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Interlude

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Reagana didn't like it. Something was wrong, it made no sense, and she had no intention of stepping into what was obviously a trap. Question was, of course, what kind of a trap was it, and why? Was it for her, personally, or for her as a Clanswoman, for her as an operative? There was always the quandry when something like this happened. Do you sidestep and run like hell, or do you try to find out what the heck is going on? She'd thought to do the first, but then, they said something that caught her attention, words, a place, that she remembered from the Watch List. 'Stalag 13, Hammelburg, Germany'. No, she couldn't just avoid this, this could be important, so she agreed to at least listen to them, and when they had finished, she knew what she had to do. "Very well, I understand how important it is, though I still don't understand why I'm your first choice. I just got back from an assignment; we don't usually take two right in a row, you know. But, alright, I'll do it, but I can't leave for twenty-four hours." When they protested, she snarled at them, "That's the best I can do, gentlemen, take it or leave it; I've things to get done, I haven't had sleep in days, I'm filthy, and I will take twenty-four hours to get myself back together!" When they offered, insisted she come with them and spend her twenty-four hours at HQ, she snarled again, "And a fine help that'd be! No, I'll spend them here, in my own flat, with my own things, my own clothes, in my own bed. I'll be available to HQ in twenty-four hours for a final briefing, but for now, gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to leave so I can get rid of some of this dirt!!" They left, grumbling, and she watched from the window as they got in their car and left; she smiled grimly as she noted the guards they had left, not in uniform, no, but she recognized them for what they were. She expected there would be others at the rear of the building; thankfully, those were not the only ways in and out of the building. She flipped the security latches, and made her way to the concealed pocket door leading to the adjoining flat, through that to the next flat where the radio was concealed in a wall panel. Thinking over what she had to report, she sat down and put out the Call. No, she wasn't walking into this trap, but she had a good idea someone was, and she was pretty sure who that would be. Twenty-four hours would be cutting it close, but it could be done.

***
DC in Charge of Operations listened to what Reagana had to say, listened with great interest. So many possibilities, so little information. Still, if it could be done, she agreed there was one person who could do it, one person who had the special knowledge that would let it happen. One fast call, one surprised but eager response, and things were set in motion. The small plane left for Haven immediately, carrying three family members who'd spent enough time at Haven, had enough experience to at least keep the stock taken care of, keep the place going during Caeide's absence; that same small plane would carry Caeide to the outskirts of London, where she'd be whisked to a building a couple of blocks away from Reagana, there to make her way through the special tunnels and passageways to the safehouse, to her flat. They were at twenty hours and counting when the cousins met again, over coffee at the kitchen table. Caeide had spent the plane trip and the car ride reviewing the reports from Reagana's missions; she'd have to have this stuff memorized in order to pass, if anyone questioned her. She'd brought basic clothes, the type the DC had suggested, the usual quick-change items, special makeup, a couple of specialty items that she'd most likely not need, but knew to have on hand just in case; for the rest, she could use what was available at the flat.

"So you knew it was a trap. Talk to me, tell me everything," Caeide asked over her coffee. She was tired, the call had come in at the end of a long hard day's work at the farm, she'd spent the intervening hours getting ready, passing over the reins to her cousins, traveling, studying, but looking at Reagana, she figured that was all to the good, since frankly Reagana looked like hell! She made a note to use the actors' makeup to minic that bruise on her cheek, and to remember to wrap her left wrist as well. Now, though, adrenaline was pumping; now, she had to focus, they were in countdown mode.

"You know we never take two assignments back to back, by Contract; there has to be downtime in between, usually a week or more. I'd just been debriefed over this last one, left HQ and barely got in and got my pack dumped when they were at the door. I remembered being surprised, they were the same two I'd seen in the hallway on my way out of the building, full dress uniforms and all. A Major Albright, a Captain Duncan, both Americans. I usually work with the Brits, not the Yanks, sometimes Major Richards, sometimes Major Cole, but Clan tries to stay away from putting any of us in the way of the Yank military, of course. Very insistant - I was needed for this assignment, was the only one available, very hush-hush, need-to-know basis, you know, all the usual claptrap when they've made up their mind to something but don't want to explain themselves. Something about the way they interacted with each other, something about how nervous, intense they were, just told me it was trouble. I told them I'd listen, but wouldn't promise anything more, got them some coffee, dropped a little 'encouragement' into the cups and let them tell me something about the assignment." She leaned back in her chair, and Caeide smiled and poured her another half cup of coffee, and opened the small box she'd brought with her, pulling out scones she'd made the day before; Reagana groaned with delight, and snatched up one dotted with pieces of fruit she knew had come from the orchards at Haven. "Oh, I haven't had anything like that in too long!" she sputtered around the crumbs.

"Well, their story would make a good novel, if you were interested in writing it. Agent dropped behind enemy lines to carry out urgent mission; highly specialized, of course, of the type we couldn't afford to lose, impossible to replace, yada yada yada. Ended up halfway across Germany from where he was intended to be, but that was the only way to carry out his mission; now he was making his way back to a 'Travelers Aid Society' south of Berlin, there to try and get transport back to England. Unbeknownst to him, however, there's trouble at the TAS, probably a traitor, possibly more than one, maybe the entire unit has turned. Someone has to get in, meet the Agent at the TAS, not letting the team there know there's any suspicion, not letting them know the importance of the Agent. Getting him out, using different route than the one set up by the team for security, meeting the sub waiting at the coast. Why me? Well, I trained in that area, I know the language, the people, I'm available. Well, I could probably name off half a dozen others right in the London area that'd fit that bill just as well, but nevermind that. What struck me, other than what's their ultimate goal, is the information about the TAS - Unsung Heroes - Stalag 13, Hammelburg. I remembered from the Watch List, that's where the Professor is, isn't it? If I'm remembering him right, there's nothing going on in his area that he wouldn't be in the know about, probably mixed up in in some way, yes?" She got a solemn nod from her cousin, "Yes, if there is a possibility of trouble, that's where Peter would be; he draws trouble to him, or perhaps it draws him, you wouldn't believe some of the stories I could tell!"

Taking a sip of her coffee, "So, a trap. One where the instructions seem to preclude asking for help from the team in place, preclude trusting them or taking them into your confidence - basically, leaving you totally on your own in enemy territory. Agent, supposedly of great importance - did they give you a name, any identification?" receiving a headshake in reply. "Alright, we'll have to work on that. A trap, you being the most obvious target, though it's not certain whether it's you, as you, or you as Clan, or something else. I'm the obvious one to go, of course; I know Peter better than anyone else in the Clan; I can read him, should be able to get him to talk to me, I've never doubted I could trust him entirely." She considered, nodded her head, "Alright, anything else I need to know, that you can think of? Come talk to me while I get changed and ready; the clock is ticking away," and they worked to rapidly change the young farmer into a duplicate of the young agent. Like all of the women in the Clan, if you were in the same age group and had no obvious scars or impediments, you could pass as each other on the most basic level. Caeide had her cousin walk for her, do some turns, reaching for things; she'd been careful to watch her from the time she'd reached the flat, and already knew some things she'd have to adapt. At the appointed hour, a staff car pulled up outside and the officers stepped out, "the one on the left is Albright, of course, on the right is Duncan. Duncan is the more dominant one, at first take, but Albright is the one to watch; he's sneaky, tries to catch you out, always watching out of the corner of his eye." A quick hug, "Good luck, cousin," and Reagana was out the concealed door, on her way to another safehouse. "Good morning gentlemen," Caeide greeted the two men as she opened the door, picking up her pack. "Let's get going, briefing in a half hour," Duncan growled at her, and she gave him a quiet smile in return, "then let's get to it, shall we?"

Reagana hurried along the passages, exiting onto the street several blocks away, then to the waiting car. If it had been anyone except Caeide, she'd have questioned that unswerving, unquestioning faith that she could trust Peter Newkirk, could gain his cooperation. Yes, the lanky Englishman had been one of Caeide's mentors during her Internship year, but a person could change a lot in the six years that had passed since then. But then, Caeide's situation was different, Reagana knew. Her cousin had come back from that year different, not just more experienced, but somehow changed. It took a trip to the Grandmother, then to the Council before the truth became known; that somehow, a Ta'Shea bonding had taken place, Caeide Bonding to the man, but him not bonding to her in return. It was speculated that partly it was because their first meeting was when both Caeide and her Warrior aspect were both in residence, at the end of a bloody battle for survival, partly it was thought that this would not be the first time those two souls had met; Caeide had said her Warrior had seemed to recognize, accept him during that brief encounter. Then again, some things just were meant to be, and maybe nothing else was needed except that spark between two people. She knew the Grandmother had talked to Maudie, one of the other mentors during that year, and Maudie had confirmed that there was feeling on both sides, but he wasn't willing to accept that, a good part of that being her age, and, as Maudie put it, his sheer stubbornness. That was what gave Reagana confidence that, yes, Caeide would know him better than anyone else in the Clan, would be able to ascertain the truth. That was their ace in the hole in this bizarre affair, that inside knowledge. Now, to wait and see what they could discover about that Agent she was supposed to be meeting and bringing out of Germany