Black's Magic

by MJ & Cephalgia

For disclaimers see Part 1.

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Part 3

Chapter 9

Addison sat on an old leather couch, slouched down into the oversized piece of furniture. Her thighs were wide apart; one hand held a cup of strong, yet cool, tea that sat upon her stomach. The other hand rested beside her face, a single finger tapping her chin. Mr. MacSwain's house was silent apart from the echo of a ticking wall clock.

The two-story house was sparsely decorated; obvious signs that Mr. MacSwain lived alone. Piles of newspapers, dating back more than ten years, sat stacked in the back room. An aging record player stood in the corner beside a large selection of long playing records. They were all highly maintained with careful, loving pride. There were no signs of a television so Addison presumed the player was Mr. MacSwain's only source of entertainment.

Casting her eyes around the room, Addison noted the lack of decoration on faded, floral papered walls. Mr. MacSwain lived a simple life. In a certain way the agent could see a similarity between him and herself. Though her life was anything but simple, she saw loneliness in the Scot's living that she shared.

Turning back to Skyler, Addison observed the blonde doctor. Skyler sat in the chair opposite her, eyes closed in a moment of much needed rest. At that moment she looked so peaceful, so innocent. It was a stark contrast to Addison herself, but deep down inside, something she had longed to be. Skyler was innocent, Addison reminded herself. She should never have been exposed to this kind of life and Addison doubted Skyler's decision and understanding of what it meant to go with her.

"That was black mail," she said offhandedly.

Green eyes blinked open. A second past before understanding dawned on Skyler. "Yeah, I suppose it was."

"Do you have any idea what could and has happened to people who have tried to black mail Her Majesty's Government?"

Skyler's self-confidence faltered. "Um… no, but if that's the case, why did you agree I could come along then?"

For a moment, Addison pondered that very fact herself. "Because, like I said, I do feel you'd be safer with me for the time being." The agent had thought long and hard in considering Marlene's abduction and Skyler's safety. She came to only one conclusion, but it was a possibility she wouldn't bring to light at that time. Tidwells', mother and daughter, lives depended on it. Placing down her tea, Addison leaned forward, her elbows resting upon her knees.

"Well?" pressed Skyler.

"I have my reasons." Addison really didn't want to vocalise her suspicions until she obtained a little more proof.

A spark of annoyance flashed through Skyler's eyes. "I don't know why I even bothered. Are you always so cloaked and caged?"

"Only when needs be."

"You see that response?" Skyler pointed out. "What does that mean?"

Addison felt an impish mood take her. "Why do you ask?" Skyler clenched her jaw. The soldier could see her hackles begin to rise.

"Do you even know how to answer a simple question?"

"As opposed to?"



"I bet it's one of your lessons isn't it?" Skyler stated. "In British spy school, or whatever the hell you are. 'How to answer a question with a question'."

Addison nodded. "Yes, actually it is, right there before 'The art of yanking the proverbial chain' to your advantage."

"What?" Skyler's eyes drifted away from the soldier as her thoughts pondered over Addison's words. A flicker of understanding illuminated the doctor's features. "Okay, that's it. I've known you for less than twenty-four hours and you've proved to be one of the most…" she struggled to find the words of which she felt best described the agent. "Infuriating… people I have ever encountered!" She placed down her empty cup and regarded Addison seriously. "Unfortunately for you, this isn't going to change my mind. I'm still going with you to the Isle of Skye."

Okay, Addison thought, it's crunch time. Placing down her own cup, Addison took the last Jaffa Cake from its box. "Look, Skyler, I have to be honest with you. Compared to some of my other assignments, what we just went through was a piece of piss. Things can get nasty… very nasty. I am talking blood, pain, violence and death. My job is to deal with people who don't respond to politeness or diplomacy. If you don't put a terminal stop to them, they will keep coming and coming and coming… until one of you is dead. Brodie is a fine example of that." Addison stood slowly. "You're coming with me because I'm concerned for your safety. But you must understand where we are going might well be all I just described. I can protect you, never doubt that, but you must be sure you know what you are getting yourself into and at every moment, do exactly what I say." Finishing her speech, Addison sat back down and bit into her treat. She waited for Skyler's response.

Rising from her own seat, Skyler looked towards the adjoining door. "Give me a minute to think, will you?" She wrung her hands together. "I'm just going to wash up a little."

"Okay, but don't take too long." Addison motioned towards the window. "Our transportation will be arriving pretty soon."

With a nod, Skyler left the room.

Tapping her foot upon beige carpeted floor, Addison turned her attention to the old record player. She got up out of the chair and walked over to the pile of records by its side. Tentatively, she lifted a small handful from the pile and flipped through the selection. Many titles were unknown to her but one particular sleeve caught her eye. It was a Cliff Richards album. Addison recalled how her mother had loved him and his music. Whenever she was playing his songs or watching his films Addison wasn't allowed to speak or make a sound. She remembered once looking through the collection of songs and receiving a beating from her mother for "touching what didn't belong to her". For a brief second, that same fearful emotion passed through her, but she brushed it aside. Addison slipped the pristine vinyl from its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. With an overpowering urge, she turned on the system and placed the needle on the record. Teak effect speakers crackled and hissed before a familiar song filtered into the room.

Addison crouched down, record sleeve in hand. The memorable melody of 'Summer Holiday' filled the room and Addison's reveries. She recalled her mother and the deadly look she would receive as she walked into the room. It was a clear warning that the wisest thing she could do was to keep quiet and leave. Addison always did, resenting her mother a little more every time. Needless to say, as she reached her early teens she spent as little time as possible with her parents.

Suddenly, and for the first time in many years, Addison wondered what became of her parents. Were they still alive? When she left for the Marines, much to the disgrace and shock of family and friends, she had bid a last farewell to her old life. None of them could believe or understand why she did it. She never told any of them what happened the night that changed her forever. How would they understand? The only thought that her mother and father seemed interested in was the fact they would have less money coming into the home. She wondered whether they missed her at all.

Hearing movement behind her, Addison turned to see Skyler step back into the room. She graced the agent with a questioning look.

Switching off the player, Addison returned the album to its sleeve and placed it back upon the pile. She made sure it was in the exact position she had originally found it.

"I was just reminiscing," Addison offered. "You don't see many of these around anymore."

"No, you don't." Skyler looked out the window. She saw what appeared to be two cars pull up outside the small house. Momentarily ignoring them, she turned back to Addison, whom she could see was also aware of their presence. "I'm coming with you."

Addison pursed her lips. "Okay." She nodded swiftly. "Then I need to give you something… but lets wait until we're on our way." With those words Addison opened the front door. Standing on the other side, just about to knock, was Quinton Zimmerman. "You took your time," the agent said and stepped out into the street. Skyler followed her but remained by the doorway to Mr. MacSwain's dwelling.

"Well excuse me! I heard you already trashed one of our vehicles." Quinton leaned up against Addison's new 'set of wheels'. "So what do you think?"

The soldier nodded, she was impressed. "Nice."

"Nice?" Quinton gasped. "Addy, this is a Subaru Forester turbo. It has the engine of an Impreza, all wheel drive," He ran his hand over the navy blue paintwork. "The handling is great. I have one of these myself."

"Quinton, you're not trying to sell it to me, you know!"

Quinton carried on regardless. "Plus, a bonus is that it looks like your average Joe Nobody's land cruiser. Perfect for you and this kind of job."

"I get the point." Addison peered through the window. "Looks good." She briefly registered the two uniformed soldiers who stood by a second, more traditional military vehicle. "There's been a change of plan."

Quinton turned from his appraisal of Skyler to Addison. "Change? What kind of change?" Suspicion was clear in his voice.

"Well," Addison paused; knowing Quinton would not like her intentions. "You will no longer be escorting this woman back to London."

Skyler frowned at the term, 'this woman'.

"What? What exactly do you mean, Addison?" Quinton's voice rose. "We are under direct orders to escort the female in your care back to Headquarters."

"I changed my mind."

"You can't do that. The General will blow one!" It was common knowledge that Mark Blithe could, at times, have a very short temper.

Addison merely shrugged. "He'll understand."

"Oh yeah… just like he did when you commandeered a certain yacht last year."

"I was in a rush."

"It was the Queen's."

"She wasn't on it."

"Lucky for you!" Quinton sighed. "Why?"

Rolling her eyes, Addison patted the taller man on his back. "Look, just tell Blithe I will explain it all when we next talk."

"I strongly advise against this." Quinton put his arm on Addison's shoulder and spoke quietly in her ear. "This could be very dangerous. Are you sure you know what you are doing?"

"Always, Quin." She took the Forester keys from his hand and turned to Skyler. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." Skyler walked up to the passenger door of the car.

"You have the envelope?" Addison questioned Quinton.

Quinton Zimmerman took the white envelope out of his inner pocket and handed it to Addison as she handed him Myers' weapon. She took the item back into Mr. MacSwain's house and placed it upon his coffee table. It was a 'special letter' occasionally given to civilians on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, thanking a member of the public for assisting her government's soldiers in a time of need. It was always highly appreciated and better received than reimbursement for expenses incurred.

Exiting the house, Addison closed the door behind her. Quinton had already climbed into the jeep behind them. He sat in the passenger seat beside a broad Marine Commando. Addison nodded in thanks. Her friend just shook his head.

"One last chance?" Addison offered Skyler.

For her answer, the blonde opened her door and got into the vehicle.

"I suppose that's a no." Walking around the Forester, Addison climbed into the driver's seat. She pushed the key into the ignition and started the engine. "No turning back now." Addison pulled out onto the village street and began their perilous journey.


By midday, Addison had escaped the rough dirt tracks that passed as roads and found a semi-decent 'B' road. It was still one lane in each direction but at least the ground was level. That made for a smoother drive. For the most part, they were still surrounded by the Highlands. The great hills would recede the closer they drove towards the ocean.

Addison yawned. She looked to her side where Skyler slept beside her. The blonde's head rested upon the window. Addison was thankful, once again, that the rocky terrain had eased, making sleep for Skyler possible. The young doctor looked exhausted. Rest, however much it was, would do her a world of good.

Up ahead, Addison spotted a welcoming sight. It was a mileage sign and logo for the next service station. She would soon require fuel and was sure Skyler was as hungry as was she. Apart from that, her bladder had been screaming for relief for the past half an hour. With added enthusiasm, Addison increased her speed, soon saw the sign for a small roadside café and petrol station. She pulled into the car park.

Needing to wake Skyler, Addison turned to the dozing blonde. Reaching over she tickled Skyler's nose. There was no response. She tried again, only to have her hand brushed away. Smiling, Addison leaned further over to Skyler.

"Hey," she whispered.

Skyler hummed, turning towards Addison's voice.

"Wake up!"

There was no response.

"Skyler?" Addison leaned back slightly. "Skyler wake up. Break time."

The blonde slept on.

"Don't make me do this the hard way."


Addison shrugged. "Fine." Clasping her hands around Skyler's shoulders, the soldier shook her while calling, "Skyler Tidwell, wake the hell up!"

Shocked green eyes flew open. "What are you doing?"

"Well it's about time. Bloody hell woman; how the hell do you wake up in the morning? Does your alarm clock have a built in fog horn?" Addison unbuckled Skyler's seat belt. She held her thumb and index finger close together. "I was this close to checking for a bleeding pulse."

"I'm a heavy sleeper," Skyler replied. She followed Addison as the ebony haired woman exited the Forester.

An early afternoon chill greeted them. Addison looked around the service station. There were two buildings; the largest was to the left. A new, red brick establishment offered cooked foods and a selection of coffee. To the right was a smaller, narrow building. It was the petrol station offering a limited selection of travel snack foods, maps, magazines and only three petrol pumps. The colours were clear, indicating one of each fuel: unleaded, diesel, and four-star. Addison and Skyler headed towards the diner.

"Heavy sleeper?" Addison laughed as they passed a dark green tractor. "The only other person I know who can sleep like that was my uncle Benny and he was in a coma for two years."

"Funny!" Skyler replied in a droll voice. "So, is that the wit you say you rely on in tight situations? If it is then I think any response you get is nothing more than sympathy at your lame sense of humour."

Addison grinned widely. "Believe me… I am quite capable of causing many reactions in people!" She pulled open the single swing door. "Ladies first."

Skyler walked into the café, Addison by her side. The fragrant aroma of home cooked foods and fresh coffee was a welcome invasion to the senses. Although the café was quite large, with ten circular tables and several, more private, booths, only six people inhabited the establishment. Two sat at the counter, Addison could tell they were locals. A young couple sat in the middle of the room. By their dress she could easily surmise they were from a larger city. Two heavy goods drivers sat devouring hearty lunches. Addison headed towards the corner booth and sat in a vinyl chair opposite Skyler. A laminated menu stood in the centre of the table beside empty salt and pepper pots. Picking up the menu, Skyler browsed the diner's offerings. "Oh my god, they have black pudding. I know what that stuff is." She grimaced and placed the menu down, sliding it over to Addison.

"No, you order," Addison replied. She brought out her wallet and placed a twenty-pound note upon the table. She had plenty of money. In Addison's ever-constant need to be prepared for any situation, on every mission she carried a certain amount of cash and several credit cards, provided by Special Operations, of course. It was important that each agent had an unlimited expense account on each mission because they could never know if and when they would need the cash… even if it were to be used as a bribe. She slid the note over to Skyler. "Get me a tuna sandwich, four of them, two bottles of mineral water and a black coffee. Get yourself whatever you want as well. I'm just heading to the bathroom. I'll be less than a minute."

"Why do I have to go?" Skyler sat back in her chair. "And what was it you said about wanting to give me something? You never did."

"One, because they love Americans up here… and two, when I get back I will tell you." Saying that, Addison headed off towards a wide blue door.

As promised, Addison returned within a minute to find Skyler still at the counter, ordering their food. She sat back at the booth and waited. Addison watched as Skyler spoke to a very handsome Scotsman. She would have thought there was interplay of serious flirting occurring between them, but on catching a glimpse of Skyler's expression, she could see the interest was only one way. Just as she was about to go over and innocently intervene, Skyler headed back to their table.

"So how long will it take?"

Skyler sat back down. "Conner says about fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen? There is hardly anybody here!" Addison adopted a curious expression. "I bet it wouldn't have taken so long if you hadn't been flirting with chef boy over there." She knew she was goading Skyler, but couldn't seem to help it. There was a fire in her eyes that Addison found both daring and exciting.

"I was not. I was only giving our order."

"Then why is he looking over here like a lovesick school boy?"

Skyler turned and sure enough Connor was looking over in her direction. She smiled innocently, gave him a slight wave and turned back to Addison. "He's just being friendly. I didn't give him any encouragement."

Addison nodded. "Good," then added rather swiftly, "We can do without the attention." She traced her fingers over the table absently. "Listen… what I wanted to give you was this." Cautiously, she pulled an item from her pocket, an item that had previously resided on her boot, and placed it on the table. Addison kept her hand upon the gun and holster, shielding it from prying eyes.

"What it is?" Skyler tried to peer under Addison's hand.

"It's a pistol."

"What? Green eyes grew wide. "No way."

"Look," Addison leaned closer, lowering her voice. "I am in a position to give you this and you must take it."

Skyler shook her head. She was adamant. "No… I can't… I could never shoot somebody."

"That's not what I am asking." Addison took a deep breath as she began explaining herself. She kept her hand covering the Browning pistol. "I don't want you to use it on anybody, I would never ever ask that of you. Think about this logically… if you were to fire a gun in the vicinity of a flock of birds, what would they do?"

"I guess they would fly away," Skyler answered, still not positive where Addison was heading with her reasoning.

"Exactly." Addison looked down at her hand. "Remember, it's the person holding the weapon that bears the responsibility. All I'm asking is that you take it for insurance. If you are confronted, sometimes just to point one of these things in a person's direction is enough to scare them away. If not then fire a round near them as a warning. Just like the birds, it can be enough to scare somebody away."

Skyler appeared to think for a moment. "And what if it isn't?"

Taking Skyler's hand Addison placed the pistol upon her palm. The gun lay in-between their hands. "Then I would have heard the shot, I would recognise the sound, and will be there for you. It's a worst case scenario issue, but I like to be prepared."

With a sigh, Skyler nodded her head. "Okay… but I hope to God I never have to use it." She took the pistol and attached it to the back of her jeans, imitating the way Addison wore both of hers.

"I do too." The agent pulled out two spare clips. "These go with it. Just put them in your pocket."

Skyler took them silently, slipping them into Addison's coat pocket, which she still wore.

Just then, Connor appeared at their table holding a fully loaded tray. "Ladies," he said, filling their table.

Addison watched as a large plate was placed in front of Skyler. She frowned at Skyler's choice but waited for the waiter to leave before she made comment. Eventually he did.

"You turn your nose up at black pudding, yet you are prepared to eat haggis?"

"It's supposed to be the owner's special, secret recipe," Skyler defended as she poked a fork into her meal.

"Yeah? Well so was my aunt's 'broiled pigs head stew' but that didn't appeal to me either."

In the background, soft tones from a radio floated through the air. Addison looked over to where Connor had turned on the small wireless. He twisted the dial to a station playing love songs and looked over at her table.

"Ugh…" Addison groaned in annoyance.

Skyler carried on obliviously. "And you're the one who's supposed to have the adventurous spirit."

Addison picked up her sandwich. "I know my limits."

"Pigs' heads?"

"And sheep stomachs." Addison bit into her sandwich. She chewed thoughtfully. Something had suddenly occurred to Skyler and Addison could tell it seemed to trouble her. She didn't need to second-guess what Skyler was thinking. "You're worried about your mother."

Skyler placed down her fork. "How can I sit here like this, knowing there's a high probability my mother could be suffering at the hands of the same person I did? She pushed her plate away, losing her appetite. "I want to keep moving, Addison. I don't want her to suffer a second more than she has to."

"Okay." Addison rose to her feet, swallowing. "We keep moving. I'll fill the car, you grab us some snacks for travel and we'll get on our way."

Skyler smiled. "Thank you."


Guided by an onboard satellite navigation system, Addison had agreed for Skyler to take the wheel. It gave the agent time to rest her tired eyes. Though she had gone much longer without sleep, she indulged Skyler's request to drive. She knew the blonde didn't want to feel useless.

Looking out of the passenger's window, Addison watched as they passed tall telephone pylons. Cables stretched out between each thick pole, occasionally connecting to a farmhouse or solitary dwelling scattered over the Scottish highlands. Looking at the lone buildings, Addison was reminded of her own home. Her lighthouse, standing alone on the Cornish coastal cliff-tops. Sometimes Addison yearned for that solitude. It was her only escape.

Turning from the view, Addison loosened her jacket. Skyler had increased the car's heating and the agent was beginning to sweat. Unhooking the last button of her jacket, Addison unclipped her seatbelt. She shrugged out of her outer layer, chucking it onto the back seat.

"I wonder what goodies Quinton left for us." She twisted in her seat to where a black backpack, similar to the one destroyed in the explosion, sat behind them. She unbuttoned the carrier and began to root inside. She had left the Uzi she took from Myers with Quinton. They would be able to run a weapons search to assess where Brodie, or the organisation she worked for, obtained their arms. For that reason Addison looked with curiosity for what Quinton would have left for her in return. Finding nothing, Addison made a mental note to check the boot of the Forester later.

Through her rummaging, Addison found a new pair of binoculars. She also found a small device that looked like the handle of a kite. It was a solid metal object with two buttons, one red and one green. On pressing the green button it would shoot out a cable for climbing high walls. The red button would re-coil the cable after use. It was another of Perkins' inventions and one of Addison's favourites. She attached its handy pouch to a free space upon her belt.

"Oh great, a clean shirt." Addison pulled the black garment out of her new backpack. She turned to Skyler. "Do you want it?"

The doctor smiled. "I think on the grimy scale you rank the highest. You should take it."

Addison began to undo her dirt encrusted, slightly torn, shirt. She had no reservation about undressing in front of an audience but she was wearing a tank top under her shirt. Slipping her arms from the garment, Addison threw it onto the back seat beside her jacket. She could see Skyler observe her briefly from the corner of her eye.

"You were in the Marines." Skyler didn't seem at all surprised.

"Pardon?" Addison looked to her arm where the fact was clearly tattooed onto her flesh. "Oh yes, yes I was."

"Must have been rough," Skyler observed. "I bet you saw it as a challenge though, right? I mean… you are obviously the kind of person who thrives on…"

"Hey…" Addison interrupted. "What do you mean, 'kind of person'? Are you psychoanalysing me now?" She slipped into the clean shirt. "I suppose that's another letter or two you have after your name."

"And what does that mean? Is that a dig?"

Fastening her buttons Addison shrugged. "I just noticed you have an awful lot of letters there, Doc. What's your aim, to out-letter the alphabet? I think you are almost there with the Greek one. It is a hobby?"

The question seemed to catch Skyler by surprise. Addison wondered whether she, in fact, knew the answer to that herself. Skyler thought for a moment. "It's what I do. It's what I enjoy."

"I suppose." Addison drummed her fingers in thought. "I am sure there must be more exciting hobbies though? I mean… some people knit, okay not so thrilling to everybody. Others build models out of matchsticks or go bowling. There are even a few crazy folks out there who watch trains or collect watches or coins. I suppose it is a case of whatever floats your boat."

"Precisely," Skyler smiled with a nod. "Everybody finds something interesting. It doesn't have to fit into other people's view of entertainment."

Addison lifted her body slightly and tucked the slim fitting shirt into her combat trousers. She wasn't finished, however. "I just happen to be of the point of view that there are a lot more fun and interesting things you can lock yourself in a room with than a pile of old, musty books."

Skyler pondered Addison's words. Her reply was something Addison never expected. "You never did so well at school, did you? You're obviously better educated now, with the work you do, but at school, you weren't really interested, were you?"

"Touché," was the agent's only reply. "But I do stick to my point. I have logged many hours on this subject." The lascivious undertone was anything but.

"Okay." Skyler turned the Forester left towards an approaching harbour. The Atlantic Ocean began to emerge ahead of them. "Maybe that will be my next course of study then."

Addison winked. "Fine, but after you graduate I want you to report back to Professor Black and tell me how right I was!" She held her hand out and Skyler shook it.

"It's a deal, Professor."

They maintained eye contact and grinned slyly.

Addison gave a self-satisfied nod, and then looked as a mass of fishing boats appeared before them. "Keep us out of view. We're here."

Chapter 10

"I know I drove, but where is 'here' exactly?" Skyler asked as she manoeuvred the car slowly through the narrow streets.

"This is Kyle of Lochalsh," Addison informed her. "It's just a Scottish coastal village, but it's the place where we're going to meet our contact. Hopefully by now Quinton and his staff have arranged a boat over to the Isle of Skye.

"To find my mom and get her the hell out of danger. I can testify how nasty those bastards can be." The American's voice was strained with tension.

Addison didn't reply to Skyler's comments. She knew the mission and knew the brutality Skyler had suffered. Without looking at the scholar she asked, "You're okay?" Although the question was simple and the agent's demeanor seemed offhand, the tone was sympathetic and it touched Skyler.

"I've been better, but considering what Brodie had in mind, I could have been a lot worse. Addison?"

The agent drew her gaze back into the car from the homes and businesses that they were passing. Like Skyler, she had noticed several closed shops and didn't wonder at the reason locals might cooperate with strangers. Money was a potent motivator.


Skyler hesitated a moment, the verbal bantering and occasional butting of heads making her a little embarrassed. "I…well, I guess what I wanted to say was thank you. It just occurred to me that I never did tell you that. So…thanks. I appreciated you getting me out of that mess."

Addison smiled. It was a soft smile and unlike the cocky grin she had sported at other times. "You're entirely welcome, Miss Tidwell. I'm glad to have been of service." Skyler returned the smile and there seemed to be a flash of true camaraderie between the women. It appeared to Skyler that at that point Addison realized she was dropping her guard and she watched with a pang of dismay as the shield of indifference was raised again. "That's what they pay me for. Foil a plot, rescue a Yank…it's all in a day's work." She resumed viewing their surroundings and Skyler thought how beautiful the already attractive agent had looked in that brief interlude. The momentary lapse by the English enigma was precisely that… momentary. Now Skyler could almost see her mask slip back into place.

"Pull in here," Addison directed. The Forester slid smoothly into a place in front of a weather worn gray building, its faded paint and beaten façade a testament to the storms off the North Atlantic that battered the Scottish coast. A carved sign in the window read, "Fairworth Antiques, F. Fairworth, Proprietor".

Skyler turned the key and the engine stilled. "What are we doing here?"

"Fairworth is the name of our contact. There was a note along with an address in the bottom of the bag Quinton gave me. Apparently we'll be able to get a boat from him. I imagine he's a retired fisherman or something like that who lets his boat out on occasion. That would seem likely in a village like this."

Easing from the car, they made their way to the front door. A small white sign beneath the name of the establishment read, "Gone to tea. Haddock's Head Pub, directly behind you."

"He's gone, but not far," Addison observed as she turned to spy the pub across the road from where they stood. "We don't have time to wait, let's go find him." The pair crossed the cobblestone road and entered an equally weather worn building on the opposite side.

The interior of the Haddock's Head was at odds with its exterior. The room was warm and cheerful and the bar was immaculate right down to the polished wood and gleaming brass rail. A plethora of bottles lined the shelves behind it. Cozy tables were set for tea and patrons enjoying a steaming pot of tea or a pint of ale with their afternoon food occupied several of them.

Skyler observed as Addison scanned the customers. Nodding her head, she moved decisively toward a gray bearded gentleman seated alone enjoying a crustless sandwich and a small glass of amber liquid. A navy colored pea coat hung over the back of the chair next to him and a gnarled cane, resembling a corkscrew more than a walking stick, leaned against the table.

Straight off a fishing boat Skyler thought. Damn, Addison's good she admitted to herself. The agent approached the older gentleman and asked, "Fairworth?"

The man seemed to ignore them, but a soft voice behind them said, "Yes?" The women turned to be confronted with a very attractive brunette somewhere in her mid-thirties holding a half-filled pint of lager. "I'm Fiona Fairworth, can I help you?" she asked in a pleasant burr.

"You own Fairworth Antiques?" Skyler questioned and received a look from Addison that said, "I'll do the talking".

"Oh, an American," Fiona gushed, "I love Americans! Come looking for a bargain have you?"

"Actually, " Addison interrupted, "We're here to arrange transportation to the Isle of Skye. I believe my Uncle Tony made the arrangements."

Fiona's face gave away nothing, but her eyes reflected understanding. "Surely now I remember. Transportation for two, correct?" At Addison's nod the brunette smiled. "Won't you come right this way? We can transact our business in the shop." The Scottish woman gave a short wave to the bartender and turned toward the door. She drained her lager and set the glass on a nearby table. Looking at Addison, she winked and said, "Liquid sunshine, most excellent for fighting off this brass monkey weather." Fiona's laugh was as smooth as the whiskey her country was famous for and she led them out the door and back across the street.

"Your Uncle Tony?" Skyler whispered as they moved.

"Blair," Addison explained in a low voice as they entered the shop behind the Scotswoman.

As soon as they were inside, Fiona said to Skyler, "You're the American, so that makes you…" her attention turned to Addison.

"Anxious to be on our way," Addison finished for her.

"Of course," the brunette assured her. "I must say, Agent Black, I wasn't expecting…"

"A woman?" Addison challenged.

"Someone quite so attractive," Fiona countered. Addison was pleased with this reply and opened her mouth to respond to Fiona's flirtations, but caught sight of Skyler out of the corner of her eye and stopped herself.

"About the transportation?" the agent asked, getting back to business.

"Of course," Fiona said. "I've arranged for you to go along with my man Darren. He's waiting for you at the docks and will be ready to go anytime you get there.

"The sooner the better," Skyler interjected. They received directions to the boat docks and moved to exit the shop.

"Come back when you have the time to stay longer," the Scotswoman said to Addison, placing a familiar hand on the agent's arm. "Oh, and you too, miss," she added as almost an afterthought to Skyler.

"I bet," an annoyed scholar said under her breath as an inexplicable pang of jealousy stung her. "I'd like to come back all right. Come back and slap her."

"Slapper?" Addison asked. "I'm sure she is." The agent held out her hand for the keys and receiving them, slipped behind the wheel of the car. Skyler moved into the passenger seat.

"She is what?" the scholar questioned.

"A slapper" Addison replied.

"God, I forgot that practically bionic hearing of yours," Skyler groaned. "Hey, what's a slapper?"

Addison quirked her cocky grin as she started the vehicle. "I believe you scholarly types would call her a woman of easy virtue."

"Easy virtue is an understatement," Skyler scoffed. "If I hadn't been there she would have been on you like white on rice."

"Probably," the agent confirmed as she guided the car.

"I can see why," Skyler said without thinking. To cover her slip she changed the subject. "By the way, your advanced arsenal must not include psychic powers. I thought Fairworth was going to be a grizzled old fisherman."

"Well," Addison observed dryly, "She was fishing for something alright, just not fish."

"Oh, brother," the American laughed. "We're going to need a damn big boat if we're going to haul that huge ego of yours across to the Isle of Skye."

Addison laughed as well, but further conversation was prevented as they arrived at the boat docks. Several long docks were divided into individual slips and the vessels there ran the gamut of small ships. There were sleek powerboats moored alongside small trawlers and stately sailboats. The Englishwoman guided the Forester into a space adjacent to the waterfront.

"Let's get the gear and find the boat," Addison instructed. They left the vehicle with the backpack given to them by Quinton and while Skyler scanned the boats for the "Maid of the Atlantic", Addison went to the trunk and opened it. Rummaging inside she made several thoughtful selections that were deposited into a tubular shaped duffel bag and slung over her shoulder. At that moment Skyler rejoined her.

"You're not going to like this," the doctor said.

Addison narrowed her eyes. "Why not?"

"Because that," Skyler said, "is the Maid of the Atlantic." She pointed at a decrepit vessel that resembled a miniature tugboat. It was loaded with crates and rode low in the water.

"Bollocking hell!" Addison spat. "That bucket of barnacles will take forever to make the crossing. I'll wager I could swim there faster!" She walked toward the boat, then stopped to survey it with hands on her hips. "I'd say that thing couldn't go much faster than…"

"Fucking bitch!" At Skyler's tone, Addison spun around to find the source of the American's irritation. She didn't have far to look as she followed Skyler's line of sight. On the opposite side of the marina, a sleek powerboat started and revved its considerable engines. A nondescript man sat at the wheel but there was no mistaking his redheaded passenger.

"Brodie," Skyler muttered as she reached back to the pistol attached to her waist. Pulling it out she moved toward the boat that was backing slowly from its berth. "I'll kill her."

"No you don't," Addison said as she grabbed Skyler from behind and pulled her down, effectively shielding them from the boat Brodie was in. Addison rolled on top of Skyler and used her body weight to hold the American in place.

"Let me go, damn it!" Skyler hissed up at the agent. "I'm going to kill her!"

"And kill your mother in the process!" Addison said as she looked down into green eyes that glittered with hatred. Her words, however, seemed to take hold as Skyler's struggling ceased. "If we take out Agnes now, we lose the greatest chance we have of finding your mother quickly. Let me handle this." Skyler breathed hard and her jaw worked as she clenched her teeth. Addison kept looking the scholar directly in the eye as she said earnestly, "Trust me."

There was nothing in her extensive academic experience to prepare her for this decision. Skyler knew she had to decide quickly so she went with her gut instinct. "Do it," she said.

Addison immediately rolled off the blonde and came to her feet in one fluid motion. She moved in a crouch down the dock, paralleling the movement of the powerboat as it eased through the marina. As she went she pulled her own pistol from her waistband and fished in a pocket with the other hand. Skyler rolled to her stomach in time to see her fit a cylindrical extension on the barrel of the gun and shove something inside. The ebony haired woman then moved to the very end of the dock, a spot that would be the closest the boat would come to their position.

Addison dropped to one knee and brought the gun up. She held the pistol in her right hand and she cupped that hand in her left to steady her aim. As the now loudly throbbing boat passed, Skyler saw Addison's hand jerk a fraction of an inch then the agent dropped back to a concealed position as the boat passed and picked up speed as it headed out to sea.

When it was sufficiently out of sight, Addison rose up and walked back to Skyler. She gave her hand to the American and assisted her to her feet. The puzzled expression she sported made Addison know what was coming.

"Ask," the agent said.

Skyler stepped up close to Addison. She stared into calm brown eyes. "You said to trust you. I did trust you and you just let her go. How could you do that? You just let her go," Skyler said in a disappointed tone.

Addison leaned forward until her forehead almost touched the American's and smiled. "There's letting someone go and then there's letting them go with a farewell gift." She stepped back and walked over to the duffel bag. She removed a square black box the size of a Walkman. She pulled an antenna from the object and flipped a switch on the face. A slow, steady beep issued from the object.

"Gotcha!" Addison said in triumph. She looked at Skyler. "Tracking system. Works with some of those lovely satellites our countries have spinning overhead. Agnes may get to the Isle of Skye ahead of us, but we are going to know exactly where she lands thanks to this little beauty."

"You shot a transmitter at the boat, didn't you?" Skyler asked, clearly impressed. Addison nodded her head. "Then I'm sorry I doubted you, Agent Black and I'm glad I trusted you. I won't question you again."

Addison laughed at that statement. "Yes, you will, Doctor. It's in your nature to question everything. Now, lets follow that boat." She glanced from Skyler to the Maid of the Atlantic. "Slowly."


At that moment a disembodied electronic voice came over the speakers into the lab where Marlene Tidwell sat. The tone was distorted and it was impossible to determine the true voice it concealed.

"Professor Tidwell, welcome to our facility. I'm truly sorry we had to resort to heavy handed tactics to bring you here." Marlene unconsciously brought her hand up to her cheek where a deep cut had been closed with butterfly sutures. It had stopped bleeding but it now throbbed with pain. She shifted on the high stool she was perched on.

The voice continued. "You know what we want, Doctor. We want details, all of them. Project Gemini is important to plans that are already underway and we have waited long enough to get this information. There will be no further delay. You may use the paper and pens on the laboratory table in front of you. Begin now."

Marlene was a little in shock at her violent abduction, but not enough to blindly follow the instructions of her captors. "You must be joking. I'm not going to give you the information about my research."

"On the contrary, Professor, you will. Please direct your attention to the closed circuit monitor on the desk next to you." Marlene glanced over as the screen flickered to life. An image of a young blonde woman being hustled into a building was shown. Even bound, gagged and with hands secured behind her back, the woman was unmistakeable.

"Skyler!" Marlene cried and moved from her stool to get closer to the monitor. The image faded as she neared.

"What have you done with her?" the American yelled into the room.

"She is quite unharmed and is our guest. Did you think that Agent Black would free her? I regret to inform you that Addison Black is dead and that your daughter remains our guest. She will be freed, along with yourself, the moment we have verified the information you are going to provide us with."

Marlene did not have the resourcefulness of her daughter. She did not know that the footage of Skyler was over twenty-four hours old and that her daughter was no longer being held. All she had was the heart of a mother and that heart told her to do whatever had to be done to secure the safety of her child.

With a feeling of desperation and no hope left, Marlene returned to the lab table. She picked up a pen and began revealing Project Gemini.


As the Maid of the Atlantic chugged her way across the water toward the Isle of Skye, Skyler settled up against a secured stack of crates and closed her eyes. Crossing her arms over her chest to ward off the cold sea breeze, she tried to rest but found her mind drifting time and time again to her mother. She knew Brodie was speeding ahead of them and she worried what a meeting between Agnes and her mother would mean to her mom's well being. She shifted restlessly against the crates.

A warm form moved next to her and she opened her eyes to see Addison who had left her spot at the front of the craft where she had been scanning the sea with binoculars. They sat shoulder to shoulder on the gently pitching deck.

"I estimate an hour for the crossing at this speed," Addison informed her. "The tracking device is working well. We're not going to have a problem finding where they put ashore." Seeing the concerned look on Skyler's face she added, "Don't worry, we'll find her. We'll get her back, find out who's behind this scheme and put a closing note to Agnes Brodie's biography."

"She's got a big head start on us, Addison. You know that a woman like Brodie doesn't need much time when she's determined and my mom doesn't have you around to help her out." Skyler dropped her gaze to the deck.

"Hey," the agent said as she gently lifted the American's chin. Your mum and you are made of the same genetic material, right?" Skyler nodded. "Well you had to get your pluck from somewhere. Remember I met her before I came after you. She didn't strike me as someone who would give in to the likes of Agnes."

"I just hope she's safe," Skyler said and tears misted her vision. She rubbed them from her eyes with the back of her hand. "Damn it! I don't want to start this. Talk to me about something else. Anything as long as I don't have to think about what might be happening to her."

"Okay," Addison agreed. "Why don't you tell me what you know about your mother's work? Maybe if I understand the nature of Project Gemini a little better it may give me a clue why all this is happening."

"To tell you the truth, I don't know everything she had been working on," Skyler began. " I've been out of the country for a while, but I do know she was working with the tuberculosis bacteria. She had been looking at other, more beneficial, applications for it."

"Tell me about that then. Start at the beginning. There has to be something here I don't see yet."

Skyler's superb mind went to work then and she pulled out what she recalled from a class she had taken in Epidemiology. "Tuberculosis has been around for a long time. There are scientists now who have found evidence of tuberculosis in the skull and spinal bones of Egyptian mummies dating back four thousand years, but it wasn't until Hippocrates wrote about a disease he called 'phthisis' about 2,400 years ago in Greece that we have a written record of the problem." Addison listened and marvelled at Skyler's recall.

"During the Middle Ages, it was postulated that most Europeans were infected and the disease probably accounted for one in every four deaths. Today the World Health Organization estimates that fully one third of the world's population is infected and three million die from it every year. Even Great Britain and the United States saw a resurgence of the disease in the eighties and nineties, probably because of AIDS, which makes people more susceptible to the disease, and the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains. Basically, wherever there is overpopulation, crowding and poverty, you're going to find tuberculosis."

Skyler paused here and shivered as a gust of wind blew off the ocean and chilled her again.

"Cold?" Addison asked.

"A little," Skyler replied. Addison moved closer and wrapped an arm around Skyler.

The American hummed in happiness. "Man, you're warm. You're like a portable electric blanket."

Addison just chuckled. "I've always been that way. The doctors doing my physical for the Marines thought I was coming down with some sort of illness but it seems my core temperature runs a little higher than almost everyone else. I don't know why that is, but feeling cold has never been a problem for me. Don't let me interrupt you though. Go ahead with what you were saying."

Skyler returned to her lesson. "Okay, tuberculosis is caused by a micro-organism called mycobacterium. There are several types of mycobacterium and each one causes a different disease. One can cause tuberculosis; one causes leprosy and so on. They look like strings of link sausages under the microscope and are known as bacilli. Droplets spread the bacilli, usually the kind you find when a person coughs or sneezes. It can affect many body parts but eighty percent of the time it infects the lungs."

"I know mom had figured out a way to inactivate the disease portion of the mycobacterium. I'm not sure how, but I do know the bacilli is sensitive to heat and UV light. Anyway, she apparently developed a strain that could carry drugs instead of disease. The drugs were going to be used to fight cancer. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to inhale chemotherapy rather than have it injected into your bloodstream? This was only the tip of the iceberg; the medical implications are enormous!"

"I can understand that but what is Project Gemini?" Addison asked.

Skyler shrugged. "I know mom said the Gemini part was her idea. Gemini indicated the twin nature of the bacteria. First it was a deadly disease carrier and now she hoped it would cure disease. What else there is to know about the project is common knowledge. Your government and mine gave her grant money to set up a lab in England and take the technology as far as it could go. Whatever she had been working on recently, I don't have any idea."

Addison was silent a moment. "Okay, lets see what we have. A germ of some kind, highly contagious. Works best in a crowd. Carries disease or possibly drugs now." She stopped suddenly as Skyler drew in a breath sharply. "You're thinking what I'm thinking, aren't you?"

Skyler looked up into the deep brown eyes of the agent. "I think I am. Biological warfare?"

"Uh-huh," confirmed Addison. "Fuck."

Chapter Eleven

Shadowed by an armed guard, dressed in navy overalls and a scientist sporting a pristine white lab coat, Agnes Brodie swiped her identification card through an electronic locking system. Immediately a door, by which they were all standing, clicked in several places and its numerous bolts were deactivated. With a confident air, Brodie pushed the door open and stepped inside a wide, illuminated room. Freshly painted, white walls increased its brightness. It was a simple space, decorated only with one metallic table in the centre, a camp bed to the right and sink to the left. What appeared to be a closed circuit monitor was built into the room's table. The building, in which they inhabited, stood five miles from the sea. It was four stories high and over two hundred years old. Marlene Tidwell was held in a secure room at the top of the structure. Her window had been previously bricked up without plastering; white paint merely covered the masonry. It marked a clear indication to where the room's window used to be.

Seated at the table, Marlene Tidwell watched nervously as the fearsome looking threesome entered. They were the first real contact with people she had received since arriving at this unknown destination. First to enter was a tall redhead. She wore her hair down around her shoulders, was dressed in similar attire to the man who entered second, but she held a definite manner of authority. Last to enter the room was a stunted, stocky man with a smooth baldhead. His white lab coat was fully buttoned to his neck with nothing more than a light blue bowtie showing under his chin.

Nervously, Marlene waited for one of them to speak.

"Professor Tidwell," Agnes greeted. "So nice to finally meet you… at last. I must say your daughter did try and lead us to believe she was in fact you. Unfortunately for her, we are a little wiser than that."

"What have you done to her? Where is Skyler?" Marlene rose from her chair in panic. "If you've hurt her I'll…"

"Yes?" Brodie asked bluntly. Her eyes glowed with a predatory gleam. "I happen to think you are in the least of positions to be making threats, Professor." Brodie walked over to the table and sat down opposite Marlene. She waited with apparent expectation for the Professor to do the same. She didn't wait long as Marlene sat down rigidly in compliance.

"Good… now lets set out the facts shall we? You have something I want. I have something you want." Brodie grinned humourlessly. "Surly it doesn't take a PHD to realise how this can work to both advantages." Brodie's eyes scanned the papers beside Marlene. "You give me what I want and I'll give you what you want." She folded her hands together upon the table and waited.

Though Marlene would do anything for her daughter's safe return, she felt physically ill at the mere thought of handing over the secrets of Project Gemini. Not only was it a highly dangerous experiment, it was also her life's work and something she had worked so hard to accomplish. She knew its devastating potential in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, her maternal instincts overrode every warning that besieged her good sense. She was a mother. Images of her daughter, bound and gagged, the nightmarish possibilities ran rampant through her mind.

Marlene picked up and held the papers in front of her. "If I give you Project Gemini, you give me my daughter."


"What proof do I have that she is still alive?"

Brodie ground her teeth in frustration. "You saw the VT, didn't you? That was her coming into the building."

Reluctantly and with a heavy sensation in her stomach, Marlene handed over the breakthrough, that was, Project Gemini.

Agnes smiled in smug satisfaction. It was a warped motive, but she got so much more pleasure from seeing a captive squirm as they, not so willingly, handed over the information she required. It had a higher element of malevolent contentment than merely taking what she wanted.


The hairless scientist to her right took the papers from Agnes and flicked through them eagerly.

Brodie's eyes remained upon Marlene. "That contains Gemini's duel nature? Both Jekyll and Hyde?"

"That is the key elements of Project Gemini," Marlene replied hollowly. "With out all the research my team and myself carried out on its applications, that is my creation of the vessels structure, how it is refined and manipulated to accommodate the Jekyll and Hyde."

With little belief of Marlene's words, Brodie looked to Atkins for proof this was what she wanted. She received an excited nod in response.

"Excellent." Brodie rose to her feet. "You have complied well, Professor." Jerking her head, Brodie indicated it was time to leave. The door opened as Marlene leapt from her chair.


Brodie stopped and turned to Marlene.

"My daughter?"

"Ah yes." Brodie pursed her lips as her eyes scanned the papers in Atkins hands. "Once I have everything I need from you, Skyler will be returned to you."

Marlene strode around the table. "I gave you Project Gemini."

"Yes you did." Agnes smiled. "And once we have carried out initial tests, which I may consult you on, I will be sure you have given me all I require. That is when you will get what is coming to you. For now... you will wait." Finishing her statement, Brodie left the room. Its door bolted shut behind her.

Marlene stared at the closed barrier. Realisation of what she had done crashed down upon her. She fell to the floor in tears; her sobs echoed around the empty room.


Night was falling rapidly. Though the day had been cool, an expanse of powered blue sky had stretched out over the land. The sun shone high, unable to warm the air, but as the glowing orb bowed gracefully into the horizon, it cast a spectacular tangerine glow into the atmosphere. A warm comfortable glow, reflected by the ocean, cast upon the two women travelling within the Maid of the Atlantic.

With tracking device in hand, Addison guided the small boat through an estuary and along a wide, winding river. Setting down the tracking system, Addison turned to Skyler. The doctor sat upon a wooden, slatted crate, resting her feet upon the deck. Skyler looked out across the river, it was bordered by high rolling hills on either side.

Unable to leave the helm, Addison turned back to guide their leased vessel. They were less than 1 mile from where Brodie's speedboat had docked.

"Would you take over for a moment?" Addison inquired. She looked to Skyler, and then indicated the steering.

"Sure," Sky replied, taking over. "I've done this before. It was a much bigger boat though, down the Nile when I was on a dig in…"

"Egypt!" Addison exclaimed. "You've been to Egypt!" Realising she probably seemed a little too enthusiastic she toned down her demeanour. "That… um… must have been interesting."

Skyler didn't reply straight away. She studied Addison for a moment in thought, as the agent picked up the duffel bag Quinton had left her, and slid open the zipper. Hearing no answer, the agent eventually looked up to Skyler. She noted the doctor's expression and arched her eyebrows in question.

"Oh yes, it was," Skyler admitted. She paused before asking. "So you have never been to Egypt? It is such a beautiful place. Steeped in history."

Addison looked up from her inspection of the duffel bag. "Egypt was a dream of mine as a kid. You know how you get that feeling that if you had lived before, it would have been in a certain time and place?"

Skyler nodded.

"Well Egypt was mine." She smiled, pulling a shotgun from the bag and stood it upon the deck so she could lean her weight upon it. "I used to dream of great adventures there when I was a kid. I put posters upon my bedroom wall of the Pyramids and Sphinx. Didn't last long though." Addison set down her new shotgun, internally thankful to Quinton for supplying her with her favourite Spas 12.

Turning away from Addison, Skyler steered the boat around a sharp bend in the river. It began to narrow. Without looking back at the agent, Skyler asked, "Why didn't they last long?"

Addison shrugged. "My parents ripped them off the walls. To put it politely," she smirked, "they called them hopeless aspirations."

Once again it took Skyler several moments to reply. "That must have hurt."

"Hurt me?" Addison laughed. "No… tough as old hobnail boots, me. It takes more than some ripped paper to get me upset!" Wanting to believe her own bluff, Addison turned her attention fully upon the carrier. "Okay, so what exactly do we have here?" She began pulling out the items. "Shells for the Spas, torch, leather gloves, handcuffs, strap, two throwing knives and wrist sheath… and oh look at these, five grenades. My favourite toys!" She lined the items up along the deck, discarding the empty duffle and picking up her sturdy backpack.

Pushing up her left sleeve, Addison attached the knives and sheath upon her forearm. Slipping out of her jacket she loaded the rucksack and shrugged it onto her back, followed by the shotgun.

"Well I'm ready to Rock 'n' Roll."

"Good because look," Skyler nodded towards the speedboat. It was moored beside a marshy bank, tied to a rusty, metal pole.

"Okay." Addison switched off the tracking system and slipped it into her backpack. As Skyler guided the boat to the bank, Addison grabbed a rope and jumped onto the marshy shore. She secured the boat, and then turned to Skyler. She held out her hand, assisting the doctor ashore.

"This is the plan. I scope out the outer area, get a feel for the place. Then you wait while I go in there."

"What? No way!" Skyler shook her head adamantly. "There is no way you are leaving me out here… alone!"

With a sigh, Addison ran both hands through her shaggy dark locks. "Listen, Skyler, if you want me to do my job; you must trust me and do exactly as I say. I will make sure you are safe." Addison readied her spas, loading it with shells. "I don't know what I'll find. I never presume, but yours and your mother's safety is of the utmost importance. I will find somewhere safe for you to wait." Addison expression turned serious. "You don't want to be around when the penny drops, Skyler."

"Okay." Skyler looked up towards the sky where the first stars were making their appearance in the darkening expanse. "I trust you, Addison. I'm just," Skyler bit her lower lip. "I'm just scared."

Addison internally cursed herself. Of course she's scared, she admonished. You have to be cold, dead on the inside to be able to do this. Addison ignored the chill her thoughts wrapped around her heart. She placed a comforting hand upon Skyler's shoulder.

"Trust me, Skyler, that's all I ask." The blonde nodded and Addison added a reassuring squeeze. "Thank you." She smiled softly. "Now, lets go."

Taking lead, the soldier jogged towards Brodie's speedboat. She knelt to the ground, her eyes scanning the earth. Two sets of footprints stretched out from the boat; they headed northwest. Addison rose to her feet.

"Two sets of prints. I recognise Brodie's but the indentations are deeper, like she is carrying something. She was with a man, short and heavy set." Addison smirked, "by the size of these footprints I'd say this guy is lucky with the ladies!" She chuckled but her joke didn't seem to lighten Skyler's disposition. Addison pulled out her torch. "The night has all but fallen, Skyler. We need to move." Handing her torch to the blonde doctor, Addison readied her shotgun and they began.

The evening was fair and clear. A subtle aroma of moist earth permeated their surroundings. It was, however, the foreboding sense of approaching danger that kept Addison's senses alert.

"Move the torch over there," Addison indicated, pointing to the right.

Skyler did as requested, highlighting footprints that stretched out towards a valley between hills. "What do you expect we'll find, Addison?"

"What's the worse you could possibly imagine?"

Confused by the question but none the less considering Addison's words, Skyler searched her imagination. "The worst I could expect is … a whole army of men guarding my mom, surrounded by a twenty foot high fortress. Wild dogs guarding the boundaries; towers with great guns and a mine field."

Addison nodded. "Okay, well I expect nothing, yet something thirty times as frightening as that."

"I don't understand," Skyler responded with a frown. "What do you know that I don't?"

"Nothing… and that's the point." Hearing a shift to her right, Addison swung around with a speedy reflex. A rabbit hopped frantically away from them. She continued to follow Brodie's tracks. "The point is to never have any preconceptions about what you are going to find… but… at the same time, be prepared for the very worst. I don't know what will happen around the next corner. I won't presume but I will be ready for anything. It is the only way to stay alive, Skyler." Addison stopped walking. She turned to face the doctor and Skyler stood still. "If you are going to stay one step ahead of your enemies, never underestimate them."

"That is what you were taught?" Skyler shone her light away from Addison. The women gazed intently into each other's shadowed features.

"No," the solder responded. "That is what I learned the hard way. That lesson was a life changing jolt in my life."

Skyler stepped closer. "What happened?"

Swallowing hard, Addison recalled the night in question, the night that changed her from a common street criminal to a solder in Her Majesties Armed Forces. It was a period in her life that she had never before shared with another soul. She never intended to. "Maybe later," the agent relented. "Right now we have a mission to complete." Turning, Addison resumed tracking the sets of prints. She sensed more than heard Skyler's unspoken question and decided to change the topic.

"So, Doctor Skyler Tidwell, tell me something?"

Skyler increased her pace and walked beside Addison. "What's that?"

"In a way I suppose you are an adventurer like me… travelling the world due to our occupations."

"I guess…"

"Do you have a home; a retreat of your own?"

"I have an apartment back in Pennsylvania. You?"

"A place down south." Approaching a hill, Addison noticed the footprints veered around it. She reached out to take the torch from Skyler. Her fingers found the cool digits of the doctors as she slowly slid the object from Skyler's hand. Redirecting its beam, she followed the prints.

"Why?" Asked Skyler as she followed Addison.

"Just making conversation."

"Hmm," Skyler looked to Addison intently. "Maybe making conversation or maybe trying to steer the conversation from uncomfortable topics?"

Addison refused to take the bait. "Tell me honestly, you really do have some kind of qualification in psychology, don't you?"

"Yes I do."

The solder grinned. "You see... I knew it! You have a very analytical mind, Doctor, it must be highly beneficial."

Skyler shrugged. "You do too."

"Nah," Addison re-clasped her Spas with both hands, holding the torch against its barrel. "I'm a shoot first, ask questions later kind of girl. You on the other hand, your mind... your words… are your weapon."

"What does that mean?"

Addison turned to face Skyler, holding the shotgun diagonally across her chest. "I happen to think that must mean you have pretty good oral skills!" She took a step closer to Skyler. "I just hope you find time, in that busy life of yours, to keep up the practice."

"I…" Skyler's mouth worked silently as she tried to respond to Addison's words. She was unsure whether that remark was in anyway flirtatious or simply a compliment on her behalf.

Holding back a grin, Addison stepped away from Skyler. She looked down at the prints then ahead seeing a light in the dusky distance. "I do believe we are here!" She crouched down and motioned for Skyler to do the same. Reaching for her backpack, Addison pulled out a pair of binoculars and switched them to night vision. She zoomed in on the green imaging.

Placing her hand upon Addison's back, Skyler whispered, "What do you see?"

"An old stone building," Addison replied. "Looks pretty derelict and abandoned but that's Brodie's preference. Four stories high, quite large and strangely medieval in appearance. There are several vehicles around the area that I can see and so far four visible patrolling guards. They're armed." Addison studied further. She zoomed in onto a small door, half built into the ground, and made a mental note to check it out."

"What now?"

The agent handed her binoculars to Skyler. "You stay here a moment." She then handed over her shotgun and pulled out a single pistol and screwed a silencer onto its barrel. "I'll be back in just a second. Wait here."

Skyler watched as Addison moved cautiously toward the fortress and kept watching until the agent melted into the blackness. Emotionally, she was torn. On one hand she was impressed with Addison's courage and willingness to risk her life for Skyler's mother. On the other hand, Skyler resented Addison for leaving her behind after promising to bring her along when they liberated Marlene.

The American didn't think "bringing her along" should only consist of letting her take a ride on "The Maid of the Atlantic" and then leave her behind at the crucial moment. Besides, she might be able to help the agent in some way. Her clinical experience alone might prove invaluable. The longer Addison was gone, the greater was Skyler's urge to go after her.

The American reached behind her and assured herself the gun she had been given earlier was still in the holster attached to her waistband, then moved forward from her hiding place holding Addison's shotgun in a ready manner. She slipped ahead stealthily but had only taken a few quiet steps when a hand was clamped over her mouth and a strong arm wrapped around her body. Skyler struggled briefly until Addison's voice spoke low in her ear.

"I thought I asked you to stay put." Skyler's reply was muffled by Addison's hand so she relaxed and grunted to let the agent know she wouldn't move or make any noise. The iron grip loosened and the hand covering her mouth was removed.

"I couldn't help it," Skyler whispered. "You were gone for a long time and I thought you might need my help."

Addison turned to Skyler and peered at her closely with a sceptical look. "One, I was gone possibly five minutes and two, what would you have done if I was in trouble?"

Skyler became annoyed at Addison's superior attitude. "Well, one, it was seven and a half minutes and two, I don't know, but I would have thought of something."

The agent's eyes narrowed and her voice took on a deadly tone. "I brought you along to keep you safe, but God help me, if you don't do as instructed again, you won't need to worry about Agnes because the mayhem will be started by me. Am I making myself clear?"

Skyler's jaw worked and Addison readied herself for an argument. She was surprised when Skyler merely said, "Perfectly. I'm sorry."

The American could see the anger leave the agent at her meek reply. Addison gave her a small grin and a wink. "One, it's okay and two, shut your gob and follow me."

Skyler knew by the teasing tone that she was forgiven and whispered back, "One, right behind you and two, lead on." Addison gave a small snort of laughter at the joking, but sobered immediately.

"I found an old door next to the end of the building. It looks like an old tradesman's entrance. It's chained shut, but I'm sure I can get past that. Quiet now." Addison slid her night vision specs back on and crept toward the fortress walls with Skyler trailing behind her. Only once did she have to motion Skyler to be perfectly still as a guard passed by on a parapet overhead.

They crossed a depression in the turf and slipped up to the door Addison described. It was solid appearing, the ancient timbers thick and sturdy. A new chain hung through an iron hinge and was closed with a large lock. The agent reached over to Skyler and removed a thin strip of metal from the collar of her jacket that the American still wore. The flexible skewer was slipped into the key slot and in seconds an audible click was heard as the lock popped open. Addison removed the lock and slid the chain soundlessly through the iron hinge.

Opening the door slowly, Addison whispered, "We're in."


Brodie opened the door to the small lab. She remembered the earlier treachery of Skyler Tidwell and hesitated at the portal assuring herself that no traps had been set by the currently captured Tidwell family member. Confident the way was clear, Agnes entered and walked over to Marlene who had resumed a seat on the lab stool.

"Professor Tidwell, it's nice to see you again. I'm sorry to bother you, but the gentleman who was with me earlier, Dr. Pickering, has a few questions of clarification for you."

"I've given you everything," Marlene said in a dejected manner, not looking up at the Irish woman. "Isn't that enough?"

Brodie tried for a genuine smile, but failed. "Now, now, Professor, don't be like that. You've done well and to show our appreciation we've made a gesture of good faith. At this very moment, your daughter is being transported to the nearest large city where she will be deposited quite unharmed on a city street. When you have cleared up a few minor details, it is our intention to take you to that same city. I daresay that if you continue to cooperate, you'll be reunited with your daughter within twelve hours."

Marlene did look up then. "Skyler is being set free? And she hasn't been hurt?"

"I swear on my sainted mother's grave, the last time I saw her she was headed for freedom. Now, shall we join Dr. Pickering in the main lab? He seems to be a bright man, but your work is quite advanced apparently and he needs your help." Marlene made no reply, just shrugged and stood up.

Brodie motioned with her head for Marlene to move ahead of her toward the door. As the American passed by her, Agnes said nonchalantly, "I suppose it was like that at the University? You needed to provide the guidance for Project Gemini?"

"I guess so," Marlene agreed, "But it's probably not that the other researchers weren't intelligent. It was just that the difficult part was my discovery and is my area of expertise. Probably until this point when I gave you all the information," The American said as she got to the door, "I've been the only one who has understood all of the project."

"The only one," Brodie said thoughtfully. "Imagine that." To Agnes's mind, Marlene had just sealed her own fate.


Pale light poured from the open door as Addison and Skyler slipped inside and into an empty corridor.

"That was simple," Skyler observed quietly. "You'd think they would have more guards here."

"They did," Addison confirmed as she took the shotgun back from the American. "There were three more patrolling the grounds outside."

Three guards in seven and a half minutes the American thought. Skyler watched as Addison rechecked her weapons and realized once again that she was in the company of a very dangerous woman. That image clashed with the tiny glimpses of humor and humanity Skyler had been allowed to see and the American couldn't decide which aspect was the real Addison Black. Though she knew it was unlikely, Skyler wondered if Addison might be interested in seeing her after they rescued her mother. The scholar was intrigued by the agent and was curious about what Addison might be like in a situation not filled with stress and danger. She was also somehow certain that no matter how formidable Addison was, she would never hurt Skyler. These thoughts flowed through her mind in a matter of seconds and by the time Addison had completed her weapons check, Skyler was focused again on their task.

"Ready," Addison stated. Skyler could feel a palpable change in Addison's presence. It felt a little like a coil being tightened and held in check, waiting for the opportunity to be released into action. If Skyler hadn't hated Agnes Brodie to the core, she might have felt a little sorry for her having Addison Black as an enemy.

"I have a little experience with coastal fortifications," Addison said. "Since the time of the Viking raiders, the most secure place would be the center of the keep. It makes sense that it would still be the same now."

"Agreed," Skyler said. Her amazing recall sent her mind through several relevant course and classes. "That sunken area outside was probably a moat at one time. We should definitely go up as we work toward the middle." Addison looked at the American, but her "game face", as Skyler thought of it, was firmly in place and her expression unreadable.

"Lets move out." Addison led the way down the corridor they had stepped into. It was apparent they had entered a little used area of the fortress. There were only a handful of doors in the corridor and most of them were empty or mundane storage rooms. Addison was thorough though and searched each one quickly but efficiently. They progressed steadily, finding a second corridor that moved perpendicular to the one in which they entered. It was obvious this passageway led toward the center of the fortress.

It was only a matter of yards before the sound of an agitated voice reached them. Addison raised two fingers to her lips in a gesture of silence. Skyler nodded her head in understanding as Addison moved toward the voice soundlessly. Skyler followed a few paces behind, studying the agent's movements and mimicking them.

The black haired woman moved to the nearest point to the voice where she would still be unobserved. Reaching down into her black combat boot, she removed what appeared to be something like the foil wrapper from a piece of chewing gum. She bent the foil and moved part of it around the corner, studying the image reflected back at her much like a dentist using a mirror in a patient's mouth.

Bringing the foil back, Addison glanced at Skyler. She raised one finger and mouthed the word, "radio". The man in the next corridor raised his voice just then and they could hear his end of the conversation clearly.

"I can't believe it! Damn, who is responsible for this? How did they get past our defences? They've got to be stopped!" Skyler looked at Addison in alarm. She wondered what the agent would do now that their presence had been discovered. She could tell the Brit was processing the information she was hearing and weighing her options. The guard's voice rang out again. "Go, Rangers!"

Addison smiled unexpectedly and, in a swift, decisive movement, slipped around the corner and executed a sharp chop to the base of the man's neck. He crumpled to the floor of the fortress in an ungainly heap. Skyler followed Addison a fraction of a second later but was only in time to see the agent remove the man's radio from his pocket and pull the earpiece out. Putting the tiny speaker to her own ear, Addison smirked.

"Scottish football. Celtic leads the Rangers one to nil."

Skyler blew out a breath in relief, realizing that man had been listening to soccer on the radio and that they hadn't been discovered. Addison dropped the radio on the unconscious guard and continued down the corridor the man had been watching.

"As we get closer to your mum, the number of guards will increase. They'll also get better," Addison said as she resumed her methodical checking of rooms. In one they found a communications center. Though shut down at the current time, Skyler could tell Addison was noting the location of the room that held both a satellite telephone as well as a short wave radio.

"This wouldn't be untended unless something of greater importance was happening," Addison observed. "My guess is that something is the presence of the eminent Dr. Marlene Tidwell. We're getting close, I can feel it."

The pair worked their way to the end of the corridor that opened into a wide, open area with a stone staircase heading up to the next level. Faint sounds of activity drifted down from overhead.

"She must be up there," Skyler whispered as she moved to the steps. She had just placed one foot on the first step when her arm was grabbed and she was pulled back against the British woman.

"I think you're right and that's why this is as far as you go," Addison said in a lowered voice as her eyes watched the landing at the top of the steps.

"What are you talking about? That's my mother up there and I want to make sure she's safe!" Skyler's voice was intense, but remained at a whispered level.

"If you want to make sure she's safe, you'll stay here. Skyler, look. I can't keep focused on your mum if I have to worry about you and you know I will," the agent reasoned.


"No," Addison interrupted, "No buts. I need to do this alone. Please." The agent's reasonable tone did something that a command could not have done. It gained Skyler's cooperation."

"Okay, I'll stay here. I've got your back." Skyler pulled out the pistol she had received from Addison earlier and assumed an aggressive stance.

"That's kind of you, Calamity Jane, but if its all the same to you, I would prefer you not to get into any gunplay." She took Skyler by the arm and pulled her over to a door situated under the staircase. Peering quickly inside, Addison pronounced it "perfect". She ushered Skyler through the door. There wasn't a room inside the door; rather it was the landing to another set of stairs, this one leading downward into an inky blackness. It was damp and musty smelling.

"Old portal to the moat level I'll wager," Addison stated. As they moved onto the landing, Addison's boot caught a small stone and sent it over the edge. A moment later a small splash was heard.

"It's flooded, Addison! God knows what kinds of creepy-crawly things are down there. Let me go with you! I won't get in the way." Skyler clung to Addison's shirt as the agent moved to leave.

Gently, Addison disengaged Skyler's hand. "Come now, Doctor. You're a woman of science! You've probably dissected worse things that are down there."

Skyler looked uncertain. "You won't forget I'm here, will you?"

"Not a chance," the agent assured her. With that, Addison slipped out the door leaving Skyler on a darkened landing, alone with her imagination.

"Damn, why didn't I ask her for those night vision glasses? Okay, I'll be fine. No problem. Mom always said there's nothing in the dark that isn't there in the light." Skyler was comforted by that thought until a distinct splash echoed from below. "And that's what I'm afraid of." Briefly, Skyler's mind weighed the options of dealing with an irritated British spy and the possibility that the splash was caused by a snake.

Skyler hated snakes. Really hated them. A second splash sounded, slightly closer than before. As the sick feeling of fear increased, Skyler made her decision.

She was going after Addison.

Chapter Twelve

Addison ran one hand along a rough stone wall behind her. The size of bricks used to build such buildings surprised her. She estimated they were approximately twelve times the size of modern day construction bricks and far superior in quality. When she was younger, Addison had dreamed about living in a home of such magnificence. It reminded her of the stones used in ancient pyramid constructions. As a youngster of five or six, she dreamed of living in a great pyramid, miles away from her parents.

Standing at the foot of large, stone stairs, Addison kicked the first step. Readying her Spas, she held the barrel in her left hand with her right finger poised over the trigger. She looked up the flight of steps. Although the building had been updated and electrical lighting illuminated the dark passages, the stairs curved to the left obstructing her view of the next level. There was a strong, dank aroma in that air. It reminded her of an underground dungeon she had visited at a Bastille in France. However, there was the subtle scent of something else that Addison was yet to identify.

Standing tall, her back aligned with the wall, Addison began her ascent. She took the stone steps slowly, her senses on full alert.

"There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman," Addison began in a low voice. "They were climbing a tall mountain in effort to reach its peak. They'd heard a genie lived at the top who would grant every good man one wish." It was an occasional habit of Addison's. Although she loved her work, and thrived in precarious situations, Addison despised the tense atmosphere. She often tried to diffuse it by making up jokes, however lame they would be.

Senses attuned to any oncoming figures from above or below, Addison continued. "So they reached the top of the mystical mountain and found a beautiful, jewel encrusted, lamp. The Irishman picked it up eagerly and rubbed it with his sleeve."

Addison paused as she heard a noise from above. She listened carefully but on hearing nothing more, resumed her trek. "With a puff of smoke the stereotypical genie appeared before them. In a deep voice he said, 'For granting me temporary respite I allow you all one wish… if… you take a leap of faith.' The men looked at each other. 'What does that mean?' asked the Irishman. 'Who cares,' said the Englishman, 'we can have anything we want!' Now being a typical Genie, there was a catch. 'To obtain your wish, all you have to do is jump off the mountain, call out your desire and it shall be yours.' Well obviously this was a fearsome notion but the Scotsman, believing to be the bravest, went first. Standing at the edge of the mountain he took a deep breath and yelled 'Money' as he jumped. Sure enough he landed in a gigantic bundle of cash. As the Englishman moved to go next, the Irishman pushed past him and approached the ledge. With a triumphant call of 'women', he jumped and landed within an endless group of women, all willing to do his bidding. Now as for the Englishman, he thought himself smarter!"

Addison was beginning to reach the last few steps. She looked both ways once more, and continued. "The Englishman thought 'to have the best of both worlds, why not wish for rich women!' It was an excellent plan. Stepping forwards he approached the edge of the mountain but tripped on a stray rock. 'Buggering Hell' he shouted as he fell from the ledge!"

Reaching the top step, Addison froze as cold steel was pressed into her side. From behind a male, Scottish voice said, "I don't get it."

Addison's smirk remained. "I guess it's English humour!"

The guard stepped closer. "Drop your weapon."

"How about this," she replied, unfazed. "A dyslexic man walks into a bra!" Not waiting for his response, Addison thrust her head back. She connected solidly with the unknown man's face and felt, as much as heard, his nose crunch under her impact. Addison spun around, swinging the side of her hand into his throat. As the bloody faced man gasped for air, she kicked him down the stairs.

Addison watched him fall, her mind replaying the last expression upon his face. He would have died before he hit the bottom step. Another ghost to fill her subconscious. Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, Addison pressed on. She had to find Marlene before Brodie could find a way to extract the information from her. Addison was beginning to realize the terrible possibilities Project Gemini held.

Unlike the ground level, the first floor had a different aroma. It was the scent Addison had subtly detected, an almost clinical smell, similar to that of an indoor swimming pool. The agent walked down the passageway, but stopped by a small room to her right. She looked inside and spied many unmarked boxes. Curiously, Addison stepped closer. She lifted the top lid and peered inside. There she found dozens of Petrie dishes. She opened another and found carefully contained test tubes. A further box contained hardware for a highly powered microscope.

"Bugger me," the agent exclaimed. "This is more than just a holding facility, it's a fucking laboratory!" Addison rubbed her forehead. "Okay, Addy, think. They have Marlene here and they obviously think they have the technology to replicate Project Gemini." The agent nodded to herself, she knew she might well have to totally destroy the building.

Suddenly, approaching footsteps alerted Addison to unwanted company. She turned, standing by the door, her back against the wall. The pattern of footsteps suggested four people. Addison decided to wait until they passed. Their conversation was in Gaelic. Three of the four were in conversation. When the fourth voice finally spoke, the others fell silent. They were no more than two feet away from Addison.

The soldier stilled her breathing. Her body pressed up against the wall, she gripped the Spas with both hands and waited. Addison's senses detected somebody approaching the room. A hand reached inside to the handle, ready to re-close the door. Hopes that the guard wouldn't look her way, however, were short lived. As the young man turned and spotted her, Addison knew her cover had been blown. It was time to let everybody know who had gatecrashed the party.

Addison swung the hilt of her Spas into the guard. It connected with his chest and he stumbled backwards. She leapt through the doorway, finding three more surprised guards awaiting her. Aiming her shotgun at the nearest man, Addison pulled the trigger.


She pulled again and again; her eyes growing wide as the remaining men reached for their weapons.

"Shit!" Addison cursed.

Throwing her shotgun to the side, the agent's eyes registered three weapons aimed straight for her. As her nerves sparked a flash of alarm, she dived back into the storage room, crashing into the piles of boxes. Hundreds of glass test tubes and scientific implements smashed under her weight. Luckily for Addison her thick clothing shielded her skin from splintering glass causing any harm. Her hands, however, were not so lucky. Multiple shards pierced her flesh causing the agent to grimace in annoyance. She was unable to remove the splinters due to the fast approach of guards closing in upon her.

Rolling towards the right, Addison took shelter by a wall, effectively evading a burst of ammunition. Her palms temporarily out of action; she leapt to her feet. The first man appeared in the doorway and using all her might, Addison delivered a strong kick, knocking him backwards and into the remaining men. Taking advantage of the extra seconds she charged out into the narrow passageway, intent on an expeditious victory. Using the strength of only her legs and feet, Addison dispatched a series of powerful kicks. It was a flurry of action, the woman, smaller than her opponents, thrust her booted feet and knees into vital bodily organs and joints. One by one, each guard was incapacitated and rendered unconscious until only Addison was left standing.

Watching the last man slump down the wall with a resounding thud, Addison blew out a relieved breath. There was no point in hiding the bodies. Her time was limited. Addison looked down at her hands. Slender shards of glass stuck out through her flesh as bright red blood seeped around the wounds. She sighed and began pulling the glass from her palms. Fresh blood began to flow but she paid little heed. Finding Marlene Tidwell was her primary concern. She started down the corridor but stopped as a sharp gasp alerted her to another's presence. Addison turned to see a middle aged man standing down the other end of the passageway. He had greying brown hair and wore a white lab coat. The expression he held was that of an informant ready to run for help. She couldn't allow that.

As the man drew in a deep breath, Addison pulled both Beretta pistols from her back and shot him with her left gun. The blast ricocheted around the narrow walls and Addison knew she had to act fast.

Pistol within each grasp, the agent ran towards a slim archway. Passing under the stone crest she was confronted by another three men. They charged her, firing at will. Addison ducked, lunging into a forward roll before coming to her feet and taking out each threat with a single shot. She continued to run, her heavy footsteps pounding the cold, hard floor.

Into view came another set of stairs. She took them two at a time, speedily approaching the buildings third of four floors.


Marlene Tidwell stood between two abnormally large, fully armed, ruffians. In front of her sat Brodie's scientist, while to her left stood the woman herself. Brodie overlooked their conversation as a reluctant Marlene explained vital details to Atkins.

Suddenly, loud shouts from the outer passages filtered through to Brodie's ears. Her head whipped around sharply, eyes open in question.

"What was that?" she asked, looking around the room rapidly. "We have intruders? This can't be possible." Brodie turned to the closest guard beside Marlene. "Go and check it out," she ordered.

"Ma'am," he replied and carried out Brodie's bidding.

Approaching the door to the laboratory, he didn't even have time to touch the handle before the barrier was thrust open. Moving with such force, the wooden door flew from its hinges, colliding with his heavy set form and depositing him upon the ground. The door landed on top of him and the guard Addison had used as a battering ram, on top of that.

Brodie stared with bewilderment at the sight. She managed to bring herself around in time to see Addison stride through the doorway. Already the agent was firing at those who attempted to stop her progress.

"Brodie!" Addison yelled. She aimed her right hand forwards; shooting another thug whom approached her. Addison's left arm sprang to the side, firing at a woman carrying a Colt 45.

Scientists and technicians ran for their lives, screaming and diving under tables and behind cupboards.

"Don't fuck with me, Brodie. Just hand over the Professor."

Agnes' decision was swift. Pulling a hip holstered revolver from Marlene's remaining guard; she pushed him towards a side door. "Take her to the boat," she barked harshly and then turned back to Addison. "There is nothing I enjoy more than fucking with you, Black."

Brodie fired her gun repeatedly causing Addison to dive for cover. As she fell to the floor, the guard holding Marlene escaped through the side door while Brodie ran through the passageway in which Addison had arrived.

Springing to her feet, Addison's eyes switched between the two separate doorways. It wasn't a tough decision. However much she wanted Brodie, the soldier ran for Marlene.

Holstering the left Beretta, Addison felt her congealed, bloody hand pull away from the pistols rubber grip. There was no time to assess the potential damage caused to her hands. She could not allow Marlene to disappear once again. If not for her country and US, UK relations, then she had to do it for Skyler.

Jumping over a wide desk, Addison sprinted after Marlene and her temporary captor. She slammed into the door, pushing it open with a tremendous clatter. Ahead of her, Addison discovered a long, narrow hallway. The cold, brick walls offered no exit but a single doorway, twenty-five meters ahead of her. It was swung halfway open and in the process of closing; an obvious sign Marlene was not too far ahead of her. The agent could just hear Marlene's voice pleading to her captor for release.


Relieved to be away from the darkness of the unknown, Skyler stepped cautiously through the ground floor entrance hall. She jumped as several shots echoed through the building. With a trembling hand, Skyler reached for the Browning pistol Addison had given to her, but paused.

If she had to, would she actually use it? More importantly, Skyler considered, would wielding a weapon instantly label her a threat for elimination? She drew her hand away from the Browning. Like Addison had said, unless she found herself in immediate danger, and a situation that called for desperate measures, it was not recommended she brandish the pistol at all. Addison wanted her to use it as a call for help. Still, Skyler hoped she would never have to make that call.

From above, the sound of gunshots increased. Skyler paused, realizing the danger that lay ahead. Her green eyes caught sight of a lifeless body lying at the bottom of the stairs. Its face was unrecognisable due to the amount of dark red blood obscuring battered features. Whoever he was, he had died a quick but painful death. Skyler held little doubt it was Addison who had caused that death.

Deciding to press on, if at least to find her mother, Skyler approached the stairs. Don't look, she told herself, and stepped over the dead body blindly.

The stairs curved to the left. Skyler looked up the stone mounts as her confidence faltered. "What am I doing?" she asked herself. "There's a potential war zone up there and I'm running in to it?" Trepidation trickled through her veins. Skyler leaned back against the wall, hearing raised voices followed by more gunshots. She wanted to close her eyes, click her heels and wish herself, and her mother, a thousand miles away from this place, but what about Addison? Skyler's mind moved to the woman who was up those stairs, alone, and single-handedly fighting Brodie's men. Realizing the courage it must take for Addison to carry out her job, Skyler bolstered her own confidence. If Addison could do it, so could she.

Turning to continue her path up the steps, Skyler froze as she found herself confronted with one incredibly angry redhead. Brodie's eyes took on an almost joyful expression.

"We meet again," said the Irishwoman as she pointed her revolver at Skyler. "Interesting," she continued. "Now I am perplexed. Why would Addison Black bring you along, I wonder?" Brodie descended the steps forcing Skyler to back away. She walked backwards, only just managing to miss the body on the ground floor.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but anybody would think Agent Black cared about what happened to you." Brodie prodded her bottom lip with her left fingernail. "But that would beg the question, why would she leave you here, roaming around this place in such a dangerous situation?"

Skyler refused to speak. Suddenly finding herself face to face with Brodie brought to mind the malevolent capabilities of this woman and her fear increased tenfold.

"Miss Tidwell," Brodie suddenly adopted the expression of a scolding mother. "Have you been acting wilfully again?"

"Where's my mom?" Skyler asked. "Where's Addison?"

Brodie smiled maliciously. "They are the least of your concerns now, Miss Tidwell. I'd say I wouldn't be wrong in presuming Agent Black had a soft spot for you. If there's one thing I love it's spoiling anything that woman values."

The cold smile fell from Brodie's lips as she advanced upon Skyler.


Eating up the distance between herself and the door, Addison ran through the passageway. She burst through the barrier and came to an abrupt halt, narrowly avoiding collision with a waist high, wrought iron railing. Standing in the cool open air, Addison looked to her right. She was presented by a recently installed, spiral-staircase. The thuds of descending feet sounded beneath her. The agent looked over the railing to see Marlene pushed down the steps by one of Brodie's henchmen. She took after them, keeping her focus on the pair's progress. As soon as they reached the bottom step and touched solid ground, Addison leaped over the railings. She fell eleven feet to the ground, barely landing upon her feet as the soldier tucked her body into a forward roll. Momentum pushing her back to a sturdy stance, Addison found herself several feet away from Marlene and her retreating captor.

There was little thought, only a basic instinct, as Addison fired two rounds into the guard's back. Her aim was precise, swift and fatal. Marlene shrieked, terrified by the explosions. Brodies man fell to the ground but the professor kept on running, fear and confusion clouding her mind and sparking a simple impulse for survival.

"Professor Tidwell," Addison shouted.

She continued to run.

Addison started after her. "Marlene, it's okay, it's me, Addison... wait." She easily caught up with the fleeing woman, clasping her arm and pulling her to a halt. Marlene shrieked again but Addison clasped her with both hands, pistol still within her right, as she calmed her. "It's okay, it's me."

"Agent Black." Her relief was evident.

"Yes. You're okay, Professor Tidwell." Addison paused and looked around suddenly. She heard a group of rapidly approaching footsteps.

Taking Marlene by the arm, she led her swiftly over to the spiral staircase, situating her between the iron and the building wall. "Wait here and keep down."

Running back into the open, Addison holstered her Beretta and swiped an MP5 machine gun from the dead guard. She turned in time to see five of Brodie's men appear from the side. Addison fired instantly, releasing a stream of bullets upon the men. To keep moving was essential; it was the only way to dodge the weapon's fire aimed upon her. She ran to the right, feeling vibrations from the weapon aggravate her wounded palms. Cries of pain, as her would-be assassins were hit, filled the air. Addison didn't stop firing. Her finger squeezing the trigger, she ran forwards, ready for more of Brodie's men. When the MP5 ran out of ammunition, Addison dropped it. She picked up another weapon from the scattering of fallen men and looked about. The atmosphere had stilled and the strong metallic aroma of fresh blood flooded her senses.

Breathing rapidly, Addison scanned her surroundings. Feeling assured that the present danger had eased, she headed back to where Marlene remained huddled behind the iron staircase.

The professor jumped as she felt a light touch upon her arm. She looked up; instinctively knowing the gentle contact would only come from a friendly presence.

"Are you alright?"

Shell-shocked eyes gazed upon Addison. "Is it over?"

The soldier looked around her once again. "I hope so. No doubt Mark Blithe has been monitoring the situation so I am sure company will arrive very soon." Addison helped Marlene to her feet as her thoughts turned to Skyler. "But right now we need to go and get…" her words silenced as the distant hum of a helicopter approached them. She turned to see the large, black aircraft swiftly approach.

Addison frowned; something about the helicopter didn't seem right. It appeared to be a standard military aircraft but its approach pattern was almost erratic. It began to land quite a distance away from them and Addison continued to aim the MP5 in its direction.


Black's head whipped to the left, instantly recognising the voice. Her heart leapt into her chest and Marlene cried out an anguished 'No!' as Skyler, held at gunpoint by Brodie, was dragged into view. The Irishwoman pulled her towards the helicopter.

"Brodie!" Addison bellowed, aiming her weapon. "Release her."

"Forget it, Black." Brodie pushed the steel barrel of her Colt revolver harder against Skyler's head. She pulled her roughly, causing Skyler to stumble in her effort to remain upright.

Addison moved closer, feeling the aircraft's propeller draft thrust against her face. Black hair danced furiously around her head. Her palms began to sweat, stinging the open cuts. Addison knew she had never felt this anxious before. She tried to take aim at Brodie but the redhead shielded the majority of her body behind Skyler. One miss-shot could hit Skyler and for the first time, Addison couldn't bring herself to take that chance.

"Do something," Marlene begged Addison. She called out her daughter's name helplessly.

"What use is she to you now?" shouted Addison, hoping to reason with Brodie before she boarded the helicopter.

"What use is she to you?" Brodie asked, almost cryptically. Was she able to see the underlying apprehension in Addison's eyes from such a distance? "You know me, Black." Brodie slid into the helicopter, a terrified Skyler followed. "I do like my toys. This one is definitely something to play with. And the more it angers you… the more enjoyment I'll get."

"NO!" Addison ran forwards as the helicopter began to rise, a sobbing Marlene behind her, but it was no good. Their voices were drowned out in the wake of the tremendous hum of the aircraft. She looked around her, frantically searching for something, anything she could use to stop Brodie. It was too late. The helicopter moved further and further into the distance and all Addison could do was stand her ground, helplessly. She threw the MP5 to the ground in anger.

"God fucking damn it." Addison kicked her weapon across the grass.

As the helicopter disappeared into the horizon all that remained was Addison's shallow, seething breath and Marlene's quiet sobs. The soldier turned away, facing the medieval building and carnage of bodies upon the ground. Focus, she said to herself. Her shoulders rose and fell noticeably as she breathed deep, calming breaths. Running both hands through her hair, the agent's eyes scanned the bodies. She had an idea.

Starting a search through the deceased men, Addison hunted out and found a radio. "Excellent." She turned it on, adjusting its digital readout to a specific frequency. Before speaking, Addison cast a gaze upon Marlene. The silent professor looked around their surroundings in shock. Tears of anguish, of a mother's fear for her child, trailed glistening streams down her cheeks.

"Marlene?" Addison placed her hand upon the professor's back. "I know you may see this as futile at the moment, but try not to worry. I will get her back."

"How?" The expression of fear was as clear in Marlene's voice as it was upon her face. "Do you know where that woman has taken my daughter?"

Twisting the volume dial upon the radio, Addison shook her head. "Not yet but I will." She kept her hand upon Marlene's back and ushered her into movement. "We have to get back into the building."

"No!" Marlene stopped. "I can't go back in there."

"Yes you can. Everybody inside has more than likely scattered. If I am to find out any clues as to where Brodie has gone, I have to dig around." Addison gently eased Marlene into moving. "It might very well be safer in there than out here."


"Because I'll be in there," Addison replied.

Marlene didn't respond but silently followed Addison.

The soldier readjusted the radio volume. "Come in H.Q. this is Black." Reaching the bottom of the spiral stairs, Addison ascended the steps with Marlene behind her.

"Roger, Black, this is H.Q. A team was dispatched to your location and is currently en-route."


"Fifteen minutes."

"Roger that," Addison replied. "Black out." The soldier switched off the radio and threw it over the staircase railings in anger. The realisation that she had made a mistake weighed down upon her. She thought she could keep Skyler from harm. She thought the place she had chosen for her would be safe. She was wrong. Because of that, Skyler was once again in the merciless hands of Agnes Brodie. Addison knew how deep Brodie's interest in Skyler had been and the notion troubled her. She hated to think what Brodie's nefarious mind had planned.

Reaching the top step, Addison led Marlene back inside. They crossed a narrow passageway and entered the laboratory. Dead bodies of slain soldiers remained upon the floor. The splintering of glass and scattered instruments crunched underfoot.

"Were you aware of an off-room or office that might have belonged to Brodie?"

Marlene tried to focus her thoughts. All she could think about was her daughter, but she had to trust that Agent Black would be the person to bring her home safely. The soldier had rescued her already. "I was held in a room above this floor. Apparently it was the top one. I did notice several other rooms. One door was open and did contain a filing cabinet."

"Up it is then."

They took the stairs to the top floor. Addison began searching the rooms. Most were empty but one did appear to be a temporary office that she presumed belonged to Brodie. It was a perfectly square room. In the far-left corner sat an old wooden desk. Its light wood showed signs of distress and age by faded cup rings and a multitude of chips and dents. Upon the desk sat a laptop computer. A wire ran from its side, indicating it had been connected to a cellular phone for Internet access. Addison booted the computer as she continued to survey the room.

The walls were bare stone, adorned by nothing but the decay of time. Opposite the desk stood a filing cabinet and beside that, a small, brown cardboard box and plug-less paper shredder."

"What now?" Marlene asked.

"We search." Addison sat in front of the laptop. She flexed her sore hands, feeling the wounds split open and fresh blood trickle to the surface. "Check out the filing cabinet and that box. I'm going to have a look through this baby." She patted the compact computer.

Once ready, Addison gained access to the computer's hard drive. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she searched out prospective evidence. Behind her, Marlene began opening the first of four drawers. It was empty. She opened the remaining three to find them in the same condition. Pushing the last drawer closed, the professor opened the cardboard box. Inside she found numerous manila folders containing sheets of paper. She began searching through them avidly.

Meanwhile, Addison scrolled through the computer's hard drive. She didn't know what she expected to find, but knew it wouldn't be a nice accessible folder labelled 'Brodie's secret files'. What she wanted was any scrap of evidence, dates, incoming notifications, flight plans; anything that would give her some form of clue as to where Brodie might have taken Skyler.

She wasn't having much luck. Brodie obviously kept all files on disk and if there was anything to be found, the redhead kept it on her. In frustration, she slammed down the laptop screen. Though she did know a lot about computers, how to access deleted files wasn't top of her capabilities without specialised military hardware and that was something she hadn't been given.

Spinning around in her chair, she turned to Marlene. "Find anything?"

Marlene shuffled through the papers. "A list of names. Some documents written in Gaelic by the look of them."

"Let me have a look at those names."

Marlene passed over several sheets of paper. "There are a lot of what I believe to be printed maps, road maps, blue prints, underground sewage systems, and even building designs. The trouble is they all have a red cross going through them, almost like they were rejected. Maybe this was a box of garbage?"

"Maybe," Addison answered. "That would explain the shredder nearby. It doesn't have a plug so maybe these were slated to be destroyed, but they ran out of time." Her eyes slid down the paper. "These names aren't crossed out though." She read each name, one by one, hoping to seek out something familiar. She was unsuccessful.

Placing them to the side, Addison moved to the floor and knelt beside Marlene. "There has to be something." Picking up the scattered sheets she looked through them. Her eyes stopped over a familiar stretch of land.

"I recognise this one. It's almost like I know it because I have been there." Addison studied it closely then searched through more maps and blue prints. "This one looks very familiar too." She held out the detailed, sketched area of land. "I feel I have been here, for sure." She held two sheets of paper side by side. "They are all of the same scale. I bet that if they were sorted we'd have a huge mapping system here. They must fit together like a jigsaw, but we don't have time to play around now." There were no other details upon the sheets of paper but a single, seven-digit Alfa-numeric code.

"If only I could get access to that computer's recently deleted files right now."

Marlene's eyes twinkled in acknowledgement. With out a word she rose to her feet and strode over to the laptop. "Give me a minute," she said.

Addison placed the sheets of paper upon the ground; her head twisting from left to right as she tried to recall from memory, why she recognised certain parts of the maps.

Rapid tapping came from Marlene before she said, "Give me one of those codes."

Addison picked up a sheet of paper. "I324H57."

"Okay." Marlene was silent for several moments. "I don't believe it," she finally proclaimed. "I've got it."

"What?" Addison strode over to Marlene. "How did you do that?"

"I've worked with computers for as long as I can remember. I've designed and built programs myself. I know as much about them as I do myself. All I had to do was search out the files flag-marked to be overwritten." Marlene read through the list upon the screen. "That map reference refers to a section of land and buildings in Haifa in…"

"Israel," Addison finished. "That's why I recognise them. I was there almost two years ago."

Marlene picked up the list of names. "There are quite a few obviously Jewish names on this list, Agent Black."

A feeling of dread slithered through Addison's spine. She had originally thought Brodie's operation would end upon this Isle. If her suspicions were now correct, the hierarchy of this organization was larger and a lot more dangerous than she and Special Operations had originally anticipated.

Hearing the approaching sound of military helicopters looming overhead, Addison's fear for Skyler intensified.

End of Part Three

This story is complete and the next part will be posted within the next 5-7 days.

Continued in Part 4.

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