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Alias Red Deer

Chapter Text

Pallasstraße, West Berlin

September 16th, 1986

21.31 Local Time

The taxi coasted through the street, still dotted with the occasional staggering figure. A West German citizen here, an off-duty GI there. Very occasionally, the odd British soldier, who’d staggered drunken from the old British sector. None of the alcohol, however, interested this fare. Nor, in fact, did the neon lights of the nightclubs, one of the better ones had been attacked already. It was business that interested her, regardless of how her mind attempted to deviate from the fact. She cursed in the back of her head at how inconsiderate the Libyans were. Sure, they had their grievances with the Americans- who didn’t, these days? – but did it warrant going and blowing up one of the less shit clubs around here? She shook her head, turning her attention back to the present, before it was snatched away in an instant by the synth-esque tune playing through the stereo up front.

 

 

Hello, ooh-oh, Vienna calling

Hello, ooh-oh, Vienna calling

Talkin' about Stella sitzt in Rio, Stella liegt in Tokyo

Männer fragen sie nach Feuer, nach dem andern sowieso

Sugar Chris dich sehr vermisst, dein Bein und dein Gesicht

Du kannst auf mich verzichten, nur auf Luxus nicht

Womit spielen kleine Mädchen heute, hier und dort und da

Ob in Tucson, Arizona, Toronto, Canada-

Her mind cast back to the last time she had heard that song. It was about this time last year; the song had only recently released and had pretty quickly bounced up the charts over here. Sure, it hadn’t been a number one, but it was still played to death. That will have been the last operation I did as a subordinate, she reflected, watching the city lights go by. ‘You’d better not let me catch you playing this shit, Maxine, or I swear I will tear your fingers off’, Otto had chastised her, having slapped her hand as she reached to turn the stereo up. ‘God forbid what our fucking handlers would think. They’d think you were going soft, listening to this Western garbage.’ That operation had been her ticket to changing everything. Twenty-four or not, the Committee had figured her small form and build made her the perfect asset to play the part of a child. Children were never suspected, they’d decided. So, off she’d been sent with Otto, whom even by her standards was an asshole- to a degree only her instructors had ever hoped to aspire to- and a hardliner. Then again, that’s what happens when your partner for the operation settled in Berlin as part of the 28th Army. Bet his real name was never Otto, either. Her thoughts turned decidedly darker, as the next few days played out in snippets in her head. She may have hated the agent she was assigned to, but it didn’t mean he deserved to be planted by a counter-agent’s bullet to the stomach. It was well that he’d died as fast as he had, the cries of agony he’d given out even in that time she still found hard to clear from her mind. Even that failed to stop her finishing the job: naturally, it took an event like that for her superiors to figure it out that she could handle herself.

And she hadn’t disappointed, as every assignment since then- easily thirty, including all the shorter, two- or three-day jobs- had been completed with all the precision and finesse she’d been trained to use. From some of the sources the Committee had higher up in Western places, she’d made a nice dent in their assets. That, and almost every agent and secret policeman in the West had been shown her face: told to look out for her; told what she’d done; told what she’d do to them if they underestimated her. She liked that infamy, as much as she knew it to be unprofessional.

“Deine halt, Fräulein.” The driver’s announcement shook her from her reminiscing. She opened the door of the checker cab, stepping out onto the pavement, shivering as she did so. She leaned into the front window, handing the driver the money she owed for the journey.

“Shön danke. Behalten Sie den Rest.” She uttered to the driver, as she turned over thirty marks. Twice what the fare cost, but she didn’t mind. In her eyes, the taxi drivers deserved it, for putting up with some of their fares; that, and this guy looked as though he could use the money. The driver smiled, taking the notes out of her hand.

“Shön bitte. Shöner abend, Fräulein.” He replied, softly as she stepped away and onto the street, rubbing her gloved hands together and pulling the neck of her jacket tighter. Scheisse, why does Berlin have to be so cold this time of year? She continued onward, fazed a little by the brisk nature of this autumn. Then again, ten degrees was definitely a damnsight warmer than Siberia. Some bright spark of a clerk had felt that, despite being due to deploy to the West on her first operation, she would benefit from a cold weather survival course. Minus thirty-two, the thermometer on one of the vehicles had said before they dumped her and a fellow agent in the wilds, with a small bag of equipment and a day’s rations to share. It definitely hadn’t been her most comfortable experience; she had, however, taken a morbid satisfaction in knowing that the clerk responsible- who, bless them, had simply gotten the forms mixed up- had been sent on that very course as punishment.

The memory of that clerk being at her knees after they had returned and recuperated from pneumonia still brought a grin to her face. As did thinking about the agents she’d served under as a child, how condescending and untrusting they’d always been. Maxine do this, leave that alone Maxine, Stay here Maxine, you can’t be of use. And yet, when she’d ended up in charge of a few of them a few years later, their attitude had changed completely. And yet she had always been on their level, never condescending, never an asshole-in-charge figure. She felt that in itself was a far more fitting and entertaining way of getting even with them for it. After what had felt like an eternity of work without reward, she’d finally gotten somewhere. Instead of having to lead lackeys, she had operational freedom. She had the choice of what targets she went after, and more importantly the option of not babysitting some bureaucrat that the Americans had their eyes on. She sighed, leaning against a lamp post and watching along the street.

Speaking of bureaucrats, that was exactly what she had been sent to deal with. Happily, this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill kind of person. No, he was more important, something to do with the Dutch delegation to NATO. She hadn’t bothered to learn much of the details of her targets: She felt it a cliché to learn every in and out of who they were, something they only did in Western movies. No, she’d only bothered with two parts of the file: his name, and why they wanted him dead. So, Mr. Joncker of the Dutch Embassy, you’re going to die tonight because you’ve got the access credentials to Volkel airbase. And we want to know exactly how many bombs the Americans threaten us with there, apparently. She still disliked the fact that she’d had to kill people without reasonable cause. Access to a nuclear base seemed pretty pointless when those nukes required the U.S. President to arm them.

Still, she continued with her assignments unerringly. Not because the politics behind them was always agreeable, but because she knew the price she’d have to pay if it turned out she was no longer a willing agent. She knew exactly what the hierarchs had to hold against her, and she had a pretty good idea of how long she’d last anywhere in Germany if that came to light. Finally, her mark appeared. A man stumbling out of a bar further up the street, briefcase still in hand. His suit jacket must still have been in the Embassy, or wrapped around some prostitute he’d paid to go wait for him at his apartment a few blocks away. Good. As always, he’s come straight from the embassy to get pissed. Now, to work. She didn’t even really need to follow him, she could just lay up in the alleyway, in the quieter streets, maybe even in the apartment block itself. She would always choose this method, however. She’d had the occasional target change their routine, go a different way. At any rate, she preferred this. For someone assigned a codename like hers, she was more the hunter than the hunted. The thrill of the chase was a drug she was helplessly addicted to. The sensation of stalking her quarry through the maze that was West Berlin, never truly knowing whether they were on to her, always having that little edge of uncertainty. It made her feel alive. The very thought of her impending task warmed her up a little, against the wind whistling down the street. Even though the Allies had heavily rebuilt their side of Berlin, risen it from the ruins that remained forty years earlier, it still bore distinct scars here and there. She hadn't been over to look at Tiergarten in a long time, but it was still on the mend in places, no matter how hard they tried to regrow all the trees. And who could miss the giant monument to her countrymen, flanked by Howitzers and tanks and guarded at all times by the Red Guard? Sometimes, she felt her nation was more interested in showing off to the West than anything else, especially if that big tower was anything to go by. Fernsehturm, more like 'compensator'.

She tapped a hand against the side of her head as her target took a turn down an alley, about ten metres ahead. As always. Then again, he doesn't suspect someone of following him. Why would he, he's on his side of the wall. She quickened her pace to close the gap, keeping her footsteps as quiet as possible. Not that it'd matter, the drunken ass probably couldn't hear anything over his own slurred thoughts aloud. A moment later, she was within reach. Her hand went to the blade in her pocket. Sure, the Committee had ballistic knives, types that you could kill someone from twenty paces with and never get your hands dirty with. Even the knife she used today had a built-in cartridge, she could kill her target from this distance and probably barely make a sound. However, the cartridge was only used by two weapons: this knife; and the PSS. Both of which would make it pretty obvious who was responsible for the murder. Quickly and silently, the knife drew from her pocket, resting in her left palm as she gauged her quarry.

"Klivchenko sends his regards." She stated flatly in his native Dutch. He spun around, fear written across his face for an instant. He never stood a chance, as in a swift motion she placed her right foot forward, driving the knife in her hand upward between his ribs, and through his heart. He collapsed forward, letting out a slight, quiet, pathetic moan. She caught him, allowing his chest to rest against her torso as she reached a gloved hand around him, twisting the knife once in a slick, violent movement. His body jolted, before going limp. 

It is done.

She softly laid his body down, peeling his fingers away from the handle of the black case. Gently, she scrolled in the combination that her superiors had provided, to ensure the case wasn't a decoy. Sure enough, the papers were there. All the documentation was there, everything looked in order. Before she left, she patted him down, removing his wallet and opening it. Must've been his payday. How unlucky, that a common thief should find him on this day. She rifled through its contents, removing the bills from their place, and dropping the wallet back onto his corpse. She neither knew nor cared whether the West bought it any more, it was her M.O. Every hit she'd made, she always made it seem like a simple robbery. That her target had been murdered for the paper in his, or indeed her, pocket. She smiled slightly to herself as she strode out of the alleyway once more, flagging down a cab, and disappearing into the night. Minutes later, a Schupo came across his cold, dead form, indeed surmising that the man was a victim of a simple, petty crime.


Berlin Operating Base, West Berlin

September 17th, 1986

07.55 Local Time

 

"So, when did you say they found him?" Peterson had seen some pretty rough times as head of the Field side of the Agency. This was rough, however. He hadn't seen the Reds be so brazen in almost twenty years. That disturbed him, deeper than he made clear.

"About ten last night. Cop found him dead in an alleyway. Police reckon it was a simple killing, by what they found."

"Let me guess: Stabbed in the chest, with all his money gone. Surely, she isn't back on the grid, Joe?" Peterson turned and looked out of the window, over the urban skyline. 

"Think about it, Al: your average Berlin mugger woulda taken one look at the contents of that case, shit themselves and ditched it. No, those documents going missing can't be a coincidence. And of all the people that a mugger could target, the deputy head of the Dutch delegation?" He turned back around, to face his colleague. 

"Surely, the Russians know that-"

"-The President has to send out the arming codes, of course they do. But imagine how much havoc they could wreak if they were to, say, steal one of those things, or plant one of their own there?" Joe drummed his fingers on the desk, before making his next statement. "The problem is, we barely know anything about this fucking agent of theirs, and even if we did our efforts have turned up nothing. We've been trying to nail her for six years, and almost every agent we send after her either comes up empty, or winds up on our doorstep in a duffel bag. No, we need a new solution. We need some way of taking her out, once and for all."

Al left it unanswered, thinking over his next choice of words carefully. He knew exactly why he'd come here, and he had a solution, in his eyes at least. He just wasn't sure that he could convince Joe that it could be done. The agent he had in mind was prolific, if unconventional. Any normal organisation would've taken one look at this sexuality-ambiguous, anarchic headcase and sent her through the door. Not this agency, however. She was something else. It helped, of course, that her father was- had been- in the Agency, he'd subtly trained her here and there. She was by far one of the youngest agents they had in Berlin, barely even old enough to drink Stateside. Yet she could outperform agents who were twice her age, sometimes more. It was just a shame that her wild tendencies had led her straight into one of the Stasi's better spy-catchers. It was awkward that some of their best agents also happened to be inclined away from the norm.

"We have a solution. Well, had." Joe frowned, leaning onto the back of his chair at the statement, dipping his head.

"Lemme guess, the Ruskies already got him." Al shook his head, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

"Er, no. It's a little more complicated than that. She happens to have been festering in Bautzen Zwei for the past six or seven months, if my sources are correct." Joe froze solid for a moment, as the pieces clicked together in his head. He looked Al square in the eye.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me." Joe went back over to the window, banging on it with his fists, turning back and flopping into his chair. "Fuck! Okay, fine. Why not just ask me to get the Air Force to fucking level the Wall while we're at it? I'm sure the Kremlin will be just fine with us asking to get her back, what with all the shit she did to their intelligence network before they caught her dumb ass." He ground his hands across his face.

Al dropped the file he'd had in his hands onto the desk, right way up for Joe to read. "Yeah, tell me about it. However, IF we can get her back, I think she's our best bet of getting to this, 'Red Deer', that's been such a pain in our ass." Joe opened the file, his heart dropping. 

Why the fuck does it have to be her? Of ALL the fucking agents, why is she our best bet? The picture on file had been taken about four weeks before the agent's capture. Smug as ever toward the camera, the last remnants of the blue dye she'd been using as part of her cover in the West sector just fading out. He'd seen the case files of the operations she'd been a part of. Her reputation preceded her in any case. He closed the file and handed it back to Al.

"Alright, alright. I'll see what I can do. No guarantees, so... just try and find a backup choice, okay? Maybe even get the Brits in on this."

"Why'd we need the Brits to help us on this, though? We got enough manpower to start a small war in East Berlin." Al was untrusting as ever toward the British. Then again, as a descendant of one of the Boston Tea Party instigators, that was to be expected.

"Al, they've some pretty good operatives as well you know. Besides, we may need to butter them up a helluva lot."

"How come?" Joe grimaced, as he broke the news.

"Well, the chances are we're gonna have to trade them back some of their A-listers. Or half of Spandau. Probably both." Al huffed a laugh, smirking.

"Well, looks like we're both gonna need new jobs at the end of this."

"Damn straight. I'll call you if I have any luck." With that, Al nodded and left the small office. After he had gone, Joe sat down at his desk, opening the drawer and retrieving his drink of choice: A hip-flask of Schwartzhog. He opened the screw-top, and gulped down a good amount of the liquid. 

"God, why are you doing this to me? Six months left in the Agency, and you throw this shit at me. What did I do?" He leaned back in his chair, and sighed. After another few moments of careful consideration, he picked up the phone on the desk and punched in the one number he'd been hoping not to need today.

"Andrew, yes, yes, it's me. Listen, I need a massive favour from you. You're not going to like it..."

Chapter Text

Bautzen II Prizon, Bautzen, East Germany

Ministry of State Security Special section

The battered, dishevelled figure sat curled up against the wall, under the brick-sized slit in the wall that let in the only light and fresh air to the room. She didn't have much choice of where else so sit, seeing as her chains were that short that she was virtually confined to the wall, Each wrist shackled separately. The prison uniform wasn't especially comfortable, made worse by the fact that the fuckers refused to let her out for almost anything, including going to the bathroom. She chuckled slightly, knowing that it was her fault at any rate. Ever since she'd wound up in this shithole, she'd devoted every waking minute to making the guards earn their pay, maling every effort to break their faces, or their toes, even attempting to escape on one or two occasions, when she was still physically capable of it. So, it didn't come as a surprise that after so long, they'd eventually resorted to locking her up in the darkest cell imaginable. She wondered how she must look: time itself had lost its meaning, long enough ago that she couldn't remember; she might have been here six weeks, or ten years, and it would still have felt the same. Her hair, as best she could tell, had grown unchecked, feral. Her nails had grown out to a length, but they were frequently snapped off by the sadistic pricks that ran this place, and that took great pleasure in torturing her every so often. They knew she had very little in the way of useful information, they'd figured that out a while back. No, they were just doing it because they found it fun. Her feet hurt like fuck too, probably because most of the bones were still not quite healed from having a hammer swung at them or a faux-clumsy guard stamping on them, and because bare skin being in contact with cold concrete and whatever half-frozen fluids and other stuff there was on the ground wasn't doing them a world of good. It was a miracle they hadn't gotten infected.

At least it's better than how they used to treat me. Fuck you biology, finding that shit a turn-on really didn't make my life any easier. Indeed, the guards had used that to their sick pleasure when they found out that whipping her, or strapping her into a chair and blasting her with a fire hose, caused that unfortunate side effect. At least torture by arousal was more pleasant than being battered into a pulp of broken bones; her first few days were a red blur of regular beatings. Three officers coming into her cell, bludgeoning her to within an inch of blissful unconsciousness, and dragging her to the interrogation room, where the fun would start again. The face of that bitch, the one who tricked her into letting down her guard, was written onto her mind. She'd vowed to get even some day. Her mind cast back into the present for the time being, to this box. This personal void, empty of everything but her and her thoughts. Despite everything going on in her head, the one overriding emotion she'd constantly experienced here was disappointment in herself. Not rage, not frustration that she couldn't do anything, just disappointment.

Why the fuck did I let this happen to myself? I shoulda fucking known something was up by the way she couldn't keep herself off me. Why did I fucking throw away my cyanide? The questions tore into what was left of her psyche on a regular basis. She swore she heard her instructors in the back of her head every now and again, reminding her that it was normal, that the mind would do this when locked in a cold, damp, dark box for however long. Perhaps it's the last sane part of my mind trying to fight back, she thought with a snort. Way to be late to the fucking party, hero.

If she was to guess, she'd been back in the box for maybe a week, maybe a little more. The truth was, she really didn't know. Some of the newer prisoners had given her snippets of information, back when her food consisted of sitting with everyone else in the bleak food hall, instead of a tray being slid across the floor at her. Apparently, while she'd been in this knock-off of Hell itself, some nuclear power plant had gone kablooey down in Ukraine, and that Fat Tony had finally had his ass thrown in jail. Not that it was any consolation, seeing as how even a Federal Max prison would look like a penthouse in a Ritz-Carlton hotel compared to this. What had depressed her thoroughly was learning that shit had hit the fan in music: one of her favourite groups from England had split that she knew of. Still, despite that it seemed that the world was doing fine without her. Perhaps better for her being- she threw her head back against the wall, grimacing at the pain and dazing that had resulted from skull-on-concrete action. Snap out of it, dipshit.

The crushing darkness and total silence of the solitary cell was broken by a metallic scraping, first of a key in a lock, and then the screeching metal of the ship-like wheel that had to be turned to open this cell. The door flew open, the white light from the corridor outside dazzling her. She screwed her eyes shut, in response to the agony it created, and in anticipation of the monsoon of nightsticks she expected to start falling. Yet the latter never happened. She opened one eye cautiously to reveal a solitary guard, just inside the cell.

"Gefangener 622157, Raus!" He barked at her. She gave a wry grin, shaking her hands and making the chains rattle.

"And how am I supposed to do that?" She replied in his language. The guard strode over, to her, his features briefly illuminated. He looked... indifferent. That worried her a little, though she did her best not to let it show. Normally, the guards were either leering or in a fit of rage where she was concerned, yet this guy was a sphinx, he showed no emotion. He drew a set of keys.

"Try anything funny, and I guarantee you that I will have the last laugh." He stated, in heavily accented English. She nodded, twisting her arms so that the locks faced him, and he inserted the bulky key into one lock at a time. Chloe's arms flopped onto her lap, as she rubbed at each wrist, the sore skin feeling hotter as her cold hands ran over it. The guard dangled a set of shackles in front of her face. Frowning somewhat, she held her hands out and allowed him to snap them on, before putting a hessian cover over her head, as they'd taken to doing. With the guard tugging slightly to guide her, she shuffled out of the cell. Despite the sack over her head, the bright light meant that she could vaguely see features of the corridor, all almost surgically white. The guard stopped abruptly, causing her to stumble into him and knock him forward. 

"Entschuldigung." She muttered, an edge of sarcasm to her voice. The sack over her head was gripped by a hand, being yanked suddenly off of her, and taking a good few strands of hair with it. She gasped in pain, and scowled at the guard, now chuckling.

"Entschuldigung, Fräulein." He replied, being as sarcastic as possible. He gestured into the room to his side, motioning her to enter. She gingerly stepped inside, jumping as the door to this windowless room slammed shut behind her. She scanned the room. Washroom? Something's fishy. What's the bet they're gonna gas me? On a bench by what looked to be the communal showers was a set of clothes, rather than prison fatigues, folded neatly next to a bar of soap, and some boots. She ignored them, picking up the soap and heading for the shower. She stopped in front of a full-body mirror. Slowly, and trying her best not to disturb any of the injuries she knew lurked, she stripped off the filthy rags that had barely left her body in so long, gagging a little as the contrasting stench hit her nose. The smell of them compared to the sterile disinfectant smell of the room made her chuckle again. Damn, I almost feel sorry for the guards, if that's how I smelled all this time. Hell, if I am getting put to death, I might as well go at least not reeking like this. Finally, she took in the state of her body. Purple bruising all down one side, gashes here and there, thighs criss-crossed by the marks from the whippings, scald marks from having had boiling water thrown at her once or twice. She was in a godawful state, and she knew it. Even under all the marking, all the filth and grime, her body was a shell of what it had been, her battered and uneven ribs visible despite everything, and other parts of her body where the skin was almost hanging off of her. She shook her head, and realised that there were new tracks forming through the grime that caked her face, a few pained tears running down from her bloodshot eyes. That said, what's left of me to kill, really?

She turned away from the mirror and went into the tiled room, standing beneath one of the heads. Apprehensively, and having checked for peep-holes- having fallen foul of one the first time she'd used a washroom in here- she hit the button on the exposed pipework, immediately crying out in surprise and jumping back in shock as warm water jetted from the nozzle.

Warm water? They're definitely going to kill me. Normally the showers are fucking ice cold. She shook off the thought for now, trying her best to clean herself down without too much discomfort. Easier said than done, when her body was a patchwork of broken bones and bruised, tattered skin. She winced and yelped as the scrubbed away the muck of her past, every movement across her body agonising and sensitive, before attempting in vain to repeat the process with her hair. After a few futile minutes spent trying to remove whatever was caked into the lower parts, she resigned with a frustrated grunt, and dried herself off, before examining the clothes closer. They were still in line with what Soviet prison fatigues looked like, a stonewashed grey, but in lieu of a mangy jumpsuit there was what appeared to be a two-piece tracksuit, with a white shirt to go underneath the tracksuit jumper, with a pair of Russian knock-offs of Converse.

Apparently they've evolved a sense of taste. Or... they want me to take part in the next Olympic games. She gave a hollow snicker under her breath. Helluva fun way to give my case handler a heart attack, the old ass.

With a shrug, she slipped them on, grimacing and wincing all the while, sighing in elation at how comfortable they were in contrast to what she had been wearing. Especially having something on her feet, even if the socks were itchy and the sneakers were a size or so small. Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, distinctly less feral in appearance now, she rattled on the back of the door softly. She growled a curse under her breath at the scream of pain that rattled up her arm.

Oh yeah. Those knuckles got busted.... some time. Haven't had long enough to heal either, apparently.

She was torn from her thoughts by the guard throwing open the door. Not bothering with the manacles this time, he marshalled her into the next room. A man in civilian clothing and emanating a stench of spirits stood behind a chair, with wrist restraints built into it. With some coersion, she sat down and allowed the guard to lock her arms into the chair.

"Are these really necessary?" She asked him, as he turned to move away. He tutted.

"As much as you are more tame than you were, I'd rather not take the chance of you stabbing our hairdresser with his own scissors. Because then I would have to shoot you here and now, and that would be a shame."

The prisoner blanched slightly as she took in the unspoken meaning of his sentence. All her hope of seeing home again dissipated once more.

So, they're cleaning me up to shoot a prettier target. Bastards, I knew it. Despite her surge of rage at the notion, she held still so as not to make the barber's job any harder. Mainly because she didn't trust the drunkard doing the job to not take part of her ear off by accident while she sat still, let alone if she was writhing about. After a few yelped complaints from her and muttered curses at the state of her hair from him, the task was done. Sure, there was still material in her hair that she'd rather not try and identify, but at least it was back to a decent length, pretty much how it had been when they'd nabbed her. Just down past her ears, and just worn down. No real styling to it, just as she'd had it since she was sixteen. The guard removed her from the seat and remanacled her, leading her along a gantry toward the oversize steel door at one end. On each side, she could hear the applauding and wolf-whistles of her fellow incarcerates. Even in the short time she'd spent outside of solitary, she'd hit legend status, even among non-agents who were locked up here. As the guard released her to unlock the door, she turned back to the cell hall and bowed, with a theatrical rolling of her hands, eliciting a mass of cheering. The guard, rather than hammering a fist or baton across her back, grabbed her by the waistband and dragged her through the door.

She smiled to herself, at least having had chance to go out with a flourish. Most agents she knew of were taken out in the middle of the night, the staccato of rifles being a haunting alarm clock that awoke the remaining inmates. Nobody could sleep through it, knowing what it signified. If her counting was right, then at least eight agents had been sent for their appointment at the pearly gates while she'd been here. All excellent agents, she'd worked with five of them. She couldn't understand why she, of all people, was being kept alive. They'd gotten nothing useful out of her, so now she was just another occupied cell. Another massive risk if she were to somehow escape. She snorted with amusement at the thought.

Yeah. Me, in this state, in the middle of a Saxon winter? I think I'd rather the bullet.

A few more empty corridors later, they were outside. I'm gonna guess it's springtime, maybe May at the latest. Too cold even for a Red summer, but there's no snow. Outside sat a shitty white van, the staple of KGB covert transport. The Russians called them bukhanka, 'pan loaf'. The prisoner called them a fucking skip with wheels and a lawnmower engine. That had gone down well with her first van ride to the KGB field office, where she'd  undergone some of the worst of her punishment before being cast out to here. A dark hood was put over her head as she walked toward the van, similar to the ones used on the condemned. She knew what had to be coming at the end of this road trip: her trainers had once told her what she'd face if caught.

'If they ever put you in the back of a van, with a dark cloak, then they're gonna be doing one of two things: either taking you to be executed; or the powers that be have decided to have a spy amnesty.'

'So, the former?' She remembered joking at the time. Well, joke no more. Strangely, instead of terror, she simply felt a sense of closure. That she finally knew her fate. She cried out as her head hit one of the rear doors of the van before being pushed inside.

"Whoops!" The guard chuckled. She half-smiled to herself under the dark canvas. I guess I earned that one. The doors slammed shut, and with a rumble, the engine started up, taking her onward toward an almost certain death. Finding herself with nothing better to do than slide about on the floor as the van neared its destination, and her to her fate, she reflected on the shitty decisions that had set this trainwreck of a situation in motion.


 Lichtenburg, Berlin

February 1986

"Hi." The woman next to her had said as she sat in the bar. The place wasn't nearly as good as anything back over in the West, but it did the job. She was on a wind-down from an operation at any rate, and experience had shown her that this was the best place to find a companion for the night. Especially the kind of companion she was looking for. The operative turned to look at her, and was almost taken aback. She knew there were some damned nice women in the East, but she seemed almost too good to be real. Her hair, slightly darker than hers except that it went down to her shoulders, loose under a small beanie. A piercing pair of blue eyes, not much different to her own. An odd sense of dress compared to most Easterners but nothing that set off any alarm bells. The face did seem familiar, however she couldn't pin a name to it. Nonetheless, she was a stunner. A little pale in complexion, perhaps, but then again who wasn't in this part of the world.

"Hi." She replied. 

"So, what brings you to this dump?" The operative smiled back at her.

"Ah, just a little business and tourism." Her company raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And what business would that be?"

 "Clothing. From over the Wall." The operative replied , gesturing in the general direction of the Western sectors. "And finding time for a little pleasure in between." The other woman gave a wry grin, placing a hand on the one the operative had on the bar. She blushed furiously, staring into the woman's eyes.

"Tell me, what kind of pleasure are you looking for?" The woman replied, her grin growing. The operative smiled back, the redness on her face receding somewhat.

"You must be able to read minds..." she remarked, tailing off as she realised she still had no idea of her potential-future-bedmate's name.

"...Stefanie."

"Chloe." Stefanie smirked.

"Chloe. Unusual name for a German, even on the other side." Chloe's smile widened somewhat.

"Yeah. Father was a Prussian, mother was of Swiss descent. Some bright idea between them later, they name me Chloé." Stefanie giggled a little.

"Ah, parents. Whatever would we do without them? So, what would you say to a little pleasure right now?" That set off the alarms. Brazen was one thing, but offering to do her there and then? A step too far.

"Uh... I don't think here's the right place or time. Sorry." Stefanie simply huffed with amusement, taking Chloe's hand in hers and kissing it. She stood up and stretched, winking at Chloe, before making her way to the door. Chloe had been dumbstruck, taking in Stefanie's figure as she strolled out of the bar. 

Ho-ly fuck. How does someone like me happen across someone like her? She blinked a couple of times, still trying to register the banquet in human form her eyes had just had. Then she realised there was something in her hand. An apartment key, with a tag of the address and door code. And a note on a piece of string.

See you tonight.

S

Chloe felt another flush pass through her as she turned the key over in her hand, her heart making up her decision before her mind could rationalise it. First, back to her apartment to change into something more... apt to the occasion. Apt it was. Off came the GI Jungle boots, the war surplus Olive drab jacket, the worn Levis and white sleeveless vest, and on with some more shapely clothes. A black T-shirt that exposed her midriff a little more, and a slightly more form-fitting pair of jeans with a pair of Russian Converse knock-offs. A black denim jacket over the top, and she was set. Nothing too risqué, she didn't want to get stopped or harassed before she got to the apartment.

And then, coming though the door of the apartment itself. She closed the door behind her, and turned toward the centre of the room. A pair of clicks behind her that she recognised immediately.

Makarov PMM. Standard issue to the Stasi. 

Just as she'd been trained, she swung low and swept across to her right, grabbing the first agent by the arm before either could react, grabbing the suppressor and twisting the pistol out of his hand, shooting him in the foot as she went. She put him between her and the other agent, charging him with his howling form. A well-aimed kick sent his weapon into the air and across the room. She closed on him, taking the wounded man in a headlock and levelling the muzzle at the disarmed agent's chest.

"What the fuck are you here for? Who sent you?"

Her mouth went dry as a cold, tubular piece of metal pressed against the side of her neck. A tutting, feminine.

"Ah, Chloe Price. So brilliant, yet so naive. Let him go, and put the weapon down." Slowly, she complied, all the while trying desperately to figure out a way of getting out of this mess. That voice was familiar, though with her mind racing as badly as it was, she hadn't married it up to a face.

"Good. Stand up, and turn around. Slowly." As she turned, she got her first good luck at her captor. The woman from the bar, dangling a badge in her face. The agent she had been holding at gunpoint had scooped up the weapon she had discarded, jamming it into the side of her ribs. Her heart pounded furiously as she took in the details of the badge.

Gingrich, Stefanie

HVA, East German Secret Service. That's where I recognise the name from. The bitch is supposed to be some kinda prolific spycatcher. Oh.

So many emotions surged through Chloe in that moment. Frustration at being tricked. Embarrassment at being led on so easily. Hatred for her deceiver. All of this emotion, yet Chloe only managed to utter a single, frustrated word.

"Fuck!" The muzzle of the suppressor left her ribs, followed by a whoosing noise and a sharp jab of pain in the back of her head. She fell to the ground, a dull buzz in her chest where the floorboards had punched her in the body. The bemused officer stood over her as she lay groaning and dazed on the floor, vision blurred.

"It's nice that you dressed for the occasion, Chloe. We're going to be having a lot of fun, you and I." She gestured to one of the agents. Another sharp pain across the side of the face, and everything went black.


In hindsight, it was my own stupid fault. At least she had the courtesy to take me alive, Chloe commented to herself. The van finally stopped, and the doors opened.

"Ah, how nice to see you again, Chloe!" Her blood boiled at the voice. As soon as the guards had stood her upright, she lunged forward, feeling a satisfying thud of skull-to-face contact and a cry of surprised pain. The guards threw her to the ground, one pressing a boot down on her head. A mutter in Russian, and the guards picked her up once more, forcefully. One pulled off the hood, to reveal her old nemesis rubbing her jaw, yet still smiling back at her.

"Ah, so feisty! Tell me, how does my Chloe feel, now that she gets to go home?" 

Chloe grimaced. "A lot better, knowing I got to do that before you put me in a bodybag." Her chucklewas met by a high-pitched cackle from Stefanie.

"Ah, so untrusting! What do you think we are, barbarians?"

"Well, you're obviously about to have my ass put in front of a firing squad. I might as well have some fun before it." Chloe growled back through gritted teeth. Stefanie tittered, shaking her head. 

"No, no. Nothing of the sort. It would be a waste of a perfectly fine ass if nothing else. Besides, you're more use alive." Chloe went red at the statement and groaned with embarrassment. Damn her and her tricks! No wonder she's such a good- ah, fuck, nice move Chloe. She gestured to the apes restraining Chloe, who turned her around. She let out a higher pitched groan, realising where she was. Death by firing squad may be favourable to this: a bridge, pale green metal superstructure, about two hundred yards in length. A single white line in the center of its span.

Any spy worth their salt knew of this place. Glienicke Bridge. The best and worst news you could get, all at once. It was the best news because for a pre-war hunk of metal, it was a welcome sight and a dread. This was the fabled bridge, where the two sides would play civil and give each other their respective spies back. She just hoped that they weren't trading her and getting back an equally good spy. That would be a worst-case scenario.

"Like I said, you're going home." Chloe looked even more depressed and forlorn now than she figured she ever had in captivity. Ever in her life at that. Stefanie ran a gentle hand along her cheek, carefully turning her head until their eyes met.

"Don't look so sad, we're only getting two men back in exchange for you. Someone back in Moscow deserves their balls chopped off for accepting such a shit offer. I get my old team back, though, so I shouldn't complain." Chloe finally chuckled a little, letting herself relax just a little. 

"Of course, I should've guessed that these baboons aren't your usual henchmen. Not nearly gentle enough about how they manhandle. Or finessed, at that." Stefanie laughed some more.

"Ah, it has been so good to see you again. Be sure to drop by some time, I simply cannot wait to see you once more!" Chloe snorted and grinned.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but if our last encounter is anything to go by, I hope that it isn't this side of Hell." Stefanie simply smiled, though Chloe was sure she had seen just an inkling of regret under that face. The guards released her, one giving her a subtle push toward the bridge.

"Of course. Tschüß, Frau Price." Stefanie said, blowing her a kiss as she headed back to the van. Chloe grimaced, before turning her attention back to the bridge, and taking a comic-esque gulp.

Her team got captured after they got me. Oh God, this might prove harder to live down than Prague!

She steeled herself as she got within sight of the two men coming the other way. Neither party said a word as they passed each other, but she read their body language clearly enough. They knew better than to dismiss the release of one of the most dangerous agents the West had to field. Their look was of confusion, as much as Chloe's was. Why were they letting her go, in exchange for mere lackeys?

She crossed over the line in the center of the bridge. Finally back into the West. Finally safe. Three suits were waiting for her, with a black sedan typical of the Agency's Berlin fleet. As she approached the vehicle, the suit on the left of the trio approached her and jabbed her with a syringe. The center of the trio spoke up.

"My apologies, Agent Price. Standard procedure for repatriated agents." Chloe was puzzled.

"What do you...you...fuuuuuck...." she tailed off, as the drug took effect. She collapsed into the arms of the right hand suit, fading into the most comfortable unconsciousness she couldn't remember experiencing.

"Welcome home."

Chapter Text

Chloe stirred with a low groan as feeling returned to her body. Her head still felt fogged, but there wasn't an awful lot of pain in her body any more. She supposed they must've given her something to numb the pain, or sedated her when they recovered her on the bridge. She opened her eyes, closing them tight again as the bright light flooded into them. Slowly, her body begun to switch itself back on. She could hear the roaring of jets in the distance. Her skin was bare against the surface beneath it, which felt soft, smooth. She scrunched her hands against it slowly, noting the lack of pain. Bedsheets. The smell of the room slowly infiltrated her mind. Sterile, but not with the pungent smell of chemical disinfectant like the prison bathrooms. This was more of a crisp scent, like...

Like a hospital. I must be in hospital. What the hell am I doing here?

Slowly, she reopened her eyes, taking in the room as her eyes adjusted to the light. Instead of the harsh electric lighting that she had become used to in one sense or another, this was natural light. Sunlight, coming in through a single-paned window. The details begun to log in her mind. Wooden wall coverings, white in colour. A grey metal bedframe beneath the mattress. The curtains looked old, like they hadn't been updated in about thirty years. The decor was certainly familiar, that was certain. Outside the window, there was a faint whine of jeeps running about. With a grunt, Chloe forced herself to sit up, enough so that she could get a line of view out of the window.

An airbase. Can't be Ramstein, the room is all wrong. More like a British airbase. Wegburg, maybe? That's a pretty good medical centre.

Her assumptions were shattered by the ungodly roar of an aircraft overhead. Chloe glanced up, to see a black streak pass overhead, two orange streaks behind it. Almost like a UFO. Obviously, it wasn't, nor did the aircraft itself shock Chloe: she worked for the agency that scheduled most of that thing's fucking flights. No, the part that shocked and startled her was what seeing that black ghost taking off meant.

Holy shit. Those things sure as shit don't fly from Germany, never mind Wegburg. Last I remember, I was in Berlin. The fuck have they sent me back to Mildenhall for? Are they really sending me back to America?

She flopped back onto the bed with a disturbed groan. As if to compound her distress, one of the jeeps coasted by the window, blaring out a track that was etched onto Chloe's mind for all the wrong reasons. She closed her eyes, welling up, as the lyrics took her back.

To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing
Life's a bitter shame
I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train...


7th April, 1981

Arcadia Bay, OR

Chloe had gotten used to this pattern of shit happening at home. Ever since things went to shit a few years back- '78, maybe?- with her dad being killed in a car accident while he was away on business, her life had become a rollercoaster that came off the track. The dickhead her mother had remarried to didn't help matters.

'Vietnam Vet', she said. 'Good role model', she said. Yeah fucking right, the asshole is all over my case twenty-five hours a day. What kinda role model is that?

"Chloe, will you at least listen, for once in your life?" The gruff voice of said asshole stirred her from her monologue. He figured he had some kind of entitlement over her, some plateau of righteousness above her, just because he served in some faraway shithole and didn't come back missing parts, physically at least. Chloe was sure she could still see the war behind his eyes, every now and again. Not that she cared much.

"Chloe!" She scowled back at him, narrowing her eyes against his. She was not going to be spoken to like that in her house.

 "Hey, asshole! Just because you married my mom doesn't give you the right to treat me like-" she yelped as a hand struck her across the face, knocking her head over to one side. As much as she wanted to treat this as a shock, it really wasn't any more. A backhander wasn't a question of if, but when. And mo-Joyce, fucking stood there and did nothing, said nothing. And Chloe wasn't going to take it any longer. She took one pace toward him and hammered a fist into the side of his face. She was pretty certain she felt a pop, as his jaw jumped out of place, and judging by the screaming that's exactly what she had done.

"Chloe, out." The voice from behind her came.

"Mom, he fucking deser-"

"Out!" Joyce's tone was final. Chloe flipped her off, and went upstairs. Slamming the door shut, she fell back onto it, as she put things into line in her head.

Some week this is turning out to be. First, the DA gets me thrown in juvi-hall for a week for dating his daughter, then sends her to some fucking boarding school, Delphian or whatever, so she's away from me. As if that'll change her feelings about me. And now, this just in: my own mom is throwing me out of the fucking house. Chloe had a small, macabre chuckle to herself. She beat me to it, even if I was planning to get on the next bus outta town. With almost a skip in her step, she grabbed her bag and her wallet from the bed, opened the window, blowing the room a kiss goodbye- finishing it with a bird- and slipped away. The next few hours are a blur in her mind, between the bus trundling out of the shitty detritus that was the Bay and hitting the first bar she found in the last place her bus had stopped. Sure, the state legal age was 21 for drink, but that had never stopped her talking her way past an ID check. She'd gotten slick at that, after all. Besides, the bar she was in was on the shitty side: if it weren't for the music being somewhat fresh, she'd have taken the place to be some kinda Prohi-bar. The music in question being something Black Sabbath, she wasn't sure which song. She wasn't a major fan, she was definitely more a punk rocker, especially with some of the stuff coming out of England that she'd heard and sneaked into gigs of.

There's a newspaper lying on the table in front of her. Even though she doesn't normally bother to read the newspapers, she takes a glance through this one. A tiny article on page twenty-two, something that far back. Under obituaries.

Rachel Amber

22nd July 1962-3rd April, 1981

Rachel Amber was found unconscious in her dorm room by fellow pupils at The Delphian School late on April 2nd, 1981, and was rushed to Sheridan for emergency treatment; officials pronounced her dead early on April 3rd. Oregon State Police have confirmed the cause of death as an apparent overdose, and are treating the death as a suicide. She is-

Chloe couldn't read any more. She balled the paper up in her fists, and threw it at the floor in an agonised rage. And then, that song. The one she hadn't been paying too much attention to a few moments earlier. 

To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing
Life's a bitter shame
I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train...

The song sure as shit wasn't wrong. With what she had of her money, following a cross-state trip, she ordered another shot of whisky. And another. And yet another. After the last one, she crushed the glass in her hand. Yet she barely felt a thing, just a numb, buzzing sensation in her palm. The alcohol didn't block out the burning pain in her, nor did the shard of spirit-drenched glass distract her from what she felt. An overriding sense of loneliness, and an overwhelming feeling that Rachel, about the only good thing she had left, had flown this place, abandoned her. And nothing could throw that feeling, nothing.

Her memory of that night beyond there was hazy at best, likely down to how much she drank to try and take away the pain of her discovery. As far as she could remember beyond that, she got thrown out of the bar after some drunken ass made a crude pass at her, and she responded by breaking a beer bottle over his head. As a sick joke from whatever gods there were, the rain came down in torrents, quickly drenching her to the bone. Lightning echoed in the distance, and the street was deserted. That moment, Chloe had come to realise, was the beginning of a rapid spiral into the ground. As much as she wished that was the reason the song was stamped into the back of her mind, it wasn't. It was the next time she heard it. 


 

Boise, ID

30th April 1981

Chloe was sat in the back of a white van, trundling through the small state-border town. She could barely remember how she had wound up in this situation, beyond the basics. Drinking her way from one place to another, and having come up with the money to keep moving along in many ways, most of which illegal. Some of which had probably involved her selling herself during one of the many drink-induced gaps in her memory. It didn't really explain how the hell she wound up in this situation, however: a balaclava sat on the top of her head, ready to pull down; a gun on her lap. What the hell she had been thinking, or been promised, to get her into this fucking crazy plan she didn't know. There were six of them in the back.

Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train...

The van's driver turned the dial down, so that his front passenger didn't have to shout to be heard.

"Alright, it's showtime. Everyone ready?" A nod from each of them. The men nearest the rear doors of the van clasped a handle each, throwing the doors open. The half-dozen of them in the back, and three in the front, surged out and toward the Savings Insitution. There were six guards in there, all armed- classic .38 Smith and Wessons, they'd already cased the place- but none had time to draw. They stormed the place so fast that by the time they reacted, they had the muzzle of a rifle or the bore of a Mossberg in their face.

"Nobody move! This'll all be over soon." Their leader- Jackson, if Chloe's memory served well enough- barked out to the terrified patrons and tellers. Three of the gang ran toward the storage area, dragging clerks along, empty duffel bags over their shoulders ready to fill. 

The guards were rounded up and put under the guard of one of the other guys, Buck. Chloe was given the simple task of pacifying the patrons. Things had gone smoothly to now, they'd been in for four minutes, tops. They knew the silent alarm hadn't gone, so unless a cop happened upon things by chance-

Shit.

As if by jinx, a cruiser had pulled up outside. It must've been bad luck, or maybe this cop just made a habit of checking the bank out of good nature. She could see him through the window, eyes wide. His hand shot to the in-car radio as he stood by the open driver side door. She could just about hear him, the adrenaline having boosted his voice to a near shout.

"Dispatch, 3-1-Charlie, we got a 10-35 at Boise Savings-" A sudden movement caught Chloe's attention. Things moved in slow motion. Buck brought his rifle up in one slick motion, cutting the officer off mid-sentence with the crack of a rifle. The back of his head shattered as the bullet zipped through it, his lifeless body crumpling back into the car. One of the guards attempted to draw his gun in the second Buck was preoccupied. Jackson fired, hitting him square in the chest. He writhed on the floor in agony. Jackson strode up to him, drawing his pistol.

"Just had to play hero, huh?" With that, he emptied four rounds into his chest, pausing long enough after each to see him spasm. After the fourth round, he lay still. Stone dead, with blood seeping out from beneath 

"The fuck, Jacks? This wasn't part of the plan!" Chloe burst at him, still stunned by what he'd just done.

"I don't give a fuck, C. It is now." Their colleagues sprinted back from storage, duffel bags brimming with takings.

"ALRIGHT, LET'S MOVE!" Jackson barked at the remaining gang members. As they burst onto the street, the wail of police sirens became louder. The first cruiser screeched round the corner. Two of the other members raised their weapons, unloading into the windshield. It careened into a streetlamp. Two more came around the corner seconds later, both slamming on the brakes as they dived into firing positions and assessed the situation. The first men to the back of the van flung open the doors, ducking as the cops returned fire, turning the air into a snapping hailstorm of a two-way firing range. Chloe was the last person to the vehicle. As she went to clamber aboard, Jackson- who was sat in the back at this point- took his balaclava off, levelling an Armalite at her. Chloe froze, not knowing how to react. In that split-second, she was certain that she was about to die. That the round coming out of the end of that gun would connect with her heart, maybe her neck, or if she was lucky her head. Then everything would be over, and she could hopefully see her Dad and Rachel once more.

"Adios." With that, he pulled the trigger. The sharp crack from the muzzle was deafening to Chloe as the shot punched into her torso. She stood in place for a moment, a numb feeling spreading through her lower body. Dizziness overtook her, and she collapsed backward, concussing herself as her head hit the sidewalk. One of the doors in front of her slammed shut, the other being used as a firing port as the van screeched away. Chloe could feel the lukewarm fluid spreading across her lower body and along her back, as she lay. She sluggishly reached a hand down, pulling it away from the area to find it drenched in crimson. Breathing was getting increasingly hard, and she had a metallic taste in her mouth. Her vision grew ever darker, as the increasingly loud sirens became ever more blurred. A cop approached her, weapon levelled at her head, before immediately attempting to put pressure on the wound.

"We got a live one here, the fuckers double-crossed her." That was the last thing Chloe heard after everything faded into black.


May 20th, 1981

Boise Medical Center

Chloe awoke with a slight whimper as the stinging sensation in her torso wrenched her from her nightmares once more. Her memories of the past two weeks came back in fragments, here and there. Being loaded into an ambulance. Hearing a vitals monitor flatline. Waking up after spending time- six hours, a nurse had told her bitterly later- on the operating table. Being awake and unable to do anything, the food she kept trying to eat causing her to throw up again. Nightmares, her mother and David and Rachel chastising her in every one. Dad asking her various questions in a car ride before being hit by another vehicle. She tried to lift her hands to her face, frowning as they only moved a couple of inches. She looked down to find both handcuffed to the gurney.

"Chloe Price. Resident of Arcadia Bay, former star student. Tell me, how does someone like you wind up in a gang like the El Salvadores?"

She turned her head, grimacing at the stiffness of her neck. A youngish man in a black suit sat in the corner, badge attached to his left breast-pocket. To this day, she still wasn't sure why he made the choice he did: perhaps he saw some good in her; perhaps he'd known her dad; or maybe, the Gods were feeling generous. At least that's what she had thought up until she learned the truth.

FBI. Shit, this is bad. Of course it is, what the hell did I expect to happen when I agreed to be part of an armed robbery?

"You're damned lucky. Those clowns were using surplus Army FMJ in their rifles. Clean through, very little cavitation. Sure, it knocked your left kidney for six, and you're gonna feel like shit for a while, but you'll live. If they had been using, say, 75-grain, or he'd shot you anywhere else, we may not have been having this conversation. And I'd have to explain to your mother how her baby girl got mixed up some shit she never meant to, and is now in a box. Normally, I'd be here to be smug and to tell you that your next thirty to life is going to be spent in Hazelton. Not today. See, I know enough about you to know that'd be a waste of potential."

He drew a small envelope from his pocket, setting it on the dresser. Chloe noticed a set of clothes draped over it, a pair of sneakers on top of them. "That's a ticket for a Greyhound, leaving from Horseshoe Bend tonight, and enough money for a bus there as well as food and drink. You're due for discharge in a couple hours. I'll take you as far as the city limits." Chloe scowled at him.

"Why the fuck not take me as far as the stop itself? And where am I gonna be going?" The agent smiled.

"Yours is not to question where or why right now. As for the city limits, I'm at least giving you a choice." Chloe laughed.

"Time in a penitentiary or a ticket that I don't know the destination of. What kinda fucking choice is that?" The agent smirked.

"Don't ask me, I'm not the one who got themselves into this shit-pit of a situation. What I will say is that a friend of mine will be waiting for you at the other end. If that bus pulls up, and you don't step off, then every department and precinct in the country will be getting an APB about a 19 year old female, the only survivor of the El Salvadores, who escaped custody. Kappische?" Chloe blanched.

"Wait, the others..."

"-All wiped out. Stupid fuckers tried picking a fight with a SWAT team loaded for bear. What's the interest?" Chloe's expression levelled a little.

"Nothing, just... surprised they're dead. Not that I care, they're the reason I'm in this shithole with a hole in my side."

"...And the reason you're still alive, strictly speaking." The Fed glanced at his watch. "Well, damn, I better get moving. See you at four, front of the Med Center. Catch you later."

Chloe gave him a shallow smile. "Catch you later..." she tailed off, still not sure what to call him. The Fed looked puzzled for a moment, before it dawned on him that he hadn't given her so much as a name to call him by.

"Shit, how rude of me. You can call me Lynch." With that, he gave her a small wave and left the room. Chloe opened the envelope, trying to discern something from it. The ticket was to Union Square, DC.

Why the fuck would they send me to Washington? A smirk to herself. They trying to make me a congressman?

Sure enough, at four o'clock sharp, Lynch returned. And by then, Chloe had made up her mind. She flagged down the next car heading North that she saw, and hopped in. She almost missed the Greyhound after she fell asleep at the stop, however the driver blared its horn, startling her awake again. Chloe couldn't recall anything about the journey, other than it took a fucking long time. Most of her time was spent looking back at shitty life choices and trying to figure out how she could possibly take the situation she was in now, and turn it around. She figured she would soon find out. Eventually, the Greyhound reached D.C., and as Lynch had said, someone was waiting for her.

"Chloe Price?" She wheeled around, to be met by a totally different sight to what she expected. Instead of a man in a black suit and equipped with a badge and black sedan, the woman was dressed casual. Pair of black hiking shoes, jeans that really brought out her figure, and a blue checked flannel shirt. Underneath, Chloe could just make out as skin-tight white vest, that seemed to further emphasise her assets, so to say. Dammit brain, stop trying to fucking fantasise everyone I meet, she mentally chastised herself. 

"Uh, y...yeah?" Chloe mumbled, caught off guard. The agent grinned. "Follow me, please." Chloe complied, if only at this point to ogle the woman, cursing herself all the more for doing it. The car wasn't what she was expecting either. A red VW Rabbit. Damn, this woman had taste in cars. As they set off, Chloe asked the one question that had been plaguing her all this time.

"So, what...exactly are you? I mean, you don't look like a Fed." The woman chuckled.

"No... strictly speaking, I'm not. Don't have a hernia, kid, you'll find out soon enough. Assuming this damned traffic eases up sooner rather than later."

Chloe had looked back on this so many times, every moment still as fresh as it had been all those years ago. The worst day of her life had turned out to be a blessing in disguise, she'd often mused, because if those events hadn't fallen as they did, then she may never have wound up doing this for a life. And, quite honestly, she couldn't imagine herself enjoying anything more.

Of course, this was before she found out she had been a marked girl since her father's death. As it turned out, rather than having been a businessman, he was a spy. The best the Agency had ever had, some said. He was a legend in his own right. The Fed who had identified himself as Lynch had been his partner on operations and was only posing as a Fed. When William had married Joyce, and Chloe had been born, the two had agreed that if anything happened to either of them, then the survivor would look out for the dead or captured man's family. And William, it transpired, had tried his best to teach her a thing or two before he died. Proficient in German, Russian and French, trained in both unarmed self defence and weapons handling- an unfortunate trait that the El Salvadores had capitalised upon- and basic wilderness survival, when they had gone camping. His death, too, was not entirely accurate to the obituary: he'd been returning from an operation in East Germany, and was at the extraction site when a KGB hit team showed up and took him out. No warning, no opportunity to go quietly. They just gunned him down in a copse just inside the Western territory. When she learned of this, she had vowed to find the men or women responsible and exact revenge for his death. A vow she held herself to even to this day.


Chloe's mind returned to the present, as the doorknob scraped round its arc, the door opening smoothly and slowly. She smiled, as a familiar face and form came around the door. The guy in question was in his forties- she'd never really been too keen to sue for more than that- and dressed as you would expect someone of his position to, kinda: Black tie, white shirt and semi-polished Oxfords at least. Everything else was a massive two-finger salute to the expected dress, with a pair of worn Wranglers. His facial hair as she remembered it: well-grown, yet maintained. And those soft brown eyes, a comfort to anyone. He sat down gently on the slightly rickety chair next to her bed.

"Been a while, Mark. How's the Service treatin' ya?" Mark- or Head Intelligence Officer Jefferson, as he hated to be called- was prolific in his career, and was a lynchpin of the cooperation between the CIA and MI6, whose turf she was apparently on at the time. He'd worked as an 'advisor' in his early days, out in Vietnam for the British government. After that, there were so many places in so many countries that the files barely kept up: Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, East Germany... he'd been everywhere, with countless successes and foiled attacks on 'dear England' in the time he'd been active. She'd worked alongside him a few times, and found him to outshine even the sparkling reports of him that his dossier and former team-mates outlined. She knew he had his quirks, though: some pretty unusual ways of getting the job done, and a sense of morality that was on par with Chloe's; twisted somewhat by the horrors of the places he'd been and the things he'd witnessed. That, and for a straight, single guy- Chloe had found this out during idle chatter on a flight home, once- he had a rather greater understanding of BDSM than she'd expected. That had been a rather embarrassing thing, and she still hadn't quite got the images the words had created out of her head.

He chuckled, as he always did at a remark like that.

"Good as ever: bone pay, miserable weather. How was Bautzen?" He returned, in the soft Scottish accent that his voice naturally took. Chloe groaned, pulling the sheet over her head.

"Oh God... even you know?" An even heartier chuckle.

"The better question is who doesn't. I believe that lesson of Spy School was called 'don't try and bed enemy operatives, again'. Pillock." 

A pair of eyes appeared from behind the linen. "Hey, in my defence, she led me on."

"Only because she's the same way inclined as you are, Chloe." Mark countered. Before he could make his next statement, Chloe cut him off. She had no idea how long she had been away for, what had changed, who the key players were now. If she'd learned just one thing in training, it was that information was vital. Knowing the state of play was more important that the mission itself, she'd seen that firsthand.

"Mark, how long have I been gone?" Mark's brow furrowed, in a way that made Chloe's heart sink.

"So, nobody's been through this with you yet? How long do you think you've been gone?"

"Mark, would it kill you to give a straight answer every now and again? I don't know, six months, maybe?" Mark shook his head.

"Sadly, no. It's June. June '87. So, uh, happy late 25th. Though, we have had you back since April, you've just been either out of it or high as fuck for the most part so they could fix you." Chloe's head rotated backward on the pillow, as she stared at the roof and tried to process what she'd been told. 

"'87... Fourteen months. I fucked up good, didn't I?"

"That's certainly one way of looking at it. Shit happens, Chloe, even to an agent as good as you, you just have to learn to heal the bruised ego and battered pride and move on. Now, you've probably guessed I'm not just here for the chit-chat, as much as it's always fun where you're concerned." Chloe sighed.

"Great." She muttered, seeing Mark raise an eyebrow. Yep, this is bad news. I know him too fucking well.

"How so?" Chloe shrugged, sure she was about to state the obvious.

"Well, if they went to the effort of trading to get me back, then I'm gonna presume all is not exactly fucking rosy in town." Mark nodded a little, confirming her assumption.

"You could say that. What do you know of an enemy player known as Red Deer?" Chloe furrowed her brow.

"When I said things weren't rosy, I didn't realise you meant they were this bad." She answered. "I only know as much as the dossiers and reports say: no known alias; no D.O.B; nothing. Just a long trail of bodies and a lot of suspected actions. Supposed to be at least as good as me, if not better." Mark smiled.

"Modest as always." Chloe grinned back in return. "At least you know who your mark is. As far as I've been read into it, you're getting sent back to Berlin once you recover. As far as I've been back-briefed on things, your mission will be to take down the Deer." Chloe's eyes widened in surprise.

"Well, they're not asking much, are they?" A grimace from Mark. He knew she was making light of it as best she could. He knew that she knew what she was about to get thrown into.

"Andrews is supposed to be briefing you later today." Chloe audibly gulped. That was a name she did not want to hear. Secretary Andrews. He was almost a polar opposite of Mark: he particularly had a disliking for Chloe, the straight-laced bastard that he was.

"Please, please tell me he hasn't found out why I got caught." Chloe begged, a slight wail of desperation to her voice. Mark shrugged.

"Not a clue. Sure you can ask him later, though." Chloe paled a little at the thought of how that'd go. Mark went to stand up. "Enjoy your recuperation, and try not to piss off your assessors."

"What?" Chloe asked, incredulous. Mark smiled again.

"Your 'fit-for-service' assessments. The Agency wants to make sure that you ain't been flipped, and to make sure that the sadism and kinks the Reds used on you hasn't knocked your ability to be you at all. Plus, it gives your face a little extra time to heal up." Chloe scowled at him, playfully.

"How dare they doubt my abilities! Do they not know who I am?" Another hearty chuckle from her company.

"Think yourself lucky: it's only the short, week-long version they're putting you through. They haven't even officially grounded you either, although there would be no point as you're having a lie-in on such a rare day as this. Beautiful weather, and you're wasting every second of it." Chloe stuck two fingers up at him.

"Yeah, yeah. First time I've actually been awake and known I'm awake. While I think about it, I hear The Clash broke up."

Mark nodded. "Yup, about a month after you were nabbed. Madness are still on the go."

"Really?" An impish grin crept onto his face.

"Nope, they split this time last year. I could always get you a ticket to see Fleetwood Mac if you like, though." Another loud groan from Chloe.

"Come on! Half this country's great bands split while I'm away, yet those assholes are still going? What does the world have against me?" Mark shook his head with a smile.

"Same old you. Nice to see they didn't short anything important out." With that, he stood up and left, allowing Chloe to lie in silence once more and get her head around everything.

 

They're sending me after the Red Deer. The fucking star agent of the KGB, and they want me to find them and take them out.

Well, nice to see they're letting me settle down with something nice and easy. She smirked nervously at the thought of the task that likely lay ahead.

I just hope they aren't as good as the reports say. I'm fucked otherwise.

Chapter Text

July 1st, 1987

London, England

Chloe sat on the bare-boned chair outside the office, tapping her hand on her leg both nervously and impatiently. The last few weeks had been a blur in effect for her, between the tests being run by the Agency's physical and psychiatric assessors and her unceremonious launching back into the world that she had been ripped from fifteen months or so earlier. It was still surprising her how much the world had changed in a little over a year, and there was a lot on her side of the world that she was still getting up to speed with. All of which had apparently gone well enough for her to be put back on operational status, or so she'd read in some file or other. Mark must've gotten his dates wrong when she had first woken up, as Andrews wasn't even in Europe when she woke up, let alone London. She had been taken there shortly after she had been able to get up and move around under her own steam. It was odd how inter-meshed the two services were now, given the history she'd come to be aware of. She mused the possibilities.

Guess Afghanistan was useful for something after all, other than giving all those warlords all that lovely cash and training.

Her mind wandered back over the assessments themselves. Perhaps the worst part of them was the psychiatric assessments. The room, the chair, the manner in which the Agency shrink spoke, it was all dragging up snippets of their counterparts, on the other side of the wall. All the fucking place was missing was the stench of stale blood and the screams of agony from the adjacent interrogation rooms, and it would have been a mirror image of that field facility. The only real difference she could see between those sessions and her evaluation here was that the buff Russian that had done most of the interrogations when Stefanie had been called away was replaced by a stick-like 'psychiatric assessor'. Complete with a three-piece waistcoat suit, the thin-frame spectacles making him look even more pathetic than he already did. He definitely belonged behind a desk in some nine-to-five office, not trying to assess whether an operative- a living, breathing killing machine such as herself- was fit to be thrown back into the maelstrom that was her day job. He sat at one end of the desk, a small file open in front of him with his materiel.

"Now, Agent Price, we are going to do a simple word association. I will say a word, and I want you to reply with the first word that comes to mind." Chloe did her best to roll her eyes, subtly. Of all the fucking cliches they can bring out to play, they use this one. 

"Shall we begin?" She gave him a blank stare, and she could see the nervous shift he made in his seat, as he cleared his throat.

"So, I might say darkness, and you would say...?"

"Light."

"Entrapment?"

"Employment." She replied with a smirk.

"Discarded?"

"Redundant."

"Confusion?"

"Orders." She said, with a wry grin. Might as well have a sense of humour about it, seeing as this is about as fun as having teeth pulled.

"Elimination?"

"Selection."

"Family?" She hesitated. The word hadn't struck a nerve whatsoever, not nearly as badly as it did the first time she had to take this infernal test, it was merely that she couldn't think of a word to fit. With the exception of her Dad, and perhaps her Mom before she met Colonel Moustache, she never really thought about her former family. It was one of the innumerable parts of her that had slowly faded into grey. Obscure, forgotten.

"Family?" The shrink asked again.

"Irrelevant." She deadpanned. The shrink stared at her, curiously, before attempting to continue with his feeble task.

"Love?" Chloe flinched slightly. That did hit at her slightly, seeing as the only love she had ever experienced had been laid to rest six, nearly seven years ago. Maintaining composure, she gave the most simple reply she could think of.

"Hatred."

The shrink closed the file in front of him, gave her a nervous smile, and bid her farewell as he left the room. She leaned back in the chair and sighed with some slight relief. The snippets of the KGB cells running through her mind hadn't made the task any more enjoyable, that much she was certain of.


 A cough in front of her startled her slightly, her attention refocused on the present. A young woman, definitely no older than herself. She gave her the same blank stare she was receiving as she recognised her, to her chagrin. Glancing from the floor up, she could already see that her unwelcome company was keeping up with the times as always: her footwear, a pair of heels, typical of the type Chloe knew weren't out of place in an Oxford Street shop window; the skirt, a touch above the knee, and about as form-fitting as a skirt could be made to be; the blouse, again, made to appear simple. Chloe knew just from looking at the collars poking out from beneath the grey sweater she was wearing that it probably cost as much as a month's pay for her. The sweater, too, while not being as tight-fitting as her skirt it still matched the styling, close enough in to her torso and chest to remain respectable and yet somewhat show off her body beneath. The only constant between the previous encounters Chloe had had with the woman and her current one was her hairstyle, slightly shorter in places than her own, yet styled strictly, almost as though it had been put in place by an architect. Not a single lock hung loose from behind her ears, nor did her fringe fall out of place across her forehead.

If I could find a fuck to give, I'm pretty sure I would be jealous. What I still wanna know is what she does here, other than maybe providing eye candy. Surely, she'd be a damnsight better off modelling for some high-end fashion designer, than being cooped up somewhere like this? As much as she had a hate-hate relationship with her counterpart, Chloe did have to concede, she was definitely a looker.

Sure to damn I would go down on her, given the chance. Heh.

"Director Andrews is ready to see you, Agent Price." Chloe smiled back at her again.

"Ah, hello again Victoria. Still playing 'secretary on the boss', I see? Must be paying off if you can afford those kinda threads." The Brit scowled at her. Chloe smiled slightly, happy with her opening volley. No doubt her beloved Miss Chase would have picked up on the gossip that seemed to have found its way through the office.

"Very funny, Agent Price. Deviance may be legal here, but I'm pretty sure the Russians have something else to say about it, as do most people here. Especially their dominatrices, come to think of it." Chloe rolled her eyes as bluntly as she could, resisting the urge to reach out and knock that smug grin off her face. However, she simply stood up, seeing herself toward the office. 

"Sure thing, try telling that to Elton or Freddie. Oh, and let me know when you finally get a raise. Your act will sure pay off one day." Chloe replied, with a beaming grin and a wink at the further flustered and aggravated blonde, as she saw herself toward the oak door. She shook her shoulders off, and took a hold of the handle.

Well, here we go. Time to ram my head down the lion's throat. Yippee.

Sure enough, Andrews was sat in his ever-expectant manner. If she didn't know better, she'd expect him to have a Persian cat on his lap, and for him to address her with a corny line like "I've been expecting you, Miss Price."  It would definitely have gone with the scar over his eye, that much was certain. To her disappointment, neither of these things happened.

"About damn time, Price. Take a seat." His gravelly tone always rubbed Chloe up the wrong way. Sure, it was probably a by-product of one of the various off-books places he had no doubt seen service in, sometime between the present day and 12 B.C., nevertheless she was sure he played on it. She set a hand on the old-English style chair, facing him, and clattered onto the chair. He shifted his position slightly, leaning back in the chair as opposed to his forward slouch as she came through the door, before beginning. Glancing over him once more, her mind cast back over him. He had been in service at least as long as Mark, and probably a little longer: as far as she knew, his sterling career started with the Chosin reservoir and had gone from there. SOG in Vietnam, operations in Iran and the Middle East, Libya... the list went on for pages, although most of those were covered in black ink. And probably hadn't been meant for her eyes. Not that it had stopped her.

"Now, I am aware that we don't see eye to eye on many things, especially in light of your past transgressions. Prague, for one. Your recent run-in with the KGB, for another." Chloe fought the urge to groan with discontent. Fuuuck! He knows too! Andrews continued. "However, even I can't deny the fact that you're a damned good agent. Probably the best that we've got in-theatre right now. I understand that you're still recovering, and that the ink is barely dry on your clearance from Medical, but the task at hand is important."

Chloe stuck a hand up, cutting him off. "All due respect, sir, but can we just cut to the chase? Ma-Head Officer Jefferson already ran me up to speed a little bit on what you brought me back to this side of the Curtain for. Can we just cut the rhetoric a little?" He gave her a blank, mirthless look, before getting back on track.

"As you wish. So, what exactly do you know of the Red Deer?" Same question Mark asked. Same question that I don't really have an answer for.

"Not an awful lot. Other than that they're meant to be one of the best that the KGB have in Europe. No known identity, no D.O.B., nothing. We don't even know if the asshole is a man or a woman." She replied. Andrews smiled slightly, opening a draw on his side of the desk, and dropping a file in front of her.  She split off the red tape sealing it shut,  disseminating the plethora of photographs and reports. 

They're a damn good shot, by the looks of it. No real trace, either: nobody seems to see them come or go. Probably native to East Germany, if I were to guess: the Reds aren't great at blending in. Sure as shit they're my equal, judging by this.

"Here's what we have currently. As my counterpart Mr. Jefferson no doubt explained, we needed you back because you're our best bet of dealing with the Deer. While you've been gone, they've been the prime suspect in no fewer than twelve assassinations. Low-level, mainly military commanders and local politicians. In the last twelve months, however, they've ramped up their activities. They moved on to higher profile targets: in September, she assassinated Levi Joncker, head of the Dutch Delegation to NATO. His briefcase, complete with access details and contingencies for Volkel- which, if you didn't know it already, is one of the few places on the Continent that we entrust with our tactical nuclear ordnance. Two weeks later, a pair of aircraft exploded on takeoff from there, and all the evidence points to sabotage. January, another hit. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Donnel, head of US Air Forces in Europe. A week later, they eliminate three defecting KGB operatives inside one of our own fucking safe-houses. I don't think I need to lecture you further, do I?" Chloe shook her head, slightly in awe at what the Deer had achieved in such a short space of time.

"No sir. What exactly do you want me to do, capture them?"

Andrews shook his head. "No. The Deer has been deemed too great a threat to even consider their capture. Your mission is to identify and locate the Deer, and put a stop to their activities. Permanently. Now, I know this is going to be a hell of a hard task, even for an accomplished agent such as yourself. Also, we owe the British Secret Service a few favours for helping to secure your release in the first place. As a result, you're going to be working alongside one of their better operatives. Operative Prescott is already boots-down in Berlin, and will update you on the state of play there when you arrive."

Chloe sighed. Of course, they would decide to give me that prick as back-up. Does anyone read my post-Op reports any more?

Andrews picked up on her discord at his statement. "I understand, you and him don't like each other either. However, Head Officer Jefferson assures me that Prescott is the best operative the British have available. You know as well as I do that he sees a lot of potential in his protege. I expect you to at least maintain a working relationship with him while you're out there. You're being put on a flight into Tempelhof later today. Again, I understand that you're barely up and running again, but time is of the essence. Right now, with everyone going on in the spotlight, any further actions like this by the Deer could well tip everything right over the edge. It goes without saying how that'll turn out in the current climate. Good luck." Chloe nodded, scooping up the file in one hand, before Andrews called after her again.

"One last thing. It's... in relation to what happened to your old man." Chloe stopped dead in her tracks, and turned to face him.

"Sir?"

Andrews glanced away from her, before continuing. "We... have reason to believe that the Deer was part of the team responsible for his death, as you'll see further back in the file. I... just want you to be aware of that. Just try and keep it professional out there. Don't make it personal, okay?"

Chloe's grip tightened around the file in her hand, as she nodded. "Of course, sir. Thank you." With that, she turned back and left swiftly.


Chloe didn't even notice or acknowledge Victoria on her way past the secretary's desk outside the office, much to the latter's confusion. She was enveloped entirely in her own thoughts, all spanning from that one trinket Andrews had given her. That the Deer had been involved in killing her father.

She found a quiet place in the building, secluded, away from anyone else, and slumped against a wall as the memories came back through her head.

The knock at the door. Her going to answer, her elation as she went for the handle, expecting it to be her father's usual theatrics. The confusion as she registers the figure on her doorstep, dressed in full ABPD uniform, tears in his eyes. How her world crumbled, evaporated into nothingness, every word after "he won't be coming home".

A week later, halfway across the country in Arlington. Her jolting response at the crack of five rifles at once, an armed salute, as the autumn drizzle trickled down across the grounds. The water damping her hair, running down her face and mixing with the tears streaming down her face. The chill passing through her body almost completely unnoticed. A complete numbness as her hands made contact with the silk of the folded flag as it was handed to her.

The days, weeks, months that passed by that she couldn't recall, that were a grey blur to her.

A few minutes later, the torrent of memories she'd buried deeper than anything else finally washed over, leaving her sobbing. Gradually, the emotions were wiped away, instead replaced by a fire she hadn't experienced in years. 

When I get my fucking hands on them, they're going to fucking wish they'd never existed. Seven fucking years, I've longed every day to get an assignment like this. And now, now I get to go do it. Through her seething anger, a grimace appeared. 

Better bring your fucking A-game, asshole, because there's gonna be no mercy from me. With that, she dusted herself off, and headed back toward the room she'd been put up in. She got through the door, slamming it shut and throwing the file onto her desk. Reaching under the bed, she found her footlocker, complete with some of her personal effects (those that mattered to her, at the very least). Popping open the catches, she brushed a few of the documents aside to reveal a small gun case. Inside, her father's service pistol, left to her when she was old enough to handle it. The silver receiver was slightly dusty from years of being kept in storage for this specific task. Normally, her Beretta 418 would have sufficed for such an assignment. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand, making it perfect perfect for sneaking across the border, and with enough of a punch to take down anyone she encountered without body armor. This time, however, the gun lying in front of her was going to see her into the East. The Colt Commander was a .45, which she knew would almost definitely put her mark down. Sure, it was a hell of a lot larger than her Beretta, but the extra firepower was sure as hell going to make up for it. Besides that, there was the sentiment element: she figured it fitting that her father's gun be used to put down the assassin who killed him.

It isn't making it personal, anyway: they want the job done right, this is how I'll do it. Now, let's try and get to know them a little better. Not that it matters,  She sat cross-legged on the bed, poring over the file in greater detail, her trusted armament by her side.


 

Somewhere in East Berlin

July 3rd, 1987

2.44 am

A whistle blow from a Vo-Po echoed down the otherwise silent street. A lone figure sprinted along through the rain, throwing swift shadows on the walls, desperately trying to outpace the crescendo of heavy boots chasing them. Behind them, three police officers, the beams from their torches flashing wildly and illuminating the surroundings as they continued in their efforts to run down the fugitive. She had barely had time to get some clothes on, barely had any notice of what was coming through her door. As it was she had had to jump out of her window and pray to God that she could hit one on the adjacent apartment block, rather than suffer a three-floor fall. It paid off, but it didn't buy her quite as much time as she hoped it would: as she came out of the front door of that adjacent block, the three officers who had kicked in her apartment door piled out into the street thirty meters away, the breathlessness of each disappearing in an instant as they reacquired their target.

"HALT!" The officer barked, unsheathing his Makarov as he ran, and firing as well as he could on the run. The rounds zipped along, chased by the sharp snap of their firing. she yelped as a round grazed her arm, tracing a red scorch mark along it, but she kept running. To stop would be to die, and she knew it. The street gave way to a bridge, spanning one of the various rivers that carved up the darkened city. A screeching of tires ahead, as a Lada in Volkspolizei colours cut the runner off, its body effectively blocking her route. The officers threw the doors open, pistols drawn and aiming as they took up position using the vehicle as cover. No doubt, they'd been briefed on who their suspect was, though apparently not well enough to know that half a dozen officers wouldn't be enough. She came to an abrupt halt, their escape cut off. One officer closed in, muzzle levelled as he closed in. She held her hands up as she backed toward the edge of the bridge. A warning shot hissed past, barely missing her ear.

"Beweg dich nicht! Halten Sie Ihre Hände hoch!" The officer who fired the shot barked, as another closed in, weapon raised and ready.

Three meters. Two. The figure moved like light as he came within reach, snapping the gun out of his hand and pulling him toward her so that the others couldn't get a clean shot. In the moment that they hesitated, she forced the gun against her shield's ribs, the bullet erupting from his back in a red spatter as his form became limp and lifeless. She threw him aside, dropping to one knee and levelling her aim at the closer of the two remaining officers. The gun snapped back in her hand as the bullet struck him in the chest, his shocked expression disappearing as the light was seemingly torn from his eyes. The barrel swung toward the second, who was just about to bring his aim to bear. Another snap, As the bullet struck him in the side of the temple and burrowed through his skull. He spun slightly as he collapsed onto the floor. She shot a glance in the direction she had run from, barely being missed by a volley of gunshots. One clipped her thigh, eliciting a further cry of pain, as she threw the gun across the road. Without caring to look, she threw herself over the side, into the cold, black, shimmering expanse below. Torches scoured the surface for a few minutes, fruitlessly attempting to reacquire their target. 

Some distance downstream, the fugitive dragged herself onto a river beach, coughing and retching up water that she had sucked down involuntarily. Summertime or not, the river was still bitterly cold. She sat up against some piece or another of discarded detritus, perhaps a relic from the previous war. She grimaced, though the irony was definitely not lost on her.

An old, discarded item, no longer needed. Welcome to the club, I suppose. The questions begun to run rampant in her head. Why had the police come after her? Surely they knew who she was and who she worked for? Then it hit her.

But why? What did I do? I've done everything they asked of me, and this is what happens? Why do they want me dead all of a sudden? She stood up, dusting some of the sand that had stuck to the backs of her legs off. 

Only one way to find out. She grunted with pain as she attempted to walk onward, and a hand to her torso revealed why. She wiped the blood off her hand, shaking her head.

Of course that would have to happen to me too. Must've been a ricochet for it not to have killed me outright. She huffed a slight chuckle to herself. Vo-Pos really can't shoot straight if they tried. No doubt the Volksarmee will be on their way. She glanced up from the serenity of the dark riverbank and along the skyline, taking note of its brighter and more vibrant appearance. Still, it would seem I'm no longer on their side of the wall, so that should buy me time. 

Twenty minutes later, she had found her way back up to street level, albeit via a drainage duct. She retched slightly at the stench that followed her out of the duct. This fucking day just keeps getting better and better. A few police cars passed her by, not that it bothered her. The Schupos had no reason to pick her up, and even if they did, she was certain that the West still knew nothing of what she even looked like. As it was, her hair was matted and feral, her clothes grimy and battered from her fight through the narrow pipes. Shambling along the empty shopping district, she glanced at herself in the reflection of a shop window. I look like the homeless. Although, for once, I think that might actually work out in my favour. Nobody would suspect a gutter whore of being the KGB's golden girl. She grimaced as the details continued to seep into her thoughts. Ex-Golden Girl. God, I want to find who did this to me. I don't think there's much I can do to make them suffer enough, as repayment for even the last hour. I don't even know how they could bring everything down so fast, unless... She shuddered. Unless this was their plan, all along. 

Finding an alleyway to hide in for the night, she curled up between a pair of dumpsters, and force herself to sleep. 

With any luck, I can make one of the safe-houses around here. Given a miracle, it might actually be empty, although it won't matter. Three dead cops and a big 'rogue agent' sticker next to my name will be enough to have every agent in the Committee scouring the city for me, and I doubt they'll be interested in a drink and a chat. And then, to work. 

Still shivering slightly from a mixture of surgical shock and the cold permeating her clothes, she pulled an off-cut of material out of the dumpster next to her, wrapping it tightly around herself as she screwed her eyes shut and attempted to get some sleep amid the whirlwind of questions left unanswered.

Chapter Text

2nd July, 1987

RAF Lakenheath

22.05 Local Time

Chloe cursed as she stepped out of the station runabout, a battered Land Rover of some kind or another in the usual olive drab and wrapped her better shoulder around the handle of her holdall. She was supposed to have been on the plane out last night, but as her usual luck would have it, the train she was supposed to be getting aboard had been cancelled. So, the Tri-Star headed out there had left without her. She shifted uncomfortably, the uniform she had to wear on these bases was definitely not made for comfort. However, she was glad enough that she'd not been forced into wearing the issued skirt with the already uncomfortable clothing. She did like the colour- a dark blue with very little in the way of complexities- however, and unlike the Army or Navy equivalents that she had seen for a woman of her size and build, the dress uniform she was wearing actually fit her reasonably well.

Just my fucking luck. Most important task I've ever been given, and what happens? The fucking trains go on strike. Pricks. A slight chuckle to herself. I can almost see the sense in how the fucking Commies do things: go on strike, and you get thrown in prison. I wouldn't complain about that, much. Then again my working standards aren't exactly the same as a nine-to-fiver's.

She had walked about ten paces when a lieutenant, likely one of the base commander's underlings, intercepted her. He saluted sharply, almost robotically.

"Major Price, good to have you here, brief as it may be."

She returned the salute, grimacing slightly as she jarred her still-sore right hand off the lip of her combination cap.

"Lieutenant. I take it Colonel Ackerley has already read you into what you need to know?"

The Lieutenant- Gastovski, as far she she could make out his name tab in the dim, drizzly street- nodded.

"Yes Ma'am. If you'll follow me, I'll take you to the aircraft." He extended a hand, toward the holdall. "May I carry that for you, Ma'am?"

Chloe shook her head. "No thank you, Lieutenant. I've got it." Gastovski nodded, turning on his heel and walking in the direction of the hangars. Chloe followed. As they rounded the edge of the hangar, Chloe paled a little as she saw the aircraft that was supposed to take her to Berlin. A Hercules, probably one that had been to Vietnam and back via the Middle East, if she knew foreign policy as well as she did.

Ah, fuck me. There goes my plan for a pleasant flight. She gulped, nervously, an action made slightly harder by the tight neck and collar on the formal jacket as the memories begun to reconvene in the back of her mind. Gastovski noticed.

"Everything alright, Ma'am?"

Chloe nodded, slightly shakily. "Uh, yes. Perfectly fine Lieutenant, thank you."

Saluting once more, Gastovski parted her company. Slightly uneasy as she walked,  she made her way to the loading ramp. The cargo bay was relatively busy, at least two dozen men on board- grunts galore, just what I need- but there was a section of the netting-based seats free, large enough for her to lie down. She stepped up the steel walkway and slung her baggage under her spot. The ramp slowly sealed shut with a loud whirring. She grimaced, though not at her company.

Why does it have to be THIS kind of fucking aircraft? Are people's memories really as short as that?

She noticed one of the soldiers on board, cocky-looking at that, had shifted a little closer to her. Obviously being goaded onward by his friends, who she could make out snickering away behind him in the darkness.

"Good evening Ma'am. Are you... afraid of flying, at all?"

She stared at him, blankly. "What do you think, First Sergeant?"

Struggling to suppress a small smile, he answered. "You look a little scared to me. Would you like me to, ah, give you a little in-flight safety brief?"

Chloe sighed, rolling her eyes. "Not particularly, First Sergeant. And, unless you want me to hand you your ass AND have you busted back to a fucking Corporal's stripes, I would strongly advise you to sit your ass back over with those reprobates you seem to call friends, and not bother me again. Understood?" She growled at him, her eyes betraying the slightest hint of the fury she was ready to let loose on him.

The soldier blinked at her, taken aback, before replying in a stammering tone. "U-uh, yes, yes Ma'am. Understood Ma'am." She stumbled back across to join his compatriots. Chloe smiled, grimly, as she lay down on the seat. By now, the aircraft had gotten up to speed and was cruising along slowly, although there was a deafening drone from the four turboprops outside the windows. The weather over toward the coast wasn't particularly pleasant, quite the opposite. The storm jostled the aircraft around, pitching and rolling it slightly as it went. Chloe shivered, in fear more than anything else, as she closed her eyes and attempted to sleep. Once again, just as she had feared, the nightmares begun once more.


Five years earlier...

February 1982

Somewhere over Norway

Chloe clutched at her arms, shivering frantically as the lumbering aircraft made its way through the frigid skies. It appeared to her that the aircrew had forgotten entirely where the breakers were for the cargo hold heaters- assuming the flying junkyard of a plane she was being transported in had heaters.

I'm pretty sure they treat CONVICTS better than this. At least Con Air has proper seats, not these stupid netting things that freeze your ass numb. Oh, and I'll bet it's quieter. I mean, they give normal troops two sets of ear defence on a piece of crap like this- I guess we're just not important enough to be given those. We, obviously, can afford to be given semi-permanent hearing loss. Heh. Then again, these are the same smart-asses that thought training me in Arctic survival was useful. I'm being deployed TO BERLIN. The only way that fucking training becomes useful is if we have a nuclear winter. And guess what? If that happens, then being able to deal with the cold will be pretty low on my fucking priorities list.

She spared a moment from her personal misery to glance at the other passengers on the flight over the top of the pallets of cargo in the hold-no doubt supplies of some kind or other- and unlike her, they had actually been issued appropriate clothing for the task at hand. For whatever reason, the Agency hadn't bothered to kit her out with any arctic clothing, so she had improvised as best she could: a pair of Gore-Tex boots that had done her well, at least in the cold that was the Northern states in winter; a set of hiking trousers made for mountain hiking, made of a heavier material than usual, with thermals underneath that; and as many layers as she could cram under her padded jacket. A black beanie on top and a pair of black skiing gloves rounded out her attempt to stay warm, albeit that it hadn't been as successful as she'd hoped.

As best she could make out from the insignia on the winterised uniforms of the troops sat opposite her, they were attached to Rapid Deployment Force. The usual tool of Congress when some country or another needed an overnight dose of democracy, she'd mused. She'd already tried asking them why they were being sent to Norway of all places, though she already knew the answer she was going to get.

"Classified. Sorry, miss."

She turned her head to glance out of the window. Snow, sky, snow... very little to see. It seemed like they were flying through a fucking blizzard. Which, to be honest, was likely the case. The drone of the engines was deafening her, compounded by a lack of ear defenders. She'd tried the set on that she had been given before takeoff, but they were about as comfortable as strapping a pair of freezing steel pans over her ears. That, and they seemed to make the horrendous noise of the plane even worse. In the end, she'd opted to suffer the droning for the next however-long the flight was due to take.

That was the last moment of normalcy she could remember there being on that flight. There was no warning. Her memory of what happened next came in broken sections. It must've been over in a matter of seconds.


The screeching as the floor of the cargo bay was torn open, by what looked like a tree. A panicked glance out of the window- the inboard engine was alight, there was fuel leaking perilously close by, the ground was rotating- no, the plane was rolling over on its side. A loud bang, like someone hammering a baseball bat against a car door. The wing in front of her eyes was torn away by a tree, its torn root belching flames. The bay came apart, scattering the cargo. The far wall, and the troops sat against it, broke away. A chunk of the roof, overhead. A sudden force, throwing her violently in one direction or another, the flash of snow covered tree canopies before her eyes.

Blackness.


Chloe was roused to consciousness by the screaming, burning pain in her body. It felt as though it was in every part of her body, arms, legs, chest, back. Slowly, she opened her eyes, releasing a pained howl in response to what could easily have been every nerve ending screaming out. There was little around her to indicate an aircraft had even been here, save for a few fragments of metal strewn about and the smouldering of a few tree limbs, savagely torn off by the hulk of metal that had hit them. The plane's carcass, what was left of it, had evidently carved a path through the forested area, burrowing a gash several feet deep into the snow and frozen ground and uprooting most of the trees in its path. Her head spun as she sat up, placing a foot against the ground. She went to stand up, only to collapse onto her back, an agony like none she remembered punching up through her leg, rousing another guttural scream of pain. She lifted her head, just able to see the problem. Her left thigh had a gash down it, at least several inches in length. The blackened, congealed blood on the surface reassured her that it was no longer a danger to her. Her ankle was askew, however. She grimaced, cursing in her mind.

Broken. Fuck, now what do I do? If I stay here, I'll freeze to death. I know enough about this shit to know that it's bad if you can't feel the cold.

She scanned the ground around her for something, anything, that she could make use of. A piece of bloodstained material, a reasonable size at that, lay a few feet away. 

There's enough bits of wood lying around. I could tie them against my ankle with that. Not exactly first-class medicine, but right now, I can make do with it. If I can just... 

She dragged herself across the floor, crying out in pain at every jolt of her ankle, every time her leg brushed against the floor. It took her what felt like an eternity. Every movement took more energy than she expected, and she could feel herself becoming gradually more light-headed. Eventually, she was close enough to grab it. Turning it over in her hands, its origin dawned on her.

Wait a sec, that's... She felt around the side of her torso, wincing as her cold fingers contacted a tender part of her skin. She looked down again, to find a section of her jacket was missing, and that her torso was cut open in several places, some lengths of the cut still oozing blood slightly. She shook her head.

I am SO fucked. Do I actually have any chance of surviving right now, or am I just delaying the Reaper like I did in Boise? Shrugging off the thought as best she could, she forced a couple of lengths of wood down the sides of her boots- biting down on her jacket collar to try and help her ignore the pain. Finally, the pieces were in place. With shaking hands, she wrapped the material around her ankle. Another pained scream as she tightened the knot against her leg, against another wound she hadn't noticed. Carefully standing up on her solid leg. Glancing in both directions that the forest had been torn open by the remains of the hull as it came down.

It looks like what's left went that way. My odds aren't great, but it's better than staying here. I hope. I just hope it didn't go far. Shuffling a couple of steps, she stubbed her foot on another length of wood. Ow, fuck. Wait, that's actually a decent length. Least I'll have something to put my weight onto. Slotting it under her arm, she set off once more, able to move slightly comfortably than before as she picked her way through the mixture of broken tree limbs and fragments of airframe.

Some time later, Chloe had reached a clearing of sorts. There was a large section of the shattered craft nearby, and a few of the packages being carried aboard it, their contents strewn across the blackened snow and ice. She must've been out a while, as some of the items had been partially covered over by the light snow that was still drifting down. She tripped over an object, bulging slightly below the surface, and hit the ground hard with another outcry of pain. Looking back, her eyes widened in shock as she saw what had been uncovered under the snow: an arm. Allowing curiosity to get the better of her, she shuffled across and uncovered more of the figure lying lifeless. Torso, neck... she jumped back somewhat as she uncovered the soldier's face, or what was left of it. One eye hung loosely out of its socket, albeit white with frost, and a chunk of his skull appeared to be missing. Were it not for the snow layered over the top, there would probably have been blood sprayed everywhere. A burst of nausea shot through her and she fought the urge to retch. Her eyes cast over the rest of his torso, however, trying her best not to look at the gruesome damage to his head.

It's a shitty thing to do, but needs must. That jacket is probably better than anything I have right now. Sorry, dude, but you don't exactly need it any more. Trying to keep her eyes away from his shattered head once more, she undid the winter fatigue jacket that the cadaver was wearing, wrapping is over herself as she sat. It was a few sizes too large for her, but it was still better than not having it. She got back on her feet, continuing to shamble in the direction of a section of wreckage a little ways away. Eventually, she reached it, collapsing onto the now-cold steel that had made up part of the cargo bay. Fighting the urge to go to sleep, she tried to get her priorities straight.

Sh...shelter. I need...to make...make a shelter...fuck, the cold... Her body had ceased shivering some time ago, and even in her confused state, she was vaguely aware of the severity of her situation. There was a partly collapsed section of the hull up ahead, which looked big enough for her to fit into, as well as some scattered debris that she could use to keep the wind out. Some of the skin of the bay was missing, making the insulation accessible too. Chloe set to work as best she could on jury-rigging a small shelter in the section, barely able to think clearly. Her attention finally turned to the remnants of one of the sledded packages, still partially intact in the bay. Barely able to pull aside the torn netting that bound the package together, a few of the boxes held within fell out, landing on her toes. Not that she felt it, especially as any pain was overwritten by the joy of what she had found.

MREs, and a fuckton of them. Jesus, those guys...really were going to go... go cause trouble. And is that... shit, a Tac-Be. Ho...holy fuck! I might actually...live through this... after... her head spun as she collapsed once more onto the floor. A further attempt to stand found her legs unwilling to support her, on account of the tattered state of her left leg, and the cold that threatened to shut her body down. Frantically and clumsily tearing open one of the cardboard boxes with a shard of metal, cutting her hand in a few places as she did, she retrieved a flameless ration heater from within and shoved a few handfuls of snow into it, yelping at the sudden burst of warmth she could feel as the water contacting the pack inside reacted. Shaking profusely once more, she forced the plastic down her jacket, groaning as the heat permeated through her. A few tears rolled down her cheek, burning as the trails froze slightly on her paled, ice-cold skin. Another search of the eviscerated box revealed a few snacks, easy enough to open. She gratefully forced them into her system, as she consolidated her plan for the night.

 

A few hours later, as darkness crept in, Chloe pulled the piece of metal she'd found as a makeshift door over her shelter, breaking open and shaking a couple of red cyalume sticks to provide a small modicum of light within. She reached over for the small orange box that was the Tac-Be system, leaving it switched on and on the open frequency setting. She didn't know how long the batteries would last, but for the first time so far today, she wasn't scared- as normalcy had returned to her body, she had been able to better search that pallet in the cargo bay and had retrieved a few more batteries, as well as further rations and spare heaters. There was some fuel cans, too. Likely for one of the light snowmobiles that had been in the bay. While there was no sign of those snowmobiles- and no doubt they would be smashed to bits even if she found one- the fuel itself, she'd figured, could still be of use.

Wrapping herself up as best she could in some of the insulation she'd manage to pull from one of the various holes in the fuselage, and still shivering slightly, she closed her eyes and tried her hardest to go to sleep.


A crackling radio roused her from her broken slumber, to find daylight seeping in through the cracks in her shelter.

"2...0...7... acknowledge, over."

"Any active callsigns in the area, this is Victor 2-0-7, please acknowledge, over."

Chloe reached for the radio, fumbling as she found the push actuator.

"Uh...2-0-7, come in, over." She shakily muttered. Silence for a few moments.

 The radio crackled back into life.

"This is a secure military channel. Identify yourself or clear the channel. We are tracing this transmission as we speak."

Chloe cursed off-air, trying to remember her designation through a still-fogged and part-frozen mind.

"This is... Asset 1-9-0... Whiskey, Operative Price. Over." More silence.

"Okay, that checks out. Jesus, we thought nobody had survived that wreck. Radio compass shows you about four miles out. Is there anyone else with you? Over."

Chloe shuddered at the thought of the corpse she had de-jacketed outside, likely frozen solid by now. "I...I think I'm all that's left."

"Understood, sorry to hear it kid. We're homing in on you now. Can you give us any idea where you are?"

"I'...I'm in a section...of wreckage. In a clearing, I think?"

"Uh, roger, we can see it now. Jesus, that's some wreck. Hang on, we're going to drop a PJ and Recovery System in, stand by." 

Chloe pushed aside the makeshift door, staggering to the open side of the hull in time to hear a droning, a steady crescendo toward a deafening roar. Another Hercules passed overhead, a few hundred feet above her, one of its side jump doors open. Its front had a strange pair of metal extrusions, like antennae or scaffolding. Chloe swore she recognised it from somewhere, but in her current state she wasn't certain where from. A red package was tossed out on a static line, followed by what appeared to be a man, distinguishable by the orange jacket he was wearing. She limped in the direction of his landing site, making it within about a hundred meters before her legs gave out. The orange-clad man approached, features growing more and more distinct as he did. He knelt down by her as he reached her.

"Operative Price?"

Overwhelmed, Chloe could do little more than nod. He picked her somewhat broken and diminished form up, as gently as he could, and carried her to the still-flapping chute denoting the package dropped in with him. He tore open the zip to reveal what looked like a big orange weather balloon, a length of steel wire, and a pair of harnesses. Chloe recognised it, albeit barely.

A Fulton Harness. Jesus, I remember the training reels on these! Wait, THIS is how they're getting us outta here?!

All the while, the Parajump Rescuer carefully fitted her with a harness, trying to calm her as he inadvertently jarred her busted leg, or caught one of the various other injuries on her body. He fitted a similar harness to himself, clipping both to anchoring points on the line before inflating the balloon. Its orange form gracefully ascended, up and up. Chloe heard the man talking the aircraft back around. He passed her a helmet and goggles, and explained what was about to happen.

"Alright, the aircraft is going to swing back and pick us up on the Fulton system! Are you familiar with how this works, or would you like me to explain it?"

Chloe shook her head. Her head felt a lit clearer now, she'd realised in retrospect that it was on account of the copious amounts of adrenaline that had been put into her system as her brain registered what was about to happen. "No, I kinda know how it works. Never used it though. Anything I should know?"

The PJ gave a light chuckle, as a faint droning returned to earshot. "Yeah. Hold on tight. Just like a fairground ride. Oh, and don't forget to use your goggles." The grey steel of the Hercules reappeared, flying a little lower than before. It aimed straight at the cable, hitting is directly. The balloon cast off, floating away of its own free will. The cable caught on the aircraft, down the underside of its hull.

"Here we go! Yee-ha!" Before Chloe could answer, she felt the harness tighten suddenly around her legs and underarms, and the cable snap taut. Without warning, she and her rescuer were plucked from the snowy terrain, almost straight up and at a barely-believable speed. She glanced up, her face battered by the frigid air rushing by. The cable had been fastened to some kind of winch on the aircraft, pulling the two of them in, slowly and surely.

Three hundred feet. Two hundred. A hundred. 

Eventually, they were close enough for the two men on the back ramp to pull them aboard. Chloe remembered little after hitting the floor of the aircraft, her vision fading to white. The next thing she knew, she was in hospital in Copenhagen.


A jolt startled her awake, to see the glistening lights of a city out of one side of the aircraft. 

Thank fuck we're here. I'm just amazed that this fucker actually made it.

A few minutes later, the aircraft had roughly landed at Tempelhof. Despite having been here countless times, she couldn't help herself but marvel at the architecture and design of the terminal itself. For all their dark deeds, she had often mused, the Reich had definitely known a thing or two about showing off with buildings. 

"Miss Price." An English voice, Midlands by the sound of it, startled her. It didn't take her all that long to remember the face that was attached to that voice, and she cursed internally. She turned to face the source, and the face that greeted her-with its usual cold reception- confirmed her fears. The piercing blue eyes staring back at her told her exactly who had been told to greet her.

"Mr Prescott. How nice to see you again."

Nathan snorted, knowing the falsehood of her statement. "Yeah, yeah. I read the reports too. Something about 'Operative shows signs of mental instability, not recommended for future operations.' Sound familiar?"

Chloe glowered back at him. "Yeah, matter of fact I do. Next time you want to make a point, do it in some way that doesn't involve sticking the muzzle of your beloved fucking nine-millimeter in my face." Nathan opened his mouth to respond, but Chloe cut him off. "Now, are we going to stand here arguing over the fact that you are a fucking screw loose, or are you going to get me briefed up so we can go back to whatever the fuck we were doing as part of this assignment?"

Nathan bared his teeth at her, pushing a file roughly into her chest. "There's what we've got. Car's this way." A slight chuckle under his breath. "Now, we going straight there or would you like to visit the brothels first?" 

Chloe rolled her eyes at his snickering, instead realising an even better means of getting her own back- or, possibly shot, as she had found out once before. Putting on her best impression of an old English Squire and a theatrical rolling of the hand she replied. 

"Why yes, m'Lord, our abode is a very prudent suggestion." She was sure she heard him go for his gun, but she never felt it pressed against her body so she assumed he hadn't been quite that stupid.


 3rd July 1987

Tempelhof District, Berlin

01.20 Local Time

Half an hour later, they had reached the safehouse that was to be their basing site for the operation. It was a simple enough place, not dissimilar from your average civilian residence on the exterior, or at a first glance inside. However, Chloe knew from experience just how much gear was hidden in just one safehouse. She dropped the file on the bare table, awaiting Nathan- still seething from earlier- to return from whatever he'd gone to do. Soon enough, he returned. He appeared calmer, however Chloe could still make out that ever-so-faint glow of rage in the back of his eyes.

"So, what did I miss while I was enjoying the Hotel Bautzen?" Chloe enquired. 

Taking a deep breath, an apparent attempt to calm himself further, he begun.

"Alright. Alright. So, we're still no closer to getting a PID on the Deer, but we have a few potential leads. One is Walter Mayer- former KGB, defected last year- who we know worked as the Deer's case handler on several occasions. He's currently our best bet if we wanna track down this fucker and put 'em in the ground, permanently. Best off starting with him." Another curt huff.

"There. That enough for you to go out, and get out of my fucking life, Price?"

Chloe gave him a half-smile, conjuring her next line. "You mean to say that in fifteen months, that is all we have in the way of leads?" 

Nathan narrowed his eyes at her. "The fuck do you mean by that, eh?"

Chloe turned her palms upward, gesturing as though to calm him. "Hey, cool the fuck down. It's just bugging me, fifteen months and we only have maybe three possible leads. Damn, this fucker is good."

Nathan grimaced, equal parts irked and amused. "Well, you went and landed yourself in the shit by becoming the best agent this side of the fuckin' curtain. Bet you don't feel so smug now, eh?"

Chloe shot him a sly, part-smug look, hiding as best she could the immeasurable nerves this whole setup was giving her.

"Smug enough. Sadly for you, I think I'm gonna crash here tonight. It's been a long enough day, thank you. You can take the couch." She blew him a kiss, finishing it with a bird, as she walked toward the bedroom. Once he was sure that she was out of earshot- or, perhaps, asleep- he muttered to himself.

"Why the fuck do I get assigned with this fucking pain in the arse again? I thought my luck was bad enough as it is. Fuck."


3rd July, 1987

Moabit District, Berlin 

22.35 local time

The Deer had been perched on the fire escape adjacent to the safehouse she was casing out for hours. The one she had hit earlier had been useful, once she'd- cleared- it of any other agents. Cleared being her way of describing broadly her actions. Three first-rate KGB operatives, two of which she'd seen at work first hand, and she had taken all of them. Whilst battered to hell and with a gunshot wound, albeit minor by her own assessment. She'd only been able to stay there for an hour or two, however: the Schupos were bound to come knocking about the disturbances that had happened at five in the morning, but once more her-former- employers beat them to the punch. At any rate, that's how she'd interpreted the chatter of a Kalashnikov being used as a makeshift key. She hadn't waited around to confirm her theory, however.

Most of the rest of the day was spent consolidating what little she had. A few hundred bucks that she'd looted from the dead agents, a new handgun and a couple of magazines. That, and being clean with a fresh set of clothes. She hadn't tried hitting any of the other safehouses up to now, the rest looked to be full of operatives just waiting for her. All armed as though they were headed to Kabul. She gave those a miss, no real point in taking that kind of firepower on in her current state.

That, eventually, led her to this safehouse. Most operatives avoided it, ever since a previous raid by the West German counter-terror guys, many agents had seen it as an unlucky safehouse. Cursed, even. That's why she'd saved this one for last, she figured that this would be her best bet as a last resort. She wasn't superstitious like the others, however: her more practical reasoning was that this place was barely stocked with food and medical supplies, and the utilities could be rivalled by some of the lesser gulags she knew of. That, and this was the haven that she had the most confidence in being empty. She'd lost count of how many hours she had spent staring in, seeing nothing but the darkened room. No agent she could think of had the patience to stake a place out this long, lying in wait.

After the numerous hours silently staring inside, watching for movement, she slowly stood back up. Placing a foot on the escape's guard rail, she leapt the five feet or so across to the adjacent gantry, putting her outside the window. Even though the raid had been years ago, you could still vaguely smell the round propellant ingrained into the wood. Drawing a small knife, she slipped it into the gap between the window and the base of the sill, feeling for the latch. Resistance, followed by a click. She smiled to herself as she sheathed the blade and slid the window up, gently and quietly. Once the gap was large enough, she slipped inside, pulling the window shut behind her. The moment the base of the window met the sill, she heard another click behind her. She knew what that was without looking.

There was one in here, der penner! It was good while it lasted.

Steeling herself against the inevitable, she spoke, back still to her would-be executioner.

"If you're here to kill me, get it over with already. No point waiting around." 

Another click, and the sound of clothing moving as the weapon was holstered. A slight clacking of heels on the floor, as the other occupant of the room moved closer to her.

"Now why would I want to kill my little lisenok, tell me?"

Max's heart leapt as she recognised the soft tone of her company, turning round to face her in the dark. "Stef?"

A delighted chuckle. "But of course, Maxine! Who else would willingly pick der Tuefelhof? Except for you, evidently." 

Max didn't hold back, practically collapsing onto Stef, hugging her tightly. "I don't know what's happening. They came for me in the night. I ended up shooting a few Vo-Pos, they would've killed me otherwise. Why did they come for me, though?"

Stef was silent for a moment or two, Max knew from experience why. Trying to figure out the best wording.

"They alleged that you killed the Chairman of the Directorate, one of them anyway. I'm not stupid enough to believe them."

Max smiled, looking up into the pale blue eyes of her embrace. "How were you sure though? Surely they pinned all kinds of evidence on me?"

Stef purred. "Naturally. But I still knew you couldn't have done it. I don't even know what the duncauf looked like and I worked for him, so there's not a chance in hell you did. I take it you're staying a little while?"

Max nodded. "Yes. I'm absolutely völlig im Arsch, and I have a few bulletholes to patch. I take it you'll have to report in?"

Another subtle chuckle from Stef. "Wait till I get my hands on those fucks, shooting my Maxine! And what exactly am I supposed to report about, an empty safehouse? Yes, I fear I have to do that though. I'll be back in an hour or two. If you leave before then, make sure to clean up as best you can and put anything you use in one of the garbage bags under the sink. It just makes it a little easier for me to make it look like this place was never used." She leaned her head down, placing her lips on Max's and sharing a soft, gentle kiss. A few moments later, they released one another.

"Now, you rest, my little lisenok. You've had a terrible day." Max winced, groaning.

"Stef, you've got to stop calling me that, seriously!"

An almost disappointed sigh from Stef. "Why would that be?"

Max averted her gaze, blushing slightly. "Because every time one of those other Dössbaddel overhears it, they think it's funny to use it. And then I have to break their fingers, so guess who ends up getting into trouble?" She turned a finger to point at herself.

Stef pouted, jokingly. "Leck mich, lisenok."

Max glared back at her, equally playfully. "Don't tempt me."

Stef turned, and walked to the door. "I'll lock it behind me. If you have to go, let yourself back out the window. Probably safest. Tschuß, Maxine!" Stef called out softly as she closed the door of the small apartment behind her. Max flopped down on the chair, a slight tear of joy in her eye.

"It's just Max, Stef." She whispered to herself, as she considered removing the bullet still lodged in her thigh.

Chapter Text

4th July, 1987

Moabit District, Berlin

6.20 am

Max stirred with a groan, the product of soreness from her injuries and an unsatisfying sleep on the hard mattress. The first rays of sunlight had already begun penetrating the window, and it appeared by the dishes in the decrepit sink that her paramour had left some time ago. Squinting slightly, she saw a note propped up against a glass left on the table. Grunting slightly as she sat up, she gingerly swung herself upright, grimacing and sucking air in between her teeth as she knocked one of the wounds that adorned her small, slender frame. In time, the sensations across her body returned to activity, the plethora of damage done to her creating a cacophony of pain throughout her nerves. The injury she had knocked was decidedly more painful than she remembered. She gently reached down, placing a hand against the hole in her side. The contact felt more padded than she expected, and a glance at the offending area revealed a fresh dressing, fastened securely to her side. She smiled to herself as her feet made contact with the floor.

Still as tender a hand as ever, Stef. Wow, patching me up like this and not once disturbing me from my sleep. Perhaps I was just that exhausted from everything that I passed out. Not that it matters all too much.

Still rubbing sleep from her eyes, she shuffled the few meters to the table where the note sat, definitely written by Stef's hand. She snatched the paper up by a corner, softly sitting down in a chair and groaning as even the slight jolt disturbed the more severe harm that had been inflicted on her body. Narrowing her eyes, she gradually focused in on the words on the page.

 

Guten morgen, lisenok! A smiley face had been scribbled next to the top line, bringing a slight smile in turn to Max's lips. She continued to read down the page, the smile slowly eroding as she went.

While you've been sleeping, I had to go report in again. For some reason, die Amerikaner have you on their kill-list. They're sending someone to go and speak to Herr Doktor to try and get a clue- morons- and my orders are to eliminate him, to make their lives that little bit harder. Even though you are a "rogue asset", someone high up seems very interested in keeping your identity secret. Probably to try and clean house, if I were to guess.

I figured you would prefer to do it. He would prefer you to do it. I'm sorry, Maxi, but there's no other way. 

I've gone to go buy some things, to cover up what I used putting you back together. The briefcase by your bed has everything you should need.

Viel glück, mein liebe. Not that you've ever needed it.

His address was scrawled onto the bottom of the sheet. But you probably already knew that, Stef had cheekily commented beside it.

Max folded the note away, a few tears coming to her eyes as the memories came back through her mind once more. To everyone else in the Kommissariat, Walter Mayer was 'Herr Doktor', The Doctor. A grisly reference to his past, some forty years ago, when he was once a member of the Gestapo. He'd never hidden that from her, he cared for her too much to keep a secret as major as that. To Max, however, he was 'Uncle Walter'. The only friendly face she had seen for years, after what had happened. The only person in the Kommissariat prepared to take her under his wing, train her, care for her as he would a daughter. The memories she had forged with him had more than helped her heal her past before. 

Now, however, those memories, too, were tainted. Tainted with the knowledge of the horrendous task that lay ahead of her.


"Very good, Maxine." The older man had said to her as she lowered the gun, looking down the range, maybe thirty meters away. The three rounds she had fired had found their mark. The three perforations were visible from here, a few centimetres apart, but all grouped tight around where the target's heart would have been, were it not a piece of paper.

"Again." Max turned to Walter, pouting slightly.

"But why, Uncle Walter? I can hit the target perfectly, see?"

A slightly indifferent look crossed his face. "Maxine, I don't deny that you can shoot well. But, if the enemy can shoot before you, you will be the best shot in the graveyard. Try to draw and fire faster, like- ach- the old gunslingers in Amerika. Here, I'll show you." Softly plucking the weapon from Max's hands, placing it into the empty holster on his own hip. His hands rested by his sides, relaxed. Then, as quick as Max could blink, his right hand grasped the grip of the pistol, unsheathing it in an instant. Before Max could take in that movement alone, he had raised it to eye level, and put a bullet into the target, dead centre of its chest. He brought the muzzle, still smoking slightly, toward his lips, blowing across it theatrically.

"You see? It will take practice, but you can do it. I'm sure you can." With that, he returned the pistol to her, holding it by its barrel, before taking a few steps back and returning to the chair he had brought out with him. 

Max gulped, softly, as she positioned her hand.

Grab the handle, pull it up, get hold and aim. I think that's how we do it.  She checked off in her mind. 

In a snap, she drew the pistol, firing a round down range. The bullet barely clipped the shoulder of the target. She frowned, cursing silently.

Scheiße, this is going to be harder than I thought.

"Not a bad first try, Maxine. But a shot like that won't save you from someone who wants your blood. Again."

Rolling her neck slightly, she took her position. As she drew this time, her finger- or something, she didn't quite see- grazed the trigger, before she had fully gotten a hold of the weapon. It discharged, making her jump and drop the weapon, the round whizzing as it ricocheted off of something, somewhere. Walter was on his feet before she knew what was going on.

"Are you alright, Maxine? Are you hurt?"

She shook her head, tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Uncle, I fucked it up."

Instead of the harsh words she would've expected from the Kommissariat instructors, or a slap across the face, a slight smile graced his lips, as he tapped her on the nose. "Remember what I've said about that language of yours. Don't worry, my dear. Mistakes happen." He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her softly. "I'd rather you make a thousand mistakes here, where it makes no difference, than one in the real world, where it will."

He swooped a hand across the grass, clutching the downed weapon, presenting it back to her on an open palm.

"Now, are you ready to try again, or would you like to take a break first?"


Wiping the tears from her eyes, she shuffled across to the leather case that sat, handle-up, by her bed. Lifting it onto the mattress, she clicked the catches and flipped the heavy lid over. Inside was a rifle, broken down into numerous parts.

Vintorez. Hmph, these were just being tested last I heard. Supposed to be pretty good up to four hundred meters too. Stef's right about doing the job properly. I'd rather not have him spend his final moments in agony from a botched shot.

 

Thirty minutes later, having dressed to the style of the West Berliner and taken on board enough sedative to at least take the edge off her agony, she flagged down a taxi, giving the driver the address she had memorised every day since Uncle Walter had defected. 'For my own safety,' he had wrote to her, the letter showing up in a dead-drop a few days later. 'Some Hurensohn seems to want me dead around here, so it's probably best that I lay low. The other side of the wall seems safe enough. You know where I am if you ever want to drop by.'

 As she tried to suppress her thoughts and focus on killing Uncle Walter as cleanly as she could, the one song- or one of a selection- she did not want to hear begun on the radio, the gentle synth keyboard opening and falsetto of the lead singer punctuated by a drumbeat as the song kicked into full tempo.

 You leave in the morning with everything you own in a little black case

 Alone on a platform, the wind and the rain on a sad and lonely face

Mother will never understand why you had to leave

But the answers you seek will never be found at home

Blinking more tears from her eyes, she focused her mind once more on the task at hand.

Okay...there was an office block, across the street from his. Fifty meters, if that. I should be able to get a good line on him from there. Maybe take out Herr Amerikaner as I do it. It would be justice enough, I wouldn't be having to do this otherwise. Fick da, Amerikaner!

 

"Deine Halt, frau." The taxi driver interrupted her plotting. A glance through the windscreen, the street she knew so well lay just ahead of her. She paid up, and stepped out onto the sidewalk opposite the office she knew so well, and that she was about to see for likely the last time.


4th July, 1987

 Charlottenburg District, Berlin

8.05 am

Chloe's eyes flicked open as she reached the destination. Nathan had- eventually- come around from his fit of pique, offering to drive her to the office.

"So, happy with what you have to do, Price?" He asked, his tone somewhat softer than it had been the previous day.

Chloe nodded. "Yeah. Funny, the sorts of people who wind up as spies, eh? Former enemies turned best friends. Amazing what a few decades does."

Nathan rolled his eyes. "Just don't give him the whole 'self righteous bollocks' routine that you Yanks love so much. Just because he's a former Nazi, doesn't mean you need to drag him through the grinder over it. Nuremburg did a good enough job of that already. With most of 'em, anyway."

Chloe huffed a laugh. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever gave you that idea? You can head back for now if you like, I'll call you when I'm done." With that, Chloe opened the door of the totally-inconspicuous-black Opel, slamming it behind her without so much as a glance back. She smiled at the abuse Nathan hurled her way, something about "leaving the fooking door on its hinges", as she made her way inside the office block.


"For fuck's sake, how many flights of stairs do you need in an office block?" Chloe muttered to herself, breathlessly, having finally reached the floor she needed. Very little about the door, or its placard, screamed "Ex-Gestapo Special Officer", which surprised her less than she had expected. Instead, a plain wooden door, a moderately frosted glass pane central within it. The placard was an equally simple affair, a small brass- or possibly tin, Chloe wasn't interested enough by it to tell either way- with a name in stamped black letters. A thought in the back of her head, that the door was what you would expect to find in one of the black and white noire-esque detective films, all that was missing being the black lettering on the glass itself. And perhaps a secretary:

W. Mayer

Privatdetektiv

Chloe knocked on the frame to one side of the glass. A gentle, yet surprisingly commanding, voice answered.

"Come in, the door's open." Chloe did as she was asked, not quite sure what to expect on the other side of the door. Nevertheless, it did surprise her, just a little: on the shelf to her left, a few of the man's personal effects, including what appeared to be some form of commendation; the desk in front of her was again a simplistic affair, albeit somewhat ornate at the same time. perched upon it was a brass eagle, very similar to the Imperial type she was familiar with seeing on the older structures around the country. Behind the desk, in a chair that most definitely would not have been out of place in an old noire.

The decor fit the owner, Chloe was certain of that, as for a man who must've been at least in his mid-sixties, she would easily have placed his age at half that. The only major giveaways were his hair, greying in several places, thinning slightly on the sides; and his face, which appeared worn, world-weary even. 

"Do sit, please. May I offer you a drink?" Chloe waved her hand, dismissively.

"No drinks here, thank you. Gotta stay somewhat 'professional', apparently." She replied instead, air-quoting the word 'professional'. Mayer laughed curtly, before pouring himself what appeared to be a small glass of grain brandy, leaving the bottle on the desk. Chloe took a seat, noting yet more allusions to the older man's past. He noted the glance she had shot at his effects, choosing to make that the next topic of conversation.

"Yes, that is what you think it is." Another slight laugh. "How do you think I became known as 'Herr Doktor', after all?" 

Chloe gave him a curious glance. "I only know what my partner told me. Something about you being an ex-Nazi."

Mayer chose not to reply in words, simply nodding as he decided what to say next. "Your partner is correct. I was no soldier, though. Just a member of the Gestapo, although you'll say that was far worse."

A small shiver shot through Chloe. What little she remembered of elementary school history projects came back to mind. Regardless, Mayer continued.

"However, if it makes you any more comfortable, it was never really my choice, and as for my techniques? An unfortunate coincidence. I happened to have some experience as a butcher's assistant as a kid. Who knew that such skills could benefit an interrogator? Not I." 

Chloe gave him a grim smile. "I don't imagine you would've known that. Still, amazing what a twisted cult like the Reich did to innocent skills, innocent people. Don't worry, Mr. Mayer, I'm not Nürnberg. I'm here on other business."

"Please, call me Walter. Professionalism doesn't mean we should have to act like machines. Mrs..."

"Chloe." She filled in the blank for him.

"Such a beautiful name, I do say. Well then, Chloe, shall we get down to the business of why you are here?"

 Chloe pulled out a small envelope, containing some of the less-sensitive information around her assignment, leaving it on the table. She explained herself as he flicked slowly through the information. "I've been assigned to track down a KGB operative who goes by the alias of 'Red Deer'. I'm reliably informed that you have information about them that could be of use to me."

 Mayer scoffed. "Ah, my little Maxine? What could the West possibly want with her?"

The cogs in Chloe's head  crunched as her train of thought hit a brick wall. Her expression hid absolutely none of what was going on in her mind as she sought to confirm Mayer's statement. "Her?"

Mayer gave a gruff laugh in reply. "Indeed, the Deer is a woman. What, you think that the Kommissariat wouldn't take on a young girl as an agent, like you? As much as I despise them, the Russians have a far greater leaning toward female agents than the West! With good reason, I might add." 

Chloe got her composure back as quickly as she could do, while trying to maintain some degree of dignity. "Okay, I get you. So, what can you tell me about her?"

A pensive look graced his face, briefly. "What do you wish to know about her?"

"Anything that'll help me track her down." She deadpanned, knowing full well that he would see straight through her hashed attempt to cover her true purpose.

Mayer gave her an distrusting look. "Please, don't insult my intelligence, Chloe. I know enough to know that your task isn't simply to find her. I still have friends over the wall, and they tell me she's on their kill-list. And yours."

Chloe tried- and failed- to stifle the incredulous expression on her face. "She's disavowed? Since fucking when?"

Mayer waved the question away. "Ach, that is not to worry about. Perhaps someone found out about her past, as they did mine. Why do you think I'm on this side of the wall now?"

Chloe tilted her head to one side slightly, weighting the myriad of questions Mayer's last statement raised in her mind. "Her past?"

Mayer leaned back in her chair. "Yes. Even forty years on, there are those who bear grudges against the descendants of Nazis. Especially those of the SS, or the Britischer-Freikorp. Even though she knew nothing of it at one stage, not while her parents were alive anyway."

Chloe held up a hand, interrupting him. "Wait up, the British Free Corps? If memory serves, they were fifth-columnists. Nazi sympathisers who came to Germany when the war broke out, or switched sides after they were caught. Meant to have been some of the most fanatical troops the Waffen-SS had outside their own. Where do they fit into all of this?"

Mayer concurred. "Indeed. The Freikorps were so fanatical in fact, that the majority who were caught faced execution. Maxine never met her grandfather, he met his fate at the end of a Soviet firing squad as the Reich crumbled to ash. But, dear Maxine's father escaped that. He was only a boy at the time, maybe seventeen, but his hands were as bloody as his father's. he made his comrades in the Hitlerjugend Division look moderate by contrast. Dear Großvater had spirited he and his mother away, destroyed any trace of his links to them. Or so he thought. However, there were many who were smarter than to stop at the divisional records. He will have known, inevitably, that it would only be a matter of time before someone saw through the deceit, before the smokescreen he had used to cover their escape faded..."


 June 14th, 1972

Near Altenburg, East Germany

10.35 pm Local Time

Max lay on the back seat of the car under a blanket, a somewhat comfortable sleep setting in, as it slowly made its way back toward their family home, having been visiting family. She had always found it strange that she had only ever met her mother's grandparents. She never thought too heavily about it, however. All she knew was her grandfather's name, James. It seemed strange to her that a German could have a name that far better suited an Englander, but again, it seldom crossed her mind to worry about it.

In the front of the car, her mother and father continued the argument they had been having regularly ever since their daughter was born, keeping their voices down so as not to disturb Max.

"When are you going to tell her, Ryan?" Vanessa asked him, her whisper still carrying every bit of frustration it was supposed to. He tapped on the steering wheel as he drove.

"Tell her what, exactly? That the reason she never met my parents is because he was murdered over my father's past?"

She shot him a darker stare. "That isn't the part that bothers me and you know it. Remember, your father wasn't the only one with a black history to hide. You told me yourself."

Ryan glanced away from her. "I know. I will tell her, but not yet. It's not the right time." The headlights illuminated a checkpoint, a hundred meters or so ahead. Ryan cursed.

"Of course there would be checkpoints tonight. Do these verdammt Russians have nothing better to do?" He cursed, his voice breaking above a whisper. Max stirred in the back of the car.

"What's the matter, father?"

He glanced back toward her, giving her a reassuring smile. "It is nothing, Maxine. You get yourself some sleep, it has been a long day." 

The car rolled slowly to a halt before the wooden barrier and sandbags that appeared to have been hastily erected across the road. One of their jeeps sat empty off to either side, although he could only see four or five soldiers. One of them approached the window with a flashlight. 

"Ihre papiere, bitte." Ryan reached down for the family's papers, nestled in the center console. Max's papers slipped from his fingers and fell back into the gap where they had resided, but he failed to notice, presenting his and his wife's papers to the featurelessly-expressionate guard blinding him with the torche.

"Bitte sehr." Ryan muttered as the guard roughly snatched the identification from his hand, scrutinising it under the harsh white light in his hand. After what seemed like an eternity, the papers were handed back.

"Danke." With that, the guard switched off his flashlight and receded into the darkness. Ryan turned his eyes back to the road, preparing to set off once again. As his hand reached the gearstick, the roadside exploded in a hail of gunfire. Even several years later, Max could still hear the screams, screams which turned out to be her own, continuing long after the gunfire ceased. She still remembered the stench of blood soaking into the upholstery. The flashlight shining into the back of the car, blinding her with a brilliant white. The flashlight dipped, revealing a soldier, his rifle pointed at her. Another- perhaps his commander- roughly took hold of the weapon, jerking it away from her.

" нет !"

 The last she remembered of that night was being dragged away from the car, as it was doused in fuel and set alight, embers and flames flickering upward into the clear night sky.


Present Day

"...And so, it was that night that my dear Maxine was set along a path, the one she walks today. Back then, I helped recruit agents for the various programs they had running. One such program involved taking children, turning them into agents. The Kommissariat usually used children from orphanages, they figured nobody would miss them. The moment I saw her, I knew that something, something about her, was different. The look in her eyes. And I was right: they threw every obstacle you could ever dream of at her. Treated her rougher, more harshly, than any other agent I ever remember. The idiots even sent her to Siberia by mistake! And yet she thrived, she overcame everything they threw at her and not once could they break her will, not once did she ever accept defeat. I must say I am as proud of her as a father could be of a daughter."

Chloe slouched back in the chair, rubbing a temple. Mayer's detailing of the various events that made up the Deer's- Maxine's- life to date was bordering on information overload. The last statement he had made struck her as unusual, so she focused her search there next. "As a father could be?"

Mayer nodded, a wry smile on his face. "Indeed. Nobody else would take on the runt, the little girl who they saw as a nuisance. Nobody except I."

Chloe bowed her head slightly. "Right. Well, I guess it makes sense that you'd rather I don't go killing her. Going back a bit, why would they care now about her past? Surely it makes no difference to them that their best agent is the grand-daughter of a Nazi, who by now is cold in his grave?"

It was Mayer's turn to be uncertain. "That, I cannot say for sure. If you find out, do tell me. And I wouldn't worry about that: if anything, I think it is you who should be careful. Maxine knows her trade well. She managed to escape the hit squad they sent to kill her in the middle of the night. And she took out an entire safe-house of agents that had been sent to finish the job. Not that I doubt you are good either, I should add, I just happen to know that she is easily a match for even the best. She is the best, the best that the Kommissariat has- had- to offer."

Chloe acknowledged. "I will. Now, about that drink you offered me earlier."

Mayer beamed, producing another glass from his desk drawer, and filling it with some of the clear liquor that he was drinking. He passed it to Chloe, tipping his glass slightly.

"Zum vohl!"


In a darkened and empty office, across the street from Mayer's, Maxine steadied her breathing as she blinked the tears from her eyes. She sat at the desk, rifle supported on some of the various items lying around, as she had been taught. Her sights lined up against the back of the man barely visible for all of the obstructions to her line of sight. Her finger tightened around the trigger, taking up the slack. The crossing of the two lines of the scope wavered slightly across his torso with every breath. In, out. Her pulse slowed, as she made her final preparations. A simple prayer, in the back of her mind. 

Wherever you go from here, Uncle, whether you wind up in Heaven or Hell... please forgive me.

Her finger closed around the trigger, and discharged the round with a muffled crack. The bullet put a small hole in the centre of the pane in front of her, a spider's web of cracks fanning out from it, as it quietly zipped across the void between the rooms. The Berliners on the street below were none the wiser to the events happening three stories above them, the whizzing of the bullet being drowned beneath a sea of noise, as the rest of the district went about its normal activity.


Several things happened at once, that Chloe noticed anyway: The sound of breaking glass as the window in front of her cracked wildly and inexplicably; the cough-come-grunt Mayer released as a spatter of red erupted through his chest; and the glass in her hand exploding, a searing heat passing the base of her hand as it did so. She recoiled her hand with a yelp as the pieces of glass, and the remaining liquid within, fell to the floor. Her blood ran cold as she shot a glance out of the window. In the dull darkness of the office, she could make out the outline of a rifle. A rifle, and someone sat behind it. She flung herself to one side, the next shot quietly buzzing past and skimming her shoulder.She cried out as she crashed against the hard floor of the office, freezing still for a moment and listening for anything more. As carefully as she dared, she lifted herself up, shooting as quick a glance as she dared at the shooter. The room across the street was now abandoned. Chloe took a series of breaths, trying to offset the adrenaline crashing through her veins. The smell of blood now hung in the air, specks of red dotted across the surfaces in a conical spread in front of Mayer, who lay motionless on the desk. Chloe took one glance at him, judging his state without once laying a finger on him.

Well, he's sure to shit dead. Doesn't take a doctor to figure that much out. I wonder whether there's anything of use in here. A brief search of the room revealed very little of interest, save for a framed photograph on his desk, which she picked up to study closer. Mayer, stood with his arm over the shoulder of a young woman- probably her age- both looking incredibly pleased and proud. The date on the small brassy placard at the base of the photo put the date around 1979, most likely when Maxine had earned her stripes as a spy for the other side. In the background, Chloe could make out what appeared to be a training camp, the styling of which matched what the field reports said of the KGB's primary school for operatives. Chloe assimilated every detail she could from the image, every little detail of the young woman stood next to him. It didn't take a Harvard professor to figure things out from there.

So this must be her. The Red Deer. Maxine Caulfield. Well, Maxine, I suppose we'll meet each other sometime soon. Shame that we'll most likely be staring down the barrel of one another's guns. Shame indeed, she's definitely a looker. What is it with the Reds and recruiting some absolutely smoking women? She blinked sharply, glancing away from the photo. Professionalism, Chloe. Stop fantasising about the agent you're being sent to eliminate, idiot. That's how you got sent to Bautzen the last time, remember?  Well, kinda.

Chloe picked up the receiver of the telephone sat on the desk, trying not to put her hand on any of the specks of blood that had spattered across it, and dialled in the number she'd memorised some years ago, for the handler's office in Berlin. After a few moments of ringing, the line was answered. A distinctly feminine voice, which surprised Chloe.

"Tyrell Exports, how may I help you?"

Victoria? Why the hell have they brought her here? Chloe shook off the idle thought and continued with what was on her to-do list.

"Employee designation Victor-Two-Seven-Niner-Echo. I need to speak to the management."

A pause. "Hold please, putting you through." Chloe flinched at the slight crackle and whine as the line was secured at the other end, before the call was once again picked up.

"Price. I'm hoping you've made some progress towards tracking the Deer down."

Chloe hesitated as she answered. "Uh... kind of, sir. You'll need to send clean-up to Mayer's office though, someone popped him. Also... I need to discuss a few things, in person. I don't feel it's appropriate to discuss over the phone, secured or not."

A sigh on the other end of the line, before they replied. "Very well. Schöneberg Park, in one hour. Dismissed." The line was cut, leaving Chloe to take one last look at the mess that was now Mayer's office before leaving. On her way down the now-busy street outside, she bumped into a young woman carrying a small leather attache case, catching a brief glance of her as she went.

"Entschuldigung." She muttered to the smaller woman she had collided with. As she did, her mind took in a few of the details that her eyes had skimmed over.

Brown hair, extending to about halfway down her neck; deep blue eyes, not dissimilar from hers, save for the darker look behind them, of eyes that had seen countless unspeakable things, eyes that were rimmed red, damp at the base; that physique, the small frame that no doubt concealed toned and tuned killer. It took Chloe half a dozen paces for the pieces to set every alarm in Chloe's head ringing in a  full scale alert, her eyes shooting wide open in surprise and shock. Reaching for the handgun concealed in her waistband, she spun around. All that she saw was a bustling street of Berliners going about their daily business.


Schöneberg Park

11.00 Local Time

Chloe strolled through the park, casually as ever. To any would-be onlooker, she had the appearance of someone who would normally be found in the more disreputable clubs around the city. Not worth a second glance, to most normal people. Most were simply enjoying the dry day, the fauna of the park. Chloe had already spotted what- who- she was here for. An older gentleman, sat at a bench. Dressed in business attire, with a case not too far different to what your average clerk or executive would wear, a small briefcase, reading a newspaper. Chloe knew fine well that the briefcase, if it were to be opened, wouldn't contain office work, more likely it would have an MP5K or some other sub-machine gun concealed within, and enough ammunition for a lengthy firefight. The Secretary sure was paranoid for one reason or another, and Chloe had never quite figured out why. Chloe sat down roughly on the unoccupied part of the bench, causing Andrews to flinch slightly.

"Sure you couldn't be a little less gentle about how you do things?" He asked, a little bit of an edge to the question.

Chloe shrugged. "Does it matter that much?"

Andrews glanced away from his newspaper to look at her. "No, I don't suppose it does with you. What was so important that you couldn't say it over the phone?"

Chloe sat for a moment or two, stringing the information into the best possible order for him to comprehend. "I got a pretty good amount of information from Mayer before he was murdered. I know who the Deer is now. Her name, what she looks like, definitely enough to start working from.

"Her name?" Andrews probed. 

"Her name," Chloe affirmed. "Maxine Caulfield. Grand-daughter of a British Nazi- he was killed by the Reds during the fall of Berlin- and daughter of an ex-Hitlerjugend member, 12th SS if I were to guess. Parents were murdered by Soviet occupation forces fifteen years ago, she wound up being recruited from an orphanage by Mayer. From what he's said, she's definitely tough."

Chloe noted that Andrews didn't seem awfully surprised at this information being revealed to him. Almost as though he'd already known it. Unfazed, and electing to omit her brief encounter with Maxine in the street, Chloe continued. "Sir, with respect, I'd like to suggest a change to the assignment."

Andrews gave her a near-belittling glare. "Go on."

Chloe gulped softly, continuing. "I suggest we try and take her. Alive. Mayer mentioned something from his sources over the wall. The Deer was disavowed, even he wasn't totally certain as to why. Given how high up the ladder she was, how damned good an agent she is, I think she could be more useful to us alive than in a body-bag, or an unmarked grave on the city outskirts, as much as I'd like to see her there."

Andrews sat for a moment- not nearly long enough, in Chloe's mind- considering her proposal, before answering. "No. I know that you're perhaps trying to show some professional courtesy, perhaps your interest in her is more than professional, but we cannot take that kind of risk. She's already perpetrated all kinds of acts against us. She's too much of a risk to even entertain the possibility of taking alive. Your orders are unchanged."

"But, sir! I-" Chloe started, being cut off by Andrews' raised hand.

"I heard you the first time. Look, Price, I like that you think for yourself. Even though we seldom see eye-to-eye on things, I admire your tenacity, and you get results no matter the odds. But all of this questioning, all this insistence, over an enemy agent? You surely can't blame me for wondering whose team you are on. I need to know that you're on this team. Otherwise, I'll have no choice to take you off the assignment, and refer you back for evaluation. Perhaps I was wrong, clearing you for duty so soon after we got you back. Tell me, did I make the right call?"

Chloe's head spun slightly as the mild battering she had received. "N-no, sir. I'm on this team. You can trust me to get it done." She stood up to leave, and was stopped by Andrews, briefly.

"Good. I've managed to chase down another lead for you. Here's the address." He handed her a small note, which she folded and placed into her pocket. "One more thing, Price. From now on, you report directly to me on this assignment, nobody else. There's reason to suspect there's a leak within our intelligence network. It's possible that we've been compromised. Until we plug that leak, you know about the current state of the case, and I know about it. That's where it stops. Understood?"

Chloe nodded, as she stood up, and stretched her legs off. "Yes, sir." As she walked toward the main road by the park, her mind swirled. 

We have a leak? Who? And why the fuck would he think I'm compromised for the mere suggestion of taking Maxine alive? Ah, to hell with it. Why the fuck can these assignments never be something simple, like 'Enter, Shoot Commie, Leave'?

She flagged down a taxi, electing instead to go to her safe-house. Her mind was too full of unanswered questions to survive a question session with another potential lead, instead she figured on hitting up the local bars. Her mind was so overburdened, in fact, that she failed to notice the taxi, a couple of cars back, that followed hers.


Tempelhof District, Berlin

23.50 Local Time

Chloe stumbled back through the door, just about able to balance after the drinks she'd had. She realised midway through her fifth beer that the year-plus spent in an East German prison had made a significant impact on her alcohol tolerance. The spartan apartment was completely dark, until she swung a hand clumsily at the switch, casting a yellowish hue on the room. She noted that Prescott's effects had disappeared from the room, and she grinned to herself with some extent of satisfaction.

I suppose this is a perk of things being made even more secret now. I get a whole safe-house apartment, all to myself. Oh yes.

The rain outside pattered softly against the window, drawing her attention slightly to it. On the inside of the windowsill, her side of the window, sat on end a pair of spent brass shell casings. A pair of nine-millimetre, Russian-made spent shell casings. Her drunken stupor gave way to a cold shudder of fear. Someone, whoever had killed Mayer in front of her eyes, and taken a shot at her earlier, had been in here! Chloe stumbled across the room, almost tripping over several objects as she went, praying in the back of her mine that it was a twisted hallucination, a sick joke her mind was playing on her. her hand grasped one casing and knocking the other over, scrutinising it in an increasing panic. Definitely the right type for a Vintorez, and no doubt the ones that has been used to eliminate Mayer- and her almost with him. Her eyes caught something, outside the window. Stood under the streetlight, on the other side of the road, not even thirty metres away. A woman, standing sentinel in the rain, gazing up at her apartment window. It was a mere silhouette, but its very shape matched almost perfectly that of the woman she had encountered earlier that day, the figure of Maxine Caulfield. A truck came along the street darkened, carrying a haze of spray from the downpour in its wake. The headlights illuminated the figure, gradually brighter and brighter as it closed distance. The clothing she had been wearing- a pair of plain leather boots, reaching up to her mid-calf; a somewhat slim pair of jeans, torn in a few places; a simple flannel-like shirt just slightly visible under the black trench coat that covered most of her, that was slick and shining with the incessant rain. That hairstyle, dampened down so that it stuck to the edges of her face, which a chiaroscuro in the brightening light from the truck. An expression of sadness, even grief, on her face, as the water shimmered ever so slightly as the light hit it. The truck passed in front of her, blocking Chloe's view for a matter of moments. The thin spray from the truck settled, and the figure was gone. Vanished, as if into thin air. Chloe's heart continued to hammer away in her chest at what she was now guessing was her third close encounter with the Deer in the space of mere hours.

Despite the alcohol in her system, Chloe couldn't find it in her to sleep that night, her mind a volatile mix of unanswered questions and unkempt fear at the thought of being paid a second, less subtle visit in the night. It would definitely have been Chloe's next move, at any rate.

Chapter Text

  Somewhere in West Berlin

September 4th, 1987

05.40

Max awoke with a burning sensation in her eyes. The same stinging she'd woken up experiencing every day since that one day. Rarely had she killed someone, and had to live with it; Uncle Walter was the obvious exception, apparently. Every night for the last two months, she had cried herself to sleep, unable to think of anything beyond what she had lost. Every night, she had the same nightmare over and over. The format was slightly different now and again, but it was essentially identical in the point it put across. Her Uncle Mayer sat across from her, as she was fixed immobile in an interrogation chair. The gore still dripped from his chest where the bullet had torn him open, his complexion deathly pale. In place of a torture chamber was his office, complete with the bloodied desk and shattered glassware where Der Amerikaner had been sat. The same question was reiterated, time and again, dripping crimson at the mouth.

"Why did you do it, Maxine?"

She shook her head, cupping her hands to her face and rubbing against her eyes so roughly that an onlooker would think she was going to gouge them out.

Stop being pathetic, Max. You still have work to do. The rationalising voice in the back of her head, as cold and compassionless as it was, had most certainly served well to keep her sane so far. She swung herself out of the bed with a groan, rolling her various joints to make sure they all still worked as intended. She shuffled into the bathroom, clumsily grabbing the cord as she entered to illuminate the windowless room. The light's warm yellow glow spilled out into the dawn-lit main area. As ever, she was awake before sunrise, and a dim grey hue seeped in from the windows, a mixture of streetlights at the edges of their illumination and natural light. She leaned against the faucet for a few minutes, staring at herself. She was a mess, that she was willing to accept: her hair was unkempt and unruly, there were likely beggars with hair that was in a better condition; her eyes were red-rimmed and damp from the caustic tears she'd emptied across her pillow on goodness-knows-how-many occasions. She was barely keeping her form as it was, her frame being slightly more emaciated than she desired it to be. She wasn't on top form, but she still had enough of a fight left in her.

"If der Amerikaner were to burst through the door now, you would be utterly fucked." She muttered to herself, with a dark chuckle. The thought reminded her of that night, the night that she had paid her hunter a visit. The look on her drunk face, even from the distance she was at, had made it worthwhile. She pondered whether the other agent had actually slept that night, on account of such a close encounter with death. Her second that day, in fact.

I sure to hell wouldn't be sleeping if she had done that to me. I'd have gone after the bitch, gotten her back and more. I suspect she can't wait to try and do just that. Then we'll see who the better agent really is.

She pulled the thin shirt she had slept in over her head and cast it into a corner in the room, her underwear following shortly after as she stepped into the smooth porcelain tub and turned the dial on the wall. A slight smile graced her lips as the hot water flowed across her body, steam rising up, clouding the bathroom and spilling out of the open door as it went. There was perhaps work to be done today, but it could wait until she had enjoyed a shower in peace, at the very least.


CIA Safehouse, West Berlin

07.40

Chloe stirred from her elusive good night's sleep with a soft yawn, screwing her eyes shut and opening them. She growled to herself, instantly regretting the decision, as the sun bore into her eyes from the uncovered windows.

Fuck, I've slept in today. She thought to herself as she noted the time of day. A further frown graced her face as another detail occurred to her. I've got to go report in, too. Double fuck!

Her last two months had been equal parts frustrating and exhausting. Every time she came within grasp of the Deer - Maxine- she slipped through her fingers. It was as though she could see the future, at that. Or, someone on the inside was helping her, telling her when Chloe was within striking distance. The closest Chloe had gotten to taking her out was breaking through the door of a seldom-frequented BND hideout to see her quarry slip into the bathroom and out of a window. Incidentally, that encounter had been the closest she had come to death since being sat in Mayer's office: as she moved to pursue Maxine and entered the bathroom, she felt the slight resistance of a wire against her shin, followed by the unmistakable click of a grenade pin being pulled out and the loud crack of its chemical fuse lighting. The small round explosive dropped onto the floor at her feet. Needless to say, there were a thousand thoughts running through her mind in that instant, and if she'd been in need of an improvised laxative, it would've done wonders. She'd leapt into the cast bathtub, crashing against its solid bed, moments before a piercing crack and a shockwave that shook the tub, pieces of fragmented metal erupting out from the trap she had triggered as her hearing was drowned by a high-pitched ringing. A few yelped curses as some of the fragments landed in the tub with her, still hot enough to burn. She subconsciously rubbed her wrist, where one such scar remained, scowling. I am going to make her fucking suffer when I see her. First, she tries using me for target practice; then, she leaves a fucking leaving present for me. I'll fucking well teach her some goddamned manners.

The snarky part of her mind, as ever, looked on the flipside of the encounter. Or, you can thank her for using a four-second fuse rather than the instant-detonation fuse she should have used.

She frowned as she thought some more about it more, in the wider context of what had happened two months earlier. Yeah, what's up with that? Two chances where she's had the chance to kill me, three if you count her breaking into my apartment, and yet I'm still alive. Why hasn't she taken the opportunity when she's had it?

The phone rang on its table as she puzzled over the question. After a few moments, she picked up the receiver, her face screwing up into an uncomfortable expression as she heard the voice at the other end of the line.

"Price. You're supposed to have been here thirty minutes ago, you do realise?" Director Andrews uttered, with an obvious level of annoyance in his voice.

Trying to take some of the disdain out of her own voice, she answered. "I'm aware of that, Director. I've only been awake for about ten minutes, I didn't get to sleep until about one this morning." A small lie, but one she was confident she could slip by him.

A sigh on the other end of the line. "Very well. Hansaplatz Station, in one hour. Don't be late again." The call cut abruptly, before she could answer with anything else. She lazily slung the handset back onto the table, not bothering to put it back on its hook. Andrews was a dick at the best of times, but his tone there had sounded all kinds of wrong, far more abrasive than normal. He seemed impatient. Part of Chloe's mind was telling her that it was down to her being an hour late; another reminded her that he knew she was far from punctual at the best of times. Something was off about his tone and she wasn't sure what exactly it was. If nothing else, then boy did he seem to have a hard-on for getting Maxine dealt with.

One way to find out , she mused to herself as she slipped some clothes on. As she headed for the door, she glanced at her father's trusty handgun, lying where she had left it. Yet to be fired in anger on her excursions. After a few moment's consideration, she swiped it up in her palm, checking the safety and tucking it down the back of her jeans, her jacket concealing it from view.

Just in case.


West Berlin

8.40 am

Max shuddered a little as an icy draught caught her. The weather was beginning to turn, that was a definite. Most of her attempts to find evidence had been fruitless as yet, save for a few tantalising hints. There was precious little she could do alone, however. She'd settled today to walk through one of the parks to take a break from everything, perhaps even clear her head a little in the process. Such an approach had served her well many times in the past: often, an idle thought had whilst taking time away from an investigation or suchlike would give her exactly the answer she was looking for. Indeed, it was a good idea in her eyes. For a Friday morning, it was relatively quiet. Granted, there were still a few dozen people milling about in the park, going about their own lives. A few men and women in business dress sat reading the local tabloids on the park benches, sensationalist garbage that it was. The paranoid voice in the back of her head told her that she was walking into a trap, but she shook off the thought. To the best of her knowledge, not even Stef knew where she was.

As she continued onward, she found herself less interested in her many problems and more taken in by the natural beauty of the park. Even the simpler things in life were now having a far greater meaning to her, like the chorus of birdsong, softly echoing throughout the park, the dulled colours of the leaves, still attached to their branches as they turned to browns and oranges, even the occasional playful shriek of a child, somewhere in the distance. There was some great level of joy she could take in slipping into the normal world around her. For a few moments, perhaps she was living a normal life, rather than that of a renegade spy. So enthralled was she in her surroundings that she hadn't noticed a youngish character- her age, maybe a little older- in a battered leather jacket, an appearance and style most would recognise as being part of a local gang of youths, walking toward her. He barged into her roughly, muttering a meaningless apology to Max as she snapped out of her daze.

Checking her pockets worriedly to ensure nothing had been stolen, she found a small cigarette packet, with a lipstick kiss on its exterior. She looked up, trying to locate the figure so that she could question them, but they had disappeared into the more crowded area of the park. She popped open the box, frowning in confusion at its contents. A reel of photographic film, used by the look of it, was coiled up within the box. She closed the lid and slotted it back into her pocket quickly, making her way back out of the park as fast as she could.

An hour and a half later, she slammed the door shut behind her, sweeping the room with her handgun in case there were any lurking threats. Naturally, the safehouse she had gone to was different to the one she'd stayed in for the last few days. Her experiences in the last eight weeks had shown her the prudence of such behaviour as, without fail, every safehouse she had used had been hit by either the West or the Commissariat soon after she had cleared out. Suitably satisfied that nobody was going to put a bullet in her back, she closed the curtains and flicked on the lights. On her way back, she had dropped by a library, one she knew from past experience had a scanner in the back corner. Not bothering to look properly at any of the images there and then, she hastily printed everything out- with innumerable apprehensive glances over her shoulder- before making for this safehouse. Now that she was alone, she began to ponder the images in front of her. The film had all kinds on it, from dossier pages- Stasi, KGB, even BND files it seemed- to photographs taken during stakeouts and more. Max sat agape as she read through a series of internal communications between the upper echelons of the Stasi, dated three weeks before her world was turned upside down:

Rotwild investigation suggests traitor within the Kommissariat.

Focus available resources to uncover and eliminate.

She read on. Another memo, dated the day before she had been unceremoniously uprooted and forced to flee for her life.

Information from Das Frettchen indicates Rotwild as prime suspect in assassination of Comrade Chairman Hammelberg. Rotwild also suggested as likely traitor. Locate and eliminate. Priority One.

It was an inside job! Max thought to herself as she dropped the sheet of paper back onto the table. I fucking knew it. But who? Who could it be? Max racked her brain for a few moments, before realising. Der Frettchen. I've heard of them, vaguely. Nobody knows who they are though. Now, if I were a traitor, that's who I'd be and what I'd do. Slowly, the cogs clicked into place in her head.

It has to be! Now, all I need is to try and find some fucking information about them and I might stand half a chance of nailing them!

Sure enough, as she pored through the other information, there was enough to confirm her suspicions: most of it was her own work, done whilst assigned to track down the traitor in the ranks.

As she was about to burn the upscaled photos, to get rid of any evidence, she noticed one final slide. A letter, one which she recognised the handwriting of immediately.

 

Hello Maxine, my dearest,

If you're reading this, then I owe Martin a favour or two when I see him next. These are some odd ends of information I was able to find for you.

I know you can only do so much, 'best spy in the East' or not. I've got more where this came from, if you're interested. You know where to find me.

Of course, if you are not Maxine and you are reading this, I look forward to putting a bullet in you, somewhere that'll hurt.

x

 

Max crumpled the piece of paper slightly, out of annoyance.

I'm going to have to pay her a visit, for her own damned safety.


  Approaching Hansaplatz U-Bahn Station

8.35 am

The subway train screeched along its tunnel, slowly meandering toward the station. Its lighting was a stale yellow, more or less matching that of the tiles adorning the support pillars Chloe had seen at the other U-Bahn stations. There was something far less enjoyable about these trains than, say, the London Underground, even if the latter was like being in a tin of sardines.

I suppose there's something about the Tube that makes it feel… alive, I guess.

She flinched slightly, reacting every now and again to the white flashes of electrical arcing, from the systems carrying the train onward. All the while, the squeals of metal on metal below her and the constant rattling of the boxy carriage being knocked about on its tracks were drowned out by her thoughts, once more running rampant in her mind. Most prominent were two: the Deer's apparent involvement in her father's demise some ten years ago; and the fact that, despite so many clear chances to kill her, Maxine had spared her life. Strangely, Chloe found that the latter question was the more prominent of the two.

Supposedly, she's killed numerous members of her own side up to now, without so much as a bat of an eyelid. Why would she go out of her way- rogue agent or not- to avoid harming me?

She ran her thumbnail between two teeth, removing some grime from underneath it that wasn't there, as she tried to rationalise her opponent's actions. After a number of minutes of hard thought, she drew a blank. Her mind was made up on one point, however.

Fuck what the brief says. If I get even half a chance at it, I'm taking Maxine- the Deer, even- alive. I need answers, at the very least.

After what felt like an eternity, the train careened to a halt with a deafening screech of wheels against track, and following an emotionless tone over the announcement speakers, the doors of the carriage clattered open, allowing her to step out. For a Friday morning, at rush hour no less, the station was remarkably quiet, just a few commuters going about their day. As the station emptied, and the train departed with a whirring of motors and the screeching of runner wheels against track, she took in the station a little.The air felt as stale here as the decor, the only mechanism driving any flow of the lukewarm fluid being the trains batting it aside as they approached and dragging it behind them as they departed the platforms. A little graffiti here and there, a common sight in these older stations. The tiled columns, somewhat distressed, the masonry crazed slightly on its surface. In appearance at least, it was almost identical to some of the subway stations she'd seen when she'd been through New York. She sighed, as she thought about how little of a life she'd had: the Agency had been almost everything she'd ever known for six years; she'd only been away from operations when there were none to go out on, or she was lying in hospital after one of her many unfortunate misadventures.

So many places I've visited, yet I've barely been anywhere. I swear, if I manage to leave this life behind me, one of the first things I'm doing is going out to explore the world.

 

"Price. About fucking time." A voice rang out from behind her, making her stiffen somewhat.

She turned on her heel, wiping the look of disgust from her face that she knew was there. "Director Andrews. Good morning." She addressed him as politely as she could, walking toward him as he leant against one of the columns.

"I was starting to wonder whether you'd be here or not. What have you got on the case?"

Chloe rolled her head to the side for a moment. "I've been making some progress, it's been-"

"Progress? Nearly nine weeks, and all you have to show for it is 'progress' ?" Andrews cut her off. As she opened her mouth to counter, he continued onward. "Price, this isn't one of those assignments where progress will do. We need results, and the sooner the better."

"Sir!" Chloe snapped, frustrated, "I'm getting close, I've almost lost track of how many times I've come within grasp of taking the Deer out."

"And yet every time, she eludes your grasp." Andrews highlighted, flatly.

Chloe stared back at him, equally uncertain and agitated.

"I never said the Deer was a woman."

Andrews sighed slightly. "Well, it's common knowledge that most of their top agents are women. At any rate, when you bother to provide mission reports, I do read them. Enough to see what's happening- or not. Like I said, how is it that Chloe Price, top operative , can manage to fuck up a simple 'Seek and Destroy' job?"

"Are you questioning my ability to do my job, or my loyalty?" Chloe snapped back, growing increasingly agitated.

Andrews looked her dead in the eyes. His expression was an icy cold, his eyes having the appearance of polished steel. "You know what, I'm not sure yet. For all I know, you could be the mole within our network." Chloe turned away to leave, mortified and enraged by the mere suggestion of accusation, but Andrews grabbed her by the arm.

"I wasn't finished. As much as I hate to admit it, you are easily the best agent out here. However, that isn't enough to protect you. Find the Deer and kill her, or I'll have to bring someone in who can. Are we clear?"

Chloe shook off his grip, and walked briskly for the stairwell.

Who the fuck does he think he is, accusing me of being the fucking traitor? She bounded up the steps to the street level, her feet striking with added vigour as she took out her anger. The cool breeze of the outdoors intermingled with the warm staleness of the underground as she approached the exit, the area beyond being nothing but a white glow from her perspective. Disregarding the signs adorning the sides of the entrance, she drew a cigarette from the packet in her jacket and slotted it between her lips, scanning the area in front of her as she lit the tip. A hard drag, forcing as much of the heated smoke down into her lungs, closing her eyes as the wave of nicotine washed over her. She rarely smoked any more- by contrast to her childhood, at any rate- but for once it was most certainly required. She blew the smoke back out through her nose as she ran her mind back over the meeting-cross-chastising she had just endured.

Well, I might as well have not bothered coming. "Kill her, or we'll bring in someone who can"? That's how he wants to be about it? Something feels way off about all of this, but I can't put my finger on it.

She shook her head, smothering the embers of her relief between thumb and forefinger, casting the half-consumed smoke into the nearest trash can.

Back to it, I suppose. I wish I could tell what's setting off my spider-senses. They haven't let me down so far.


East Berlin

12.20 pm

Stef opened the door to her apartment with a sigh, slipping her long jacket off of her arms as she stepped over the threshold of her apartment. It had been one hell of a long day: almost the entirety of the Directorate had been tasked to hunt down Maxine, and she- while being given far more autonomy than the rest of the underlings- was no exception. It was the Devil's own job to figure out how to help her, whilst appearing to be doing her job. She ran a hand through the hair on the back of her head as she released another deep sigh, weighting the keys in her hand.

However did you end up in such a mess, Maxine? As good as you are, I fear you can't outrun the world forever.

She pushed the door behind her shut with one hand, as she dropped the keys onto where she expected the small table by the door to be. Instead of the sound of metal connecting with the cheap wooden top, there was a slight chinking noise, as they were intercepted by something softer. Before Stef had a time to put the pieces together, she was being pinned against the door, a pair of hands clamped around the insides of her elbows, restraining her arms against her attempts to move them, a knee pressed against her hip to keep her in place. Her breath caught in her throat for a moment as her heart rate skyrocketed. Then, she caught the faintest scent of her mystery assailant. She relaxed, chuckling slightly.

"Still got your keys, I see?" She purred.

"Stef, seriously! I'm glad you're trying to help me, but for your own sake, it's got to stop!" Max hissed back, irritated.

"Ah! So, I do owe Martin a few favours!"

Max eased up a little. "Anyone else would suspect you're trying to get poor Kolibri into trouble, as if he's not had enough for a lifetime. Also, if you wouldn't mind…" Max glanced down, toward Stef's boot, raised up the inside of her leg. At its tip, a small blade- no doubt laced with poison of some horrific kind- was pressed against Max's inner thigh, uncomfortably close to her groin. With a wry smile, Stef brought her foot back to the floor. Max refused to let her move away from the wall, however, keeping her pinned there.

Stef countered Max's earlier statement, in her typically blasée manner. "Martin understands what it's like to have the Directorate turn its back, cast you out. Sure, he was a little reluctant, especially given that the West have only just stopped trying to collect his head for what happened around Able Archer , and our superiors have finally let him live in peace, but when I explained it to him…"

Max raised an eyebrow. " Explained ?"

Stef shot her back- playfully- an insulted look. "Hey, don't get my methods mixed up with Nina's. I don't coerce and bully our own agents, much less stick guns in their faces."

Max's expression softened into a sarcastically questioning look, not speaking a word.

Stef's cheeks went slightly red. "Okay, you've got me there. But , I only do that to the operatives I don't like. And I like Martin, we go a ways back. God, I basically played counsellor for him and Annette, when they were… you know…"

Max giggled slightly, remembering the stories she'd heard of such counselling sessions, and leaned back, taking her hands off of Stef's arms and releasing her from the wall. Stef briefly rubbed the crooks of her elbows, sore from having had Max's weight directed onto them for however long. Before Max had a chance to react, she wrapped her arms around Max's torso, planting a kiss on her forehead. Max blushed, as Stef gave a wider, wry smirk.

"Damn you for being taller, Stef." Max quietly muttered. Stef lifted her up slightly, so that their eyes met  more closely.

"Damn you for being shorter, Max." She countered with another smile, before their lips met once more.

Chapter Text

Somewhere in Charlottenburg

25th September, 1987

6.50 am

 

Chloe jolted awake once more, faintly hearing the rhythm of drumbeat and bars of electric guitar through the radio by her bedside, briefly interjected by the dulcet tones of the DJ running the show. She grinned mischievously at the mess of wires sprawling from the back of the radio resulting from her 're-tuning' it to pick up one of the pirate stations that she'd come to know and love during her time in-country. If anything, it was a surprise to her that it hadn't been raided or shut down. Her thoughts turned back to the radio and the not-exactly-factory-spec state it was in.

Illegal? Almost certainly. Do I care? Absolutely fucking not. She mused, wondering what penalty if any would be levelled against her. I mean, the very worst charge they can write me up for is vandalising the set, and even then that's fucking pennies to fix. Probably out of my paycheck, but what the hell. Totally worth it for some decent music.

 

She swung herself out of bed and landed her feet squarely on the floor, wincing a bit as she caught a sore section of her leg, having cut it open on a chain-link fence while she was scoping a hideaway out in the relict industrial areas on the outskirts of town. A hand caressed the raised line of the healing tissue down her calf, as she cursed herself.

Dumbass. Double-dumbass, in fact. She chuckled as she made herself a coffee, remembering just how quickly she'd scaled the fence again as the hound on the other side had given chase, and how the seat of her pants had only barely escaped the living shredder that was the jaws of the Schnauzer ( all while fully expecting to be mauled by the furball that dog was, Chloe thought, amused) that gave chase like a heat-seeking - or perhaps scream-seeking- missile. As much as Chloe loved to play the tough badass, even she wasn't above squealing in terror and running as fast as her legs could carry her when a hundred-plus pounds of four-legged fury was actively looking to snack on a prime side of Price.

 

Besides that, the last few weeks had been as frustrating as ever, the Deer once again slipping her grasp with impunity. More problematic was the condition of her backup, or more correctly the lack of it. As per one meeting with the disgruntled prick of a boss that she had the misfortune of working for, Prescott had dropped clean off the radar.

 

'Not even MI6 knows where he is right now, nor what his intentions are , he'd remarked, 'So frankly, any idea of co-operation is to take a flying fucking leap. As far as I'm concerned, he's rogue. You see him, you put a bullet in him. Clear?'

 

Chloe turned her nose up slightly at the thought. As much as she would happily run Nathan over with a train given half a chance, she felt somewhat less compelled to harm him when she was being ordered to do it. It was yet another thing she hadn't quite wrapped her head around why, but something about being ordered to kill someone made her inclined to do the exact opposite- Take Maxine, for example - every time. She sat down at the table as she sipped her drink, poring over the files detailing the Deer's alleged deeds in the time it had taken her thus far on the assignment.

 

Basically, Andrews is trying to hate-mail and guilt-trip me over taking so long to catch a ghost , Chloe's opinion was on the situation. 

 

Frankly, I'd love to see someone come in and try and do my job right now, alone. A city of three million people, spread over three hundred square miles, and yet somehow it's my fault that things aren't moving fast enough? She scoffed at the thought, turning back to the contents of the various files. Even in her objective opinion, however, if even half of this was true she needed to get her act together and fast . As far as the information in black and white in front of her was concerned, Maxine seemed dead set on starting World War Three. Or, at the very least, stealing the right information and destabilising the right things on this side of the Wall to be able to sell the means of starting it to the highest bidder. The problem was, without a workable lead on Maxine, she couldn't even pursue her, much less stop her.

 

The epiphany hit her as the ceramic came back to touch her lip, her arm freezing in place mid-gulp.

 

And I've got the solution. Club Honecker. She yelped, as the throbbing of pain from her tongue reminded her that it was still in the remainder of her mug of coffee.


Karl-Marx Straße, Neukölln, West Berlin

8.00 am

 

Chloe rolled her shoulders briefly as she got off of the crowded U-Bahn, stepping into the semi-humid air of the station. It was quite busy for a Friday, unusually so in Chloe's opinion. A mix of commuters and the odd tourist, all fighting for floorspace as they battered their path across the station and toward the stairs. Chloe moved through the crowd defensively, trying not to barge anyone over as she made her way out of the station

No need to start shit with people I don't need to today. Nope, I've got a big enough hornet's nest to stir up. She reasoned, taking a quiet gasp as she met the cooler air where the steps to the U-Bahn spilled out into the street. Above ground, it was the same story as below: for whatever reason today, this quarter of Berlin was alive, moreso than she was used to seeing. Chloe shook her head. Relax, seriously! You're that far out of sync with the land of the normal that it could be a national holiday and you'd be none the wiser.

 

Chloe had always found it somewhat ironic that one of the biggest and most notorious underground bars for Eastern sympathisers was on the Straße - well, just down an alley adjacent, but same difference- and that nobody had ever bothered shutting the place down or raiding it.

Then again, she realised, it's a goldmine for information from over the Wall. Pretty sure that almost all the bar staff are part of, or are related to, the KGB or the Stasi, if not both. She approached the entrance, her eyes scanning around for any trace of danger before she closed on the door. It was nothing particularly fancy, and to anyone not aware of what lay behind it. Just a simple, battered, slightly corroded metal door, not unlike the rest that led into cellars along the alleyway. She took a few paces toward the featureless concrete steps, when she heard a flurry of movement to her side. A rough-looking man, her age at best, if not younger, burst from his concealment by the dumpster she'd missed, brandishing a knife. He took a few steps toward her, his face belying his surprise when she stood her ground. He waved the blade in her face.

 

"Gib mir dein Geld, Schlampe!" He barked. 

 

Chloe rolled her eyes profusely, further aggravating the thug that was holding her at knifepoint. What a fucking tool, he'd probably shit his pants if he had even the slightest idea who he was fucking with right now. Boy, he's about to get some hell of an education if he doesn't fuck off this instant.

 

"Really? You think this is going to end well in any way for you?" Chloe replied, not bothering with giving him the courtesy of his native tongue. The thug was gradually becoming more aggressive, the wild movements of the knife edging ever-closer to her cheek. Chloe's smart-mouthing had evidently pissed him off some more, as well.

 

"Jetzt!" He shouted at her, once more. She sighed, frustrated.

 

"Alright, I'll give you one more chance. Get the fuck out of my way, right now , and I promise I won't hurt you."

 

Her aggressor pressed himself against her, knocking her back against the wall. He reeked of piss and alcohol, mainly the former. And that was just his breath. The knife's edge was pressed against the side of her neck, forcing her into taking a shallow breath. Chloe decided that enough was enough. 

Fucker's had his chances. Now to take his ass to school.

 

Before he knew what was happening, Chloe had shot an arm up the inside of his and grabbed his wrist, twisting it and its blade violently away from her neck with a crunch and a howl from her hapless assailant. Not quite finished yet, she brought her foot up and stamped down hard on the instep of his knee, a soft and disconcerting ‘pop’ under her foot. The barely-intelligible scream of agony from her foe told her that her work was done. She pushed the broken man away from her as he lay, crying and whimpering among the garbage littering the floor. Chloe shook her head with a small smile to her lips, as she straightened her jacket up again.

 

Well, you were warned, asshole. Hope you like hospital food and crutches. She thought once more, giving his pathetic form a final glance as she opened the door with a grating sound. 

 

The corridor leading to Club Honecker was just as she remembered it being: plain, featureless, save for the dark stains on the carpet- from what, I don't wanna know - and bathed in a red hue of light from the bulbs haphazardly screwed into the ceiling sockets. The monotone wallpaper was peeling away from places against the wall along its seams, and also had a number of dark blotches along its base where it was roughly halted by a worn and splintered runner board along each side. It even smelled as she remembered it, the mix of metal and faint ammonia giving some hint as to what made up the various marks and blotches on the floor and walls. Chloe made a mental note to clean her boots off as soon as she possibly could after leaving. Or burn them. In fact, the latter may be a better idea, urgh. Attempting to minimize her grimace of displeasure at the dismal hygiene of the corridor, she reached the door at the far end, the faint muffled sounds of activity on the opposite side becoming more pronounced as she reached it. As she placed a hand on the handle, the door was roughly pulled open from the inside, dragging her into the room behind. The light was far dimmer in here, and Chloe's eyes strained to adjust. The door was slammed shut behind her and a soft click pronounced itself against the side of her head. The rest of the room had fallen silent.

 

"No funny business, miss-" The bouncer got as far as saying before Chloe acted, taking hold of his hand roughly and snapping his fingers back as they gripped the handgun, producing another loud snapping noise. The bouncer cried out in pain as she forced the weapon toward the floor and pulled it from his hand, driving a knee into his groin and scraping the foot back down his shin as she went. The unsuspecting man-mountain collapsed to the floor, groaning, as Chloe brought his weapon to bear against him, pointed squarely at his chest. The sound of clothing moving all across the room and a variety of clicks brought her back to her senses, as she took a glance. Sure enough, every patron in the club had brought their own piece to bear on her, the faint glint of steel being visible no matter where she looked.. She chuckled to herself, applying the safety to the weapon.

 

"I would highly appreciate you not killing this one, Von Preußen." A voice called from behind the bar. Sure enough, there was the owner of the joint, looking as rough and bedraggled as ever, pointing his ever-faithful Mauser carbine at her. She shrugged, grinning as she loosely threw the weapon onto its owner who responded with a grunt, recoiling slightly as it struck him square in the stomach. Chloe strode toward the bar as the patrons in the bar slowly holstered their arms and resumed their business. Another glance around the room revealed that- in however long it had been since her last visit- little if anything had changed about the styling of the place. Same old shit-pit.

 

"Hey, in my defence, I didn't kill the last bouncer you had." Chloe replied, cheekily, as she approached the bar and took a seat on the least grotty-looking stool she could find gingerly. "And would it kill you to deep-clean that entrance? I mean, deep-clean as in 'take a match and a jerry can to the fucker'? " She did her best to conceal her discontent at the aforementioned stool feeling damp and sticky under her, trying her best to suppress her thoughts as to what the substance or substances may be. Add another item of clothing to the burn list , she noted.

 

The owner remained expressionless for a moment. "Sure, you didn't kill the last bouncer. Only broke his skull, three vertebrae, several ribs, both his arms, dislocated a knee… oh, and you pretty much burst one of his kidneys as well. Just in case the rest of his injuries weren't enough," he reminded her. A slight smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. "Now, what does the Mistress of Prague desire here? A companion, perhaps? Or would you like me to see if your dear Stefanie is in town?" He taunted, giving his typical hoarse laugh as he did. A few of the other people within range to hear him joining in as well. Chloe appreciated the dim lighting of the club, as it hid well her red flush of utter humiliation. She tapped the side of her jacket, reminding him that she was armed herself. 

"Don't tempt me to shoot you, Franz. I'm not in a patient mood today." She growled in a low tone, glowering at him.

 

Franz cut off his laughter with a sigh. "Ah, you Amerikaden, never a sense of humour when it comes to laughing at yourselves. Now, seriously, what do you want here?"

 

Chloe rolled her head to one side, stretching her neck slightly to iron out some of the lingering stiffness. "A drink, firstly, my usual. Then, I want some information. And I know you're good for it."

 

Franz shook his head. "Always straight to the point. Why do you guys never take the time to relax, appreciate a bit of peace and quiet. One moment, I'll get you your drink." He muttered, turning his back to pour out Chloe's drink of choice here- a double measure of whiskey, same again of Bärenfang, and the tumbler topped up to three-quarters with something a little more exotic that Franz had gotten his hands on some years earlier from out in the Orient, called Krating Daeng. Chloe's name for this mess of alcohol, caffeine and whatever else was a 'Tankbuster' , an apt enough name given that it could- and had, as she remembered- knock out even the toughest-looking of people. Chloe grasped the tumbler and tipped a mouthful of the concoction into her mouth, shuddering slightly as the mixture made its way down her throat. A slight gasp escaped her lips as she exhaled.

 

"Now, that's a drink." She whispered, smiling to herself. 

 

Franz also smiled somewhat. "Good to see a year or so at the Kommissariat's pleasure hasn't knocked your strange-as-fuck tastes out of alignment. No idea who else would buy this Thai shit otherwise." He tapped a finger on the stained and scarred wood under his palm. Chloe rolled her eyes, producing a couple of bills from her pocket and laying them onto the bar, which Franz took in with an open palm.

 

"I'll take it this extra money is to do with the second part of your business here?" 

 

Chloe nodded. "Naturally. What, you think I'd expect it of you without payment? No doubt you've heard who the Agency and the Service are running round after?"

 

Franz's expression took a darker turn, as he put up a hand to halt her. "Not out here. Backroom." He instructed, gesturing to another of the bar workers to take his place. Chloe complied immediately- rubbing a hand across her pants in disgust at the residue that had been left- and followed him through into another area of the club, slightly more sterile and clean in nature. The texture of the surfaces inside was different, a pitted sort of foam. The guards stood inside moved for their weapons, but Franz waved them down.

 

"It's alright. For once, she isn't here to try and smash someone's head to pieces."

 

The two men flanking the door relaxed- marginally- and begrudgingly holstered their arms. One closed and bolted the door behind them, sealing the virtually-soundproofed room off from the hubbub of the club outside.

 

Chloe gave Franz a smirk. "I do hope we're not in the Quiet Room so that you or your cronies can beat the shit out of me."

 

Franz chuckled, heartily. "Now, would I do that?" he remarked. His chuckle slowly faded, as Chloe gave him a look brimming with snark, and the answer to his rhetorical question. "Alright, alright, perhaps I would. But, not today. No, I'll just leave your past… wrongdoings , shall we say, on your tab."  Chloe simply rolled her eyes again.

“You sound like my mom used to, putting that on your tab and all.” 

 

Franz stared at her, a look that would be best described as embarrassment written onto his aging features. “Do me a favour, Price. Don’t liken me to your mother ever again, okay?” He fumed.

 

Chloe simply smiled. “So, what do you have for me?” she implored, again.

 

Clearing his throat slightly- if only to offset the awkwardness- Franz dug out a folder from his desk, to one side of the door. “This,” he began, flicking open the battered leather front, “is probably the most valuable thing I own. Not the clubs, not the other stuff that I own… This.”

 

Chloe couldn’t conceal her surprise very well. “ Clubs? " She repeated, astonished. "I was under the impression that this was the only spot you owned. God, the Ministry of Health would have a field day if they knew,” she noted.

 

Frank chuckled darkly. “Probably. Or if my guards didn’t make them disappear. Now, this file contains everything I get in from my contacts. Perhaps it would surprise you to know that I have eyes almost everywhere in this city.”

 

Chloe kept a somewhat more calm expression than previously, in spite of the revelation being more surprising than Franz owning multiple businesses. With that much money to throw around, surely he has the disposable income to get them fixed up?

 

“Price, are you fucking high?” Franz’s voice cut through her internal monologue. 

 

“Huh?” Chloe grunted, taken off-guard.

Franz rubbed a hand down his face, irritated. “God, you Amerikade should learn to fucking listen sometimes. Okay, what you missed while you were spaced the fuck out was this: I know more about who moves where than anyone you’ll find. You morons in the intelligence services grope around in the darkness, while here I am, enjoying a crystal-clear view of everything. Take a look if you don't believe me,” he grumbled, boastingly, as he gestured to the file now spread over the desk. Chloe let out a low whistle as she scanned over the headers of the documents, memos, dossiers. Name an intelligence service, and sure enough, its information was in Franz’s hands, open to anyone with enough hard cash.

 

“Impressive, Franz. Knew you’d have something worth spilling, rather than a guard’s blood,” Chloe asserted.

 

Franz merely tipped his head, concurring. “So it would seem. To save you some of the legwork, I’ve already had a look through. It would seem as though someone has been pulling the strings with regard to your dear Rotwild. From what I've seen, they aren't KGB and they sure as hell aren't Stasi either. Given the number of memos here from the Britischer Geheimdienst , I wouldn't be too surprised if they were behind it. One hell of an intelligence coup, that's for sure." He added.

 

Chloe's brow furrowed as she thought harder about that possibility. "But what could they possibly stand to gain from having her killed as well as disavowed? I mean, surely the bigger coup would be to displace her and flip her, wouldn't it?" She queried. At the very least, I'd like to think the Agency wouldn't pull some bullshit like that on me.

 

A simple grunt from Franz. "So you would think. Perhaps, whoever is pulling the strings here has done so in the past. Again, my sources reliably inform me that the Deer was leading up an investigation into a traitor in the ranks of the KGB shortly before all of this started happening. A double agent, if you will. As far as I've heard, there is one hiding somewhere, and I don't mean on one side of the wall or another: I have it on good authority that they've been playing both sides for at least twenty years," Franz divulged, stopping there for a few moments to let the information register fully in Chloe's mind. Her face fell slightly as she rationalised everything.

 

"Of course. Maxine comes close to finding the double agent within the KGB. They freak out, murder some high-up asshole, pin it on her. Then …" She stopped dead in her tracks as the dots connected. "Then on our side, they set the Deer up as some kind of 'massive threat to us' and order her killed. She's dead, they're still hidden, case closed." 

 

Franz gave her another, slightly more serious looking smile. "So it would seem. Anything else you would like while I'm here?"

 

Chloe shook her head, taking in hand the information she had been given. "Just keep me up to date." She responded, taking out a pen and scribbling an address onto Franz's notebook. "If you get any other good leads, that's where you'll find me." Giving a brief wave and a bird to the nearest guard as she strode out the door. 

 

Franz merely shook his head. "That fucking girl will be my undoing, some day," he sneered, thinking aloud.


 

Max was sat in a more dimly-lit corner of the bar than perhaps she would have normally, sipping on her drink while she waited for Franz to appear. Of all the people she knew, he was her safest bet for information.

He knows so much that not even Der Amerikaden want to touch him , she figured. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a commotion at the front door, as a guard flung open the door and held the young woman dragged in by it at gunpoint. She was sure she knew the figure, but in the dimness she couldn't quite tell. She smirked to herself as she watched the events unfold from there, as the woman felled him like a groaning old oak. A further glance around the main area showed that almost every man and his wench had drawn on their arms and had them pointed at her. Max sniggered. Well, if they open fire, they're likelier to kill each other than her.  

 

"I would highly appreciate you not killing this one, Von Preußen." The gruff voice from behind the bar boomed out, emanating from a man behind the bar who looked to have seen the world, an old carbine from the last world war aimed at the woman causing all the trouble as well. Max felt a slight shiver pass through her as she realised who the woman was. 

 

That's her, the woman who was in with Uncle Walter! What the hell is she doing in here?

 

She looked on again, to see this woman- Von Preußen- carelessly throw the guard's gun back onto him, before striding toward the bar and sheepishly sitting onto a bar stool. Max cringed slightly as she chuckled to herself.

Oh, that was a bad idea! She's going to hate trying to clean that shit out of those jeans. The murmuring buzz of the bar had returned, so Max couldn't make out any of the conversation between the two. All she could see was Franz's expression change, before beckoning her to follow him. She caught a glimpse of her surreptitiously trying to wipe a hand over the seat of her pants as she did. Her eyes followed her arch-nemesis across the room, walking awkwardly on account of whatever was still plastered to her trousers. Taking in her features more properly, from her dark blonde hair, a mess that came about halfway down her neck; the face, slight shadows from marks, no doubt caused by being as roughly handled as Max had been over the years- and then there were her eyes. Mein gott, Max thought, utterly absorbed by their brilliant blue. Her eyes cast lower over her neckline, and down her shoulders. Her biceps, even somewhat concealed by the old Deutsches Heer jacket she wore, looked pretty muscular and well-formed, the veins in her forearms- equally well-built- bulging out just slightly. Even in the dim light, Max could make out all the nicks and rips, small as they were, across the various points on the fabric, no doubt the result of many a close scrape with death. As her eyes pored her body, she felt her cheeks get a little warmer still; the jacket of her adversary accentuating her outline from chest to hips in just the right manner, tightening subtly around her upper chest, and tapering further as it ran down her body. The lines of her bust, slightly muffled by the neutrally-designed jacket, were still just about visible to anyone looking closely as she was. The jeans she wore were weathered, as the jacket and she herself was, and followed the line of her legs perfectly; her hips, albeit covered in their upper parts, bulged out against her clothing slightly, lending volume to her thighs, which appeared lithe and formly even beneath the denim; her calves were equally as shapely and smooth as they ran down into the old American military boots on her feet, scuffed and scratched across the black leather which came up to meet the base of her calves.. As she disappeared into the back room that doubled as both a staffroom of sorts and Franz's office, Max had to bury her face in her sleeve as she took a few deep breaths, burning up from her cheeks down to her stomach. My my, is she something. Why do the enemy always have to be so damned pretty? She shook her head, trying in vain to rid herself of the various not-very-platonic, relatively erotic thoughts brewing in the back of her mind. Come on, Max, you still have work to do. Honestly, you'll never get anything done if you can't stop being so gay for even twenty minutes. Except maybe her... truly a horrific distraction. A glance up at the door revealed the young woman, this Von Preußen, leaving once more. 

 

Allowing her enough time to leave, and allowing herself a few moments to compose herself and get an extent of the blushing out of her cheeks, she stood up and moved towards the door. Not bothering to knock, she strode straight in. Again, the guards drew upon their weapons before Franz waved them down, all the while looking visibly surprised.

 

"Well well well, fancy having both the best American agent and the best- sorry, ex -best Russian in my office in the space of ten minutes." Max uppercut the air and smacked a hand down on her bicep, her face snarled in aggravation,  as he continued. "So, what business have you here?"

 

Max grinned. "Information, natürlich. Just the one piece, however. And you know I'm good for it." 

 

Franz returned the smile. " Natürlich. What would be this piece of information that you want?"

 

Max exhaled, leaning against Franz's desk. "That Amerikaner. Do you know where she is staying at the moment?"

 

Franz's brow furrowed. "Now, hold on just a moment. You do realise she is currently leading- no, she IS- the Western task force assigned to put your head on a silver plate, yes?"

 

Max nodded. "Of course I do, she was in the verdammt room when I had to take out Uncle Walter." She admitted, her voice becoming quieter toward the end of the sentence as she struggled to purge the emotions from her voice.

 

"So, it was you who pulled the hit, was it?" Franz probed. 

 

Max nodded again, sullen. "Yes." She croaked. "Now, where is she?"

 

"No. I can't have you going round, killing off my other clients, can I?" Franz articulated.

Max simply gave him a knowing stare. "Who said anything about killing her?" she exhorted.

 

Franz's eyes opened wider, briefly, before he acknowledged her. "Ah." He grabbed a pencil from the table and scribbled down the address he had been left. As he went to hand the scrap of paper to Max, he was interrupted by the sound of clothing moving and a handgun being drawn. A gunshot range out, making Max jump. She glanced up to see Franz, Luger in hand, barrel smoking. She spun to look behind her. The guard by the door had his gun in his hand, but he looked unsteady on his feet. He put a hand to his jacket, it coming away red and glistening. His eyes appeared to glaze over as he slumped to the floor. "Anyone else want me to reconsider their contract?" He demanded, as he put his gun back on the desk. The surviving guards backed down immediately, as Franz handed over the slip with the address scrawled across it.

 

"There we go. Now you be safe, it'd be a shame to lose someone as good as you." Franz enunciated, as Max waved him goodbye and headed for the door.

___

Chloe took a deep breath as she pushed open the rusted door once more and found her way back out into the street, retching a bit as the scent of the fresh air and the reek of the corridor mixed in her nostrils. She shuddered, still coughing softly under her breath as she slammed the door shut behind her. There must have been a shower or a downpour while she had been inside, as the alleyway now had a few small pools of water formed in the dips where the asphalt and concrete had been worn down, the human detritus of old newspaper and other discarded objects sodden by the rain. Chloe noticed in passing, while concerning herself as best she could with clearing the vile stench from her nose before her stomach

 

Jesus fucking Christ, egh! That stinks worse than I remember. She ran a hand across the back of her pants again, now that she was less likely to be being watched from a distance, and grimaced openly at the slimy residue still coating her pants. She roughly wiped it off on her thigh, not even entertaining the idea of finding out what it smelled of, balling her fist up and rubbing her fingers against her palm some more in utter disgust at the circumstance.

So long as I don’t smell like I’ve shit my pants, I can live with it for now. Seriously, Franz, would it kill you to fucking clean the place once in a lifetime or three?! As it was, it- thankfully- wasn’t making moving about uncomfortable, so she could at least walk normally in spite of the fact. She had no idea of how long her meeting with Franz had taken, but the street outside seemed to have emptied out somewhat, even through her narrow view of the alleyway. She stepped out into the street, rolled her shoulders, and begun the short walk back toward the U-Bahn. As she glanced around, she found it increasingly unusual that there was such an absence of people milling about in the street. She shot a look at her watch.

Two in the afternoon. Something isn’t right, there should be way more activity than this around here right now. Even the homeless bums aren’t around, and they don’t tend to move on for anyone or anything. Even with the rain, most people here couldn’t give a fuck. No, this isn’t right.

She glanced inside some of the cars still festooning the areas on both sides of the sidewalk as she passed them: some of them still had keys in the ignition, some even still had the engines warm or running- almost as though their drivers had vanished into thin air. It made almost no sense to Chloe as she As she pondered this, a black sedan approached from behind her, moving slowly in the same direction as her. Its tire caught a puddle on the road, alerting Chloe to its presence. She glanced toward it, almost failing to pay any real attention as she puzzled the mystery of the near-empty street. As she did so, one of its rear windows- tinted to match the sleek black of the bodywork- rolled down to reveal a man inside, wearing shades and a suit. Her heart almost stopped dead in her chest as she saw the silenced pistol in his hand, being brought to bear against her, his hand all the way out of the window. With barely a moment’s hesitation, she slammed herself to the floor behind one of the parked cars, feeling glass shower the back of her neck as the shooter missed her and blew out one of its windows. She heard them curse loudly- in English- and the screech of tyres as her would-be assassins went to make their getaway. Chloe slammed her hands into the pavement and forced herself to her feet, her right hand shooting behind her as she stood up to whip out her gun. A few stray shots whizzed past her as she brought herself onto target against the speeding car, now about twenty meters away. The receiver bucked in her hand as she unleashed a round at the car with a loud crack, putting a hole in its rear window, forcing the driver to take evasive action. Another, striking the rear fender and pinging into the city sky. Another, striking the license plate. Just before the car got too far from view, she committed the plate number to memory. As the car careened round the block and out of view, she slotted her gun back into the back of her pants and thought over what had just happened. She took a few paces out onto the road, glancing each way to make sure she was safe, and scanned the street. Lying in line with where the first shout had been fired, give or take, was a casing lying on the floor. Chloe picked it up, running it through her fingers as she inspected it.

Nine-millimeter parabellum. Shit, that’s the right calibre for a High-Power! The remaining piece of information clicked into place in her head, as she ran a frantic hand up and through her hairline, dragging it over and down the back of her neck.

The plates on that car were British Embassy plates as well. That wasn’t some random drive-by, that was someone inside the wire sending a hit out on me. Someone within the British service. SHIT! But who the fuck has the power to send out a hit like that, other than… her eyes bulged in their sockets slightly as the notion passed through her mind.

No. There’s no fucking chance Mark would send a hit out on me. And I’d have smelled a rat before now if he was the fucking traitor, surely?

Chloe shook her head, striding quickly for the U-Bahn entrance and considering her options.


Several hours later, as dusk was descending, Chloe began stumbling slightly over the steps. Her brain was a little fuzzy on account of how late in the day it was, and the whisky she had drunk later in the day mixing with the Tankbuster she’d had at Franz’s. Slouching against the doorframe of her apartment, she fumbled the keys into the lock and cranked them round in the lock before flinging the door open clumsily, stuffing said keys back into her pocket roughly. She staggered into the centre of the doorway, reaching up with her left hand and flicking the switch on the wall, pitching the blackness into a dingy yellow from the single bulb. In the centre of the room was a chair, that Chloe hadn’t left there. On the chair, with a silenced pistol across her lap, sat a woman, one foot on the floor, the ankle of the other resting on its knee. The woman calmly brought her handgun to bear on Chloe, who froze with a mixture of fear and uncertainty.

“Close the door behind you, please, and don’t try anything stupid.” The woman directed, motioning with the gun in her hand. Chloe shakily reached for the edge, swinging the door shut behind her. Her hands trembled as she raised them, and she could feel teardrops on the edge of her eyes. The woman slid her foot back onto the floor, and stood up, approaching Chloe slowly. Chloe ran a brief look up and down her: the light was casting a shadow over her face, but the hair looked familiar, a shoulder-length brown, slightly messy like her own; her intruder was built slightly slimmer than her as well, while retaining an equally strong physique. She seemed to walk with the slightest hint of a limp, but it was well-camouflaged regardless. The woman stood just outside Chloe’s reach, tilting her head slightly. Chloe felt a cold shudder pass through her as she realised who she was stood face to face with.

This is her. This is the Deer. Shit, I knew giving Franz my address would be a bad idea!

 

“So, we meet again. Now, I know for a fact you must be armed, if you have any sense. Hand it over.” The Deer continued, gesturing with the hand not aiming the gun at Chloe’s torso to do so. Chloe began bringing her right hand down toward the grip. Max tutted at her, bringing her finger onto the trigger. “Other hand, I’m not stupid.” She elaborated. Chloe gulped, nodding and re-raising her right hand while shakily drawing the weapon from her waistband with her left hand, holding it out in front of her. Max took it from her hand, inspecting it while keeping her weapon trained on Chloe.

“Colt Commander. Forty-five calibre. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.” She stated, thinking aloud.

 

Chloe balled her fists, gritting her teeth. “Of course you should recognise it, you were the fucker who killed the person who owned that last. Red Deer. Maxine Caulfield. I know who, and what you are.”

 

Max tilted her head at Chloe briefly, looking confused. Slowly, her features softened and she relaxed, though not enough to give Chloe any chance to overpower her. “So, you’re the daughter of Wilhelm Von Preußen. I knew the name sounded familiar. Chloë, is it? And ‘Max’ will do fine, thank you, none of the other… pleasantries, if you would be so kind.” Max put Chloe’s handgun down on the floor, closing in on her. She pressed the muzzle of the silencer into Chloe’s stomach, just above her navel, as she reached a hand up, brushing Chloe’s hair away from her face as the latter flinched away, uncomfortably. Max gazed at Chloe’s eyes for a moment, losing herself ever-so-subtly in them once more.

“You do have your father’s eyes, that’s for certain.” She purred. “And you say that I killed him. I was there when he died, that is all. I played no part in his death. We played no part in his death.” She affirmed, as she went on. 

Chloe couldn’t believe what she had just heard. The Deer, Maxine, The KGB… They weren’t the ones who had killed her dad. It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t! The emotions that had been set spinning in Chloe’s head were making her feel light-headed, dizzy. Her stomach broiled with an acidic feel, like she was going to be sick; every breath felt like she was being tear-gassed again.

“You’re lying!” Chloe sputtered, her voice on the verge of cracking as tears began to roll down her cheeks.

 

Max simply shook her head. “Believe it or not, that’s the honest truth of the matter. If anything, I did what I could do save your dear Wilhelm .” She averted Chloe’s gaze, her expression briefly more sullen, before turning to look at her once more. “Look. Whatever is happening out there, whoever called the shots the night your- father- died, I think they’re still out there. I think the same person who had him killed is the same one who has set me up.”

 

“You’re wrong! You caused all of this, you bitch!” Chloe snapped, through her emotional breakdown.

 

Max simply gave her a more neutral stare in return. “I know they have you after me, the prize Bluthund of the West. But I’m being honest with you. I’m innocent in all of this, and I want to find up which bastard has set me up as much as you want to find whoever had your dear father killed.” She continued.

 

“I-I can’t trust... you!” Chloe stammered. “You’re the-”

 

Max rolled her eyes. “ Der Feinde . Naturally. Think about it: if I was really the bad girl in all of this, would we be stood here having this conversation right now? Or, would I have blown you away the moment you were stood in the door?” She reached into her pocket, producing a handkerchief in her palm, as she carried on. “All I’ll say for now is think about it . At the very least, be sure that I am in fact the enemy, before you pull the trigger. I’ve been here too long already.” With that, she jerked her hand up, covering Chloe’s mouth and nostrils with it. Chloe breathed in sharply in surprise at the sudden move, inhaling its contents as it was pressed tighter to her face. Max slipped behind Chloe, one hand to her throat as she did so. Chloe’s head spun, as did the room, as she took on more of the alcohol-like vapour. Her vision blurred as she fought to keep her eyes open, ultimately failing as she slumped, unconscious. Max’s hands arrested her fall, slowly taking her to the floor as she sighed a few deep, irregular breaths.

 

A short while later, Max had cleaned up the room, removing everything she needed to, and was stood over Chloe where she lay. On the desk behind her was everything she intended to leave for her adversary. She leaned down, planting a soft, quiet kiss on her cheek.

“Angenehme Träume, Chloë.” She whispered in her ear, before heading to the door, flicking the light off, and departing, closing the door behind her.


Chloe groaned as her senses groggily returned, beginning with a stinging pain in her head. Her hearing was still blurred, but she could hear the faint traffic outside at any rate. The cool air of the room passed over her skin, making her shiver slightly. Chloe flicked an eye open as she realised she could feel the air passing over almost all of her body. She dopily moved her limbs, still uncooperative, and ran a hand over herself, finding her clothes missing: A glance down herself revealed that instead of the hard wood floor of the room itself, which was what she last remembered hurtling toward, she was lying on the soft linen of her bed; her clothes lay to one side on a chair, her boots underneath; she, meanwhile, lay on her side on top of the sheets, with only her boxer shorts and bra on. She ran a hand over her face as she tried to piece together what had happened. She drew a blank, roughly around the time Maxine- Max- had put the handkerchief of whatever up against her mouth.

 

What the fuck was that? Why didn’t she pop me when she had the chance? Chloe scanned an eye around the room, hoping to perhaps be able to ask that question, but all that her eyes fell on were a stack of files, on the table across the room. Chloe tried to get out of bed and walk across to them, but her legs initially refused to cooperate, buckling under her and depositing her on the floor. Groggily, she clambered onto her feet again, and reached the table. On it, lay files from all kinds of agencies, including her own. On top of those lay a handwritten note. It had a single line written upon it.

Just be sure that you kill the right enemy.

Chloe dropped herself onto her chair, propping her elbows on the table and allowing her head to fall into her hands as she tried to wrap her head around everything: from what she could remember of what Max had said- that neither she nor the Soviet authorities had been responsible for killing her dad- to the possibility that they were after the same person; from Max’s choosing not to kill or even harm her, quite the opposite in fact.

 

I should have been named Alice, surely. This rabbit-hole goes way deeper than I’d expected. She read through a number of the files, her stomach turning at some of the information within, before setting her mind on what her next move would be.


Twelve hours later

MI6 Operations Centre, Berlin

 

The figure sat behind the oak desk, taking a few sips from a tumbler of matured scotch they had brought with them, as they flicked through the files that had wound up on their desk. Almost every other employee had gone back home for the night, save for the young secretary sat on the other side of the locked door. A single lamp illuminated the immediate area around the papers being read. A pensive frown cast over their face, as they wiped their mouth and put the tumbler back on the desk, reading on.

“Interesting.” A Scotch accent softly echoed in the room, evidently thinking aloud.

“Very interesting.”

Chapter Text

Somewhere in West Berlin

9th October 1987

6.45 am

 

Chloe stirred from yet another jittery and uncomfortable night's sleep. Ever since Maxine- Max- had paid her a visit that night two weeks ago, her mind had been working at a thousand miles an hour. Nothing about this whole situation made any sense any more: not Max being after the same person as her; nor Max being hunted down because she got too close to whoever was really responsible, the enemy. Still, perhaps she would have the time to figure this all out at some stage, somewhere between capturing Max and-

 

Ooh la la, 'capture'. Remembered your handcuffs and gags, have we? Sure Max will just love a little 'rough justice'. Little Miss Snarky piped up in the back of her head.

 

Butt the fuck out, you. She growled back at the voice in her head, her face heating up all the while at the very thought of it. First and foremost, I still have a job to do.

 

Oh, do you? And capturing Max alive is just 'professional courtesy', is it? The voice returned with, still prying at her motives. Chloe drew something of a blank at that question from her own psyche.

 

Thought so. Why not just admit it: she's a pretty enough girl, and you at least wanna take advantage of- she thumped a hand against her head, trying to jostle the voice out of place.

 

No, I want answers. She replied to it. After her visit the other week, there's so many things I wanna know before I hand her over, or do anything else. 

 

Yeah, whatever. Just remember to buy her roses, not lilies.

 

Chloe shook off the thought as she headed for the shower, mind casting forward dreadingly to her day ahead. Another meeting with Andrews, who- if nothing else- seemed even more adamant that he was going to fire her if he didn't have Max's head on a silver platter by Friday. She still couldn't fathom why he was so pushy over the situation. 

Maybe he has a bonus riding on it! Her sarcastic side chirped up yet again. Chloe rolled her eyes as she slipped off her nightclothes and stepped into the shower basin.

 

I swear to god, if you don't shut it, I'm gonna go find some chloroform and knock myself out, just so I don't have to listen to you. She thought back, angrily, as she reached for the control knob, exhaling and relaxing a little as the warm water flowed over her. Her head pulled upward, allowing some of the deluge to flow over her face. The rivulets ran down her body, some tracing along the raised lines of scars down her: surgical scars, from the countless times expert hands had had to piece her back together; the cuts and indents from her tenure at Bautzen the previous year. Discoloured skin, the product of the plethora of bruises she was constantly picking up in the name of Uncle Sam. Her hands ran across her body as she washed herself down, recognising the vast majority of them. Her fingers gingerly traced around that small circular puncture, fully healed now, in her lower body. Her touch was light whenever she ran her hands over there, still scared of what damage being too rough could do. That injury had nearly been the end of her once already; she saw no need to tempt fate. 

The only part of her body she was relatively scar-free was on her calves, and even then there was still a crescent-shaped row of punctures where Franz's dog at the time had tried to maul her. She smirked as she remembered how rocky her- friendship, I guess, or maybe 'mutual agreement' - with Franz had been to start.

 

As she ran her hands up her calves, slowly working her way higher as she rubbed the lathered soap up her legs and lower body, the voice in the back of her head perked up once more.

 

Bet you’d love Max to do this for you. She growled angrily at herself, her inner voice.

 

REALLY?! I’ve got to try and take her- alive- and all you’re going to do is sit there and drool and fantasise over her?

 

Well, I am you , so you should know the answer to that. Her inner voice reminded her. She sighed, thinking over her encounter most recent with the young lady- 

 

She may be young, but I wonder how much of a ‘lady’ she is? Chloe splashed some water across her face, feeling her face burning up all the same. Her mind turned back to Max after its brief- albeit lewd- tangent, her arms stretching out to lean against the ceramic tiling of the wall. She really could have used a little longer back in England, just to go see a shrink and to try and get her more rampant side seen to.

On second thought, the fucking shrink would need a shrink after that. She mused, 

 

She couldn’t escape the facts: even just thinking back at her encounter with Max, even beneath the clothing she wore, Chloe could still make out her figure. And damn, did she have a body to speak of. Even just from the front, and even though Chloe was almost shitting herself with terror, she’d still gotten a decent look in at her. Her face was smooth, its lines soft. Those blue eyes, like her own, that had seen so much. Yet Chloe still found herself lost in them, every time she thought back on them. Her hair, for someone in this line of work, was soft, a nest of brown strands on her head that came to rest naturally, a few strands casting down lazily over her face, the rest filtering. Her shoulder line, even under the simple black sweater she’d had on, one which seemed to be a size or two too small, was slim; her arms slender and shapely even beneath the cotton. Her chest was equally so, albeit that her assets were perhaps a little more… refined than hers. It was hard to tell from her position, though. Her torso, too, outlined perfectly by the tight fit, trailing down her form and emphasising her abs, just a little. Her hips were a little slimmer than Chloe’s own, which made some sense given that she was a little shorter than herself. Her pants were a little looser fitting ( unfortunately , her internal monologue perked up yet again) but still hugged her thighs, a little more slender again than Chloe’s. No matter how hard Chloe tried otherwise, she had to admit that Max was a looker for certain.

 

And you would just looooove to check her over for ‘concealed weapons’, wouldn’t ya girl?  

Chloe gagged as she spat out the shower gel she’d accidentally put into her mouth rather than on her head as she daydreamed about her elusive arch-rival and target, retching at the taste of chemicals in her mouth. 

 

Nice going. At least your mouth is clean for now. Shame about the mind, but little victories… She shook her head as she finished washing the slight film of cold sweat from her restless night from her skin, and shit off the water, standing in the tub and flexing her joints a little as the last of the water ran off her body.

As she stepped out and dried herself off, her mind wandered once more. What exactly am I going to do with her when I catch her? Ask her what I wanna ask, obviously, but then what? 

The brief fleeting thought of carrying out her assigned job of eliminating her cropped up, and was muted almost immediately. Not a fucking chance! She's let me live too many times for that.

 

Oooh, growing a proper conscience at last? Took you long enough.

 

She shrugged off the thought, wincing slightly as she ran the towel roughly over some of her still-healing ribs. Ow. I just pray that- agh- Max comes quietly.

Oh, I'll bet she does anything other than come quietly , her inner self commented once more, Chloe feeling her face flush a bright red yet again as she picked up on the double entendre. She gritted her teeth as she suppressed that fantasy as best she could.

 

Two things: Shut. UP. She demanded once more in her head.

Shirty much? 

 

She shook her head again, beginning to pick out some of her clean clothes from the pile she'd dumped on the floor as she thought about it. I'll just have to be careful. If I can convince her not to fight, that might be best. She noted, already believing it to be wishful thinking.

 

She glanced at the time reading out on the face of her slender, small watch as she strapped it on. Well, for once I might actually be on time. Hell, that should give him a shock.

She finished off with her choice of clothing, wincing as she looked in the mirror and realised what it reminded her of: the pair of black jeans that closely matched her legs; the tight-fitting black T-shirt and a leather jacket over the top. She slotted her feet into a pair of normal below-the-knee leather boots, in place of her customary GI-type or a pair of sneakers. The type had a slightly more pronounced heel than what she had been accustomed to wearing, her footing slightly awkward as she got used to wearing them again. The minute she came back, she decided, they were coming off- way too impractical for her liking.

 

Jesus, Stef would be all over you if she saw you like this. Her mind commented, screwing her eyes shut as snippets of what that woman had done to her flickered through her mind. 


Being bound to a chair, its seat removed to expose her to the whip being flicked up beneath her. The howls of pain that came out as whimpers after being beaten senseless for the third time in a row, she had no idea how long.

 

The endless hours of being unable to move, in spite of her best efforts, the restraints unyielding against what strength she had after days of minimal food and absolutely no sleep. The sheer discomfort of being held in that position, arms stretched down the sides of the chair, ankles bound to the legs, bending her shins back at an uncomfortable angle. The only free part of her was her head and neck, and she barely had the energy to move her head, except in lazy glances upward as the footsteps approached the cell door again.

 

That bitch , teasing and tormenting her, treating her with fake sympathy and care, only to smack her about the face and start the whole nightmarish experience off again. Running a hand up the inside of her leg as Chloe sat helpless, skin touching where the denim that covered them had been torn and ripped, setting her senses alight again, before digging her nails in and drawing blood some more.

 

The stench in that room, no doubt a result of her immobility mixed with the blood and everything else that had been spilled or forced from her by the rough handling of her interrogator. Being treated like a neglected animal, no freedom, constantly in fear, forever expecting the next round to begin.


 

Chloe felt her heart running a number of beats faster as she relived the hell that had been her time in Stef's hands, shivering a little.

Please… don't remind me again. I'd sooner die a hundred times to a gunshot than be back there. She reflected, as flatly as she could, as she grabbed her last few items: her trusty handgun; an extra magazine; and a set of steel handcuffs- and departed the safehouse.


 

Zoologischergarten, West Berlin

8.00 am

 

Chloe strode toward the aquarium on the outskirts of the zoo, her pace slowing as she entered the dimmer area, backlit only by the lighting along the base of the thick perspex making up the tanks. The architect who’d created this walk-through viewing area must’ve been a genius, or smoking something I want , Chloe mused, as she looked up at the fish swimming over the perspex spanning above her head, mere inches between her hair and . Chloe moved along, still somewhat nervous and wary of what was to come as she glanced from one side to the other of the tunnel, trying to take her mind off of the pit of worry in her stomach by watching the colourful shapes of the fish in the tank above her head flitting by. It didn’t help her at all, partly because a large part of her mind was worrying about exactly how bad things would get for her if the tank above her head was to break. Every step she took had her wincing internally, as the boots she wore clicked against the concrete underfoot slightly, making it hard for her to move unnoticed with the quiet in the area. A further worry popped into her head, related to her job this time.

He’s been on my ass about this for weeks . And I still have almost nothing to show for it. Shit! He’s going to blow his fucking top. She realised, cursing herself silently and wishing that she hadn’t been involved in any of this. The aquarium was pretty quiet for this time of morning, especially for a Friday. Almost nobody was in there, which only served to heighten her sense of dread. It definitely couldn’t be good news.

 

She stopped in front of one part of the passage, fixated slightly on the greyish, slab-like fish passing by. Peacefully it glided through the water close to the bottom of the tank, flapping a pair of large, flat, triangular wings as it did so, barely disturbing the silt below. A pair of- mandibles? - jutted out of the front of the fish, giving it a distinct otherworldly appearance. She found herself entranced, the graceful movements of this seagoing creature through the water almost mystifying, its tail moving ever so slightly as it did so.

 

"Beautiful, aren't they?" The voice echoed next to her. Chloe felt a cold sensation running down her spine, and barely managed to avoid jumping a little as she registered the voice. Fuck. Here we go.

 

"Never mistake beauty for serenity, Agent Price. As beautiful and tranquil as those things may look, they would still kill you as quick as they could look at you." The voice continued, a slight lecturing edge to it.

 

She turned to face Andrews, who was casting a glance up and down her. "Going somewhere, Agent Price? Or is your dress today an attempt at diverting my attention away from what I have to say?" He interrogated, raising an eyebrow at her.

 

"N-no, neither, sir. I just felt that wearing something a little more… ladylike, was a good idea." Chloe answered, despite not actually having a real answer to draw upon. Chloe cursed herself again for her decision to go with these clothes in lieu of her usual clothing style.

 

He kinda has a point Chloe, you've dolled yourself up and for what? Her ever-helpful psyche pointed out. On the flipside, at least you haven't attempted putting makeup on.

 

"You've been in-theater six months, and what have you achieved?" He continued to press, leaning against the curvature of the passageway, his form slightly raising a hint of threat in Chloe's mind. Even just his body language was sending a million warning signs in his direction.

 

"Sir, I've been following up every lead I've gotten, checked out everywhere I've been told I might find her. Believe me, sir I-"

 

"If you were half the agent you're supposed to be, Price, you'd have the Deer 's head on a trophy plaque by now. Perhaps I have sent the wrong person for the job." He cut her off, rising the rage in Chloe slightly. Her body tensed up slightly as she settled in for the verbal firefight that was about to ensue.

 

"All due respect, sir ," she retorted, "but given that I have an area the size of fucking Dallas to scour, alone, and that I'm after the best agent the Reds have… you can't possibly expect it to be a quick job. And as it is, I'm still certain I'm getting close." Andrews' eyes bore into hers, testing her confidence in her own words, they found no cracks, however. The uncomfortable silence seemed to last for longer than it had, the eerie lack of people in the vicinity compounding matters. Finally, his gruff tone shattered the cold silence.

 

"You know, Price, every now and again I look at you and think you can actually do things without acting like an insolent fucking child." Andrews growled, a strong discontent to his voice as he grasped the side of her face. "But time and again you prove me wrong. One week. If I don't see any hard results, I swear to god you'll not see the outside of an office ever again ." He ordered, slamming his free hand against the transparent material next to him as he delivered his ultimatum. Chloe did her best not to react to the rough digits in contact with her jawline, desperate to not further escalate matters.

 

" Best of luck , Agent Price." Andrews snarled, as he sharply withdrew his hand from her face. She relaxed a little, only to gasp in shock as her head reeled, stinging down her left cheek, as he slapped her across the face, briskly striding off. She fought back a few pained tears as she glowered in his direction, watching him continue up and along the single route toward the white light of the exit. Her hand tenderly cupped the area he’d struck, warm from the impact.

 

What the fuck did I do to deserve that?! Chloe questioned, having no real answer beyond “being insolent”. What was she, sixteen and meeting the Dickwad Stalin that was her new stepdouche all over again? She shook her head, blinking the tears from her eyes and turned back to look at the tank behind her, a slight hint of jealousy toward the fish.

 

I wish I could be like them, sometimes. Only having to worry about what’s going to eat me, and none of this bullshit. She turned on her heel- almost overbalancing on the slick narrow base that the heel had, instead of the wider treaded type she was used to, and set off at an equally brisk pace in the direction of her home for the night. If nothing else, these boots were a no-go for her right now. Then , then she’d consider acting on Andrews’ threat.


 

9.30 am

Chloe stumbled up the steps to the apartment, still cursing at the unsteadiness of the boots on her feet.

Jesus Christ on a fucking unicycle! How the hell anyone can enjoy wearing these fucking things I will never know. She grouchily remarked, unlocking and pushing open the door and stomping inside, practically tearing the boots from her feet and throwing them across the room as she sought out a pair of her combat boots. She sighed to herself as her feet slotted into them, flexing her toes a little and taking delight in the freedom her feet had.

That’s way fucking better. God, those boots felt like bondage unto themselves, ergh. She thought, rolling her neck a little and glancing at herself in the mirror. Luckily, Andrews’ swipe at her hadn’t left any bruising or marking, not yet anyway. Chloe wished sometimes that there was such a thing as a Spies’ Union. She chuckled a little as the thought came to mind once more.

If it’s anything like any other Union, we’d spend more time arguing over conditions and hazard pay than doing any fucking work.

 

Chloe glanced across the room, brow furrowing as she spotted something. The door into the bedroom in the apartment, off to one side of the main living area (that Chloe used as a bedroom anyway, for convenience) was open. She’d not been in it before she left for her meeting, so that was definitely out of place. She gulped, feeling her mouth go dry.

Shit, someone might be in here with me! 

 

Slowly and carefully, she got to her feet, cautious to make as little sound as she could as she moved toward the door ajar, lest she disturb her intruder. She reached the threshold of the doorway, off to one side so she could catch her breath. It was shallow, as she planned out how she was going to go about hitting the room. After a moment, her plan was set. She swallowed again, counting herself down, mentally. Her gun remained holstered: she was sure she could hold off whoever was in there unarmed; besides, a gun was a risky bet at this range, even for her- not knowing how that might turn out.

Okay, count of three. Three. Two-

 

She was interrupted as the door beside her swung open. Her home invader strolled out of the door, initially oblivious to her presence. Chloe stopped dead in her tracks as she recognised her, and the intruder recognised her, eyes widening. The pair stood, awkwardly, staring at each other for a moment, not sure exactly how to react. The two agents were less than four feet from each other, yet neither would make a move. Chloe couldn’t believe it.

Well, fuck! Scour the city for her and she’s practically under my roof.

 

“Du!” Max growled, angrily, breaking the silence as she fumbled for her weapon. So much for doing this the easy way! Chloe's subconscious yelled as she jumped her, grasping hold of it and forcing it skyward. The pair struggled, arms outstretched, fighting for control. A few gunshots were fired into the ceiling, showering them in plaster and dust. Max flinched a little as some of the dust got into her eyes, allowing Chloe to overpower her slightly. She threw her arms to one side,the gun leaving their hands she did so, the bedroom window clattering as the gun sailed through it and into the alleyway below. Max stamped down on Chloe’s knee as their hands interlocked, causing her to stagger slightly. It was followed by headbutt, Max’s skull connecting with Chloe’s nose and an eye socket, bursting the nose open. Chloe released Max’s hands, one cupping her now-bleeding nose. Max’s leg swung out again, attempting to knock Chloe off her feet. Chloe outmanoeuvred Max as she countered, wrapping her arms around Max’s form in an attempt to restrain her.

“Get off me, you bastard!” the smaller woman yelled, flailing her legs in an attempt to gain some kind of advantage, finally finding it as she caught Chloe’s ankle. She stumbled slightly, releasing Max as she tried to stay upright. Max spun round, striking her in the side of the head with her palm, and sending her reeling slightly. She followed it up by driving her knee up into Chloe’s chest, winding her, and another punch to the face. Chloe fell back across a chair, taking it down with her, gasping for air. Max delivered another series of blows to her head. Following straight up, she kicked Chloe in her still-healing ribs, making her cry out in pain. Max backed off, circling at what she thought was a safe distance.

“Had enough yet?” Max decided to ask, sarcastically, watching Chloe’s chest rise and fall erratically. 

 

Chloe grimaced, as a burst of energy coursed through her. Like fuck I have, I’m barely getting started! She thought, as she swept upward with a lazy punch. Max dodged it, unknowingly leaving herself open to Chloe’s follow-through. 

She kicked outward, her boot connecting with the side of Max’s chest. The woman grunted, staggering back toward the still-open door. Chloe charged her, picking her off her feet and dashing her against it. The pair crashed out into the hallway, Chloe slamming Max into a pillar that made up part of the U-shaped stairwell. Pinning her against the pillar, Chloe rained blow after blow onto Max. As she swung for her again, Max grasped the incoming arm it by the wrist, throwing Chloe off-balance and drawing her closer. She drove an outstretched foot up into Chloe’s stomach, making her recoil once more in pain and allowing Max to another hard hit to her head. Chloe staggered toward her, wrapping her arms around Max and slamming her dazed head into her stomach as she did so, aiming to knock her against the pillar once more. Unfortunately, Chloe had misjudged where they were relative to the stairs, so as Max fell, she found herself tumbling too, her concealed handgun skittering away down the steps with them as it became dislodged from her waistband. Neither of them noticed, focusing on getting as many hits in on the other as they could, shielding themselves from the return volleys, trying to avoid any serious injuries as they tumbled. After what felt like an eternity of falling, they ran out of stairs to fall down, landing apart on the cold concrete of the ground floor. Between them lay Chloe’s gun, where it had landed. Max sat up and stretched out, reaching for it as Chloe appeared unresponsive. A stamp from Chloe forced her back, crying out as the sole of her boot connected with the side of her wrist. The other foot followed, its toe catching Max across the side of the face. She fell back against the ground as she rolled with the hit, yelling out in pain. As she came back up, she found herself eye-to-eye with Chloe, who had the gun trained on her as both panted heavily. Chloe wiped a patch of blood she could taste from the side of her mouth, the weapon wavering in her hand slightly.

 

As Max caught her breath, she raised her hands, shakily. “Okay… you win.” She mumbled, her head tilting back to rest against the wall. “So go ahead… complete your mission already.” Max closed her eyes, awaiting the inevitable. Instead, Chloe clumsily felt for the cuffs, still slotted into a jacket pocket as she got to her feet. Her eyes never left Max’s downed, exhausted form as she did so, wary of an attempt to attack her once more. Max cracked open an eye, and tilted her head, curious, as Chloe approached her with the cuffs.

 

“Wrists...Out.” Chloe requested, still short of breath herself. Max cautiously complied, as Chloe shackled her right arm to Max’s left.

“Up.” She demanded, weakly. Shakily, and with a little help from Chloe, she stood on her feet. 

 

“I thought… I thought that your orders were to kill me.” Max noted aloud, having more or less recovered. Chloe looked at her, surprised.

“How the fuck do you know that?” She countered Max’s question, perturbed by just what her counterpart knew.

 

“So you are going to kill me.” Max noted, a defeated- bordering upset- tone to her voice. Chloe jolted her cuffed wrist in the direction of the door leading into the alley.

 

“I never said I was.” Chloe flatly replied, motioning her toward the door. Outside sat a plain enough looking car. 

Company-issue, no doubt. Max thought to herself. The inside looked plain enough and matched exactly what Max expected: heavily used ashtray in the center console, worn and distressed trim; pieces missing. Chloe took her key out of her pocket, releasing her side of the cuffs. Before Max could ask what she was doing, the passenger door had been opened, And chloe forced her into the seat, though taking care to not hit her head off of the doorframe. A click of the handcuffs, and they were attached to the handle above the door. Chloe slammed the door, catching a glance of Max’s expression. One word summarised what she was probably thinking, an unspoken question to Chloe: ‘ Seriously?’.

 

Chloe slumped into the driver’s seat, slammed her door, and opened a compartment to reveal an in-built phone in the car. She punched in a number, drumming her fingers nervously as the dial tone clicked over into the call.

“Price. Calling to hand in your resignation, or have you actually made some kind of breakthrough?” The menacing tone of her boss echoed down the line.

 

“I’ve got her, Sir. The Deer is in custody.” Chloe answered, trying to keep her tone unwavering as she anticipated his next words. She got them more or less exactly right. 

 

“IN CUSTODY?? WHAT PART OF ‘ELIMINATE’ DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?!” He barked down the line, Chloe wincing as she moved the earpiece away from her. 

 

She screwed up her face a little as she decided what to say next. “Given the circumstances, Sir, it was easier to capture her than kill her. I want to request a meeting, so we can discuss what to do from here.” She replied, Max noticing the slight jitteriness of her free hand.

 

A sigh on the other end of the line. “Alright, I’ll send a representative. Probably someone from B Section, seeing as the Brits are finally talking to us again. One hour, Rendezvous Six.” The line cut at the other end. Shaking quite visibly now, Chloe replaced the handset. Max looked across at her, a gentle expression on her battered face.

“You’re scared of him, aren’t you?” Max asked softly.

Chloe didn’t reply, starting the car up and beginning to move on.


 

The car rolled along the street, silence within, until Max opened her mouth to speak.

“You’re going to get us both killed. I hope you realise that.” She muttered. “Why didn’t you just kill me like you were supposed to?”

Chloe sighed as she kept her gaze away from Max. “I’ve got a lot of questions I wanted to ask you. That, and I owe you at least one bout of ‘not killing you’.”

Max raised an eyebrow, but remained silent, letting Chloe continue.

“To my count, you’ve had five opportunities to kill me. Three on the same day. And let’s not forget the other week, you could’ve just shot me like you say. Why do you insist on letting me live each time?” Chloe asked, her tone belying her confusion and her swirling emotions about the woman sat with her right arm shackled in the air.

 

“I only count four.” Max replied, slightly amused. “The street, when we basically walked into each other, that night; that time where I decided to let you live when you came in… and Uncle Walter’s office.” Her tone became slightly more sullen toward the end of the remark.

 

“Sorry. He seemed like a nice guy, I’ll give him that. But, like I say, why didn’t you just kill me if you knew I’d been sent after you? And what about that grenade in the bathroom?”

 

Max glanced at her. “The grenade was just a precaution, I had no idea it would be you who’d set it off. As for the other couple of times, I figured it was a better plan to let you live. Especially after that conversation we had, I figured you might actually be able to help me. What happened to the files I left, by the way?” Max inquired. 

 

“I turned them over.” Chloe explained, simply. Max swore, cursing at Chloe under her breath.

 

“Idiot! In case you forgot, there’s a traitor in the system. By doing that, not only do we go back to square one, but you’ve just given them a perfect way to set you up.” Max grumbled, astonished in part at Chloe’s naivety. 

 

Chloe rolled her eyes. “I didn’t give them to my boss, Max. In case you forgot, I hate him as much as you do. No, I turned them over to Mark Jefferson, MI6’s Chief Officer out here. I trust him.” She elaborated. 

 

Max looked pensive, as the name rung a bell. “ Jefferson … I don’t know why, but I know that name.” She thought aloud, making Chloe a little more nervous.

Mark wouldn’t be the traitor, would he?

 

Chloe looked across at Max as the car sat in traffic. “Also, about the other night… I couldn’t help but notice that when I woke up, I was on my bed. Undressed. Care to explain?” Chloe asked, raising an eyebrow.

Max’s face went red- noticeable even under the nicks and odd bruises from their scuffle- as she turned her head away, dodging Chloe’s gaze. “It...It seemed like the- nice- thing to do.” She stumbled over herself, her confident front being swept aside as her true intent that night shone through. Chloe had to turn away as well, feeling her cheeks heat up a little. 

 

So, she’s… into women, I think? Wow, Chloe, just your luck.

Told ya so. 

 Chloe scowled.

Really? Is it too much to ask for a few minutes’ peace and quiet to think over this?

The awkward silence continued in the car, as it continued toward the meeting point. Max made a few curt glances at Chloe as they continued onward.

 

She is even more beautiful than she seemed at Franz’s club. Max reflected, gazing at the form of her slightly frustrated looking driver and captor.

She’s checking me out again, Chloe thought, catching Max glancing at her in the corner of her eye. God, if things were different, I’d pull over right now and- She stopped her train of thought dead, knowing exactly where it was headed before it arrived.


 Outskirts of West Berlin

11.15 am

The car rolled into the abandoned industrial complex, splashing a few puddles of murky water out of its way as it did, before coming to a halt around the back. The weather had taken a turn for worse, a driving rain coming down around the area, making for a more miserable day than she’d expected.

Chloe had taken care about how she’d pulled in here, remembering the drainage trench that was now on Max’s side of the car. Last time, she’d not been aware of it and fallen straight into it, getting covered in whatever was beneath the thin layer of water in the process. She wasn’t making that mistake again. Shutting the engine off, she sighed once more, looking over at Max.

“I’ll be back once I’m done here. I’ll see if I can’t convince them to let you go, or at least give you a shortish jail term rather than executing you.” Chloe told Max, trying her best to keep any emotion out of her voice. She left the car and slammed the door behind her, leaving the car unlocked as she strode across the courtyard toward one of the abandoned warehouses that likely once held a production line. As soon as she was out of sight, however, a man, unseen in the shadows, approached the car from behind. Max noticed him in the wing mirror, eyes opening wide in alarm.

 

What’s that in his hands? Is that…. Oh, SCHEIßE! Her thoughts exclaimed, as the figure attached the device under the car, before disappearing once again. She tugged at her binding, it having no give at all.

Shitshitshit come on! I’ve got to get out of here, or I’m toast!  She exclaimed internally, frantically looking for a means of escape.


 

Chloe made her way up the stairs, on edge as the steel creaked and groaned under her feet. Everything here was detritus, castoff materials that nobody cared about any more. 

 

Always the perfect place to conduct business, somewhere full of old shit that got replaced. Great way to instil confidence in your subordinates. She commented, glancing around as she made her way across to the usual meeting place within this old factory, no doubt it once served as a side room of some form. A few windows, missing pieces of glass, were to one side; the dirty concrete floor awash with small pieces of debris; the concrete pillars helping keep the room up missing pieces here and there and exposing the rebar beneath. Out to one side, she could see her car, parked up by the ditch.

 

“About time you arrived, Agent Price.” Her contact’s voice spoke up, pulling her from her thoughts. “Let’s skip the formalities and get to business. You have the Red Deer in custody, yes?” He immediately began to interrogate, not even allowing her to answer his first remark. Chloe nodded. “Yes. She’s down in the car. If needed, I can escort her to the nearest holding facility for now.” She extended, offering to save the contact the effort. He shook his head, much to her worry. 

 

“No, no… That won’t be necessary. We’ve made all the arrangements already. We’ll deal with the Deer from here on out.” He stated, matter-of-factly, as he produced a small cylinder from his pocket and clicked the button on top. Chloe’s blood ran cold as a yellow-orange flash engulfed the car parked outside, flipping it lengthways onto its roof. Almost immediately, it began to burn, the charge having been set near its fuel tank, the heat setting its contents alight. No way could anyone have survived, not even Max. Chloe turned back to the MI6 Operative, incensed, distraught, and a half dozen other emotions all at once.

 

“Why the FUCK did you do that?! We could’ve taken her alive!” Chloe screamed out at him. Before she could move and hit him- just so that she could feel better- he drew a pistol, aiming it at her. 

 

“You were given your mission, Agent Price. I’m merely here to end it. Now, I can kill two birds with one stone- pun intended. You obviously haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on around you, have you?” He lectured her, menacingly. “Well, on account of possessing classified information illegally, aiding and abetting a foreign agent, and insubordination of the highest order… you’re now fair game.” He brought his aim up toward her face.

 

“Shame. There’s a dozen better things I could do with a pretty face like yours, other than put a bullet in it.” 

 

Before he had a chance to react, Chloe lunged toward a window. The first shot punched harmlessly through the air where her head had been a moment before, the agent swearing as he tried to re-acquire her. She jumped through it, landing in a pile of broken glass and metal muntin that had held it in place. She silently thanked her dress sense, as the leather jacket protected her from the worst of it. She jumped back onto her feet and sprinted along the walkway in as low a stance as she could, hearing bullets hiss and ping as they zipped past her, or ricocheted off of the supports as she passed them. She threw herself in behind a low wall, listening out for where her attacker was. She poked her head out, slightly, trying to spot him. The concrete inches from her chipping as a second gunman joined the fray forced her back into cover with a yelp of fear. Glancing desperately for a way out, she spotted another window, maybe ten feet from her. It was still too far, they’d have her zeroed the second she made a break for it. A glance to her right revealed a small tin bucket, just within her grasp. She held it in both her hands, closing her eyes and calming her breath. 

 

On three. One. Two-  With all her strength, she threw the bucket up and over the wall, before scrambling to her feet and running at the window as hard as she could. The clang of bullets striking metal barely registered in her head as she reached the large pane, taking flight and bringing her arms up to shield her face. As she broke through, she found herself back out in the deluge, and falling toward a sloped roof below her. Her feet found no purchase as she rolled and slid on its smoothed finish, the moss and corrosion of neglect giving no real resistance to slow her. Her eyes shot wide with shock as the precipice before her approached, at alarming speed. The drop looked pretty large, maybe thirty feet to the very bottom.


FUUUUCK!

 

Her foot caught the edge of the gutter bordering the lower bound of the roof, her momentum carrying her cleanly out into the open air, tumbling. The fall seemed to last for minutes, where it was only seconds. Her body slammed down hard on a reinforced skylight on a lower roof, knocking the wind out of her and almost definitely cracking a few bones. She groaned in pain, barely able to move, dazed once more from a hit to the back of the head as she landed. A figure appeared in the broken window she had jumped from, and took aim. Three gunshots in rapid succession, shattering the weakened glass and dropping her down to the floor once more. Her fall was broken slightly, a few items of junk left here after the place was derelicted. Her battered and broken form finally hit the ground, landing in a small puddle as she coughed softly and struggled to breathe. She could feel her heart pounding, her limbs screaming out in pain, everything hurting. Her hearing was slurred, the sensation of cold as the rain continued to fall on her wasn’t helping. Her sight had taken on a blurry, crimson hue, no doubt a result of a cut she could feel, somewhere on her head. A figure walked into the area, calmly, a weapon down by their side. Chloe willed her arm to move towards her own gun, her body to move, anything, but nothing happened. She felt a few hot tears in her eyes as she lay, barely conscious, the man standing and bringing the gun to bear on her.

 

“You dumb fucker. Why run, when you’ll only die tired?” He mocked. 

 

Chloe screwed her eyes shut as a gunshot rang out. Somehow, she could still feel. The sound of metal hitting the floor, and something else, encouraged her to open her eyes. Even doing that was becoming difficult, her breaths becoming short, sighed affairs. The man standing over her a moment earlier lay on the floor, unmoving. Behind him, another, who lowered their gun and briskly moved toward her. As they got closer, Chloe made out a few distinguishing features. Leather boots, feminine in style. Slender legs, that she swore she knew. A tight sweater, which looked soaked. All their clothes, in fact, soaked, muddy. Her sight began to pulse, becoming less and less able to distinguish detail, as the lady- as far as she could tell they were- approached her. The last thing she felt before the comfortable painlessness of unconsciousness was a pair of warm hands, grasping her under her arms and lifting her from the floor.

Chapter Text

The events that followed were greyish blurs to Chloe, heard more than they were seen. Being on the back of a pair of shoulders, carried across the decrepit factory floorspace; the crack of a handgun, a foot from her head; the shattering of glass, and the whine of a starter motor turning over; screeching tires, and swearing in another language. German, perhaps; more gunshots, the sound of a car crashing. Finally, her brief stints of consciousness halted, and she settled back into the black void.

Max glanced nervously in the mirror, expecting to see another set of headlights in the gloom. None appeared, however, and for the first time in hours she sighed with relief. She'd cheated death for what must've been the tenth time in a matter of weeks, barely being any worse for wear either by contrast to her initial escape. The appropriated car, belonging to the two- former- MI6 Operatives continued onward, toward the only place Max knew to be safe in the city right now. Every now and again, the secure radio would crackle with activity, chatter drowning out the faint music audible. She shot another careful glance at Chloe, still slumped where Max had placed her in the passenger's seat. Max silently prayed that the cuts and other slight wounds were the worst extent of her suffering, to try and take her to a hospital would be a death sentence for them both. Luckily the oozing blood seemed to have clotted, on her face and neck at the least, and her breathing seemed normal. Max swerved slightly as a horn blared to avoid an oncoming car. She felt her cheeks redden as she glanced again at Chloe.

 

She is something of a beauty, that is certain.

Come on, Maxine! You know you can't have her, why tease and torment yourself so?

 

She glanced away from her former rival's still-absent form, blushing some more.

You never know. However, the mission at hand must come first. For both our sakes.

 

After what felt like the longest drive in history, the slightly worse-for-wear black sedan reached its destination, or as close as Max dared bring it for fear of it being fitted with a tracker. The rain continued to fall, unrelenting, drumming on the thin-skinned metal constantly. Max kept her head down as she stepped out of her door, moving to scoop up the injured passenger. She placed a hand across her neck, checking for the faint thud of a pulse, before hauling one of her hands over her neck and half-walking, half-dragging Chloe toward the refuge she had.

Almost there, Chloe. Almost there.


Nathan jumped up at the sound of the door being flung open, reaching for his gun immediately as the rain and the draft blew into the decrepit apartment. The moment he saw the battered and worn Max, however, his aim softened.

"The fuck happened to you, eh?" He interrogated, taking note of how she looked like she'd emerged from the sewers. He leaned and glanced at the casualty in her arms, still hanging limply. He raised his gun and pointed it at her. "And what the fuck is she doing here? She'll dial us in the first chance she gets, fucking Golden Retriever that she is!" He observed, agitated. Max ignored him, swinging the door shut with her foot and dragging Chloe to the spare bed across the room, boots squelching slightly, dropping her on it as softly as she could. Immediately, she began tenderly removing her jacket and shirt, careful not to disturb any of the embedded glass where possible. Nathan rolled his eyes, as he put the gun away.

"Oh, don't tell me you're bringing her here as a personal sex doll, that's all she seems good for in that state." He remarked, voice laden with snark. Max sighed and left Chloe's side, feeling a strong urge to punch Nathan in his face, an urge that was becoming very hard to resist.

 "She's one of us now, you fucking moron! Those bastards tried to kill her when she tried to turn me in alive." She yelled back, her anger not being hidden at all.

 Nathan's hard edge settled slightly, as he lowered the gun and ran his free hand through his hair, whistling. "Shit. I suppose that went down well, then." He echoed, starting to realise the severity of the situation. "So, you've yet to explain what the fuck happened to you." He added, gesturing ad Max's dishevelled form. 

 Max shrugged. "Car Bomb. They figured that was the easiest way to get rid of me. Nearly worked too, Chloe decided to cuff my wrist to the roof handle." She elaborated, a slight grimace on her face.

 "And you're alive because…?" Nathan probed again, still curious.


 Max wrenched at the cuffed hand, trying to break the handle from the roof. It didn't budge whatsoever. She swore, starting to panic.

That fucking bomb could go off any fucking second!

Focus, Max! Where would you hide a spare key in a car like this?!

 Max scrabbled frantically through some of the cubbyholes, before realising that the trim on the center console was out of place. A whack from her free hand dislodged the ashtray altogether, revealing the key. Quickly, Max snatched it up and slotted it into the wrist of her cuffs. A twist, and she was free. She flung the car door open and dived for the ditch, plummeting into its bed- several inches deep in silt and, she presumed, other unpleasant things- with a splatter as she did so in addition to the twenty centimetres or so of water flowing lazily through. A matter of moments later, an intense burst of heat hit the trench, slightly singeing the back of her neck, as with a bright flash the car was turned over lengthways, coming to rest on its roof as it began to burn. Max glanced up at the flames dancing above the lip of the ditch, irritated at being soaked to the skin and saturated in gunk and grime for the second time in a matter of months, and relieved at the same time.

 Better than being toast, I suppose.


 Nathan couldn't contain a slight burst of laughter. "She still hides the spare under the damned ashtray? How she's never had a captive escape on her before now, I will never know." He chuckled, still being shot a stare by Max as she finished explaining the events of the last few hours.

"Hey, give her some credit. If she hadn't done that, I'd be dead around now. As would she." Max stated, plainly. "Besides, we could definitely use her help. I mean, have you seen her fight?"

"Have you ever had the misfortune of working with the crazy bitch?" Nathan countered, voice elevating again. "I have. It's a bastard nightmare to get anything done around her. She acts like she's on her fucking period seventy, maybe eighty per cent of the time."

"Hey, just remember how much of a prick you were when we first started working together! You're lucky I didn't throttle your pompous arse within a week!" Max returned. "And my point stands, we need her…" she averted his gaze for a moment. 

Nathan tilted his head to one side, his face falling as he put the pieces together. "Oh, for fuck's sake. Don't tell me you're falling for the fucker." 

Max blushed slightly, and Nathan was sure he heard a slight squeak escape her lips.

 

"Oh, God help me. This is going to end well."


 Chloe stirred silently, feeling the stinging up and down her body as she did. No noise emerged from her, however. As her consciousness slowly returned, she could hear a muffled argument. The words slowly became clearer, a foreign language. German, maybe? Her brain was slow to react, still in the midst of rebooting after being out of it for however long. She lazily opened an eye, staring across in the general direction of its source. Sure enough, two people were there. A man and a woman, it seemed to be. The back of her mind picked up on some of the coarser words flying around the room. Bitch, prick, fucker… sounds like fun.

The hazy figures became more defined, as did their voices. The woman spoke with a prickly native accent, the man an English accent. Nathan? What's he doing here? 

The majority of the more female-oriented language- calling someone in the room a bitch - seemed to be coming from him. No prizes for guessing who that'll be aimed at, I suppose. She eyed Max up some more as she stood there, still dripping with water and mud and whatever else coated her slim build, the clinging clothes doing an outstanding job of highlighting her form. She was ,dead, wasn't she? At any rate, Chloe couldn't deny that she looked beautiful.

Especially from this angle. She felt her cheeks reddening some more, gazing at her saviour once more. She subtly bit her bottom lip, barely even aware she was doing it. She could clearly understand the argument now, too. In Chloe's corner was Max, defending that they needed her for the "help she could be". Yeah, right Max, I have a funny feeling there's more to it than that. Unless I'm dreaming. And, in Nathan's corner was, well, Nathan. As ever, arguing against the "crazy bitch" becoming a permanent addition to their team. She cleared her throat, quietly.


 

"I can hear you both, you know." Chloe croaked, cracking a small grin. With the startled look that both Max and Nathan gave her, she could've been forgiven for thinking they'd had a hand down the other's pants. She went to sit up, being greeted to this motion by an excruciating pain from her chest. Her grin became a pained grimace, as she fell back against the bed with a whine of pain. Her breathing accelerated, hyperventilating as the pains tore across her.

  Fuuaaaargh…. Everything buurns! Makeitstop!

 

Max stepped across the room to her, as she lay sucking air in through her teeth to try and negate the eye-watering pains shooting through her. She sat on the edge of the bed, her clothes dirtying the bedsheets where she sat. She ran a palm softly up one side of Chloe's chest, trying not to cause her any further pain. Her hand came to rest cupping Chloe's face, mindful of the nicks and bruises present. "Hey. How do you feel, Chloe?" She asked, sincerely.

  She's touching my face! Ohmygod her hand feels so soft! Ohhh, that feels nice!

She wasn't sure whether Max had noticed her cheeks flushing amid all the battle-damage she'd picked up, although she sincerely hoped not. "Honestly, I...feel like I've been hit by a fucking car. Wait, how can you be here? You’re dead, aren’t you? I’m sure I..." Chloe groaned, shifting slightly where she lay as she grimaced, a few tears coming to her eyes. The delirium was apparent to Max and she frowned, concerned for Chloe.

Max ran her hand over Chloe's palm. "Just rest for now, Chloe. We've got you, trust me. Just sleep."  She whispered, as she leaned in and softly kissed the top of her head. Chloe's eyes closed gently and, with a slight smile on her face, she allowed blissful sleep to overcome her.

With Chloe blissfully asleep once more, Nathan continued, keeping his voice down. "Well, if you two do decide to start going at it, just make sure I get chance to get the fuck out of the house beforehand." He smirked, Max throwing the nearest spare cushion at him in return. He caught it and fired it back, chuckling a little.

 

"Shut up, Nathan!" Max hissed, equal parts irritated and flustered. "I don't even know if she likes me like that! A-and besides, we still have work to do!" 

 

"Work hard, play hard, I always used to say." Nathan snorted. "And it's her, for fuck's sake: the only thing I can think of that could possibly be less straight than her would be Freddie Mercury and Elton John going on a double-date. Anyways, you've got a date in common, remember?" 

 Max yelped quietly as she smothered her face with the cushion, desperately camouflaging her red-hot face. Nathan smirked, as she muttered a 'fuck you' through the material.

"And good day to you too, Max. Now we've got that out of the way, what's next?"

 

Max gestured at Chloe, a variety of injuries visible across her torso. "First, I need to shower and get this shit off of me, because even I can tell it stinks ; second, I need to try and fix her, so she might actually be able to help us; then, we plan our next move. Sound like a plan?" A knock at the door made Nathan jolt his gun up again, not having time to answer. The door swung open to reveal a woman, dark hair and an impeccable- and mildly suggestive- sense of dress strode in with a bag over her shoulder, heels clacking slightly on the floor as Nathan closed the door, once again sheathing his weapon. She grinned at Max.

 

"Well, lisenok, anyone else would think you had a thing for being wet and muddy." She teased, hugging her softly. Nathan rolled his eyes as he flopped back onto his chair.

 

"Oh, for God's sake. How many poofs to a room?" He mused sarcastically to the air, getting an impish stare from Stef and an agitated glare from Max. Stef peered over Max's shoulder at Chloe's exhausted form, lying half-clothed on the bed.

 

"My my, whatever happened to dear Chloe?" She tittered, glancing over the cuts and bruises and shards of glass.

 

Max shrugged. "They turned on her because she chose to spare me. Hopefully, she'll work with us. If she's able to. I hope she can. Poor girl was going crazy with the pain a minute or two ago, she thought I was some kinda apparition." Max muttered, starting to doubt her ability.

 

Stef chuckled, kissing Max's dirty face. "Fret not, Maxine. You go get a shower, and get out of those tramp's clothes. I'll… work my magic on her." She uttered, calming her. Max nodded, as a point of thought crossed her mind.

"And Stef, one more thing: it might be best for you to be gone before she wakes up."

 

Stef gave her an insulted pout. "What, want her to yourself?" She whined, jokingly.

 

Max shook her head. "Of course not. However, given the stories you've told me of the things you did to her when you captured her… I'm not entirely sure she'll react so well to seeing you just yet." Max chuckled, albeit with a slight pang of guilt. I guess it's somewhat my fault, I did goad Stef into it a couple of times.

 

Stef giggled slightly, recognising what Max meant. "Good point, she'd think she was in an unending nightmare. Are we still to go ahead as planned on Monday?" She asked, as she fished out a pair of latex gloves from the medical kit in her bag. Max nodded, as she headed into the bathroom. With her out of the way, Stef turned to Nathan.

 

"You may want to leave. This kind of thing isn't for the weak-stomached." She taunted him.

He stared back at her. "Oh no, I'm staying. If only to make sure you don't try and take advantage of her while she's in fairyland."

Stef gasped with feigned outrage. "Now, would I ever dare to do that?" She grumbled back.

Nathan merely smiled. "I don't know: wouldn't you?"

 

Stef turned away, her face slightly red. "Remind me to punish Max for talking about our private lives." She simply uttered, turning the soft touch of her hands to the busted-up form of Chloe as he left. Gently, she undid her boots and pants, sliding them off so that she could access the other plethora of bashes and abrasions sealed by the dried blood all over her legs. Having filled a bowl with some warm water, she soaked a cloth and began to clean up the areas and check that they didn't need any further work. Working her way back up the battered body lying on the bed, marvelling at how many more scars and other ailments dotted her skin since she last saw her.

"My, my, Chloe…" Stef mumbled to herself, gently using a needle and thread to seal a larger gash that the glass had left in her side. "You do seem to find more trouble than you should." She remarked, with a faint smile. Her attention turned to the gash across her forehead, a number of smaller nicks surrounding it. Gently cleaning it off, pausing in apprehension when Chloe stirred and groaned with the stinging, before sealing the break in her skin as carefully as she could. "There we go. It wouldn't do for you to have a scar like that on a face like yours." She commented once more, putting the medical tools she'd been using to one side for the time being and stretching, rolling her shoulders to keep them loose. Once more, she continued, working her way across the more minor dings across her front. Max had returned from the shower, whistling slightly at Stef's handiwork.

"My, Stef, you really do have a way with medicine." She glanced across the patchwork that was the unconscious Chloe lying on the bed, brow furrowing. "Dare I ask how many of these were your handiwork?" She asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow. 

Stef replied in mock insult as ever. "What kind of monster do you take me for? No, the only place she maybe has a few scars isn't on this side of her. Come to think of it, we should check her back as well." she pointed out as stood up, hands gently grasping Chloe's shoulders. "Care to give me a hand?" She asked Max. 

Max nodded, taking hold of Chloe's hips and rolling her over. Her back must've bore the brunt of the fight, judging by the far greater number of injuries present and the light bloodstains on the sheet beneath her. Max gasped slightly. "Mein gott…" Purple and black blotches adorned much of the normally pale skin, a number of scrapes and cuts deep into her midriff and shoulders. 

Stef ran a hand gingerly along her thighs and backside, a few raised lines present. " These are the only lasting ones I think I gave her." She explained to Max with a slight grin, who blushed and turned away. 

 

Himmel, Stef! Thanks for making me feel like some kind of pervert, preying on her. Alas, we need to fix her as best we can. I apologise for the privacy invasion, Chloe, but this is what happens when your nurse was also your interrogator.

Stef had already wiped down the worst marks on her back, more shifting and moaning rising up. 

 

"You can go if you want, Maxine." Stef said, still calm. "I should be able to finish this off easily enough." Max concurred, kissing Stef softly on the cheek, before being drawn into a more reciprocal kiss briefly. Max went to get dressed while Stef finished working her magic, her gentle touch slowly putting right all the harm done to her former prisoner.


Feeling slowly seeped back into Chloe as she came round, groaning and wincing as the nerves across her entire body cried out. She could feel something soft, loose and smooth against her skin, a stark contrast to what she last remembered wearing. Her eyes lazily rolled open once more, finding herself on her side in some kind of apartment. A set of white bedsheets, lightly stained brown and red in places, lay over her, her head resting on a pillow.

How did I get here? She shifted, wincing again and yelping softly as she jarred some injury hidden beneath the covers. Agh! Why does everything hurt ?

 

Slowly, the snippets flooded back into her mind.

A flash of orange outside the window, a car flipping over. Max! Oh god, she was dead!

The handgun being pointed at her head. The smug fuck of an MI6 spook happily decreeing that she was disavowed.

Jumping through the window, out into the rain. Sliding, falling, tumbling.

The crack as she landed. Was it the glass, or her body that made the sound?

Gunshots. Glass shattering. Falling, once more.

Lying, paralysed by burning pain and numbing cold, as the gun came to bear. A shot, or was it two, echoing.

A figure, female, scooping her up from the floor.

 

"Guten morgen, Chloe." The soft voice purred next to her. Slowly and stiffly, she craned her head to locate its source, her face lighting up as she fell into those piercing blue eyes once more.

 

"Max?" she muttered, weakly, feeling her cheeks heat slightly. "I...I thought you were…" 

"Dead?" Max finished, a slight smile on her face. "No, not quite that easily. I'm just grateful you left the spare key for those handcuffs in my reach. How do you feel this morning?" She quizzed, concerned for her. Chloe didn't answer, instead attempting to sit up. She fell back against the bed, whining in pain. Max ran a hand across her face gingerly.

"Whoa, hey, hey, be careful!" She uttered rapidly, a worried look on her face. "You're still healing. You took some hell of a beating during the fight, so we had to try and patch you up. It might be a day or two before you can get up and moving again." 

Chloe slowly and shakily pulled back the covers, looking down herself. Max wasn't wrong by any account: her body was a patchwork of long gashes, stitched up or otherwise closed up; bruises all over; the odd dressing, slight bloodstains through the white material. She glanced across at the dryer stood in one corner of the room, confounded as she saw her dark-coloured undergarments hanging on it. Another glance down revealed her to be wearing an off-white set instead, her typical boxer shorts replaced with a more feminine set of briefs. She raised an eyebrow and glanced at Max, a lazy smile on her face. "I don't remember putting these on." She drawled, the lazy smile widening slightly. Max flushed, glancing away. 

 

I knew that was a bad idea! Gott, that stupid grin on her face looks so beautiful as well! Argh, focus Max!  "We...um...had to. Didn't want you, getting sick or something. You can put them on again when they're dry." Max mumbled, trying to avoid Chloe's gaze. Chloe slowly raised an eyebrow.

 

"Riiight…." She slurred, the sarcasm evident. "You must have a… pretty soft touch, to do this." She added, biting her lip slightly as she finished. God, she looks so hot when she's flustered too! Chloe thought, gazing at the brunette's reddened features.

 

"You're… welcome, I suppose?" Max replied, slightly knocked off her stride. It's probably best that I don't mention Stef, wouldn't want to give her heart failure.

"Just rest for now, Chloe. I'll go get you something to eat." As Max stood up to leave, however, a croaked voice called after her.

"M..max! Did you...where's my...my…"  

Max smiled softly, pulling a slightly bulky-looking handgun from her waistband. The metal looked clean, not like it had been dropped in a pool of oily rainwater where Chloe had last seen it, as she tried and failed to get her arm to reach out for it. Max laid it on the table in the centre of the room. "It's a good gun, if a little dated. I can see why you use it." She softly proclaimed, turning back toward the kitchen area again.


 

Sunday, 11th October 1987

6.00 am

The Safehouse

 Chloe stiffly swung her legs out of the bed, still hissing under her breath at the slight twinges of pain as she set her feet down on the floor. Shuffling over to the chair by her bed, she found some clothes waiting for her, she assumed. She picked them up and looked them over, smirking slightly. Huh, the lady has taste in threads. That, I can't deny her. She could vaguely remember waking up the previous day, briefly. It hurt, she at least remembered that much. And Max had… fed her? Chloe felt a slight burning in her cheeks as she thought again about the woman who had just saved her life- again. God, she's something else entirely!  

Chloe set about trying on what had been left out for her. The shorts and bra fit, more or less, but the pants felt a little on the small side, the thin material skin-tight against her. The T-shirt, too, seemed to be for someone more her size than Chloe's, leaving a few inches of her midriff exposed. She pulled the pants up as well as she could after a few unsuccessful attempts, decidedly unhappy that they felt like they were stuck to her as she forced the zip up and buttoned them with no small amount of effort. Even trying to move her legs was hard, the barely-yielding denim feeling like it was holding her legs in place. She didn't dare to try and lift her legs up, the seams bulging as it was, ready to explode at any moment. She cursed sharply under her breath, shooting an almost incensed glare at the too-tight waistband that was almost like a corset around her.

Okay, maybe she can't judge sizes all that well. Chloe rationalised. Jesus, this is a tight fit!

"Ah, so you can get yourself out of bed now." The seemingly disembodied voice startled Chloe, making her topple onto the floor with another sharp curse as she landed on a still-sore rump, legs splayed out by virtue of Chloe's lack of mobility wearing them. Max stepped off of the doorframe and into the room, sitting on the chair next to her. "I take it you feel better today?" She posed, smiling.

Chloe nodded, wincing as she disturbed a still-sore nerve in her neck. "A little, yeah. Say, could you have not gotten something in my size?” She asked Max, a completely innocent question. Max’s cheeks reddened a little and she dodged Chloe’s eyes. 

“Maybe?” Max stammered. Chloe raised an eyebrow, as she figured out what was going on.

“Wait a second… did you give me clothes too small on purpose ?” 

The reddening on her counterpart’s face intensified as she turned away, taking a gulp of air. “No… that’s all I had to hand.” Max bluffed. Chloe smiled at her a little. 

“Riiiight. Care to help me up?” Chloe asked her, stretching her arms out to Max, her head turned away as she blushed herself. “I feel like I’m going to split these damn pants if I try and bend at all in them.” 

 

“Wouldn’t want that now, would we?” Max posed rhetorically. Oh yes you would, Max. Her subconscious answered as she stood up, making her blush as she pulled Chloe’s stiff-legged self onto her feet once more. As Chloe gently sat down on the chair by the table, she gently laid a hand on her gun, still lying on the table as it had been the last time she’d been awake. Max noticed, as she came back from the small kitchen off from the main area, two mugs in her hand. 

“Kaffee?” She asked, gingerly laying the cup down in from of Chloe. Chloe gently wrapped a hand around the warm mug, smiling back so as to say 'thank you'. Her other still sat atop the gun, feeling over every scratch and dent it had from her father's use of it. "I knew that it meant more to you than it being 'just a gun'. " Max commented, vaguely watching Chloe's hand gently stroking the metal slide as it lay.

"Thank you." Chloe whispered, throat constricting with emotion. She swallowed hard, hesitating as she asked her next question. "You… you said you had nothing to do with his...death?" she quietly asked, as though afraid to contradict the version of events she knew. Max nodded, looking away.

 

"Indeed." She confirmed. "Although if I am perfectly honest, our assignment was to capture or kill him, after he had stolen a number of files from us. Still, we weren't the ones who ultimately took his life…"


 

July 1978

6 miles west of Teufelsberg, Berlin

7.42 pm

 The Lada rolled onward, its occupants silent as they looked out for their target. The infamous Wilhelm Von Preußen, one of the best spies in the American arsenal. In his care, several dossiers, lists of Soviet deep-cover agents in a network criss-crossing the globe. "Set Gamayun", it was called. A mixture of Soviet spies, disavowed foreigners, Westerners who were presumed dead, written off by their nations and abandoned. It was of paramount importance to recover those files, lest the entire network be blown open.

 "Alright, we're approaching where their rendezvous should be." Nikita boomed, pulling the rickety car over and killing the engine. "Is everyone happy with what we're doing?" He asked once more as he killed the lights, leaving the car in relative darkness on the edge of the wood where their target was expected to be. Everyone was slightly on edge, the dusk giving their enemy a good chance of escape or, worse yet, ambush.

 The three other occupants of the car- Aleksei, Kamil, and Max- nodded, each grasping their selected weapons. The Komissariat hadn't wished to take any chances in retrieving the files, authorising them to use whatever means necessary to do so. Naturally, this had been interpreted as an order to load up for a fight: Nikita was carrying a KS-23, which Max had recognised as being one hell of a shotgun , its bore the largest of any she knew of; Aleksei and Kamil both carrying the AKMS, the newer Kalashnikov design with folding stocks. As for Max, she had decided upon a Vz.61 Skorpion. It had the least hitting power of the weapons, but it was a better fit for her size and build, and still had enough power to take someone down. They got out of the car, Nikita briefly moving over to Max. "Stick with me, okay? I'll keep us safe from anything close, you watch out further." He instructed her, his voice gentle. Max nodded, a small smile on her face. Nikita was one of the few Senior Operatives she liked working with: he never patronised her; nor did he treat her like she was fragile, or incapable of her task. The group moved into the treeline, making as little noise as they could. They got to within about ten metres of the end of the trees, looking onto a clearing, when a series of gunshots rang out. Max threw herself to the floor, Nikita slamming against a tree as both snapped their weapons up, alert. A car started in the clearing, headlights cutting a yellowish path through the darkening area. The lights cast across another car, abandoned, as it left at speed. The team burst out into the clearing, Max immediately seeing a figure lying on the floor. Max moved over to him, as he breathed his last.

 “Is he…?” She heard Nikita ask behind him.

Töt.” Max confirmed, standing up as she fished a torch from her pocket. She clicked it on, squinting as the light flooded her eyes. Her pupils widened as she took in the blood-spattered face of the man, lying dead on the floor.

 

My god. Wilhelm ist töt.


 

“...Like I say,” Max finished, “we weren’t responsible. The casings we found next to him were forty-fives, and we don’t use weapons with those. That’s how I’m sure it wasn’t one of us.” she finished, looking away from Chloe as though she were guilty by association. 

 “Honestly… I feel like I’ve finally got closure. I’ve blamed people for so long, so fucking long , over his death. And now I know I’ve been looking in all the wrong places.”  Before she knew what she was doing, Chloe reached her hand out, resting it on Max’s. "And now I actually know you a little, beyond a name in a dossier, I feel much better about having you by my side." She confided. She stared at her hand, not knowing how it got there. She drew it back, sharply, as though Max’s hand was made of white-hot metal. Her face lost a little bit of colour as she did so. “Sorry.” Chloe abruptly mumbled, covering the offending appendage. 

 

What the actual fuck Chloe? What are you playing at?!  "I, uh, I need to go to the bathroom…" Chloe muttered, trying to hold her expression neutral as she shuffled awkwardly toward the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. She leaned on the sink as her face went bright red, panting as she tried to get control of her feelings and thoughts. Finding that unhelpful and uncomfortable, she sat on the edge of the bath as best she could, face in her hands as she tried to manage the meleé in her head.

 

Look, you like her Chloe, so why not just admit it to her?

What?! N-no, no I don't… not like that, I think?

Stop playing hard to get. Why else are you hiding in here other than-

"Chloe? Are you alright in there?" The soft voice echoed through the flimsy wood of the door. Chloe yelped with surprise once more, falling into the bathtub with a number of additional pained curses, legs stuck up in the air as she lay. Max opened the door to check on her, an amused and concerned look on her face as she found Chloe stuck on her back in the tub, a surprised and embarrassed look on her face.

 

"Chloe… how the hell did you end up in there?" She asked, eyebrow arched.

"Uuhmm…" Chloe murmured, shrugging. Max simply giggled, taking hold of her shoulders and lifting her out, unintentionally hugging her as she got her back on her feet once more.

 

"You're right, I think. I really to need to try and find something more in your size." Max confirmed, tapping Chloe on the nose gently, perhaps not even meaning anything by it. As Max turned and left Chloe, her face threatened to go into meltdown.

Oh. My. God. She. Is… hot! Chloe's subconscious screamed as she waddled out once more, the jeans having dislodged themselves from where they had been sat above her hips. Chloe gently felt the back of them to make sure they were still intact.


 10.35 pm

 

A knock at the door roused Nathan from his dozing sentry, pulling him from another good night's sleep as it did.

"Okay, one moment." He lazily muttered, as she straightened himself up and got to his feet. The knocking returned, louder this time. Nathan growled under his breath, aggravated at the impatience of whoever was on the other side of the door.

"Hold on, hold on damn you! The porter of Hell's gate gets buggered about less than this." Nathan grumbled through gritted teeth as he unlocked the door. He rested a hand on the doorknob, the other holding his silenced handgun at hip-height, ready to eliminate any would-be attacker. He swung the door open, pupils dilating slightly in surprise at the man stood in the rain.

"Is that how all Englanders greet their visitors?" The man mused, in his native German. A few strands of dark blonde hair hung down from under his jacket hood, droplets of rain dripping off its front. Nathan smiled, as he holstered the pistol.

"I take it the reports of your death were- exaggerated- then, Kolibri?" Nathan mused. The man in the doorstep grinned back, his upper face still in shadow.

"A little. And Martin will be fine, thank you. I'm not here on official business, obviously." He remarked.

Nathan stepped aside, gesturing for him to enter with a sweep of the palm. The man gratefully accepted the invitation, flicking his hood back and removing his jacket as Nathan re-sealed the door. "Stef sends her regards by the way." He said, as he draped the sodden jacket onto one of the spare chairs. "So, the three of us are going after the BND, are we?" Martin continued, a slight smirk on his face. "This should be interesting."

Nathan's face took on an awkward contortion, nodding all the same. "Yes, but there's been a slight change of plans. The four of us, now." He corrected, rubbing the back of his neck. Martin's expression hardened slightly, a curious gaze at Nathan.


"Four of us? Who's Number Four?"

Chapter Text

12th October, 1987

The Safehouse

9.15 am

 

The three sat around the table, cradling mugs of coffee as they discussed a few things.

"Sadly, Stef won't be able to provide us any more support. Someone suspected her of being an insider, some anonymous tipster , and she's had to go dark. I'm afraid I'll have to do the same once this is over and done with." Martin explained to Max and Nathan, Chloe still stirring and awakening.

"Right. Sorry to hear it, Martin." Nathan commented, frowning. "I do hate this bollocks, like. Fucking convenient, an anonymous tip that happens to land dead on the people trying to help us."

Max nodded in agreement. "I know. That's why finding whoever caused us this trouble in the first place is going to be catharsis. Just imagine, all of the bones you can shatter, over and over." She muttered, a slightly psychotic thought accidentally released into the open air. Her eyes opened a little wider as she realised. "I didn't mean to say that out loud. Sorry to scar your minds." She added, a wry, mischievous smile.

Martin smiled back at her. "You say that like we haven't been scarred already. What is it the West calls their agents? Deniable. It's not like our handlers care how many mental scars we have. Besides, nothing quite beats getting your own back when they screw you over." He agreed, sitting back on his chair with a knowing smile. Some commotion in the room next door, accompanied by cursing, made them aware of their missing member having finally awoken and gained some cohesiveness. The door clicked open, Chloe shuffling out of the room still half-dressed, only having a pair of snug-fitting jeans on her lower half and her black bra- evidently retrieved from the drying hanger once more, its shape perfectly encompassing the soft skin below- as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She noticed Martin, and came to a halt, eyes dilating as she recognised his face. Rather than the angry tirade Max would've expected from her months ago, when she was first let onto Max's scent, she burst into a short fit of laughter, grimacing as she finished.

"The fuck is this, the Dead Spies Society ?" She remarked sarcastically, slamming onto a chair clumsily and beginning to pull her top down over her head, though not before noting that Max's eyes were fixed on her. The dumbstruck look of awe didn't escape Chloe's attention, either. Wait, does she… no, no way! Ahh, shit. Focus, Chloe, focus! Dating the bad guys has gotten you into deep shit more than once already, no need to add to the tally!

Is she a bad guy- gal- though? A voice in her head challenged. Chloe couldn't find a fitting reply.

"So, now we're all here…" Max began, opening one of the files Chloe had just realised were there. Inside the front cover was a photo of a building in the Western portion of Germany. Chloe recognised it almost immediately, having been through that place more than enough.

She sat back and sighed in the chair, a shred of worry in her mind. "Why have we got a file and photograph of Pullach on the table?" She mused to the open air, already vaguely aware of what was coming next.

Max spread a few more pieces of paper from the file out on the table. "Well, given that our last lot of information is in the hands of British Intelligence, we need fresh intel. Did you read any of it before you turned it over?" Max asked Chloe.

Chloe shrugged. "Truth be told, I'm not sure what I did and didn't read. Something about a double agent trying to steal something, I think?"

Max nodded, grimacing. "That's the basic idea. The double agent, whoever they are, are planning to steal a Portable Launch Device."

The room temperature felt like it had dropped ten degrees. Chloe shivered. "My God." Were the only words whispered in reply to Max by her.

Max nodded, affirming her fears. "Yes, quite the case. As far as I could discern as well, the double agent involved in this was also involved in Set Gamayun. Now, the only agency I, for one, can think of that would have the information we need beyond the Stasi, or the KGB themselves, will be the BND. And that kind of information will be under lock and key at their headquarters." Max continued.

Chloe chuckled, grimly. "Oh yes, we'll go bust into Pullach. You know what, fuck it. Let's go hit the Tower of London while we're at it! At least that's an achievable heist to pull."

Max looked at her, slightly disheartened by Chloe's outburst. "You realise that this might be the only place where we can get the information we need to intercept this traitor, before they get hold of what they need to start a war?"

Chloe nodded, hissing through her teeth as she bit her tongue slightly. "I don't disagree: if we want information like that, then Pullach is our best bet. However, how many of you have been to Pullach before?" Chloe posed openly. The silence told her the grim truth of the situation facing her. "Just me?" The others nodded.

Chloe rested her elbows on the table, head supported by her fists as she sighed, loudly. "Oh boy." She murmured to herself. "In case you didn't already guess it, the security there is designed to be damn-near impenetrable. Just to get onto the main parkway, you've got to have a specialist keycard to open the barrier."

Nathan shrugged. "Easy. Shadow someone leaving there, swipe their pass, and we're in."


 The sedan rolled up to the steel barrier, adorned by an eagle and crest. An arm reached out, pressing the pass against the recognition system on the gate. A soft beep, and the whirring of the motors drawing the solid steel gate back until it no longer blocked the road. The sedan rolled through, the gate closing behind it.

"Wouldn't work." Chloe remarked, bluntly.

Nathan looked at her, not understanding. "Why the hell not?" He probed.


 

The car parked up in the underground lot, engine switching off. It was well-lit, that was certain. Max glanced at Chloe, sat in the driver's seat, and then at Nathan in the back.

"Ready?" She asked them. All nodded. They popped the catches on the door, stepping out onto the concrete. Almost as soon as the doors had slammed shut, a high-pitch alarm blared through the lot. Steel doors burst open, black-clad armed police, dressed in full tactical gear flooded the small space.

One approached, weapon trained on Chloe. Another two from behind, cutting off any escape for Max or Nathan. "Hände hoch!" He barked. As soon as their hands were up, they were tackled to the floor, the cold and rough concrete pressing against their faces as their arms were roughly manipulated, cuffed behind their backs. They were dragged to their feet, and frogmarched toward one of the doors.


 

"Every foot of that facility, even their parking lots," Chloe explained, "are watched twenty-four seven by camera. Now, bearing in mind three of us are on a shoot-to-kill wanted list… we wouldn't stand a chance."

Nathan acknowledged. "Okay, so brazenly through the front door wouldn't work. How about a distraction? Say, a bomb goes off in their parking lot, or their fire alarms get tripped. We acquire a fire vehicle or plug into the fire crew detail on a Freiwillige team, and get in that way. We get inside, hit The Vault, find what we need, and leave with the other emergency crews. It couldn’t be much easier if we tried."


 

The small panel van used as a first-response vehicle sped up the parkway, part of a flotilla of other vehicles. A small few wisps of smoke were visible from the main building as they pulled up. Max and Chloe smiled at each other, briefly, donning their helmets, grabbing their- empty- kit bags, and heading inside. Their guise as a Search-and-Rescue team gave them freedom of access: nobody batted an eyelid, nor thought to check their identities, as they swept into the building toward The Vault. Mere minutes later, they and their bags, now brimming with information, strode back out the door with the rest of the Rescue crews, having found and extinguished the source of the fire. They got back into the van, and almost as soon as the door was shut they were away, speeding back down the parkway. A clean break.


"Good idea, but that would give us a new problem." Chloe grumbled, annoyed at how frustratingly hard a nut this would be to crack. "As part of the emergency measures in the building, a fire or other emergency causes an immediate lockdown of the Vault and floods the room with inert gas. Those doors are at least four inches thick, and trying to break through them there would arouse too much suspicion. Not to mention that going in without air tanks would kill us."

Nathan grunted, equally frustrated. "So, we can't come in the front door, and we can't blast a hole in the place and pose as firemen. What other options are there?"

"Airdrop?" Martin suggested. Chloe shook her head, frowning.

"Airspace is monitored all around there. Anything goes within four miles of the place that isn't meant to be there, and the place goes into lockdown. Oh, and did I forget to mention the jets that would get scrambled to intercept?" Chloe sighed again. "Even assuming we did get close enough undetected to parachute onto the roof or something, the grilles for the vent conduits have electrical sensors on them. Pull the grilles off without authority…"

"And the alarms go off." Max finished, meeting Chloe's eyes. Chloe zoned out for a moment, lost once more in those deep blue eyes across the table from her. They even looked beautiful when red-rimmed and bloodshot from stress and fatigue, even when the lady was pissed off. Chloe shook her head subtly, snapping herself back to reality.

"So what you're saying is that there's no way in?" Max asked, an air of defeat to her voice.

Chloe gave her a wry half-grimace. "There is. It just isn't too pleasant. There's an access into their redundant sewer system a mile or so out into the woods, even I'm technically not meant to know about it. It used to have protection like everything else, but they disabled it. Problems with moisture or something. That would be our way in. Trouble is that it’s narrow, maybe a couple of feet at best."

Nathan frowned, glancing at Martin. “Guess that rules us two out. Reckon you can get in, get what we need and get out without trying to fuck each other?” He muttered, a sardonic grin on his face. Chloe missed the double-entendre glaring at her. Max, who still had her back to Chloe, had buried her face in the jacket she was wearing, trying to hide the fact that her face was hot as hell right now.

“We’re supposed to be working together now, why would I fuck her?” She retorted, before the penny finally dropped. Her complexion changed to red faster than a London traffic light. Nathan grinned at her as she turned away, somewhat baffled as to how he’d figured that out so fast.

Before things could digress further, Martin intervened. “I’m more than happy to not be going into their headquarters.” Martin mused. “God knows, I might bump into Lenora in there.” He grimaced.

“How did she even get caught in the first place?” Max asked, knowing a small amount about the BND having apprehended Frau Rauch the previous year. Martin rubbed the back of his neck, awkwardly.

“I traded her in.” He said. Max looked at him, astonished, while Chloe simply whistled.

“Hell, and I thought I had family problems.” She chirped, snarkily.

“Okay, okay.” Nathan butted in once more. “Shall we get back to the task of getting into fucking Pullach here?”

Chloe nodded. “Right. Our best bet will be some kind of oversuit, and some other protective gear. The ducts are redundant now, but I’d rather not traipse whatever shit they’re full of around. Won’t be particularly covert if we do, and I'd rather not contract a dozen different bugs just getting inside. The size of the duct also means the equipment we can take in is minimal. A small gun each, plus the tooling we need for the cabinet locks. I should be able to take a drag-bag through there as well, actually.” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, and one last thing: they have night patrols. Lightly armed, sure, but if they fail to report in…”

“The whole place goes on lockdown and will be teeming with very bad-tempered tactical cops?” Martin finished. Chloe nodded.

“Yup. So, the real question is when we hit it, I suppose.”


 6th November, 1987

In the woods outside Pullach

22.35 Local Time

In the end, the group had settled for a Friday night. Most of the standard workers had clocked out at around five in the afternoon, meaning that the building had minimal manning. Just the few security personnel assigned to guard prisoners, and the guard force itself. Plus a few late workers, some of whom were most likely having animated involvement with their secretaries. The radio crackled as Max and Chloe finished suiting up, Nathan making these- rather amusing- observations as he provided overwatch. Even in the dim glow of the torchlights, Chloe couldn’t help but notice the way that the thick suit hugged Max’s form more so than even her normal clothes, every bump and curve in her form accentuated by the tight rubberised material. To make sure that they'd be in as good a sense of health coming out as they were going in, they'd had to suit up fully: on top of the sealed drysuits keeping the worst of the gunk at bay, they were wearing hoods that sealed into the suit, and a respirator to ensure that nothing nasty got into their lungs. The quiet whine of a drill hung in the air as Martin finished breaking off the tight screws holding down the small access hatch. A horrid, fetid stench rose up as he pulled the metal away, sending the three reeling. Max gagged as Martin grimly smiled.

"Glad I'm not going in there ." Martin smirked, Max's complexion having paled even in the torchlight.

"Are you sure there's no other way in?" She pleaded with Chloe, dreading what was coming next. Chloe shook her head as she fastened a harness around her waist.

"Nope. We're in the shit now- or will be in a moment- so no chickening on me now." She affirmed. Chloe checked the line attaching her harness to the sealed duffel she was going to be dragging behind her, as Max secured her mask and pulled the tight opening of her hood round it, flicking on the torch that had been slotted into the fixing point on the side of her head. Chloe was grateful for the mask at this point: not only was it going to help stave off any of the hundred forms of TB and typhoid likely lurking in the sludge caking parts of the pipeline; but as Max bent down to get into the small opening, it did a superb job of hiding the fact that her cheeks had flushed, staring at her form as she wriggled into position. After she'd moved up a little to let Chloe into the line, she gave Martin a thumbs-up, slotting herself and the bulky bag into the line. The dim light from above was sealed out as the lid was replaced, the only light source now being Max's torch.

 

Chloe tried her best not to think about what she was crawling through, able to hear dulled squelches through the thick hood encasing her head, as she focused on following Max along the confined line. She stopped suddenly, Chloe accidentally bumping into her as she hadn't noticed. Max turned back to face her as best she could, shaking her head as she set off. Chloe could feel a heat spreading throughout her: both mildly embarrassed at having accidentally faceplanted into Max's ass; and as her thoughts wandered watching her form wriggling along ahead of her. After what felt like an eternity, the slimy pipe gave way to an open area, still unlit but with more space than the pipe. Max waded across the dark water sitting in the lower part, heading for the concrete walkway over by the dimly-lit door, its off-white reflecting slightly in the torchlight. Chloe hoisted the bag up, keeping it out of the water as she followed through the waist-high effluent, trying her best not to notice the sticky, slimy feeling underfoot, a soft popping against her foot as the submerged sludge released her thick protective boots. She dropped the bag onto the plinth as Max extended a hand to her, grasping her arm and helping her out of the water. They carefully moved up to the door, opening it to find a small clean-room to change in. Chloe could feel her cheeks hotting up even more, her face feeling damp with sweat, as Max peeled off the stained suit, revealing the tight grey bodysuit she was wearing underneath. Two pairs of thick rubber gloves donned, she removed her hood, gingerly, and finally her mask, gasping and coughing as Chloe started the process of stripping off her protection.

"To say that stinks of shit doesn't even come close!" Max whispered as her as she stuffed the used clothing into a polythene bag, sealing it shut. Chloe smirked as she broke the seal on their equipment bag.

"Better than getting caught, though." Chloe reminded her, as she dug out her clothes to wear while they were conducting their raid, taking off her bodysuit. Chloe turned away, just enough to conceal the flushing across her body as Max's petite, unclad form was revealed, the tight grey undergarment being discarded and shoved back into the bag, as Chloe changed out of her suit and into her clothes, blissfully unaware of the dumbstruck and lustful gaze Max was giving her.

Ten minutes later, the pair had changed, keeping the bulky duffel bags with them. Despite Max's protests about the smell, Chloe pointed out that their guise of being The Maintenance Girls would hold up a lot better if they still had the equipment with them. Instead of their usual, comfortable clothes, both had opted for a set of coveralls over just their underwear, emblazoned with the insignia of one of the local maintenance and engineering firms. Most firms either had seen working in a place like this tended to dress like this, male or female. Plus, keeping the duffel bags with the soiled protective gear with them gave them something to hide any files they appropriated in. Slowly and carefully, they crept through the darkened corridors, Chloe taking the lead. More than once did she stop abruptly, blushing as she felt Max walk into the back of her, muttering curses under her breath. Eventually, they reached The Vault. Max frowned, noticing its emptiness.

"This seems wrong. Where's all the countermeasures, the guards?" She quizzed Chloe, apprehensive.

Right on cue, the flash of a torch passed along the banks of filing cabinets, the pair squeezing into an alcove as the beam flashed up toward where they had been. Chloe did her best to camouflage the hitch in her breath as she pressed up against Max, feeling her warmth slightly through her coveralls.

Don’t let it show, don’t let it show. Chloe’s and Max’s thoughts demanded of them, dreading the consequences of their counterpart realising what was going on in their head.

A moment later, she looked out. The guard was gone. She hastily snatched up her duffel, glancing at her watch.

"Okay… if they haven't changed the routines since I was last here, that should give us half an hour or so to grab what we need." Chloe uttered. Max looked at her, surprised.

"How the fuck do you know these things?" She begged, slightly incredulous.

Chloe smiled at her. "I may act like an idiot, and make myself look like an idiot sometimes, but that's all part of the act. Far easier to notice things going on when the people around you aren't taking you seriously. Same way I know there's no security countermeasures fitted in here: they think it's impossible to get this far in unnoticed." She explained.

Max giggled a little. "How very smart. Was that your plan when you bumped into Stef?" She mused, missing Chloe's rather obvious wince at the mention of the name. They arrived at the cabinets labelled G, Max making a start on breaking into the filing cabinets. Chloe picked up her equipment and moved towards the cabinets labelled A. Max raised an eyebrow as she got out the picks she needed.

"Why are you breaking into those?" She quizzed Chloe, impatient to get out of here as soon as possible. "They're totally irrelevant!" She hissed, as Chloe ignored her. As they worked, they were hypersensitive to their surroundings. Every tiny noise; click; scraping of picks; clink of metal on metal; was amplified tenfold. Chloe cursed under her breath as one of her picks slipped from between her fingers, ringing as the small piece of metal bounced on the hard floor. She stooped down and picked it up, her heart speeding up as the minutes, seconds ticked by. Finally, both women opened their respective cabinets. Max’s fingers danced softly over the identifying tabs, stopping as she reached Gamayun. Gently, she pulled it up from within the cabinet, opening its cover to confirm the contents as she quietly and carefully slid the drawer closed, wincing as its locking pins clicked back into place.

 

“Boo!” a voice loudly whispered in her ear, a pair of hands at her waist. Max dropped the toolkit and file, jumping in shock and barely managing to suppress a surprised shriek. She turned around to find Chloe, stood with an incredibly entertained expression on her face. Max scowled at her.

“Are you seriously going to fuck around like this? That guard could come back any moment, and you’re going to try and give me a heart attack?” She snapped at her, Chloe snorting slightly in amusement.

“You should’ve seen the look on your face, Max. It was priceless .” She whispered, something more of an animated tone to her voice.

“What the hell did you want over there, anyway?” Max probed, still irritated at Chloe’s needless jump-scaring her.

Chloe presented a file. "It's Andrews' file. Seeing as I'm disavowed already, it can't possibly hurt to find out what the cagey asshole has spent his life doing." She murmured, impishly. Max shook her head, mildly irritated.

"You are unbelievable , Chloe. We're in the basement of one of the most secure places in Europe, we could be caught any moment, and on top of giving me a fright, you want to peruse your old boss' files." She scoffed. Chloe quietly went back and clicked her drawer shut, before leaning against Max's, like a cocky high school jock to a shy new schoolgirl. Max didn't appreciate the movement, and as she hid her files away in her duffel, she jabbed her gun into Chloe's stomach. The combined surprise of doing it, and fear from the look of seriousness of Max's face, made it incredibly hard for her to avoid a humiliating accident of some form, her heart rate punching off the scale. After a few tense moments, Max smiled, equally deviously, and re-holstered her weapon, as Chloe exhaled a breath she didn't realise she was holding. Shakily, she stepped off, picking up her duffel bag as she went, with Max following behind her. A few turns and corridors later, and Chloe stopped dead, cursing.

 

"Shit, I can't remember how you get out of here." She angrily remarked to herself. Max stared at her some more, unbelieving.

"I hope you're joking. I do not want to have to try and get this horrible suit on again, much less do I want to crawl back through that disgusting pipe again." She deadpanned, Chloe's face reddening, as she nervously laughed.

"I wish I was. Worse yet, I don't think we can get back out through that pipe without crawling to the end, which is the water treatment plant. No, we're taking another route out." Chloe nervously stammered, as they walked on. Further ahead, light spilled into the corridor from the open door of a security checkpoint, television jabbering away. Chloe froze, gesturing for Max to do the same, as they listened in on the security personnel.

"Verdammt, why do they love scheduling all the maintenance at night?" One of the guards grumbled, talking to either himself or a colleague. Another voice piped up in the room.

"Tell me about it, Erich. Maybe the management know about our card games and are too cowardly to tell us straight. I don't know why they insist on having people crawl into that old pipe to check it anyway, why not just send a robot down with a camera?" The other guy grumbled as well, the sound of cards slapping against the table became apparent as he finished.

Erich grumbled. "I know, Karl. Unless they just like keeping us new guys busy. God, what I'd give for something exciting to happen around here!" He exclaimed. Chloe bit her knuckle as she suppressed a chuckle as the guards' obliviousness.

Oh, careful what you wish for boys!

 

Karl, it sounded like, grunted, a chair scraping as his feet hit the floor.

"Well, I'd better go and make my rounds before someone more important shows up to retask us, again. Gott, what I wouldn't give to have them communicate with us underlings properly." He muttered, footsteps approaching the door. Chloe froze for a moment. The corridor had no other doors, and no alcoves to conceal them.

Shit! Think fast, something that'll throw him off his stride. She thought. With barely a second thought, she dropped her duffel softly on the floor, grabbed Max and pinned her to the wall, lips locking in a kiss. Max didn't make any attempt to resist, overcome with surprise. Chloe's leg curled around hers, as one of Chloe's hands found its way inside the coveralls, caressing the bare skin beneath as it popped open the buttoned front, revealing Max's exposed skin in the dim light. Max moaned softly, involuntarily, as the torchlight illuminated them.

 

"Der teufel?" The guard muttered, as he got closer. Acting as though they'd been caught in the act, the pair broke away, Chloe gasping in surprise as Max pulled her open coverall shut, holding it with a hand. The guard was visibly flustered, as he gingerly aimed the torch at the floor.

"Erm… what, what are you ladies doing in here?" He mumbled, as Max hastily refastened her front.

"We're… with the Maintenance team." Chloe stated, pulling against the embroidery on the coverall and waving it at the guard. "We've just come back up from inspecting the pipeline." She explained further, the guard looking more puzzled yet.

"I thought that was meant to be getting done tomorrow?" He interrogated.

"It was, but our firm had to rearrange it for today. Didn't your shift leader tell you?" Chloe asked, feigning exasperation. The guard shook his head fervently.

"No, no, they never mentioned a thing. Bastards." He remarked, annoyed about the unexpected persons in his hallway. He squinted at Chloe slightly. "Say, have we met before?" He asked. Chloe felt her heart speed up, as the ruse seemed as though it were about to fail.

"Come on, Helena, we need to leave. Don't want to get our arses chewed off for excessive overtime again." Max called out, collecting her duffel once more and passing Chloe hers. The guard looked at them curiously.

"What's in those?" He probed further, his tone becoming a little more authoritative. Chloe carefully unzipped it, revealing the sealed polythene with her suit and mask in it, brown and greenish smears coating it from the vile muck they had crawled through. Even with the bags sealed, the putrid stench was still faintly able to be smelled. The guard turned his nose up, paling a little.

"Just our protective gear." Chloe affirmed. "I can open it up if you want to check it over." She offered, the guard profusely shaking his head and gesturing not to.

"No, no, that's fine. Can I help you at all?" He offered, half-smiling.

Chloe nodded. "Actually, yes. Our escorts brought us in earlier and said someone would come along to show us out, but nobody has. We're a bit lost, you see. Could you be so kind as to show us the way to the Service Entrance?" Chloe enquired, the guard enthusiastically nodding and leading the way, stopping by the guard post to tell his colleague that he'd be back 'once he'd shown the lesbian maintenance workers' back out. Max drew level with Chloe as she stood waiting for him.

"Do me a favour, Chloe… don't go having any bold ideas like that again." Max whispered in her ear. As they set off to follow their new escort, Max slapped a hand hard across Chloe's backside, digits imprinting slightly on the soft skin. Chloe yelped, tensing up as the contact distantly reminded her of a certain Stasi agent's touch. Max cackled to herself, noticing Chloe's reddened complexion, matching her own. Chloe hadn’t realised this, however. As they got outside, the guard’s radio crackled. Neither clearly heard what was said, but the guard still seemed perfectly calm and oblivious.

 

“There’s a van waiting at the bottom of the parkway, white. Registration M-GF-6594. That yours?” He asked them. Chloe nodded.

“Yup, that’s our supervisor. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s been and sloped off, and forgotten his access card. Again.” Chloe grumbled, taking on her persona as the disgruntled maintenance woman once more.

“Probably off seeing his mistress, again.” Max mused, playing along with Chloe. The guard keyed his radio, authorising the gate operator to let them in. A minute later, the slightly pitted white van pulled up, Martin making sure to keep his face well enough hidden while avoiding suspicion, Nathan sat next to him as Max and Chloe opened the side door and got inside, thanking the guard for his help all the while. The door slid home with a clang, and as soon as it had, the van set off again, back down the parkway and outside the perimeter. As the imposing steel sealed behind them, Chloe released an elated hoot.

 

“I can’t believe that actually worked!” She howled, laughing maniacally. Max’s eyes bulged as she looked at Chloe, as one would look over the top of a pair of glasses.

“What do you mean by that? You mean to say you thought it wouldn’t work?!” Max exclaimed, barely able to contain her amazement at Chloe’s statement.

Chloe laughed nervously once more, averting Max’s gaze. “Truth be told, I wasn’t sure we’d pull it off, especially when we bumped into that guard post.” She mumbled. Her eyes came up to meet Max’s in the dim back of the van. “But, as the British say… Fortune Favours the Bold.

“Or the outright insane.” Nathan sarcastically interjected. Chloe shot a glare into the back of his seat.

“Speak for yourself.” She growled at him, hearing him chuckling in reply. Her eyes turned back to meet Max’s as the van trundled back toward their temporary base. As the streetlights flashed by, rays of light penetrating into the rear where the two women sat opposite each other, Chloe caught sight of a small smile on Max’s face, and a slightly pinkish tone to the tops of her cheeks as she sat, blushing. Chloe felt a warm sensation in her stomach and face as she gazed at Max’s eyes again, smiling a little more. She noticed that Max did the same.

She… she’s looking at me like Rachel used to. Chloe realised, blue spheres the only things she caught a glimpse of. Maybe...


 

The day guard, understandably, were in for the surprise of their lives when they carried out a review of the camera footage to find that two of the most wanted spies in the world, no less, had broken in overnight. The night shift, bless them, had no idea how close they had been to potential death, nobody having thought to brief them on the potential threat. No action was taken against them, either: the ruse they had been spun was entirely plausible, given the spotty communication between the BND and the contractors they used.

 

When a team swept and checked the contents of the Vault, they were surprised to find only two files were missing: the intelligence that had been gathered on Set Gamayun over the last thirty years; the other, the intelligence reports and operational history for the current Senior Director of Field Operations in Europe, Richard James Andrews.

Chapter Text

13th November, 1987

The Safehouse

15.50 Local Time

 

The raid against Pullach had been incredibly successful. Not only had the trio managed to get the information they sought, but by the time the BND had even the slightest idea that they'd been raided, they had gone underground. Bidding Martin farewell as he headed back for Östberlin, they had gone off the grid for a week or so, letting the heat die down enough to make the re-entry to West Berlin undetected. Obviously, they'd changed safehouses on their return: now, they were staying on the outskirts of the city, in a relatively nice townhouse, somewhat secluded from everything else. Once they had got their bearings and properly celebrated their success, they set to work disseminating what they had acquired from the BND Vault. Both files had a wealth of information in them, both spanning almost the same lengths of time, innumerable occasions where they had been present and in locations all across the globe.

"Hey, look at this." Max called over to Chloe, who promptly joined her. Max had sections from both the files out on the table, some dated well before she was born. Vietnam-era, very early in the conflict at that.

" Set Gamayun was in Vietnam, assisting the Viet Cong. Well, shit." Chloe noted, reading the file on the shadowy Soviet spy program. "No wonder we couldn't beat the fuckers."

Max shook her head, pointing to the other file. "That's not what I was getting at. In and around the same time, your old boss was present in Vietnam as well." Max pointed out, highlighting the similarities in the dates and areas of operation.

"It could be coincidence. If you've ever met the guy, he has been everywhere . I'm not even kidding, I half expect he was running Black Ops in Korea in some shape or form. Hell, he was probably there to try and spy on this Gamayun thing." She mused, recounting the various details she'd known from before she'd seen the BND's dissection of her former boss. It still hurt her, thinking about how far she'd fallen so fast.

I suppose Max knows how it feels.

 

They continued onward. More and more, the picture became clear for the duo.

"Holy shit, this thing has existed since we were kids. 1964, the official records state Set Gamayun came into being, as far as the BND know. Maybe even earlier." Max gasped, shocked at the revelation.

 

"That's cool." Chloe replied, sarcastic. "I'm more interested in the note there. 'Intercepted communication suggests Set Gamayun operating outside specified parameters.' That's… unusual. Especially in my experience of your team's adherence to protocol."

 

Max nodded, subtly. "Yes, that is definitely unusual. 'Outside specified parameters' is usually their way of saying 'gone rogue'. My question would have to be who, and why."

Chloe sat back a little, feeling a slight warmth in her cheeks as she quietly ogled Max, the curious and bemused expression on her face as she puzzled through the information looking so cute on those features. Granted, it was a hell of a lot easier to ogle her when Nathan wasn't around to point it out with some snarky, backhanded comment, but that was beside the point. Chloe glanced away from her as she gathered her thoughts.

 

So… how long is the perv game going to carry on for? A week? A month? A year? Come on, you know you like her, and it's pretty obvious that she likes you in some way. She tilted her head slightly, stretching out her neck as she considered the question.

I know… but we have to do this first. We can't afford any more distractions, given the situation.

 

She could almost hear the other voice snort in the back of her mind. Really? You wanna try and pull that one? Let's face it, dummy, you've had that many one-night stands on missions over the years to make a weekend in Vegas look tame. And this time, it isn't gonna be a one-night stand. Admit it, you're in L-O-O-V-E .

Chloe screwed her eyes up, wincing at her own mind and its pinpoint accuracy. Okay, fine, I'll get around to it. I just need to find the right time.

 

Chloe's attention- and Max's- was drawn by Nathan's return to the safehouse, clutching a few small bags of supplies he'd acquired. Mostly groceries, but a few small things beside.

"So, what've we got?" He asked as he dropped the bags down to one side and approached the table with the files splayed across it. Chloe stood back up, glancing across the files. Her gaze passed over one, nonchalant, until the dots- or, more accurately, photographs- connected. Her blood froze in her veins as she slapped her hand down onto the dossier, making the other two jump.

 

"Shit." Was all she could manage in her shocked state. The file had a photograph in it that Chloe recognised well: one of the stores that the Strategic Air Command used to store spare Nuclear Footballs . There were normally half a dozen, ready to go, held in that store in the event that they were required. "Which file did this come from, the Set Gamayun one?" Chloe asked, her tone belying her concern. Max nodded, realisation dawning on her face as she understood what had Chloe so worried.

 

"You don't think… you don't think they're planning that, do you?" Nathan added, asking the question that nobody dared utter aloud.

Chloe curtly nodded, her eyes telling the pair exactly what was going on in her head. "For them to have a photo of exactly that room should be impossible down to the security. Unless…" She glanced at Max. "What is Set Gamayun, exactly?"

Max bit her lip slightly as she figured out how to word the information she had. "I only know so much, and the official file was lost after Wilhelm managed to steal it… however, I remember hearing that it was some kind of new counterintelligence ring. It isn't made up of regular KGB operatives, if I remember rightly. Save for the overseeing officer. I don't know their name, just that their codename is- or was- Das Frettchen. The same bastard that set me up for the fall that I took."

 

Chloe nodded in solidarity, as Max continued. "Like I said, the operatives making up Set Gamayun typically aren't KGB. Most aren't even from the Bloc. Disavowed Western agents, those presumed dead, or whom went missing, when in fact we captured and flipped them. They turn them around, occasionally plant them in places they deem to be strategically useful…" Max stopped, as the penny dropped.

"Oh, fuck ." Nathan exhaled, as he too realised the grave severity of Chloe's point hit home. "Surely, they can't have managed to plant someone there ? There has to be some way the vetting process would detect that." He countered.

 

Chloe shook her head. "Apparently not. Now, connect the dots: Set Gamayun are rogue, and they have the means to acquire a Portable Launch Device. I don't think it takes a Harvard degree to figure out what their play is."

Max paled slightly. "Mein gott."

Nathan left the room, leaving the duo to their discussion. Max turned to Chloe, equal parts worried and unable to understand their new information.

 

"Why would they steal a Launch Device? As you say, even if they had the codes… what good could they achieve with them?"

Chloe shrugged. "Policy in the event of a Football being hijacked is to isolate the launch silos and send out radio signals to the subs. It would leave us defenceless, because that instruction is basically 'we've got a rogue launch device, ignore any order to fire until further notice'."

 

Max drummed her fingers on the table. "So, they could use it to hold America hostage. What about if they acquired one without being noticed? Covered their tracks, somehow?"

Chloe gave her a confused stare. "Skipping over how that would be damn-near impossible to do, I suppose…" the colour drained from her face as the potential implications of the scenario made sense to her. "Jesus Christ."

 

Max nodded. "I was worried you would say that. It's exactly what would happen: just imagine, a single American missile, landing on a city like Leningrad, Murmansk, Arkangel'sk… even Moscow. Not knowing why it was done, the Americans having no way to claim it was an unauthorised launch." She stated, running the hypothetical in her head.

"Wait, what do you mean 'no way to claim it was unauthorised' ?" Chloe asked her, realising what Max had implied.

 

Max shrugged. "We couldn't read them because of the encryptions, but we could tell when something was happening. Able Archer , for example. We nearly blew ourselves up because the radio signals all suggested that nuclear missiles were going to bear down on our homes." She elaborated. Chloe blushed very slightly at the mention of Able Archer , still glad that Max had no idea of that incident as yet.

I would never live it down. Especially from her.

 

"Right. So the Soviets would see the signal, and immediately interpret that as a live attack. Pre-emptive." Chloe stated, confirming their fears.

Max nodded. "The moment they see a signal like that, and their satellites confirm even a single launch, they'd send everything. They'd force America's hand."

 

The pair sat silent for a few moments, their own machinations terrifying them. Max gently laid her hands on Chloe's.

 

"But we can still stop them. Right?" She encouraged Chloe, smiling to try and detract from her own fear of the situation. The contact was unexpected for Chloe, but not unwelcome, Max's warm digits taking hers in hand. She pushed down the burning sensation spreading through her insides, glad that her cheeks hadn't caught light at her touch.

"Right. It's us three against the world." Chloe echoed. "I've fought worse odds."

 

 

Nathan could hear their conversation continue, muffled by the building between him and them as he closed the door behind him. He shakily took the piece of printed silk he had found nestled into the packet of cigarettes he had bought, unfurling it to read the seemingly meaningless print. Meaningless to someone without the proper knowledge, at any rate.

 

18PGP 65YBE H9353 6HRF6 9WG3Z 8HQHQ BTNTN 67F7F JX3X3

 

Taking a nervous glance at the door once more, he set to work decoding the message. Ten minutes later, his new task was clear; the piece of silk reduced to ash, and washed down the faucet. The thought of what he had to do made him more anxious than anything yet. However, his curiosity was peaked at the same time. Why did his handler suddenly want him to report in?


 

16th November, 1987

Schlossgarten Charlottenberg, West Berlin

11.35 Local Time

 

Nathan made his way through the park, a few nervous glances to ensure he wasn't being followed here and there. The satchel he was carrying may as well have been full of plastic explosive, for how uncomfortable it made him, how worried he was about being caught with it on his person. To most, the files would mean nothing; it made him no less paranoid as to who may be lurking around the park. After what to him felt like an uncomfortably long time, he found where he had been told to meet. A small Imbißstube, a few park benches nearby. He sat down at one of the benches, staring out over the park. So many people happy, carefree. If only they knew what was coming, if only they realised how far the fuse had burned down, the fuse threatening to ignite the powder keg that was Europe and spark a thermonuclear firestorm that would devastate the world as he knew it.

 

I hate this job sometimes. Knowing things like this, and not being able to tell people just how close they are to being wiped out in a ball of thermonuclear fire... it's a fucking curse alright.  The wood to his side bowed slightly as another man sat down on it.

 

"You took yer fookin' time." Nathan snarled, not turning to face him in case they were being watched.

"Now, that's no way to act in public, Nathan." The Scot's voice calmly replied. "What's got you so on edge today?"

Nathan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Oh, nothing much. Just the small issue of having the playbook for a thermonuclear war in my bag, nothing much." He retorted, snarkily. "How's Victoria been?" He asked.

 

"Still asking about you, obviously. Curious as to why you've stayed dark for so long." His handler replied.

"I've stayed dark for so long because of you, remember? Something about 'befriend the renegade Soviet spy' and being 'disavowed as a cover story', remember?" Nathan reminded him. Jefferson merely shrugged.

"Indeed. At least your being disavowed is exactly that, just a cover. I still can't wrap my head around what made the CIA throw Chloe's arse out of the door." He thought aloud.

Nathan made an uncomfortable facial expression. "There's another thing. She mentioned it a few weeks ago, after Max saved her and she'd recovered. The agents that 'gave her the news', so to speak, were from B Section. Our guys." Nathan added.

 

Jefferson looked surprised for a moment, before the expression was snatched away by clarity. "That figures. I was told B Section had lost a couple of operatives. I was told they were on routine ops. I would've thought they'd tell me if they were about to pull something like that ." He explained, still looking a little confused as he tried to find a missing piece to the jigsaw. "Well, I suppose it happened anyway." He concluded.

 

His eyes turned to the Imbißtube briefly. "Fancy a bite to eat?"

Nathan shook his head. "Believe it or not, I'm not hungry, thanks."

 

Jefferson shrugged and left the table, returning a minute or two later with some sausage-based foodstuff or another and some fries. He began tucking in, as though Nathan wasn't there.  Nathan slipped the satchel off his shoulder and placed it on the bench next to him.

 

"If that's everything…" he remarked, standing up to leave.

"Not quite." Jefferson called after him, stopping him as he went to leave. "There's one more thing I want to discuss with you. A proposition, as it were."

Nathan set himself back down on the wooden seat, curious. "And that would be what, exactly?"

Jefferson smiled, ever so slightly. That smile had always creeped Nathan out somewhat.

 

"I've been considering getting the three of you together. A debrief, so to speak. I've been looking into the whole situation surrounding this alleged double agent, and the information you have here combined with what I already received from Chloe should go a ways to unmasking them." He stopped to allow Nathan to process what he had just said, before continuing. "You'll have to get them there though: convince them; deceive them; do whatever you must to ensure they get there. Let's say we go for a week's time, gives me long enough to get my head around this lot of intel. The other safehouse, that's where I'll be."

 

Nathan nodded as he stood up, the cogs already whirring as he tried to figure out the best way to achieve his aim.


 

23rd November, 1987

En Route to Safehouse Six, West Berlin

19.00 Local Time

 

"So talk me through what we're doing, again." Chloe muttered, frustrated by Nathan's profuse caginess about their destination and aim as the car trundled through suburban Berlin once more. Since last week, when they'd been disseminating the information in the files. Nathan had later picked them up, to deliver to a 'contact' that he had. As far as Max and Chloe knew, they were headed to meet this contact now. Whom, where- and even why- they did not know.

"Just relax, and trust me." Nathan assured her, keeping his eyes on the road. "This contact of mine is reliable. We can trust them, for sure. They're probably our best bet at cracking this case wide open right now, I reckon."

 

Chloe shrugged. "Whatever you say, m'lord." She said, seeing him grit his teeth in a grimace in reply.

"How many times, Chloe? Don't. Call. Me. That. " He growled, as she gave him a sarcastic grin. Her attention turned to Max, a glance at her once more, taking in her features, her form, her absorbing blue eyes.

God, she is so fucking beautiful. How I'd love to be hers, her to be mine.

 

"What are you staring at me for, Chloe? Do I have 'Jackass' written on my forehead?" Max asked her, raising an eyebrow as Chloe's cheeks reddened once more, and she squeaked slightly with embarrassed surprise, turning away abruptly.

Fuck, too obvious!

So go on. Tell her, you coward. Or, just try and do her in the car, right here right now. Miss Sarcastic in her mind perked up once again.

 

Chloe pretended she'd never had that thought, as Nathan stopped the car. Chloe looked out at the house, recognising it immediately.

"Ah, so your contact is on the inside , huh?" She probed Nathan once more. Nathan tilted his head, expression briefly flickering.

 

"You could say that. Come on, we're wasting time." He answered, curtly, as the trio made their way up the stairs and to the door leading into the main apartment. Nathan opened the door and led them in. Chloe's eyes dilated in surprise, hand fumbling for her gun as she registered Nathan's contact, sat on the sofa in front of them with a wry smile, and a tumbler of scotch in hand. Nathan sharply blocked her, grabbing her wrist as she protested, trying to bring the barrel to bear.

"Woah, Chloe, cool yourself down for fuck's sake!" He chattered, animated, as she took her hand away from the gun.

 

"Oh yeah, calm down. It's not like MI6 agents have tried TWICE to fucking kill me. " She grumbled, crossing her arms as Max closed the door behind them. The figure sat on the sofa stood up.

"Nice to see you too, Chloe. In case Natham didn't mention it, the first I knew that those agents had tried to kill you was when Nathan told me about it. Before that, all I knew was that they had been killed on duty. Not that they'd been taken out by Maxine when they'd tried killing you." Jefferson explained. "Speaking of which, you must be Maxine." He continued, approaching the trio and extending a hand to Max, who shook it apprehensively.

 

Max nodded. "I prefer Max, not Maxine. You must be Jefferson."

Jefferson nodded in reply. "I prefer Mark, myself. I take it Chloe and Nathan have been fair to me in their descriptions?" He asked. Max merely smiled in reply, as she released his hand.

"So, it's about time we got down to why you're here. I asked Nathan to get you here so we can meet, and I can- debrief you- on what's happened so far. I've had a glance over the files you were able to retrieve from Pullach. Interesting, I must say." He stopped himself briefly, glancing at his half-full tumbler. "How rude of me. Allow me to get you a drink. The usual for you two?" He glanced at Chloe and Nathan, who nodded. "And for you, Max?" He asked.

Max shrugged. "I think I'll have whatever it is that Chloe's having. She seems to have decent taste." She replied, seeing Chloe's slightly burning face out of the corner of her eye.  I do wonder, with the way she's acting… does she like me in the way I think she does? Max pondered, as Jefferson left the room briefly. The three sat down on the sofa, as they awaited their host's return. Chloe and Max were sat down, Chloe tantalisingly close to Max. Jefferson returned with their drinks: a bottle of beer for Nathan; a vodka and coke for Max and Chloe each. The trio began having their drinks as Jefferson continued.

 

"So, the investigation into the double agent is still ongoing. Nobody in the chain is quite sure who it might be, and since you were disavowed, Chloe, the CIA's trail has effectively gone dead. However, prior to that I had Nathan drop off-grid, effectively work as though he were disavowed. Sorry to seem like I've played you two." Jefferson apologised, looking at Max and Chloe. Chloe felt slightly woozy, as though the alcohol had already began to work its magic. She thought nothing of it. Vodka is vodka is vodka, I guess . "However, his insights have been invaluable in tracing suspects. Now, we know they intend to commit nuclear terrorism, perhaps try and spark a nuclear skirmish. Obviously, a big no-no for us." He shrugged as he finished. "That's about all I have for you right now. Enjoy your drinks. Feel free to stay a while, too." He said, a hard-to-read tone to his words, as he left the room.

 

Chloe nodded lazily, his words sounding slightly slurred. Hell, I must be a lightweight now. No way a single vodka does that to me. She turned to Max, who seemed to be becoming equally intoxicated. Her impulses to smother Max, show her how she felt, were hard to fight.

No time like the present? Chloe lazily questioned herself, feeling a little more woozy.

 

"Hey Max, I… I have something to tell you, I guess?" She slurred. Max smiled at her, dopily. Her pupils looked somewhat more dilated than they should have, her eyes wandering aimlessly across the room.

That seems… weird. What's… got her like that?

 

"And what would that be?" Max mumbled drunkenly, words barely discernible, as she giggled. The giggling gave way to a groan, as Max swayed, slightly, falling against Chloe and reaching an arm out, her other hand falling awkwardly onto Chloe's thigh.

"I feel like I'm… I'm going to be...sick." Were the last coherent words she muttered before she collapsed onto Chloe's lap, motionless afterward save for her breathing. The sound of a dropped bottle behind her caught her attention, and she lazily spun to see Nathan's arm loosely outstretched, his half-consumed bottle lying on its side against the floor as he sat slumped, a glazed expression on his barely-open eyes.

Chloe shook Max's petite form, briefly, her arms moving clumsily as she tried to rouse her partner in vain. Chloe couldn't figure out what was making every movement feel like it was being translated through tar, even the simplest movements almost impossible to make with any real ease. The aftertaste of her drink, dull as it was, hit her taste buds at last. Salty, saline.

Oh. I know...I know that taste. She realised.

 

F….uck. Her mind slowly reiterated, as the reason her drink seemed to be more potent dawned on her. The world around Chloe appeared to flicker and distort, her sight blurry and out of focus. Her eyelids felt as though a ton weight was sat on them, trying to ride them down. She caught a glimpse at the doorway to the kitchen area. Jefferson was leaning against the frame, a dark, smug, victorious grin on his face.

"Don't you ever learn, Chloe?" He professed, wiggling a small, empty bottle in one hand. She looked at Nathan, who had already passed out as well. She fumbled for her gun, appendages refusing to cooperate as her face twisted into one of disgust. Anger. Hate.

 

"Never trust a spy." Jefferson answered his own rhetoric, as he walked further into the room, toward her.

"You… you asshole! " She swore vehemently at him, struggling to steady her swaying pistol as it took aim at ten indistinct Jeffersons, their outlines fluttering in her sight. Every breath was becoming harder and harder to take. The sound of a door being kicked in to her right drew her attention briefly, dulled as though her ears had been covered over. A swarm of black-clad figures flitting in her peripheral vision, further compounding her difficulty. Her aim returned briefly to Jefferson as the dark edges of her sight swallowed it whole, all function snatched from her. A dull thud, as her limp and unresponsive body hit the floor, was the last thing she heard before she was robbed, too, of her hearing, not even feeling the SEK operators roughly grabbing her by the shoulders.


 

24th November, 1987

USAF SAC Secure Store, West Berlin

00.45 Local Time

 

The figure strode across the concrete courtyard, hands buried into the pockets of his long jacket, two more similarly-dressed men closely flanking behind as a light sleet came down on the courtyard, a Baltic burst of air sweeping across. The trio were unfazed, however, as they approached the two guards ahead. Beyond them lay an innocuous entrance, a simple keypad being the only distinguishing feature upon it. The guards unslung their rifles, one aiming at the group as the other moved slightly closer, his rifle held at his hip.

 

"I'm going to need to see your identity passes, gentlemen." The closer guard demanded, voice full of authority, as the men stopped. The two at the flanks kept their hands visible, the frontman keeping them in his pockets.

 

"Identity?" He re-questioned the guard as he feigned fumbling in his pocket. His hand whipped up smoothly from the cavernous space, discharging a round into the first man's upper chest with a loud cough from the muzzle. He collapsed to the floor, his blank expression showing how he hadn't had time to register the weapon being drawn, let alone fired. The muzzle shifted right, two further coughs as the man took down the surprised second guard. He crumpled backward, rifle falling from his loose hands as he hit the floor. The man's accomplices picked up the corpses, dragging them as they continued toward the keypad. The man punched in a code, as though he had done it every day for a decade. A small light flickered green, as the concrete door slid open, whirring from the hydraulic rams hoisting it into its raised position. Another pair of guards from within approached the group, cautious. His eyes widened as he saw the bodies of his team-mates in the arms of the two other men, red stains on their uniforms where they had been shot. Before he could respond, or cry out in alarm, a sharp pain struck into his chest, followed by a numbness that radiated quickly out from the wound. With the last of his energy, he looked down to see a dagger embedded in his chest, near his heart. He craned his head to see the owner of the hand holding it, to find it belonged to his guard partner. He withdrew the dagger in a single movement, the deceased falling to the floor with a soft thud.

 

"Vse gotovyye?" The apparent leader asked the guard, who had wiped off the residual blood with a handkerchief and re-sheathed the blade.

 

"Da." Came the simple reply. "Sleduyte za mnoy."

 

The guard led the trio into the depths of the base, to another secured room. Smartly tapping in an access code, the panel bleeped again, turning green as the door clicked open. He led into the room. There were another two guards within. Their initial indifference at seeing their fellow guard was overwritten when they saw the intruders behind him by a surprised look.

 

"The fuck is this?" One of them asked, standing up from his desk and moving to confront them.

 

"It's a firesale." The guard sarcastically replied, drawing his handgun and putting two bullets in the man closest, the sharp bangs reverberating around the small room. The other guard stood up from his desk, calmly.

 

"Vot, odin." He simply greeted the small group as he moved to unlock the cage behind them. Gently taking hold of one of the bulky briefcases on the rack in front of him, he turned and smartly presented it to the leader, who took it, nodding in acknowledgement.

 

"Ubirat zdes." He ordered the men as he strode from the room. The two who had followed him in nodded in confirmation, opening their jackets and tossing small squarish blocks, pre-primed, to the two men who had been on the guard detail. Each set the timer on their own block as they had been instructed, as had been ingrained into them. On the mark of one, they clicked the starter into action, briskly walking from the secure area.

 

Further up toward the entrance, the leader awaited them. The first of the two guards addressed him as the four approached.

"Tsel zavershennyy."

 

The men briskly left the facility, striding out once more across the cold concrete. Two minutes and six seconds later, a dull thud roared up from the open door, followed by more, the first set of plastic explosives triggering sympathetic detonations in the further charges that had been discreetly planted weeks earlier. The superheated gases from the explosion ripped along the corridors, incinerating anything and anyone in their path in the lower floors of the facility, those who were oblivious to the theft that had occurred from under them. A crescendo of rumbling grew, until a burst of fire erupted from the front blast door.

 

Following the initial reports of an explosion, USAF crews were scrambled to respond, finding complete and total devastation from the bombing of the facility. It would take the crews several weeks to fully sift through the rubble and locate the secure store in its bowels, the source of the detonation and a scene of obliteration.

 

Their worst fears were soon confirmed: of the three lightweight, aluminium Zero Halliburton briefcases that had been present in the store prior to the detonation, only the remains of two could be identified and accounted for. One was missing.

Chapter Text

Sense returned slowly to Chloe, as slurring noises rang in her ears. Rattling of keys. Clanking of locks. Boots on a concrete floor. She could still taste a slight saltiness in her mouth, though it and her throat felt dry. She coughed, equally drily, as her remaining senses began to slot back into place. The freezing cold of what felt like concrete down her left side. The room had a damp smell to it, and was almost as cold as the concrete on which she lay on. Her eyes were the only thing failing to provide her any useful information, still closed. Slowly, she shifted where she lay. Her legs felt free to move, but something held her wrists firmly in place. She jolted them, trying to separate them, with no success. She pulled on them, to find yet again that they were fastened to something more. She started whimpering under her breath in fear, her heart rate climbing at speed, as the untreated scars criss-crossing her psyche glowed, torn open once more by the familiarity of her situation. She knew not where she was, nor did it matter. The cold of the cell she was in, the lack of any visual input, fell away. She was back there.


June 1986

HVA Interrogation Facility

Chloe grunted and whined to herself as she stood, held in an uncomfortable position by her restraints. Her hosts , the sadistic fucks that they were, had left her like this for a while. Maybe a couple of days, her sense of time had took flight already. Her arms were cuffed in what felt like leather, or something smooth, solid. Pulled high above her, so much that she had to stand on tiptoe to relieve the discomfort of her shoulders being pulled on. Occasionally, her Achilles tendons began to strain, forcing her to drop onto the flats of her feet and endure the increased strain on her arms. She could barely smell the room she was currently in, but even then it was a vile, putrid stench. One she’d probably contributed to somewhat, having had every conceivable bodily product beaten from her.

 

Her bruised and battered face curled into a grimace as she reflected on the many other ways they’d attempted to break her. Throwing her head-first into a vat of icy water, holding her under until she was at the cusp of drowning; tying her to a chair and leaving her there, white noise blasting into the room, unable to sleep, relieve herself with any dignity, or really do anything other than hurl insults back at the guards.

Then, they brought her back in to deal with Chloe. The charlatan that had led her to her imprisonment here. She was a whole separate case.

‘Look at you, Chloe. You believe you’re so brave, fighting back.’ She’d whispered in Chloe’s ear as she sharply jerked the captive woman’s head back, pulling painfully on her messy hair. ‘Trust me, you’ll give me what I want to know, one way or another. The longer it takes you, the more I’ll have to hurt you.’ Stef had taunted, her gentle tones piercing her ear.

‘Fuck you, bitch.’ Chloe had blurted out at her. In hindsight, there were few worse things she could have done in the circumstances.

And so it had begun.

‘Feeling ready to talk yet, Chloe?’ Stef playfully probed, brandishing a flogging whip as Chloe sat immobile, limbs strapped down tight to the steel chair. She’d spent long like this before now, coughing and retching in the days before her nose was blocked up by hardened blood at her stench. What made this bitch’s touch any more painful?

‘Fuck off.’ Chloe had muttered under her breath. Stef caught what she had said, however.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. Was that ‘I’m sorry, I’ll watch my language’? The torturess had replied. As Chloe opened her mouth to speak, Stef brought the whip down hard onto Chloe’s lap, forcing a cry of pain out of her as everything the whip struck stung, agonisingly.

‘We’ll try that again. Feeling ready to talk, Chloe?’

‘What the fuck is- AAH!’ Chloe had squealed once more as Stef snapped the leather ends down across her once more, tutting. Chloe whimpered as she tried and failed to rub her thighs together, to quell the hot pain throughout the areas hit.

‘You’ll learn your lessons, Chloe, that is certain. How painfully you learn your lessons is up to you.’ She tormented Chloe, drawing the whip up her chest, and slowly under her chin. Her eyes seemed alive, as though she was enjoying this. Chloe’s were filled with fear, as it finally dawned on her the situation she was in.

 

It had gotten worse from there. Far worse. Chloe had gone from merely being cuffed in her cell to being bound most hours of the day, a hessian sack over her head, barely able to move. She’d come to fear the clicking of those heels on the smooth concrete of this facility. So much so, that as she heard them, she frantically squirmed away from it, until she hit the walls of her confines. The clink of her door being unlocked.

‘What are you so afraid of, Chloe?’ She’d teased her. ‘You were definitely more of a fighter when they brought you in here, that’s sure. Far more fun to play with.’

Perhaps she had been. However, being tied spreadeagle to the bare springs of a metal bed had changed that. She could still picture the demonic grin on Stef's face as she sparked the contacts in front of her, before jabbing them at different points on her body. She recoiled in pain at every shock, her agonised screams muffled by the gag. She could almost feel the tears as she sobbed, the cloth suppressing her anguish soaked with drool.



Stef seemed to have settled on this approach however. Chloe's clothes, what was left of them, were tattered. Staining and soiling had replaced much of their black surface, and added another dimension to her discomfort. If she got through this without contracting some ailment or another, it would be a surprise.

 

The clicking of heels approaching the door took her attention, as she unconsciously began to quiver in fear. She watched the door fling open, as her menace strode in, confident as ever. However bad the stench in here got, or how caked in all manner of horrible things the floor got, she never seemed fazed. She held what looked like a riding crop in her hand, which she ran up the inside of Chloe's leg as she closed to her. She flinched away from the contact, barely able to move for her restriction.

 

"So, are we finally willing to talk?" She asked Chloe, sincerely. Chloe kept her mouth shut, her gaze simply following the femme fatale that had put her in this predicament.

"Surely, you've realised that whatever you know is worthless to us by now. Why fight for so long? Unless there's something we don't know?" She continued her monologue.

Yeah, Chloe thought, that you're a depraved bitch with no sense of morality.

 

She came face to face with Chloe once more. A hand gently round the back of her neck, the contact making Chloe stiffen. She pulled herself in close against Chloe's broken and bruised body, even going so far as to curl a leg around one of Chloe's.

"I bet you would have been an amazing date, were you not my enemy." She cooed, softly. She leaned in closer, to try and kiss Chloe's  split, bloodied lips. A faceful of spit made her recoil with a noise of disgust. She wiped it off and stared at Chloe, incandescent with annoyance. The captured spy's face slowly twisted into a sadistic grin. The grin quickly vanished as a greater one met Stef's lips, her hands flexing the solid crop in her hands.

"So you do still have a fight left in you." She stated, a triumphant tone to her voice. " Excellent. " The crop swished through the air, making contact with Chloe's bruised cheek and leaving a bright red line, a small few drops of blood leaking here and there. Chloe shouted weakly and in pain, pulling her head away from the stinging as though it would reduce it. Hot tears flowed from her eyes at the unbearable burning mark the thin birch had left on her face. Another smack across her outstretched arms, quickly followed by another. Chloe cried out once more, squirming where she stood. The crop changed its target, an even harder set of swings being delivered to her backside and the backs of her thighs. Chloe screamed, her throat hoarse, as she arched her back, trying to move away from the hit. Another strike, across her abdomen. She curled downward, the pain from her shoulders being pulled harder intensifying as she fell down onto the flats of her feet, deep and shaky breaths as she tried to brace for the next hit. The sound of heels clicking as Stef moved around the room, her head appearing over Chloe's shoulder.

"Please….please stop." Chloe whimpered as she shook, uncontrollably. Stef purred, as she ran a hand along the back of Chloe's ruined jeans, her touch making Chloe feel sick to her stomach.

 

"I wish I could stop, Chloe. But, I haven't gotten what I want from you yet." She apologised, hollow words as she grinned some more. She came back around to face Chloe, the end of the crop now pressing against Chloe's groin.

 

"Tell me, who were you with on this side of the Wall?" She demanded. Chloe opened her mouth to speak.

"Too late." Stef chirped. Pulling the crop away briefly, she swung it hard upward across the inside of Chloe's thigh and struck hard against her groin. Chloe doubled over as far as her arms would allow, her screams almost inhuman at the pain. She hung limp, sobbing hysterically, as the crop came to rest again.

 

" Who. Were. You. With? " Stef repeated, slowly.

 

" I WAS ALONE! PLEASE, THAT'S THE TRUTH! " Chloe croaked out through hiccuped sobs, desperate to avoid another strike.

"What were you doing in the East?" Stef commanded once more, drawing the whip back. Chloe stiffened and flinched in anticipation.

 

"Wait...please, no more!" Chloe begged as her body shook, snot and tears streaming down her face. "I was...I was just sent to observe." Chloe whined, her throat dry and scratchy from her howls of pain, her words barely audible.

"Observe what?" Stef probed further.

" Just...Just the wall, the army...anything...I think. I don't...remember the brief. " Chloe's voice had tailed off to a mere whisper, her head hanging low, defeated and devastated, as Stef approached once more. A leather-gloved hand gently ran under her chin, lifting it to make Chloe's eyes meet hers.

 

"There's a good girl. Imagine the pain, the suffering, you could have avoided if you'd told me what I wanted to know, hm?" She asked, rhetorically. "And if it makes you feel any better, you've still not given me any new information. I knew before I even touched you for the first time." She professed. "I've just been doing this for my own… satisfaction, to make sure my information was correct."

 

"I will ask once, and once only. What more do you know?" She calmly questioned Chloe a final time, grinding the shaft of the crop across Chloe's sensitised skin. Chloe whined and panted in fear, trying to force herself onto her toes to move away once more.

" THAT'S ALL I KNOW! " Chloe howled. " PLEASE, I SWEAR! THAT'S ALL I KNOW! " She repeated, desperate to appease her tormentor and avoid further pain. Stef kissed her gently on the lips, releasing her head and letting it flop downward as Chloe hung limply from her restraints, sobbing.

 

"Thank you, Chloe. I've enjoyed having you here. I wish we could have more fun together, but duty calls. Yours, it seems, is over." She flatly told her as she turned and left the room, leaving her broken prisoner to contemplate, her anguish echoing down the lonely, isolated corridor leading to the room.


"Chloe!" A voice called out, puncturing her nightmare.

"CHLOE!" Again, louder this time. A slight shaking, as though someone had a hold of her.

"CHLOE!" Max's voice finally rescued her from her private hell, a pair of shackled hands gripping her shoulders. As soon as her blurry eyes found the form of Max, she lunged upward, clinging to her, terrified to let go and be dragged back into the nightmare. Max reciprocated, taking a firm, yet gentle, hold of her as she sobbed on the floor.

"It's okay, Chloe. Nobody's hurting you. We're here." Max told her. "You're okay. We've got you." She repeated, stroking a hand gently over Chloe's scalp, pressing her nose to that of the broken woman on the floor. Slowly, Chloe's uncontrolled sobbing turned to hiccuping breaths, raspy and irregular. The entire time, Max cradled her, refusing to let go of her. Comforting her.

My god. Max thought to herself. If this is Stef's doing, I need to have words with her. What the hell did she do to Chloe, beyond what she told me?

 

Chloe nestled as tight as she could against Max, her restraints allowing little more give at this time. Listening to the soft thump of Max's heart, feeling the other woman's warmth, permeating through her. Juxtaposed against the Hell itself she had just been trapped inside, this was heavenly.

I wish we were in some other situation right around now, because I really wanna tell her how I feel. Here? Not so much. Chloe thought as the dark mess that had escaped into her mind was forced back into the box, calming down, still refusing to leave her snug position alongside Max.

Some time later, footsteps approached the door, Chloe quickly releasing Max.

I don't want whoever comes through that door to guess how I feel about her. I don't want them to hurt her to get to me.

The door flung open. Chloe's apprehension turned to pure unbridled fury, immediately after the incoming person's first words.

"Welcome to Plötzensee. Hope it's comfortable enough for you all in here." The Scottish accent flatly stated, a wry smile on his face.

 

Chloe snarled at him. "You BASTARD. We fucking trusted you!" She growled as she lunged at him, forgetting entirely about her bindings. Her memory of them returned sharply, as they snapped taut, sending her sprawling on her back against the cold floor with a groan. Nathan was equally aggravated, though smart enough not to attempt Chloe's vain retribution.

"What the fuck, Mark!" He cried out as he stared at his handler, who strode dominantly into the room.

As though he hadn't heard a thing, he continued his monologue. "Director Andrews would be most pleased at this, his three biggest headaches taken out of the picture in one fell swoop. However, he appears to have a bigger problem: something about Set Gamayun and a Nuclear Football, I believe."

 

Max looked at him, curiously. The way he was putting that information seemed unusual.

 

"So what the fuck are you planning to do with us? Have us lined up and shot? Or just leave us here to rot, you sick fuck?" Chloe whined at her, outraged.

"Nothing so melodramatic!" Jefferson responded. "However, that decision will most likely be out of my hands shortly." He took a step toward them, and Max noticed a glinting mass tucked into his pocket. "It's poetic, that whatever decision I make from here could hold the key to your survival: turn you over to the Americans, or deal with you myself?" He questioned aloud. "It's a shame to think that the best and brightest of the intelligence agencies aren't around to crack open that spy ring, too. Who knows what they're planning with the Launch Device. I know what I'd be doing if I were they. Well, I've got to be going now. Enjoy your stay." He concluded as he got unusually close to the trio. He turned to leave, but a boot to the back of the knee buckled him toward the floor. A pair of shackled hands looped over his head and dragged him back, depriving him of just enough oxygen to strip him of his consciousness. As he flopped limp, Max's hands dived into his pocket, fumbling for the keys she'd spotted.

 

"Max, what the fuck are you doing?" Chloe hissed worriedly at her as she tried all of the keys frantically, finding one that fit the lock. It was an awkward angle with her wrists restrained, but she managed it.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Max asked sarcastically, as she twisted the key. The manacles sprung open, as Max's eyes widened in surprise. She tossed the key bundle to her companions.

 

"Quick, find the key and get your shackles off, before-" Max's command was cut short as she locked eyes with the guard, who was as surprised as she was.

"Scheiße."

 

The guard fumbled for his handgun as Max lunged at him, grabbing  his barracks shirt and throwing him backward into the cell as Chloe and Nathan hurriedly fought over keys, searching desperately for the ones they needed. Rolling back over onto her feet, she closed and kicked the gun from the stumbling guard's hand, stripping his baton from its holster and beating him with it until he lay still. The other two had finally thrown their shackles as well, Chloe throwing Nathan the handgun as they got to their feet. As they passed Jefferson, Chloe rifled through his pockets, producing a car key with a grin.

 

"Okay, let's get the fuck out of here." She bluntly stated as they bolted the cell. The corridor was empty for the time being, and Chloe hurriedly instructed her two fellow escapees. “Remember, we wanna get out of here cleanly. No point making this messier than it has to be, so let’s try not to kill anyone.” They nodded back at her, so as to acknowledge her. As they rounded the next corner, they came across another guard, manning what looked like a security desk. He immediately jumped to his feet, drawing his pistol. Nathan brought his up on the run, putting three bullets into the man’s chest in quick succession.

 

As he collapsed, Chloe stared at Nathan, then back at the body, then back at Nathan. “The fuck happened to ‘try not to kill anyone’?!” She yelled at him, disbelieving that he had just slain the guard in cold blood.

 

Nathan simply shrugged, gun still in hand. “Well, we’re wanted by every intelligence agency anyway. What’s a few guards gonna matter as we escape?” Chloe let out an exasperated growl, as Max threw her back the baton, picking up the dead guard’s weapon. As she did so, an alarm bell sounded throughout the facility.

“Guys?” Chloe half-asked, half whined. Nathan and Max looked at her.

“Run.” Was the only word to follow from Chloe. Nobody questioned the command, the trio bolting along the corridors, heading in whatever direction seemed to lead out of the prison complex. They entered a slightly larger communal room, stumbling across a group of guards. Chloe led with the baton, a swift blow striking the nearest guard’s weapon from his hand, before spinning on her heel and delivering a doubly hard strike to the back of his skull. The baton connected with a dissatisfying clunk as the guard dropped limply onto the floor. Her partners in the escape had closed upon the remaining guards, taking them on hand-to-hand as well. Within seconds, the two helmeted men were slumped on the floor, having had their heads slammed together by the Anglo-Russian assault. They veered down the corridor denoted as the fire escape, shouting and clunking of military-issue boots following behind. None chose to stop and engage as bullets zipped and pinged around them, the guards taking desperate potshots as they ran. Nathan hurled himself at the door, bursting it open  as Max and Chloe darted through. The instant they were clear, Nathan slammed the door again. A piece of metal, scrap left lying, was forced through the small lugs on the door, the door bouncing outward with a shout of pain on the other side as a guard fruitlessly attempted to open the door as they had. Chloe checked the key to Jefferson's car, scanning the car park before them and pointing at a car. "That one!" She shouted as she scrambled toward a black Mercedes, Max and Nathan closely behind her. She fumbled the key into the lock, her first attempt missing and gouging the paint. She managed to slam the key into the hole, twisting and unlocking the doors. The trio practically jumped into the car as the fire escape behind them was broken open. Chloe hurriedly started the engine, foot flat to the floor as the car careened toward the still-open gate. A guard blocked their path, raising his machine-gun as they sped toward the flimsy barrier. He opened fire, perplexed as the bullets bounced off of the windshield. The guard dived out of the way with a shout as the speeding car crashed through the barrier, leaving the splintered wood on the road. Chloe gave a hoot of joy as they continued onto the empty road, the pre-dawn light casting a greyish hue on the wood-lined road.

 

"Stay focused, Chloe." Max reminded her. "It won't be over yet." Sure enough, two sets of headlights appeared behind them, closing fast. They didn't look like the Military Police Landrovers, nor were they Bundespolizei. The flash of muzzles from men leaning out of both vehicles' windows forced their heads down once more, as Chloe swerved left down a narrower road, looking to throw a pursuer. Sure enough, as the pursuing cars slung themselves into the bend, one lost control, the back end of the car slewing off the road and connecting with a tree. The car violently spun back the other way, incapacitated in the fight. The other closed further still, levelling with them. It slammed against their side, Chloe frantically handling the wheel to keep control as they sped down the narrow lane. The car drew level, a burst of machine-gun fire riddling the driver's window. Chloe shrieked and ducked as it shattered, slamming on the brakes to escape the hail of fire. Nathan rolled down his window as the cars pulled level again, leaning out and taking a brief but clean shot at the car's front tyre. It burst with a loud bang, the car veering into Chloe's path. The fenderr connected with the rear quarter of the car, spinning it at a right angle to them, before the friction of the intact tyres caused the offending vehicle to flip over, coming to rest behind them after righting itself, steam rising from the front of the wrecked car. They sped on into dusk as the group finally relaxed.


Some time later, the car arrived at a house, secluded to a degree and close to the edge of Berlin's border with East Germany. The car stopped, and the trio got out. As they had checked the car over, they found some of their personal effects- those they had had when they were captured- in a duffel bag, along with a number of files. Nathan split off from Max and Chloe as he briskly entered a room to himself, eyes bordering on tears as he clutched a letter. Chloe had made out the name Chase beneath his fingers. Max, too, had separated from her, standing at a window in one of the bedrooms, silently reflecting on something. Chloe brought the files to the kitchen table, opening them as she read through them.

 

She had gone through half of the file when she stopped dead, a choked sob of disbelief at the photograph before her. Director Andrews, her boss, meeting with a man she knew well. Andrei Golanski, KGB assassin. The date on the photograph was recent, too: as far as Chloe knew, Andrei was dead. Wasn't he? Deeper still she dug, her faith rocked to its core as she looked over the sections that had been circled and annotated. She forced her head into her hands, sobbing silently to herself, unable to believe just how STUPID she had been, following his orders perfectly, playing the world right into his hands. The final page that lay before her was what hammered the nail in the coffin that was her trust of her own organisation. A dossier, one that was an amalgam of BND and British Intelligence files. Again, the lines connected perfectly. One stood out in particular, one link she'd dismissed previously.

OPERATIVE ANDREWS REPORTS NO CREDIBLE THREAT AGAINST TARGETS NEAR DA NANG AIRBASE. DIVERT AVAILABLE ASSETS TO ASSIST KHE SANH FORWARD BASE.

 

DAS FRETTCHEN REPORTS SUCCESS IN ATTACK ON DA NANG MARINE BASE. DEFENCES DIVERTED, COMMANDER TRÁNG REPORTS MINIMAL CASUALTIES.

The trail extended far beyond Vietnam. Every single crossover in the files between Set Gamayun 's activities and Andrews' presence revealed his involvement. She curled up on the floor, silently crying as she realised just how misplaced her trusts had been. Mark. Andrews. The Agency. So fucking naïve. She'd always believed she was doing good in the world; every order she'd carried out on Andrews' behalf most definitely had been the exact opposite. What did that make her? A monster? A sycophant? Lackey?

Stop the fucking self-hate, Chloe. Her usually-cynical inner voice told her. You've always suspected this would happen some day or other. Dry your eyes, and get back out there. You have ASS to kick.

After some time, she got back on her feet, and checked on Nathan, as she could hear sobbing from behind the door.

"What's up?" She asked, quietly, as she looked at the crumpled letter on the bed. She only caught a few of the details, but 'with a heavy heart', 'your daughter, Victoria Maribeth Chase' and 'my condolences' were enough to get the picture.

 

"They...they fucking killed her, Chloe." Nathan sniffled, trying to regain some composure. "It's my fault. I should've never involved her."

Chloe wrapped an arm over his shoulder, gently. "It's not your fault, Nathan. None of us saw this coming, not even me for once." She released the contact as it occurred to her that Max had been eerily quiet.

"I'm gonna go check on Max. You gonna be okay?" She asked him, as she stood back up. He didn't speak, merely nodded. As she reached the door, she turned back to him.

 

"And Nathan? When we get our act together, and we go after these bastards, remember what they've done. Fight for her." She spoke, as she closed the door behind her.


Max was still turned to face the window as Chloe entered the room, quietly so as not to startle her. She stood in silence, door open, gazing at Max, her form angelic. Chloe thought about her as she stared, longed to hold her, to kiss her, to have her. She hadn't realised that she was subconsciously acting on these desires until her hands wrapped round Max's hips.

 

Max's reaction was something between a spasmic freakout and a combative counter-hold, and Chloe's eyes shot wide open as her feet were swept from under her, a brief squeal of surprise as she fell with a dull thud onto the rug on the carpet. Max locked eyes with her, giggling softly as she gently but firmly pinned Chloe down.

"Really, Chloe? You should know better than to sneak up on a spy of all people." She cheekily purred, Chloe blushing profusely under her soft gaze.

 

"I don't know, sorry, I wasn't thinking…" Chloe babbled, face burning like lit Thermite. Max leaned in closer against Chloe, lips tantalisingly close to hers, warm breath against Chloe's face.

"Now, this is a side I've never seen to you before. The flustered, embarrassed Chloe. It's… cute, I think the word is." Max grinned as she finished, the look on Chloe's face nearly incomprehensible.

 

OH MY GOD SHE JUST FUCKING CALLED ME CUTE!

 

Max leaned in closer still, her voice a whisper. "I think I know what you were trying to do. And if I'm honest, I…" Max trailed off, as she closed slowly to kiss Chloe.

 

"Careful, Chloe. At this rate, you're gonna have another Prague on your hands." The Midlands accent made both women jump slightly. Chloe glowered at Nathan, eyes still red from weeping, yet wearing an incredibly smug ( and punchable, Chloe figured) grin as he leaned against the doorframe.

"Really? Of all the times you could come out with that, you choose now?" Chloe asked, exasperated. Nathan pouted sarcastically at her, shrugging as he stuck two fingers up at Chloe, and pushed away from the frame to seek another task.

Max sat up slightly, taking the weight off one of Chloe's arms. "I hear so much of this, Prague business. Care to tell me?" Max asked, innocently. If Chloe could have died of humiliation at any given moment, she would've chosen this exact one.

 

"I'm not getting out of this one, am I?" Chloe asked, sheepish as she avoided Max's smirk.

 

Max shook her head, beaming with a grin. "Not unless you want me to pin you here until you wet yourself. Surely it can't be as embarrassing as doing that, can it?"

Chloe groaned, as she cast her mind back. "Ew… fine. It was about four years ago, just after the Union had blasted that Korean jet out of the sky. I'd been sent to protect the head diplomat at the Czech Embassy, in case shit hit the fan." Chloe began.

 

Max raised an eyebrow. "Surely there's more to it than that."

Chloe closed her eyes, wincing at how easily Max had gotten straight to the point. "Okay, okay. Obviously, there was a team of us out there and I was the junior, so from time to time I'd get let off duty. I'd been there a couple of months, and found this really neat club." Chloe continued.

 

Max hummed in acknowledgement. "I know the kind you mean. Prague is known for such… clubs . Go on."

 

Chloe sighed. "You really need me to go further?"  The pout on Max's face guilt-tripped Chloe, like refusing the mewed demands of a kitten. "Fiine… I met a girl. And it turned out to be the Czech Foreign Minister's daughter…"


November 10th, 1983

Prague, Czechoslovakia

09.35 Local Time

Chloe stirred with a comfortable groan as she lay in the soft bed, aware of nothing but the bed linen against her unclad skin. Her mind cast back to the night before, having met that bombshell of a girl, Alena. Drinks, more drinks still. That whisper in her ear.

"How about we go back to mine, Chloe?"

Back to Alena's they did go. With the lights low, and the door locked, the two had shared a passionate evening together, Chloe finding out just how rampant her bed-partner was when unleashed.

 

Her ears picked up on banging at the door, and an angry, muffled, male voice. She rolled her shoulders, sitting up slowly as she heard a feminine voice replying in her native tongue- and what a tongue! Chloe's more lewd thoughts remembered.

"Alena, what's going on?" Chloe asked, lazily, as her eyes refocused in the morning light. Alena looked at her, slightly worried.

 

"It's my father. He's such an asshole sometimes. Don't worry, I'll deal with him." She replied as she turned back to the door. Chloe swung herself out of bed, aware that unlike her lover she was still completely declothed. She tiptoed up to Alena, a hand curling from behind her to rest on her hip as she kissed her cheek.

 

Chloe better heard the man's voice from behind the door. "Alena, otevři dveře!" It commanded. Chloe recognised the voice, just a little.

"That voice seems familiar." Chloe absently commented. Alena nodded as she kissed Chloe on the cheek in return, the back her hand brushing Chloe's groin suggestively.

 

"Of course it will. That asshole takes his job in the Ministry far too seriously." Alena replied, thinking nothing of it. Chloe's blood froze as she realised the implication.

"Wait… Ministry. As in, foreign ministry?" Chloe stammered, feeling her pulse race, realising just how deep in shit she was. Alena nodded.

 

"FUCK!" Chloe exhaled, backing away. "I need to get out of here!"

Alena pouted at her, confused. "I always thought you liked a little risk, Chloe?" She innocently asked as Chloe frantically searched for her underwear. She glanced up at Alena.

 

"Yeah, but not when getting caught means I'll either be arrested or fucking shot. " She bluntly replied, abandoning her search for her boxers and bra, and loosely throwing her jeans on, frantically and carelessly pulling them up and trying to ignore how they rubbed against her more sensitive areas.

"He wouldn't do that to you, Chloe." Alena stated, blissfully ignorant of Chloe's true employment.

 

"Alena, I work for the U.S. Embassy. There's every chance he'll do that to me. Especially as I just fucked his daughter. " She grumbled, frantically pulling her T-shirt on. Alena's face merely dropped, as she opened her mouth a little.

"Ah. I can see how that could be a problem." Alena answered, seemingly oblivious to the mortal peril Chloe was headed for.

 

"Máš deset sekund!" Foreign Minister Chňoupek's voice boomed from behind the door. Chloe slipped her boots on, loosely fastening them as the countdown reached zero. Another bark, and heavier banging struck the door, bowing it inward. Seeing no better alternative, and a balcony across the street, Chloe opened the window and backed up.

"Bye, Chloe." Alena softly said as she waved her farewell.

 

"Uh, yeah. See ya." Chloe mumbled as she ran and jumped through the opened window. As she hit the top of her arc, she realised to her horror that she hadn't quite gained enough speed or height, her ribs connecting with the balcony rails and knocking the wind from her as she fell, arms windmilling in vain to try and grab the balcony. She tumbled and crashed down chest-first on a dumpster below with a loud thud. Dazed and groaning, she rolled over, landing on the cold, cobbled street, knocked senseless and breathless. Her head spun as she stared at the floor, trying and failing to stand on her feet as she stumbled, staggered, fell once more.

 

"Ow…" she weakly groaned as she gave up, instead taking solace in the cold stone. The clomp of heavy feet approached her, roughly pulling her arms back and cuffing her wrists. The arms sharply pulled her off the street, half frog-marching, half dragging her to a waiting car. Suffice to say, Minister Chňoupek's face was a picture when his brain connected the face of the woman who'd just tried and failed to escape his daughter's apartment with that of Operative Chloe Price, known CIA Agent and current member of the U.S. Embassy's security detail.


"You'd be amazed how many charges they tried to write me up for." Chloe reflected, equal parts entertained and embarrassed at her own idiocy. "Public exposure, endangerment, somehow even jaywalking… the list was massive . Probably because 'banging the Foreign Minister's Daughter Without His Permission' isn't illegal."

 

Max smirked. "I know. I saw that list. Or maybe Alena told me about it when I saw her once over. I take it you got off with them?" She probed further, adding to Chloe's flustered complexion.

"Well...kinda. Chňoupek wanted to have the book thrown at me and then some- until he found out that I was attached to the Embassy and not some lone spy." Chloe began. Max's smile widened as she realised what Chloe was implying.

 

"Oh. And of course, that whole fiasco around Able Archer had just happened, hadn't it?" Max rhetorically asked.

Chloe nodded, her breathing slightly harder as Max lay back on her chest again. "Yeah. Neither side wanted to admit it had happened- who would?- so after the U.S. Ambassador sweet-talked Chňoupek a little, I was released, and it was quietly forgotten. It was the last time I had a cushy Embassy assignment though." Chloe finished, face still flushed. Max's nose came to rest against hers.

 

"Ah, so Nathan was implying that-"

"Yes." Chloe uttered, simply, unable to think of much more to say, and almost humiliated that Max had so drastically outdone her. "Wait, how do you know Alena?"

 

Max chuckled. "Well, you could say we have a girlfriend in common. She's good in bed, no?" Max remarked, grinning.

"Well, yeah, she is." Chloe stopped dead as she caught on. "Wait, so you're into… you're into women ?" Chloe carefully probed, terrified of the very real perceived risk of rejection. A firm, sincere kiss on her lips from Max threw those fears out of sight, replaced with ecstasy of a kind Chloe hadn't truly felt since before she left home.

 

"That felt good, Chloe. You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that." Max admitted, as their lips broke. Chloe remained silent as her brain tried to dismantle the information overload inside. Max looked at her, confused. "Was I too forward?"

 

Chloe's free arm sprung up, and with a surprised yelp Max found herself thrown off-balance, back being pinned against the soft floor. Chloe chuckled, eyes damp as her joy overran her, panting as she stared into Max's eyes.

"Not at all, Max." Chloe gasped, pressing her body tight to Max's as she felt the brunette's soft pulse against her chest. "To tell you the truth, I've wanted to tell you how I feel since Pullach. " She confessed, as she leaned in to reciprocate Max's earlier kiss.

 

Six years. Six fucking years it's taken. Finally, I find someone who can hold a light up to Rachel. Chloe thought, as she let Max's warmth flow through her. The kiss felt like it lasted a minute, as her eyes opened to meet the sparkling blues of Max's. Chloe found in her the one thing she was willing to fight for. Not her boss, not her country, not even the free world. No, the only thing she cared about now, or felt any desire to protect, was Max.

Chapter Text

15th November, 1987

The Safehouse

07.30 Local Time

 

Chloe stirred in her sleep as she felt movement next to her. Her eyes slowly opened to meet Max's, a warm smile on her face.

 

"Güten morgen." Max uttered, stretching softly as she lay. Chloe gently wrapped a hand around Max's midriff, kissing her. Max's hand did the same, albeit feeling lower. Chloe resisted the innate urge to stiffen up as Max's hand ran over her scars, relaxing instead. Chloe moved her legs gently, preparing to get out of bed and face the day, as did Max. After a short time more of intimacy, the duo were on their feet, electing to take a shower. Whilst they were doing so, Chloe noticed Max's hands gently feeling across her scars once more. She met eyes with the brunette, a quizzical look on her face.

"Dare I ask what's gotten you so interested by my scars?" Chloe asked. Max averted her gaze, face glowing. 

 

"I was just...feeling them. I know of them, I just wondered about them." Max blurted out. Chloe looked at her with an increasingly curious gaze.

 

"Know about them how?" Chloe posed, Max appearing even more uncomfortable and embarrassed under Chloe's interrogating stare.

 

"Fine, you win. I know how you got those scars. I just… wanted to understand if they were as bad as I was led to believe." Max explained a little further, leaving Chloe with even more questions.

"Okay. But who would… know about…" Chloe began to ask. Her question tailed off as she blinked, slowly. Her mouth sat open slightly, a comical picture of shock for Max. " No . You didn't, did you?" She questioned Max again, almost scared to hear her reply.

 

Max nodded. "If you mean to ask whether I had a- casual - acquaintance with your interrogatrice, I'm sorry to tell you… it's much worse than that. She, she was my girlfriend." Max admitted, blushing also. "And she always did enjoy discussing what she'd been up to at work. In graphic detail." Max added, laughing nervously as she did.

 

" Oh My God. " Chloe groaned, exasperated. "You have GOT to be kidding me!"

 

Max shook her head. "It gets worse. The way she… questioned you? That was from no handbook. Let's just say that some of what she did to you, she… rehearsed, practiced, on me." Max went further, an embarrassed yet impish smirk on her face. Chloe wrapped her hands around her midriff, crying out in surprise and horror.

"AAAH! How can you manage to make me feel dirty in the fucking shower ?" Chloe cried out, as Max chuckled. She wrapped her arms around the lithe, disgusted woman once more, kissing her on the cheek. 

"If it makes you feel any better, she did regret it at times. What she did to you." Max recalled. "And, when I brought you in… she helped me to fix you. She's as good a doctor as she is a torturer. Her hands can be so delicate, so gentle. Or, they can be the hands from Hell. As we both know." She remarked further, cheeks burning. Chloe began to chuckle, as she met her companion's eyes once more.

"Tell me about it." Chloe affirmed, wrapping tightly around Max as she kissed her firmly once more. Her hands ran gently across Max's back, slowly and tenderly noticing a few marks on her partner's own skin.

 

"How'd you pick those up?" Chloe asked, as their lips parted. Max shrugged.

 

"Training. Some of what they did to me there would make a week at Stef's mercy look like a holiday." She summarised, Chloe shivering as she pictured what that must have looked like. She felt a foot gently rub her calf, where the bite mark was. "How about that one?" She asked.

Chloe chuckled. "That was the first time I met our mutual friend Franz. I was sneaking about one of his properties, obviously not well enough to evade that mutt of his. And damn that dog is strong!" Chloe reminisced, her mind's eye recalling how the aforementioned dog had been able to drag her around like a plaything, in spite of her writhing and kicking and screaming, until it was called off by a very irritated Franz.

Max giggled, as Chloe's hands gently ran over her head. "I bet that was sore."

 

"Sore? I walked with a limp on that leg for about three weeks." Chloe reiterated. Chloe's hands idly traced further down, stopping as they found what seemed to be a healing gunshot wound. Max flinched as her fingers touched it. "Shit, sorry. Did that hurt?" Chloe asked her, contrite.

 

"A little." Max affirmed. "Ricochet. The night I was disavowed. Definitely not the most comfortable few hours I have had, especially given I couldn't get the bullet out. Stef managed it though, thank god."

 

Chloe smirked. "When all this is over, I kinda wanna meet her now. Sure, she scares me senseless-"

 

"-and shitless, from what I'm told." Max interrupted, a sarcastic smirk on her face as Chloe glowed with humiliation. Damn that woman!

 

"-yes, whatever. But, still, I guess I kinda wanna meet her. She sounds like she's nice. When she's not, you know… torturing people." Chloe noted, as Max's hands gently curled around her back. 

 

Max's hands felt across her body and hips, her knee brushing along one of the scars down her thigh. "And this?" She asked.

 

"Plane crash, about a year after I joined the CIA." Chloe stated. "I was on my way up to Norway, cold weather training. The plane crashed, and yet somehow I didn't die. Apparently, God likes it when I suffer. I probably would have died if it weren't for the fact that there seemed to be a Covert Action team on board."

Max nodded. "I think I remember hearing about it. You were the only survivor, weren't you?" 

Chloe nodded again. "Oddly enough, I hate flying on trashcans-with-wings like the one that went down that day."

Max giggled at the remark. "I'm not surprised. I don't think you could pay me enough to fly on a plane like that after something so horrible."

 

Chloe stiffened as Max's fingers traced the back of the hole through her midriff, small now, but prominent enough to be noticed. Max noticed the sharp change in Chloe's mood as her fingers traced the small circular hole.

"What was this?" Max asked. Chloe took hold of Max's hand behind her back, hesistantly removing it for a moment. She allowed the hand to return to her back, as she relaxed again.

"Sorry." Chloe mumbled. "I'm just a little… cautious. When things touch that, anyway." She apologised to Max. Max shrugged.

"I suppose I shouldn't have touched it. I'm sorry, Chloe." Max said. Chloe put her hand back around Max, pulling their faces together. 

 

"No, it's okay. I'm just a little jittery when anything touches that. It sounds stupid, but i'm always scared it'll open again." Chloe reassured Max, as she explained her behaviour. A look came across Max's face as realisation dawned on her.

"That was the first time you were shot, wasn't it?" Max asked.

 

Chloe nodded. "Yeah. Six years ago. I was only eighteen at the time: ran away from home, the asshole who was my stepdad had been abusing me and I couldn't take it any more. Found out my girlfriend had…" Chloe gulped, as the obituary column passed under her mind's eye once more. "Never mind, that's not too important." She abruptly told herself. Max's hands caressed her shoulders. 

"It's okay. I understand how it feels, to have someone you love taken from you." Max comforted her, pulling her tight. Chloe continued, shakily.

 

"I… I fell in with a bad crowd." She explained. "Dad had taught me a lot of stuff- hell, he probably meant for me to come into this line of work- and they used me. They held up a bank, had me keeping the people out front under control. It all went to shit, cops came. I went to get into the van as we made a break for it…" Chloe tensed up again, as she recalled, in vivid detail, the next few moments. "They shot me. Left me in the street to die. Abandoned me, like everyone else in my fucking life." Chloe's voice broke slightly, her body heavy as her emotions fought for dominance.

Max held her closely, running a hand gently through her hair as strands draped over her hanging head. "It's alright. Nothing short of death is going to separate us. I promise." Max whispered, kissing Chloe on the cheek next to her ear. "And, when we go back to America, I think we need to go pay this group of Hurensöhne a visit." Max suggested.

Chloe smiled. "If only to piss on their graves. SWAT got them a few blocks from where they shot me. I suppose if they hadn't… I'd have died with them." Chloe reflected. Another tightening hug from Max kept her in the present.

 

"I suppose that's a good thing, then. I'm starting to find it hard to imagine a world where we never crossed paths." Max said. Chloe felt her heart flutter, as her stomach span like a centrifuge.

"Y-you mean that?" Chloe stuttered, eyes meeting Max's. The brunette nodded, softly.

"I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it." She asserted. "Now, I could spend all day like this, but I'm hungry. And you?" She asked Chloe. Chloe's stomach answered for her, a low grumble as Max switched off the hot water bearing down on them. Chloe nodded, as Max wrapped a large bath towel around their bodies, the pair standing quietly in the room, lips locked as they shared warmth.


Nathan was already dressed and sat at the table when Max and Chloe entered the main living area.

"Nice to see you two are up and running at last. Thanks for not keeping me awake last night." He said, a wry smirk on his face.

 

Ally or not, I wanna wipe that smirk off his face. Preferably with my fist. Chloe thought, as Max simply reddened. Nathan continued regardless, smug grin and all.

"So, from the files left in my- former- handler's car, we can safely assume that what we're taking on is something far bigger than a few people. Remember Set Gamayun ?" Nathan posed, pausing as he shuffled through the information strewn in front of them, "Turns out that your dear friend Andrews is in charge. Strange thing is, judging by these case notes, Set Gamayun seems to have gone rogue. Just like the KGB intercepts suggested."

 

"Fancy that." Chloe quipped, snarky as ever. "An army of rogue spies, suddenly deciding to turn on their masters. Who'd have thunk it?" She caught Max in the corner of her eye, an entertained grin on her face despite the dire situation at hand.

"You don't say." Nathan bluntly echoed. "Well, Set Gamayun appears to go by the name of The Disciples as well."

Chloe narrowed her eyes. "Wait, The Disciples as in…?" She left her question open. Nathan nodded.

"Yeah. That Disciples. We haven't even got onto the best part yet: In case we forgot, they're looking at slinging a nuke- or nukes, plural- and starting a war. Quite why is hard to say; it doesn't really matter though." Nathan elaborated. Chloe shivered.

 

"Shit." Max muttered. "But to do that, they'd need a launch silo, right?" 

 

Nathan shook his head. "Not at all. Really, all they'd need is a Portable Launch Device and a relay powerful enough to reach the host country or bounce the signal off a satellite. Maybe not even that. Then, they could... I don't know, maybe launch a nice big Minuteman from the Colorado silos, a Polaris or Trident from one of our subs, a Pershing missile from one of the Bundeswehr detachments. Hell, maybe even have the Air Force deliver something by B.U.F.F." Nathan remarked as he thought aloud about the possibilities.

 

"Yeah, but to do that they'd need the launch codes. And a Launch Device, come to think of it. And they'd have to get the Sec-Def to verify them." Chloe argued.

 

Nathan rolled his eyes. "Think about it, Chloe. These bastards are everywhere , and they're determined. You really think that'd stop them? Besides, they already have one sizeable chunk of the jigsaw." He declared, dropping a newspaper onto the table from the previous day. Chloe's heart damn near stopped cold. The image was of the US Air Force storage that she'd pointed out not two days ago. Unlike then, the scene was of chaos: the blast doors buckled and warped backward, parts of even the superstructure above being destroyed. The headline was in the native language, but Chloe understood it perfectly.

 

EXPLOSION AT AMERICAN AIR FORCE FACILITY!

GAS LEAK BLAMED- DOZENS DEAD AND INJURED.



"Bullshit." Max exclaimed, sharply. "Look at the blast pattern. That's a bomb, or demolition charges for certain. Definitely not a gas explosion." 

 Chloe sat silent for a few moments. Of course. How better to cover up the loss of the device than to bring the place down?

 

After allowing the information to soak into her mind, she finally spoke. "I suppose that solves their problem of stealing one unnoticed. By the time they realise one's unaccounted for…" Chloe pointed out.

 

Nathan nodded, grimacing. "Indeed. Suffice to say, we're going to have to move pretty bloody fast if we want to keep the world as relatively un-irradiated as it is right now." He added. Pulling out one of the other files from the pile and resting it on the table, he continued his ad-hoc brief. "Luckily for us, we might just have a way of getting on their scent." Another brief shuffle revealed what almost looked like a small apartment complex. "This, the files here suggest, is one of the operating bases for The Disciples. Given we have no other real leads as yet, I say we hit it."

 

Chloe and Max looked at each other for a moment, and then at Nathan.

"Are you serious?" Both asked in tandem, before looking back at each other, blushing at having the exact same thought. Nathan chuckled.

"Good god, at this rate you'll be finishing one another's sentences. It'll be difficult, granted, but we took Pullach. This job won't require as much- subtlety- as that, for a start." He assured them.

 

"Yeah, but we've no idea how many of those fuckers are in there!" Chloe exclaimed. "And-"

"-And we've got no gear to hit them with!" Max interrupted. "We have pistols and that's it! How the hell do we take on a small army just with these?" Max finished. Both women sat in stunned silence, turning increasing shades of pink as they did so. Nathan laughed.

 

"I spoke too soon. Break out the fucking engagement rings, someone." He cackled as he finished, slowly diminished by the pair of increasingly piqued glares he got in return. "Anyway… leave weapons and other shiny kit to me. Let's worry about how we want to hit this place." He stated.

"What are the options?" Max pondered aloud. Nathan dug out another piece of paper from the files, a floorplan of the building from earlier.

"Well, we seem to be in luck. This would appear to be the complex." Nathan declared, opening up the plan on the table. 

 

ARD Floorplan- Basement Ground Floor Floorplan First Floor Floorplan

 

Max looked at them, quizzically. "This seems to good to be true. After what's happened to us so far. Our luck can't be this good."

Nathan shrugged. "Well, you know what they say: half of everything is luck." He recited.

"And the other half?" Max probed again.

 

"Fate." Nathan calmy uttered. Once over, Chloe would have heard a line like that and called 'bullshit'. She glanced innocuously at Max. That line, she conceded, now seemed somewhat more true. What else would explain her current situation?

"Erm, Chloe?" Max said, softly. Chloe blinked and jolted gently, startled. Her face was enough of a picture of surprise and embarrassment that Max chose not to compound it.

 

"So, options…" Nathan quietly prompted the pair, getting their attention. "One: we go in through the front door, hell-for-leather. No way to know what's inside, so we'd have to hope we outgun the forces in there; Two: we go in quietly, through the fire escape and perhaps one of the ground floor doors. Night-time, perhaps. Try and catch them asleep. It'd work so long as we keep the element of surprise." He detailed, in the ad-hoc brief. "Not ideal options, but workable."

 

After a second of thinking, Chloe had an idea. "Are there any services on that diagram? Electrical mains, lighting supplies? That kind of thing?" She questioned, pointing at the diagram. Nathan looked at her, confused.

"Probably. Why?" He responded.

Chloe rolled her eyes. "Duh. Cut the power, then kick the door in. Shock, awe, utter confusion for them. That should work." 

 Nathan tutted. "It'll work alright… up to the part where we shoot each other by accident in pitched darkness." He countered.

 "He has a point, Chloe." Max echoed. Chloe put a hand up toward Max's mouth.

 "You stop agreeing with him!" She grumbled, humorously. She looked back at Nathan. "You said you could source equipment. How about night vision? Hell, even some Starlight scopes would do the trick."

 

Nathan's expression read clearly, as Chloe's plan registered. "You know what? That, that might just work.” He concurred, waving a finger in the air as he did so. “Leave it with me. Let's give ourselves a week to get what we need together, and then we'll go give these wankers a reason to be scared of the dark."

Chloe and Max nodded, with a wry grin. The plan was set.


22nd November, 1987

Disciples Base

03.00 Local Time

 

The trio approached the complex, careful not to make a sound as they travelled through the darkened neighbourhood. Occasionally freezing as a bang or a clatter echoed, they reached their target.  Stopping short, the trio checked their weapons one final time. They had each elected to leave their personal arms behind, each taking a silenced Walther that Nathan had appropriated from some depot or another; Max had elected to go for an Israeli weapon, the Uzi, outfitted with a silencer. 

"I've always wanted to give this one a try!" She'd proclaimed when she set hands on it, her face like a child's in a toyshop. Chloe, conversely, had elected for a silenced Heckler and Koch. Bulkier though it was, she felt far more comfortable using it.

“What? If it works, why change it?” Chloe had grumbled, when Max had called her weapon an antique. Nathan, however… had elected for something a little less subtle. “Less subtle” taking the form of a Browning Auto Five shotgun. Both Max and Chloe had raised an eyebrow upon seeing this antique be brought out of the duffel.

“You said it best, Chloe.” He had cheekily remarked. “And let’s face it: it’s tight quarters. This little beauty, at these ranges, will make our friends go bye-bye.” He had argued, with an impish- and sadistic- grin on his face.

Additionally, the trio had made sure to get hold of decent wristwatches, to coordinate their breaches.

 

Sure enough, the lights were burning, though outside there was not a soul in sight.

"Pretty slack for a group of rogues." Max commented. Chloe nodded.

 

"Yup. All the better for us." She noted, as the trio prepared themselves, checking their magazines once more and fitting their night-vision sets to their heads. Chloe pointed out a metal box on the wall, which Nathan set to work quietly breaking into. Max and Chloe covered him, weapons scanning back and forth slowly. A minute or two later, and a few hot curses muttered, Nathan returned to their side.

 

“Good to go. The pencil fuse should give us three minutes to set up.” He announced, as the trio clicked their watches’ timing mechanisms. “Remember the plan- we can’t afford to let any of these fuckers get away alive, or they’ll warn Andrews and the rest of this mob.” Nathan reminded them, before heading for the steel stairs leading to the first floor, staying low to avoid the glow from the windows. Max and Chloe crept along the wall, Taking up positions on opposite sides of the door. Chloe glanced at her watch. 

Thirty seconds. Her hand reached up, dragging the slightly bulky apparatus onto her eyes. As she adjusted to the green hue of the system, she saw Max do the same. A smile in Max’s direction, and a thumbs-up, both reciprocated by her… What are we? Chloe asked herself, briefly. Allies? Friends? Or something more?

Another glance at her watch. Eight seconds. The whitish glow of light from the windows vanished, and muffled cries of surprise could be heard. She extended her left hand’s digits, counting them in.

Three, Two, One. She clenched her fist and pulled it inward, as Max opened the door, Chloe bringing her weapon up to cover the interior. The duo swept inside, their goggles picking up the flashes of torches from the confused goons within. A muffled explosion and a series of loud bangs echoed from the floor above, making the goons jump. Nathan had made his entry, by the sounds of it. A door swung open in front of them, one of the Disciples exiting, rifle lazily clutched in his hand. Another couple of bangs from the floor above signified Nathan was still merrily sweeping away everything in his sight.

“Hey, what the fuck’s going on?” The Disciple called out. A moment later, a nine-millimeter bullet had shattered his skull, and he collapsed against the door. Another man rushed from the same room, being thrown back by a burst of fire from Chloe. The initial confusion of their adversaries had faded, as they realised what was going on. Max split off from Chloe as she kicked in the door of the accommodation wing, Max going to clear the kitchen area. Catching two more of the enemy off-guard, Chloe snapped off a duet of rounds in quick succession, and both men hit the floor before their hands had a chance to grasp their firearms. A shrill roar from her side got her attention, and she turned to find another charging her with a knife. She swung the butt of her weapon into his jaw, sending him reeling with what could best be described as a shriek of agony. She flipped the weapon back around in her hands, and put a burst into him for good measure. She moved to exit the wing once more, into the open space. As her muzzle came through the opening, a hand grabbed it and pulled her off balance, crashing to the floor. One of the rogue agents stood over her, leering as he levelled a gun at her. A few spatters of black fluid erupted from his chest as he hit the floor beside her with a grunt. Chloe looked in the direction of where the gunshots came from, to see Max stood, grinning at her and shaking her head. Chloe gave her the finger as she stood up, snapping her weapon up in Max’s direction as she saw a hostile approach her from behind, having emerged from the basement. Max lunged forward in a roll, as Chloe hammered a burst into his chest. Two more goons followed closely behind, both being felled by a combination of fire from Max and Chloe.

 

“Good shooting.” Max uttered, as they headed for the stairs, slowly moving up from the carnage they had left. The two moved slowly, like leopards stalking their prey, keeping a small amount of distance. 

“Speak for yourself.” Chloe replied, grinning. As they appeared onto the first floor, a chunk of plaster next to Chloe was blown off, making her yelp and drop her weapon with surprise. She brought her handgun up to bear as she threw herself to the floor, only to be met by Nathan’s gaze. 

 

“What happened to NOT shooting at each other, you prick?!” She snarled at him, as she dusted herself off and scooped up her main weapon.

Nathan shrugged, shotgun in one hand, the other palm out to one side. “Maybe shout up, next time?” A series of bullets bursting through the wall perilously close to him sent him diving to the floor, with a shout of surprise. Apparently, they’d missed one.

“Exhibit A for not shouting out.” Chloe muttered, as she hosed a few rounds through the partition. Max kicked in the door, which led into what on the plans had appeared to be an executive suite. The grunt in the room was felled as he panicked and fired, the rounds passing the duo harmlessly.

“COME ON OUT, ASSHOLES!” The yelling of one of the remaining Disciples echoed, a few rounds bursting through the walls every now and again as he fired in the vain hope of hitting someone. Hiding in the bathroom, how ironic.

 

Max and Chloe positioned themselves, listening for the next noise from the room. A creak of a floorboard. The click of a magazine catch. Chloe broke through the door, catching the final Disciple mid-reload. Before he had a chance to react, Chloe put a bullet in his skull, his body slumping into the bathtub with a clatter. The building was eerily quiet, not a sound other than Nathan grunting as he stood up on the other side of the wall.

 

"You good, Nate?" Chloe called out, to be sure. A groan preceded the reply.

"A sore arse, but nothing major. Think that's all of them?" He replied, groaning a little.

“Sounds like it. Let's sweep up sharpish and clear out, before the authorities show up."


The Safehouse

08.30 Local Time

 

After an uneventful withdrawal from the complex, the trio gathered around the table once more to dismantle the files appropriated. The information within certainly didn't settle them.

"Well shit. They are planning a nuclear strike after all." Nathan muttered, looking at the various notes and messages. "But where would they coordinate from?" 

Max glanced over the files some more. "The British Sector, maybe? It's far enough from that Air Force compound, and they could hijack an antenna in the East." Max mused. Chloe shook her head, as a realisation hit her.

 

"No. They wouldn't need to hijack anything in the East at all. If they go there, to the British sector, there's already a comms site available." Chloe stated.

"Of course!" Nathan exclaimed, as the penny dropped. "Teufelsberg!"

Max raised an eyebrow. "What's so important about Teufelsberg?" She asked. Chloe gave her a faux-condescending look.

 

"You know, that listening post on the hill? The one that looks like West Berlin is giving East Germany the finger?" Chloe explained, Max's face telling as she too understood.

"Oh. That part of Teufelsberg. Have we any idea when they're planning to be there?" Max pondered.

 

"Looking at these notes… tomorrow, maybe the day after. We're going to need to get our arses in gear sharpish." Nathan cut in, finger on one of the notes on the table. "I'll bet that this place is fookin' crammed with these lot as well. We'll have to set off early to get there as well, because I'll bet the launch will be done during the night. Probably early morning, thinking about it." 

 

Chloe concurred. "Yeah. Minimal opportunity for anyone to react before splashdown. Let's get ourselves sorted out, and then get some sleep. We're going to need every bit of prep we have time for and then some if we want to prevent the launch."

Max's brow furrowed. "What about a Plan B? What if we're too late, or we can't stop them launching?" She asked, worried.

 

"We won't." Chloe assured her. "Not on my life."

Nathan piped up once more. "She has a point, actually. What if they manage a launch?"

 

Chloe stood silently, propping herself on the table, as she thought about it. "It depends. If it's an attempted run with a nuclear bomber, then we could issue an abort code, provided we can get the Football that sent the go-code. If it's a missile… we'll need something powerful enough to kick the signal up to a satellite. Try and get the abort signal relayed to it via a com-sat. Those are our only options." She stated.

 

"So what you're saying is that if they manage a launch, we have to steal the Football from them and get the signal relayed?" Max asked.

Chloe nodded, slowly. "Yeah. It's the only sure-fire way of aborting a strike that I know of, and even then it's impossible to say for sure whether it'll work."

 

"This is it, then." Nathan proclaimed, quietly. "We're going All-In on this one." 

"Three of us, taking on god only knows how many of them. It's nothing short of suicide." Chloe muttered, thinking aloud.

 

"Perhaps not just us three." Nathan remembered. "I have… a few contacts. Acquaintances. I'll see what I can do to get us some extra guns on hand."

Chloe nodded. "Okay. Now, if you'll excuse me... I think I need some air." She stated as she quickly left, keeping her composure as she did so.


Chloe had just finished her cigarette, stood watching the winter snow slowly drifting down. A slight shiver passed through her, a mix of the cold and her internalised fear. The uncertainty of what lay ahead did nothing to settle her.

 

This really is a death wish. She thought. How the hell are we supposed to achieve this, just our small number? Even if we can stop a launch, how good are our odds of getting away alive? Probably zero. Fuck. Just when I was starting to enjoy this. Well, Max, mainly, but...

 

She flinched slightly, as a hand wrapped around her midriff. "You're worried, aren't you?" Max's voice asked calmly, as her warmth pressed against Chloe. Chloe returned the hold, a hand reaching around Max's waist as well.

 

"Yes. Honestly, I'm not sure we can pull this off. Even if we manage to fight through them all, I'm not certain we'll be able to prevent the launch. And aborting in flight is so rare it almost never happens: they ran tests, once. Ten test missiles were launched and given the kill-signal. Of those, only three responded. Even assuming it works, we've still got whatever's left of their unit to fight, and somehow have to explain all this when the authorities eventually catch us up." Chloe confessed, sighing. A tear began to form, icy cold, in her eye. "And to think of what we'll lose, if we fail. Or if one of us..."



Max held her tighter, moving to come face to face with her. "Don't you start that now, Chloe Price. We've pulled off far more difficult things up to now. We can do this."

"How are you so sure?" Chloe whimpered. "We're three spies, up against a legion. What if our success so far has been luck, and we've ran it dry?"

"We're three spies, granted." Max began. "But remember, we're three of the best spies that have ever been. Besides, since when were you such a defeatist?" Max jabbed.

"I suppose I became a defeatist when the odds were stacked this far against us." Chloe countered.

 

Max's hand reached up gently, fingers stretching up the back of Chloe's neck. "They've been against us the whole time, and from what you've told me of your life, moreso for you. And you kept fighting. Why?" Max probed.

Chloe shrugged, unable to think of a worthy reply. The finger of Max's free hand jabbed her chest, near her heart. " You kept fighting, because that's all you've ever known. You're stubborn, Chloe. In fact, alongside Stef, you're one of the most stubborn Zimtzicke I've ever met!" Max growled. Chloe looked at her, mouth agape at the verbal pimp-slap she'd been served. 

 

"What, did you just call me?" She grumbled, reaching out at Max. Max countered Chloe's gropes, chuckling, before a sweep from Chloe's leg sent them sprawling into the snow, with a shriek from Max, her arms pinned up and to the sides by Chloe's. The two lay in the snow, noses and bodies pressed together as they grinned like idiots at one another, panting softly. Their fingers interlocked as their palms met, their combined warmth nullifying any sense of the cold surrounding them.

"Suppose we succeed, what then?" Chloe finally asked Max.

 

"I already told you, Chloe. If this goes to plan… I'd like to stay with you." Max stated, tenderly.

 

"Forever?" Chloe pondered once more.

"Forever." Max confirmed, kissing her softly on the lips as they lay in the soft powder coating the floor. 

 

"Screw it." Chloe exhaled, after some deliberation.

"Screw what?" Max replied, curious.

"Screw everything I said about 'what ifs'. I'll promise you here and now, I'm not leaving you. Ever. Like it or not, you're stuck with me now." Chloe stated, gazing longingly into Max's eyes.

Max smiled. "No matter what?" Max checked.

Chloe kissed her once more as her hands enveloped Max, Max's doing the exact same. "No matter what." Chloe echoed, as they broke once more. "So long as we're together, nothing can stop us."

Chapter Text

23rd November, 1987

Postfenn Nature Reserve, West Berlin

04.35 Local Time

 

The lights adorning the domed communications array atop the hill glowed brightly, even from the group’s hide in the treeline. The hide was cold, its roof layered with an inch or so of snow as a wintry shower fell across the darkened city once more. The park before them was still, quiet save for the fleeting sounds of wildlife around them. Max shivered slightly, the harsh weather sending a chill throughout her. She felt an arm across her shoulders, and a warm body pull itself closer to her.

“Cold?” Chloe whispered in her ear, her warm breath tickling the side of Max’s face as they lay in the small pit, akin to a shallow grave were it not for the camouflage above them. Max smiled, and nodded.

 

“Just a little.” She whispered back. “I feel somewhat better with you lying where you are now, however.” Chloe felt a warmth spreading through her cheeks as she nestled closer to Max, their fingers interlocking. Chloe felt her heart speed up just a little, as she felt Max’s soft pulse in her wrist.

I could spend forever here. Even if it is frickin’ cold. Chloe mused to herself, as her and Max pressed their noses to one another.

 

A sharp cough besides them broke their reverie, both shooting a glance in Nathan’s direction. A smug grin was visible, hiding behind the stock of the hefty rifle he held, scanning out toward the illuminated towers beyond the treeline. “I’d rather like it if you could avoid having sex for the time being. There’ll be plenty of time to get in each other’s underwear once we’re done.” He muttered, the grin widening as he returned to what he was doing. It was well that it was almost pitch black inside the hide, as both womens’ faces burned with embarrassment. However, Chloe felt somewhat more comfortable. Even Nathan’s acting like we stand a chance, and he’s usually more cynical than I am. Hell, we might have the odds on our side for once!

 

Nathan placed his rifle down to one side, having swept once more along the railings.

“I count at least five patrolling the exterior, that I can see from here at least. Two snipers, at least one with a heavy weapon.” He declared, before picking up the bottle beside him and taking a swig. “That’s not counting the ones inside, or in cover. Not a great deal of sightlines onto the facility or its approaches. Not an ideal situation to assault into, as we’re going to be effectively blind once we get into the facility proper. Unless either of you have ever been inside or have friends in the NSA.” Nathan remarked, concluding his spotting.

 

Max and Chloe looked at each other briefly, the glance exchanging thoughts unspoken. 

I hope you’re right, Max. I hope you’re right.

 

Nathan grabbed his rifle in hand once more, unscrewing the Starlight from atop it for ease of fighting once they had closed in on the facility. 

“What’s the play?” Chloe asked, as she felt for her own weapon. Max did the same, as they prepared to set out on what would hopefully be the check-mate to this protracted game of chess; the final killing blow in this game of cat-and-mouse.

 

Nathan smirked at her in the dimness. “I think the time for subtlety is long gone, has been since we broke out of Plotenzee. I say we hit this place hard, and we hit it fast. Catch them off guard, and wipe them out before they can get their heads 'round what the fuck is going on. Does that sound like a good plan to you two?” He questioned, as Chloe had a devious thought.

 

“Well, Nathan, other than the fact that you’ve just described what you’re probably going to do to the first girl you take to bed after we’re done… I’d say it’s as good a plan as any. How about you, Max?” Chloe replied, a smug grin on her face as Nathan cursed under his breath. 

 

Max giggled at his flustered swearing. “I’d say we’re set.” She echoed Chloe, as the trio crawled out of their hide and set off in the direction of the perimeter fence. All the while, Chloe couldn’t shake the uneasy sensation from her stomach, something she’d never had an issue with on countless operations before now.

 

Is it what we’re doing that’s making me feel so uneasy, or is it what’s at stake? Chloe wondered, as the small team cut across the open, disappearing into the treeline beyond. The snowfall behind them erased their footprints, filling them in short order. As they moved through a clearing in the forest, Nathan halted them, the trio dropping to one knee as Nathan scanned the trees around them.

 

“Andrei, you can come out now. I can smell you from here.” Nathan called out, after sniffing the air briefly. After a few moments of silence, the soft crunch of snow underfoot slowly grew, far louder than for a single person to be present. Shapes, silhouettes, materialised in the darkness. All but one stopped, the solitary figure closing to them.

“Apologies we’re late, Nathan. I had to rest a short while, a headache.” The figure spoke, a slurred, heavy Russian accent to his voice.

Nathan smirked. “Well, Andrei, that’s what happens when you drink vodka in place of water. How are we looking up at the fence?” He asked.

 

“Ach, the fence is electrified. However, we thought that was a possibility, so I had a small group of my men prepare a… workaround.” Andrei replied, grinning. “Now, let’s not waste time. If you are right, then these terrors are already preparing to bring an end to the world we know and love.” He commented, as the enlarged group made its way through the woods. 

“Nathan, when you said friends, I assumed you meant a few other rogues.” Chloe whispered. “Where the fuck did you get all these guys?”

Nathan grinned at her. “I’ve known Andrei for a long time. He’s useful, that’s for sure. He used to be into guns and drugs; now, he runs an outfit that can give most of the thoroughbred Private Military Contractors a run for its money. I’m just glad I had a favour I could call in.”

 

Max looked at Nathan, also. “That still doesn’t explain how he has so many different people working for him. I’m sure I recognise a few of these guys as ex-Spetsnaz, and I’m sure at least two of these guys are former Diensteinheit IX operatives.” She pointed out. Nathan shrugged.

“We’re not the only people to have ever been betrayed. Most of these guys have wanted a job like this for years. They have an axe to grind, which is good for us. Now, let’s get in there.” Nathan murmured to them. Just as they had appeared, the group- Max, Chloe and Nathan inclusive- evaporated into the surroundings, a force unseen. A force united by a single goal.


The group lay in the treeline short of the fence, and Chloe had already noticed that the mercenaries either side of them possessed sufficient firepower to make the average company of Marines look under-tooled. Andrei quietly spoke into a radio set that had been concealed by the tree he lay next to, before hooking it back into its holder. “Okay, when my other team does their job, we’ll have about thirty seconds to break through the fence before their backups take over. We’ll fight through and take these scum apart, but we’ll leave the interior to you. I understand it’s… personal.” Andrei explained to the three agents close to him. “As it stands, if you enter and do not leave within five minutes, we’ll come in after you. Just in case.” He assured them, with a smile. As he did so, the faint glow from the facility beyond the wire vanished, as the power to the site was removed. 

 

“That’s our cue.” Andrei muttered to himself. “THAT’S OUR CUE, GENTLEMEN!” He cried out, the rumble of small explosions raced along a section of the fence, the mesh falling away as the charges blew it from its mounts. The brief fire from the towers overlooking the fence were silenced as the mercenary positions concealed let fly a withering barrage of fire against the identified positions of the Disciples guarding the exterior. A battle-cry roared along the line of hardened fighters as they surged forward across the exposed patrol track just outside the fence, bearing all kinds of weapons. Another brief flurry of fire from the buildings on their flank drew away a portion of the force, a torrent of fire driving back the defenders. Andrei pointed at a hole in the main building, freshly created by one of his men with a satchel charge. The burst of gunfire from within was silenced by a hail of machine-gun fire in the opposite direction, a pair of the fighters moving to cover the breach and prevent any would-be defenders using it for protection.

“There’s your door! Get in there, we’ll deal with these hounds!” He roared over the deafening gunfire. The trio complied, charging toward the hole in the wall. The sounds of battle disappeared as they moved deeper and deeper into the massive communications centre, barely any resistance in their path. The reason why became clear quite quickly, a number of corpses littering the facility, countless spent casings strewn across the floors. The walls were bullet-riddled, and the slight scent of fired ammunition lingered in the air. 

 

“Poor bastards, they never stood a chance.” Nathan muttered, as he took the lead. The same seemed to be true throughout the outer areas of the facility, the lightly-armed NSA personnel who normally staffed the Station having been all but annihilated by the Disciples. Cautiously, they approached the core of the communications outpost, the place they’d figured was likeliest to be used to relay any launch signal. Slowly and cautiously, they approached what seemed to be the center of the building. The trio slotted in along a wall by the shattered steel doors, able to faintly hear a conversation in the room beyond. Chloe’s face became an angry grimace as she recognised one of the more prominent voices in the room. 

 

“Is the relay configured?” Andrews’ distinctive voice echoed throughout the room beyond.

 

"Yes, sir." Another voice, accented in what sounded German, replied.

 

"Good. Begin transmitting to Malmstrom, order them to prepare a missile. Target… Leningrad." Andrews ordered, seemingly unconcerned as to what the actual target was.

 

The trio had become so engrossed in eavesdropping, however, that they made a grave error.

"Uh, who's keeping lookout?" Chloe asked, thinking aloud. The click of a rifle's safety catch beside them provided her with a swift answer, as she winced and cursed.

 

"Don't try anything smart." The Disciple ordered them. "Stand up, slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them." Begrudgingly, the three spies complied, slowly. Their captor gestured through the door with the muzzle of his weapon, herding the trio into the central room.

 

Andrews' face curled into a smile as he saw the trio being marched into the room. "Well, look what the cat dragged in!" He bellowed. A glance at the room in front of them revealed at least a dozen men, not counting the four closest to him. Plugged into one of the large data banks at one end of the room was the missing Football, primed and ready to deliver ungodly obliteration upon its target.

 

Chloe scowled at Andrews, a hatred burning in her eyes unlike anything she had ever experienced. "Chloe Price… oh, how I wondered how long it would take for the penny to drop. Did it never occur to you that every mission you were sent on seemed doomed from the outset?" He continued his monologue. "You've had an irritating habit of not dying."

 

"Fuck you, asshole." Chloe snarled at him. "You were behind this all along, weren't you?"

 

Andrews bared his teeth as his smile widened. "Oh, yes. How enjoyable it's been, seeing you all running in circles. I wondered if you'd ever think to look under your own feet, but it took the rug being pulled from beneath your feet to even start." Andrews lectured. "I still find it delightful that you set yourself up perfectly to be disavowed."

 

"I bet those two MI6 agents were two of your fucking men, weren't they?" Chloe growled at him. Andrews chuckled.

 

"Naturally. Two dead allied operatives, an escaped Soviet operative, and you seemingly vanishing. You couldn't have made it easier for me to have you branded a rogue agent if you'd tried." He gloated. "Now, on to the main event." 

 

"Why?" Max interrupted. "What the hell could you possibly stand to gain from starting a nuclear war?"

 

Andrews looked at Max, a searching stare. "Oh, it's rather simple, really. The world's powers have too long been paranoid, pent-up. I simply want to… release that tension. It's about time the leaders of this fucked-up world were held to account and made to reap what they've sown." 

 

"So that's it?" Chloe exhorted. "You're going to kill millions of people, innocent people, just as a petty way to get back at the world? What kind of stupid is that?"

 

Andrews stared her down once more, drawing a pistol from his waistband and pointing it squarely at her. "You should really learn to keep your fucking mouth shut. Not that it matters any more. No, the usefulness of letting you three live has just about run its course. It's going to be enjoyable, killing both Prices with the same gun." He mused. "At least you are all going to die knowing you failed." He boasted.

 

"You killed my dad?" Chloe howled at him. She attempted to lunge at him, but the butt of a rifle striking her in the back knocked her to the floor. The muzzle pressed into her as she froze, trying not to incite the man to shoot her at point-blank. 

 

"That's a good girl. You stay right there." Andrews sneered, as one of his men brought over the football from where it had been sat and presenting it to him. His finger hovered over the command send switch, a menacing grin on his face.

 

"You lose." He decreed, as his finger dropped onto the switch.


Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

Home of 564 th Missile Squadron

20.35 Local Time

 

The majority of the base was quiet, save for the few maintainers working on the small fleet of helicopters that serviced the base. Beyond, the suburb of Titan Village lay dormant, the off-base personnel and families either asleep or otherwise engaged. The occasional patrol orbited the small compound within the massive confines of the base. Thirty feet below the ground, twenty of which were reinforced concrete, the same could be said in the cramped confines of the silo's Launch Command Centre. Isolated from the world above, the two-man crew continued their banter in isolation.

 

"Well, Bill, I betcha you never scored last weekend either." One of the two airmen poked at his fellow operator. "Jeez, did ya see some of the ladies there?"

 

"You betcha, Al. I saw them alright. You definitely need to get your eyes checked." Bill chuckled in reply, as Al gave him the finger.

 

"Fuck you, Bill. At least I don't need a pill to get wood." Al shot back, the brief tension between the pair breaking as their attempts to lighten the monotony of their jobs once more. Bill picked up a cup from his station, gulping down some more moderately warm coffee.

 

"Why did we join the Missile service? It's fucking boring as hell." He moaned. "Man, what I wouldn't give for something interesting to happen around here."

 

A low blare from the klaxon within the small control room. Bill fell off his seat in surprise, while Al paled with fear. “Didn’t anyone teach you to be careful what you wished for?!” He hissed at his companion, as the latter scrabbled his way back onto his seat. Both picked up a notepad and pen, knowing full well what came next. 

 

“Sierra, Hotel, Two, Tango, Five, Charlie, Echo, Whiskey.” 

The sterile, robotic voice droned through the speaker situated between the desks of the two men. They compared notes, confirming the code they had just been given, both still not quite believing what was happening. Once they were sure that the codes matched, they unlocked the cabinet containing the verification cards, Bill passing Al the envelope to open.

"Hey, maybe this is just another unscheduled test?" He hypothesised.

 

"Perhaps." Al replied, returning to the desk as Bill stood opposite. He propped himself up on the desk, staring at his fellow missileer in dread-ridden anticipation.

“So, is it genuine?” He asked, as Al opened the envelope, hands shaking slightly as he withdrew the red card with the code embossed onto it. He stared at it for a few solid, tense moments, before staring at Bill.

 

“It’s genuine.” Al muttered, barely believing what he was saying. “Good God, it’s genuine.” He felt his mouth dry out as Bill turned a similar shade of pale as he already had.

 

Bill slammed his palms against the top of the console. "Fuck! Are they serious? Is this actually happening?" He thought aloud, still unable to comprehend the horrific duty that had been asked of them. Al nodded his head, slowly.

 

"They're serious all right. That launch code is valid. I'll set the tumbler, you get your key ready." He instructed his colleague as he set the code on one of the walls. He returned to his desk, slotting the small key from his pocket into its place in the console, as Bill sat ready, his key also set.

 

"God forgive us." Bill muttered. "Turn keys in three, two, one." He counted down.

 

"Turn." The two men turned their keys in sync, holding them in place. A green light appeared on the console, next to Al's hand. "Launch Enable, check." He whispered. A rumbling shook the small room. A short distance away, in one of the hardened launch silos, the rocket motor of the missile roared into life. 

 

The mid-evening peace and quiet on the surface above was broken by a phenomenal roar, which shook the ground. A bright light out across the base got the attention of those still awake. The exhaust from the rocket blasted out and upward through its channels, two towering plumes of smoke and gas, as the glow from within the silo intensified. A blinding orange light emerged in the darkness of the night. It climbed, slowly at first, into the night sky, gaining more and more speed as it accelerated toward the stars, leaving a greyish trail of smoke in its wake. The few guards who had been on patrol near the silos froze, their gaze following the orb of light from the rocket exhaust as it climbed skyward, the ground trembling beneath their feet, as though the Earth itself were in fear of what was taking place. They remained frozen in place for a few moments after the roaring had ceased, leaving a static ringing in their ears. After a short time more, one of the junior guards spoke.

 

“Sir… was that… have we just…” The young airman, no older than twenty or so, stammered, unable to translate the question on his tongue into words. 

 

“Good God.” The patrol’s commander uttered in disbelief. “They’ve done it. Those fuckers have finally lost their minds!”

 

The youngster fell to the ground, one hand clutching at his stomach. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

 

The commander offered a hand to the young man, helping him to his feet. “I can’t blame you, kid. We might have just witnessed the end of the world as we know it.”


Very little seemed to happen initially following the switch being flipped. Nothing visibly changed on the case, other than a green-lit word illuminating. Andrews levelled his gun at Chloe’s head, setting the hammer back.

 

“Good riddance, Chloe Price.” He triumphantly announced. The wall to one side of where a number of the Disciples were stood imploded in a cloud of brick fragments and other debris, followed by another, closer. The force of the blast and the debris knocked both Andrews and the man standing on Chloe’s back off balance, injuring or incapacitating those adversaries closer to the blast. Before their foes could respond, the silhouettes of armed men appeared in the newly-formed entrances to the room, followed by gunfire, mowing down the Disciples who were still reeling from the initial explosion. Chloe saw her chance, taking to her feet and charging down Andrews. With a howl, she hammered a punch into the side of his face, sending him sprawling onto the floor. His assistant, who had been holding the Football, lay seemingly dead. She lunged forward, grabbing it with both hands. A Disciple swung their aim toward her, but a bullet tore past her, barely missing her as it took them down. She glanced up, to see Max, her trusty PSM in hand. Before Chloe had time to say anything, she saw another group of Disciples entering the fray, trying to hold back the bloodthirsty mercenaries who had given them a rude awakening. She scrambled toward her companions, herding them in the direction of the nearest exit.

 

“FUCK!” Nathan cried out between breaths, as the continued to run through the facility. “What the fuck do we do now?”

 

Chloe stopped for a moment, checking over the football. “Keys are still in it. If we can find another way to connect to a relay, we might be able to make Plan B work.” She suggested. A ricocheting bullet off of the structure nearest them, followed by the unmistakable voice of her former boss turned arch-nemesis, prompted them into flight once more. The small group crashed through the fire escape doors, finding themselves on the edge of a parking lot. Chloe pointed at a black sedan, close to them, as the sounds of the ongoing battle rang around them once more. Nathan held firm for a moment, firing a few bullets to force Andrews and the small cell of his followers to take cover, buying a few more moments for Max and Chloe to reach and break into the sedan. Chloe tore the trim away from the steering column, pulling out the wires for the ignition and hot-wiring the car with what seemed to Max like minimal effort. 

“You’ve done that before, haven’t you?” She commented as she sat in the passenger’s seat, car coaxed into life with Chloe’s relatively-gently encouragement. Chloe grinned at her, before ducking with a yelp as a stray bullet smashed one of the car’s windows. Nathan dived into the back of the car.

 

“Let’s get the fuck out of here!” He shouted, as Chloe obliged, jamming her foot hard down on the gas. The car shot out of its space, weaving wildly to dodge the occasional rounds fired in their direction. In the process, she struck an unawares Disciple, his lifeless body rolling over the hood and windshield with a horrible crunch. Chloe stopped, glancing back as she considered reversing for good measure.

 

“I’m driving.” Nathan demanded. “You’re probably the only one of us who knows how the fuck these things work.” Chloe nodded, obliging and launching herself across the centre console of the sedan, landing in a heap in the back as Nathan did the same, slipping behind the controls of the car. Chloe looked over its various switches and details, trying to get some idea of what switches performed what function.

 

“What made you think I had any idea how these work??” She shrieked back at him, as he gunned the engine. Nathan glanced in the mirror as the car smashed through the flimsy barrier at the entrance to the NSA facility, noticing a car in pursuit.


“Well, find a way of doing something , and fast. Looks like Andrews isn’t done just yet.” Nathan told her, as the two cars fled out onto the public roads beyond. At the same time, two hundred miles above Northern Canada, the speeding missile’s second stage detached, the separating charges kicking it away, toward the atmosphere. Its cataclysmic payload continued its silent march onward, toward the North Pole. Destination, Leningrad.

Chapter Text

The car’s tyres screamed out as Nathan roughly threw the bullet-riddled car onto the main road, leaving the shattered remnants of the wooden barber-pole barrier and the chaotic battleground that Field Station Berlin had become behind them. Already, the road in the other direction was lighting up with blue strobes, no doubt as concerned locals alerted the authorities to the skirmish taking place on the hill above their homes. Nathan pushed the car as hard as it would go, all too well aware of the headlights behind them on the road. It was far darker here, a contrast from the floodlit parking lot which they had burst out of moments earlier. A smaller series of flashes appeared above one side of the pursuing vehicle, the rear windshield shattering in a hail of glass fragments an instant later. Max yelped as a small fragment cut the side of her cheek, curling up instinctively to try and take cover.


“You two alright?” Nathan called back as he swerved, trying to make the car a harder target for the machine-gun riddling them. Chloe shot a glance at Max, smearing a small amount of blood from the cut across her cheek and smiling at her, telling her all she needed to know without speaking a word.

 

“Yeah, we’re fine!” Chloe called back, fumbling with a wire from the car’s modified communications system as she tried to connect up the Football . She glanced at Max, moving away from the center of the back seats and pulling down the armrest. She gestured at the back of the trim. With one hand, as she tried to coax the Doomsday device into life. “Rip out the back of the seat, Max. There should be weapons in the trunk. Fuck if I know what, but if I remember rightly the NSA boys always pack.” She instructed. Max nodded, getting to work as the dim lighting of the Football illuminated Chloe’s face. Immediately, she began punching in commands, as Max retracted her arm, stretched through the hole she’d put in the back of the seat. Shouldering the submachine-gun she’d retrieved, she popped up from the impromptu cover of the car’s interior, firing back at the car behind. A lucky shot clipped one of its headlights, the car swerving to avoid the retaliation that Max was sending in its direction. The cabin of their car lit up a bright yellow with every shot, the deafening noise amplified as the sound bounced and reverberated around the small confines of the car. Chloe tried to hold herself steady as she ducked down, the screen bouncing around in front of her as she tried to make sense of the display readouts. Finally, she steadied herself enough to do just that. Her stomach turned as she read over the information being relayed to the computer.

 

LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III

TARGET: 59 56 20.4 N 30 18 56.8E

STAGE 3 FLAMEOUT- SEPARATION SUCCESS

TIME TO RE-ENTRY MANEUVER- 337 SECONDS

ESTIMATED TIME TO IMPACT- 557 SECONDS

 

Chloe cursed as she discovered how small of a window she had.

“How bad is it?” Max asked, scooching down in her chair as she felt back in the trunk for a new magazine.

 

“Bad. That missile’s going to be beyond the point of no return in a little over five minutes.” Chloe affirmed, as she began working away at sending a command to the missile in flight. Again, Max flicked her aim over the seat, taking aim at the car that had overtaken Andrews’, attempting to run them off the road. A short burst penetrated its windshield, the headlights of the car slewing to one side as the car careened off the road and collided with a tree. As though they were being chased by Hydra, however, another took its place, more aggressive still. The car jolted as their pursuer rammed it, backing off as it attempted to draw alongside them. As it pulled alongside Nathan, he drew his handgun from the door pocket, one eye on the road as the other helped his shot find its mark. The first round took out the passenger closest Nathan, his automatic falling from the open window as he slumped onto the dashboard; the second eliminating the driver, the car violently veering away from their own as the driver’s body fell in the direction the bullet had taken his head. After more frantic tapping of keys, Chloe grinned.

 

“Got it, I think.” She declared, as she sent her first command to the missile.

 

LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III

COMMAND: WARHEAD_W78_ABORT

 

There was a brief pause as the command sent, and its reply returned. Chloe’s triumphant smile vanished as she read the returned message.

 

LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III

ERROR: WARHEAD_W78_ABORT COMMAND DISABLED IN PRE-LAUNCH PARAMETERS

 

“Shit!” She exclaimed. “The bastards disabled the abort codes before the missile launched!”

“If you can’t abort it, crash it.” Nathan suggested. “The Barents Sea or somewhere off the Norwegian coast is probably a safe bet, albeit a little close to the Russians for comfort.”

 

Chloe nodded, more to herself than Nathan, as she attempted the second input command.

 

LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III

COMMAND: RV_M12A_RETARGET [ 68 41 34.9 N 4 20 00.5 E]

 

The response to the second command came back far faster than the failed first. Chloe felt as though the air had been pulled from her lungs as the display system’s text turned red.

 

LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III

ERROR: TRANSMISSION FAILURE. MISSILE OUT OF RANGE.

 

The response was followed by a near-gibberish of telemetry denoting the missile’s last known path, and a damning readout:

 

ESTIMATED TIME TO RE-ENTRY MANEUVER: 270 SECONDS

 

Chloe sat back in the chair, cursing as she wiped a tear of frustration from her eye. “FUCK!” She exclaimed once more.

“That sounds bad.” Nathan noted absently, still working to avoid the incoming vehicles.

“I can’t communicate with the missile. I can’t do anything to stop it now.” Chloe admitted, defeated. “It’s over. We lose.”

Max put a hand on her shoulder. “Not yet. Think! There’s got to be something that we can do!” She returned her attention to the Disciples , still giving chase. After a moment or two more of pondering, thinking, she sprung into life, as excited as she was nervous.

 

“I’ve got an idea!” She announced. “It’s fucking crazy, but it might just work!”

 

“Go on.” Max encouraged her, smiling a little.

“There’s a sub under the Pole as far as the data here says. The Nevada , by the looks of it she's already in a position to fire from under the ice. If I tell them to launch their missile, and airburst it on an intercept path with the missile headed for Leningrad based on the telemetry it sent… that might just stop it.” She explained. Max’s smile was replaced by a look of almost pure disgust.

 

“Really, Chloe? That’s your plan?” She whined. “That really IS crazy. No, I'd prefer a crazy plan to that!”

Chloe shrugged. “Got any better ideas?”

 

Max shook her head, as Chloe began typing in the next instruction. "Thought not. Let's hope I'm right. God, I hope I'm right." She muttered to herself as she hit send.


Somewhere beneath the North Pole

SSBN-733, 'USS Nevada'

04.00 Local Time

 

The communications officer of the submarine briskly made his way through from his station to CIC, ducking through hatchways as he went at speed. Clutched tightly in his hand was the most recent communication that had been received, one that had set his pulse racing. Appearing within the Attack Command section, he handed over the paper in his hand to the officer in command of the watch.

 

"Latest comms, sir. They want us to launch a nuke, it seems. Target seems a little weird though." He muttered, out of breath from the apprehensive flurry of fear and excitement, and the subsequent scramble to deliver the command. The officer took hold of the piece of paper, scanning over it.

 

"The auth-code seems right." He commented, aloud. "But those coordinates… are you sure this is right and our receiver isn't fucky?" He asked the Communications Officer. The officer nodded.

 

"I thought that too, Sir. Double-checked it. It seems they really have lost their minds topside. They're asking for a single Trident launch, set to airburst eighty-one miles above that co-ord. And they want it there in…" he paused, checking his watch. "A little over three minutes. It's tight, but we can make it happen. Confirmed that with the Launch Officers on the way here." He affirmed.

 

The Attack Command officer acknowledged. "Alright… Thank you, Chief." He continued, as he summoned his Number Two to the launch panel.

"Missile Control, confirm target set." He requested of the men in the room.

"Missile Control, target confirmed." The reply came.

He grasped his launch key, the Number Two following. "On my mark. Three, two, one. Turn."


Beneath the water, the stillness was disturbed by an angry bubbling, building into a wall of steam mixing with the frigid water surrounding it. The small fairing covering the opened tube on the back of the imposing black vessel broke away as the blunt head of the missile punched through it, propelled upward by a monstrous jet of superheated steam. Within seconds, it had cleared the submarine altogether, hurtling at incredible speed toward the surface above.

The sheer skin of thin ice was shattered abruptly as the small object punched through it, like a battering ram through a pane of glass. The missile's momentum from its launch carried it upward, until it seemed that it would fall back toward the ice once more. A small nozzle flipped the missile to one side, aligning it to burn. An instant later, a flash of orange lit beneath the missile, the only source of light in the blacked-out Arctic for hundreds of miles, complemented by a plume of grey smoke jetted downward, fanning out across the refrozen surface below. The missile hurtled skyward, gaining speed with every passing second. Onward and upward toward its target, within the thermosphere.


Chloe felt her mouth dry out as she read the feedback from the computer in front of her.

 

C-4 TRIDENT

FIRST STAGE FLAMEOUT- SEPARATION SUCCESS

ESTIMATED TIME TO TARGET- 220 SECONDS

 

"The missile's away." Chloe let Max and Nathan know. "Fuck, this is going to be a tight window."

"How will we know it's worked?" Max asked, ducking to reload once more. By now, they were within the city itself, dodging civilian traffic; civilian and military police cruisers that had given chase; and the Disciples who were still hot on their heels.

 

Chloe shrugged. "Well, I'll either lose telemetry from both missiles on here, or… we'll see the Soviet retaliation coming in. I'd be amazed if they haven't already launched in response, actually." She noted.


Main Building of the Ministry of Defense, Moscow Oblast

War Room

07.02 Local Time

The Marshal stood behind the tracking station, nervously monitoring the progress of the lone missile being tracked on the board in front of him. The usual cacophony of noise around the room had vanished, as the head of the Long Range Radar section had cried out in alarm.

 

"Comrade Marshal, the Americans have launched a missile!"

"Are you sure?" The Marshal asked the radar operator. "Is it possible that there is a fault?"

 

The radar operator shook his head. "No, Comrade Marshal. The satellite indication has been confirmed by our ground radar systems. Its course suggests its target is Leningrad."

"Shit." The Marshal muttered. "Keep watching. Hopefully, it is just a test."

 

Another man burst into the room, clutching at a communique.

"Comrade Marshal!" He exclaimed. "We've received a communication from a Western officer, The Owl. He says that the launch is a rogue!"

"How certain are we that he's telling the truth, Comrade Colonel? How do we know that it isn't a bluff?" The Marshal demanded.

"He unmasked Das Frettchen, Comrade Marshal!" The Colonel replied. "Das Frettchen is a traitor, a double agent!"

 

"I've got another launch on radar, Comrade Marshal!" The radar operator interrupted.

"Where? Where is it going?" The Marshal snapped back in reply. "Argh, what should we do? What if they're bluffing, and the missiles are really a first strike?" He muttered, more to himself.

 

"Comrade Marshal…" The radar operator replied. "I don't know how to explain this. The second missile is flying to intercept the first. It seems that the Americans are trying to blow up their own missile!"

The Marshal laughed with relief. "They were telling the truth! Thank God!"

"Comrade Marshal, what are your orders?" One of the Generals in the room asked.

 

"Alert the Leningrad Military District. Tell them to put their Rocket Battalions on alert. One Minute readiness." He ordered.

"But Comrade Marshal, their missiles cannot even reach Berlin!" One of the subordinate commanders countered.

"I have no plan to retaliate." The Marshal clarified. "If the Americans fail, I want our Rocket Battalions to target the sky. It's our only possibility to prevent the missile from landing, if both the Americans and A-35 fail."

"Very good, Comrade Marshal. I shall see that it is done."


The car continued, tyres squealing once more as Nathan veered off at a junction, playing a complex game of cat and mouse through the labyrinth that was Berlin's streets. One of the pursuing cars collided with a police cruiser, several more halting and disgorging their occupants to apprehend or eliminate the hostiles. Chloe continued to watch the readouts for both missiles with anticipation, dreading that she had been wrong, that the plan was going to fail.

 

"How's it looking, Chloe?" Nathan called out once again, as he continued to dodge the vehicles attempting to intercept them or run them off the road.

"Almost there…" Chloe replied, knuckles white from gripping the sides of the case. "Almost there…"

 

The readouts blinked onwards, not caring for anything other than the mechanical precision for which they were designed to execute their task. The timers continued to burn downward all the while, ticking towards zero.


Above the Barents Sea

400 miles North of Hammerfest

 

The sleek, sharp-nosed final stage of the Minuteman arced through the air, approaching the point at which its warheads would separate and begin their silent, deadly plummet towards Leningrad below. As it approached its final waypoint, a small retro rocket fired, rotating the assembly so that the warheads would re-enter safely. Far below, the frigid waters off the coast of Norway scrolled by. Approaching oblique, and still a hundred or so kilometres away, the Trident's final stage burnt out and kicked away from the blunt weapon, as it continued towards the patch of empty space that it had targeted. The two objects approached one another, like a silent ballet in the quiet void. Moments before the two missiles crossed over one another, the programmed sequence on the larger missile began, discarding its conical casing and preparing the smaller warheads within for release.

 

Three seconds later, the area was enveloped by a blinding orange orb as the Trident reached its mark, and its warhead engaged. Unlike a detonation on earth, or in the skies lower, this orb came into existence silently. With its blinding beauty came a violent pulse, a burst of heat that even space itself could only contain into a sphere a few hundred metres across. With the intense heat came a burst of incredible radiation, far more powerful than the larger missile it had been sent to destroy was ever designed to cope with. Its power surged through the delicate circuitry that made up the brain of the warhead-bearing Carrier, destroying all in its wake, an invisible wildfire.

 

With its programming demolished and its sequence ruined beyond the point of recovery, the carrier- and the fried warheads still attached- hurtled along its course, unable to adjust and maintain its original trajectory, arcing downward ever faster as it plunged down through the atmosphere. Faster and faster, as gravity took hold of the now-prostrate weapon. An orange-red glow began to build on the leading edges, as the air striking at speed turned to a superheated plasma. The steel, never built to take such heat, glowed as it heated further, a brilliant red falling away to a blinding white as it approached and exceeded its limits. Finally, the structure holding the munitions in place crumbled and fragmented, the disabled warheads tumbling and falling through the sky. In time, each of them too began to overheat, their heat-shields no longer providing the protection that they were supposed to, before shattering, fragments of material raining down like mildly radioactive meteorites on the Nordic countries below.

 

Further below still the Scandanavian fishermen, who had cast off hours earlier and were expecting total darkness for hours more, looked upwards in awe as the sky above the thick clouds illuminated with an ungodly bright light for a few moments, like a new sun illuminating the dark and lonely waters. None could explain the phenomenon playing out above them, nor rationalise how night had briefly turned to day. Over the half-hour that followed, Northern Sweden found itself being showered with debris, fragments of the deadly payload that had been plucked from the sky with moments to spare.


"YES!" Chloe screamed, punching the back of the seat as the displays blinked up.

 

ERROR- TELEMETRY LOSS FOR LGM-30F MINUTEMAN III.

MIRV SEPARATION FAILURE.

CATASTROPHIC PROGRAM MALFUNCTION.

 

"IT WORKED! IT MOTHERFUCKING WORKED!"

Max hugged her briefly, between engagements. "I knew you'd make something work. Even as crazy as it was!"

 

Her celebration was cut short by Nathan, as the car veered toward a bridge, Andrews' car the sole remaining pursuer for the moment. It closed rapidly, preparing to ram them.

 

"Hang on to something back there!" He yelled out. A moment later, the car lurched as Andrews' connected with the rear quarter . The force of the hit knocked the car off-balance, sending it into a tumble edgeways. The roll seemed to take forever, fragments of glass and empty brass casings suspended in the air for an eternity. Max's eyes met Chloe's for a moment, a look of surprise and fear on her face, before the world seemed to resume its normal pace, the car completing another roll onto its wheels before its momentum carried it to rest on its roof.


It took Chloe a moment to regain her bearings as she lay on the roof of the now-upended car. Max lay on her front, eyes closed. Chloe reached out and shook her, praying that she wasn't badly injured. Max groaned, shifting slightly among the scattered debris on the floor.

"You okay, Max?" Chloe pressed, worried. A nod from Max as she opened her eyes reassured her somewhat.

"I'm fine too, Chloe. Thanks for asking." Nathan grumbled from the front as he released his seatbelt, falling against the roof with a metal thud and swearing as he did so. Chloe peered out of the car, seeing their attackers' had pulled up about thirty feet away, the dent in its front end obvious even from here. The doors opened, and four sets of feet fanned out across the road. Chloe scrambled toward the opposite side of the car, squeezing through one of the bent and buckled window frames, Max and Nathan following shortly behind her. Instinctively, the trio drew upon their handguns, Chloe's hands wrapping around her father's gun once more as she silently prayed.

 

Dad, if you're watching over us… please keep us safe. Keep her safe.

"You might as well come out, Price!" Andrews roared across the bridge. "It's all gonna be over in a few minutes, so why wait for nuclear fire when instead you can get a nice, clean bullet?" He taunted.

Chloe gritted her teeth, before firing back a witty reply. "Try again, asshole! What's left of your missile probably just redecorated Sweden!"

"What? How?" Andrews couldn't hide his shock at their success. His surprise was quickly overtaken by more anger. "Looks like I'll just have to take back that Launch Device and try again."

 

"Oh, you mean this Launch Device?" Chloe mocked, as she grabbed the case and waved it above the underside of the car. "The only way you're getting this back is out of our cold, dead hands."

"So be it, Price!" Andrews replied. A torrent of lead followed, pinging and clanging on the reinforced steelwork that made up the far side of the car.

Max stared at Chloe angrily as they awaited a lull in the incoming fire. "Chloe, must you always antagonise the enemy?" She quizzed, shooting her a grouchy stare.

"Hey," Chloe replied. "I didn't see you having any kind of reply."

 

Nathan knocked the safety of his Browning to fire. "How about this for a reply?" He stated, as he dropped to the floor and fired twice. One of the Disciples cried out in pain as the forty-five shattered his kneecap, bringing him crashing down. Chloe followed suit, hitting another of the riflemen, and following up with a shot to the head of the man Nathan had felled. Her face fell as she saw a further two cars arrive, pulling in closer still, with yet more Disciples arriving.

The situation was rapidly falling out of hand as the trio found themselves outnumbered, the incoming fire intensifying to the point that they dare not try and fire back. Chloe checked how much ammunition she had left. A meagre four rounds was all she had to draw on. She glanced at Nathan, and Max. The looks on their faces told a similarly bleak picture.

 

"Looks like this is it." Chloe declared, trying to swallow back the lump in her throat. As they prepared to stand and face down their adversaries in a final showdown, two more cars pulled in behind them, not like those of the Disciples . The men firing on the other side of the bridge ceased, as the doors of the cars clicked open. Chloe felt her blood run cold as she saw the face of one of those arrivals- Mark Jefferson. Complete with a strike team, probably British Special Forces.

 

We're going to die. The voice in her head cut through the chaos. He's in on this too, probably.

 

The soldiers closed toward them, rifles drawn, as Jefferson stood back and watched. Twenty feet. Ten. Five. The rifles remained trained on them.


"Watch and shoot!" Jefferson barked out the order, taking cover as he drew upon his own weapon. The troopers' weapons snapped upward, unleashing a staccato of precise fire, eliminating several Disciples before they even had a chance to register the change in target, much less open fire. The troopers took cover, continuing to suppress the remaining Disciples as Chloe looked through the window frame of the car, amazed to see the Disciples scattering and diving for cover. She could feel the tears running down her face, overjoyed and relieved. She couldn't help but laugh, the situation having flipped on its head in the most spectacular fashion.

 

"What the fuck are you waiting for?" The Celt called out from where he was holed up, utilising a Marksman's Rifle to pick off any who were stupid enough to peer above their cover. "Go and hammer the fuckers!"

 

The three obliged, peeling off along the right hand side of the bridge as the troopers covered them. They moved to the closest car, taking cover as they pressed further up toward the remaining few who still offered resistance. The occasional shout echoed as the troopers communicated, but beyond that the bridge was eerily silent. A hiss to their left, as two smoke canisters were thrown, separating the troopers from the three agents. Nathan swore under his breath.

 

"Sneaky fuckers. Let's move on three." He planned. "One, two… three."

On the count, they erupted from cover, Nathan and Max splitting off to engage two pockets of the rogue operatives. Chloe closed on the central area, where Andrews had gone to ground. One of the few men left guarding him popped up from behind cover, and Chloe put a round through his head before he could bring his rifle to bear. Another appeared, popping a round off as he did so. Chloe fired another two in reply, silencing him also.

 

"You've had your eight, Price!" Andrews taunted her, as he stood up. His gun levelled at her, as the two stood off. Everything else happening around Chloe fell away, the separate fights Nathan and Max were involved in, the shouts and commotion from the other side of the smokescreen, the growing wails of sirens as Berlin's emergency responders closed in. The only thing that her mind and her senses were focused on was the man in front of her. The man who'd taken so much from her. The man who'd caused her so much pain, had duped her so many times without her ever suspecting it.

 

"Wrong again, asshole." Chloe snarled. "This one's for my dad." With that, she pulled the trigger. Once again, time seemed to slow in the moment as she saw the bullet strike Andrews, roughly where his kidney would be. Another flash as he fired, though Chloe didn't feel anything. Andrews' eyes dilated, as his clothes became more and more damp, the blood drenching them as he fell to the floor, unmoving. Chloe's arm flopped to her side as she clicked the slide of the empty pistol forward.


Chloe looked across the bridge in front of her, as the last of the smoke drifted toward the three still standing; Her, Max, Nathan. The wailing sirens were still closing up on the bridge, but beyond that the air was eerily still. Small flakes of snow began to descend from the black skies above, building slowly as they fell. Chloe knew she'd achieved her aim, but still something didn't feel quite right. She shifted her feet, attempting to walk over to Max as her PSM was discarded and she stared out across the river. A dull pain passed through her left side, with a wet sensation spreading down from above her hip, as though someone were pouring a glass of lukewarm water down her shirt. She stopped, placing her left hand to her chest where she felt the pain. It felt damp, sticky. Her mouth began to dry, and her head became fuzzy, thoughts dampened and blocked by a wall of haze that had descended within. She looked down at her hand as she pulled it away. It came away scarlet, her entire hand soiled where it had come into contact with her body. She looked up toward Max as Max turned to face her. Chloe's face was one of surprise, twitching briefly with every spasm of pain from the hole that Andrews' final act had burrowed through her chest.

 

"Max." Chloe whimpered, her shallow breath denying her any louder a voice. Max's face fell, from the joy and elation of their final victory, to the sight of Chloe stood feet away, a bloodied hand and paling complexion confirming her worst fear. Max ran toward Chloe, catching her as her weakening legs buckled beneath her. Max gently lowered her to the ground, seeing finally the blood flooding through her clothes from the bullet hole. Max pressed Chloe's hand onto the injury as she wrapped her free hand behind Chloe's neck, cradling her as tears filled her eyes.

 

"Nathan! Get help!" Max screamed out, turning to him briefly. Nathan, too, paled as he saw Chloe lying in Max's arms, the blood beginning to pool on the roadway beneath her. Max and Nathan seen too many die to an injury such as Chloe's, leaving Max more distraught still as she tried to keep believing that Chloe might survive, that she'd live. Fighting the voice in her head that told her that her partner, her lover, was doomed.

 

"Max…" Chloe groaned, her blood-soaked hand clumsily wrapping over Max's as the snowfall intensified. "Why are you crying? We won…" She asked, seemingly unaware of her own dire situation.

 

"We did." Max confirmed. "You're hurt, though! I don't want to lose you after all we've been through!" She cried, bordering on hysteria.

Chloe chuckled, a wince of excruciating pain curtailing the laugh into a quiet whimper of pain. Every blink Chloe took seemed to take longer, as Max shook her, gently, holding her tightly.

 

"Chloe, stay awake. Don't close your eyes!" Max ordered her, locking red and tearful eyes with drowsy and barely-coherent ones. " Please, don't go, mein liebe. " She whined.

 

"Why's it getting… so bright…are we in a, a blizzard?" Chloe asked, her words trailing off as she weakly swallowed down something, perhaps just doing it involuntarily. The sounds of the emergency sirens distorted in her ears once more, falling away altogether as her sight drew in. Even Max's voice, inches from her, began to sound strange, as though she were speaking underwater. Starting from the furthest away objects, all in her sight was consumed by white, closing in to swallow the bridge, and finally leaving almost nothing, save for a metre or so around where she lay.

 

"No, no we're not, Chloe!" Max frantically whispered as her throat choked up. "Just keep your eyes open. Keep talking to me. You're going to be fine, you have to be!" She demanded. She must survive! Please, whatever Gods there are… she cannot die!

 

"Chloe? CHLOE!" Max cried once more, as Chloe became unresponsive. Chloe could barely see Max's features, her sight fading into a white, lost in a blizzard.

 

"CHLOE!" Max's grief-stricken voice howled after her, from what sounded like an ever-increasing distance. "DON'T GO! CHLOE!"

 

 

 

The sound of Max's voice, too, disappeared into the white void, as Chloe's body fell limp, life seemingly deserting her body one final time.

Chapter Text

Three Months Later

26th February, 1988

West Berlin

8.30 am

 

Max stirred once more in the cold bed, as she had done for weeks. The impact of her final mission had taken its toll, and the various injuries were finally catching up with her. With a groan, she sat up and swung her feet out of the bed and onto the floor, standing up unsteady. Clumsily, she staggered to the bathroom, propping herself against the sink as she switched the small light on above it. She screwed her eyes up for a moment, struggling to adjust to the brightness that pierced the dark. Even in the dim glow from the lamp, the scars new and old that criss-crossed her body were obvious and apparent, some still a dark red where the bloodied scabs faintly covered them. Only a handful had been inflicted for a good cause, as she now realised. She shrugged off the thought once again as she reached into a cabinet and withdrew the bottle of painkillers she' been prescribed. They took the edge of some of her pain, at the very least. Two little capsules were tipped into her palm, and emptied into her throat as she swallowed them down, retching a little at the bitter aftertaste.

 

It made little sense to her to get cold, being in the apartment in just her underwear. She returned to the bedroom, coiling up once more in her bedsheets as she turned on the small television in the room. She shook her head a little as she flicked through the news channels once more. The story had barely changed in weeks, her actions being no small part of the reason why. Another barb, bringing pain as it reminded her of things she wanted to forget.

 

"The inquiry continues into the United States' unannounced nuclear test-"

"-Once again, the Soviet envoy to the US Embassy expressed his nation's outrage at what what has been-"

"-Described by the Soviet Union as 'a reckless and ill-conceived show of force by the United States'. Over to our correspondent, in-"

 

Max sighed once again, switching the television off. "The politicians change…"

 

"But the lies remain the same." Chloe's voice replied. Max's heart leapt, as she looked over her shoulder. Her heart ached once more, as realisation set in again. Don't be so stupid, Max. Of course she isn't here, she's-

She shook the thought from her mind, as her lip trembled once more, teetering on yet another tearful breakdown. She jumped as the phone rang, blissfully extracting her from the abyss she had been falling into once again.

 

"Hello? Who is this?" She asked, not having expected a call. She listened for a few moments as the caller explained their intent.

 

"Is it time, now?" Max asked again, in response. "Okay. I will be there soon." Almost as quickly as the call had begun, it was over. Max placed the handset back on its stand, before seeking out some clean clothes. She had to admit, while the clothes available in the West were probably made by dubious methods, they were far more comfortable than their Eastern equivalents. She took one last look in the mirror before she left, making sure that she was presentable enough. Seeing as she had to go into the city anyway, she had all the more reason to make another call while there. Not that she hadn't been doing so, anyway.


The journey along the U-Bahn was equally as heart-rending for Max as she made it alone. Across from her, a pair of young women, maybe barely out of their teens, chattered and laughed, their closest hands discreetly clasped into one another. Max looked away, out of a mix of shame and the pain it caused as it reminded her of what she was missing. The hole in her heart, her soul, that had been created on the bridge what felt like a lifetime ago. Stepping off, and breaking away from the enamored pair, she glanced out across this part of the Western sector. Even now, the winds of change were strong. The desire for unity seemed to grow, day by day. Even aside from that, the world itself seemed to be changing. It appeared that the silent war, that which she and Chloe had been a part of, was finally drawing down. Of course, she was wise enough to know that such a conflict in the shadows would never simply peter out, disappear, but at the same time she knew from what she had seen in the weeks past that East and West were coming to accept one another at last, a cooperative atmosphere finally beginning to clear away the black skies of distrust and deceit between the superpowers.

 

She looked up at the building before her. As ever, the offices used by the services were plain on the outside, like any other set of offices in the District. Outwardly, it even vaguely reminded her of the bland yet imposing Stasi building over in Lichtenburg. Drab, unremarkable. As she had done almost every weekday since the mayhem they had been embroiled in had at last came to its conclusion, she stepped inside, heading for the same office that she had done dozens of times since that cold morning, weeks earlier. Given the tone of the news being broadcast that morning, she had a reasonable idea what was to come. At last, she reached the office, staring at yet another plain wooden door.

When will this charade end? She asked herself.


Max sat, uncomfortably, in the chair, as she had done throughout every session of questioning that had happened in the last twelve weeks. Twelve weeks: had it really been such a short time since everything? To Max, it felt like a lifetime, maybe two, since that final showdown on the bridge. Perhaps it was because of how suddenly everything had slowed down around her, the abrupt jolt from being at the top of every ‘Shoot To Kill’ list in Europe and perhaps the world to being a normal person again, or perhaps… Max shook the thought out of her head, feeling a slight teardrop building in the corner of her eye that she blinked away sharply, lest it become more. Think positive, Max. That’s what she’d want you to do.

 

It was true, though. Three months without Chloe might as well have been an eternity unto itself: just watching Chloe, staggering slightly, a bloodsoaked palm pulling away from her chest, that in itself had felt like minutes where it had been seconds. That look of shock, uncertainty, fear. That twinge of pain across her face, as the nerves around the hole punched through her were finally heard by her brain, all too late. And then, as her knees buckled and she fell; everything in those few moments felt like they had been moving so slowly; like everything was moving through an invisible layer of molasses. Catching Chloe’s limp form, arresting its fall before it could strike the road, feeling her pulse as it progressively grew weaker, seeing the light in her eyes as it faded into the ether. Desperately shaking her in her arms, screaming, pleading with her to keep her eyes open. Nathan trying his hardest to separate her from the seemingly lifeless Chloe, and allow the medics who had arrived moments earlier to do whatever they could. Everything beyond that point was a blur to Max, every moment that didn’t involve her companion in the last three months hadn’t even been worth a mention in her view. All these committees, these inquests. She couldn’t care less about any of them.

I just want her back. God, I’d give everything up: go back on the run, always have to look over my shoulder, live off of whatever I can forage, just to hear her voice again. Just to feel her breath against my face.

 

“So, Max, how does it feel to be a sovereign citizen again?” The soft Scottish tone, merely posing the question to the open air, roused her from her thoughts once more. She looked up at him, leaning back in his chair on the other side of the desk. He looked little worse for wear, given the stress of the various meetings and shouting matches he’d had to have, with officials from all different sides of the wall, and all of the various inquests that had been held in private. Something about “How Did a Rogue Senior Intelligence Officer and Double Agent Nearly Start A God-Damned Nuclear War?” She smiled, as she looked up at him.

 

“It feels nice, knowing that I don’t have to look over my shoulder every five minutes.” She replied, a slight smile to her face. She was watching what she said for the time being, knowing full well that she was not alone in the room with Mark- given the significance of the meeting and what was to be said, all of the key players were represented: Obviously, Jefferson was there to wave the flag for Dearest Britain, and Comrade General Schweppenstette, whom she had met a few times- and whom Stef knew somewhat better through his son Martin- had been sent on behalf of the Soviet Union. It was strange that her superiors hadn’t come: perhaps they felt their attendance directly at the meeting would imply that they were acknowledging everything that had happened, and naturally her superiors would sooner fall on their own swords (some literally, others figuratively) than admit such a shit-show had taken place; and on their watch, no less. No, it was by far more convenient for them to send their East German lackeys, as ever.

Not that she was complaining. Walter was a far friendlier creature than any of her superiors in the Kommissariat proper. He was slouched in the chair to her right, looking like he would rather be anywhere but here, while Andrews’ replacement, whom she didn’t even know the name of- and to a degree couldn't care less about- was leaning forward in his perch to her left.

 

“That’s good to hear. Now, you’ll all hopefully have some idea of what we’re here for today.” Jefferson stated to the room, to affirm everyone was on the same page.

 

Both men flanking her scoffed, as though to say ‘who doesn’t?’. Max simply grimaced. The sooner she could forget about everything that had happened, the better.

“Good.” Mark continued, “Then we’ll get right down to business. As far as we can discern following investigation, the deception being run by Richard James Andrews, former Director of the CIA’s Berlin operations, runs back to at least 1965. How the hell we all missed the signs is anybody’s guess.” A few uncomfortable looks across the room, mostly toward the American representative, who shrugged in reply.

 

“Hey, don’t start pointing fingers at me,” he muttered, calmly, “He was doing this shit while I was still skipping Tenth Grade and making the local Five-Oh work for a living,” he explained, a wry smirk on his face.

 

Mark sat up and gestured for the American to calm down, simply gave him a knowing smile in return. “Don’t worry, this isn’t a situation of ‘who the fuck let a double agent nearly cause World War Three.’ I worked with the guy for the better part of those twenty years and never suspected a damned thing. All I want to do right now is make sure we each give our governments the same facts.” He leaned back in his chair once more. “So, Andrews was running an inner circle within both the CIA and the KGB, known colloquially as ‘The Disciples’. To our knowledge- and based on the records obtained- all members of this organisation are in custody, charged with high treason in their respective nations. It was pretty scary to go down the list actually, I’m not sure there was a corner of the globe he didn’t have someone in, someone who would follow his orders like a kamikaze. Now, as for exactly why Andrews sought to incite a global nuclear war, we still aren’t entirely certain. However, given his actions and behaviours once scrutinised, it may have been as simple as to allow him to cover his tracks.”

 

Tapping on the brim of his hat, rested over one knee, for a moment, Schweppenstette bent his hand upward, index stretched upward as he leaned forward in his seat. “But why would he go to all that length? I mean, annihilating the world as we know it, just to keep his dealings undiscovered?”

 

Mark shrugged. “We still have no idea why. The reason probably died with him, come to think of it. For all we know, he could have been planning this all along, and we’d still have been none the wiser. If it wasn’t for our operatives, anyway.” He answered, casting a brief glance in Max’s direction.

 

“Damn straight,” the American concurred. “Speaking of which, how the hell are we going to explain this? I mean, we’re lucky that both sides have just flat-out denied anything happened beyond a gun battle in central Berlin and a nuclear missile test ending over Scandinavia. God help us if the truth ever comes out.”

 

Mark gave him a blank look. “What, you thought we hadn’t already figured that part out? We aren’t you Yanks, you know.” He said, a glint of a smile coming to his face. “No, we already have that covered. In case you haven't been watching CNN recently, the official line is that the whole thing was part of a NATO exercise, to carry out a full test of launch procedures and to fire an ICBM, without a warhead of course. The interceptor was live, that we're not trying to deny, but for now nobody is any the wiser that the ICBM was also loaded live. We’re calling it Exercise Gifted Spearman. The second phase of the exercise is being called Spring Clean. I don't think that takes a great deal of imagination to figure out the root of, given that the intercept made it rain weapons-grade material over half the Nordic states.”

 

Schweppenstette chuckled to himself. “Gifted Spearman… Der Britischer…” he muttered.

 

Mark grinned back at him. “Oh yes, we did decide a little bit of poetic irony was in order: intercepting a live missile being branded an Exercise, rather than an Exercise being branded as a pre-emptive strike.” Even the American joined in with a slight chuckle.

 

Schweppenstette merely nodded his head. “Natürlich. I have one more point to add, before I forget.” He continued, looking over at Max. “You may or may not be pleased to hear this, but my opposite number in the KGB has confirmed that you are no longer bound to serve your country. You can hold your head high, that much is certain. On top of that, having recognised your work, they’re authorising you to have free movement between East and West. You’ve probably already guessed that, though, given how rarely anyone’s bothered to check your pass. No suspicions, no undue checks. How does that sound to you?” He finished, asking her with a soft, yet still slightly intimidating expression that rested on his face.

 

Max’s expression warmed up from the dampened, downtrodden look she had been wearing for who-knows-how long. “That sounds excellent, thank you. And also, Walter?” The older man looked somewhat taken aback as Max called him by his first name.

 

“Yes?” He uttered, simply.

 

“Let Martin know how we’re doing, for old time’s sake. And remind him that Stef can act as counsellor again if needs be.” Schweppenstette cracked a brief smile.

 

“Of course.”

 

Mark leaned back once more, stretching his neck from side to side. “So, I believe that is the main order of business covered. Aside from the obvious shitstorm we’ll all have to clean up behind closed doors. Anything else you wish to cover while we’re here?” The quiet across the room, and the slight shaking of heads, told him everything he needed to know.

 

With that, he stood up to address those in the room. “Well, best of luck sorting this mess out at your ends. I must say, I’m not looking forward to having to address the crusty fuckers sat in Whitehall, never mind that dragon Thatcher.” Another murmur of laughter from everyone, as Jefferson gestured his American and East German company toward the door. Max remained standing, until after they had closed the door behind them. He raised an eyebrow toward her as she sat back down, gently.

 

“I take it you have other business you wanted to discuss, and not in front of them?” He inquired. Max nodded.

 

“Yes. Why didn’t you tell us earlier?”

 

“About what?” Mark asked again, not sure as to what Max meant. He’d leaned forward just slightly, trying to anticipate Max’s next words so he could have some kind of useful answer, however.

 

“Well, for a start, that Nathan wasn’t rogue at all. Or, that you were already onto the double agent. Come to think of it, why were you being so damned cryptic back at Plötzensee? We could have avoided so much trouble if we knew ...” Max elaborated on her question, a slight aggravation to her tone.

 

Mark rattled his fingers on the table in a rippling pattern, as he thought. “Who else do you think could talk down the KGB from telling Moscow to fire everything they had in return? As it is, until I got hold of that files Nathan gave me, the ones that you liberated from the BND, I still wasn’t sure who was the traitor. I still thought it could’ve been anyone one of you, including him . Sorry if that sounds like I didn’t trust any of you.” He explained. “As for Plötzensee… half those fucking cells are still bugged from the days when they held captured Nazis prior to Nuremburg. I was cryptic for the same reason I had to keep going after you all: if they’d thought, for even a second, that I was trying to help you, then my arse would’ve been thrown in jail as well, at best. I'm glad you picked up on it at least; you have a pretty solid punch, I might add. Still, you made it in one piece, so it worked out in the end.”

 

Max averted his gaze, trying her best not to let the pain show. She and Nathan had come out of the situation in good stead, but Chloe…

Mark noticed, his brow furrowing. “I’m sorry. I really thought she’d have pulled through alright as well. I mean, I’ve seen the sorts of things that have happened to her: plane crashes; falling out of buildings; being tortured for months on end; being shot before… I really thought she’d get through this in good nick too.”

 

“So did I.” Max sobbed.

 

Mark kneaded the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. “Has there been… any updates? Any changes?”

 

Max shook her head. “No. I’m going over there after we’re done here. Thank you, for everything.”

 

Mark gave her a nod and a smile. “No worries, Max. I just wish I could have done more, seen the signs earlier…” Max waved him down, tears in her eyes.

 

“It...it wasn’t your fault, Mark. Nobody would’ve suspected someone like him, ever. I just wish…” Max batted the thought to the back of her mind for now, knowing that vocalising it would just hurt her more than she needed to be hurt. “Thank you.” She whispered. With that, she too slipped from the room and headed out towards the nearest station she could find. The one that, after weeks of attending debriefs at this facility, she could navigate blindfold. At least, she could as far as her next stop was concerned.


Flatowallee, West Berlin

11.30 am

Max stepped off of the S-Bahn, not needing more than a second or two to get her bearings and remember which direction she needed to walk in. To her right, a short walk down the street, lay the old Olympiastadion, another reminder of Germany’s darker moments in history. Those moments were a far cry from the present. That wasn’t why she was here, however, as she turned and walked down the street away from it. No, she could find her way to her destination with her eyes shut now if she so wished. Heaven knew she had been here more or less every day, staying as long as the staff would allow her. Hoping, praying for some small bit of good news. Her internal monologues kept her on autopilot until she finally got within view of where she was heading. That white building, sticking out like a sore thumb amid the rest of the Berlin suburbs. An unnatural, surgical white, pasted across every surface of the blocky structure abruptly breaking the skyline. Still suppressing all of the sharp words flying around in her head, she strode through the front doors and toward the receptionist, a young woman, maybe not much younger than her. She merely glanced up and gave her a soft smile.

 

“If you come in here any more often Max, I’ll have to look at having a room made up for you, save you the hassle of the commute. Same business as usual?” She chirped, bemused to see the young woman again.

 

Max offered her a half smile, concealing the best of the heartache she was already feeling. “Yes, please.” She murmured, quietly.

 

The receptionist gestured in the direction of the stairs. “Well, she hasn’t moved out overnight, unless she’s sneakier than we thought. See you around.” She directed, her smile holding as she turned back to the piles of paperwork on her desk. Max turned to head up the stairs, her slightly jovial expression crumbling away as she climbed the stairs once more.


Even though she’d been in here so often, smelled the crisp cleanliness of the hospital, it still got her by surprise a bit every time. She’d often wondered what Chloe’s room would have been like, if she’d ever seen it. No doubt like a bomb had hit it. The room was almost too clean for her liking, barely a speck of dust to be seen. The linen pressed and spotless, even the curtains looked like they had been laundered regularly. Slowly, Max walked over to the chair by the bed, one that she may as well never have bothered leaving for the amount of time she’d spent in it. In the bed, peaceful, lay Chloe. Still hooked up to all manner of drips and machines, her torso still covered in marks from all her wounds over the years, all the scars from where so many different surgeons had fought tooth-and-nail to save this young lady's life on innumerable separate occasions. All for it to be in vain, perhaps . She couldn’t help but let a few tears fall, every time she looked at Chloe like this. Twelve weeks ago, she could have taken on the world and come out the other side smiling, Max by her side; now, here she lay, so fragile, so vulnerable. At least now, she seemed more stable, the first couple of weeks had been horrible. Chloe’s body writhing involuntarily, her breathing laboured and ragged, resulting in her being put on a ventilator for a while. Now, at least, she was breathing for herself once more. Max reached her hand over gently, taking hold of the one of Chloe’s which wasn’t full of intravenous needles, running her thumb over the back of it and feeling every bump and scar like it was the first time. Just as she had done every time she came to visit. The marks across her chest were just visible under the neckline of the hospital gown, all the various reminders she bore of the way her life had treated her. Max supposed she should be glad that Chloe was in this condition; that the doctors had been able to remove the bullet. She just couldn’t find the means to be thankful, looking at her like this. Something had gone wrong with her induced coma, or perhaps it had been the amount of blood she lost, she couldn't remember exactly what the doctors had said at the time. It didn't change the fact that she was in a coma. Three weeks, maybe four, the doctors had said. Then, she should be waking up.

 

That was six weeks ago. Max stifled the tears she could feel in the base of her eyes, and cleared her throat.

 

“Hey, Chloe…” she began, her voice already cracking slightly. Every time I try to talk to her, it’s always the same. I… I just can’t live like this. She should be with me, up and walking, the indestructible woman she is! Not confined to a bed, relying on machines to live. It’s just… wrong. She deserves better than this. She shook her head, silently willing herself on, and continued.

 

“I saw Mark again earlier, and our bosses. We’re free, at last!” She choked down tears, a mixture of heartbreak and joy. “They’re letting me leave the KGB, too. No strings, no conditions. I get to live my own life.” She spoke, softly. She looked away from the peaceful, motionless body in the bed, finally losing her composure and breaking down into tears once more.

 

“But it doesn’t matter! You’re not here for me to be with now!” She gasped in a whooping breath, coughing softly as the cool streams left more streaks down her face. “I’ve lost you, and I want you back! No, I need you back!” She took her hand off Chloe’s, ever-so-briefly, and thumped the bed next to her with her fist. As ever, there was no response from Chloe. She lay silent, the only movement being her chest, rising and falling, a slow, predictable rhythm.

 

“Come back to me, Gottes Willen!” Max cried out once more.

 

Her ears picked up on the monitor pattern, earlier a steady beat, as Chloe’s breathing pattern changed. The space between breaths became longer, each breath being separated by a longer interval. She glanced at the monitor, her heart sinking to her stomach as the next few moments played out, Max a helpless passenger in the vehicle of fate.

Heart rate 80, slowing. Chloe’s chest was barely moving, maybe once every twenty seconds now.

62, slowing. No, NO! Come on, Chloe! LIVE!

50, slowing. COME ON! YOU CAN DO THIS! PLEASE!

Everything began to move in slow-time once more.

An alarm bell clanging, medical staff glancing up and moving from where they were with but a moment's hesitation. Cardiac Arrest, flashing in neon red letters on the screen of the ECG by her bed. The sound of medical staff, frantic and yet composed, fighting once more to keep her alive. Max, more frantic yet, shaking Chloe. The nurses attempting to defibrillate her. 30, slowing.

“Clear!”

The jolt, shooting through Chloe, her body flinching slightly. 20, slowing.

“No effect. Again!”

Another shot, producing the same outcome. Chloe still lay motionless in the bed as the readout hit zero. The nurses stood back, their efforts exhausted. Max collapsed onto Chloe, her hand touching Chloe’s palm as their noses made contact, Max wailing uncontrollably as the tears streamed down her face.

YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME, CHLOE! YOU PROMISED ME, YOU FUCKING PROMISED WE’D STAY TOGETHER!” She howled quietly, a broken voice which would barely have been heard by Chloe. A final expulsion of air sighed from Chloe’s lungs as the monitor by her bed sounded a continuous whine, its neon green line unmoving from its axis.


Chloe was greeted by white. A featureless white, like nothing else she remembered experiencing. She glanced around in all directions.

 

Nothing. This space was completely featureless. She couldn’t even tell which way up she was. Was she upright? Maybe. Her hair, at least, seemed to be hanging as it would if she was. But who could say for sure? There were no shadows, either. Chloe lifted a hand up, to find not a single area in darkness.

This is hella fucking strange.

She felt a stinging in her chest, and glanced down. She was dressed as she remembered being when she was on that bridge, having just put down that bastard Andrews once and for all. Her shirt was still soaked and sticky-looking from the blood, no doubt seeping from the bullet wound she’d suffered and not noticed until it was far too late- if she were to guess. She pressed a hand against it, and brought it back up. It came away clean, as she rubbed her fingers together.

What… what the fuck is this place? Where am I? Chloe’s head swam slightly as hazy fragments of memory came back to her, centering around the knowledge of her gunshot wound.

Being stood on the bridge, having finally succeeded, derailed Andrews’ plan to nuke Leningrad. Feeling...woozy. A hand to her abdomen. Blood. Collapsing, world spinning. Falling toward the floor, arms around her waist and stopping her. An unclear voice, a woman, screaming out her name. Max?

 

Max, definitely her, losing her shit as she begged her desperately to keep her eyes open, to live. Everything turning to white.

 

Oh no. Max! Where is she? I need her! She needs ME! She could feel the tears building in her eyes as she desperately sought for a way out of this nothingness surrounding her.

 

“I didn’t expect to see you here so soon, kiddo.” A voice echoed out in the emptiness.

 

“D-Dad?” Chloe spluttered, choking on her own words as she turned to where the voice had come from. Her father, as she remembered him, stood a matter of feet from her. She closed the distance in no time at all, wrapping her arms around him and breaking down in tears. After what felt like a lifetime, her tears ran dry, and her hiccuping form met eyes with her father once again. He, too, had the evidenced marks of the injuries that had sent him to his death: a series of bullet holes in his chest, dark red blotches on his shirt around the perforations. He frowned, pensively, at her.

 

“I wish I’d told John not to get you involved in all of this. It’s too soon for you to be here.” He stated, a hint of regret obvious in his tone.

 

“I know, Dad… I’m...I’m sorry. I fucked up.” Chloe mumbled. William took hold of her shoulders, giving her the kind of look that a parent would give a child who’d just came second.

 

“One more for the swear jar, Chloe,” He uttered. Chloe hiccuped, teetering on the edge between laughing and crying again. “And from where I’m standing, you didn’t get it wrong at all. You succeeded where I didn’t, and , on top of everything… you just about saved the world. Just the three of you.” He continued, a smile growing on his face. “I couldn’t be any prouder of my little girl if I tried.”

 

Chloe could feel the tears rolling down her face once more as she hugged in against him again. A slight cold shiver passed through her as she thought on, however.

 

“One thing, Dad…” She began, her face apprehensive, fearful even, of the answer to her impending question. He merely raised an eyebrow, as though to say ‘go on’.

 

“What about Max?” She asked, her tone still full of worry.

“What about her?” William reciprocated.

 

Chloe glanced away for a moment. “I can’t help feeling, even though I...I like her, no, I love her, that…”

 

“That I’d disapprove.” William finished, taking the words out of Chloe’s mouth.

 

“It’s just… she’s...” Chloe cut her sentence short, her eyes watering slightly as her voice cracked up.

 

William looked at her again, a soft, expressionless face. “Chloe, you aren’t dating the Soviet Union. You're dating… her. I already said my piece. I'm proud of you, and I just wish I could've been there to see you, and perhaps get to know both of you. You've grown so far beyond the girl you once were.” Chloe shook slightly, the emotions conflicting within threatening to scatter her to the wind. If there were a wind here, at any rate.

 

“Y-you mean...?” Chloe sobbed, barely able to hold herself together.

 

William merely nodded, before a regretful look overtook him. “I'm so glad to see you again, but you can’t stay here, Chloe.” He said, simply.

 

Chloe’s breathing became shakier, as she approached him, only finding that the distance didn’t decrease. “ Why? Why can’t I stay with you? I need you! I want you back!” She whimpered, her voice struggling to carry much above its normal volume. She reached out to him, and he took hold of her arms.

 

“I wish you could stay, Chloe, but the world still needs you. Max still needs you.” He explained, looking off to one side. Chloe followed his gaze, her heart clenched in pain as she took in the sight.

 

She lay in a hospital bed, Max inconsolable, laying half-atop her. The heart monitor next to where she lay wasn’t picking up any vital signs. To one side, a group of nurses stood, forlorn, remorseful, as Max’s body shook, sobbing away at the loss of her lover. Chloe couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She was…

 

“You have to go back, Chloe, for her. We’ll see each other again someday. Maybe then, you can introduce me to Max. That day isn't today. Until we meet again...” William finished, releasing her hands and turning to walk away.

 

“But Dad, I-!” Chloe called after him, attempting to catch him up.

 

“I know.” The answer echoed back.

 

Chloe sprinted in his direction, making no headway as William’s form receded, still walking, fading as it went.

DAD! ” Her final, agonised scream echoed, as the silhouette dissipated to nothing. The white spun around her as she collapsed in on herself, breaking apart as she did so. A sudden change in sensation, from the firmness of what felt like ground beneath her feet, to falling. Her stomach felt like it had flipped upside down, as her hair fluttered. The featureless white beneath her had vanished, an impenetrable black void opening up beneath her. Her body spun around, as her hands flailed desperately, looking for something to arrest her freefall without success. Below her, the blackness grew in size, a plughole becoming larger and larger as she fell. The void grew greater and greater still as she approached its boundary, falling faster and faster. The pure white faded into grey as she hit it, the emptiness around her darkening, darkening, becoming black. A sudden jolt, and Chloe felt the falling sensation no more.


Max barely noticed the twitch of Chloe's fingers at first, brushing softly against her hand. Even after she noticed it, she dismissed it initially, the whine of the ECG still drowning out all else.

 

It's just a reflex action. She's dead, you've just watched her, and held her as she died!

 

Again. Chloe's fingers twitched, moved… grabbed hold of the hand still laying atop hers in a way that only a living being could. Max's heart jumped out of her chest as she felt Chloe's moving once more beneath her, her body moving in short, subtle bursts as she took shallow breaths. Her breath, warm, gently tickling the side of Max's cheek. Max yelped, both in surprise and joy, as she hugged Chloe tightly with her free hand.

 

"Chloe! I...I thought I'd...I'd…" Max spluttered, her voice a whisper as her head rested by Chloe's ear, the sentence remaining unfinished.

 

"Hey...it'll take...more than that to...get rid of me." Chloe mumbled in return, out of breath after every few words. Max's hand left Chloe's chest, cupping her face as she stared into those mischievous blue eyes once more, as bright a sparkle as ever in them, before their lips met in a kiss.

 

The medical staff seemed calmer, albeit confused as to the scene playing out in front of them. One of the nurses shot the ECG- still sounding out a flatline- a suspicious glance. A swift whack of the palm to the top of the machine, and a normal pattern resumed on its screen. She shook her head, a slight smile on her face, as she left the room with the remainder of the medical staff.

 

As they left, Chloe yawned softly. "I feel...tired, still…" she murmured, blinking slowly as her eyes lazily scanned the room.

 

Max grinned at her through her tear-soaked expression. "Okay… just don't scare me like that again, okay? I swear I'm staying right here until you wake up." Max softly added, giggling slightly as she shook her head at Chloe's response.

 

"Ooh… like to watch...watch people in bed, huh?" She lazily uttered, words slurring slightly as she did.

 

Max smiled softly at her. "Don't tempt me to get in that bed with you, you Dössbaddel." As she moved to lie on the bed next to Chloe, a soft voice from the doorway made her jump.

 

"I suppose I won't need to have a bed made for you now, will I Max?" The young receptionist Max had spoken briefly to earlier chirped from the entrance to the room. Max looked up at her and smiled.

 

"Indeed not, Marie. This one," she explained, pointing at Chloe's sleeping form, "has just saved you the effort. Even if she did just give us the fright of our lives."  

 

The receptionist chuckled. "Indeed she did. God, you should've seen the panic downstairs. Just press the buzzer if you need anything." She finished, closing the door behind her having flicked its slider to 'Do Not Disturb.' Max curled up beside Chloe, kissing her on the forehead. She gently slid an arm underneath the sleeping, convalescent woman, locking hands with it as it met on the far side.

 

"Ich liebe dich, Chloe." She whispered in her ear, before joining her in peaceful sleep.


Even after their emotional reunion, it still took months before Chloe was back on her feet, and the better part of a year beyond that for her to return to her indomitable- and insufferable- self. It was another six weeks before she could even muster the strength to try and get out of bed- ending with her in an unceremonious heap of limbs and bedsheets on the floor, Max chuckling at her expense once she was sure Chloe wasn't hurt, cradling her on the floor and tickling her against her will, weak and clumsy arms flailing at her to no effect. Max seldom left her side the entire time, save for the odd 'provision run' to the nearest eatery. Even Max, used to some of the- less pleasant- food on the other side of Curtain, found that which was served up by the Hospital canteen to vary between barely-edible and utterly atrocious.

 

"Gott in Himmel, what the hell do they cook this food in?" Max had exclaimed the first time she tried eating some of it, spitting it onto her plate as subtly as she could. Chloe gave a hoarse chuckle, its pitch higher than her usual on account of her getting her voice box used to speaking again.

 

"I always find it's better not to ask that question." Chloe answered, a smug grin on her face. "Knowing the Brits, it could be just about anything. Why else are their cooks more feared than their soldiers?"

 

Max cracked up with laughter, almost falling off the bed in the process.

 

Eventually, Chloe had gained enough strength back to try and learn to walk again. As ever, Max was beside her every step of the way, literally and figuratively.

 

Chloe slumped against the handrails, panting as she supported her degraded frame as best she could. She shook slightly, a few tears forming in her eyes. Her knees looked unsteady, as though they could give way at any moment. Her elbows trembled as they struggled to uphold her body, her face a picture of the immense strain she was putting herself under.

 

"I can't do it, Max… I, I just…" Chloe whined, her voice awash with pain. Max stood just to her side, her hand clasping Chloe's as she hugged her. A kiss, planted on Chloe's cheek.

 

"Are you sure? The Chloe I know would’ve broken up those crutches you’ve been using for firewood a week ago.” Max whispered in her ear, sweeping over the rail and getting in front of Chloe. “I’m right here with you. Just take it one step at a time, and go from there.” She encouraged her. With every ounce of strength she could find, Chloe moved her leg forward once more. And again. Slowly, but surely, her dormant leg muscles began to awaken once more.

 

Finally, Chloe had recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital. That day had been one of the happiest Max had ever had, almost choking Chloe with a bear-like hug the moment they’d left the hospital. For the first time in her life, their lives… they were free.


November 9th, 1989

Tiergartenstraße, Berlin

11.50pm Local time

 

Max smiled to herself softly as she looked once more at the monument, still being guarded by her countrymen. Hard to believe that this is where it all began, eliminating that drunkard Volkel, or whatever his name was. Max mused, gazing around at the throng of people flooding Tiergarten. Over in the distance, back toward Brandenburger Tor, stood a lone tree, adorned in lightbulbs. The air was thick with the whizzing and whooshing of flares and fireworks, a cacophony in the sky above as the bright colours lit up the Berlin nightline. There were people everywhere, stood atop the heavily graffitied wall, atop Der Rüfer , further toward the Tor, and in every inch of space between. Even alongside the quadriga, proud in place on the towering stone structure, the movement of figures was visible, one or two even standing atop the staff held by the sculpted man on the chariot. Every now and again, an arm would reach up in the crowd, firing another flare, another firework into the sky. It was a night like no other, Berliners of both sides coming together to send off the Mauer in extraordinary style. The end of an era, as it were. She felt the arm around her waist tighten, pulling her closer.

“Beautiful, ain’t it?” Chloe posed to the open air, grinning as she looked upon the wanton display of mayhem in the area. The odd siren could be heard as the fire departments ran around the city, trying to keep the impromptu fireshow under control. Max gazed into her eyes, smiling. Chloe had certainly dressed up somewhat from that definitive style she’d had the entire time they’d fought side-by-side, her old jungle boots replaced by a snug-fitting pair of heeled leather boots, coming up to just below the knee (and it had been pretty comical seeing Chloe try and walk in them, initially); the black skin-tights snug against her lower half, shimmering slightly in the light above, Chloe having driven her crazy wearing them- especially when she’d left a pair of her underwear hung on the bedpost- though Max had no idea whether or not she was serious about the motion; and that tight-fitting tank top, under her jacket. She still refused to wear make-up, however, as did Max. In the eyes of each other, they didn’t need any, regardless of the small nicks and scars their faces still bore.

“It is. It’s going to be strange, never having to show a pass to a border guard again, isn’t it?” She replied. “Never having to live a falsehood, a life that doesn’t exist. Just being… ourselves.”

“You can say that again. I’m still getting used to not having a diplomatic pass, or my piece.” Chloe added. “Hell, what are we going to do for a living when we get back to the States? Assuming we wanna go there, I guess. I mean, I got kicked out of college, my high school grades weren’t all that fantastic… who the hell’s going to employ someone when half their resumé is covered in black ink?” Chloe noted aside, realising the true scale of her possible issue.

Max leaned in and placed a soft kiss on her neck, making the slightly taller woman blush. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. Life always has a strange way of working out alright. Especially for us.” She reassured her, a slight chuckle as she did so. Chloe leaned her head over, resting it against Max’s as the pair were mesmerised by the show of light.

 

She’s right, I guess. We went from enemies, to… this. We stopped World War Three, pretty much on our own. We can do almost anything if we put our hearts and minds to it!

 

Another hand, not one of Max's, roughly brushed along her backside and inner thigh, its touch sending shivers down her spine as a part of her subconscious recognised its owner. It squeezed her buttock and upper thigh slightly, Chloe's blood freezing as the forefront of her mind recognised the touch.

Good evening, Fraulein. Nice to see you’ve dressed to the occasion once again.” The female tone purred, her breath warm against the side of Chloe’s neck. Chloe jumped and flailed with fright, as a soft cackle permeated the air. A cry of fear as she did so, almost losing her balance were it not for Max holding her.

 

FUCK! Not her! Not again! Help!

 

Max chuckled, wrapping her arms around Chloe and pulling her tighter to reassure her as the voice took an elated pitch. “Ah, so good to see you again, lisenok!” Stef cried, putting her hands on Max’s shoulders and softly kissing her on the lips as Chloe steadied herself, sending Max's face a decidedly bright red even in the relative dark. Chloe settled down in spite of her heart running in overload, realising the woman in front of her no longer posed a threat to her despite every alarm bell in her mind ringing a red alert. She raised an eyebrow, instead, looking at Max, a wide grin on her face. “ Lisenok?

Max groaned, before shooting Stef a glare and whacking her playfully in the stomach. “Damn you, Stef!” Max grumbled, Chloe gently chuckling.

 

The taller woman chuckled as she took a step toward them. “I suppose I should ask for my key back then, Maxine?” She asked again, jovial.

 

Max smiled at her, softly. “Not just yet. If you don’t mind us intruding, we’re planning on staying in the city for a little longer. Just no bedroom games !” Max snarkily replied, Stef pouting.

 

“You’re no fun anymore, Maxine! I was looking forward to having some fun with you… both. ” She said, an impish grin at them both. Chloe turned her head away, face redder than the flare burning overhead.

 

OH GOD . Being involved in Max’s ex’s weird bondage games? That’s a massive FUCK NO from me.

 

“Besides, Chloe…” Stef turned to her, softly running a finger under her chin and making her flinch and shiver, the unexpected contact dragging up memories of her last real interactions with Stef. “I’m sure the last time we spoke, you said you didn’t want to see me again on ‘ this side of Hell.’? ” She quizzed, air-quoting Chloe’s exact words from that chilly morning on Glienicke Bridge.

 

Chloe smiled back at her, somewhat awkwardly, as she held Max closer. “You're right, but to be honest… we’ve already been through hell. So, I guess seeing you again now is okay. What brings you here, anyway?” Chloe asked, eyes perking up as a sarcastic suggestion crossed her mind. “Got a tracking device on Max, or something?”

 

Stef chuckled even more at that insinuation. “No, but I’m sure I could think of a few places you’d never find one on her. No, I’m here for my new job.” She replied, leaving both of her company as confused as they were embarrassed by the insinuation of Stef being able to hide a tracker.

 

New Job? ” Max ventured first.

 

Stef nodded. “Ja. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Der Republik won’t last long after this. I’ve got a job with the BND now. Same thing, just for a different agency, so to speak. Sure, it’ll be a little awkward at first, but I’m sure I’ll settle in fine. Besides, the threats in the world are changing. I’m just glad that my questioning the bad guys might keep people safe from now on, instead of helping to keep a regime on its feet.” She said, smirking as she did.

 

Chloe merely shuddered, initially. “I almost feel sorry for the bad guys right around now.” She remarked, knowing full well what questioning was entailed.

 

“Ah, don’t be like that, Chloe! I do apologise, however: Max has already chastised me for being a little… rough on you.” She remarked, her usual pout-in-a-voice-tone having its usual effect on the duo. Chloe shivered once more as she recalled again what Stef's idea of rough had looked like. Stef glanced up, scanning the crowd as she searched for someone. “I’d better go and find Katrin, she’ll think I’m off flirting again. I suppose I am, in a way.” She said, taking a pace back. “We’ll try and keep the noise down tonight!” She called out, over the cheering and noise that almost drowned her out now, even just this far away from them. “Tschuß!” She called out, as she melted into the mass of citizens around them.

 

The pair stood in silence, stunned. Chloe gingerly felt the backside of her pants, getting a sideways glance from Max as she sighed with relief. “What’s up with you?” She muttered, Chloe’s face still burning from her surprise encounter with her former torturer again, face to face.

 

“I’m just making sure. I thought I’d shit my pants when I heard that voice again, but I think it was just that I was sweating like a choirboy on a Sunday. God, she’s fucking terrifying, even without her whips and chains and everything else she used to use.” Chloe mumbled back still glowing with humiliation, Max cackling in response.

 

“Oh, definitely. It's probably just as well you didn’t make a mess of yourself, given I’ve yet to figure out whether you’re wearing anything under them.” She jested. “So, what now? As the English would say, 'the night is young'.” She reiterated, turning to face Chloe. Chloe took both her hands, pulling her close, so that their noses touched.

 

“Now… we go find ourselves a nice place to drink. And then , maybe you’ll get to find out the answer to what I'm wearing under these pants. If anything.” Chloe confidently affirmed, wiggling her eyebrows just enough to get the point across. Max grinned.

 

"This is going to be a night to remember, for sure." She uttered, before hugging Chloe tighter.

 

Of all the ways my life could have turned out , Max looked back, I think this is the only way I'd ever have wanted it to be.

 

We're finally free , Chloe thought. And we survived. We fucking made it! Her eyes met Max's, glistening in the flashes of colourful light above them. She's all I need now. Fuck everything else. I have Max, what else could I need?

 

“Ich liebe dich, Chloe.” Max choked out, as her elation at the result of her life and her love for Chloe compounded into a blast more powerful than any sensation she'd ever felt.

 

Chloe smiled back, a few tears of joy clouding her eyes, as were Max’s. “I love you too, Max.” She whispered, the loudest noise her voicebox could muster, as their lips met, the entwined form silhouetted by another flare, popping a little further away. The kiss seemed to last forever, for Chloe especially. The world around them melted away altogether, dull and distant noises being all either heard. Barely audible to them were the cheers as the final minute elapsed, the new year arriving at long last, a new decade beginning. With the new decade came a new future, for both of them. All that mattered, all that they had ever wanted, they now had.

 

Unnoticed in the crowd, frail, unsteady even with his stick, stood a wise old man. Nobody seemed to notice him, to the rest of the crowd, he was just another someone gleefully welcoming in the demise of the Mauer , the divisor of Berlin. Physically, Der Mauer had divided. Not spiritually; the spirit of Berlin was strong, and proud. Stranding generations of the same bloodlines on opposite sides had always been a foolish decision, and he had known that this day would come, eventually. His skin wasn’t as tight against his bones now, and he had a pronounced cough every now and again on account of what had given him the newest scar on his chest, but it was better than the other alternative. He looked on at the young couple, as they pressed against each other, their noses touching. The beauty of the two, combined with the pride he had. A fatherlike pride, at that.

 

“That’s my girl, Maxine,” he said to the open air, smiling as he watched her and her former enemy enamored with one another, amid the unity and peace that they had, in their own way, helped to ensure. Just as he had appeared, he turned, slowly, and merged once more with the crowd, as though he had never been there.


February, 1990

Flight from Tegel, Berlin to Heathrow, London

9.35pm Local Time

 

Max's head rested against Chloe's shoulder as the pair sat on the plane, hands intertwined. She seemed to be asleep, but her face wore a stupid grin like she'd had almost every day they'd been together. As Max had found out later that evening, in a quiet park a ways out from the centre of the city, Chloe had indeed worn nothing underneath those shimmering black skin-tights she'd been wearing, and in fact nothing under her tank-top, either. Later in the evening, she'd admitted it had been chilly not having those small items of clothing, but it had been more than worth it. Both had affirmed a few days later- even putting aside what they had gotten up to under the dim yellow lights of the empty corner of Berlin- that it had been the best night of their lives. Over the month or two they'd spent in the city after New Year's, they'd gone out and about the newly-accessible metropolis. Unlike every one of the thousands of times they had done this before over the years, it was for fun: finding all the funny little shops, hidden down back streets; eating out and enjoying life. Living. Loving. The thin walls of Max's old apartment had been awkward at times though, more than once having the sounds of Stef and Katrin's rough bedroom practice interrupt them, but it had done little to detract from the joy that had been living a normal life again. Something neither had experienced in what felt like a lifetime.

 

What are we going to do now? Chloe considered, vaguely aware of the hum from the engines outside. We're going back to the States, but what are we going to do from there? She glanced again at the bundle of cuteness that was Max, apparently fast asleep against her shoulder. She smiled to herself as she answered her question.

Why am I even worried? I've got her, and I've got my own skills. There'll be something we can do for now, even if it means being Private Eyes.

 

"Excuse me, miss Price?" The flight attendant stood in the aisle asked, softly. Chloe snapped out of her daze, turning to her.

 

"Yes, that's me." She answered, trying not to wake Max up.

"Would you care to watch a movie?" The flight attendant asked her. Chloe shook her head, smiling a little.

"No, thanks. I'm good as it is." She replied, leaning her head back against the headrest.

 

Just as she was about to go back to sleep, the flight attendant changed tack. "Would you consider the cinema of the Caribbean? Aruba , perhaps?" The flight attendant posed again. Chloe looked at her in confusion.

 

What? This makes absolutely no sense! I thought they said-

 

Max squeezed her hand, and smiled softly at her, nodding. Chloe took the small VHS tape in her hand, thanking the attendant as she moved on. She stared at it, unbelieving for a few moments.

 

The hell? I thought that brief made things clear enough for us. Apparently, they've decided on a change of plans.

 

"Well, what are you waiting for, Chloe?" Max whispered in her ear. "Let's have a look at what they want from us."

 

Chloe nodded, taking one earpiece of the earphones as Max took the other. Carefully, she slotted the small tape into the player, the LCD screen crackling into life. Max's hand rested softly atop Chloe's as the emblem of one of the CIA's many covert action divisions appeared, some writing in white beneath it, contrasting the dark blue background.

PREPARED FOR: AGENTS PRICE, C AND CAULFIELD, M.

BRIEFING FROM: SECRETARY J. PHELPS

 

Here we go again. Another glance at Max.

"We'll be fine, Chloe. Let's face it, it's not like they're going to have us try and stop World War Three again ." Max assured her, cackling softly. Chloe smiled, brightly.

 

"You're right. After the shit we've been through, anyone else looks like a fucking Sunday amateur." Chloe affirmed, confident.

 

She's right. We stopped a fucking nuclear war pretty much on our own. I doubt there's anything left that we can't handle between us.

 

"Good evening Miss Price, and Miss Caulfield. Sorry to interrupt your vacation, however a pressing matter has come to the attention of the Agency. It is already known to the wider defence community that Saddam Hussein is preparing to invade one of his neighbouring nations, likely Kuwait, but a more pressing matter has arisen. A terror cell known as 'The Brotherhood of Hassan' has stolen a stock of chemical weapons from a weapons store in Northern Iraq, and our initial intelligence suggests that they intend to use it against a city in Europe, although exactly where remains unknown. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…"