Olivia took off her glasses and began to clean them with the hem of her shirt. The hum off the jet and the click of Nina Sharp’s fingertips on her keyboard was making her drowsy. But behind her Walter was humming, and Olivia could hear faint strains of Mahler coming from the huge, probably thirty year-old headphones he was wearing.
She slipped her glasses back on and stared down at the open file on her tray table. There was another shapeshifter—this time an ocean away and in the hands of MI6. The politics involved were beyond Olivia’s pay grade, and she was glad of it. But she questioned why Nina Sharp was sitting across from her rather than Peter and Astrid—both of whom were back in the lab.
Massive Dynamic’s connection were as frightening as any of the things they were facing. She sighed.
“Is everything all right?” Nina asked, clicking her laptop shut.
Olivia cocked her head. “Do you know why MI6 requested a representative of Massive Dynamic?”
“Our scientists often consult for their Q Division, just as we do for your team and other government entities across the world.” Nina shrugged. “I would prefer to oversee our consultants in London myself, given the nature of this situation.”
“Of course.” Of course Nina did not want one bit of information to get past her. Olivia gave a half-hearted, polite smile and went back to her file. When she heard Nina’s keyboard once again, she closed her eyes.
When Olivia stepped out onto the jetway, she pulled her jacket closed, buttoning it against the chill of early afternoon. Waiting there beside a black car was a woman in a suit with smarter tailoring than any of the ones Olivia owned.
“You must be Agent Dunham,” she said, coming forward and extending her hand. “Welcome to London; I’m Agent Eve Moneypenny.”
“Agent Moneypenny,” Olivia took her hand, noting how firm her handshake was, “thank you for meeting us. This is Doctor Walter Bishop. We will be communicating with the rest of our team electronically. They stayed at the lab in Boston.”
“Of course. We have a link set up for you.” She turned to Nina. “And you must be Ms. Sharp. M thought you might like to go to Q branch directly.”
“Did she? How kind.”
Walter inched forward. “What is Q branch dear, and do they have Red Vines? They help me think, you see.”
“Walter, I told you…” Olivia began.
“Q branch contains our laboratories, among other things. I’m sure you will be quite home there, Dr. Bishop. Please,” she said, opening the back door of the car.
She straightened her jacket and set her jaw before pushing through the second door. The view was breathtaking—London lit up against the last of the sunset—but Olivia studied M’s back. She could see tight shoulders underneath the blouse, and she approached slowly.
Their meeting that afternoon had been businesslike, but the tension between M and Nina, who had declined to go directly to her waiting scientists, had been almost palpable. But whatever was between them—and Olivia found it hard to believe it was mere professional distrust—was none of her business unless it affected her case.
“Agent Moneypenny said you’d like to see me about the files we sent. How can I help?”
“Do you believe in God, Agent Dunham?”
Olivia shook her head, her jaw clenching. “No.”
“Neither do I, nor most within these walls, I gather. But if I did, perhaps this would all be easier to swallow.” She stood without turning away from the window. The only sound was the clink of ice melting into her drink.
“The science is all there.”
“Oh, yes, the science—I’ve read your files.” M waved her hand as if brushing the thought away. “But don’t you think it might be easier to believe in such things as they can only be explained by something no one can truly understand?” She turned, looking back expectantly, but Olivia was silent. “No, I wouldn’t expect you to. Neither do I. But to know that there’s a whole world out there that we can’t see, that we can’t touch, and that only a handful of scientists understand is more than enough. Knowing that it poses a threat…well, how exactly am I supposed to deal with that?”
Olivia took a step forward and shook her hand. “No offense, but I don’t understand why this has fallen to MI6.”
“We already do enough that most people wouldn’t ever imagine. The government thinks we may as well be a real life Torchwood as well.”
“Why did you ask me here tonight?”
“Of course.” M sat and gestured to one of the chairs in front of her desk. Olivia took it, moving it closer. “We are no strangers to dealing with your FBI and CIA when the need arises, but I would like to ask how involved both Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic are in your investigations.”
“Nina Sharp, among a select few civilians, has special clearance, as our cases sometimes require the…cooperation of Massive Dynamic.”
“And that’s all?” She took a long sip of her drink.
Olivia cocked her head. “Are you implying that my team is controlled by anyone other than the United States government?”
“You’ll forgive me for mistrusting the involvement of one of the world’s most powerful corporations in the initiative of a government that affords them most of the rights of its citizens.”
“And you’ll forgive me for noticing that this isn’t just about Massive Dynamic. I don’t know what your relationship with Nina Sharp is, ma’am, but she and Massive Dynamic consult for this team as needed, and that is all. You asked for a consultation from their leading scientists; you should have been prepared for her presence.” That
The silence between them stretched on a beat too long before M chuckled. “You remind me of myself, you know, when I was much younger. You must be tougher than the rest, more focused than the rest, and for every ounce of their charm, you must be cold.” She shook her head. “I see you’ve mastered that as well.”
Olivia shifted. “Ma’am, if I have…”
“No, you haven’t. I very much appreciate having your team here, Agent Dunham. I trust Dr. Bishop has found the Q branch laboratories satisfactory?”
“Yes, though I’m not sure how your team feels about some of his more unusual requests.”
“They were warned.”
“Will you have a drink?” M finished the last of hers and stood.
“No, thank you.” Olivia shook her head.
“Very well.” She took out a crystal decanter and refilled her tumbler, this time foregoing ice. “I’ve read your reports, but I would very much appreciate your personal account of your experience with this alternate universe.”
After a pause, Olivia took a deep breath. “I think I’ll take that drink.”
Olivia paced the office, her hands on her hips as she looked around. It smelled slightly damp and musty, like it had been closed off for years, and even years of use after opening it again, it still lingered. She looked out of the glass onto the floor of desk and milling workers below. She chuckled as she looked up to the exposed pipes coming out of the ceiling.
“Not exactly what I thought the Prime Minister’s office would look like.” She turned back to the desk and grinned.
“Unlike America, we aren’t more concerned with looks over security. This space has existed since the Second World War.”
“Reliving the glory days,” Olivia said under her breath as she shoved her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket.
“I beg your pardon?” But Olivia merely grinned and shook her head. “As I was saying, it belonged to what was once MI6, and that’s why we’re here now.”
“Yeah.” Olivia shook strands of her red hair out of her face. “Just like the FBI—cuts were necessary. Look, Prime Minister…”
“Please,” she held her hand up as if to stop Olivia, “call me M. It’s a rather old habit.”
“M.” Olivia smirked as she perched on the edge of the desk. “Why am I here? I mean, come on…you don’t need a consultant. You’ve never needed one before.”
“I don’t want you as a consultant, Agent Dunham. I want you to head our Fringe Agency.”
This made Olivia laugh outright. “Fringe Agency? Seventy percent of your country is encased in amber, and you’re just organizing a Fringe Agency. Typical.”
“That is what makes our situation all the more worth your time. We may not be size of America, but we do have resources.”
“Oh yeah?” Olivia cocked her head. “And would I be competing with the Ministry of Defense for those resources. It doesn’t seem like your war with Ireland will be ending anytime soon. And the economy…”
“Is recovering. The fishing industry on the mainland has been booming the past few years. You needn’t concern yourself with such things. You would have everything you needed. What we do not have is your skill.”
“Do you want me,” Olivia asked as she leaned close enough to see the different shades of blue in M’s cold eyes, “or do you want all of the secrets I can spill. You may have resources, and you may even have more intel than we think you do, but…” She shook her head. “Come on.”
“You certainly think a lot of your Fringe Division.”
“So do you, or I wouldn’t be there. What’s changed?”
M leaned forward, clasping her hands in front of her. “You may not be impressed, but we know how to penetrate the other side. It’s a turning point for us.”
Olivia raised her eyebrows. “You’ve been busy down here underground.” She slid off of the desk and tossed her hair back. “Convince me.”
It didn’t surprise Nina When the elevator doors opened up to her sweet. She didn’t turn when she heard footfalls on the carpet. Instead, she merely smiled to herself.
“Can I fix you a drink?”
“I’d rather not.” Each word was brisk, businesslike.
Nina turned in her chair and rested her chin on her hand. “Then what can I do for you, M?”
“You can go back to America, to New York. Your people are fine here without your assistance, and I’m sure other parts of your empire need tending.”
This time, Nina’s smile was less genuine. She waited, letting the silence stretch as she shook her head. “Does my presence bother you so much…after all of these years?” She laughed lightly and stood. “I thought you were supposed to be unflappable.”
“Why are you here? What do you bloody well want?”
“To tell you the truth…”
“That would be a start.” M’s eyes were hard, but that was one of the things that drew Nina to her.
“…I wanted to see you.”
M arched her eyebrows, and that sight made Nina feel as if they were young again. But they weren’t young. Their bodies were no longer firm and skin no longer flushed with hope or ambition. And Nina liked it all the more that way.
“Nina…” She drew in a deep breath. “How did that thing get here, and what the hell did it want?”
She shook her head. “We’ll find out sooner or later, but why would any spy infiltrate any organization? They want something, need something, perhaps. We just don’t know what it is yet.” She circled M slowly and went to the sideboard to pour herself a drink. “It bothered you. It still does, doesn’t it—that I wasn’t there when you woke up. You weren’t used to being the one left behind.”
“You’re inflating the importance of that encounter.”
“Oh,” Nina said, grinning, “I don’t think I am. You don’t trust me, and you don’t trust yourself around me. I’m flattered, you know.”
“You’re impossible.” M pulled at her jacket and shifted her weight to turn back to the elevator.
“Stay. Have a drink with me. It might have been one night a lifetime ago, but I haven’t forgotten it either.”
Without hesitating, M buttoned her jacket. “Enjoy your flight home, Ms. Sharp.”
Olivia tossed her leather jacket onto a chair and started to unbutton her shirt. London—what a shithole. This little nest high above it was probably worth more than she could make in a lifetime. There was no view, though. Security cut into luxury, it seemed. England had some of the richest citizens in the world. They were well fed and well dressed while the bulk of their fellow Englishmen froze, starved, or eked out a living on the black market. And then there were the ones frozen in amber, presumably forever.
“What are you doing?”
She smirked as she shrugged her shirt off. “You really think I’m going to believe you brought me back to your place just for tea?”
M raised her eyebrows for half a moment before reaching for the top button of her blouse. “You’re not one for subtlety, are you?”
“I’m not one for talking so much.” Olivia crowded into M’s space and grasped her hand, pushing it away from the buttons. She took a great amount of pleasure in the way they popped off when she yanked. Then, slowly, she kissed M, tasting the slightly blush colored lipstick.
Olivia put her hands in her pockets after shaking M’s hand for the last time. “I’m sorry there’s not more we could do.”
“You and Dr. Bishop were a great help, Agent Dunham. I don’t know what’s worse—knowing that they’re watching or not knowing what they’re planning in doing so.”
“We’ll let you know if we find anything that might help during the course of our investigations.”
M nodded as she clasped her wrist in front of her. “We could use people like you.”
“You have good people here, ma’am. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble working out a system.” Olivia looked back to the jet and waiting flight attendant in the doorway. “I should…”
“Of course.” Olivia had only taken two steps when M called, “And, Agent Dunham…I should be careful of Nina Sharp if I were you.”
It was probably past dark, but Olivia couldn’t tell. She made herself slip out of bed, though the threadcount of the sheets made dozing off again very tempting. If M wasn’t asleep, she was doing a good enough job faking it. Olivia took her time putting her clothes back on, and once dressed, she turned her attention to M’s half opened closet. In a row across the top, neatly folded, were wool sweaters. She ran her fingertips over the fabric—real wool.
“What are you doing?”
Olivia grinned, but she didn’t turn back to the bed. Her hand stopped on a red sweater, and she took it out, holding it up before pulling it over her head. “You certainly like the finer things in life. I bet you have a whole cabinet full of coffee somewhere too.” Before M could say anything, she turned around and said, “It’s a tempting offer—running my own division, answering to, well, fewer people than I do now. But I question your motives, Prime Minister.”
“My motives? How ridiculous.”
“You might have gotten a shape shifter over there, but you haven’t figured out how to get yourself over there yet, have you? You know I’ve been there. You know I’ve seen it done.”
“Your point, Agent Dunham.”
“I don’t think you care about England’s welfare. I think you want to be in the best position to cross over ad never look back.” Olivia grabbed her jacket and slung it over her shoulder. “I can’t blame you, not really. You know how to do your counterpart’s job. And it’s tempting…to live in a world that isn’t dying.”
“I thought you, of all people, would understand.” M propped herself on her elbow.
“Oh,” Olivia said, scoffing, “I get it. But I’m not going to be a part of it—sets a bad precedent for other people in your position. And anyway, when we’re done with them, you won’t want to be on that side.”
She shook her head, chuckling to herself. It had been fun, but she had work to do. And Olivia doubted London would even live to see the end of this war.