure as hell didn't want to think about his father being in danger. And he didn't want to think about…
"Hi," a voice interrupted his non-thoughts. He turned his head to see Sam, eh, Sarah Walker standing in a floral sundress, the sun lighting up her hair, holding two cups of lemonade. "I know we're supposed to be avoiding each other, but I saw you walk away and I thought something might be wrong. So I followed you on the pretense of bringing you a glass of lemonade."
Chuck smiled and took the cup she extended. "Very clandestine," he remarked.
"Well," she said in a conspiratorial whisper. "I am a spy, in training, at least."
Without thinking, she sat down beside him. "So are you all right? You seem, I don't know, troubled."
Chuck shrugged. "Fine. Nothing an hour with the punching bag won't cure, and maybe some Johnnie Walker."
Sam shook her head. "I prefer vodka, but that's just me."
He laughed feeling more and more at ease. "So are you enjoying the picnic at Peary?"
"A little bit. Not what I expected at a place where they train Navy Seals."
"What can I say? Every once in a while, you've got to make to just sit back and smell the roses. I know that's a horrible and tired cliché. But it's nonetheless true. We live in a flash world, us secret agents. One day, we're one person, the next someone else. A few moments of contemplation are priceless."
She smiled, happy just to have someone to talk to again. "But we can't stay like this for long, can we? Because as quick as they come, those moments are gone, and we have to get ready to go assassinate a terrorist or rescue a prisoner of war."
He nudged her. "You catch on quick for a recruit. We have to be combat ready at all times. So get you used to the feeling of cold steel against your skin. Sidearms are to spies what wallets are to civilians, I suppose."
She nodded, she understood everything she was giving up for this job. The life of a CIA officer was a life of sacrifice. You forfeited the right to a normal life. Not that she knew anything about being normal.
"Do you ever wish you were a civilian? You ever wish you had a normal life?"
Chuck started. No one had ever asked him that. Everyone figured they knew the answer. His parents, his friends, his team, they would've all considered it unnecessary. After all, being a spy was who he was.
"I did once," he answered after a long pause.
"I realized that my existence is only reason there's such a thing as a civilian. I do what I do so everyone else out there can live the American Dream. I'm out there, blocking the bullets they don't know are coming at them. I protect the only thing worth protecting: liberty." She watched him as he spoke and she knew he believed every word he'd just uttered.
"I guess that was my lesson for today. Why what we do is so important."
He nodded. "Never forget it. You're protecting liberty. You are, for all intents and purpose, a freedom fighter."
She smiled at him. "You sound like you've given that speech before."
He shook his head. "Nah, just heard my father give a trillion times. You've got to really believe in this to be able to do it. You're going to be asked to do things that in your past life, you wouldn't have dreamt of. And you can't question it."
"Pull trigger first, worry about it second, huh?"
"That's it in a nutshell. And my advice: don't count how many times you do."
"Don't see people, see marks," she said, echoing her father. "My dad taught me that."
He smiled at her. "So did mine." They held each other's gaze for a long time, and Chuck couldn't believe how natural it felt to be in her presence. She was beautiful, and her head was filled with dreams about saving the world.
He only wished there was a way to teach her about the downside of this job. But his watched beeped, recalling to his mind that he had a mission to focus on.
He cleared his throat, cheeks coloring slightly. "Well, we really should be getting back," he told her as he stood up.
She smiled, slightly disappointed. "You go ahead. I'm gonna stay and enjoy the quiet for a bit."
He gave her a knowing smile. Here they stood, in their own private purgatory, not moving back and unable to move forward. And he didn't even know what they would be moving forward to. After the Farm, God knows where Langley would assign them, most likely to opposite poles of the Earth. After the Farm, he might never see her again.
How many times am I going to have to walk away from her? And why does she have this effect on me? She's a recruit, she's a trainee. She's everything I can't have. I thought my resistance was stronger than this. But I don't to seem to have any when it comes to her.
Chuck had been trained to withstand the effects of hundreds of poisons, toxins, truth serums, hallucinogens and memory-erasers, but when it came to Sam, well nothing in his training had ever prepared him for this.
And bigger things were happening. His eyes met the Colonel's. A slight nod passed between them. That could only mean one thing: go time.
He locked eyes with Bryce and repeated the gesture again, then Jill, then Carina, then Morgan, and finally Mary. They all knew what was about to go down.
Chuck got that familiar tingling sensation when knew a mission was about to get hot. He could feel it his bones, his body flooding with adrenaline in preparation for what was to come.
He watched the backfields shift and change, something someone with untrained eyes would've easily missed. It was coming. It was coming.
If you knew what to look for, you could spot the telltale signs of an ambush. But the recruits didn't know, at least they weren't supposed to at the moment.
All at once, guns were firing, armor-clad footmen were rushing into the picnic. It was clearly an attack. It rushed right by Chuck, who didn't move. He didn't move, he didn't yell in his comm for backup. He stayed stock-still, watching every move, every instant.
Most of the recruits, as expected, went into total panic: running, throwing things, and yelling for their instructors. Some, like Greta Arkin, went immediately into combat mode. In moments, she'd taken out two of the ambushers, and was getting ready to come down on a third.
Chuck had expected that from her. But what he didn't expect was Shaw, laying down an uppercut that only Green Berets were taught. He didn't expect him to know how to deflect a knife with one hand, and then punch it out with the other.
His moves, his combat skill was straight out of the Marines handbook. The only problem was he wasn't supposed to know them yet.
Chuck's jaw dropped, as he watched the young recruit lay down several of the nation's best combaters. He looked just past him, and he could see Bryce, equally intense, watching him too.
Across the field, Carina was genuinely shocked for maybe the third time in her entire life. Young Eve Pratt had just put a guy twice her size in a sleeper hold. "Holy shit," she whispered. The girl could kick ass. Question was who had taught her that?
"Chuck," Carina said into her comm. "I think I've got one."
"Shaw?" Chuck asked.
"No, Eve Pratt. Wait, what about Shaw?"
"I think he's one too."
"Goddamn, two of them?"
"Look's that way."
"What about the rest of them?" Morgan asked.
"Running around like chickens with their heads cut off," Casey said in mild disgust. "You'd think that at least some of them would attempt to fight back. They have been training for a while now."
"Casey, it's a fucking Navy SEAL ambush," Bryce said dryly. "Keep your eyes peeled."
But the majority of the recruits were running around in mass confusion, not knowing where to look or where to go. Once the trainers had ascertained that only two of these were not like the other, Chuck called the SEALs off. He then sounded a bear horn.
"Attention, recruits of Camp Peary! Don't be alarmed. This was merely a test. A test of your ambush readiness. And from the looks of it, we've got a lot of work to do. Rule number one: always be on your guard. You're supposed to be combat ready at all times. And that was far from it. None of you even thought to bring a weapon?"
Chuck faked disappointment, but in truth, he didn't expect them to react differently. His speech was merely to quell any alarm raised in the suspected moles. "Okay, we can eat now," he told them. "But remember, you're in training at all times. Be prepared for anything."
He watched Shaw and Pratt exchange a quick glance. Chuck looked at them. They were just kids. They had the rest of their lives ahead of them, and somehow, someway Volto had gotten to them? It was a damn shame. They were traitors, and they were practically still in diapers. He laughed to himself, realizing this job was aging him. He was only twenty-two, and he viewed them like eight year olds.
He walked over to Jill. "What's our next move," she asked while she pretended to sip a Coke.
"We're going to wait to the picnic is over, 'til everyone's heading back to their dorms. Then we'll grab them and see what they know."
"You're sure it's them?"
"Well, let's just say I'm positive it's no one else. But I still don't have the first damn clue as to how they're collecting their intel. But, I'm going to find out."
"If they don't talk, what can we do? Are we authorized to…persuade them?"
"Jill, according to the United States Government, you and I don't exist. The Farm doesn't exist. And last time I checked, the Geneva Convention has no authority over non-existent places."
Jill smiled. "Very true, Agent Carmichael. Very true. It's a damn shame. They're just kids."
"So were we. We got recruited when we were much younger than them. Thank God it was for the right side. For now, have a little fun. When the sun goes down, we get to work. Tell everyone the plan."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
The picnic dispersed quickly after the ambush. The recruits were now more on edge, more alert than ever. Which was a good thing, Chuck admitted to himself. And it was a bad thing. He knew once you started looking over your shoulder, you never stopped. You never could afford to stop. You never knew who you could trust.
Chuck knew the next few nights would be sleepless ones. He hated what he knew he was going to have to do to these kids, and he hated them for making him have to do it. He poured himself a glass of scotch, reminding himself that he once possessed infallible nerves.
Casey knocked and walked in at the same time. "Bartowski, we're ready. We've got them both."
Casey shrugged. "This ought to be fun."
"No water-boarding, Casey. We'll interrogate them, question them. And only if we absolutely have to, then we'll use force."
"Chuck, these kids are damn Volto spies. You really think questioning them will work? By now, Volto has bled all the humanity out of them. The only way to deal with that is pain, pure and simple."
"Let's just see how the interrogation goes first. And I'll handle it."
"It's your op, Team Leader."
Casey and Chuck walked out of the dormitories and passed most of the training rooms. Where they were going wasn't a place for students, you had to have a Level 6 clearance just to know it existed. The Farm's black site was a place Chuck had hoped he wouldn't have to visit during his stay, but that hope was going unfulfilled.
He and Casey were the last to arrive. The rest of the team stood in front of the one-way mirrors watching the detainees.
Chuck picked up their files. "They ask any questions yet?"
Carina nodded. "Pratt has got that innocent act down. She almost seems scared, wants to know why she's here, if she's done something wrong. She's all wide-eyed and flustered, like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Devil in disguise, I'm telling you."
"Silent as the grave," Bryce commented. "Hasn't said more than two words since he got here, except to ask about Pratt. Something tells me they have a connection."
"That could be very useful," Chuck commented. "All right, let's do it. Larkin, you're my wingman. We'll start on Shaw. Carina, Jill, take Eve. In a few hours, we'll switch."
"What about us?" Morgan asked, pointing to himself and the Colonel.
"Wait until I need you. Casey knocking their heads against the wall isn't going to get us anything…yet."
"And you and Larkin playing Good Cop/Bad Cop is going to get us nowhere first," Casey deadpanned. The Colonel wasn't one for mind games. His favorite kind of interrogations involved blowtorches.
Chuck and Bryce entered the interrogation cell where Shaw sat, twiddling his thumbs, feigning an aura of nonchalance. He looked them dead in the eye, as if he had nothing to hide, almost fearless.
Chuck sat down opposite Shaw and Bryce sat next to Chuck. They gave him an once-over and then began trying to feel him out. "You want to tell us why we're here?" Bryce asked all too casually.
Shaw purported a perfectly innocent look. "I was hoping you could do that, sir. I've no idea why I'm here."
Bryce and Chuck exchanged a glance. This kid was textbook Volto: deny everything.
"Okay, we'll do it your way," Chuck said. He pulled a surveillance photo from a while. "You want to tell us how you knew this uppercut?" The photo showed Shaw effectively taking out an experienced Navy SEAL with an effective punch, taught only by Marines.
Shaw shrugged. "My training."
Bryce scoffed. "With your training, you shouldn't even know the name of this move; let alone how to accomplish it so effectively."
"I watch a lot of Bruce Lee."
Chuck rolled his eyes. "Ok, let's cut the crap. You know why you're here. And so do we. So, let me just ask: are you Whalebone or Albatross?"
Shaw's eyes widened slightly, and he shifted in his seat ever so slightly.
Chuck smiled. "You still haven't gotten rid of all your tells. So, what's the plan here? Take over Camp Peary from the inside out?"
"I've no idea what you're talking about. I came here to train, to serve my country. One second you're talking martial arts, the next you're talking fish. I have no idea what the hell is going on. Is this part of my torture training?"
Bryce had had enough. "We know you're Volto."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Chuck folded his hands across the table. "We could play this game all day, all night. Go back and forth until the sun comes up, and it won't change the facts. And the facts are: You're blown. I can't believe a trained Volto agent couldn't see a setup from a mile away. I mean, a picnic at an espionage training facility? That didn't scream foul to you? I wonder if it did to Eve."
Shaw started at the mention of her name. "Where is she?" he asked, a cold edge entering his voice and Chuck knew he'd found his Achilles heel.
"That's none of your concern."
"I want to see her," he demanded, suddenly transforming into a spy.
Bryce shook his head. "We're not having a discussion about what you want. But tell us what we want to know and maybe, we'll let you see her."
Shaw scoffed. "That's the oldest trick in the book. Do you think I don't know that you're going to kill me? I know that. I know that the only reason I'm still alive right now is because you need something. And the moment I give that up, I'm dead. So why would I ever talk?"
"Everyone talks," Chuck told him, stone-faced. "It's just a matter of when. And you don't know that we're going to kill you. We want to help you. At least, I do. You're a kid. You're too young to be caught up in this."
"You are all of two years older than me, Agent Carmichael," Shaw said, suddenly seeming much and older and much wiser. "And you don't know the things I've seen. But I've heard a great deal about you. I know how much you hate the people I work for. But can't you see, can't you see that we fight for a great cause?"
Chuck rolled his eyes. "Is that what they tell you to justify all the blood on their hands?"
"What does the CIA tell you to justify all the blood on theirs?"
Chuck glanced at Bryce, they were getting nowhere with this kid. He was too far gone; Volto had him through and through. For a moment, Chuck wondered if Shaw too came from a long line of spies, on the wrong side. Did he believe in what he did just as much as Chuck? The answer was clear.
He stood up from his seat, signaling the end of the meeting for the time being. "Consider what we said, Shaw. You have a small, but distinct window of opportunity to do the right thing. I hope you take it."
Bryce stood up and followed Chuck out of the room. In the interrogation cell right across, Carina and Jill too were exiting. "Did you get anywhere with him?" Carina asked.
Bryce shook his head. "Kid's been brainwashed. He genuinely believes he's doing the right thing."
Jill nodded. "Same with her, not to mention, she's got nerves of steel. She'd probably endure water-boarding."
"What about him," Carina asked nodding to Shaw's cell. "Could you gauge his level of pain tolerance?"
Morgan started. "Whoa, straight to torture already? Why can't we just use truth serum?"
Carina rolled her eyes. "Moron, Volto agents are trained to resist Pentothal and a hundred different truth serums from day one. We might as well order them pizza and a flat screen and tell them to get nice and comfy. Bryce, his pain tolerance?"
Bryce shrugged. "Hard to get a reading. Something tells me his own pain wouldn't bother him."
Chuck caught Bryce's line of thought. "But hers…might."
Casey was perplexed. "What do you mean?"
"The only time he let his guard down was when we mentioned Pratt. There has to be something there."
Morgan shook his head. "Volto wouldn't be stupid enough to send a pair of lovebirds to the Farm."
Chuck shook his head. "They might've, if they didn't know. Spies are good at hiding their emotions. Volto only might've seen that they work well together. It's up to us to find out if it's deeper."
"So we go old school," Casey said, a small grin forming across his hard features. "Torture her to break him." He turned to look into Pratt's cell. It was said that all the Colonel had to do was stare at you for five seconds, and he'd know exactly what nasty mode of torture to use to break you.
"She's tough," he said finally. "She could keep her mouth shut with two broken wrists and half of her body fried by electricity. She probably wouldn't even scream. But he would, if our guess is right. Probably couldn't stand to see her in the slightest bit of pain."
"What are you thinking, Casey?"
"Right now, I'm thinking this is going to be fun. Miller, you wanna be my wingman?"
Carina's smile was too apt. She and Casey were probably the only people who got pleasure out of torturing people. "I'd love it. It's been a while since I've had some fun."
Jill rolled her eyes, she never could stomach Carina. How Bryce did, she never would know. "What if we don't have the right kids? Can we torture them with out probable cause?"
"We have the right ones," Chuck said adamantly. "It's them. I can feel it. Bryce, let's go."
They walked back into Shaw's cell. They looked at him square in the face. "We didn't want it to come this," Chuck said. "But apparently we don't have a choice. But you still do. Tell us what we want to know and you'll avoid a lot of pain."
"And what do you want to know exactly?" Shaw said, oozing sarcasm.
"We want to know how you're collecting intel on us. Somehow, someway you're gathering information. But we don't know how. And you're going to tell us."
"And if I do, what do I get?"
"You get to live," Bryce said. "Granted, you'll be in a black site prison, never to be seen or heard from again. But you'll be alive. If you don't cooperate, well I'm sure you can figure that out."
"I'm no use to you dead," Shaw countered.
"That's true," Chuck acquiesced. "But you're no good to Volto either. Either way, you've failed. And you better believe they're not coming for you."
Shaw leaned back in his chair and with a confident smile, "I know nothing."
"Cute," Bryce told with no amusement. "But you'll tell us what we want to know. One way or another."
"I can handle anything you throw at me."
"That's what they all say," Bryce told him with a dark smile.
Bryce and Chuck left the room, leaving a perplexed Shaw to wonder what exactly they would throw at him.
"Casey," Chuck said with a sigh. "It's your show. Do your thing."
Casey grunted in agreement. He'd had it with these commie bastards. It was go time. He pulled out a very large and imposing black duffel bag. Morgan rolled his eyes, it seemed everything Casey owned was black and imposing.
It was about to get real. Chuck had been in a hundred of these scenarios. Once upon a time, it wouldn't have made him flinch. It wouldn't have made his head ache. But once upon a time was in a time very long past.
They moved Shaw and Pratt into the same room, their eyes quickly smiled but other than that there was no acknowledgement. Both of them were still hand and leg cuffed to their chairs. They didn't speak, they didn't move. They just sat there, waiting.
Chuck stood on the other side of the one way glass, watching them intently. Their faces reminded him of a mission he'd gone on with Jill, one where they had been captured and interrogated. Neither of them had broken, their hostage keepers were amateurs. Still, it gave him an idea of what was going on through their minds.
He looked at the two Volto agents, just kids willing to die for their cause. Suddenly he felt sorry for what they were about to go through.
Casey entered into the room, tall and imposing. Morgan had a theory that the Colonel John Casey had been genetically engineered to strike fear in other human beings. Morgan's theories, through based on an unhealthy knowledge of comics and television, had a way of being pretty accurate.
Chuck could almost hear the Colonel cracking his knuckles through the glass.
Casey slowly, purposefully unzipped his duffel bag, building the suspense, savoring every moment. Carina walked in next, her stride long and powerful. In a few quick moments, she'd stated clearly that she was not to be trifled with.
And she was carrying an equally threatening duffel bag. Chuck had been a hundred times before, and normally he wouldn't have flinched. Normally, it wouldn't have bothered him. But as he watched them wriggle against their restraints, and he watched their eyes fill with the slightest bit of fear, it was almost too much for him.
He turned away from the window and hurried out of the bunker. He needed fresh air, needed not to hear what was about to go down, he needed to be away from it all.
He stepped outside, breathing deeply, gulping and gasping on huge breaths of air. He felt like he was on fire, but his skin was cool and clammy to the touch.
Breathe, he told himself. Inhale, exhale. You'll be all right.
While he was outside collecting himself, Bryce and Morgan were standing there, waiting for him to return. "He's not all right, is he?" Morgan asked, more to himself than to anyone.
Bryce shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Six months ago, none of this would've bothered him."
"I think the real thing is the Chuck from six months ago isn't the Chuck we have with us now. He's different. He's going through something. It's all too much for him. He needs to reprogram himself."
"Do you think we need to request he be called off this op?"
Morgan shook his head. "There's no one better for this, and no one more motivated. And if we do that, we'll incur his wrath. Besides, the threat is practically neutralized. Once we get these two shipped out, we'll just have recruit training."
"Not that that hasn't been problematic," Bryce said dryly.
"Well, some of these recruits are hot. One has this hair that looks so much like licorice. I want to chew on it until I make myself sick."
Bryce laughed. Leave it to Morgan to make everything seem okay. Still, he was concerned. But hopefully, the Volto threat was over with. If it was, they would have very little to worry about.
Both Morgan and Bryce jumped at the sound of a loud scream coming from the interrogation room. Leave it to Casey and Carina, torture specialists extraordinaire.
"It should be any minute now," Bryce said as he reached for a bottle of water.
"I hope this is the end of it," Morgan said, but something told him it wasn't.
Exactly fifteen minutes later, Carina and Casey exited the holding cell, both wearing smug and satisfied smiles. Chuck had pulled himself together, and was awaiting the report with Bryce and Morgan.
"So? What's the word? Do we know how they're collecting their intel?"
Carina nodded. "Microscopic cameras attached to the papers they turn into us each day. Cameras the size of a skin cell, impossible to detect, but very effective. Say what you will about Volto, but they're inventive."
Bryce whistled in impressed disgust. "What will they come up with next? They're stepping up their game. We have to do the same."
"I can't believe they broke so easily," Chuck said, a dull troubling feeling in the pit of his stomach. It almost felt too easy.
Casey grunted, number 9: mild disagreement mixed with a scoff. "Who the hell said it was easy? But once we figured out that Shaw is in love with Pratt, it was easy. Threatened her with death by ammonia injection; he was feeling awfully chatty after that."
Chuck sighed, stepping back into his Team Leader persona. "All right, have a sentry gather all the papers you have from Pratt and Shaw. Have Bio and Tech Ops go them with the finest toothed comb they've got. I want these stories corroborated or disproved inside of an hour. Call Transport, set up to have them removed from the Farm by midnight. Carlyle Supermax for him, and Dawson Supermax for her."
"We should just put a lead bullet in their skulls, instead of risking Volto intercepting their transport," Casey grumbled. "They're traitors."
Chuck rolled his eyes. "They've also been inside Volto. They know things we don't. They're more use to us alive than they are with lead bullets in their skulls."
"It's your op, Team Leader, Casey said oozing sarcasm. "I still say Washington knew how to deal with traitors."
Jill rolled her eyes. "And what would you suggest, Colonel, drop them under a guillotine?"
Casey grunted. "Whatever works."
A half hour later the report from BioOps and TechOps had come in. Shaw and Pratt were telling the truth. Their papers were covered in microscopic listening devices and cameras. It would've been so cool, if it wasn't a force for evil.
The transport trucks came. Shaw got on one, hands and legs cuffed. Pratt got on the other, and they were driven off in different directions.
Chuck and Jill watched them go. "Congratulations, Agent Carmichael. You just caught and captured Volto's moles." Jill affectionately tapped Chuck's chest. "How does victory feel?"
Chuck shrugged. "It's just the first piece in a very, very large chess game. But all in all, it feels pretty damn good."
She smiled. "Goodnight, Chuck. Thanks to you, we can all sleep a little easier tonight." Jill walked away, heading back to her quarters.
Chuck watched the taillights of the transport trucks fading away, and he wondered if it was really over. "Can we?" he asked, even though Jill was long gone.
The transport trucks drove swiftly and silently in opposite directions. Shaw and Pratt both only wondered one thing: would they ever see each other again.
In the darkness, in the silence, it seemed there was no hope. And then, in opposite directions, both of them heard a slight buzzing coming from their front pants pocket.
They simultaneously fished out a small black oval disk with an LCD screen lighting up: a standard Volto communication device. One they'd never seen before. The same message awaited them: Excellent Work. You will not be forgotten. You will be free when Volto reigns.-Albatross.
They both smiled, even though the trucks were driving them farther and farther apart, it was almost as if they could see one another. They had not been forgotten. And one day, when Volto had rid the world of the CIA and had regained America's rightful place, they'd be free again.
They had the most important thing. They had hope. And they couldn't be happier, even though they were both heading to a windowless cell where they wouldn't see daylight, it was all worth it. Volto would win.
"What the hell is going on?" Sam asked herself aloud the next morning. First, Eve hadn't come back to her room after the picnic. She was nowhere to be found in combat class, which was extremely unusual.
Sam had stopped back by her room, to grab the things she needed for Manipulation and Subversion and she was startled by what she saw. All of Eve's things from her bed to her clothes, to the paper heart she had stuck above the missing bed, was gone.
All of it had vanished without a trace, just like Eve. "What the fuck?" Sam asked, her distress and her worry growing. It wasn't that she was particularly close to Eve, but she had gotten used to having her around.
And now it was like all proof of her existence had been wiped away. It was like a perverse magic act, something or someone had made her disappear. She wanted answers. It was all so confusing. First the picnic that wasn't really a picnic. She felt stupid for not seeing that coming. She was a goddamn spy in training, for God's sake.
And now her roommate was just gone, vanished, nowhere to be found!
Things were getting stranger and stranger down on the Farm. And she just knew something was wrong.
She got to class early, hoping to find Eve and hearing it was just something like bedbugs or mold. But Eve wasn't there. Neither was Shaw. She talked to Logan Black, Shaw's roommate who told her a story that mirrored her own. Shaw had never come back after the picnic, and all of his things were gone.
"It's just too weird," she said to no one in particular.
"What's weird?" asked Greta Arkin. Arkin was tough, no tough was an understatement. Most of the time, she scared the shit out of Sam.
She briefly explained the whole situation. For like half a second, something flashed in Arkin's eyes, something not unlike comprehension.
"You want my advice, Walker? Don't mention it. Keep your head down. If we needed an explanation, it would be provided."
"I do need an explanation," she said, exasperated.
"No," Greta said firmly. "You don't. You only think you do. And a word to the not so wise: stop thinking about what you feel you need or want. It's not about you anymore."
With that, Greta turned away, leaving Sam even more frustrated than she was before. Did Greta understand what was going on? How could she when Sam didn't even know what was going on.
She sat in her chair, perplexed and confused. She barely paid attention to a word Chuck said all day in Manipulation and Subversion. Her mind was elsewhere. And Chuck never mentioned a word about Shaw's and Eve's mysterious absence. And she knew he knew.
The class ended and the students filtered out, most not the slightest bit concerned about where their missing classmates were. Sam lingered, gathering her things as slowly as she could until there was no one but herself and Chuck in the room.
"Agent Carmichael," she began somewhat tentatively.
Chuck looked up, he hadn't realized she was still there. She'd been more than unusually quiet in class. He hoped something wasn't wrong. But the look on her face told him something was.
"Can I help you with anything, Walker?" he asked, attempting to be as professional as possible.
"Well, I don't know if you noticed, but it seems that my roommate and one other recruit are missing."
Chuck sighed, he'd hoped this wouldn't be her concern, but Eve Pratt was her roommate. And he'd forgotten all about that. He didn't answer her, which irked her.
"Do you know where they are? Are they all right?" she asked, her voice rising.
"They are no longer recruits at Camp Peary, and that is all you need to know."
"What? Why?" Sam knew she shouldn't have been asking those questions, but something in her just wouldn't let her stay quiet.
"It's none of your concern," Chuck told her firmly. "We have the right to dismiss any recruit at any time if we feel they are not up to standards."
Sam couldn't help but feel that she was getting the brush-off, that she was being condescended to and that made her furious. "Well, I'll be sure not to step on any of your toes," she snapped, filled with sarcasm. She turned to leave the room.
"Hold it just a moment," Chuck said. "Regardless of anything that has transpired between the two of us, I am still your superior, and you would do well to mind your place."
"As far as I'm concerned, nothing transpired between us. Am I correct? Nothing ever happened," she said her eyes flashing with hurt and anger.
Chuck sighed. It seemed all of a sudden he was in a lovers' quarrel. And they weren't even lovers. Rational thinking was clearly not in place, because it was at that moment, he chose not to let her walk out of that room. He chose not to just brush this matter off and deal it with later.
Instead he chose to walk up behind her, grab her wrist and say "Wait."
He turned her to face him and he could almost feel time slowing down, and only the next moment mattered. Before he knew it, he had crushed his lips to hers. Sam dropped of her things and wrapped her around his neck. She didn't know what happening, all she knew what she didn't want it to stop.
His strong hands wrapped around her waist as they continued to kiss hungrily, passionately. Sam could feel herself heating up in ways she didn't know she could as Chuck's hands eagerly explored the curves of her body.
In an instant she found herself being picked up, her legs wrapping around his waist as he placed her on the desk, never breaking their searing kiss. The flighty sundress she was wearing seemed to rise up of its own accord and suddenly she could feel Chuck between her legs, making her and cold and dizzy and lucid all at the same time.
His lips left hers to explore the skin of her neck and shoulder blade, resulting in several soft moans of appreciation escaping her lips.
And it was at that moment that Jill Roberts walked in. "Hey Chuck, do you wanna grab some…" the words died in her throat as her jaw gasped open.
Chuck and Sarah turned to see her, both red-faced and red-handed.
This concludes part 1 of "The Farm". I know, an evil cliffy right? I know. But it had to be done, and I know this is one of those times when you wish you could hit next. I'll try to have the update here as soon as I can.