Hermione frowned at the ringing telephone on her desk. It wasn't the technology that bothered her but rather the interruption it represented. Over the course of the last eight years, since she had come to work for the Australian Ministry of Magic, Sydney branch, she had come to rely on technology just as she had as a child back in England. Australia, along with many other countries had learned to merge technology and magic so that they worked hand in hand rather than against each other. It was also infinitely easier to give a person a ring than to have to travel to where they were to speak with them. The amount of time saved was incalculable, not that she hadn't tried a few times to calculate it before giving up.
"Granger," the brunette stated as she lifted the receiver and placed it to her ear, holding it in place with her shoulder as she continued to work. She couldn't help but smirk at answering her phone with her last name. It's not like someone else is going to answer the phone in my office, she thought with a bemused smile as she eyed the report on her desk in front of her.
"I need you in my office at nine o`clock," a rough older man's voice said in a no nonsense tone. Chief Inspector Edward Barns was always all business and this was no exception. There was a running pool within the TASS where she worked that if the Chief were caught off work and given a few drinks that he would be a wild man. Hermione was one of the few that bet against that notion. Having witnessed war and death first hand, she could well recognize the deep emotional and psychological scars in another as she bore them as well. Like knew like.
Hermione glanced at her watch and saw that it was two minutes till nine. "Can it wait Chief?" she asked, glancing down at the half finished report in front of her and the stack of a dozen others awaiting her attention that sat to one side of her desk. "I'm right in the middle of something."
"Sure, it can wait," her boss said in a gentle tone that told her it was anything but alright. "It can wait till after you get your arse over here to my office!" the man growled through the phone.
"Be there in a minute, Chief," Hermione replied, waiting till she hung up the phone before letting out the irritated sigh that she had been holding in. "Looks like it's going to be one of those days," she mumbled aloud. It took less than a minute to walk down the hall, up a flight of stairs and down another hall before tapping on the milky glass inset into the wooden door of the Chief Inspector's office.
"You wanted to see me, Chief?" Hermione said as she entered the office after hearing her boss' bark to enter. "I hope this is bloody important. I have pile of files needing attention back in my office and they're not going to review themselves," she stated as she took an empty seat, sitting in it without waiting to be told.
"The PM of M asked for you specifically. Seems there are some foreigners coming in that are after the same lot we are," he informed her without even looking up from the file on his desk till he finished reviewing it before sliding it across to her so that she could read it as well.
"Where are they from?" Hermione enquired, accepting the folder and opening it right away to begin reading the concise brief. "Magical Investigation Bureau," she said with a low whistle as she read the answer to her own question before her boss could reply.
"MIB is sending a couple of their agents over," Chief Barns confirmed, as he leaned back in his chair and watched her read over the briefing in the folder. "We're to extend any and all assistance to them if it is within our means to do so."
Hermione glanced up at her boss, "That almost sounds as if they are running the show and we're merely tagging along."
Edward Barns sighed heavily, knowing she was not going to like this one bit. "That's probably because that's exactly what it is. If they want coffee we go fetch it for them. It's their show and we're along for the ride."
"Like bloody hell we are!" the irate witch exclaimed, jumping to her feet and slamming the file down upon the desktop before her. "You know how long we've been working this case, gathering evidence and getting ready to nail these bastards! You saw what they did to those kids! Everyone in the TASS wants a piece of their arses!"
"I know, I know, Granger," Ed said, raising his hands in an attempt to calm her down. "It's out of our hands. The PM of M has agreed to it. Something about inter-agency cooperation between us and the States crap," the Chief Inspector spat out as if it left a foul taste in his mouth. "Apparently they've been after the SAS longer than we have been."
Any further discussion was halted by a knock at the door. When called, an intern stuck her head in the door and informed the Chief Inspector that there were two men to see him. With a sharp warning glance towards the witch across from him to behave herself, he told the intern to show them in.
Two men dressed in dark brown suits and wearing black sunglasses, even though they were indoors, stepped into the room. The first one appeared to be in his mid-thirties. Dark hair and average non-descript features. The second man she placed at her own age, if not younger, with a square jaw and looks that some women would find attractive. Other than the latter of the two having light brown hair there was really not much difference between the two of them.
"Welcome gentlemen," Chief Barns said as he stood and walked around the desk to greet the visitors. "I'm Chief Inspector Barns and this is Inspector Granger head of TASS, Tactical Assault Surveillance and Suppression."
"This is Agent Will," the older of the two said with a gesture towards his partner, "and I'm agent Smith."
Hermione couldn't suppress the snort of amusement before it escaped her. Seeing all eyes in the office suddenly focused on her she felt the need to defend herself. "Oh come on! Agent Will and Smith from MIB? You don't see the humor in that?"
"No Ma`am," Agent Smith replied with an expressionless face. "We at the MIB do not have a sense of humor as far as we are aware."
"All you need is black suits instead of those brown ones and you'd be dead ringers," Hermione said to the two stone faced agents only to see them glance at each other for a moment before the one known as Smith reached into the inside breast pocket of his suit coat. "So help me it you pull out a Neuralizer I will hex you both all the way back to the States and then some!" the witch exclaimed loudly.
The younger of the two agents suddenly cracked a grin, unable to hold it in any longer. "Enough Michael," he said to his partner. "You've had your fun with them."
Agent Smith withdrew a business card and passed it to the startled witch. Hermione read the card, "Michael Smith," she stated aloud before looking to the senior agent.
"At your service, Ma`am," the dark haired agent said with a small smile as he removed his sunglasses and extended a hand which Hermione shook, still slightly confused.
"Don't worry about him Ma`am. He was just having a little fun," agent Will told her as he thrust out his hand. "Daniel Willis," he added with a cheeky grin.
"Willis, not Will?" Hermione asked as she accepted the offered hand and shook it. The witch suddenly had a thought of two red headed twins she had known in her school days back in England. "I suppose you both think this was incredibly witty?" she asked with a smirk as she released the hand in hers.
"Not nearly as so much as the first dozen or so times he did it," Agent Willis offered with a small grin towards his partner.
"Just a way to break the ice a bit, Ma`am," Agent Smith offered. "I know these inter-agency joint operations can be a bit difficult, what with everyone trying to dance around without stepping on anyone's toes in the process."
Chief Barns snorted in agreement. He was law enforcement and didn't have time for the political song and dance that his higher ups always seemed to be engaged in these days. Point him at a bad guy and let him do his job…that was all he asked for. "If you gentlemen will have a seat we can get started."
"Thank you Sir but if it's all the same to you I think we'll stand," Agent Smith replied. "It was a terribly long flight out here and I don't believe that the circulation has fully returned to my legs just yet."
"Suit yourselves," he told them. "Inspector Granger here has been handling the intel gathering on the SAS, so I'll let her take it from here."
"Thanks Chief," Hermione offered before filling in the Agents on the SAS actions. "It was approximately six months ago when we first heard rumor of the 'Shadow Adepts of Sydney' as they call themselves. We're not sure just how long they've been here as Australia is a large country."
"A lot of empty places for the badies to hide," Agent Smith injected.
"Correct," Hermione reluctantly agreed, knowing the truth of the matter. There just was far too much bush and not nearly enough man power to cover it all. While the tribes did a far job of policing their own areas from unwanted magical types, there were places the natives wouldn't go. Australia was her home now and it irked her to no end to be unable to protect it all.
"Their first attack was against a primary school in the heart of the city. It was quick, professional and messy," she told them. "We have little doubt that they were trying to make a statement." There were still nights that she had nightmare about the crime scene. "Two weeks later there was a school bus bombing following two days later by a day care where they poisoned the water supply. In all cases it was non-magicals that were targeted."
"That seems to be their standard means of operation," Agent Willis said in a quiet tone. "Get the masses terrified and afraid to send their children to school. It makes it that much easier when they start to target the non-magical born witches and wizards."
"So the other attacks are just…." The witch allowed her words to trail off, unable to believe what she was hearing.
"Smoke screen," Agent Smith confirmed. "Aimed at nothing more than to force parents to keep their children home so that they're easier to get to."
"Bloody hell," Chief Barns breathed in disbelief. "I take it then that you've dealt with them before Agent Smith?"
"They used to call themselves 'Sons of Salem' and operated primarily within the North-eastern states. Their leader, a Trent Davis, is a former Death Eater that served under that Lord Voldemort fellow from England that was taken down about a decade back." Smith paused upon hearing Hermione's gasp at his news. "You know him Inspector?"
Hermione shook her head slightly to indicate that she didn't. "I grew up in England," she explained. "I was there during the war and all."
Smith simply nodded. "I thought your accent sounded British more than Australian."
"I left there shortly after the war ended," she explained. "Wanted a fresh start far away from that."
"Can't say that I blame you," Smith replied. "England has turned into a right ugly place to be if you're anything other than a pureblood," the man spat out the last word like it was poison. "Reminds me all too much of that crap the Nazis tried to pull back in the 30's and 40's if you ask me. Supremacy, my ass!"
"Preaching to the choir, Agent Smith," Hermione quipped.
"You were saying Agent Smith?" Chief Barns asked in an attempt to pull the discussion back on topic.
"Yes….so this Davis character gathered a few followers and started much as he did here apparently. After a few months of attacking schools we started receiving reports of families being killed in their own homes. At first we just thought it was the usual break-ins gone badly but as the number of them grew we finally looked into them. In each case the children were magical, born to non-magicals," Agent Smith concluded with.
"How many were there," Hermione asked out of curiosity.
"We didn't know at first as some cases were left to the locals to handle while only a handful made it to our office at the national level. The attacks were spread over several states which made it even more difficult to track. Once we were able to dig into it further we discovered that fifty-seven soon to be witches or wizard and their families had been killed.
"Good Lord! So many," Hermione gasped at the number of innocent children murdered.
Agent Smith simply nodded in agreement before continuing. "About a year ago we ran the group to ground and sent in our best but the leader somehow managed to escape or wasn't there when the anti-apparition wards went up. Either way, when we heard of the trouble you were having here, my boss called your Prime Minister of Magic and here we are."
"Who exactly is your boss, Agent Smith," Hermione asked believing she already knew the answer.
"That would be the President of the United States, Ma`am." The Agent replied. "This is a picture of Davis," he added, slipping a still photo of a man from his breast pocket and handing it to the only witch in the room.
"I've seen him," she admitted. "He's currently at one of their safe houses about an hour outside of the city. We pegged him for the leader or at least one of the very higher ups but hadn't a name for him as yet."
"I'm not surprised Inspector," Smith said, making no move to reclaim the photo. "He looks pretty well for a guy who's supposed to be dead, don't you think?" Seeing Hermione's head jerk up and her brow arch in question the MIB agent continued. "It took us nearly six month to track him down and trace him back to England. It was believed that he had died at the Battle of Hogwarts, as it is being called. Some fight that took place at a magical school in Scotland."
"I guess that the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated then," Hermione replied with a smirk as she glanced down at the picture once again.
"A fact we hope to correct very soon, Ma`am," Agent Willis offered, speaking for the first time in a while. "We suspect that he has other cells within other countries and would prefer to take him down quick and quiet like."
"You mean you plan to take him into custody not kill him, right?" Hermione asked for clarification.
"You currently know his location and are certain that he is still there, Inspector?" Agent Smith asked, ignoring her question.
The witch nodded slowly in way of answer. "We've had a magical surveillance net over the location. There are been several people who have apparated in but no one has left in the last forty-eight hours," she assured the two agents. "There are about thirty members of their group there and another dozen or so hostages that they've taken for reasons we haven't determined as yet."
Agent Smith turned and looked towards the Chief Inspector. "Chief Inspector Barns, I'm assuming you've been fully briefed on the operation?" The older man simply nodded that he had been. "Then MIB will assume full responsibility for this operation. I will require your people's full cooperation."
Ed Barns could do little but nod in understanding. "Please see that the Agents and their team have all the support we can give them," he told Hermione.
"Ed, we can't do this!" she objected. "The PM of M would never agree to such a thing. They'll kill the hostages for sure!"
"Inspector!" snapped out the witch's boss, bringing her to an abrupt halt. "Just where do you think my orders come from? The PM of M spoke with me directly and left it up to Agent Smith to make the call, which he has. So this department will extend every courtesy to them until such time as they feel they no longer require it!"
"So that's it? You're just going to let them go in there and kill them?" The irate witch turned to glare at the two Americans. "You're just going to waltz in there and capture Davis and those with him?"
"No, Ma`am," Smith replied only to pause and hold up one finger to halt her as he reached up with his other index finger and held it against an ear piece in his left ear. "Understood. Zero one hundred hours," the MIB agent replied to whomever he was listening to in his ear piece.
"I'm sorry for the interruption," the older of the two Agents offered as he turned back to face the waiting witch. "You seem to be under the impression that Agent Willis and myself will be apprehending the fugitive. That's not our responsibility. We're here to insure that none of your people accidently get injured," he informed her.
"Then who?" Hermione asked, a confused expression appearing on her face. "Do you have another team standing by which you'll be bringing in?"
"No, Ma`am, just one more," Smith replied.
"One man to take out an entire group of SAS?" Chief Barns scoffed only to spy Hermione slowly shaking her head from side to side having already reasoned out why only one man would be brought in.
Agent Smith nodded sharply once in answer to the Chief Inspector. "You only need the one when it is Archangel."
There are times when being a writer can be very frustrating. The Muse does not always listen but instead decides to go off and do her own thing whenever she wishes. This is one of those times. :-( For those of you following "I, Alone" you'll be please to know that I am currently working on chapter 12...while working on chapter 19 of another story while working on chapter 24 or another story. It's all very frustrating I assure you. For what it is worth, the first 5 chapters of "Angels In Australia" are in the bag and I really don't expect it to be much more than another 5 till the end of it. I do hope you'll enjoy it.
Please remember to tip your waitress and review your writer as they do tend to live for such things. :-)
All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of J. K. Rowling the original writer of the Harry Potter series.