Part the Second: Vaughn.

We were so screwed. So undeniably, unavoidably screwed. Sark may be a damn good liar, but there was no hiding the sincere cockiness in his voice. If he were bluffing he'd be more modest. He'd done the legwork, and I was his victory lap. It had to happen some time. Check and mate, and all that was left to do was for me to put my head on the chopping block. But better mine than Syd's, and so, like the prancing idiot I am, I went to meet him, alone, without leaving so much as a note. I wouldn't have known what to say, anyway.


No matter how many times I see, hear, or hear of this man, his youth will always strike me. I won't call him accomplished, but I can be certain that he's packed a lot into a short time. His feet are up on the table, our table, and he's smirking already. I hope he dies soon.

"I appreciate your punctuality, Mr. Vaughn."

"Enough to jump off a bridge in gratitude?"

"Wishful thinking. How very American of you."

His tongue is tripping around words and it distracts me. I hate the fucking British.

"Just get down to it. What you want. Why I'm here."

"What I want is a rather long list to start now. I want a more comfortable chair, I want more creativity and less modernity in modern architecture, I want a shiny new car.perhaps something German. As to why you're here," his thumbs slowly circle each other as his hands rest on his lap, "I'd considered going to someone of a bit more importance first, but thought it would be a much more interesting study in human nature to offer you a choice of sorts. After all, I am an avid student of humanity."

Of sorts. "What's the choice?"

"Well, Mr. Vaughn, there are all manner of ways in which my employer and I would love to see you little operation, and that of Arvin Sloane, crumble. We are also in a position to put into action a number of plans that would disintegrate both of those quite completely and expediently." He leans back farther, "But that would be like drinking a fine wine from a shot glass. All nuance is lost. I believe that it would be a much more profitable endeavor if we were to, well, use you."

He smiles, slow and lazy. A poker player with the perfect hand.

"So I can either go home and wait for either your goons or SD-6's to kill me in my sleep, or let things continue as they are, but funnel all Sydney's intel to you? Those are my choices?"

"Don't be so fatalistic. I'm sure they'd wake you before shooting."

My hand runs through my hair and I watch his thumbs move, sending me messages. They'd kill her father first, then me, then her friends; they'd give her time to think she could run, then they'd run her into the ground. Make her pay for being born and the mess it left.

I'd had dreams about this moment.


"Fine? So I'll give Arvin a ring, then?" He pulls out a cell phone.

"No, I'll give you your damn intel." He arches an eyebrow with the beginning of a smile, "I won't tell Sydney anything."

The smile is completed.

"That's the kind of thing my employer likes to hear from her constituents. I'll be in touch, Michael."

He leaves, brushing a hand over my shoulder as he passes. My neck feels hot, and I feel dirty for being associated in any way with Irina. I just feel dirty.


So it started, and by the time I realized all the implications of what I'd agreed to, there was no backing out. I was under his thumb, completely. I was helping the woman who killed my father, and all for the sake of her daughter. Even that isn't true. In part, it was all for my own, pathetic life. I didn't want to die. And so, somehow, I'd have to live with this, and with everything Sark wanted me to do.