For disclaimer see part 1
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By MJ and Cephalgia
Flying had long been a great passion of Addisons. From the first moment she sat at the controls of a helicopter during her time in the military, she was hooked. The feeling of solitary liberation she gained from soaring up in the billowing clouds was something she had never experienced before. During her free time, Addison earned her glider pilots license and logged many hours soaring above the French Alps, enraptured by their beauty and overwhelming presence.
On the flight to Scotland, however, Addison was the only passenger in one of the militarys British Aerospace 125 business jets. It was a plane that seated up to fourteen passengers, but with eight of the seats removed she had plenty of room in the small aircraft. The agent took advantage of that fact by reclining her seat all the way back and closing her eyes. The only sound to penetrate her hearing was that of the planes twin engines.
Living the life she did, dealing with the constant spontaneity, Addison had the ability to sleep anytime, anywhere. She often joked that she slept like a cat, able to nap at any desired moment in time. With an hour before the aircraft would land, Addison drifted into a light slumber.
For the most part, Addison rarely dreamed and never during a brief sleep. If she did, she never remembered. The ex-Special Air Services soldier was happy to keep it that way. Many of the incidents she had seen in her line of work were enough to haunt her waking hours; she was content for that not to pass over into her sleep as well. The kind of work she did was not for the slight of heart. Operatives chosen for the MI5s Special Ops branch were carefully selected. Not only were their physical skills a matter of consideration, but their psychological capabilities as well. If the slightest question hung over your head, it was a sword of Damocles and your rejection would be immediate. Addison was good; she was the best. Her psychological strength was as dominant as her physical abilities. She did have one downfall, however, that had not been brought to light. Addison had a heart. It was a beating zest for life that made her grieve a little for each life lost. She felt no guilt in her actions though. Addison was, after all, one of the good guys, but deep down inside, when she was back at home, wandering the lone cliff tops with Spike, Addison mourned the lives she had taken. She was a human being after all.
The expected sound of a disembodied voice woke Addison swiftly. Dark eyes blinked open. It was the pilots voice informing Addison that the plane was soon to be landing. She didnt need to be told to assume the correct landing position, it was generally expected she would do so.
Addison readjusted her seat and re-buckled the belt. Covering her mouth as she yawned, the agent looked out of the planes window. She could clearly see the expanse of Scotlands picturesque landscape. Around her she saw the Highlands, while to her left she spotted a wide area of level land. This was to be their landing site. Nothing else marred the landscape except for a single four-wheel drive jeep, especially built for the rough and rocky terrain of the highlands.
The Hawker Siddeley aircraft took a steep turn to the left as it began landing procedures. Addison continued to watch the ground below as it came ever closer. She folded her arms. It had been a long time since she had last been to Scotland. Her job had taken her to the furthest points of the earth, from the Falkland Islands to under the Arctic Ocean. She had seen an awful lot in her thirty-four years, but one thing she enjoyed was the fresh air and beautiful scenery of Scotland. Addison once convinced Samuel to accompany her on a rock-climbing excursion in the northern Highlands, but he had complained about how cold he was for the three days they were there. He had even made comments about the air being too cool and clean. Addison made a mental note that if she ever took him again, she would pack extra warm clothes and a canister of central Londons vehicle exhaust fumes just in case.
There was hardly a jolt as Addisons plane touched down smoothly. It ran along the open field at a decreasing speed, approaching a vehicle and its sole occupant who had been patiently waiting for Addison to arrive. In standard procedure, somebody would always be waiting for Addison with her means of transport. Any final information was given and then the agent was on her way. Heading out into the unknown was the moment she most looked forward to. She never knew what was around the next corner. Addison was ready and raring to take on any challenge heading her way.
As the engines died, Addison unfastened her seatbelt and rose to her feet. Grabbing her backpack and the weapons she had removed during her flight, she opened the airtight door and readied the steps. From the camouflaged four-wheel drive jeep she saw a single body exit the drivers side and casually approach. Dressed in civilian attire Addison only just recognized Sergeant Quinton Zimmerman, a rendezvous officer for the MI5, who still worked up at the Marine Barracks in Arbroath.
Quinton Zimmerman smiled as he spied Addison. His crooked bottom teeth and chipped upper tooth did nothing to mar the traditionally handsome blonde hair, blue-eyed looks. They had served together in the Marines and had become good friends during that time. "Agent Black," Quinton checked his watch, "Right on time... like I would have expected anything else."
"Whats with the formalities?" Addison asked, as she took Zimmermans offered hand and pulled him into a hug. "Please dont tell me the military life has finally made a gentleman of you? I thought we agreed that would never happen to us?" Addison pulled back and smirked.
Quinton laughed. "I fight it every day."
"Thats my boy," the agent replied with faux pride. She approached the jeep and opened the drivers door, slinging her equipment into the passenger seat. "Any final orders from the General?"
With a nod, Quinton pulled a small communication radio from his back pocket. "Yes, just one. General Blithe says use it or face the consequences."
"Which are?" Addison asked as a mischievous smile played around her lips.
"Something about you being Santa at the next Christmas party."
The smile fell from Addisons lips. "Threat received and understood." She took the radio from Quinton and pushed it into her pocket. "Whatever happened to the good old days of public floggings? That is what I want to know," Addison groused as she climbed into the jeep and shook Quintons hand. "See you later, mate. We will have to get together for another poker night."
"Strip poker?" Zimmerman enquired.
Addison winked. "If youre lucky."
"Good enough for me." Quinton stepped back as Addison shut the door.
Addison turned to check the back of the jeep finding a few extra supplies, a canister of fuel, a camouflage jacket and several container items. Looking back, she waved as Quinton Zimmerman boarded the plane she had just left, and closed the door. With the key already in the ignition, Addison started the jeeps engine. It purred into life. Dipping the clutch, she placed the vehicle into first gear and started moving. A map had already been provided for her and was open on the dashboard. It was unnecessary as the agent owned her own digital appliance, but that piece of gadgetry was classified and owned by MI5, special ops. Checking her co-ordinates, Addison turned the jeep towards a long narrow road and set off on her mission to rescue Skyler Tidwell.
Thumbs tapping upon the steering wheel, a song fluttered into Addisons brain and she was helpless to resist singing.
"Oh the Deadwood stage is a rolling on over the plains
Blah, blah, lalalalalalalalalaalalalaaaaaaa...
Beautiful land, no time to delay
So whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack away!"
Suddenly remembering the bulge of the radio in her pocket, the agent realized she should call into Headquarters and confirm her position. She pulled out the small, grey device.
"Come in HQ, this is Santa Claus do you read me?"
Addison waited a moment before her call was received.
"Roger, Black, this is HQ." The female voice belonged to Meredith Nicks, Chief Officer for Communications. "We receive you. I am patching your transmission through to General Blithes secured line for conference... over."
"Roger that." Addison waited for the General to speak. She put the jeep into sixth gear as she sped along the empty road. She estimated it would be a two-hour drive to her next destination, weather and ground permitting.
"Hello, Santa." Came the Generals mirth filled voice.
"You are just plain mean," Addison replied. "You dont really want me to be Santa this year, do you?" Addison remembered what had happened to last years Santa for the Militarys Christmas party. After getting a little worse for wear the man had been stripped naked, tied up with a selection of colourful bows and deposited unconscious under the hotel Christmas tree. They were all staying at the inn for a long weekend. It has been quite a shock for the cleaner the next morning.
"If you dont use this radio I will put you forward, yes."
Sighing, Addison relented. "Okay, okay... this thing will never leave my side. Satisfied?"
"Yes, thank you."
"What else did you want?"
"Oh nothing," Blithe said. "I just wanted to make sure we were clear on the whole issue of communication. You know there could be a lot at stake if this isnt resolved, Addison."
"I know, sir. Ill contact you whenever possible."
"That is all I ask. Thank you. Over and out... Santa."
The line went dead and Addison chucked. "He always has to have the last word." She smirked wickedly. "I guess he still hasnt gotten over waking up to a shrieking maid and pine needles sticking up his butt last year!"
Skyler woke up to the sound of the door to her room being unlocked and opened quickly. An armed guard blocked the doorway, now ready for an escape attempt. He neednt have bothered. The American was in no shape to make another attempt to get away. She ached in places she barely realized she could ache. Nothing was broken but that didnt seem to make much difference, Skyler was effectively hobbled.
Eyes shifting left and right, the guard seemed satisfied and stepped aside to admit Brodie into the room. She carried a tray with breakfast items and a small basin. Walking to the table near the bed, she deposited the items there without ever taking her eyes off the American.
"Good morning, Doctor Tidwell. I hope you slept well," Agnes said with a smirk.
"Actually I was a little uncomfortable last night. Must have been the mattress," Skyler returned.
Brodie gave a small laugh at that. "You have spunk, Doctor. Usually that is a trait to be admired, but I hope you have come to realize that spunk is a potentially painful thing to have when you deal with me."
Skyler rose from the bed, suppressing a groan as she did so, not wanting to give Brodie the satisfaction of hearing her discomfort. She shuffled to the table and dropped into one of the two chairs there. Brodie slid the tray in front of her and the delicious aroma of hot oatmeal and thick slabs of crusty toast tickled Skylers senses. She glanced up at Brodie in suspicion.
"Go on, its quite safe I assure you," her captor stated evenly. Skyler picked up a spoon, dipped into the steaming food and closed her eyes in appreciation of the thick, fluffy mixture. "The locals know their porridge, dont they?"
Skylers eyes opened at Brodies words and her line of sight was drawn to the small plastic basin. Brodie took the basin to the small sink near the pull down toilet. "Some soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste for your use. Dont waste them, you wont get more." Brodie returned to the table and sat in the chair opposite Skyler watching her eat for a moment.
"You will be allowed time to finish your breakfast and refresh yourself then I will return to have that conversation I promised you before. I hope you will be in a cooperative mood, Doctor, and not force me to repeat our little lesson of yesterday. You have cost me valuable time and Im not in a forgiving mood today."
Skyler made no reply, just bit into the warm toast, enjoying the texture on her tongue. She felt sure Brodie had something else to tell her because she made no move to leave.
"It will no doubt have crossed your mind that by now the alarm would have been raised and that the authorities would be searching for you," Brodie began. Skylers curiosity was piqued, as that was exactly what she had been thinking.
"Well, you would be correct in that assumption." Brodie paused here and the blonde felt an unmistakable "but" coming on. She was not disappointed.
"But, we are not unprepared for that occasion. Just in case you foolishly think you should withhold information from me because of your imminent release I will tell you we know everything about their efforts. Even now we know the government has dispatched one of their top agents to locate you. Agent Addison Black is an old friend and someone who is owed a final payment on an old debt. We have tangled before but this time the outcome will be different. British Intelligence, what a curious oxymoron! I welcome the challenge, Doctor, because we will be prepared for it."
Skyler watched the Irish woman as she spoke and was very glad she wasnt this Agent Black, whoever he was. There was definitely bad blood between Brodie and the agent.
Brodie stood and moved away from the table. "You are not dealing with amateurs here, we have sources you could not imagine. You will not be liberated until we decide you will be. Tell us what we want to know, it is your only hope of leaving here alive."
So, she finally said it Skyler thought. Talk about the Gemini project or die. What are you working on, Mom? She looked at Brodie with what she hoped was a thoughtful expression on her face.
"I see how hospitable you can be if I do something that doesnt set well with you, but whats in it for me if I help you? You have to realize I could never work in this field again once I compromised my position by giving you what you want. I would need some financial consideration. You know how important this information is," Skyler said. At least I hope you do because I dont have a friggin clue.
Brodie stared at her as if trying to determine the honesty of the words. "Certainly, Doctor, I will check on what can be arranged. Im glad to see that you have decided to be practical about the situation." The redhead leaned over the table and ran a fingertip softly down Skylers cheek. "At least I hope you are being practical and that this isnt a ploy to gain a little time." Brodie turned her finger and ran the nail down the same place she had just caressed and extended it to lightly slash across Skylers throat. "It would be a pity to have to mar such a lovely face."
She stood abruptly and moved toward the door. "Who knows, Professor Tidwell, perhaps when all this unpleasant business is concluded we could get to know each other better, maybe even become friends." She knocked sharply on the door, spoke in Gaelic and turned to rake Skylers body with a look that made the American feel somehow naked and dirty. "Yes, very intimate friends." The door opened behind her and Brodie exited.
Alone in the room, Skyler shuddered in revulsion. A woman, yes that woman? Id rather swallow my own tongue. Realizing the tongue in question was beginning to feel a little fuzzy, Skyler slowly got up from the table. Moving wasnt quite the agony it had first been and she made her way to the small sink without too much difficulty. Turning the faucet on she waited as the water warmed. She unwrapped the hotel-sized soap and wished there was a mirror in the room. On second thought maybe thats not such a great idea, God only knows what I look like.
She brushed her teeth and washed her face, feeling much better afterward. She glanced back to the door wondering how much time she had before Brodie reappeared and what she was going to do when the redhead did.
In the office, Brodie toyed with the knife she had pulled again from her desk as she talked on the cell phone.
"Yes, I understand. Thats perfectly clear. No, there will be no further delays." The other party hung up and the redhead clenched her jaw in frustration. There would be no money for Professor Tidwell unless it came out of the money Brodie had been promised. One thing Brodie did not do well was share and under no circumstances did she share money. Sorry, doctor, youll have to do this with other means of persuasion. A fly buzzed by her head, breaking her concentration but reminding Brodie of another annoyance. Holding the cell phone in her left hand she punched in the now familiar number.
As the connection was made she came directly to the point. "Whats happening there?" She listened without comment as information was passed.
"When did she leave?" Receiving the answer, Brodie consulted her watch and calculated how far her nemesis might have gotten in the allotted time. "Damn! Well, it makes no difference, even if Addison can find us shell be too late." She broke the connection and decided it was time to get back to the doctor and begin the process of extracting the information that was required.
"Alas, Addison, by the time you get here, and I have no doubt you will, it will sadly be too late to save the late Doctor Marlene Tidwell. Of course Ill be here to greet you and I have such a welcome planned." With an almost invisible flick of her wrist, Brodie sent the knife hurtling toward the far wall where it stuck deeply into the plaster and neatly divided the unsuspecting fly in half.
Skyler had freshened up as much as was possible given the limited resources at her disposal. She sat at the table waiting for Brodies return and hoped her new plan would work out. Delay, delay, delay until this Agent Blackjack or whatever gets here. The way my luck is going hell be more like Inspector Clouseau than James Bond. I need to be ready to try and make a break for it again, even if it kills me. Skyler shifted on the chair and knew that a move to leave might very well lead to her death, but figured the redheads revelation of earlier meant she was dead anyway. Brodie is bound to realize soon than I dont know anything about Project Gemini. Or will she? Thoughts began to fly through the scholars head.
The opening of the door interrupted her plans. As earlier the armed guard scanned the room first and relaxed after spotting Skyler sitting meekly at the table. He stepped aside and nodded at Brodie who was standing behind him holding several tablets of paper and box of pencils in her hand. Moving past the guard Brodie entered the room.
"Bad news, Doctor Tid " The redheads words were cut short by her scream as her right foot slid completely out from underneath her. The tablets in her hand didnt allow her to reach out and grab the door for balance and her left foot followed the right. She flipped backward and landed hard on the ground, striking her head on the painted concrete floor. Skyler never moved as the momentarily stunned guard recovered enough to move to Brodies side and check his superior. She was quite unconscious.
He glared at Skyler who merely held her hands palm up and shrugged her shoulders, portraying the perfect picture of innocence. The guard kept his gun trained on the prisoner as he used his free arm to pull Brodie from the room. As the door shut and locked, Skyler couldnt keep a smile from her face and let out a quiet whoop of victory.
Paybacks are a bitch, arent they Brodie? She thought as she tossed the bar of soap in the air and moved to clean up its residue from the floor. Poor baby, I guess she didnt know most accidents happen in the home. Skyler used a discarded towel to scrub away the last vestiges of soap then she gathered up the tablets and pencils.
Taking them back to the table, Skyler started fleshing out her next plan in her mind. When she had most of it clear in her mind she began to write. Line after line was filled and she stopped only long enough to think, you better hurry up Agent Black, I cant keep thinking of things forever. She turned her attention back to the tablet and began writing once again.
It was obvious the further up and into the Highlands Addison drove, the colder it became. Clouds hung low in the sky and the agent had been driving through them for the past hour of her journey. She had been given clear information on the location of the abandoned mines, so she had a good idea of where to begin. There were four entrances. Each was connected by a maze of underground tunnels. It had been over a hundred years since the mines had been closed down. Records stated that some of the conduit tunnels had become unstable and after a serious accident in which over one hundred men were buried alive, the mines were permanently abandoned. It was, however, presumed there were still rich deposits of coal within their caverns.
With one hand guiding the steering wheel, Addison rechecked her map. She was almost a mile away from the southern entrance. It was time to hide the jeep as the rest of her journey would be on foot. Scanning the terrain for an ideal place to hide the camouflaged vehicle was not a problem. Addison spotted a small outcropping of coniferous trees to her left. They were shaped like two sides of a triangle and lightly cloaked by a mist of cloud, providing adequate cover for the jeep.
"Perfect," Addison mumbled. She turned the vehicle towards the trees that reminded her of bare Christmas trees. They swayed in a firm breeze that drastically increased the cold atmosphere.
"Why couldnt she have been taken and held on some remote tropical island?" Addison steered into the trees cover. "I much prefer working in a warmer climate." Turning off the jeeps engine, Addison pulled the key from its ignition. It slid out with a metallic clink. "I can think of a couple of more exciting ways to obtain rigid nipples, thats for sure."
As Addison opened the vehicles door a howling wind greeted her. Its biting force rushed over the undulating crests of hills, rustling through crops of overgrown heather. Above her, the sky seemed indistinguishable through the grey mist of accumulated clouds. Evening was closing in and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Addison was positive that as night arrived it would dip below freezing; a weather condition she most despised while working.
Climbing from the jeep, Addison closed the door. A resounding slam echoed over the hills and disappeared into the foggy distance. Addison looked around her, unable to see more than thirty feet ahead. An almost ghostly silence surrounded her, only fractured by the sporadic gasps of wind. From high above, an unexpected clap of thunder rumbled through the sky. Addison looked up towards the grey atmosphere.
Striding around to the back of the camouflaged vehicle, Addison swung open the boot door. Quickly she reached inside and pulled her equipment closer. Venturing further, she pulled the backpack and weapons from the passenger seat. Opening her bag she added some packed ration food, a set of basic tools and spare combat jacket into the remaining space.
Once loaded with all necessary items, the agent closed and locked the jeep. Another clash of thunder ricocheted through the sky above her and Addison detected the change in the air. Rain wasnt far away. Around her she heard the squawks of unseen birds as they fled the open space in search of shelter. Casting a cursory glance over the electronic map and compass, Addison set off to the northeast. She made sure her radio was switched off; she couldnt risk detection at this point.
She had been walking for almost half an hour when something captured her attention. She stopped suddenly. Her vision was severely limited due to the increasing fog and low clouds upon the highlands, so Addison had to rely upon her other senses. There was a particular scent in the air that seemed familiar to her. It was the aroma of cheap cigars, the kind her father used to smoke. Addison knew she was nearing the southern entrance of the mine. The agent proceeded with care. Using increased stealth and expertise, Addison followed the acrid scent in silence. It wasnt long before the aroma was accompanied by voices. Addison frowned as she crouched behind a large boulder. She could identify just two men, but what perplexed her was the fact they were speaking in Gaelic. Addison was familiar with many languages and was fluent in seven, but Gaelic was not one of them.
Kneeling close to the boulder, Addison looked over the grey stone. She studied the two men standing on either side of the mines entrance. They were both dressed in Air Force blue uniforms and carried decent weapons. Each man held an Uzi submachine gun and had a high-powered pistol strapped to their right thigh. It was obvious to her that these men had some form of military or advanced arms training.
Addison watched them as they conversed and laughed with each other. The agent was biding her time. She hoped that when the rain came it would encourage both men to seek shelter. Addison knew in any operation such as this, at some point the alarm would be raised to an intruders presence, but she wanted it to be when she was ready.
It took only five minutes for the rain to start and during that time Addison had tried to assess Skylers situation. She knew Agnes Brodie was definitely not a second rate wannabe in the world of terrorism. The armed men guarding the mines southern entrance were testament to that. The taller of the two had used a remote, handheld radio to keep in contact with four different people during those brief minutes. All but one of the conversations was in Gaelic. The operation was well planned. It seemed that every so often each soldier on watch would call in to maintain open links and assurance of presence at station. During the one English spoken conversation, Addison had discovered Agnes Brodie was actually present within the mines. A slow smile of satisfaction spread across her lips. Addison had unresolved issues with the Irish woman and she was more than willing to bring those matters to a head. However, Skyler Tidwells safety was her primary consideration.
The rain started as a gentle patter. It did, thankfully for Addison, quickly gather speed into a heavy downpour. As the large droplets fell upon her head, the agent watched and waited. She was a little annoyed to see that only one of the guards entered the mine for shelter, but then considered it a good fate. It meant the retreating guard was leaving the post completely and only one would remain. It also happened to be the guard who held the radio. With only one man remaining, Addison realised it was in Skylers best interest for her to get into the mine as soon as possible. That meant taking out the first guard.
Addison studied the mines entrance. It was a wooden framed hatch, built vertically into the large grassy mound. Formulating her plan, Addison stepped out and around from the large boulder while the guard was facing the opposite direction. She jumped up onto a higher boulder on the hill and further still onto an even higher rock before leaping across and vaulting off one final flat stone. Addison jumped through the air and landed no more than a foot away from the guard. Hearing the movement he spun around, only to find his jaw connecting with a solid punch. As he stumbled backwards Addison struck him again, breaking his nose and then spinning around to deliver a roundhouse kick to the side of his head.
He collapsed, unconscious, to the ground.
Rolling her eyes, the ebony haired agent ran a hand through her wet, shaggy hair. Knowing she couldnt leave the guard in view she grabbed his legs and began to haul him behind a rock.
"You know..." Addison stated as she dropped his legs and unloaded the Uzi, throwing its ammunition into the distance. "If your mates are as easy as you this will be a breeze." She threw the machine gun in the opposite direction, and then pulled his pistol from its holster. Addison checked the clip and found it fully loaded. She slipped it into her remaining empty pocket. As a flash of lightening lit up the sky, Addison knew it was time she entered the mine.
It seemed apparent that the mine had undergone some major alterations. Addison wondered how long it had taken Agnes Brodie to secure the narrow passages and what had been her original intention for doing so? Had the abduction of Marlene Tidwell been a long standing and highly thought out plan? Who else was involved in this and more importantly, why?
Addison walked cautiously down the narrow, dugout passageway. Wooden beams reinforced the structure and along each side of the wall were recently installed, electric light fittings. They brightened up the underground tunnel considerably, though she supposed there was nothing that could be done about the dank aroma of the stagnant and sweet moist soil.
With her H&K set to burst mode, Addison kept to one side of the tunnel, the submachine gun pointing ahead as she approached a single door. On closer inspection Addison realised it was in fact an elevator. Releasing the gun to her side, Addison took a large chisel ended screwdriver from her backpack and pried the door open. She didnt want to electronically open the elevator in case it captured unwanted attention.
The shaft door separated in the middle and opened smoothly. Bending to her knees, Addison wedged the screwdriver into the bottom of the door and jammed it open. Taking a small but powerful flashlight from a clip on her belt, Addison shone it into the shaft. There was at least a thirty-foot straight drop to the top of the elevators roof and it seemed the only passage to take. Half way down the drop, there was another shaft but it was boarded up, Addison noted, from the inside!
Placing the torch between her teeth, the agent rose to her feet. With a light jump she leapt silently onto the lifts centre cable. It was a sturdy metal pulley designed to lift the elevators weight. Feeling her muscles strain against the material of her shirt, Addison began lowering her body down the lift shaft.
The agent was slow and deathly silent. The only noise that greeted her ears was the sound of her own controlled breathing. It didnt take her long to reach the top of the lift. Addison stepped quietly onto the metal roof. She knelt silently and listened for any nearby sounds or voices. There was nothing. Confident the area was clear, Addison released the roof hatch. It lowered down into the lift, away from Addison. She leaned forward and looked through the compartment and out into a narrow passageway. That too was bathed in artificial light. Thankfully, it was empty. Holding on to the edge of the hatch, Addison leaned upside down and slipped into the lift. She flipped over and landed squarely on her feet. Readying her H&K, Addison stepped into enemy territory.
The first notable difference in this lower tunnel was the air quality. It seemed a lot thicker and a little less tolerable to breathe. The agent had no idea how miners had spent entire days down in places such as this, and in much worse conditions. Addison had been potholing for leisure twice, but it had never felt like this. It was as though the souls of all the men who had died so many years ago, lingered still.
"Okay, Skyler Tidwell," Addison mumbled. "Lets get you and get the hell out of this ancient grave."
The door to Skylers room burst open with such force that the knob slammed into the shoddy concrete wall behind it. Skyler winced at the sudden noise and though she didnt look up from the writing tablet immediately, she prepared herself for the outburst she felt sure was to follow.
When no outburst was forthcoming she hazarded a glance toward the door. Brodie stood on the other side of the threshold, inspecting the portal closely. Satisfied there were no further perils to impede her progress into the room, she moved toward the scholar with a determined stride. Now attired in olive drab fatigues, Brodie resembled every inch of what she was, a heartless mercenary.
Brodie maintained a neutral expression on her face as she approached the table where Skyler sat but her eyes gave away the fury within. Reaching out to the scientist, Brodie grabbed a handful of blonde hair and pulled backward forcefully. Skyler shrieked out in pain as her scalp was used to force her face up to within inches of a furious and deadly redhead.
"I dont know how you pulled that off, Doctor, but nobody plays Agnes Brodie for a fool. Ive taken out people for less than that and as much as I want that information, I wont hesitate to kill you if you try anything like that again." Brodie punctuated her threat with the appearance of a large knife with a wickedly gleaming blade. She traced the cold metal slowly down Skylers face and under her chin where it moved across her throat.
"Of course there are worse things than just dying outright," she murmured. "It would be such a pity to mar your lovely face, but dont push me Doctor Tidwell because you will find that it wouldnt bother me in the least to punish you in that fashion." Skyler trembled a little then but it had less to do with Brodies words than the glimmer of excitement she saw in her eyes. Brodie would not only disfigure or kill her with ease, she would enjoy it as she was doing it.
"I dont know what brought this on, Brodie," Skyler said, "but I thought we were going to work together on this. I thought we were talking about you arranging a financial arrangement for me in return for my cooperation. Maybe your accident made you forget that?" Brodie released Skylers hair and her head bobbed forward with the lack of traction. The redhead straightened up and sneered down at her captive. The American could only hope her face showed the innocence she was trying to project. Brodie stared at the blonde and Skyler knew she had to pull her last ace out of her sleeve.
"I mean, here I was, not sure if you were terribly injured or not and yet to show my good faith I started working on the information as you requested." Skyler pulled the writing tablet closer to her so Brodie could see what was written there. Skyler was about to take her last chance. If Brodie had any scientific background she was sunk and she knew it. She barely breathed as the redhead scanned the papers.
"What is all this?" Brodie questioned. "I cant make heads or tails of it." Skyler almost giggled in relief but schooled her features. She cleared her throat and took on a scholarly tone as she said, "What is it? Well, obviously it is the heart and soul of Project Gemini. I thought you would have been more familiar with my work." Brodie looked uncomfortable with the criticism and Skyler decided to try to intimidate her with as much scientific babble as she could muster.
"You see this formula here?" Skyler pointed to a long and complicated chemical reaction written out in the proper symbols. "This is the basic science of the project. Without this, the rest of the work would be useless." Skyler could say this with a straight face because the very impressive first diagram was the Krebs cycle. The nine step Krebs cycle was a basic component of cellular metabolism and something she had been forced to memorize in her Microbiology class. Skyler was sure her mother would be working on something in her chosen field of Biology and there was nothing more basic in Biology than the Krebs cycle. She could tell Brodie was fascinated with the intricate circular diagram she had drawn. She pressed this advantage.
"Now here is the beginning of the whole thing, the catalyst to the project as it were." Skyler pointed to a string of interconnected letters.
H-C---- XANTHINE --- C-H
| | |
H | H
She could tell Brodie had no clue that the formula was merely the diagram of a molecule of caffeine, a substance that Skyler had used many mornings as a catalyst to get her butt out of bed.
Turning to the final page of her renderings, Skyler showed Brodie a piece of paper filled from top to bottom with chemical formulas and reactions. "The discovery of this process was a particularly sweet victory," Skyler noted, adding a tone of scientific pride to her voice. It should have been sweet, for on that paper was the chemical formulas for every ingredient in a chocolate chip cookie that she could recall.
"This is more like it," Brodie beamed. "I knew you would see the wisdom is cooperation. Cooperation with me will prove to be very beneficial." Her voice lowered, "Cooperation with me will prove to be very pleasurable." The frankly lustful look that showed in Brodies eyes made Skyler want to squirm in disgust, but she managed to feign approval of the redheads interest.
"Well youve managed to convince me that its best that I work with you rather than resist you," Skyler murmured.
A licentious smirk crossed Brodies features. "Many women have found resistance to me to be futile, but believe me, it will be worth it." Without warning Brodie grabbed Skylers face between her hands in an agonizingly tight grip. "Ive always wanted to play doctor for real," she said as she lowered her mouth to crush painfully against the Americans. Skyler forced herself not to react violently to the brutish kiss even when Brodies tongue invaded her mouth and ravaged rather than explored.
The mercenarys hand dropped to Skylers breast and squeezed hard. The blonde moaned when the squeezing touched an area already bruised by Brodies previous beating. Agnes smiled as she pulled back from the forced kiss, mistaking Skylers pain filled groan for passion.
"Too bad I dont have time to play at this moment but as I said to you earlier, I cant make heads or tails of your work." She lifted from the table the papers Skyler had written. "I do know someone who will understand it though. You will forgive me if I dont trust you, Doctor, but you need to realize something. I dont trust anyone." She chuckled at her own feeble attempt at humor as she straightened and moved with the papers toward the door.
"Dont worry, Professor Tidwell, when I receive faxed confirmation that this is indeed credible work on your behalf, Ill be back and we can resume exploring the pleasurable aspects of a partnership." The Irishwoman rapped sharply on the door and it opened immediately. Stopping just short of leaving the room she turned back to her captive.
"Of course, if youre trying to trick me or have been less than completely honest with me, Ill return also, but in that case well be exploring the far less pleasant aspects of your pain threshold." Brodies smile was cold as she left the room, slamming the door behind her.
At the doors closing Skyler moved as quickly as possible to the small sink where she leaned over and lost the contents of her stomach. Rinsing her mouth and scrubbing her face with a small rough cloth, she removed the last traces of Brodies assault.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep shaky breath, Skyler realized her last gamble wasnt going to pay off. She had run out of options and it was only a matter of time before Brodie uncovered her ruse.
"Where are you, Agent Black? Where the hell are you?" She moved back to the table and dropped heavily into the chair as despair washed over her again.
It was the north and western parts of the mine that had caved in. That, fortunately for Addison, left her with only the southern and eastern areas to search. It was highly unlikely Skyler Tidwell was being held in the lowest level of the mine. That was, at the time, still under construction and was the trigger that had caused the collapse of the north and western caverns.
Pacing down the narrow trench, Addison turned a corner. She stopped suddenly as a cough alerted her to another presence. Addison moved up against the right wall and waited. Another man, wearing the same blue uniform, emerged from a framed doorway ahead to the right and disappeared into the opposite wooden enforced passageway. He was armed yet carried a newspaper in his left hand. Addison followed him into what was clearly a makeshift bathroom. It was cold, dark and the aroma was less than pleasant.
Addison lowered her weapon back to her side and released it. "Excuse me?"
The man spun around to find Addison smiling up at him. His expression was one of confusion.
"You wouldnt be a love and tell me where I could find Marlene Tidwell, would you?"
Outraged, the guard pulled out his gun, aiming it at the soldiers head. "So you must be the Addison Black that Miss Brodie has been speaking of."
Addison shrugged. "Well, I dont like to brag "
"Oh man, have you just made one huge mistake!" The overly confident man, who Addison had already identified as the one who had been standing guard at the southern entrance, laughed. "She knew you were coming, you know. She has just reinforced the men ten fold." He aimed his pistol lower. "You aint ever gonna see the light of day again."
Addison pouted. "Does that mean no directions?"
"Only to the afterlife, lady."
"Well thanks," Addison grinned. The friendly gesture didnt reach her eyes. "But I havent finished in this life yet."
Completely taking the stunned guard by surprise, Addison kicked the gun out of his hand. It skidded along the gravelled ground and hit a makeshift wall. As the man turned back, Addison slipped a hand to her back and drew a pistol on him.
"Want to play round two? Do you think you can remove this from my hand before I pull the trigger?"
For her answer, Addison received a pair of hands held high above the guards head in surrender.
"Thats good." Addison stepped closer. "Now get to your knees."
The guard did as he was told and Addison stood behind him. "One last time. Where is Marlene Tidwell?"
"Why dont you go fuck yourself?" was his only response.
Addison laughed. "Sure, Id do a much better job than you ever could." And with that Addison sent her pistol slamming down onto the back of the guards head. He collapsed to the floor.
Addison stood over the limp body. "And just for the record I never make mistakes."
It didnt take Addison long to hide the body. Slipping uniformed trousers down his legs she deposited the unconscious form upon the toilet, locking the door and climbing over the temporary partition.
Once again finding herself in the narrowly dug tunnel, Addison ventured further into the earth. She thought about the guards words, wondering whether they were true. She would have considered it a bluff except he knew within an instant just who she was. If they knew of her mission to rescue the presumed Marlene Tidwell, then Brodies plans may have changed. That could bode dangerously unpredictable for Skyler. Addison was at least glad for the fact that it seemed they were as yet unaware they had the wrong person. Knowing now that she had to act faster, Addison readied herself. Taking the Spas 12 shotgun from her back holster, she increased her pace down the mineshaft.
Very soon the agent came upon a group of Brodies men. They congregated in a large room, illuminated by several lanterns. In the far corner stood a large generator. Its mechanical hum and churning engine overpowered the mens conversation. Knowing the generator was responsible for the main power within the mine, Addison made a strategic decision. Removing one of Samuels pens from her arm pocket, she stood by the door and peeked inside. There were eight men scattered around the room. Each was engrossed in conversation, Gaelic of course, and seemed to be preparing an arsenal of high-powered weapons. Addison realised the mineshaft was also being used as a storage facility.
Assured that no eyes were upon the doorway, Addison passed it by, halting on the opposite side. Taking the pen, she lodged it between two planks of wood that stretched out across the top of the doorway. They were obviously there to assist in the reinforcement of the constructed passageway. It was a risk, but one Addison was willing to take. The soldier was confident her plan would work. She wanted to cause a minor cave-in of the mines tunnel to block off access to the generator, but she didnt want to cut the generators power yet. A direct blast to the generator would be highly dangerous. The scent of its fuel was enough of an indication of that. Addison still, for the next few minutes at least, needed light.
Carefully, Addison grasped the protruding pen. "Okay, Addy," she whispered. "Get ready to run." Exhaling slowly, Addison tapped the pens cap and ran.
She had just enough time to reach the end of the shaft and turn the corner before a resounding explosion shook the tunnel. Addison continued to run until the force pushed her to the ground. She covered her head, feeling loose rubble hit her body. Several seconds passed before calmness eased into the air and Addison lifted her head. Though the artificial light remained, the room was filled with a cloud of sediment and dust. It momentarily impaired her vision.
"Well if they didnt know I was here before, they sure as hell do now!" Readying the Spas, Addison covered her mouth with the collar of her coat as she rose to her feet. The dust was still floating in the already tainted air as Addison closed in on the eastern shaft.
Within a larger cross section of the mine, groups of men began swiftly rallying into action. They arranged themselves into seven groups of four as an enraged Brodie ran towards them. Holding several sheets of paper, twisted and creased within her hand, she began issuing orders.
"I want you to split up and search every square inch of these tunnels. If that was Addison Black you have my orders to fire at will." Agnes threw the papers to the ground. She had just received word back about the information Skyler had given her and her temper was already sky high. "I dont know how she managed to find us so fast but its of no concern. She will not leave here got it?"
The men answered with a chorus of yes maam.
"And if by any chance you can manage to bring her back alive, do so." Brodies voice lowered. "I welcome the chance to slit her interfering little throat." She cast a gaze upon her men. "Well, what are you standing around here for? Get to it!"
As the troops ran toward several narrow tunnels, Brodie, red faced and seething with anger, headed towards Skyler's confines.
From a crevice within one of the tunnels, Addison watched Brodie. She noted the passage the Irish woman took, knowing she would be making her way to Skyler. Fast approaching footsteps closed in on Addison and she knelt close to the wall, hiding from view. She smirked as the men passed her by.
"I hope these arent your highly trained soldiers, Agnes," she mumbled and ran out into the empty cross section. Addison ran directly towards the eastern shaft.
There was no way Skyler wouldnt have been able to hear or feel the explosion Addison created. It shook her small cell like room, causing the roof to shake and small particles of rubble to fall from above. Skyler was instantly concerned. The blonde knew she was in some form of underground containment facility and that knowledge scared her greatly. Still a small hope flickered within Skyler that just maybe she would get out of the room alive. What else did she have to hope for?
Hearing the door unlock Skyler rose from the rickety wooden chair she had been resting upon. Brodie pushed the wooden barrier open and strode purposely into the room. Skyler was unprepared and taken completely by surprise as Brodie caught her by the throat and pushed her up against the wall. She slapped her hard across the face. The impact stung greatly, breaking Skys lip. She felt a warm trickle of blood flow into her mouth, followed by its tangy, metallic flavour.
Brodie held Skyler by the jaw. "I thought you would have learned by now that it isnt wise to fuck with me, Professor Tidwell."
"Shut the fuck up," Brodie interrupted and struck her again. Skyler felt her head slam into the wall.
"Chocolate chip cookies? The Krebs cycle? Caffeine? Did you honestly think you could get away with a trick like that? I am beginning to believe you have no idea of just whom you are dealing with. Seems I have to show you once again." The words dripped from Brodies lips like acid.
Skyler felt panic slice through her veins. "No "
"I didnt say you could speak," Brodie shouted. She leaned closer. "From now on you will do exactly as I say every moment of every miserable day of what could possibly be the remains of your life if you dont co-operate. Got it?"
Skyler's lip throbbed, her head ached and her breath laboured harshly in fear. She remained quiet, not knowing whether she had been given permission to speak, but instead nodded her head. She was beginning to realise just how dangerous a situation she was in and wished she hadnt played with Brodie.
"Lucky for you, we require the data so we are giving you one last chance and I warn you, Professor, screw with me again and Ill not only hurt you " Brodie paused and smiled nefariously. "Dont you have a daughter?"
Skys eyes widened as she was pulled from the wall.
"Right now were leaving here and that means you are coming with me." Brodie turned around, Skyler still within her grasp, only to find Addison leaning in the doorway.
The government agent smiled. She paid little attention to Skyler, focusing solely upon Brodie. "Surprise!"
Brodie blinked, and looked past Addison. "Stevens?"
Addison looked down at the lifeless body lying several feet away from her. "I dont think yelling will wake him up!" She stepped further into the room. "Do you pay your men for lying down on the job?" Not waiting for a response, Addison took a good look at Skyler for the first time. "Professor Tidwell?" This was not the girl Addison was expecting to find.
Skyler nodded in confusion. She wondered who this woman was.
Addison turned back to Brodie. "Well, if you will excuse us Agnes," she smirked, knowing full well the redhead despised her first name. "We really need to get going."
Eyes blazing, Brodie pushed Skyler away from her. She pulled a concealed knife from her hip, brandishing the six-inch, silver blade towards Addison. "You will not be leaving this place alive, Black."
"Oh, a challenge!" Making a swift decision the agent dropped her shotgun and H&K. "Well, I only have a minute to play," Addison held out her arms. "Lets make this quick, shall we?"
Brodie flicked the knife in her hand. "It wont take long."
The women lunged towards each other. Brodie swung the knife across Addisons stomach but the agent twisted out of reach. She backhanded Brodie, impacting her face. Blood sprung from the redheads nose.
"That ones for the shot I saw you lay upon the doc here."
Skyler backed up against the wall, bewildered by the events unfolding before her. Gut instinct screamed at her to run while she had a chance. However, not knowing exactly what was beyond the door, Skyler stayed put. This is Addison Black?
Brodie wiped the blood from her nose. She looked at the bright red substance upon her fingers before licking it off. Then she hit out, striking Addison across the face. "And that ones for my Ferrari that you totalled two years ago."
Addison rolled her eyes, unaffected by the strike. "You really do hold a grudge, dont you?" she taunted.
Growling, Brodie lunged for Addison. The agent, again, blocked her attack, knocking the knife clean out of her hand. It slid across the floor, only stopping when it collided with Skylers foot. The blonde kicked it under her bed in fear.
The women fought, blows being traded and blocked, but it was Addison who easily gained the upper hand. The recent blow to Brodies head had left her reflexes rather sluggish. Even Addison could tell that, for some reason, Agnes didnt seem at her peak. Not that she minded. Time was of the essence and her priority was getting Skyler out of the mine as expeditiously as possible.
Two swift blows by Addison, one of which effortlessly knocked Brodies front tooth out, sent the redhead hurtling back against the wall. She hit her head once again and fell into an unresponsive heap upon the floor. Addison stepped towards her and kicked the bloody tooth lying on the dirty ground.
"Well, theres something else for you to hold a grudge about." Addison turned to Skyler. The doctor still stood against the wall, staring at Brodies unconscious body. Addison addressed her carefully. "Skyler? Skyler Tidwell?"
Sky blinked, focussing her eyes upon Addison. "Yes."
"My name is Addison Black." While she spoke she inspected Skylers wounds. "I was sent here to bring you home.
The blonde hissed as Addison touched her lip. She brushed Addisons hand away. "Im fine. I hurt a little, but nothing is broken, believe me."
"Okay," Addison shrugged. She turned her back on Skyler and picked up her Spas 12, securing it to her back before reclaiming her submachine gun. "We have to move. Brodies men are still out there. The lift at the other end of this shaft is incapacitated. Remote activated I think, so we need to get back to the main cross section.
"With all those men around?" Skyler shook her head. "Sounds like a mistake to me."
"I have a plan," Addison replied. "And trust me. I never make mistakes." Readying her H&K, Addison stood by the door. She checked both left and right for any approaching soldiers but found the coast clear. "Okay, lets go." Skyler stood her ground for a moment, bewildered by the sudden change in events. Addison addressed her impatiently. "We dont have time for loitering, Doctor, we need to move now." The last word was spoken with force, encouraging Skyler to bite her tongue and abide to Addisons wishes.
They moved down the narrow shaft, Skyler close behind Addison. From the distance they could both hear the sound of Brodies men. Addison switched her weapon to rapid fire as they entered the mine's cross-section of tunnels. The agent crouched down to her knees, indicating that Skyler should do the same. She looked around until finding what she was searching for. High above and fixed to the wall, was a shiny new, metal box. Addison knew it was the junction box and conduit for the mines lighting. With a sly grin she turned to Sky.
"Okay, Doctor Tidwell, take this." Addison handed the professor her torch.
Skyler frowned. "What are you going to do?"
"Well " Addison clipped a high-powered light to the sight attachment on her H&K. "I am going to do this " Lifting the submachine gun to her right eye, Addison took aim at the junction box. She fired a rapid chain of bullets, each precisely making their mark. Sparks flew, followed by a large explosion of electricity. The mine fell into complete darkness.
"Jesus H. Christ!" Skyler cried as the last spark disappeared and the blackness descended. "What the hell did you do that for?"
"Just evening up the odds, Doctor Tidwell," Addison explained. "They cant hit what they cant see."
"Thats fine logic, Agent, but how are we supposed to see them? Funny thing about darkness, none of us can see in it!"
"Possibly we could if you would hand me back that torch." Addisons voice floated to her in the dark and Skyler extended the flashlight in the direction it came from. She misjudged the distance and her hand brushed across fabric covering a firm and well-developed upper arm.
"Sorry, forgot I had it," Skyler said a little sheepishly. She felt Addisons hand come up and touch her elbow. It traced a path to her hand where its warmth was removed as she relieved the scholar of the flashlight. A small click and the area they were standing in was illuminated with a steady beam.
"Thats better. Now, Doctor Tidwell, lets get the hell out of here, shall we?" Addison turned to head down the corridor but was stopped by the Americans voice.
"Agent Black, can you do me a favor? For the last two days Ive had to pretend to be my mother and frankly Im tired of it. I want my own life back. Do you think you could you call me Skyler please, just so I feel like we both know who I am?"
Addison brought the light to bear on the recently liberated prisoner and saw she was still shaken by her recent experiences. "It would be my pleasure, Skyler," Addison said smoothly. "Now can we get the hell out of here?"
Skyler did something she hadnt done in almost forty-eight hours. She smiled. "What are we waiting for?" Addison found she couldnt help but respond with a smile of her own.
"Not a thing," the agent said and turned again to lead the way. "Stay close. Do what I tell you the instant I tell you to do it and well get you out of here and back to your life soon." As Addison picked her way past pieces of the exploded junction box she felt a hand touch her back and grasp lightly to the material of her black jacket. She knew Skyler needed the contact and didnt complain. "If we run into trouble, Ill need that back but Ill loan it to you for now."
"Thanks," the scholar returned in a quiet voce. Skyler was grateful the agent understood and they moved along at a careful but steady pace. At each juncture of the main hall to connecting corridors, Addison would douse the flashlight and push a button on her wristwatch. The dial changed colors and Addison would wait a few seconds before indicating they should proceed. The first three cross-halls were traversed uneventfully. The fourth hall was different.
Addison slowed as she approached the next passageway and doused the flashlight. Bringing her arm up she pressed the button on her wristwatch. The face changed colors but this time small dots appeared where it had remained blank before.
"Damn. Playmates ahead," Addison whispered. Snapping off the watch, she turned to Skyler. "Stay here and stay down. This wont take long."
"If you think youre leaving me here, Agent, youre crazy. Ill stay down but Im not staying here." Skylers voice held determination and Addison would have argued but she heard movement down the hall she had just scanned.
"Its a moot point now. Theyre here." Flipping the watch back on, the agent scanned the area again. "Four of them," she said to herself as much as to Skyler. Reaching out she grabbed Skyler and urged her against the wall of the corridor by placing her hands on the Americans shoulders then slid her down to the floor. Leaning forward, she spoke to Skyler in a barely audible whisper, "Dont move and dont make a sound, I dont want to confuse you with our friends coming up the hall. It wouldnt be healthy for you." Skyler shivered at Addisons words as well as from the warm breath that blew across her ear. Good grief she thought out of the frying pan and into the fire. Brodie or Black, is one better than the other?
Addison had already moved away and reached to pull her pistol from the holster where it had been housed. If Skyler hadnt known the direction she moved away in, the tiny noises of Addisons preparations wouldnt have been noticeable at all. A sudden light from the cross-hall made Skyler squint in the return of stimuli to her starved sense of vision. As soon as the light appeared though, a sharp popping sound immediately preceded its extinguishing.
Four more reports followed then silence reigned again in the tunnel. Skylers eyes shifted back and forth in the darkness. She waited nervously for a few minutes then ventured in a low voice, "Agent Black? Addison?"
"I thought I told you not to make a sound," Addison said into Skylers ear. The American jumped at the sudden noise and swung out blindly. Addison intercepted what should have been an almost perfectly placed blow easily.
"Easy, Skyler. Im one of the good guys," Addison said.
"I was beginning to wonder about that. What happened just now?"
"There were four guards. They were an obstacle in the corridor we need to head into. I cleared a path." A tiny click and the flashlight was back on again. Skyler noticed the British woman wasnt even breathing hard.
"Look, before I go any further with you, I want to know a few things. You see, trust seems to have become a big issue for me in the last day or so." Addison considered the request then nodded.
"Fine, as long as we move while we do it. I checked those guards and they werent amateurs. They were professionals right down to their equipment and choice of weapons. We need to get out of here as quickly as possible."
"Thats just it," Skyler began as she took her place behind Addison again. "Where is here? I know they wanted my mother, but why? Who are you exactly and though I wont turn down the assistance, why did you help me? Oh, and who the hell is Agnes Brodie?"
Addison glanced back quickly before returning her attention to the route ahead. "When you ask questions you dont go halfway, do you?" She paused here to steer Skyler around the bodies of three men and a woman.
Skyler tightened her grip on the black jacket.
"They were professionals, Skyler. They would have killed us without a second thought."
And you would know all about that, wouldnt you, Agent Black? Skyler thought. She tore her eyes from the grisly sight and kept moving.
"I can only give you the answers to your questions as I know them," Addison tried to take Skylers mind from the bodies left behind. "Youve figured out they were after your mother, but I cant tell you why. The truth is I dont know. I have a few suspicions but at this point they would be just guesses. Agnes Brodie is a bit difficult to explain as well. Lets just say if there is an unsavory pound to be made, Brodie will be there trying to make it. We know shes been involved in gun running, smuggling and dabbled in the drug trade. We also believe shes been working as an assassin for hire. Dont doubt this, Agnes wouldnt have left you alive at the conclusion of her business with you."
Once again, Addison felt the Americans grip tighten. She stopped in mid-stride and turned to Skyler. "She didnt hurt you, did she?" Skyler knew what Addison was asking. She blushed and looked uncomfortable but didnt turn her eyes from the intense gaze of the British woman.
"She kissed me. I knew what she wanted and I let her believe I was receptive to the idea, but it was just to buy some time. She beat me once, very skilfully." Skyler did look down then. Addisons jaw clenched and she reached out to touch her companions arm.
"Skyler, look at me." Reluctantly, the scholar raised her eyes. "You did what you had to do to survive. You lived; you won. Its as simple as that. We have reliable information that quite a few others who crossed her path didnt."
Skyler felt a rush of gratitude for the understanding she was being shown. "Who are you?" She knew that was the least of what she wanted to know about the intriguing woman, but the question was the best she could do at the time.
Addison gave her a cocky grin and a little half bow. "Addison Black, agent of Her Majestys government at your service. Ive been assigned to achieve your liberation so may I suggest we get on with it?" Skyler smiled for the first time in what felt like a very long while and she nodded to the agent. Addison turned and they began to walk again.
"As for where we are," Addisons voice floated back to her, "Were in what used to be a working coal mine in the Scottish highlands. There are only two sections of this mine that are accessible from the surface as the northern and eastern sections were lost in a collapse a long time ago. You were held in the western section and we are going to make our ascent to the surface at the southern entrance. Any more questions?"
Plenty Skyler thought, but out loud she said, "Not at the moment."
"Good," Addison said, "Because were here and this was far too easy."
"You killed four people and you say it was too easy?" Skylers voice had dropped to a whisper as she felt Addison still as well. She watched as the agent removed a pair of simple sunglasses from one of the multiple pockets on her jacket. Skyler didnt recognise or understand why Addison would be putting on sunglasses, but she had a fair idea. "Night vision specs," she said, "So thats how you took care of those four."
"Uh huh," Addison confirmed as she slipped the dark glasses into place and edged near the elevator she had entered through, snapping the flashlight off as she went. The doors were ajar just as she had left them but she had an uneasy feeling about the whole situation. She paid heed to those feelings; they had saved her more than once.
The agent leaned into the elevator, peering up through the cars roof. She then turned quickly to Skyler and asked, "Can you climb?"
"Of course," Skyler answered with more confidence than she felt. She refused to let the British agent see her as weak or a victim. Why that was she couldnt say and didnt have the time to examine.
"Good then," Addison said as she pulled the American into the elevator. She handed the once again illuminated flashlight to Skyler then crouched and sprang upward, grabbing the edges of the hatch with both hands. Skyler watched with amazement at muscles flexing in well-toned arms and legs as Addison tucked her legs and pulled herself up through the hatch at the same time.
She was still marvelling when a black clad arm dropped back through and a hand beckoned her. Snapping back to reality, Skyler grasped the proffered hand and was unceremoniously hauled up and through the hatch. When both of her feet rested on the roof of the elevator, her balance failed her. Two strong hands on her arms arrested her momentary bobbling.
"Thanks," she croaked weakly, losing herself in the intense gaze of the agent. It was a gaze made even more intense and dark by the muted shadows of the flashlight that still dangled limply in one of Skylers hands.
"Good job I had my vitamins this morning," Addison quirked, with a lopsided grin. She left her hands in pace while she scanned the area above them.
"We wont need this anymore," the agent said as she returned her attention to Skyler. The Brit moved her right hand down the Americans left upper arm to the hand holding the flashlight. The warmth of Addisons hand on hers as she took the light was in stark contrast to the colder air of the shaft. Addison placed the flashlight on the roof of the car, aiming the beam up the cable.
"Up you go" Addison said as she indicated the elevator cable. "Dont worry, Ill be right behind you." Skyler took a deep breath and grabbed the cable, ready to prove her fitness or be mortified by failure. As she tensed for the climb, the elevator doors at the top of the shaft were suddenly pried open.
"Ladies, I cant believe you want to leave my party so soon," Agnes Brodies voice drifted down the shaft. Her voice had a slight whistling quality, probably the result of her lost tooth. "Here I was thinking I had been a neglectful hostess, but now I have a second chance to show you both my hospitality!"
Addison grabbed Skyler and pushed her against the wall directly below the open doors. At this angle they couldnt see the doors anymore but Brodies words came down clearly.
"As this is my party, I get to fashion the guest list and Ive decided to delete you from it permanently!" Agnes laughed at her own joke. "Dont be concerned though, Ill send you away with a few party favors.
Rapid-fire shots sprayed down the shaft and Addison pressed her body closer against Skylers, shielding her from any stray bullets.
"Did you enjoy those?" Agnes cackled. "I hope so because there is much more to come. And Addison?"
Skyler felt the British woman tense but she said nothing.
"Addison!" Brodie screamed and another burst of gunfire rang out. This time the angle was a little better and the walls near them were struck, sending pieces of stone and concrete bouncing painfully off them.
"What do you want, Agnes?" Addison called out.
"Thats better," the Irish woman said. "I just wanted to tell you a few things before I kill you and the professor there." Her voice was almost conversational in tone. "You were really such a fly in my ointment, Addison. Remember Tangiers? Of course you remember Tangiers. That was such a sweet deal you managed to screw up for me. Those six SCUD missiles should have netted me a net profit in the millions but you had to come calling. What did I get for my trouble? Destroyed SCUDS and a decimated team. When you were finished I had a mere handful of men left; they were loyal though, they stayed with me. It might interest you to know those survivors are the team currently placed outside the elevator down there. Theyre very anxious to renew your acquaintance."
On cue, light flooded into the elevator from outside the still open car doors. Even Skyler could tell Brodie wasnt bluffing.
"Shite!" whispered the black-garbed agent.
"I tell you what, Addison," Brodies voice resumed. "Im a fair woman, Ill give you the option. Drop down into the elevator and meet the team or come up here and face me. You have ten seconds to decide!"
Skyler watched as Addison hesitated only a moment before fishing in her jacket pocket. She removed the pistol she had taken from the first guard and leaned slightly into the roof opening of the elevator car. Bringing her arm back, she aimed carefully and tossed the pistol through the opening. The projectile apparently hit its intended target because the elevator car gave a slight jerk and slowly started to ascend.
"Were coming up!" Addison yelled. In the next few seconds the agent was a blur of activity. She retrieved her flashlight, rummaged in her jacket pockets and pulled a shotgun from the holster on her back. She then moved closer to the American and whispered, "Skyler "
"Agent," Skyler quickly interrupted, "Its me Brodie wants and what she thinks I can give her. Use that. Theres no sense in both of us dying. Send me to her; you try to get away. Just make sure my mom is okay."
"I cant do that, Doctor," Addison said calmly as the car rose further, now almost halfway up the shaft.
"Why not?" the scholar asked.
"Because this is our stop." With that, Addison, shotgun still in hand, put both arms around Skyler in a bear hug. She picked up the smaller woman effortlessly, took two long strides across the top of the elevator car, twisted and launched them both through the air.
Addisons back bore the brunt of the jolt as they broke through the old boards on the side of the shaft. Landing hard, Addison nonetheless rose quickly to her feet and setting the flashlight on the shotgun as a guide, pumped several powerful shots toward the bottom of the still moving elevator car. The sound of metal snapping followed the shots and two heavy metal cables whipped by the opening in the shaft wall. The elevator car itself seemed to come to a complete standstill momentarily before following the cables down the shaft. The resounding crash almost, but not quite, drowned out the sound of Agnes Brodies voice.
"God damnit! You fools! Go get some equipment! I want to get down there now!"
"Hey, Agnes!" Addison yelled up at the furious redhead. A silence from above ensued. "How does it feel to get shafted?"
"Fuck you, Addison! Ill kill you bitch! You and that blonde are dead!"
The Brit chuckled on her way back where Skyler still lay on the floor.
"You just couldnt resist, could you?" Skyler asked as she shook her head.
"No, I couldnt," the agent said with a grin. "Shall we go, Doctor? Agnes seems to be in a foul mood and it wont take her long to figure out a way in here." She extended her hand and assisted Skyler to her feet. "By the way, thank you for flying Black Airlines."
"Remind me to fire my travel agent," the American shot back, but as she was tugged along deeper into the darkness she thought, but damn is that pilot cute.
Several minutes later Addison stopped abruptly ahead of the doctor and dropped the hand she had held onto while guiding Skyler along. They had been moving through what appeared to be part of the long deserted original mine. Thick timbers braced the walls and rusted tracks lined the floor.
"Why have we stopped?" Skyler asked as she came around Addison to be confronted with the same dilemma the Brit faced. They had arrived at a junction in the passageway where three identical tunnels broke off from the larger one they had come through.
Shining the flashlight down each new tunnel, they could ascertain no difference in them except for a rotting sign in each bearing letters and numbers apparently acting as route names.
"Do you have a preference, Doctor?" asked Addison as she indicated the three passageways. Skyler studied them for a moment before turning to Addison and asking, "Do you have a match?" The British agent plucked a small plastic container from one the seemingly multitude of pockets in her jacket.
"Of course you have a match. Why did I doubt that?" Skyler took a match out of the box and struck it against a small piece of sandpaper she found attached to the bottom. Moving into the first tunnel on the left she held the lit match above her head. The action was repeated in the center tunnel and then in the one on the right.
Blowing the last match out she returned to Addison and stated, "Ill take the middle tunnel."
Addison pocketed the remaining matches as she moved forward without hesitation into the passageway the doctor has selected.
"How do you figure?" Addison asked as she felt Skyler move along behind her again.
"Well," Skylers voice came from the rear, "the matches flame was stationary in the left and right tunnels. It flickered and bent slightly in the center one. It isnt a huge amount, but theres definitely air circulation in that middle tunnel. Old archaeologists trick."
"Clever girl," Addison complimented as she continued along the chosen route.
"Im not a girl," Skyler muttered but stumbled along behind Addison anyway. Within a few minutes another two junctions had been reached and the tunnels chosen. By the time they reached the next meeting of passageways, the airflow was so noticeable that matches were unnecessary. With the possibility of escape came a renewed sense of energy and their pace quickened. A final turn led to a slightly wider area that contained no tracks. It was much cooler than previous areas. It was also a dead end.
Shining the light around the area, the beam landed on a square box-like contraption suspended by thin metal wires from the high ceiling of the chamber. Following the line of sight provided by the cables, the pair could just make out a few stars through the top of the room.
"Emergency exit," Addison observed as she moved toward the cage. "Lets go." Skyler looked with suspicion at the rickety contraption.
"Addison, look at this thing. God knows how old it is. Im not sure it will hold one of us, much less both of us."
"You have a better idea?" Addison asked as she stepped inside the cage and bounced a little, testing the ancient wooden floor. Skyler didnt and joined the agent in the cage. It was close quarters and they were pressed closely together as the lift had obviously been meant for single person use.
"Going up, madam?" Addison asked in a sophisticated tone and pulled hard on the rusty wires. With a protesting squeal the ancient cage lifted from the tunnel floor. Skyler closed her eyes and prayed that the workmanship of years ago would hold up.
Addison grunted with the effort of lifting both of their weight, but in a few minutes the cage reached the top and clicked into place. Skyler moved quickly from the perilous perch. Addison followed and moved past Skyler to lead the way out into the cold Scottish night.
"Free at last!" Skyler exclaimed.
The rain, which fell so heavily before Addison entered the mines, had now ceased. Clouds hung low in the dark sky. A strong wind pushed them swiftly through the atmosphere. It was cold, below freezing, and the icy winds whipped around the doctor and soldier as Addison gained her bearings.
Skyler shivered and gasped sharply. A biting wind thrashed against her flesh, chilling her to the bone. The temperature had dropped drastically. Addison noted the rain soaked grass had frozen and it crunched under her footsteps. Without presence of a moon, the land was dark and ominous. Addisons torch provided the only source of light.
The agent turned to Skyler, shining her torch upon the shivering woman. She instantly realised the young doctors condition, as she stood with arms wrapped around herself, trembling.
"Cold?" Addison asked. She released the rucksack and shotgun from her back. They slipped to the ground with a thud, forcing Addison to cast her torch around their vicinity before tuning it back upon Skyler.
Teeth chattering against each other, Skyler hugged herself tighter. "C-Cold isnt the word."
Beginning to unload ammunition and random equipment from her pockets, Addison crouched down and placed her torch upon the frozen ground. Once her pockets were empty she shrugged the thick coat from her shoulders. "Here, put this on."
"What about you?" Skyler enquired, as she willingly accepted the black, padded coat.
Addison opened her backpack. "Ill wear this." She pulled out the khaki, camouflage jacket. "Its not as warm as that, but Im used to this kind of weather besides, you might be suffering from shock. You should, if anything, keep warm."
"Shock " Skyler shivered violently. "Its not every day I get kidnapped, held prisoner, beaten, shot at and come on to by the same person."
Addison paused in the middle of putting on the jacket. She felt a flare of anger once again at the thought of Brodie touching Skyler. "She will more than pay for that." The agent grimaced, wondering what Sky had to do in order to play along with Brodie. Her disdain for Brodie deepened and Addison knew that after she had secured Skylers safety, she would return and put a stop to Agnes Brodie, one way or another, once and for all.
Replacing the shotgun and SMG ammunition in her pockets, Addison sighed. "Listen we need to get moving. I want to get to the truck before they catch up with us. I need to get you out of here."
"Usually Id insist I can take care of myself, but in this instance I agree with you." Skyler took the torch Addison handed to her. "Lead the way where exactly are we, by the way?"
Holding her H&K submachine gun, Addison turned on its attached light. "The Grampian Highlands." She took the handheld, electronic display map from her pocket. Switching it on she checked the compass and started moving. "Its about a half an hour walk." The agent strode off, hearing Skyler follow. "I left the jeep within a group of fir trees."
Skyler sped up her gait and walked along side Addison. The agent could see Skyler periodically watching her from the corner of her eye. "What?" she finally asked.
Addison continued scanning the area. "What is it youre thinking, Skyler?"
"Well its just that you arent what I would have expected as my knight in shining armour."
Snorting, Addison smirked. "You expected a bloke?"
"Sorry to disappoint you." Speaking before Skyler could respond, Addison said, "Your mother thought the same."
Skyler stopped momentarily in surprise. "You spoke to my mother?" She caught up to Addison who hadnt stopped moving.
"She was at the HQ of the government branch I work for."
"And that is?"
"Classified" Addison responded. She didnt miss the grunt and quietly muttered of course from Skyler but chose to ignore it. Instead, Addison picked up her pace. The temperature seemed to drop further and Addison was sure it had reached at least minus six degrees Celsius. By the light on her weapon she could see her breath escape in large puffs of vapour. Apart from the wind and Skylers presence, the land was gravely silent. They were still unable to see more than fifteen feet ahead. The mix of clouds and fog severely hindered the agents vision but her electronic mapping device helped immensely. Addison reactivated her watchs heat and motion sensor. If there was anybody close by, they would be detected.
Both women continued to walk in an uneasy silence. Skyler remained close beside Addison and the agent could sense her uneasiness. She could fully understand. It was cold, dark, and there was a contingency of armed soldiers trying to kill them. Although these were times in which Addison excelled, she understood it would be terrifying for anybody who wasnt used to the life she led. To Addison, however, this was plain sailing.
As a distant rumble echoed over the land, Skyler jumped and grabbed Addisons arm.
Skyler nodded. "Yeah. What on earth was that?"
Addison looked around them. "My bet is Brodie just destroyed the mine. She wont want any clues left behind so she has no doubt turned the place to rubble. Access will be unlikely."
"How will you catch her now?"
"Dont worry. She will get hers." Addison gripped her weapon tighter. And I am going to enjoy every second of it, she thought.
They continued on in silence for several minutes before Skyler found the need to speak again. "Its getting colder," she noted and tried vainly to warm the hand holding Addisons torch. "How much further do we have, or is that classified too?"
Addison stopped. She turned to face Sky and shone a light upon her. "Do you have some sort of problem with me? I mean, correct me if I am wrong here, but I do know sarcasm when I hear it."
"That wasnt sarcasm," Skyler responded and strode ahead of Addison.
The agent kept her pace behind Sky. "Could have fooled me." Addison shook her head. "What is your problem?"
"Problem?" Skyler sighed. "I dont have a problem... I just dont much appreciate being treated like a kid." She increased her pace, seemingly unaware as Addison took her elbow and adjusted her direction as they neared the jeep. "You dive in to that place, shooting people left, right and centre. The information you give me is sketchy at best and you wont even say whom you work for. I still have only a rough idea what the Gemini Project really is. I wasnt expecting any of this. A quiet visit with my mom before I started on my next job was all I wanted."
Addison spotted a familiar group of trees. "Oh well, excuse me if I was too busy saving your arse while trying to get mine out alive, to stop and answer all your questions!"
"Its not that Im not grateful "
"Uh huh," Addison interrupted.
"I just dont like to feel out of control. I like to know whats going on."
"You want to know whats going on?" Addison shone her light towards the trees and emerging jeep. "That is our transport. We are going to get inside it and Im going to take you to a plane where some nice big men will take you to your mother. I am sure you and she will have plenty to talk about then. My job is to save your arse, not bow down to every whim." Addison felt that last remark was a little low, maybe it wasnt deserved but she was getting cold and feeling anger towards Brodie and her antics. No doubt that anger was misplaced, but Addison was occasionally too pigheaded to admit she was wrong.
Both women stopped beside the camouflaged jeep and Skyler shone her torch into Addisons face. "Youre quite rude, you know."
Addison smiled as though being given the greatest of compliments. "Thank you, and believe me " she pulled the rucksack and shotgun from her back. "It didnt just happen over night." Addison unhooked her submachine gun and along with the shotgun and rucksack, she opened the back door and tossed them into the vehicle. "It took me a long time to perfect this." Re-closing the back door, Addison walked to the drivers side where Skyler was still standing. "You driving?"
"You dont think I could?"
Addison shook her head. The tone of almost indignant amused her. "I am sure you could. I never go into any situation with preconceptions." She moved to open the door. "If theres one thing Ive learned its " as the door opened a high pitched beep echoed from underneath the vehicle.
"Oh FUCK!" Addison grabbed Skylers hand and began to move. "RUN!" she yelled, still holding Skys hand as she pulled the shocked woman with her. Skyler ran, trying only to keep up with Addison. They managed to get no more than eight strides away from the jeep before the entire vehicle exploded into a ball of hot, orange flames. The force of the blast jolted Addison and Skyler into the air for several seconds before they fell onto the cold, hard ground and rolled further away from the fire.
Addison hugged Sky against her body, shielding the doctor from flaming debris falling around them. The heat was palpable, a stark contrast to the intense cold of moments before. She remained still, protecting Skyler, while realising that she was going to have to rethink her plans. Addison looked towards the flames that brightened the dark night. Tiny explosions continued to erupt from the burning wreckage. Skyler jumped every time one rung out into the night air and it alerted Addison to the woman in her arms. She pulled back slightly to look upon Skyler. Shocked green eyes glittered with unshed tears and the fires orange hues flicked upon her features. Addison had completely wrapped her body around the doctor upon impact to shield her from injury. They lay on their sides, Skyler within the embrace of the soldiers arms and legs.
"Are you okay?" Addison asked.
Skylers breathing laboured. Her chest rose and fell against Addison. She shuddered and whispered, "I think so." Sky blinked. "How did you know?"
The agents eyes scanned the tree line. "I heard the activation sequence. Its a " Addison paused as movement within the trees and warning beep from her watch drew her attention. "Dont move," she whispered.
Beginning to understand Addisons instincts, Skyler froze. "What is it?"
"Theres somebody out there." Drawing one hand behind her back, Addison pulled a pistol from its holster. "Keep still and try not to move a muscle." Black watched intently as the figure emerged from the trees and began to close in upon them. She knew instantly Brodie sent this person and was probably out there to make sure Addison failed in her mission. If the blast hadnt finished them off then the high-powered weapon with laser sighting would. Addisons eyes ran over Skys body and she spotted the glowing red dot trained upon the doctors body, positioned over her heart.
"Whats going on?"
"Dont move," Addison pressed. She watched and waited as the figure drew ever closer. By the firelight she could identify the uniform Brodies men had worn. "Listen when I say now I want you to roll out of my arms but stay on the ground, okay?"
"Okay," Skyler whispered with uncertainty.
Addison breathed shallowly. She held the Baretta pistol with her finger resting lightly on the trigger. Her eyes remained focused upon the cautiously approaching figure. He drew near.
Addison waited a little longer. As the man reached five paces away from them Addison whispered, "Now!"
In swift succession Skyler rolled from Addisons embrace as the agent aimed and fired two rounds at their assassins weapon, knocking it clean out of his hands. She jumped to her feet, holstering the Baretta, and as he attempted to regain possession of his Uzi, Addison charged him. They collided with a heavy impact and fell to the ground, Addison on top of him. Astride his back she instantly captured his flailing arms and grabbed a hand full of think blonde hair with her other hand. He was trapped.
Behind her, Addison heard Skyler scramble to her feet. She remained a distance away from them but picked up the torch and shone it upon the man underneath Addisons grip.
Yanking his head back harder, the soldier spoke firmly and to the point. "First of all you have five seconds to give me your name."
"Myers," was his strained but rapid reply.
Addison nodded saying, "Good boy." She lessened her grip a measure to show the young man his willingness to answer her questions would be beneficial. "I see you understand it would be wise to comply. Now tell me who sent you?"
Myers declined to respond but struggled once again.
A groan escaped from Addison and she released Myers head, punching the side of his face. She then regained possession of Myers hair and pulled him roughly, ignoring his yelp of pain. "Wrong answer," she seethed. "Try again."
"Okay Miss Brodie, Agnes Brodie sent me." Myers breathed nervously and rapid puffs of air billowed past his lips. "She ordered me to watch out for you just in case."
The cogs of Addisons mind began to turn. "One? I find it hard to believe she sent just one of you. How many of you are out there?"
"Two," he answered.
Addison tugged his arms tighter.
"Alright, six. I swear there were just six of us sent out to sweep the area for any sign of you." Myers groaned in relief as Addison loosened her grip upon him. "Our orders were to bring you to her dead or alive."
"And what of Professor Tidwell?"
Skyler stepped closer on hearing her name. The torchlight shone directly into Myers eyes, forcing him to squint in the glare. A blooded nose glimmered red in its beam.
"I dont know honestly." Addison knew on this, he was telling the truth. It was doubtful Brodie would share her plans with her men, men she considered disposable. "All I know is that Miss Brodie is scheduled to report back to some foreign alliances in two days. We were to go with her. If she hadnt obtained the information she wanted by then she was to bring the Professor along."
That confused Addison. "Where was this meeting?"
Myers didnt answer. The only sound to greet Addisons ears was the cracking and popping of her burning jeep.
Due to her position upon Myers, Addisons foot was closest to her hand. She pulled the baby Browning pistol from its holster on her boot and thrust it against Myers head. Skyler gasped but remained silent. "I held no qualms in killing your comrades back in the mines want to test whether that has changed?"
Addison frowned and Skyler jumped upon hearing her name.
"Theyre meeting on the Isle of Skye. There is a place within the Cuillin Hills; I have never been there so I dont know what it is."
The agent silently processed Myers information. She knew he was telling the truth. Although there was probably plenty he was neglecting to tell, it was still enough to help the mission. Addison re-holstered the Browning pistol. Then with a rapid thrust, she delivered a harsh blow to the back of Myers neck. His head fell limply.
"What did you do?" Skyler asked, now approaching.
"Dont worry." The agent climbed to her feet. "I just put him to sleep for a while. He will keep nice and warm by the fire." Nudging the inert body with her booted foot, Addison stepped over Myers. She looked at the burning vehicle. Orange flames flicked harshly in the wind, refusing to relent under the strong easterly gusts. Dark grey smoke spiralled into the atmosphere. The aroma was overpowering but it was a scent Addison was used to. She shook her head as she realised that most of her equipment had been destroyed. "Bollocks," she whispered and turned to Skyler.
Sky looked at the burning vehicle hopelessly. Addison thought she saw a glimmer of emotional despair, but with the darkness and flickering light, she wasnt sure. "Umm Skyler, are you alright?"
"You didnt receive any injuries, did you?" Addison had tried to shield Skylers body as they fell, receiving the majority of the impact herself.
She shrugged. Skyler did hurt, especially considering the beating she had also received not long ago. That, together with the explosion, made the doctor feel like she had tussled with a wild animal... and lost. "Ill be okay," Sky insisted. "What are we going to do now?"
Forcing out a weary breath, Addison checked her pockets. All she had now was what was on her person. She took the radio from her pocket and walked closer to the flames. Skyler followed. Addison tried to test the communication device and attempted to turn it on. It failed to respond and she realised it had been destroyed. In her fall Addison had broken the radio. She knew she had felt something give upon impacting the ground.
"No COM with HQ," she said, throwing the radio into the fire. Next she checked her other pocket and pulled out the electronic handheld map. That was still intact. "Well, we have a map." She placed it back in her pocket. "Night vision specs." Addison briefly lifted a pair of regular looking dark sunglasses from her top pocket. "Plenty of ammo, although some useless shotgun cartridges." Running a hand through her shaggy black hair, the soldier folded her arms. "We have plenty of money and cards what is important is that we get to a phone." Striding back over to Myers unconscious body, Addison took his weapon and spare magazine. "We must keep moving now. It might not be safe to make camp tonight. We should get to the next town and a phone ASAP. Im going to head towards Skye though. If Brodie is having a party, Im going to gatecrash!" Readying Myers Uzi, Addison jerked her head. "Lets go."
Casting one final glance at the burning jeep, Skyler followed Addison into the night.
The door to General Blithes office swung open and the statuesque man strode into his secretarys reception. He had been working late, very late indeed. It was a quarter to five in the morning. Though Headquarters never ceased to remain in operation, Miss Bakersfield worked a simple nine to five job. She wouldnt be in for another four hours. Antonia Bakersfield lived with her aging father; she cared for him during the night while a nurse, provided by HQ, cared for him during the day.
The General rubbed his tired eyes. He had been waiting on Addison Black to contact him with confirmation of Skyler Tidwells liberation. He thought she would have been in contact by now, but he held little worry. His faith rested squarely on the agent. She wouldnt fail in the mission.
Striding over to Miss Bakersfields desk, Blithe opened the bottom drawer. There he found a silver keypad. He punched in a code known only to Antonia and himself. From behind came a familiar mechanical click, as filing cupboards built into the wall were unlocked. He turned to the middle drawer, slid it open and flipped through the slim black expense folders. After setting up Marlene Tidwells accommodation hed filled out the appropriate form for all expenditures needed for the temporary living arrangements. He had then given them to his secretary to file away. Unfortunately, Blithe had been unable to sign the documents until confirmation had been received from the P.M.s office. It was simple red tape forcing him to wait, although he knew there would be no problem. Now that confirmation had arrived, he could finalise the documents.
Scratching his signature upon three forms, Mark placed them back into the drawer and re-closed it. Still sitting at Antonias desk his eyes slid to the white telephone sitting by a computer screen. Although it was still quite early in the morning, he felt the need to check upon Marlene Tidwell. Regular checks were supposed to be carried out, so he took it upon himself to fulfil the deed.
He picked up the receiver, dialling a secure code, an outside line; second secure code and finally Marlenes apartment number. It began to ring and Blithe waited for her to answer and waited and waited. Finally after a minute had passed Mark disconnected the line and dialled another. This was answered immediately.
"This is General Blithe I want you to check upon apartment A2 in section B, right away. I need confirmation that our guest is okay Ill wait on the line."
"Right away, Sir."
The line fell silent as Marks orders were carried out. Resting one hand upon the desk he drummed his fingers on the thick wood, in rhythmic beats of three.
Moments later the voice returned. "General the guest in apartment A2 isnt there. I have detected signs of a struggle and the back door was open. We have a situation, Sir."
"What?" Blithe rose from the chair instantly, wondering how this could be possible. "Im on my way."
Slamming down the telephone, General Blithe dashed out of the office.
Keeping on the move had been the only way for Addison and Skyler to keep relatively warm. Skyler was exhausted. With the exertion and excitement, if she could call it that, every inch of her body felt weary and in desperate need of rest. Unfortunately for her, Addison had refused any request to slow down, stating it was in their best interest to keep moving. Skyler didnt care at that point; all she wanted was hot food and a warm bed. The blonde doctor was beginning to think she resented Addison, greatly.
Leading several paces ahead, Addison reached the summit of a large rocky hill and looked into the valley below. "Well its about shagging time."
Scowling at the agents use of language, a sure sign of limited vocabulary in her eyes, Skyler asked, "What is it?"
"Civilisation." Addison swept her hand over the view in an introductory gesture as Skyler reached her. "Or as close to it as possible. There are even a few street lamps out there. I am betting we could get to a phone in no time."
Skyler looked down at the small village within the valley. It wasnt particularly large, she estimated. By the amount of houses and buildings scattered over the area she presumed there was less than a thousand inhabitants. The sight alone, however, was enough to fill her with hope. "Food and a place to rest, here we come."
"Telephone and transportation," Addison countered. "You can do the food and rest once we have that sorted." She began to trek down the rocky hill.
"Dont you ever rest?" Skyler called after her in weary exasperation, and then muttered, "Or is that an Energizer battery you have stuck up your ass?"
"Yep," Addison chuckled for the first time. "And it powers my hearing too!"
Skyler winced as she followed the soldier towards civilisation.
A worn wooden signpost proclaimed the town was called Innisbeth. It swung in the cold night breeze on squeaking hinges, a not so silent sentinel at the towns edge. Addison and Skyler moved up the narrow main road, wanting both to race to the nearest shelter and yet remain necessarily wary of running into more of Brodies men.
"I wouldnt think Agnes would be so stupid as to show herself in the open. Her ilk seems to prefer the shadows, like most vermin," Addison observed with repugnance.
There were precious few lights on in the small town at such an early hour. Approaching one of the nearest homes with a light on, they were surprised when the door opened just as they were about to knock.
An older gentleman fully dressed against the Scottish elements and carrying an antique metal lunch pail, jumped in fright. Ascertaining that it was only two women outside his cottage, he relaxed and leaned against the doorframe.
"Jesus, girls! You nearly took my life in surprise." The mans accent was thick and Skyler was glad she had studied dialects as well as languages. "There aint usually a soul about when I leave for work in the morning." He took a deep breath and brought a steady pair of gray eyes to bear on them. "And who might ye be and what are ya doin rummaging around at this hour?"
Addison took control of the conversation. "Were sorry to disturb you, sir, but weve run into a bit of car trouble several miles back. Were on official government business and would appreciate the use of your phone."
Skyler could see the gray haired mans mind working as he tried to reconcile "official government business" with the rough and bedraggled look of his visitors. Addison seemed to sense his hesitation also and she removed a small white card from a cargo pocket on her black trousers. Skyler saw it contained only one line of print.
"If youll just call this number, sir," the agent continued, "and mention the name Addison Black. Im sure everything will be explained to your satisfaction."
The man took the card, looked at the number and back at the pair. "Ill be late for work."
"We wont keep you but a minute, sir"
"My telephone bill "
"Youll be generously reimbursed for any expense, Mr "
"MacSwain," he supplied. "Well wait here." He closed the door and the sound of a deadbolt being thrown was heard.
"Something you said?" Skyler asked.
"More likely something you wore, killer," Addison replied as she indicated blood stains and burns on her jacket that Skyler still wore.
"What was that number you gave him?"
Addison shrugged. "Well, normally I would have let my rapier-like wits and good looks secure my passage out of a situation like this, but I have you to think about. I merely gave him a contact number that should allow us "
The rest of Addisons explanation was cut off as Mr. MacSwain re-opened the door. "What are ye standing out in the night air for? Youll catch your death. Please, come right in." He moved away from the door, motioning for them to enter. The cottage was small but homey and blessedly warm. It was all Skyler could do not to let slip an audible sigh as she was shown to a comfortable floral print overstuffed chair.
"Theres a man on the phone for you, Miss Black. He says its urgent. Ill just put on the kettle to make you a nice cup of tea."
Skyler was amazed at the change in MacSwains attitude and raised her eyebrows at Addison. The agent merely moved to the phone that rested on the top of a small bookcase just inside the main room and said over her shoulder, "My credit card must have been approved."
Snatching up the receiver, Addison said only, "Black." She listened for a few moments, glancing over at Skyler as she did.
"Yes, I understand. Thats unfortunate," Addison spoke into the phone. "Shes here with me. A little the worse for wear, but basically sound." Skyler felt an irrational sense of pride at the assessment. The agent continued the conversation as Mr. MacSwain returned with a small tray bearing two steaming mugs of tea and a plate of chocolate covered tea biscuits. Skyler took a mug gratefully and wrapped both hands around it as she sipped and made small talk with the gentleman. She assumed Addison was relating the details of her rescue and their current situation as she overheard the phrases "Brodie", "Innisbeth" and "Isle of Skye".
Mr. MacSwain consulted his watch and said to Skyler, "If I dont leave now, theyll be lined up outside waiting for me to unlock the gate to the woollen mill. Its in the next town so I need to be going. I suppose I can rely on Miss Black to lock up, eh?" He chuckled and winked at the American as he moved toward the door.
"Thank you so much for your help, Mr. MacSwain," Skyler said to the departing man.
"No thanks is necessary, lass. Its an honor to be of assistance." He came to attention, saluted Addison crisply and was out the door. The scholar returned her attention to the woman in black.
"No, Ill tell her. Yes, Im sure. Goodbye, sir." Addison hung up the phone and turned to Skyler. "Ground transportation will be here in an hour. Youll be taken to the closest airport where you will be escorted back to London. Ah, tea. Just what I need and Jaffa cakes!" Addison took up one of the spongy chocolate covered biscuits with the orange jelly filling and popped the whole thing into her mouth.
"If I did have a weakness, which I dont, Jaffa cakes might be it," the agent proclaimed. She picked up a second treat and it soon followed the first.
"Im going to be taken to the nearest airport? Youre not going?" Skyler asked.
Addison took a healthy swallow of her tea. "No, I have other business to attend to." By her tone of voice Skyler knew she was going after Brodie.
"Well, good luck in the hunt, Agent," Skyler said. "Um, Addison, what are you going to tell me? The conversation? You were going to tell me something. No wait; let me guess. You were going to tell me that there is a big warm room waiting for me at the Ritz in London. Or maybe you were going to tell me youve arranged an hour long soak in a Jacuzzi tub followed by a vigorous massage by a hefty Swedish woman named Inga?"
Addison took another swallow of her tea as she studied Skyler in an appraising manner. "You dont seem to be the type to lose your composure so Ill give it to you straight. Your mother has gone missing. Shes apparently been taken." The agents breath stilled as she waited for a reaction.
The slow and calm manner in which Skyler set her mug back on the tray belied the surge of adrenalin now coursing through her veins in response to Addisons words. The scholar moved from the chair and walked directly up to the Brit, moving within inches of her face. It would have been her face if Addison hadnt been several inches taller than her.
"Missing and apparently taken? You said you talked to her. How could she have been taken? Werent you people and your super secret organization watching her?" With each sentence Skylers voice rose.
"Youre telling me I endured a kidnapping, imprisonment and beating all for nothing! What the hell is your problem? Is there only one fabulously skilled operative in your whole outfit? If that was the case then they should have left you with her and sent Average Joe Agent after me!" Skyler punctuated her statements by poking her index finger several times squarely onto Addisons breastbone.
The agent narrowed her eyes and her voice became deadly. "Dont poke me. I dont like it." Skyler realized she was jabbing a woman who only hours earlier had killed several people without batting an eye.
"Oh, um sorry," she mumbled but was sidetracked only momentarily. "It doesnt change the fact that your people dropped the ball and let somebody " She stopped there and began to think.
"Somebody, but not Brodie. It couldnt have been, she was busy trying to eliminate us. That guy you interrogated said something about foreign alliances and a meeting on the Isle of Skye. Thats it isnt it? Theres a bigger plot going on here than just Agnes Brodie and her gang, isnt there?" Addison said nothing.
"Thats where youre going on your business, isnt it? Youre going to the Isle of Skye because you know thats where Brodie is going and where you think theyve taken my mom!" Skyler took Addisons silence to mean she was right.
"Thats good, Agent. You can just book two tickets to the Isle of Skye. Im going with you."
Addison did react to that. "Theres no way in hell youre going with me so get that thought out of your head. Youre going back to London as planned and thats final!"
"Think about it logically here, Addison," Skyler said. "The way I see it there are two options. One, I can go to London and start trumpeting the fact that there is a secret government organization that allowed a well known scientist involved with biological studies to be taken right out from under their noses. Two, you can take me with you and assure yourself of my silence and safety because Im not safe in London, am I, Agent Black?"
Addisons jaw tightened and she felt herself being backed into a corner. She knew the abduction of Marlene Tidwell had to be facilitated by someone on the inside and discovering who the traitor was would begin on the Isle of Skye. If Addison sent Skyler back to London she couldnt guarantee her safety or that she wouldnt be taken again to use as a bargaining chip to force Marlenes co-operation. Her whole mission had been to prevent such a thing from happening in the first place.
"Field decision, you go," Addison growled. "But only for the two reasons you mentioned. I want your safety and your silence."
Skyler was elated as she watched the agent move to the phone again. "Ill be silent as the grave, Agent Black," she said and could only hope her words wouldnt be prophetic."
End of Part Two
This story is complete and the next part will be posted within the next 5-7 days.
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