I'm sorry it has been so long, but as tends to happen life got in between.
If you don't know my stories yet, as always I recommend you read them in chronological order. Specifically, there will be references and spoilers for Missing, presumed dead and Turncoat.
I also recommend reading ThiessenClocks' Lock and Load. Actually I recommend all her stuff, because it's really amazing.
And lastly also thanks to her for being my wonderfull Beta-reader and kicking my butt.
I promise there will be more.
"Smells like home," Skye commented as they entered the analysts' floor. After spending almost three weeks on a largely boring mission in rural Switzerland, she and Benji had opted to take the long way back to the states. It had even worked until Brandt's message had reached them in Jamaica two days earlier, calling them back to D.C.
Now she was back for the first time in a month, the combined smell of coffee, varieties of tea, stress and a hint of floor polish that was inherent to the IMF's office tract felt almost comfortingly familiar.
"Enjoyed your vacation?"
The agents turned around and spotted Brandt leaning in the doorway of the small kitchen. He was holding a mug in one hand and questioningly waving the half empty coffee pot at them with the other.
"Quite a lot, actually," Benji replied cheerfully and nodded his agreement regarding the coffee. "Yes, please."
"Ethan and Luther are waiting for you in conference room 3. They can fill you in on Brussels while I debrief Skye and Elaine," the analyst continued, filling up two more mugs. "But take your time, it looks like Elaine is running late."
"Late?" Skye asked, accepting the mug of steaming hot coffee. Despite her erratic work times, Elaine Bray usually was almost obsessively early for mission briefings.
Brandt checked his watch. "Probably she's giving the rookies a hard time again."
Benji almost choked on his coffee. "Wait," he said with a half-cough. "She's teaching?"
The corners of Brandt's mouth twitched upwards. "It was Lee's idea," he explained. "Because she decided, rightly so I guess, that Elaine should have some more recuperation time after what happened in February. Only once she was cleared for training, of course, she threw herself right back in, so that required a compromise."
"I take it it's not going very well?" Skye asked.
"Oh, it is, actually," Brandt replied and quickly hid his smile behind the coffee mug when he spotted the person walking down the corridor. Then he waved Skye into his office.
When Elaine joined them a moment later, she nodded a greeting at Skye but remained standing beside the door after closing it. "Please, tell me this is not a social gathering?"
"You have a mission," Brandt replied with a perfect poker-face. Wordlessly he pushed a coffee mug across the table.
"Thank god," Elaine sighed and dropped into the chair next to Agent Holt.
Skye took a moment to look at her. Not having seen the other woman in weeks, she had simply assumed Elaine would have had her hair cut by now, instead it was falling onto her shoulders, throwing unruly waves over the hood of her dark blue sweater. The rest was still very much Elaine, but the view was so unexpected Skye wasn't sure she would have immediately recognized her on her own.
There was a soft knock on the door, closely followed by the same opening. Brandt broke off the sentence he had been about to start and instead greeted the newcomer. "Mr. Secretary."
"Agent Brandt," Hunley replied. "I believe you're expected in conference room 3, I'll take over for you here."
Brandt looked a little surprised, but then nodded and vacated his chair. "Thank you, sir," he replied, fetching his coffee mug from the table and hurried out of the room.
"Now, Agent Holt, Agent Bray," the secretary started, settling into the now empty third chair. "I'm sorry we had to call both of you back into active field work on such short notice, but a somewhat time critical situation has come up and the two of you are as close as we can get to a perfect fit for this mission."
Both agents perked up. It was rare enough that the secretary debriefed a team in person.
"Since the beginning of this year IMF has been watching an emerging group of female rights activists, calling themselves the Pink Rose," Hunley continued. "Most of them are peaceful activists, but some factions along the west coast have shown a willingness to employ more forceful tactics.
"So far they have not reverted to outright violence yet. Most of the time their victims were men in highly paid positions, mostly managers, but also politicians or government employees in high places. They would pick up their children from school on a Friday afternoon and let them worry over the weekend, only to return them save and sound on Monday morning, or break into and trash their apartments. In some cases it also seems they hacked into bank accounts, diverting a certain amount of money. Their point is to show the public how undervalued women are in society.
"There has also been a second kind of attacks, which consist of harassment of certain individuals. Most of these victims have been convicted of rape or domestic violence, and we suspect that those attacks have been acts of revenge, which might indicate that these men all have a history with at least one member of the group. The problem is that, although we know that this branch of the group is behind those acts, there is no solid evidence to tie it to them or an individual. Also, we have very little information about who belongs to those extremists, and if we can, we want to take out the violent elements without endangering the group itself.
"The worst they have done so far, aside from the kidnappings, is a large amount of material damage. However, the incidents attacking individuals directly have not been limited to simple harassment. Lately, they have started date-rape like attacks. And they have also broadened the circle of their victims from ex-convicts to those suspected of rapes or just random patrons of establishments where the police suspect sexual assaults to be happening more frequently."
"So they're probably also going to hit a lot of innocents in the process," Elaine put in, her formerly mildly amused expression suddenly sour. She grimaced. "The most usual substances used for spiking drinks are rohypnol, better known as roofies, and Liquid X, a form of ecstasy. Even if they're not tainted with byproducts, together with the usually high percentage of alcohol in drinks, they could cause serious health problems to the victim. And if they're home-cooked and overdosed, it's only a matter of time until they cause someone serious damage. Or death."
"Which is precisely why we want to keep the number of their victims as small as possible," Hunley gently interrupted her elaborations, before she could get too deeply into it. "Luckily they have provided us with the means to do just that along the way. And the reason I'd like to have the two of you on that mission."
The secretary passed each of them a file, on the front page of each there were two mugshots. The two women in the pictures looked almost alike, or at least very similar. Both featured a rather pale complexion and brown hair. The one on the left had a square face, framed by straight shoulder-length hair of a lively walnut-brown which enhanced her intelligent muddy brown eyes. The other woman had a somewhat more straight and slender face, her features showing a more pronounced bone structure, her hair was longer and brighter, bordering on the red ranges, and her eyes faded more into the green area, but the similarities that indicated two people from the same family were undeniable.
"These are Andrea and Simone Jenkins, better known as the Jenkins Sisters. Andrea, the younger one, has a degree in pharmacology," Hunley explained. "Also, she is a talented cook, of crystal meth mainly, but she has been working with other substances, too, in the past. Her older sister Simone is working as an accountant, her last employment was with a law firm, but she has a habit of changing her employer every other year. Her main income comes from fencing off her sister's home made drugs.
"Although they are well known in the scene, they have made a point of generally keeping a low profile so far. They have managed to keep under the radar of the authorities mainly thanks to Simone's creative bookkeeping, but they have agreed to work with us, for an occasional favor in return. A while ago, they have been approached by what we believe to be the leading elements of the Pink Rose's extremists, to help them with their plans by providing the drugs they need. In return for new identities and, if necessary, witness protection, they have agreed to let us send in two agents posing as them. Which would be you."
"Just one problem," Skye put in, trying hard to hide the dread behind her voice. "They don't exactly look like us. Or rather, we don't really look like them."
"That's true," Hunley admitted. "Plus this might evolve into a long-term mission and you will properly be living in close quarters with the others from the group so using masks would be to dangerous."
There was an audible sigh of relief from Skye.
"However the Jenkins Sisters have never met anyone from the group in person, all they have is a rough description. And as neither Andrea nor Simone have ever been in that area, the chances of anyone knowing them there are minimal," the secretary continued. "Aside from that, you both have the necessary skills and experience, and you look sufficiently alike to be taken for siblings."
He paused and looked at both agents expectantly.
Elaine replied with a shrug. "I'm in."