Episode 1: Family of Spies

See Prologue: Halcyon 101 to find out about the basics of this universe before you start reading.

Episode 1: Family of Spies

There is no secret that time shall not reveal. (1)
(Jean Racine)

 * Opening Credits *

Los Angeles, USA. October 30th, 2003. CIA office.

         Agent Jack Bristow was standing in front of the screen connected to the cell’s surveillance camera. Elisha Clode seemed even younger and even more harmless than usual. Looks are deceptive, for the twenty-two-year-old woman was one of the CIA most wanted – for murders, terrorism, theft, espionage… One of the most dangerous mercenaries in the world. Well, at least until five months before. When she got caught.

The young woman was sitting on the floor, her back to the wall in a corner of the room, the one corner least visible from the cameras’ angle. She was sitting, arms around her legs, one cheek on her knees, her eyes closed, perfectly still. Jack would have thought that she was sleeping, if he hadn’t sensed how tense all of her muscles were. She moved suddenly, as in a jolt, her hands clenched on her shins and she half-opened her eyes for a split second. She was in pain.

For the record, the treatment she had been put through to get her to talk was unenviable. Until then, she had been cooperative, and the information she had provided since her capture had proved very useful. The young woman’s flexible ethical code enabled her to betray her former colleagues and allies without losing any sleep, her loyalties lying with nothing – and nobody. She had answered every question she’d been asked. Every single one, except those about Irina. Derevko seemed to be the only person Clode remained loyal to, even though she had abandoned her and let her get caught.

So they’d injected her a truth serum. Very painful. And she hadn’t said a thing. Her pain threshold was remarkably high; even under the influence of drugs, she didn’t talk. At no point did she show that she was hurting, and only now, in the semidarkness of her cell and in front of the blind cameras, did she allow herself a moment of weakness before she became perfectly still again.

         Elisha gave in to the pain creeping through her whole body. Pain is a figment of your imagination. Pain is nothing. Yet their truth serum hurt all the same. She liked good old pentothal better, if she had a say – which she obviously didn’t.

But she hadn’t said anything. It was all that mattered. It cannot be avoided: some day, you will be captured and interrogated. In order to maintain control, you will need to set limits, to decide which pieces of information may be revealed, and when. Elisha had told them absolutely everything. Her former allies weren’t worth her suffering. There was but one thing she wouldn’t say. One person she would not betray.

Irina...

It was silly, really. Go through this for her sake. Derevko had given her up. She was the reason she was even here, and it didn’t look like she was in a hurry to get her out. But despite everything, she remembered the woman who, so many years ago, had gotten her out of an orphanage in the remotest part of Ireland.

1990. Saint Thomas Orphanage, Cleggan, Galway County, Ireland.

During recess, Elisha was sitting alone on a step, in the yard. She was quite the loner and didn’t really have any friends. She was daydreaming. It was her only way to escape from this orphanage, this life, even if only for a brief moment.

Sister Aislinn pulled her out of her thoughts with a gentle tap on her shoulder.

“Someone is here to see you.”

Intrigued, Elisha followed her to her office. Who on earth could take an interest in her? She was eight and strongly suspected that no one would adopt her. She hadn’t taken care over her clothes for a long time, on the days when potential adoptive parents came to visit the orphanage. What good would it have done? They only had eyes for the little ones. Or, among the oldest, those who were tractable enough to become what they were expected to be, and forget about the past. And, whether she wanted it or not, Elisha would never be cut out for that.

A woman was waiting, sitting in front of Sister Aislinn’s desk, her back to the door. When she heard it open, she turned around. She looked very beautiful, Elisha thought; she was probably thirty-five or forty, and had splendid, very long dark hair. Shiny brown eyes, and a wonderful smile.

“Hello, my name is Irina, she said with a slight accent, probably Russian, which made her voice sound like a lullaby. Would you like to get out of here?”

That was how Elisha had joined Programme Halcyon. Intensive training to shooting and all fighting techniques, learning infiltration and torture methods, everything the perfect spy needs – or the perfect killer.

November 8, 2003.

         “Agent Bristow! Uh… Jack!”

Jack let out a mental sigh. He was in a hurry, and not in the mood for hearing the gimmick genius’ jumbled babble and digressions – but Marshall had that hasty I-just-discovered-something-big look on his face, so Jack slowed down to wait for him.

“What is it?” Jack asked, letting show a bit of irritation. “Could it wait?”

“Uh, well – it has waited enough already, I mean I,” Marshall stuttered. “I mean I have made it wait, well, I have been meaning to talk to you for a week. That is to say, five days, but technically I think you could say that’s a working week. Uh, well – could we take this to your office? Yes, it’s important,” he added before Jack asked. “No, we can’t discuss it here.”

A reluctant Jack showed him into his lair. He sat behind his desk and braced himself for the river of words that Marshall would unavoidably pour out before getting to the point.

“I know you must have important things to do,” the technician started. “But this is also a little bit important. Well, I think it’s actually more than a little bit important and you should know about this. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone else…”

“Sydney?” Jack asked, suddenly leaning over his desk. “Is it about Sydney? Did you find a lead?”

“Hum, no. Well – yeah, but no. Not exactly.”

Marshall cleared his throat under Jack’s impatient gaze, and tried again.

“You remember the DNA database that we got in Stuttgart – well, that Derevko stole in Stuttgart and we collected in Spain…”

“Marshall…”

“Yeah, right. As you know, we haven’t exactly figured out what Sloane and Derevko wanted to use that database for yet. So I’ve been playing around with it on my free time, you know. Not that I have that much free time, but it was kinda like a way to clear my brain in between two projects. Just a couple quick searches on random DNA profiles. And so it occurred to me I could check if I was in there. I am, by the way, and when I dug a bit I was able to find profiles for my parents, two aunts, six cousins, and an uncle no one ever talks about because… Well, no one talks about him. So my next idea was check if anyone else I knew was in the database. Turns out Sydney is, which is the reason why it’s a little bit about Sydney but not really because that’s actually not the point.”

Marshall stopped to take a breath, witnessing Jack’s exasperation rise by the second.

“The software I created can sort out data in all kinds of categories. And as I said, it can trace parents, grandparents, children, siblings. I researched all of that for Sydney… and I uh – I stumbled on an extra result.”

“A what?”

“A, uh – an extra result. Somebody who had no business there. Well, that I didn’t expect to find there. I checked three times just to be sure. And then I checked nine more times just in case the four others were like an error, a bug, that kind of thing happens, you never know. But no luck, no. Then it occurred to me that Derevko might have had the time to put that one piece of information into the database. Even though I don’t really get why she would have bothered to do that, except if her plan was for Sydney to find it, which really doesn’t make any sense – unless that’s what she wants us to believe, but…”

“Marshall!”

“To the point! I’m getting to the point. Whatever it be, I realized that we could check the results using the, um… actual subjects involved. So I had blood samples from the both of you analyzed by our lab. And I was really careful to not say who the samples were from. Just A and B. And the results were the same each time they tested them. They’re positive, there’s a 97,2% chance B is A’s child. Now, you’re A and B is… Maybe you should just read this.”

Marshall handed a file to Jack, who opened it. Four DNA strands were displayed on a sheet of paper.

“It’s a family,” Marshall explained. “Father, mother and, uh – two children.”

Jack, astounded, was staring at the page.

“This is you – the first one,” Marshall pointed. “And the next one is…”

“I can read the labels,” Jack cut him off. “The next one says – Derevko, Irina. Then – Bristow, Sydney. And the last one… It can’t be,” he whispered unwittingly.

“I know. That’s what I thought too. So I had them check again. That’s part of the reason I didn’t tell you before today. I wanted to be completely, absolutely positive,” Marshall said before pausing. “We checked eight times in total. Always the same results.”

“Did you tell anyone else?” Jack asked without taking his eyes off the file.

“No, sir. And this is the only copy there is.”

They were quiet for a long while.

“Uh – sir?”

“Yes, Marshall. Thank you,” Jack absentmindedly said, still focusing on the file. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Okay. You’ll… take care of it? Okay. Um, should I go now?”

Jack nodded, still not paying attention, then suddenly looked up at him.

“You’re really sure?”

“Eight times. I am positive.”

Kyiv, Ukrain. November 10, 2003.

         Sark walked into the church. He had been able to flee in Stockholm, when Clode was captured. He knew that Derevko was the one who turned them in to the CIA. Which explains how dumbfounded he felt when she got back in touch with him. She had a cheek, considering she had almost gotten him caught!

Yet he still agreed to meet her. Curiosity? Pragmatism? Irina paid well, which tended to help forget her shady tricks. He was sitting on a bench at the back of the little church when she joined him.

“You’ve got a hell of a nerve, after what happened in Stockholm,” he said without even looking at her.

“You’re here, aren’t you?”

“Fair enough. But the offer better be good.”

“It is. Two million now, three after the job. A get-out-of-jail card for Elisha Clode.”

For a second there Sark lost his legendary composure – then pulled himself together pretty fast.

“You’ll always amaze me. You help the CIA catch the two of us, then hire me to help her escape?” he wondered with a slight, hoarse laugh. “Would I have gotten that get-out-of-jail-not-so-free card if they had caught me?”

It was a rhetorical question, and that is exactly how she heard it. Although Sark assumed an offended look, he did not really take it personally. She had revealed something when it suited her, and now, for some reason, she wanted Clode back. After all, it was her business.

“I have my reasons.”

“There is just a slight problem. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have been led to believe she is being kept in solitary confinement under the CIA building in LA. Having spent a nice little vacation there, you know how secured it is – so how do you hope to get her out?”

“In the exact same way that I did, actually. I know her – she’ll figure out a way to force them to send her on a mission. Then, we’ll be able to make contact and counter whatever measures they might have taken to ensure her loyalty – bugs, poison and Co.”

“So I’ll have to wait for her to send a sign.”

“Precisely. And believe me, she will. Oh! One last thing,” Irina added, getting up and about to leave. “No one can know that I am behind her escape. And certainly not her.”

Los Angeles. November 11, 2003. CIA office.

         Jack was sitting alone at his desk, staring once again at the DNA strands. Even his untrained eyes seemed to detect similarities. The rest of the report only confirmed what Marshall had said – Jack could barely draw the obvious conclusions.

Laura – Irina, was pregnant when the KGB framed her death, over twenty years earlier.

Sydney had a sister.

He had another daughter.

He got up abruptly and put the file under his arm. Almost unthinkingly, almost unwillingly, he ended up walking towards the underground levels of the building. There was but a guard on duty in the observation room, who was used to Jack’s occasional visits and simply greeted him with a nod while the agent was focusing on the monitors.

Most of the cell was covered by the surveillance cameras, but the prisoner didn’t try to avoid them anyway. She was lying on the floor, doing sit-ups. She jumped up and started a series of push-ups. Ever since she had been caught, she had made it a point to stay in shape.

When Jack switched the angle of one of the cameras to get a better look at her, Clode heard its buzz. She threw a glance at the objective and made a face at it before resuming her exercises. After five months in detention, her hair had grown, but she hadn’t lost her outstanding physical condition, or her cheeky arrogance. Jack looked for any family trait on Elisha’s face, and didn’t find anything obvious. She did look a little bit like Sydney. Her hair was a bit lighter; her features probably came more from Irina’s side, especially her smile, with the same dimples. They had the same hazel eyes – but Clode’s had a different spark, as though she was constantly taunting the whole world.

“Take her to the interrogation room, I want to talk to her,” Jack eventually told the guard.

“Drugs?”

“No.”

The guard hesitated for a second, but complied. He was probably wondering what Jack hoped to accomplish. Even under drugs, Clode had not answered any questions about Irina. Everything else that she knew, she had already given…

         When Elisha saw the guards come in, she didn’t even look up, and finished her series of push-ups before standing up. What did they want this time? They seemed to have given up on getting her to talk about Irina... Perhaps they had new intelligence for her to analyze?

Bah, she was so bored in her cell anyway, and it was so cold in there – a little bit of entertainment couldn’t hurt. She really hoped there would be no truth serum this time, though. Not that she was really afraid of talking – her training had prepared her to hold off for months, maybe even years. But still, it didn’t exactly feel nice.

1996 – Programme Halcyon, near Minsk, Belarus.

Interrogation simulation. Simulation in name only, for that matter, since pain was all too real – oh, no, Elisha had forgotten again. Pain is but a figment of your imagination. What about that other student, holding her arm behind her back and pulling like he was trying to dislocate her shoulder, was she making that up too? Must be, but her mind was a little bit muddy. Because of the drugs, maybe?

Irina was watching from the next room over, through a window. Or maybe she was a hallucination, too. Who cares anyway? That’s not why she was here. But why then ? She couldn’t seem to remember.

The other student’s lips were moving. The echo of his words came to Elisha’s ears, but she couldn’t focus enough to connect them together. Her silence made him mad, he asked the question again. She vaguely heard it this time.

“Where are the documents?”

What documents? Oh, yeah, the ones Irina had made up for the simulation. Elisha knew where they were, and the other student had to get her talking. But where were they then? No, don’t try to remember. Irina’s method was working even better than planned – overload her brain with random information in order to forget what the enemy wants to know.

0032F25GT3690046YEZ4Z123PAL56458900237K5JM033GRE875662SQZ563557KLPAPY5475E36697TG5H8970612A63AJL556... she was repeating to herself, while the other was pinning her against the wall. It almost sounded like a sweet tune… 0032F25GT36980046YEZ4Z...

         Jack walked into the interrogation room. They had done this so often he knew before he even looked at her what look would be painted on her face. Boredom, indifference. A tiny bit of patronizing amusement, not too far from scorn. And, most of all, a kind of curiosity. That was what Jack was most intrigued about.

Even though he knew that Clode’s days pretty much all came down to the same boring, endless routine, her interest in each new interview always managed to surprise him. He was also astounded at the eerie enthusiasm with which she was helping the CIA destroy the same operations she had worked hard to build, and at the satisfaction he could have sworn she felt, when she knew she had been able to provide useful information.

She needed to be needed, Jack thought. She needed to be irreplaceable. And she didn’t give a damn who she was working for or what for, as long as she was helpful in some way.

“No booster shot today?” Clode asked with a smile on her lips. “Between the two of us, I like it better that way. So, what could you possibly want to know that I haven’t already said a dozen times?” she sighed.

“I just want to clarify a few things.”

The young woman sat down resignedly. While the guard was cuffing her to her chair before leaving them alone, Jack looked at her more thoroughly. She was only a kid. She was twenty-two years old and looked even younger. He shook his head slightly, thinking about all the havoc she had wreaked over the last couple of years.

“I want to review the details of your past. For starters, where were you born?”

“Cleggan,” she answered with a pout that clearly showed she didn’t see the point of asking that kind of question.

“Elaborate.”

“Cleggan, County Galway, Republic of Ireland,” she recited, emphasizing her Irish accent.

“What is your mother’s name?”

“I don’t know,” she replied quickly.

“Your father’s name?”

“I don’t know. Where are you getting at? You already know all of this, and even if you didn’t, I don’t see –”

“Just answer me,” Jack interrupted her. “We’re getting there. Who raised you?”

“Sister Aislinn, at Saint Thomas Orphanage, until I turned eight.”

“What happened when you turned eight?”

“Irina came,” she said, her face lighting up, barely holding back a smile. “She placed me into a new school, in Minsk.”

“What kind of school?”

They had already talked about this once or twice, but this time Jack wanted to go deeper. He already knew that Clode had gone through something like Project Christmas. But this time, he was particularly investigating her relationship with Irina. And the deeper he dug, the more convinced he got that Clode had no clue of who she was. She idolized her and saw her as a motherly figure – but she had never realized that she actually was her mother.

For a brief moment, Jack wondered if Irina was okay with that. If she had ever worried about Elisha’s reaction if, one day, she found out the truth. Would she feel betrayed? Would it even matter to her at all? Had Irina decided herself to put her daughter through Programme Halcyon? He knew he was not in a position to judge her, having put Sydney through Project Christmas – but if he was trying to protect the one he thought was his only child at the time, what was Irina’s purpose when she made Elisha into a cold-blooded killer?

A few hours later.

         “For God’s sake, Jack, what were you thinking?” Kendall raged. “Your little game didn’t get us any intel we didn’t already have. What the hell were you looking for?”

“I thought I’d find a new lead,” Jack quietly said.

“What new lead? All you did was get her to repeat what we got out of her during her first week here. Nothing new.”

“I’ve received a tip about the Project Christmas equivalent that the Russians developed, Programme Halcyon. Clode was part of it, I wanted to check a couple of things with her.”

“Okay, but it has historical interest at best.”

“Not if Derevko was developing a new one at the moment.”

“Do you have information pointing in that direction?”

“Only rumors, nothing positive.”

Jack had made up that story on the spot, so that Kendall would leave him alone. He would just have to say the rumors were bogus if he ever brought it up again, and that would be the end of it.

He walked back to his office, carefully avoiding Marshall and his inquisitive glances, and closed the door. He set the file on his desk, and stayed there for an hour, staring into space.

Clode was a murderer, a terrorist – bright, charming, very beautiful, and seemingly normal. But responsible for more deaths than Jack cared to count. She was ruthless, remorseless, efficient, exactly what she had been created for. She could also put on an act without the slightest hitch, get out of inextricable situations, and she was still so very young.

She wasn’t innocent, but it was also clear that Clode wasn’t the only one to blame for what she had become. Irina had made sure she would never get a real choice.

He couldn’t have said how long later, but eventually, he landed up in the observation room again. The young woman was lying on the ground in the middle of the room, reading a book. A troubled Jack noticed she had just swept her hair back behind her ear. Just like Sydney and Irina – he tried to reason with himself: it didn’t mean anything; it was an acquired mannerism, nothing to do with DNA whatsoever. Then, she grabbed a blanket from the bed and wrapped herself up in it to fall asleep in her favorite corner – the least covered by cameras. In a few minutes, her muscles loosened, her breathing slowed down and she seemed to grow calmer.

When the night shift guard replaced the evening one, Jack realized that he had been staring at the screen for over two hours. And in all that time, he had come to no epiphany, had taken no decision about what he was going to do. He had just watched that kid read then fall asleep, a thousand random thoughts rambling through his mind. All questions, no answers. He rubbed his tired eyes and left the observation room as quietly as he had come in.

         Elisha was unable to sleep that night. These questions were not normal. Why was Jack Bristow asking these kinds of things? They already knew all that, it was in their files. Little of what she’d said was news, and it didn’t matter much anyway. She pulled up the cover around her – this cell was so cold. She always slept sitting in this corner, never on the bed – if you really want to call that metal framework a bed. This corner was the most shielded from the cameras. Here, she could get a little bit of privacy. Allow herself not to be as strong as she looked, if only for a few seconds.

She couldn’t think, couldn’t warm up. She went back to the center of the room and started another series of push-ups. What did Bristow want? Where were you born? Who’s your mother? Who’s your father? Who raised you? Where was he getting at?

Elisha realized she had been lost in her thoughts for too long when her arms began to ache. She got up and sat crossed-legged. Breathe in, breathe out – she closed her eyes. And understood.

A few days later.

         It became an unwilling ritual, almost unconscious. One hour, thirty minutes there. To refine his profile of Clode, if Kendall or anybody else asked about his new pet project. He would have had a hard time justifying himself if anyone had asked him for results, or even what exactly he was hoping to learn through his observation of the young woman reading, exercising or making paper planes, which flew a few seconds before crashing inevitably and soundlessly on the cell walls. Jack wasn’t even sure he could justify it to himself.

A similar curiosity had never led him to this room when his ex-wife inhabited the cell. He was always surprised to realize his steps were unrelentingly leading him towards the observation room, whenever he had free time between briefings and missions.

         Marshall had been trying to talk to Jack about Clode’s new unofficial ‘status’, but until then, the agent had always succeeded in avoiding him. Marshall was unsure about how he should react to this situation, which he would have much rather not known about. What if Kendall questioned him? What if he found this huge skeleton in his closet?

He finally managed to intercept Jack, who was walking into his office.

“Can I – talk to you?”

Jack looked annoyed, but let him in anyway and showed him a seat.

“She doesn’t know?” Marshall asked, skipping the preliminaries for once.

“She never told her,” Jack replied, shaking his head, not feeling the need to use names either.

“What about you? Are you going to tell her?”

“It would be no use.”

“But – well,” Marshall hesitated. “Don’t you think – doesn’t she deserve to know?”

“She deserves the cell she’s sitting in,” Jack sternly replied, before sighing and shrugging. “And anyway… I don’t see what good it could do her to know – I don’t even know if she’d want to know.”

“If it was me, I’d wanna know,” Marshall said. “But on the other hand, I’m not her. Which is a good thing, because quite frankly, I still think she’s a little bit terrifying. Well, very terrifying. That girl is not normal – no offense. I don’t know why I just said that,” he added at Jack’s frown. “I mean, it’s not like you’re the one who brought her up to become what she is today, it’s just – Do you really think it’s better not to tell her?”

         Yes, Jack thought. Five months earlier, he had profiled her. He knew Clode was resigned to believe that she’d been abandoned by some poor Irish girl who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, raise her. Paradoxically, that knowledge gave her strength: she found comfort in the idea that she had become much more than could have been expected of her.

So would she like to find out she had become exactly what was expected of her, after all? Would it bring her solace to know that she wasn’t alone as she had always thought, but had a family that never cared for her? Jack doubted it. But…

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I don’t know.”

“And Kendall?”

“No.”

On that, at least, there was no doubt. Jack knew that this piece of information didn’t change anything. It was even less of the Agency’s business than his former relationship with Irina. It didn’t change anything to what Clode was worth to them, what she had to offer, or what she’d done. For the CIA, this new little snippet of the truth wouldn’t be much more than a footnote. And since it didn’t change anything, there was no need to add complications to a situation that already had plenty.

“Yes, I suppose not,” Marshall uttered while shaking his head. “Everyone already thinks your family is about as screwed up as humanly possible. It’s probably better not to make it any worse… Uh – sorry. So you’re really not gonna say anything? To her, not to him. You’re not gonna tell her who she is?”

“No,” Jack said after a pause. “I don’t think I’ll need to.”

The young woman had a predisposition to high intelligence, and had been trained to use her potential to the fullest. With her analytical abilities and all the free time she had to think it through, Jack knew that sooner or later, she would make a few deductions about the unusual questions he had asked her…

December 1, 2003. CIA building.

         After a briefing, Kendall tasked Jack with interrogating Clode. Everything you need to make biological weapons had been stolen by one Sandro Lorinza to a number of laboratories.

“Clode is our only informant who ever infiltrated Lorinza’s organization. Check out what she knows.”

“Are you sure that’s necessary?” Jack asked.

Kendall turned back, looking at him like he was losing his marbles.

“Are you quite alright, Jack? Lorinza is walking around with enough potential biological weapons to kill at least ten million people, and you’re asking me if it’s necessary?”

“No, I mean – how reliable a source do we consider her to be? She’s been out of the field for almost eight months.”

An utterly annoyed Kendall answered curtly:

“I assume that we’ll let you be the judge of that, considering the amount of time you spent working on her profile – just find out what she knows.”

         Jack walked toward the underground level with as much eagerness as apprehensive. It was the first time he’d been sent to interrogate Clode since his improvised session, several weeks before. Despite his many hours watching her, he had not talked to the young woman ever since then.

As he got closer to the cell, he saw Clode reading, lying on the ground. Books were carefully selected and approved before they were given to the prisoner, so Jack knew that this one was Sans Famille by Hector Malot, in its original French version. Clode had requested it specifically, undoubtedly aware of the deductions Jack would make. It could not be a coincidence. She was making a point, letting him know that she had figured it out.

Jack stopped at the cell’s reinforced glass wall. Clode pointedly finished reading a page, marked it and stood up to join him. She greeted him with a mocking smile.

“Hi, Dad,” she said. “Am I still being grounded, or may I play outside?”

It was a casual first strike, which anyone watching would see as another example of Clode’s unswerving sense of humor. But Jack knew exactly what it meant. There was also something he could make out behind that smile. Clode had figured out where Jack’s questions were going, but she didn’t think it to be true. And yet her eyes were saying something else entirely. He could see that beyond the jeering, there was fear. She knew, Jack understood. But she couldn’t believe it. Wouldn’t believe it.

“Sandro Lorinza stole enough chemicals to build biological weapons, in the last twenty four hours,” Jack started off as if Clode hadn’t said anything. “Tell me all you know about his plans.”

A baffled look flickered on Clode’s face, but was resignedly replaced by a more professional mode.

“I don’t know them. Back when I was still on the field, his favorite way to raise funds was stealing and selling weapons, art objects – and basically anything he can get ahold of. I do know where he might be hiding, though. He’s got an estate just outside of Milan, out of the way.”

“Security?”

“My guess would be twenty guards, or let’s say thirty to be on the safe side. Video surveillance in the garden and inside the house, two watchtowers, three – maybe four snipers on the roof. A dozen attack dogs. Plus his office and his library are locked with a speech and retina recognition system.”

While listening to her listing everything she could remember, Jack took a closer look at the girl than he had been able to for weeks.

“Wait a minute,” she said getting a paper pad and a pencil from her bed.

She had gotten them for her drawings, in exchange for intelligence that helped catch a former Alliance member. She ripped off a page – and Jack got a glance at a couple sketches: a forest landscape, caricatures of her guards, a horse… She seemed to have quite a knack for drawing. Unaware of his examining gaze, she started to map out the whole villa, still reciting information about its security.

As he was standing there, images starting crossing his mind – images of a past that had never come to be. A past in which Laura ‘died’ a year later than she really did, leaving him not one, but two children to raise on his own. And at that second, he saw what Irina had done. Not only to this kid, but also to him and Sydney. This lawless young woman, so bright and talented and full of potential, could have – should have, been his. Jack should have been the one to bring her up. She should have been an ally. She should have fought Sydney for the last pizza slice, or whose turn it was to empty the dishwasher – not for Rambaldi artifacts in the Antarctic ice fields or the Red Army offices. The sudden thought of how many times his daughters had come close to killing each other, turned his blood to ice.

Almost without taking the time to think through what he was about to do, he took a worn out sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket. He unfolded it and pressed it on the glass as if he was showing her some report. Clode’s monologue only wobbled for a second while she was browsing the four labeled columns and their painfully obvious conclusion. Jack saw the click of comprehension in the young woman’s eyes. He had seen that same expression once before – in Sydney’s eyes, almost two years before, when she found out the truth about her mother.

“Is that all you got?” Clode shouted, slamming the glass that separated her from the DNA strands.

“Yes,” Jack answered cool-headedly, deliberately diverting the meaning of her question.

“And how am I supposed to know if it’s true?”

“What possible reason could I have for giving you false information when we need your cooperation?”

“None,” Elisha replied quietly. “It would make no sense at all.”

She looked away and passed him the map through the dedicated opening.

As Jack left, Clode went back to reading her book. But Jack knew that, though it was open, she didn’t even see the words. The young woman’s gaze was lost into space, just like her thoughts were lost far, so far away from the novel.

Jack wasn’t really sure he could explain his actions. He hadn’t gone down there with the intention of giving away that much, but when he saw the past that should have been in those eyes, he had been unable to stop himself. And yet it was too late, he thought to himself. Way too late to ask for anything. Wasn’t it?

         Elisha couldn’t bring herself to focus on her book. Or on her drawings, or on exercising – not even on the meditation technique that Irina had taught her. That her… mother had taught her. Dammit, it couldn’t be! Irina, her mother ? Bristow, her father ? Syd, her sister ? This had to be a stupid nightmare.

She couldn’t fight the tears, but made it a point not to look at the cameras. She wasn’t about to let them see her cry.

The anger she felt was uncanny. She was so angry at – at the whole world, actually. At Irina for lying to her, for abandoning her and then placing her into Programme Halcyon, for having manipulated her ever since she was borne. At Bristow for knowing, for showing her that goddamn paper, for not having been there – even though something in her knew that he couldn’t be held responsible. At everyone else, for their mere existence. At everyone she’d killed, for haunting her nights, and at those she didn’t kill, for haunting her days. At her enemies for keeping her from having her way, and at her allies, for letting her do as she pleased. At God because he didn’t exist, or was putting on a pretty good show. At the devil, because she had no soul left to sell…


* * * *

Hours later, Jack was standing unobserved behind the cell’s glass wall. The lights had been dimmed for the night, but it wasn’t completely dark. Clode was sitting on her bunk, her arms clenched around her legs, resting her forehead on her knees. Jack could only speculate on what was going on in her mind, but his guess was as good as any.

         Everything that Elisha thought made her special was being challenged. Maybe she hadn’t caught Irina’s attention because she was unique, after all. She had been abandoned, not because her birth was an accident, but because it had been the plan from the start. Everything, absolutely everything had been part of a plan.

Whether it was Irina’s decision or her KGB superiors’, the end result was the same. She had been brought up in calculated isolation so she couldn’t relate to anyone. To promote the independence she had always prided herself on. An agent without any ties, thus without any weakness. That’s at least one thing they've got wrong, Ely. Getting attached can also make you stronger… Someone she knew well told her that once. She had forgotten those words, it was probably a mistake.

The only purpose of her life had been to show that she was the best. She had played along. All of this was meant to make her the perfect spy, and they had pulled it off alright. Was that all Irina wished her? Becoming a spy, a mercenary, a killer?

         It was a lot to process, and Jack knew it. Part of him had begun to wonder if even this was part of Irina’s plots. She had given Clode up to them so that she would give up Sloane. But was that the only reason? He hated overestimating her, but he also knew how dangerous it could be to underestimate her. Could she have wanted Clode in detention, knowing that they had the genetic database? Had she wanted Jack to find out about his daughter? Had she wanted Clode to find out what had been done to her? Or maybe he was giving her too much credit. He didn’t know anymore.

A small movement inside the cell diverted her attention from the current situation – Clode’s shoulders were suddenly tightening. Jack understood that she was losing control.

The young woman didn’t even look up when the cell’s door opened. Or when Jack sat next to her. There was no sound, except for the air-conditioning and the prisoner’s jerky breathing.

“I could kill you,” she finally uttered without raising her head.

There was no nuance of threat in her voice: she was only stating a fact.

“It wouldn’t get you very far,” Jack quietly said.

“Might make me feel better.”

“For how long?”

“Probably not long enough to make it worth the strain,” she sighed.

There were several minutes of silence again.

“It doesn’t change anything,” she said matter-of-factly – yet another detached observation.

“No,” Jack agreed. “Not a thing.”

Jack could see the tension slowly leaving Clode’s body.

“Who else knows?”

“Just Marshall.”

“Which I guess explains how.”

Jack saw her head turning slowly toward him.

“You know… I wasn’t expecting my life to turn out this way, you know. I would’ve preferred a better view, for starters – maybe a nice villa in the south of Italy, or on an island,” she said in an insolent tone, behind which Jack could feel deep sadness. “It’s so cold here.”

That last comment overwhelmed him with its touch of despair. The temperature in the cell may have been lower than it should have, but that was not all Clode meant. The words were simple enough, but in them, Jack heard a terrifying intensity. She was afraid. For the first time in all those months of confinement, Jack realized, she was acknowledging how little control she had on her own life now. Perhaps how little control she had ever had on her life.

Not understanding precisely what was happening, Jack saw his hand move toward the young woman’s back. He felt her tensing up, her heart speeding up. There was a moment of complete stillness. Then she lay her head on his shoulder for a second. Jack’s hand moved to her shoulder, and he held her a little bit tighter.

Elisha then quickly sat up straight, imperceptibly moving away to stifle a sob. Jack knew she was a terrorist, a murderer – yet all he could see at that point was a lost little girl. His little girl.

The spasms stopped, and Jack heard Clode’s breathing getting back to normal. None of them moved or talked for a long while. Jack found himself picking up a lock of hair that was falling in her eyes. In a comforting gesture, he left his hand on her cheek wet with tears, and thought he felt the faintest smile.

“What about now?” Elisha finally said.

“I don’t know.”

“If I promise to behave, will I get to go on missions? You let Irina do it.”

He smiled at that senseless proposition.

“You could promise to be a saint and the Agency still wouldn’t fall for it a second time,” he replied, surprised at his own gentle, familiar tone in contrast with his usual professional way of addressing her.

“It’s not fair. Just because she was here before me, everyone is twice as suspicious. But things could change. You never know,” she said with the same familiarity. “You might need me out there, someday. I’m pretty good at what I do. Kind of a shame to waste all that skill.”

She paused before saying:

“Let me look for Sydney.”

Jack abruptly took his hand off her. He had interrogated her several times after Sydney disappeared, and his conclusion was that Clode knew nothing more than they did. Mistakenly? She winced and quickly explained:

“I don’t know anything more than what already told you. But you know I’m good at that stuff. Let me look for her. The Agency isn’t getting anywhere, is it? So let me try. What could you possibly have to lose?”

         Elisha didn’t really understand what had come to pass. Or rather, she understood it all too well. She hadn’t pushed his arm away. She had rested on his shoulder. On CIA agent Jack Bristow’s shoulder. A man who, incidentally, was her father, but as they had agreed a few minutes before, it didn’t change a thing.

He had nothing to expect from her except self-interested help – looking for Sydney in exchange for a bit of freedom. She had nothing to expect from him except self-interested help – an opportunity to escape in exchange for a chance of finding his daughter. His other daughter, the only one that mattered.

* * * *

December 2, 2003. Director Kendall’s office.

         “You’ve got to be kidding me?” Kendall shouted, staring at him in disbelief. “Do I have to remind you that’s exactly how we lost Derevko?”

“I appreciate that,” Jack patiently granted. “But I also do believe that we could do this. Clode is resourceful. She’s just as well-trained and skilled as any CIA agent, and better than most of them. You’ve seen her on the field. She’s…”

“A murderous terrorist who’ll work for the highest bidder, is what she is!”

“So we’ll just need to make sure that no-one can approach her with a better offer.”

“You really think you could give her enough leeway for her to be efficient, and still not enough for her to disappear without a trace like Derevko did?”

“Yes.”

Kendall looked at him for a long while.

“Jack – if you lose another one, Devlin will bury you…”

“If there’s any chance she’ll find out what happened to my daughter, then it’s worth the risk.”

* Ending Credits *

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